The words “never forget” are on many social media timelines today in remembrance of the events of September 11, 2001. The terror attacks in New York and Washington happened so long ago, that those who were born the year it happened have graduated high school. I like so many, remember exactly where I was, and what I was doing when I heard the news of the attacks. I remember getting back to my hotel room and turning on the tv just as the south tower collapsed. This day along with the images shown on tv are burned into my memory. But I have to be honest, I think we have forgotten. No, we haven’t forgotten the day, the images, our emotions, or the lives lost. We remember all of those things. What I fear we have forgotten are the lessons of that day. I look at our nation in 2020, and wonder, how did we go so far in the wrong direction in 19 years? That would be a whole other lengthy post in trying to examine and explain that. What I want to do with the remainder of this post is to hopefully help us learn how to not forget the lessons we need to learn. Not just from national tragedies like 9/11 or COVID-19. But also the lessons that God teaches us as we read His Word. So many people say that they read the Bible, but they struggle to remember what they read. I won’t say that I remember everything that I read, but through the years God has used godly men to pour into my life both up close and from afar to help me retain more of His Word. My guess is, the question you are asking yourself is, how?
- Rely on the Holy Spirit. The problem isn’t with our memory, it is with desire to try to do it on our own. The apostle Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians that spiritual things can only be understood when the Holy Spirit teaches them to us. He says that “the natural man (an unsaved person) does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).
- Learn in community. This goes along with point number 1, and it is another reminder to not try to learn on your own. When I used to read the Bible simply by myself, and not discuss what I was reading with others, I could fall into the trap of reading just to say that I read my Bible that day. However, since learning and putting into practice being in a discipleship group, God is changing how I read and what I remember. Yes, I still read the Bible in my home or in my office. But now, every week I get together with two other guys and we discuss what we are reading and what God is teaching us. That accountability causes me to slow down, and truly try to meditate on what God is saying. This is one of the reasons I am a huge advocate of discipleship groups. These two things help me with the final four practical steps to retain God’s Word and remember the lessons He is teaching me.
- Read and re-read the Bible. This sounds so elementary. Maybe that is why we so often overlook it. Psalm 1 opens by saying, “Blessed is the man who walks no in the counsel’s of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord” (Psa. 1:1-2a). There is no substitute to opening the Bible and reading from it. One change that I have made over the last couple of years in my Bible reading is the pace that I set for myself. I, like many, used to believe that reading through the entire Bible in a year was a badge of honor as a Christian. If that is the goal you have for yourself, and it was prayed over, and it is what God lead you to do, then continue doing it please. I’m not trying to claim some moral high ground in any way. However, I have started using a Bible reading plan by Replicate Ministries called the F-260 plan. In this reading plan, yes you go through the entire Bible. However, you aren’t reading every chapter. Instead, you are reading one to two chapters a day for five days a week. These are chapters that trace the message of the Bible in a chronological order. One to two chapters a day for five days is a lot easier than three to four chapters a day for seven days. It allows me to slow down in my reading and truly try to soak up what I’m reading.
- Meditate on what you are reading. Again, the natural tendency is to read through the Bible in order to check off a box on our spiritual to-do list for the day. However, the Bible isn’t a book to be read, it is a letter from a loving Heavenly Father to be understood and lived out. As I am reading, I am asking the question, how can I live this out today? Again, giving credit to Replicate Ministries, I use a Replicate Disciple’s Journal. It has a place where I can write what God is saying to me each day, but also a place where I can go back throughout the day, and write how God is calling me to live out the text. In the journal it is called a daily RESET. It’s a time where I reflect on what I read that morning, and continue ask the question, how can I live this out today?
- Memorize part of what you are reading. David wrote in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Each week, there are one to two verses that I am trying to memorize. Again, I am doing this in my discipleship group. Therefore, I have other guys who can encourage me, as well as, hold me accountable. I have memorized Diana’s birthday and our anniversary. Why? Because I love her. Therefore, if I love God, shouldn’t I want to memorize parts of what He has written for me? I can hear a lot of you now saying, “that’s great for you, you are young and can memorize the Bible, I’m old and it’s harder for me.” I’m not going to go any further than what I am about to say to that right here, that’s simply not true! You might have to work at it, but we never seem to mind working on things that are important to us or doing something for someone we love. God can and will help you hide His Word in your heart. Ask Him! Get with some fellow believers, and start memorizing together. You will be amazed at what God does.
- Share it. The final part of never forgetting, is making sure to pass along to others what God is teaching you. Every morning and evening, Hebrew families would recite what is known as the Shema. It is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Part of the Shema tells them to talk about the Law and the Lord with their children, and essentially everywhere they go. The Bible isn’t meant to be read and kept to ourselves. We are meant to, even commanded, to share with others the life-saving and life transforming message found in the Bible. This can easily be done in a discipleship group, but it can go further. I am a big believer in that what God takes us through in experiences, and what He shows us in His Word is not just for us, but it is also for others. God can take the difficulties I and my family go through, and use them to reach others who are going through similar difficulties. In the same way, I should share what God is teaching me with others.
As we once again remember the events of September 11, 2001, may we not just remember the images and the emotions of the day. May we also remember the lessons, and may we share them with the current generation so that they never forget, and hopefully they won’t have to learn the hard way like our generation has. May God be with those families who lost loved ones on this day 19 years ago, and with those who survived and are carrying the physical, mental, and emotional scars of that day.
By His grace and for His glory,