Saturday, May 29, 2010

Today I flew to North Carolina to visit my family. Airplane rides give great opportunites for scripture study. Here are today's verses:

"Whoever sheds the blood of man
by man shall his blood be shed.
For in the image of God has God made man.

As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it."

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, "I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you-the birds, the livestock, and all the wild animals-all those who came out of the ark with you, every living creature on earth.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Today I only read for 30 minutes, in 2 Chronicles 5-8. I'm sorry, but I'm just too exhausted.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Well, I took a big step today. I missed yesterday's assignment, and today I did not make up for it! I simply did one day's worth of work, as per usual. And I'm not going to feel bad about it. I'm going to keep trucking along at this nice, manageable pace.

I read about the temple that King Solomon built today. I've been through those passages beore, but I was not quite able to wrap my mind around what the temple looked like. Today I got a beter idea. Wow, that was an impressive building! It is such a shame that it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.

Here are today's verses:

Then God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, all the creatures that move along the ground and all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you; just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifebood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man."

Monday, May 24, 2010

This morning I reviewed the verses that I should have reviewed yesterday, then this evening I continued with my regularly scheduled study. (Yes, I realize that my new policy says not to do this, but I thought I would. Why not?)

On a related note: Today, my memorization caught up with the Bible reading I did on the first day of this project. I finally finished the eighth chapter of Genesis! It's a long way left to go, but it feels so good to know that real progress is being made!

Here are today's verses:

So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his son's wives. And all the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground, and all the birds-everything that moves on the earth-came out of the ark, one kind after another. Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, sacriced burnt offerings on it. God smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart, "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I've been reflecting on why I quit memorizing the scripture for a while, and I think I have an idea.

For various reasons having to do with time management and a lack of discipline, I got behind by a day. No big deal; I just did twice as much the next day. But then I developed the habit of neglecting my studies and making it up on a fairly regular basis. Eventually, I reached the point where I was more than two days behind, and then I was sunk. Catching up seemed so impossible that I just gave up. I meant to start back, but I just kept putting it off more and more. So I wound up doing nothing at all, because I didn't like being behind.

I have decided on a new policy. If I fail to study the Bible on a given day, I won't try to make up today's study tomorrow. That will quickly become unmanageable. Instead, I will simply try again tomorrow, with the same workload as today.

Here are today's verses:

By the first day of the first month of Noah's six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then remved the covering from the ark and saw that the surfae of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month, the earth was completely dry. Then God said to Noah, "Come out of the ark-you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you-the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground-so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It is such a pleasure, now, to take some time in the evenings to decompress from the constant business of the day and study God's Word. Right now, I am reading through the book of 1st Chronicles, and you know what that means:

Lots and lots and LOTS of names!

This man was the father of that man, and that man was the father of the other man, and the other man was the father of still another man, and so on for pages and pages. I wonder how well I'm going to fare when I start memorizing these sections.

But Chronicles serves a good purpose. A lot of modern scholars try to pass off the miraculous occurrences of the Bible as fairy-tales or mythology. But Chronicles goes to great lengths to make it very clear: The Bible is history. It's very, very boring history a times. But that's the way history can sometimes be. All this stuff really happened. And since all these meticulously recorded facts are correct, so are all the really amazing things that are found in other parts of the Bible.

After forty days, Noah opened the window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove, to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find no place to set its feet, because there was water all over the surface of the earth, so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to Him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I am ashamed of what I have done, for it has been many days since my last post. My habit of memorizing the Bible (or reading it) has been slipping, and I have felt a corresponding feeling that there is something missing in my life.

But thanks be to God that I have a wife who he uses for His grand devices. This morning, she said that she would like for the two of us to take our quiet times at the same times each day, in the evening. What a godsend this was! Not only am I now more able to make a designated time when I can study God's Word, but we will be able to spend more time together in the process. I couldn't be happier.

Here are today's verses, pickng up where I left off:

Now the springs of the great deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible. After forty days Noah opened the window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Here are three days worth of back verses. My sleeping habits havechanged somewhat, and this has resulted in my falling behind. But as of this writing, I am at last caught up.

