Lessons from “Schoolhouse Rock” April 27 2018

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

Many middle-aged adults would remember (fondly or not) the songs of “Schoolhouse Rock.” It was reported that the creator of Schoolhouse Rock, Bob Dorough, died this week at age 94. The story goes that Dorough, a jazz musician and vocalist, was approached by a New York advertising executive in 1971, explaining that his sons were not very good at math and could not multiply. So he asked Dorough to set the multiplication tables to music.

Thus was born the first song of the series "Three's a Magic Number." This was followed by many other well-known tunes like: “Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function?;” “The Preamble” (of the Constitution of the United States); “I’m Just a Bill” (how a bill becomes law in Congress); “What is a Noun?” and so on. If you want to stroll down memory lane or find out what this is all about, just visit the videos at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHp7sMqPL0g
Some adults, to this day, credit Schoolhouse Rock for being able to remember answers to some of their test questions in school.

I’m sure you are starting to wonder “OK. So what’s the spiritual significance of Schoolhouse Rock?” Well, I got to thinking about how much more we sometimes remember about words that are put to song. Think about the commercials. Think about the jingles. Think about the refrains of many of the well-known songs of today. The lyrics can sometimes stick in your brain to the point where they are impossible to forget. When people are singing the jingle, that’s when advertisers know they have succeeded.

Somehow, God designed into our human bodies the ability to better remember words by putting them to music. The nation of Israel knew this very well, and we see it demonstrated throughout the Psalms and other books of the Bible. In fact, someone has counted up the number of songs in the Bible to be 185, most of these being from the Psalms. It’s too bad that archeology cannot find a way to unearth the melodies as well as the lyrics. But even though we may not have the original tunes, we have had the benefit of some modern-day song-writers putting the Word of God to music. Here are a few familiar examples:

“This is the day that the Lord has made …” (Psalm 118:24)
“Beloved, let us love one another …” (1 John 4:7-8)
“You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, 'Lord, Blessed be Your Name.'” (Job 1:21)
“You are the Everlasting God…You do not faint, You won’t grow weary.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)

 

The “Kid’s Praise” series had come out when our sons were young, and after seemingly endless repetition, those songs, and the Scripture verses many of them are based on, just became part of our lives. At our church, we try to have new memory verses every couple of months, related to the book of the Bible we are studying. In the last year or so, our musical worship ministry team has put several of the verses to music. For example, there is I Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” And as I’m writing this down, I’m singing the song in my head.

The point of this is that we know Scripture memory is important. But because, we have songs for only a limited number of verses, we usually need to memorize the old-fashioned way – repetition, repetition, repetition. But this is also part of biblical meditation, per Psalm 1:2 – “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” Biblical meditation does not involve emptying your mind as in some of the eastern religions, but rather filling your mind with God’s Word. Verse 3 goes on to state the benefits: “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” This is speaking of the most important kind of prosperity: spiritual, not financial.

So while Scripture memory takes planning and discipline, it boils down to priorities and motivation. For example, let’s say that a benevolent individual was willing to pay us $1000 for each Bible verse we memorized. That would be quite a motivation. We would be much more likely to put other things aside for the prospect of earning money. In other words, we can do this, if we really want to, by God’s grace.

“Uncle Bob” Schneider, President of BCF, actually did that, on a much smaller scale, with one of his teenage children some years ago. He gave his teenager one dollar for each verse, up to $50. That might not seem like much now, but back then, for a young person, that was real money. There were only two catches. Uncle Bob got to choose the verses and his child had to be able to recite them all in one sitting. But he did it, and afterwards said “OK, dad, let’s go for the next 50,” clearly with the expectation of earning more money. But by that time, Scripture memory had become a habit and dad said that no more incentive was required.

As a young believer in my early 20s, I was taught about the importance of Scripture memory, and carried around a pocket Bible all marked up with memory verses. It was good for pulling out when I was standing in lines or was otherwise unoccupied. However, I went a little too far one day when I was driving along an open stretch of highway with very little traffic around and pulled out my little Bible to start to reviewing verses. I held it up so that I could see the road and the pages at the same time. The Lord helped me quickly learn how bad an idea that was when an officer pulled up beside me, waved me over, and gave me a stern lecture on the hazards of reading while driving. “I should give you a ticket for reckless driving.” Thankfully, he did not ask what I was reading. So I slinked away with a warning (no ticket) and committed to never, ever doing that again. I had learned the principle to use those “idle” moments as time for Scripture memory. But the Lord had used the officer to remind me that the driving task was not idle time.

We have idle times even today, if we look hard enough. We still stand in lines, and we still have times between activities - some of us more and some of us less. Yes, the cell phone has absorbed much of that otherwise idle time, but here’s the deal. Instead of checking the news, weather, sports scores, latest videos, etc. or just letting the mind wander, take a couple of minutes to review a verse or verses to the point where it becomes a habit. One of the other “idle times” might be whenever you’re awake in bed. This might be something you do until you fall asleep (which for me is not very long). It might be when you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. Each person is a little different as far as when those otherwise idle times might be. There will be days when you have none at all or days when they are very short.

Lesson 2 in Self-Confrontation covers the importance of Scripture memory to a Christian’s walk, and its benefits. So if you have a Self-Confrontation manual, you can go there and do a little mini-study just on Scripture memory. There are also several plans for Scripture memory that you can choose from. The smart phone has made it even easier to get organized and tailor a memory plan to your specific schedule. It takes some discipline and planning, but you can change your phone from being a liability to a Scripture memory asset. This blog has been a good reminder that the author needs to get back into that habit as well.

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Steve Smith