In October of 2005, I wrote my first Bible verse song. Our small group leader had challenged us all to memorize the passage our church was focusing on that week, and the best way I could think of to help my kids get it into their heads was to put it to music.
The verse was from the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 7:7 (Ask and it will be given to you… ) which I came to learn was from the Fighter Verses set of Bible verses – developed by Children Desiring God. It worked. The next time our small group met, our family sang it for them. My kids still know that song.
That was eleven years ago, and since then our team of song-writers and musicians has written and produced all of the Fighter Verses (five sets – we just finished the last one Set 2, this year) as songs to help families and churches get scripture into their heads and hearts. And this experience has taught me some truths that I’m sure many of you already know. But in case you don’t or need reminding (like I do) here are five of them:
1. There are so many important passages.
I work with first graders on Wednesday nights and every week we have a new passage to discuss. And every week I tell them: This is such an important passage – I’m so glad we’re not missing this!
What if you were asked to name the ten most important verses in the Bible? Could you do it? I couldn’t. I could take a stab at it, but I’d keep finding more –
What about the creation of the universe in Genesis?
What about the truth that I’m fearfully and wonderfully made in Psalm 139?
What about the fact that all have sinned in Romans 3? Or the great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews? Or the many, many gospel passages? What about Jesus’ death and resurrection?
The Bible is filled with crucial passages. Every week as we attempt to memorize another one, I’m pleased and amazed at how important this next passage is, yet again. Embrace this truth!
2. … And we need people to point them out to us.
Similarly, if you ask a group of thirty Christians what the most helpful passage is for them, it’s possible that you’ll get a different passage from each of them. It’s also likely that you would be rewarded by hearing their answers.
I’m so grateful for the team of people at Bethlehem Baptist church (including John Piper) and Children Desiring God, who went before us and worked hard to create these lists of passages. The five Fighter Verse sets include 529 verses from thirty books of the Bible. We need resources like this to show us the value of God’s Word.
3. It’s helpful to see other people’s approaches to understanding a passage.
With every CD, we’ve had several song-writers, and it’s been common for a Fighter Verse to have multiple songs written for it. This has been a blessing. I’ve appreciated how different they are. Different words are stressed. Different song styles evoke different emotions drawn out of the text. Different melodies pull us into different ways of looking at the truths highlighted. I’ve thought, I would never have written that passage like that! This shows God’s creativity in how he created his sons and daughters so differently.
We should embrace this, also.
4. You don’t get to the bottom of learning what’s in a Bible passage.
Those of us who’ve been Christians awhile, and who have read through the Bible more than once, start to realize the happy truth that we’ll never learn everything there is to know about God’s Word. There’s always more to see what he’s put into words for us. I can tell you, that’s not only true for the totality of God’s word, it’s true for every single passage in it.
Lately I’ve been studying James, and, reading a passage I currently have memorized, I saw new important truths I hadn’t seen before, even while memorizing. And I thought, how could I have missed that!
Yes, it’s true that memorizing a passage helps you dive down deep into the meaning, deeper than just reading it, but you’ll never completely master a passage, even if you commit it to memory, because (1) there will always be more to see, more connections to make, more context to understand, and (2) we’re humans; after a time we forget what we’ve learned and need to revisit, relearn, remind.
5. There is always joy.
One comment (you might call them helpful critiques) that I’ve gotten from others about some of the melodies I write is this: You make them too happy. “This is a sober passage,” they tell me. “You can’t make the song with those words so boppy and fun.” Now to some degree, I cop to this charge. “Okay, I’ll tone it down. I’ll make it minor. I give it a slower tempo”. But … well consider writing a song for this dark passage from Ephesians:
You were dead in the trespasses and sins … following the prince of the power of the air … among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh … and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
I ask: Is there joy in this passage? Yes, there is! In the word ‘were’! You were dead. You aren’t any more! If you’re saved by the passion of Christ, you aren’t living in the passion of your flesh. If you’re a child of God you aren’t a child of wrath. How could I write that song sad?
For the Christian, every passage of the Bible has a subtext of joy. And when you memorize them, you get that joy into your mind and your soul. I recommend that you do that: Memorize God’s Word.
And consider this question: when you’ve succeeded, when you have five or ten or a hundred passages committed to memory, what will you learn?