About the Guest
There’s a reason the Word of God is referred to as “the sword of the Spirit.” It's “sharper than any two-edged sword,” “living and active,” and it “never returns void.” We can maximize this spiritual weapon by memorizing Scripture. Larry Fowler, Emmitt Fowler, Hannah Leary, and Barbara Rainey talk about the blessings of hiding God's Word in your heart.
Larry Fowler, Emmitt Fowler, Hannah Leary, and Barbara Rainey talk about the blessings of hiding God’s Word in your heart.
Michelle: Have you ever thought about memorizing passages of the Bible? A lot of folks these days say that it’s just too hard to memorize because the Bible is complicated; it has hard words in it and different kinds of ideas. Someone didn’t tell that to nine-year-old Rebecca Horning. Here she is reciting Isaiah 40:28-31.
Rebecca: Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is weary. There is no searching of His understanding. He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might, He increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31[Applause]
Michelle: That’s Rebecca Horning, the primary division winner of the National Bible Bee from 2009. Today, we are going to talk about the power of memorizing God’s Word, whether you’re five or ninety-five. Stay tuned.
Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. Today, we’re going to talk about Scripture memory on FamilyLife This Week, hiding God’s Word in our hearts.
I’m hear in the studio today with Emmett Fowler and, via FaceTime® audio, Larry Fowler. Welcome, gentlemen.
Emmett: Thanks; appreciate you having us.
Larry: Thanks, Michelle. Glad to be on.
Michelle: I want to do a slight introduction here. Emmett is the director of broadcast relations here at FamilyLife®. If you are hearing the program today via radio, you have him to thank for that.
Emmett: That’s not quite accurate. I mean, it’s partially accurate, Michelle; [Laughter] but let’s not overstate things.
Michelle: So it’s not totally accurate?
Emmett: No, no; we just don’t want to overstate; that’s all. [Laughter]
Michelle: Okay; we won’t overstate things.
His uncle is Larry Fowler. Larry is the founder of Legacy Coalition, helping grandparents be intentional grandparents. Before that, he served for many years with Awana®. Larry, it’s my understanding that your family has a strong commitment to memorizing Scripture in that it was your mother, who was the moving force behind that. Can you tell me about her?
Larry: The commitment was hers. She certainly instilled it in all of us, but it started with her. My mom just loved to memorize Scripture herself. Interestingly, she never had any external motivations to do it; she just did it because she loved it.
Michelle: How would she encourage you to memorize Scripture?
Larry: When I was a little boy, I remember that we had a calendar from a Christian radio station on the wall of our house. We lived in central Nebraska, and we listened to KJLT/was the station we had. They had a calendar that had a scenic picture and then a Scripture verse on the calendar. I don’t know why she picked that, but she made sure that I memorized every one of those verses.
From the time I was pretty little—I couldn’t tell you how old, but I’m sure four or five—I was memorizing a verse a month. She just insisted on it, so that became instilled in me and built a strong foundation.
Michelle: Obviously, it started to go on generations once the grandkids came along; because, Emmett, you have memories of your grandma recalling all that she has memorized.
Emmett: Yes; I have some very similar memories to my uncle. When I was really young, my grandparents had moved to another ranch. We both grew up on ranches there in central Nebraska. I can remember being in the car with them, going to spend the weekend or to spend a week with them. To pass the time—it was a 70-mile ride between our two ranches—I can remember having her help me pass the time by coming up with Scripture memory games; it was entertaining. She would give us verses to memorize, and I can certainly remember playing those games with her in the car.
The other memory that I have that’s very distinct/that’s very similar to Larry’s is being at her house on those week visits. Instead of the calendar, she actually made a chart; she had the verses written down that she wanted me to memorize. I was young enough, where getting a gold star was kind of a big deal. She had these little gold stars; and every time I could memorize the verse, she would put a gold star on that chart. She kept the chart on the refrigerator, and she would put a gold star by the verse when I learned it. That was going on before kindergarten, so three/four years old.
Michelle: Wow; obviously, she thought Scripture memory was very important.
Larry, why is Scripture memory so important? What have you learned through it?
Larry: It’s a spiritual discipline that—like prayer, or like Bible reading, or anything else—it’s a Scriptural discipline that helps prepare us for the battles that we face. You don’t always have a Bible that you can open; today, we’re not always able to hit the app on our phone and look up that Bible verse. But when it’s in our memory, the Holy Spirit can bring it to our minds just when we need it.
