They [that delight in God’s law] are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail. Their leaves never wither, and in all they do, they prosper. -- Psalm 1:3, NLT
I have never known someone leading a spiritually transformed life who had not been deeply saturated in Scripture. -- John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted
I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. -- Charles Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life
Throughout the ages God has spoken to people through the Bible. Christians such as William Tyndale, burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English, died to enable ordinary people like us to read God’s Word in our own language. Scripture is a priceless treasure. It is seed for new life and healthy growth. It is spiritual food that makes you strong and comforts you in days of difficulty. It is the undefeatable weapon Christ used against Satan. God’s Word will transform your life, revitalize your soul, and bring you into closer fellowship with God.
This book is for women who are His cherished daughters by faith. It is for women who desire to plant God’s words deep in their heart.
Growing by Heart is organized so you can memorize one or two verses a week for one year or you can choose your own pace. Read the tips on memorizing and personalize them to fit your learning style. When you finish this devotional, continue to challenge yourself with larger sections of Scripture that speak to your soul. Write down your favorite verses on a pack of spiral bound index cards; set it in your bathroom, kitchen, or office so you can make memorizing Scripture a rewarding lifetime pursuit.
To get the most out of this Scripture-memory devotional, choose a time and a quiet place to which you can retreat several times a week. (For some of us, this means early morning or late at night.) Gather a pen, a prayer journal, and a Bible, and sit down for a refreshing time with God.
On days when time is limited, grab your Scripture-memory card, put it in your purse, and run out the door. The tear-out memory cards in the back of the book give you the choice of memorizing the New International Version (NIV) or the King James Version (KJV) (although I’ve included other translations in the text of each devotional). When you finish this book, you will have enriched your life by memorizing fifty to one hundred passages of Scripture, grouped by topic.
After fifty years I still struggle with memorizing Scripture. Intellectually and spiritually, I know that as Scripture becomes part of my heart and soul, I am transformed and become more like Jesus. Yet I let life interfere, gobbling up my time and energy and focus. Still I persevere, however weakly. Some weeks are better than others. Some verses seep into my consciousness like the smell of coffee in the morning. Others are much harder to come by but are well worth the struggle.
Day 1. Write out the verse in your journal. Read the devotional, and then practice the verse aloud several times, putting the reference before and after the verse. (For example: “John 3:16, For God so loved the world . . . John 3:16.”). If possible, ask someone to listen to you say the verse and prompt you. Write down how you can apply it to your life. Put the verse card in a convenient place so you will have it with you to review whenever you have a spare moment.
Day 2. Write out the verse. Erase key words and practice the verse. Write it once in your own words.
Day 3. Copy the key words, and then later fill in the rest from memory. Put your name in it to personalize it, because God said it to you. Reflect: What does it mean to you personally?
Day 4. Review. Make up your own sign language and add physical gestures to accentuate the verse.
Day 5. Sing the verse to a tune you know, or make up a tune. Sometimes it’s fun to sing verses to music as you are driving. Ask God to use this verse to change your life.
Day 6. Try writing out the verse without looking. Review your verse out loud using gestures.
Day 7. Draw a simple cartoon picture that reminds you of what the verse means. Review your verse out loud using gestures. Each week, review the verses you learned previously. Remember, some verses will be easier to memorize than others. Persevere.
Pick the verse and version you are most comfortable with. Keep it fun and personal; this is meant to be a blessing. What works for someone else may not work for you. Reward yourself for success.
Copy and post the verse several places where you will see it daily: bed table, bathroom mirror, kitchen sink, car (only when stopped in traffic jams!), desktop, computer screen, refrigerator, treadmill, or stationary bike. Get creative! This really helps keep it in your mind.
Copy the key words, then fill in the rest from memory. Read the words, putting the emphasis on a different word each time, thinking about what the words mean. (Example: Feed my sheep. Feed my sheep. Feed my sheep.)
Copy the first letter of each key word on the back of the card to jog your memory.
Ask a family member or a friend to memorize with you.
Pick a certain time of day to review. Then use unexpected pauses in your day to review.
Use physical gestures when you practice the verse (Example: for strong, make a muscle; for love, touch your heart; for God, point upward). Sign language is an excellent help.
Read the verse over several times aloud throughout the day. Think about what the verse means to you personally and how you can apply it to your daily life.
See it, say it, write it, draw it, sing it! Put it on tape, computer, or PDA so you can review it often. Make those verse cards look used!
Set reasonable goals for memorizing. Don’t give up if you miss a day or a week. Life happens to all of us. Keep the verse cards with you and review them whenever you can.