The memorization is coming easier, now. I am finding that the present verses are more logical in their progression, from one verse to the next. What is more, it is much easier to learn verses earlier in the day, when I can think.

Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. he water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible. After forty days, Noah opened the window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove, to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find no place to set is feet, because there was water all over the surface of the earth. So it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him. By the first day of the first month of Noah's six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Then Noah removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month, the earth was completely dry. Then God said to Noah, "Come out of the ark-you and your wife and your sons and their wives."

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Last night, I thought I would hold my wife until she fell asleep, then do my studying.


I fell right to sleep and woke up a day behind on my Bible study. Today, I was only able to keep pace wih my regular schedule. Tomorow, I will have some time. I will try to make it up then.

Every living thing that moved on the earth perished-birds, livestock, wild animals, creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out-men and animals, and the creatures that move along the ground, and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days. But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and He sent a wind on the earth, and the waters receded.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Last night, after snuggling with my wife, I intended to study the scriptures.

That was before I passed out.

That left me waking up today with an hour of reading to do, five verses to memorize, and thirty-five verses to review. Needless to say, I was busy for some time.

But, thanks be to God, I was able to get the work done, and tomorrow I will be back on schedule. In the meantime, I noticed a very interesting writing style in the account of Noah. Take a look at the italicized verses below before reading on.

Did you notice anything...annoying? Like, maybe, that the last four verses are essentially the same sentence written over and over again? I noticed, and in a big way, since I had to try to memorize every subtle little difference between each verse. What could Moses have been trying to accomplish by writing things in this way?

I think I have an idea. The repetitive section begins with the phrase, "For forty days, the floodwaters kept coming..." He then repeats himself over and over again, with each sentence revealing a new fact about this catastrophe. In this way, the description of the flood "keeps coming" as relentlessly as the floodwaters themselves. You begin to feel as Noah probably did, when he sat in the ark and wondered, "Is this rain ever going to stop?" Thus, through the use of this repetition, Moses succeeds in telling history and setting the mood at the same time.

The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the Lord shut him in.

For forty days, the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased, they lifted the ark high above the earth.

The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water.

They increased greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered.

The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

It is late, and I am tired. All I can say is-I got it done. However hard it is, may God grant me the strength to do what needs to be done anyway.

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month-on that day, the springs of the great dep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. On that very day, Noah and his sons-Shem, Ham, and Japheth-together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the grouund according to its kind, and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I finished today's verses a little easier, and a little earlier. am caught up on my reading, as well.

Right now, I am reading about King Solomon and the height of Israel's peace and prosperity. What an amazing spectacle! The temple that Solomon built was easily one of the wonders of the ancient world. And according to the Bible, Solomon had so much success that silver was counted of little value during his reign. And why was silver of little value? Because there was just so much GOLD!

But Solomon's wealth was exceeded by his wisdom and his piety. His devotion to God was great, and he had incredible insight into how to dispense justice. These factors combined to make Solomon's reign the high point of Israel's history.

But even the strongest and wisest of men are vulnerable to pressure, seduction, and time. Solomon married many foreign, idol-worshipping women. After this, the Bible does not say that Solomon's fall from grace happened immediately, but it happened as time passed. When Solomon grew old, he weakened and began serving other gods alongside of the Lord.

One might imagine that Solomon thought of himself as strong and wise, and told himself, that is foreign wives would not be able to sway his faith at all. Doubtless, that was true-for a while. But then, bit by bit, inch by inch, Solomon lost what he was, until his sin had destroyed him. Such is the fate of anyone, no matter how great, when they allow sin to have a foothold in their lives.

In our lives, we must pray that God will give us clear vision and a strong will to bear up under the devil's temptations. We must maintain CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah. And after the seven days, the floodwaters came on the earth.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I disappointed myself today. Though I managed to get my memorization done, it was almost 4:30 by the time I finished. As a result, my scripture reading didn't get done today. I will have to make it up tomorrow.