That’s one of the reasons that I appreciate Scripture memory so much. During the times where life has really been hard/faced some difficult things, then those verses are there. It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit brings them to mind to encourage, or to strengthen, and sometimes to convict. It’s a great spiritual discipline.
Michelle: Larry, you spent many years of your life serving with Awana, which helps young people deepen their knowledge of God by memorizing Scripture. Do you have any tips on how to memorize? Can you encourage us in why we should be doing this discipline?
Larry: Yes; of course, it’s work! Anything that’s worthwhile is work. But there certainly are some tips to make it easier.
If you have a verse, after you have read it through several times—say three or four times carefully—then take a piece of paper and write down the first letter of each word. It’s kind of like shorthand for dummies. It gives you enough of a visual hint to help you in that intermediate process of learning. Then, you recite the verse from just the first letters of each word rather than from reading the whole verse. That’s one of the best tools, intermediate, to help memorize.
Michelle: I actually have been doing that tip. Someone gave me that tip a few months ago. I don’t know how long ago—it was back in February—I had my cheat sheet with me; and I was traveling for FamilyLife. I had my cheat sheet on my bedside table at a hotel room. My roommate comes in; she flew in from another part of the country. The first thing she said to me was, “So are you with the CIA right now? [Laughter] Are you a code cracker?” I said, “No; I’m trying to memorize Scripture. That’s the only way I know how.” But that is a very helpful tip/very helpful tip.
Larry: And of course, it always helps to visualize it in some way, too. Anything you can do to write it out to create a visual—whether that’s through hand motions, or writing it out, or something—you add another sense to your learning process, and that helps.
I remember when our son, Ryan, was in second grade. I think he conveniently forgot to tell us that he had an assignment to memorize a passage of ten verses for his Christian school. He conveniently forgot to tell us until the night before. [Laughter] He had to learn ten verses in one night. We sat him down and said, “Okay;”—we were not too happy with that; we said—“you’re going to write out/you’re going to draw pictures for all these verses.” And he did! Amazingly, he got them memorized that night and finished his assignment. We kept that sheet that he drew the pictures on for quite a long time; it meant a lot to us. That’s a good illustration of how that works.
Michelle: Now, Emmett, going back to your grandma. She had a passion—a passion for Scripture memory/a passion of hiding God’s Word in her heart—did you find that you had that same passion, because she had passed that on to you?
Emmett: Well, I wouldn’t say I had it at the same level she did; I’m not sure many people do, frankly. As Larry said earlier, she didn’t really have an external motivation for that; it was something she was convicted to do.
But she did pass that on when I was younger. I think what that did is it allowed me to have some confidence, later on in schooling—both high school and Bible college—where I had to memorize Scripture as an assignment. I thought, “Hey, I can do this; because I’ve been doing this since before kindergarten.” I think she gave that to me.
I was thinking earlier, as Larry was talking, I think one other thing that she did—I don’t have a specific memory of this conversation, but I’m sure she was saying things like this to me—we weren’t just memorizing words out of a book; we weren’t just memorizing a passage like you would a poem or something. She was communicating to me that: “This was God’s Word. This is something that will live inside of us as God illuminates it through the Holy Spirit.”
I’m sure she wasn’t saying it that way to a four-year-old, but she was communicating it to me that this is something that’s life: “This is spiritual life to us.” She played a very large role in my salvation story, coming to faith in Christ: it was her example; it was her helping me memorize Scripture; it was her reading Bible stories to me. I have wonderful memories like that of her.
Michelle: It seems like, if she is that close to God, and He’s forming her character, in some ways, that’s why she was so special to you because she knew how to love; she knew God’s love.
Emmett: Yes, she did; and she communicated that to me as a child, and my sister as well. It wasn’t just me; it was my sister, who’s two years older. We were both memorizing verses like that when we were very young. We would both, to this day, say that she—along with my parents, of course—but she has had some of the greatest spiritual impact in either of our lives.
Michelle: Emmett, that’s so great to hear about your grandmother, Margaret Fowler, and her legacy. We’re going to hear more about her, and also about memorizing Scripture when we return. We’re going to take a break, though. We’ll be right back. [Child’s voice reciting Scripture]
[Radio station break]
[Child’s voice reciting Scripture]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. We’ve been talking about Scripture memory; and in particular, one important grandmother, Margaret Fowler: grandmother to Emmett Fowler, who joins me in the studio today; and mother to Larry Fowler, who is on via FaceTime.
Larry, you’re a grandpa. You’ve got to be doing something with memorizing Scripture, and with your grandchildren; right?