Persevere. Picture yourself succeeding.
Use the blank cards provided in the back of the book for other verses meaningful to you from your personal devotions.
Find the key word or phrase in the verse. Spend some time meditating on what it means in your life.
Make two lists: reasons why you want to memorize Scripture and how it benefits your life.
Ask God to keep verses in your heart and mind, to use them for good in your life and the lives of those around you. Plant. Grow. Bloom.
A life rooted in God combines intimacy and mission, knowledge and action, pulling in and pushing forward, soaking in and giving out, absorbing God and shedding self. It means pressing on while we’re letting go, allowing our drivenness to give way to the path of God. It means listening carefully for his leading.
Jan Johnson, Living a Purpose-Full Life
[Jesus said,] “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30, MSG
Joy is mentioned in the Bible hundreds of times. God meant for us to live a life of joy overflowing, shared with family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. Jesus is our example. People were His priority; He spent time one-on-one at small gatherings, large weddings, and dinner parties celebrating life. He even provided the wine. How can we experience the joyous life God intended us to live? By tending our souls.
Picture your soul as a garden. When given proper care and attention, a garden thrives and blooms with gorgeous color, sharing beauty and fragrance with everyone around it. A garden is a great place to have a joyful celebration.
Held many parties in your soul lately? When well-tended, your soul has an overflowing bounty of love that gives joy and sustenance to everyone near you. You reflect love. But we live in a fast whirling, crazy, sin-filled world with little good in it to feed any soul. So, you need to make soul-tending your personal priority.
“But there’s no time in my schedule!” you say. How does a garden look when left untended for a long time? Overgrown with weeds, bugs, snakes, and other critters nesting in piles of dead and twisted growth, choked with vines and prickly nettles. Get the ugly picture? Not exactly a party zone. That’s how our souls look when neglected. You can end up useless to yourself and everyone around you. You may fake it for a while, but when storms begin to blow, dry, crumbled little pieces of you fly away in the wind; your life’s garden becomes empty and barren, blessing no one.
Begin to nourish yourself with God’s Word; even small scraps of Scripture are rich in spiritual vitamins. Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Trying to live a godly life without the Bread of Life is like feeding your body a constant diet of junk food. Replace the messages of our empty culture with the life-giving words of Christ. Make memorizing Scripture a lifelong pursuit.
God loves you just as you are, but He wants you to grow even more beautiful. Picture the most beautiful garden since Eden; that’s how God wants to nurture your life. Talk about an extreme makeover! You’ll grow wiser, stronger, and have lasting inner beauty. As we draw God’s words into our hearts, we refresh our souls and experience joy. What a difference that makes in our lives.
How does the world conform you? How does it deplete you? How can memorizing Scripture limit the world’s influence on your life?
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
[Growing in Grace]
Grows anywhere in full sun.
The thing about light is that it isn’t really yours; it’s what you gather and shine back. And it gets more power from reflectiveness; if you sit still and take it in, it fills your cup, and then you can give it off yourself.
Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
If you have ever seen a field full of sunflowers, you know it is breathtaking. But you will observe a strange phenomenon. All of the blooms in the field face the same direction because they turn their faces to search for the sun. Throughout the day, the flowers move in unison. They twist to follow the sun, as if a giant mechanical hand kept turning them. But it’s just part of their God-made nature.
When they are cut and placed in a room, sunflowers reflect the warmth and joy soaked up from the sun that grew them. This cheerful plant is, without a doubt, the easiest plant to grow in a garden, as long as it has sun. Anyone with a birdfeeder knows that sunflowers crop up by themselves everywhere. Some sunflowers grow ten feet high. But gardeners know that all the work they do would be in vain if the sun didn’t shine and give life to their efforts.
God put a deep desire in our nature for His Son Jesus Christ. We find life-giving light in Him. The Bible says, “God is light and in him there is no darkness” and “the LORD is my light and my salvation.” Jesus said He is “the light of the world.” We are to live as children of the light, walk in the light, and share it with others. We are to let our light shine in the darkness of the world. To do that, we must keep our faces, hearts, and minds turned toward God. Then, like mirrors, we will reflect the warmth and joy of His light into the dark world around us.
Write down some creative ways you could turn your face toward God and soak up some light.
Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.
[Growing in Grace]
Christ tells us we must lose our life for His sake in order to find it. We discover meaning and purpose not in the search for self, but in surrender of self, in obedience to Christ.
Charles Colson, Who Speaks for God?
