Try to Remember
by Dale Reeves
Years ago several vocalists sang, “Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh so mellow. Try to remember the kind of September when grass was green and grain was yellow.” Most recently Josh Groban covered this song again. Because of the heat of the past few weeks, the grass in my yard is no longer green. September is gone and we are now into October. And we spend time trying to remember . . .
The One who created our brains knows something about long-term memory (since he created that too!), which is why he called his people to meditate on his Word day and night. He admonished them to “try to remember” times when God had proved faithful to them. For instance, he says . . .
“Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands” (Deuteronomy 8:2, NLT).
“Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given . . . Remember his covenant forever—the commitment he made to a thousand generations” (1 Chronicles 16:12, 15, NLT).
The Power of Memory
The past two Decembers I have traveled with our middle school pastor, Jake Niven, and some high-energy middle school students to the Alzheimer’s unit at the Lodge Nursing and Rehab Center in Loveland. Each year we love getting to bring some Christmas joy to the residents there as we hand out homemade Christmas cards, candy canes, and invite them to sing along with Christmas carols. We love asking the residents for their favorites and we always hear requests like “Away in the Manger,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Joy to the World.” This past year took a left turn when we started singing “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” We got halfway into it and realized they weren’t the best lyrics to be singing with a group of middle schoolers. Don’t believe me? Check them out: https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/homefree/grandmagotrunoverbyareindeer.html
Each year I have come away from this fun-filled evening with an appreciation for the power of the mind. The residents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and memory impairments that compromise their ability to perform normal daily activities might repeat themselves to me over the course of the evening. They often tell me things about something from their childhood or about a particular family member from years gone by. They might not remember what they just ate for dinner, but when we reach back into the recesses of their minds and ask them to request Christmas carols, it’s amazing to see their eyes light up, their smiles get bigger, and sometimes a tear or two begins to roll down their cheeks.
Short-term memory includes things that took place over a period of anywhere from 30 seconds to several days. Because short-term memories need to be recalled for a lesser amount of time than long-term memories, the ability of the brain to store short-term items is more limited. But the items that are lodged deep in the nooks and crannies of the mind are much more easily recalled—such as lyrics of songs that were learned as children. Of course, as latter stages of Alzheimer’s set in, the long-term memories fade as well.
The Power of Bible Memorization
In foreign countries, children in orphanages and missions that churches support often memorize Scripture to quote to their guests from America as a way of thanking them for their care and sustenance. This is something very special to observe. This past year I attended a pastor’s appreciation breakfast that was held at a Christian academy, and as we were eating breakfast several children’s classes took the stage and recited Bible passages they had been memorizing. What a treat it was to hear them remembering God’s Word in unison.
My senior year of high school I participated in a quiz-type competition called “Bible Bowl” (no, we did not roll Bibles down the lanes of a bowling alley) that lasted the whole year. I essentially memorized the four books of Romans, Galatians, Hebrews, and James in the King James version of the Bible (which was the go-to version for Bible Bowl competition in those days). I loved Bible Bowl because of the competitions we got to travel to and the friendships we formed with teens from other churches. The highlight of the year was playing in the national tournament of the North American Christian Convention which was held in Denver, CO. The competition there was so rough that I actually tore the meniscus of my left knee in the hotel swimming pool. The doctor in Denver wanted to perform surgery there, but I said, “No way! I’ve been studying the Bible all year for this event.” So, off I went in a wheelchair for the week, and didn’t have the surgery on my knee until after we returned home to Cincinnati.
In subsequent years one of the major passages of Scripture I committed to memory was Jesus’ sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7), this time in a more modern translation of the Bible. Jesus’ powerful words from this sermon have come back to me many times as I’ve encountered a particular situation because I’ve hidden those words in my heart. I don’t know if I’ll ever have to deal with dementia or Alzheimer’s as I age, but I know that I will experience many long-term benefits as a result of committing to memory portions of God’s Word.
This year I am reading a very practical and helpful Core 52 study, written by Mark Moore. (Check out https://core52.org for more info). Many in our church have been along for this journey of Bible reading and memorization, and we have heard some great reports of how impactful this experience has been. Here are just a few of the benefits that come from memorizing verses from the Bible:
- We Are More Equipped for Battle
When we know God’s Word, we have an offensive weapon with which we can fight the lies of the enemy (Ephesians 6:17; Matthew 4:1-11; Psalm 119:11). When you memorize Scriptures about particular sins you struggle with, you gain strength for the battle, and God’s Word can help you counteract the enemy’s attacks.
- We Have Clear Direction
When you are trying to make a particular decision and discern God’s will in that process, his Word provides guidance (Psalm 119:97-105; Proverbs 3:5, 6). When you reflect on God’s specific words on a specific topic, he breathes life into those words and often reveals a specific answer that is needed for just the right moment.
- Our Priorities Change
Focusing your mind on God’s Word will cause your desires to line up with God’s desires. You will start becoming more like Christ, which will produce godly characteristics in your life such as love, peace, and purity (Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:8).
- Our Prayers Become More Powerful
Jesus taught us to pray, “God’s will be done” and the apostle John promised that if we ask anything according to God’s will, he will hear us (1 John 5:14, 15). How can you pray for God’s will if you don’t know it? Using God’s own words from Scripture gives power and confidence to our prayers.
The last few words of that song “Try to Remember” say, “Our hearts should remember and follow, follow.” May God help us remember his goodness as this season falls upon us, and may we follow what he tells us to do by reading, learning, and memorizing his Word. We become what we put in our mind. And, that’s a good thing to remember.