So, here we go!

While I’m a little intimidated by the idea of memorizing a whole book, I’m also really excited about what God is going to teach us as we memorize Philippians.

Why am I doing this?
Read the beginning of this story here.  

This Week’s Section
I don’t know exactly how much is a realistic goal to memorize in one week. But the only way to find out is to try and see how it goes. So I’ve decided that the first section we’ll attempt is chapter 1, verses 1-11. Here it is in the New International Version (NIV).

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.

How To Memorize
How exactly does one go about memorizing something long? Here are several ideas I’ve used myself or found as I did a little searching and asking around. I plan to try several this week.

  1. Read the entire book from start to finish every day. It is short enough to read in one sitting, probably in about fifteen minutes. We all can squeeze fifteen minutes into our day, right? The more you read it as one cohesive letter, the more familiar you will get with the flow and with the messages in it.
  2. Especially if you are always on the go, find (or make) and listen to a complete audio recording of the book repeatedly. Make a tape or download an MP3 to listen in the car, while folding laundry, as you wash dishes, etc.
  3. After reading it through a few times, begin to read it while looking for the answers to 5-W-How questions. Who is writing? Who is it to? What is happening? When was this written? Why was it written? How is this accomplished? Answering these questions will help us develop a good understanding of the book. We are not just memorizing a sequence of words here — we are memorizing the Holy Word of God. We must make an effort to understand what these words mean, too.
  4. Note key words — words that are repeated throughout the book. These will help us identify the themes.
  5. Copy the week’s section out by hand. I’m going to try to do this once a day the first half of the week.
  6. Try to write the week’s section from memory. Be sure to go back and correct your mistakes. I will try this the second half of the week.
  7. Write everything you have memorized so far from memory. (I plan to do this a couple of times at the end of each week once I’ve mastered the new section so I can start putting it all together.)
  8. To learn each verse, break it down into phrases and repeat them out loud over and over until you get them word perfect. Then do the next phrase. Then put them together. Repeat until you can say the entire verse. 
  9. Write and review flash cards with the first word of each verse (though since I’m trying to focus on sentences rather than verses, I don’t know if this will really help).
  10. Post laminated copy in the shower so you can review and practice there.
  11. Write and review flash cards or lists of the first letter of each word in the verse or section. (Thanks to Ann Voskamp for this idea.) Carry this with you to test yourself while standing in line at the grocery store, waiting at the bus stop, on hold on the phone, or waiting for water to boil.

    Here’s what this section would look like, out of the NIV (feel free to copy):

P A T S O C J T A T S I C J A P, T W T O A D: G A P T Y F G O F A T L J C.

I T M G E T I R Y. I A M P F A O Y, I A P W J B O Y P I T G F T F D U N, B C O T, T H W B A G W I Y W C I O T C U T D O C J.

I I R F M T F T W A A O Y, S I H Y I M H; F W I A I C O D A C T G, A O Y S I G G W M. G C T H I L F A O Y W T A O C J.

A T I M P: T Y L M A M A M I K A D O I, S T Y M B A T D W I B A M B P A B U T D O C, F W T F O R T C T J C – T T G A P O G.

Please comment with any additional ideas or recommendations. I will include your tips in next week’s section.

I have a list of names, and I have committed to praying for each of you as we memorize Philippians. If you are joining me and haven’t left your name, please leave a comment so that I can be sure to pray for you too.

Background of the Book of Philippians
I thought it might be a good idea to learn a little bit about this letter as we get started, so here is a brief introduction to the book. If you’d rather do your own study, please feel free to skip this section, but I do recommend reading Act 16:6-40 to learn about the founding of the church at Philippi.

In Acts 16:6-40, we see Paul and Silas travel to the region of Macedonia (modern-day Turkey) after being prevented by the Spirit of God from traveling to a few different regions of Asia. One night as Paul looked for leading from God about where to take the gospel message next, a man appeared to him in a dream, pleading for him to come to Macedonia, on the continent of Europe. Paul and Silas immediately boarded a ship and headed for Philippi, one of the most influential cities of the region. They met Lydia, who believed their message and opened her home to them. Quickly though, Paul and Silas ended up in prison after they cast a demon out of a fortune-teller and destroyed the income of her masters.

God miraculously rescued them from prison, and in the process, their jailor and his entire household believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul and Silas were forced to leave town soon after by a town judge, but they left behind a healthy young church. We see from Paul’s greeting at the beginning of Philippians that they grew in number (“together with the overseers and deacons”), and we will see in the letter that they lacked many of the issues Paul had to address in other churches (such as Galatia and Corinth). 

Paul wrote the letter primarily to encourage these dear brothers and sisters. He thanked them for sending a gift when they heard he had been put under house arrest in Rome, and he assured them that despite possibility that he might be executed, his faith in Christ was sustaining him and he was in good spirits. He also discussed how to grow in their Christian faith. He urged them not to become casual about their faith but to press on and imitate the example of Christ himself — the ultimate servant.