January 6 is Epiphany, a day celebrated by Christians throughout the world, focusing on the wise men who traveled a long way, following a star. When they found Jesus, they knelt before the infant king with their gifts. What did he give them? What did they carry away in their hearts? Since they listened to the angel’s warning and returned to their homes without telling Herod where to find Jesus, they must have gained something far stronger than their fear of Herod’s soldiers.
What did you seek at the manger this Christmas?
Can you hear the angels singing,
Grace revealed that holy night?
Light to brighten all our darkness
All our wrongs He will make right.
Come and creep up to the manger.
God in human form now lays.
Hear him whisper that he’ll love you
Through-out heav’n’s eternal days.
Drawing closer to Jesus — that is where real life begins.
Go on back to the manger, and listen for those whispered words.
He says, “I love you.“
“I knit you together in your mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)
“I have called you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
“For I know the plans I have for you“(Jeremiah 29:11)
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)
As I began to type those verses, I was amazed at how they flowed. Love-words I found planted in my mind, sinking through the years ever deeper into my spirit.
When I was six, my grandmother promised me a dime for every verse I memorized — a lot of money, for her and for me!
Of course, I started with the shortest verse, “Jesus wept” John 11:35. Many times since, this verse has reminded me of his compassion, his understanding of our pain.
Later I learned: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.“ (Hebrews 4:15-16)
We lived with my grandmother for five months when I was in the fourth grade. I joined the Pioneer Girls at Ocean City Baptist Church. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” was their motto. Verses I memorized for badges, and love poured into me by the leaders, prepared me to receive Jesus the next summer when I stayed with my grandmother after my brother died. The following week I dedicated my life to serve as a missionary.
Years later, when I finally made it to the foreign mission field in Honduras, I began to memorize verses in Spanish. In another language, they are stored in a different place in the brain, and for me, in the heart as well. So the Word went deeper.
After eight years, we returned to the States and suffered culture shock and depression. In a Navigator’s training class in Salt Lake City, founded on scripture memorization, I began to get back on my feet.
The Gospel of John starts, “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was God…..” Drawing near to Jesus begins with our experience of God becoming real in our lives, as the wise men at the manger, and grows as we get to know the living Word.
So I want to encourage you to take in the Word. Yes — memorize it.
I know from facilitating Beth Moore Bible studies that many feel they can’t memorize. We are all busy, and often time and sleep deprived. One more thing to do isn’t how we want to start the year.
But if we want more of Jesus, The Living Word, then honestly seeking him and having his words in our minds helps him to transform our lives.
For me, music is tied to worship, such as the verse above I wrote for Christmas to add to the song “Here is Love.” Music is a great way to learn scriptures. So, if you’re like me, find a song, or put a tune to the verse you’re learning. It could be your spoon full of sugar.
If you think you’re a hopeless cause, Ann Voskamp has come up with Scripture Memorization for the Rest of Us: The Jesus Project. Click on it at the bottom and read her blog. She even offers downloads of beautifully designed memory verses.
With so much I could have said today, I hesitated to talk about memorizing Bible verses, because it can be just another must-do, or mechanical, or even something to pump up our pride, or to hide from pain. (We’ve probably all known someone who could quote the Bible, but behaved in a way we certainly don’t want to follow.)
But if we read, learn and mull over the Word of God because we are hungry for The Word who is God, to bring real life into us, that’s where the treasure is.
When I want to know how much air to put in my tires or what kind of antifreeze I need, I consult my car’s owner’s manual. If I want to bake a cake, I consult a cookbook (now, often virtual). And when I’m designing a new garden bed, I study the soil, micro-climate and plant needs.
Would we be wise to do less with our lives? Dig into your owner’s manual and plant some of that wisdom in your mind. (Sorry for all the mixed metaphors.)
If your life needs a jump-start, transformation, healing or simply more guidance, then I encourage you to seek more of Jesus, however you want to come.
“In the presence of a king, don’t ask for small gifts. He is God!” Charles Swindoll, Insight for Living, 30 Dec 2013
My New Year’s Prayer for you:
I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength! Ephesians 1:17-19 (MSG)