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Memory verses for grown-ups: Benefits of Bible memorization

Fri, 14 Sep 2007 - 4:05 PM CST

For generations, memory verses have been a staple of children's Sunday School lessons. But bring up the subject of memorizing Scripture in a roomful of adults, and it may be a conversation killer.

Many churchgoers today don't even read the Bible, let alone commit passages to memory. The Barna Group reports that 47 percent of U.S. adults attend church each week. Meanwhile, a Boston University researcher found 60 percent of Americans can't name five of the Ten Commandments, and half of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple, not twin cities destroyed for wickedness.

In spite of the dismal statistics, there are still those who are serious about studying Scripture - so serious, in fact, they may use time spent stuck in traffic or sitting in a doctor's waiting room learning verses.

Gary Smart, who attends First Christian Assembly of God in Cincinnati, became interested in committing Scripture to memory three years ago while helping his daughter learn a verse for the church's Stars Club. He was surprised how the verse stuck with him and reminded him of God's presence throughout the day. Since that time, he has made an effort to memorize Bible passages on a regular basis.

"I wasn't raised in a Scripture-memorizing church, so I didn't have that benefit for many years," Smart says. "Now, I feel like knowing God's Word gives me a foundation to stand on. I often think of the verses I've learned and even use them to encourage others."

Fred Gore, Junior Bible Quiz coordinator for the Southern Missouri District, earned his JBQ Master Seal while guiding his three sons through the program. To do so, he memorized all 107 JBQ Bible quotations in addition to the other Bible-related material. Gore says the benefits of Bible memorization don't just apply to kids.

"The process of repeating a passage over and over causes me to meditate on it more and really want to dig in to the Scripture to understand it better, especially some of Scripture's great passages," Gore says. "Scripture memorization for me has been like a spark that's grabbed my heart and spurred me on to some really in-depth study of the Word."

Brian King, JBQ coordinator for the North Carolina District and Southeast Region, agrees that Scripture memorization shouldn't cease at adulthood. King recently earned his Impossible Award, the program's highest honor, by reciting all 576 JBQ questions and answers. The award is usually given to children, but King says he recognized the value of learning the material himself.

"I believe the Bible is what it purports to be, and trust that God still honors obedience and faith," King says. "Therefore, it behooves me to spend time learning and practicing the Word in my life. If it really is God's Word, how could I not read, study and memorize it?"

There are a few ministries that specialize in adult Bible memorization, such as The Navigators, an interdenominational organization based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The organization promotes a topical card system to help users memorize verses on everything from fellowship to honesty.

Lauren Libby, vice president of The Navigators, describes his 35 years of memorizing Scripture as the best investment of his life.

Libby advises people who are interested in Bible memorization to choose the method that works best for them, whether it's taping verses to the bathroom mirror or listening to the Bible on tape. He says it's often easier to begin the process with a partner who can provide support and encouragement.

"When people begin to see the benefits of memorizing God's Word, that tends to whet their appetite for more," Libby says. "For me, it increases my vocabulary that the Lord can use to communicate with me on a daily basis."

Mark W. Smith, pastor of First Assembly of God in Bellefontaine, Ohio, says his Scripture memorization occurs naturally through regular Bible reading. He notes that while committing Scripture to memory is a commendable practice, it must be accompanied by a personal desire to live out what the Bible teaches.

"I call it hiding God's Word in my heart or, as has become one of my deeply held beliefs, letting God's Word become you," Smith says.


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For generations, memory verses have been a staple of children's Sunday School lessons. But bring up the subject of memorizing Scripture in a roomful of adults, and it may be a conversation killer.

Many churchgoers today don't even read the Bible, let alone commit passages to memory. The Barna Group reports that 47 percent of U.S. adults attend church each week. Meanwhile, a Boston University researcher found 60 percent of Americans can't name five of the Ten Commandments, and half of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple, not twin cities destroyed for wickedness.

In spite of the dismal statistics, there are still those who are serious about studying Scripture - so serious, in fact, they may use time spent stuck in traffic or sitting in a doctor's waiting room learning verses.

Gary Smart, who attends First Christian Assembly of God in Cincinnati, became interested in committing Scripture to memory three years ago while helping his daughter learn a verse for the church's Stars Club. He was surprised how the verse stuck with him and reminded him of God's presence throughout the day. Since that time, he has made an effort to memorize Bible passages on a regular basis.

