Preface - Well-Versed
Snow was falling thick and fast across my windshield on a cold February night many winters ago. Not far ahead I saw the glowing lights of a bookstore.
Liz, you drove through a snowstorm to buy a book? I did. But it wasn’t just any book.
Minutes earlier, seated in a toasty-warm office, I’d confessed my sins(well, most of them) to the pastor of a church I’d started attending. I told him enough to get my point across, to convince him I was a Bad Girl.
The pastor gently said, “So you’ve lived a worldly life.”
I was confused. “No, I did all that stuff in America.”
He smiled. Then he prayed and encouraged me to read the book of John.
I bolted out of his office, intent on buying a Bible right then, snow or no snow. When I arrived at the bookstore, the place was deserted, and the cashier was freaked out about the weather. But I found what I was looking for: the biggest, thickest study Bible in town.
Safely back home, I opened to the book of John and read “In the beginning was the Word.” Did this mean way back when God created the earth? No, even before that. “Before the world began, the Word was there.”
Clearly, God wasn’t talking about a printed book. He was talking about the Living Word. His Son. Wow. That meant long before Jesus appeared as a baby in Bethlehem, He was with God.
I kept reading. “And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Right. Father and Son together with the Holy Spirit, bound throughout eternity. So much truth packed into a single verse. Is the whole Bible like this? I wondered.
Sitting there in my drafty old apartment, where central heat was little more than a rumor, I let the truth of John 1:1 sink in and was warmed by its poetic beauty and what it revealed about this God whom I was only beginning to understand.
Then I read the next verse. And the next. I inhaled the book of John, then Psalms, then the letters of Paul. I couldn’t get enough, didn’t want to stop.
With each passing month I feared that my enthusiasm for the Bible might wear thin. That once I’d read every page, the stories and lessons wouldn’t be as exciting the second time, let alone the tenth time.
Now I know the truth. Whenever I read a familiar verse, God reveals a richer, deeper meaning. And when I find a passage I’ve not read before? Pure joy.
Is that how reading the Bible is for you? An ongoing journey of discovery, an endless adventure? Or has it become a duty, a task, something to be checked off your daily to-do list? Maybe it’s not on your list at all and you’re wondering why an ancient book has any significance in our modern world.
Here’s why reading the Bible matters. When you spend time in God’s Word, life starts making sense. The broken places inside you begin to heal. Darkness and discouragement give way to the light of hope. You have a new reason to get out of bed in the morning. Your purpose becomes clearer, and your desire to make a difference grows.
The Bible can do all that? It can. It will. Just begin. Go slowly. Stand on tiptoe, anticipating all God has in store for you. “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”
We’re about to look at thirty-one verses, each one carefully divided into phrases and then into individual words. We’ll consider what God is saying and how we can apply His truth to our lives, starting today. “The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.” That’s where we want to land after reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word: we want to do what He asks of us.
If you’ve been reading the Bible for a few seasons, is there one verse you cherish above all others? A powerful statement that nourishes and sustains you year in and year out? Words you’ve posted on your fridge, stitched on fabric, written on greeting cards, included in your e-mail signature?
When I asked that question on social media, more than a thousand women responded with their favorite verses. I think you’ll love the ones they’ve chosen, gathered here in no particular order simply because they all matter. Your personal pick may be among them, or you could discover a verse that calls your name and speaks to your current situation.
That’s one of the beautiful things about the Bible: it meets us right where we are. Since “all Scripture is God-breathed,” we can be sure every word is vital and every verse serves God’s good purpose.
You might use 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart as a daily devotional, reading through it in a month, following the Study Guide as you go. (You’ll find that resource in the back of the book.) Or you could read five chapters each week and meet with a circle of friends to discuss what you’re learning, perhaps over a six-week stretch. Whatever works for you . . . works!
If you’re ready to give Scripture memorization a go, you’ll see lots of practical ideas and fun tips scattered throughout the book, then collected in the final pages for easy reference. You’ll also find a page at the end of each chapter where you can write your favorite translation of the verse to help you remember it word for word.
I know, I know. You don’t have time. Your memory isn’t what it used to be. You tried before and gave up. You think it’s too hard. I get it. Totally.
Still, here’s what the Bible says: “Keep my words and store up my commands within you.” This isn’t simply the wisdom of King Solomon written to his son. This is the Word of God written for all of us. Keep and store. That’s memorizing Scripture in a nutshell.
And look at all the benefits of having the Word in our hearts! First, we can share His truth with authority. Rather than our having to say, “Uh, let me find this for you in the Bible, because I know it’s here somewhere,” God tells us to “take hold of my words with all your heart” so that our counsel is solid and effective. Unless we point people to Scripture, we’re giving them little more than our opinion.
Second, when temptation knocks on our door, the verses we’ve memorized will come to our rescue. Countless times God’s Word has stopped me in my tracks before I veered down the wrong path. The psalmist confessed, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” A good plan for all believers.
A third benefit? While we’re learning these verses, our loved ones will be learning them with us. Saying verses aloud not only helps us remember them; it also helps anyone who hears them. “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Best of all, when God’s Word is written on our hearts, it goes with us everywhere. Our smartphones and tablets may run out of juice, and even a small travel Bible can be out of reach when we need it most. God has a better plan: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.” By memorizing key passages from His Word, we’ll be ready to encourage others and give them hope.
So glad we’re doing this together, beloved!
Copyright © 2016 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.