Larry: Absolutely. My wife and I work in Awana in our local church. We work with four-year-olds, and we have a four-year-old grandson in the group that we serve with. That becomes a tool for us to use. We have three grandsons we live real close to. The little two-year-old memorizes right along with his bigger brother and wants so badly to do it.
Of course, Grandma—my wife, Diane—she adds an M&M each time they say the verse correctly. [Laughter] There always needs to be some motivation for little kids; that works pretty good.
Emmett: I like the idea of M&M’s better than gold stars. [Laughter]
Michelle: Even now; would that help you memorize now?
Larry: It would; it would. [Laughter]
Michelle, just an illustration of how much it meant to my mom. She was very unique—I’m with Emmett—I don’t know that there’s hardly any other people that I’ve met, maybe one or two, that valued Scripture memory as much as she did. It was just who she was.
When she was 94/95, even a year or so before she passed away, we’d go visit her. Emmett and I both had this experience. She had this piece of paper/half sheet of paper. She had written, in pretty small writing, columns of Scripture verses that she had memorized over the years. She would want to review those. I can remember sitting with her; and for 40 minutes, my mom just recites verse after verse after verse that she’s memorized. Then, she always wanted to make a game out of it too. [Laughter]
Emmett: That is so true. [Laughter]
Larry: Yes; she would say, “Give me a letter of the alphabet. I want to see how many verses I can recite that begin with that letter.” Right up until the end of her life, until she wasn’t able to anymore, she wanted to continually refresh her mind with God’s Word.
Michelle: What a legacy; what a special lady.
Emmett: I had that same memory—like Larry said—she wanted to play that game a lot. I remember times, when I was in high school, it didn’t feel quite as cool; I mean, I was in high school and didn’t feel like I had time.
But as I got older, as an adult and married, we would go and visit my grandmother. That’s exactly what she would want to do. I think she actually got bored with being able to just recite verses, and that’s why she would come up with the game/the alphabet game. It made it a little more of a challenge for her. She had entire books memorized; it was an amazing thing to watch.
Larry: I have a question for Michelle: “What letter of the alphabet do you think has the least number of verse that begin with that letter?”—not counting “Q” and “Z” and “X.”
Larry: Okay; we won’t stump you too long: “R.”
Larry: “R”: there are hardly any verses that begin with the word/with the letter “R.”
Michelle: Not even “Remember”?—I guess maybe.
Larry: Of course, there’s a few: “Rejoice evermore.” But there’s just not very many. She knew that; she knew that really well.
Michelle: Wow; what an incredible, incredible legacy/incredible memories that she has left with you guys. She really did; that is amazing. Thank you, guys, for sharing the memories.
Oh, Emmett; yes.
Emmett: I actually have one more. It will fit well with what you just said, Michelle. You want to talk about how it lasts—I’ll get a little teary as I tell this, so bear with me—I don’t have my Bible here with me today; but if I had it, I’d open it up and show it to you. I have a 3x5 index card that’s in my Bible. It’s my grandmother’s handwriting; it’s dated 1972. I would’ve been five years old.
It’s the list of verses that she had written out for me/the references. It says: “Emmett’s verses; September 1972.” It’s the verses that she gave to me to memorize. I still keep that in my Bible; that’s evidence of her lasting legacy, and it’s a challenge to go back and review those verses. [Laughter]
Michelle: —that you learned so many years ago.
Emmett: Nineteen-seventy-two was a long time ago.
Michelle: It was. As Scripture is commanding us to hide God’s Word in our heart that we might not sin against Him—that’s truly what she did—and she left that legacy. She lived that legacy, and she taught that legacy; it’s incredible.
Thanks, Emmett; thanks, Larry, for joining me today. And thank you, Margaret Fowler, for the legacy and the memories that you passed on.
Emmett: Thanks for having me.
Larry: You’re welcome, Michelle.
Michelle: There was a leader of the Israelites—he took over after Moses—his name was Joshua. Upon taking over as leader, God shared with him these words—actually, God commanded him and said—“This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you might be careful to do according to do all that is written in it.” That’s what Margaret Fowler did.
That’s also what Hannah Leary is starting to do. Hannah is a young woman, who meditates on God’s Word day and night. She started memorizing Bible verses at a very young age through the National Bible Bee. I had the pleasure to talk with Hannah/ really, just a quick conversation about the first summer she started to memorize Scripture for the Bible Bee. She said it wasn’t always that easy. Here’s Hannah.
Hannah: That first year there was a lot of memory work—I got this package in the mail/this stack of memory verses—I’m like, “I can never memorize all this.” And I didn’t. That first year, I didn’t memorize everything and was just overwhelmed by the amount; but I was surprised at how much I could do. I got to the end of it; I was like, “Wow; I memorized 1,000 verses. I never knew I could do that!” You know what I mean? The competition motivated me to do something I never thought possible.