"I wasn't raised in a Scripture-memorizing church, so I didn't have that benefit for many years," Smart says. "Now, I feel like knowing God's Word gives me a foundation to stand on. I often think of the verses I've learned and even use them to encourage others."

Fred Gore, Junior Bible Quiz coordinator for the Southern Missouri District, earned his JBQ Master Seal while guiding his three sons through the program. To do so, he memorized all 107 JBQ Bible quotations in addition to the other Bible-related material. Gore says the benefits of Bible memorization don't just apply to kids.

"The process of repeating a passage over and over causes me to meditate on it more and really want to dig in to the Scripture to understand it better, especially some of Scripture's great passages," Gore says. "Scripture memorization for me has been like a spark that's grabbed my heart and spurred me on to some really in-depth study of the Word."

Brian King, JBQ coordinator for the North Carolina District and Southeast Region, agrees that Scripture memorization shouldn't cease at adulthood. King recently earned his Impossible Award, the program's highest honor, by reciting all 576 JBQ questions and answers. The award is usually given to children, but King says he recognized the value of learning the material himself.

"I believe the Bible is what it purports to be, and trust that God still honors obedience and faith," King says. "Therefore, it behooves me to spend time learning and practicing the Word in my life. If it really is God's Word, how could I not read, study and memorize it?"

There are a few ministries that specialize in adult Bible memorization, such as The Navigators, an interdenominational organization based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The organization promotes a topical card system to help users memorize verses on everything from fellowship to honesty.

Lauren Libby, vice president of The Navigators, describes his 35 years of memorizing Scripture as the best investment of his life.

Libby advises people who are interested in Bible memorization to choose the method that works best for them, whether it's taping verses to the bathroom mirror or listening to the Bible on tape. He says it's often easier to begin the process with a partner who can provide support and encouragement.

"When people begin to see the benefits of memorizing God's Word, that tends to whet their appetite for more," Libby says. "For me, it increases my vocabulary that the Lord can use to communicate with me on a daily basis."

Mark W. Smith, pastor of First Assembly of God in Bellefontaine, Ohio, says his Scripture memorization occurs naturally through regular Bible reading. He notes that while committing Scripture to memory is a commendable practice, it must be accompanied by a personal desire to live out what the Bible teaches.

"I call it hiding God's Word in my heart or, as has become one of my deeply held beliefs, letting God's Word become you," Smith says.


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A Centennial Pilgrimage to Hot Springs

Thu, 17 Apr 2014 - 10:36 AM CST

ELT and EP photo in Hot Springs
Holding a historic picture from the 1914 gathering in Hot Springs, current members of the Assemblies of God Executive Leadership Team and some Executive Presbyters pose in the same place as the original photo.

Approximately 300 people gathered in Hot Springs, Arkansas, on April 10-11, 2014, to celebrate the centennial of the Assemblies of God. Echoes of the statements from the founding general council, where another 300 ministers gathered in the same place exactly 100 years earlier, could be heard throughout the two-day event.

The centennial celebration, sponsored by the AGTrust, featured seven speakers and a night of gospel music and worship. The celebration concluded with a pilgrimage to the site of the former Grand Opera House, where the first general council was held, to re-create the iconic photograph of the founders of the Assemblies of God.

One hundred years ago, Hot Springs had a reputation as a wild town, known for its alcohol, prostitution, gangs and drugs. When the founders of the Assemblies of God met at the Hot Springs Grand Opera House for the first general council, they had to pass by the saloon at the front of the building in order to attend the meetings in the auditorium. The centennial celebration was held in a more sanctified setting — the spacious First Assembly of God, Hot Springs, Arkansas, pastored by Larry Burton.

The centennial celebration drew people from across the United States. Jean and Magalie Rebecca, a husband and wife who pastor Haitian Assembly of God, Dorchester, Massachusetts, were excited to be able to participate: "We grew up in the Assemblies of God in Haiti. The Assemblies of God is a worldwide family, and we wanted to represent Haitians in Hot Springs."

Attendees also included descendants of some of the participants in the first general council, held April 2-12, 1914. Bonnie Olsen, the granddaughter of founding Assemblies of God minister Oliver P. Brann, felt right at home. She commented, "I experienced faith-filled services and the power of God this week. I wish I could experience this every day!"