He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Sometimes I get so busy with life that I forget to water my garden. If it’s winter, I forget to water the houseplants. This happens fairly often. I turn around and see the plants drooping over, dried up, ugly, and lifeless. I can almost hear them gasping. The great thing is that if I remember in time and soak the plants carefully in water, they spring back to life. It’s miraculous!
How often in our lives do we do the same thing to our souls? We neglect them, leave them in the dark, with no light or water, until one day we begin holding our throats and gasping and wondering why we can’t function very well. Sometimes it takes a life crisis to point this out. Before you get to that point, slow down and spend some quiet time with God. Let Him speak to you with no distractions.
Recently I came across this thought-provoking passage in a book by Michael Yaconelli.
I wonder how many times a day our Father tries to get our attention, tries to quiet us long enough so we can hear His whisper. Many of us grew up believing that every time Jesus is close to us, He wants us to do something: read your Bible more, pray more, share your faith more, go to church more. How would it change your view of Jesus if you believed He doesn’t want you to do anything—He just wants to be close to you?
That’s a life-changing thought.
Let’s ask our Father for living water to rain down so new, green life will burst forth in our lives. Learn to trust Him. Remember that God loves us and we cannot do anything that will make Him love us any more or any less. Soak deeply in streams of living water—His love and grace—and be renewed, as God’s people have done over the ages.
Grace means there is nothing you can do that will make God love you any more or any less—because He already gave His life for you. How does that affect your to-do list for God? How does it simplify your life? Write one thing you will let go of and trust God to handle.
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the [woman] who takes refuge in him.
The LORD will guide you always . . . You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
[Growing in Grace]
Countless varieties. Require no special care.
God created humanity for a love relationship with Him. More than anything else, God wants us to love Him with our total being. He is the one who initiates the love relationship. . . . He permitted Jesus to die in order to make it possible. . . . If your love relationship with God is not right, nothing else will be right.
Henry Blackaby and Claude King, Experiencing God
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7
Pastor Dan Baty told a wonderful story to illustrate how God loves us. It went something like this:
There once was a highly valued wonderful baker who worked for the king. One day the baker had an accident, became paralyzed and unable to work. Every day the king visited the baker and performed an act of service for him. The king kept tending him and the baker came to realize that the king loved him as a person, not just because of his baking ability. The baker heals but is never the same. He is free of the fear of being loved based on his performance. He begins to love and serve the king in a new way because he knows the king loves him unconditionally.
God loves us regardless of our performance. We are His redeemed, forgiven, dearly loved children. He clothes us in the beauty of His love. On our bad days, He loves us the same as on our best days. He stays beside us and tends us. He comes to all our races and cheers regardless of how we are running that particular day. He doesn’t compare us with anyone else. He sees us as more valuable than all the angels, stars, oceans, and glories of all His creation.
What does He expect from us? John 6:28-29 asks the same question, and answers it. “What must we do to do the work God requires? . . . The work of God is this: to believe in the one [Jesus] he has sent.”
Trust Him. He loves you with a love that isn’t measured by your daily performance.
Write down one thing you worry about, then give it to God. Every time you begin to worry about it again, give it back to God and practice your verse instead.
Then Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life. . . . Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.”
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
[Growing in Grace]
With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, what do we lack? Surely we are the most favored of all creatures.
A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy
Live a lover’s life . . . a life Jesus will be proud of: [a life] bountiful in fruits from the soul.
Philippians 1:10-11, MSG
Jesus tells several stories about farmers sowing seeds. Some seed stayed on hard ground and was trampled or eaten by birds, some seed was scattered on rocks and dried up from lack of water, some was choked by weeds and thorns, but some grew in good soil and produced a bountiful harvest.
Jesus explained that the seed was God’s Word in the world and Jesus is the Sower. Some people merely hear and don’t believe. Some feel a momentary emotional response but decide not to follow Christ. Others let the world and love of money and things strangle their faith. The seed in good soil refers to people who hear and understand the gospel, repent, thank God, and seek to know Him. They begin to grow and live fruitful lives obeying God.
You’ve heard the good news that God died and rose again to save your soul and the souls of everyone around you. What you do with that truth determines the direction your life and the lives of people you touch. Persevere and get to know Him intimately. Read the Bible; it’s all about you and Him. Talk to Him in prayer and seek His will. It will make the difference between a dry, weed-choked life and one that is fruitful in ways you cannot begin to imagine.
Read Luke 8 and Matthew 13:3-43. Write in your journal, “I don’t need to do anything to earn the love of God. That’s grace.” Remember that today.
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except though me.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.