When the competition wrapped up that first year, I looked at the different passages I had memorized and was going through them. I noticed, just for an example, that, in the book of Ephesians, I had part of chapter 1, part of chapter 2, most of chapter 3 memorized. I’m like, “I might as well just memorize the whole book.” I went ahead and memorized the book of Ephesians. It just developed in me this love and excitement about memorizing God’s Word. I continued competing ever since that first year in 2009 up until 2014.
Michelle: Wow. That’s incredible; I mean, to start off with 1,000 verses.
Michelle: That is incredible. I’m sitting here, going, “How did you do that?” Was that just writing the verses out? Or do you have any tricks of the trade or anything to share with us?
Hannah: Right. It is an overwhelming: “Oh, my goodness; how could you ever possibly do that?” But you don’t know until you try.
I know, for me, memorization—people are like: “Oh, you must be a pro,” “It must come easy to you,” “It must be something you’re super smart about or really diligent about,”—yes, I did put a lot of time and energy into it—but your mind and your brain is a muscle; so the more you do it, the easier it becomes. When you start out, it is hard; and it is hard to retain them all. For me, it was keeping at it—reviewing—the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Michelle: Memorizing Scripture is hard; it’s very hard. I want to put a little plug in for the National Bible Bee. Just so you know, there are just five days left to sign up for this year’s National Bible Bee. We’ll have a link on our website that will point you to all the information: FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
I know what you might be thinking: “It is just way too hard to memorize Scripture,” or “Hey, you don’t even have the brainpower.” That was probably my excuse about four months ago: “I don’t have the brainpower!”
But I want to share something from my own life. I was convicted—it was probably about four months ago—that I spent more time working out than I did in memorizing God’s Word and meditating on it. It didn’t happen overnight, but I did change some things. I gave up a little bit of TV time and some other things. I began memorizing Hebrews 11—you know, that Hall of Faith chapter—it took awhile. It did take awhile, and it was hard work; but I am happy to say that Hebrews 11 is memorized. And actually, it was so energizing that I’ve gone on to Hebrews 12. I have found that the power God gives us to memorize is actually fun, and we learn more about His Word when we hide it in our hearts.
We’re never too old. We heard from Rebecca, who’s nine; and we heard from Hannah, who’s 20. But we are never too old to spend time memorizing God’s Word. Here’s Barbara Rainey, co-founder of FamilyLife, sharing with me the importance of memorizing Scripture as one of the spiritual disciplines.
Barbara: What’s important for us is that we grow in our love for Christ/we grow in getting to know Him. The more I get to know Him, the more I love Him and the more I am in awe of what He did for me. There’s not a checklist; it’s all about getting to know Him. So whatever system you want to use, the point is: “Read your Bible and pray/and talk to Him so that you can get to know Him.” That’s really the purpose of spiritual disciplines: is to develop a relationship.
I’m starting actually to memorize a Psalm. I haven’t done any Bible memory in a long time, because it was always a challenge for me. I decided, rather than try to memorize verses, I just wouldn’t; and then I wouldn’t fail. [Laughter] But I’m trying to memorize Psalm 139, because it’s been such an encouragement to me recently. I thought, “I can do that! I can memorize that just by reading it over and over again.”
Michelle: That’s really neat. I’m going to have to talk to Barbara the next time I see her and ask her about where she is with Psalm 139, or if she’s moved on to other passages of the Bible.
My producer and production coordinator in the other room are questioning whether or not I truly have memorized Hebrews 11.
Keith: Hear it! We want to hear it!
Michelle: Okay; Megan’s got Hebrews 11 open in her Bible to make sure that I’ve got everything right here. Okay; let me start: Hebrews 11.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as having pleased God. And by his faith, though he died, he still speaks.
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death.
Keith: Okay fine; we believe you! [Laughter]
Michelle: Okay; all kidding aside, this isn’t about me showing off. I want to encourage you to mediate on His Word/to memorize His Word. Maybe pick a couple of verses today and start walking through that, and lock it in your memory. There are more gems in His Words than in anything else that we have in front of us; I know I’ve learned, just through Hebrews 11.
Coming up next week, we’re going to have some encouragement for dads. We’ll hear from H.B. Charles and a few others on the strength and encouragement that dads bring to their children. Hope you can join us for that.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the co-founder of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and our president, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch; our producers, Phil Kraus and Marques Holt. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
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