General Superintendent George O. Wood opened the celebration on Thursday by recounting the five reasons for the formation of the Assemblies of God as enumerated in the century-old "Call to Hot Springs." Each speaker continued in this vein, expounding on why the founding principles of the Assemblies of God remain compelling today. Greg Mundis, executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions, shared about the heritage of missionaries who suffered, sometimes unto death, to bring the gospel around the world. Assistant General Superintendent Alton Garrison preached on the bedrock importance of the Word of God.

Hot Springs prayer
Many men and women came forward for healing during the centennial service held at First Assembly of God in Hot Springs.

True to Pentecostal form, the afternoon service included an extended time at the altar. Hundreds of voices were raised in fervent prayer, and people flooded the altars and aisles in the church. Following a time of prayer for specific areas of ministry, Garrison asked those present in need of healing to come forward for prayer. Vocal spiritual gifts were manifested, and several people later testified of physical healings.

Wilfredo de Jesús, pastor of New Life Covenant Church, Chicago, Illinois, encouraged those who are carrying on the Pentecostal legacy to fight complacency in their spiritual lives. "It is essential to build a bridge," he asserted, "so that the younger generation can learn about the power of the Holy Spirit from the older generation." He illustrated this principle with the biblical example of Elijah, the older prophet, who discipled Elisha, the younger prophet. De Jesús pointedly observed, "Elijah and Elisha were from different generations, but they walked together."

Thursday evening, gospel musicians Johnny Minick and Russ Taff led participants in three hours of rousing worship. The music included songs from each decade of the last 100 years. About 40 people - including Wood and Garrison — even participated in a Jericho March, which is a spirited procession around the church in a single file during the worship service. The practice originated in Kentucky Presbyterian camp meetings during the Second Great Awakening and had been adopted by some early Pentecostals.

On Friday morning, three younger ministers spoke — Rod Loy (First Assembly, North Little Rock, Arkansas), Rob Ketterling (River Valley Church, Apple Valley, Minnesota) and Aaron Cole (Life Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin). They described how Assemblies of God founding ideals are being carried out today and also envisioned the future of the Fellowship.

Following the Footsteps of the AG Founding Members
Attendees of the centennial event make their way up to where the iconic "photo of 300" of the original founders of the Assemblies of God was taken in 1914. Once there, a new centennial photo was taken in the exact same place, re-creating the century-old photo.

The celebration culminated in a pilgrimage to the site where the Hot Springs Grand Opera House once stood. The 300 attendees viewed the new historic marker in honor of the Assemblies of God centennial, which was placed in the sidewalk near Mountain Valley Spring Company, located at 150 Central Avenue. They proceeded to climb the winding trail behind the site of the former Grand Opera House until they reached a small clearing where the iconic photograph from the first general council had been taken.

J. Don George, an Assemblies of God senior statesman and founding pastor of Calvary Church, Irving, Texas, called the centennial event in Hot Springs "a historic occasion that will be long remembered." He noted that the event was relatively small in comparison to the larger centennial celebration slated to be held in Springfield, Missouri, on August 5-10, 2014, in conjunction with the World Assemblies of God Congress. "As a movement we are called to generational, gender, cultural and racial diversity," George stated. When thousands of visitors from across the United States and the world descend on Springfield in August, this diversity will be on full display.

Commemorative Plaque
A historic marker, indicating the historic location of the site of the founding convention of the Assemblies of God, was placed in the sidewalk on Central Avenue in Hot Springs.

The men and women who met in Hot Springs 100 years ago laid a foundation for a cooperative Fellowship that would help Pentecostals to more effectively evangelize the world. One hundred years later, the Assemblies of God has more than 3.1 million adherents in the United States and more than 66 million worldwide.

The centennial gathering offered both a celebration of the past century and a vision for the future. According to George O. Wood, the Assemblies of God, throughout its history, "has been marked by purpose and passion." He explained, "Our purpose is embedded in our doctrine, mission, values and strategies. Our passion comes from the work of the Holy Spirit who continues to empower us to do the greatest work of evangelism the world has ever seen." Wood predicted, "The future for the Assemblies of God is truly as bright as the promises of God."

 

 

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