I really, really need to start on this earlier in the day, when I can concentrate.

The Lord then said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal-a male and its mate-and two of every kind of unclean animal-a male and its mate-and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made." And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thankfully, today's memorizaion was easier than yesterday's. I was suddenly struck, as I read this passage, of what an awesome responsibility God was laying on Noah. He was giving Noah the responsibility of taking care of the sole representatives of all life on this planet while during a disaster more catastrophic than the simultaneous detonation of a thousand nuclear bombs. And without any question or complaint (that is recorded), Noah accept all of God's statements as fact and obeys all of God's commands. Truly he is a role model for the rest of us.

"But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the arkyou and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal, and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them." Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
I don't have much to say today, except that these verses were very difficult to learn. I was at it for hours-probably because I started late at night, and my brain was not working as quickly as it could have been. I am very happy to be finishing at last, but very tired as well. I have no regrets, though. There is great benefit to learning the word of God.

So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is full of violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: the ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top; put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle, and upper decks. I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It occurs to me that this whole project of memorizing the Bible has other benefits besides knowledge of the scriptures. Even if I were not memorizing the Bible, and was working on "Moby Dick" instead, there would be a considerable benefit that I need.

I'm talking about perseverance and discipline. These are skills I am woefully lacking in, and the constant, daily practice of reading and memorizing the scriptures will have some part in that. This alone makes the project worthwhile.

All the knowledge and wisdom to be gained makes it a thousand times more so.

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Now the earth was corrupt in the Lord's sight, and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Boy, do I feel silly.

When I wrote yesterday, wondering about the meaning of "the sons of God" marrying the "daughters of men", I had failed to even consider today's verses!

Today's verse concerning the Nephilim tells us a number of things about these "sons of God" and "daughters of men".

First, their children were not ordinary human beings, so we can conclude that "sons of God" is not just an archaic way of referring to men. After all, if ordinary men marry ordinary women, their children are ordinary children, not superhumans. In fact, I think it is safe to say that the term "sons of God" does not actually refer to humans at all.

Second, the Nephilim were "men of renown" and "heroes of old". Based on these observations, I think it safe to say that their non-human fathers were superior to humans in at least some respects. This would explain why they could have children by ordinary human women and, through them, have such extraordinary offspring.

Third, despite the superior qualities of the Nephilim, the Bible seems to ndicate that their prescence on the earth was a bad thing, as was the union of their parents. We can deduce this by observing that the Bible has one verse concerning the Nephilim, and it is located between a divine proclamation that limits mankind's lifespan, on the one hand, and a description of the totally corrupt condition of mankind, on the other. We may be assured that, whoever the "sons of God" were, they shouldn't have been having children with the "daughters of men", and their union, according to Genesis, was just another symptom of the evil times that prevailed back then.

So these "sons of God" were (1) not human, (2) superior to humans in at least some respects, and (3) wicked. I only know of one type of being that fits all three of these descriptions, and that is a demon. So, if my assumptions are correct, demons were having children by human women during this time! This certainly underscores what a wicked place the earth was becoming!

Another point. The children produced in these unions were "heroes of old, men of renown". Does this sound to anyone like the Grecian myth about Hercules? Or Perseus? Or Orpheus? All of these characters were supposedly sons of one "god" or another. Is it possible that these characters from mythology really existed, and that demonic powers have encouraged various cultures to worship them as gods, while simultaneously having children by women from those cultures?

I don't really know the answer to any of this. But ultimately, I must keep in mind that the topic I have addressed yesterday and today is only a footnote to the main point of the passage: MANKIND HAD BECOME UNBEARABLY WICKED-SO MUCH SO THAT GOD FELT IT BEST TO DESTROY THE HUMAN RACE AND START OVER. And that situation was the inevitable consequence of one "tiny" sin in the garden of Eden. Sin destroys everything.

Then the Lord said, "My spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years".

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of he earth-men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air-for I am grieved that I have made them."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Okay, folks, I'm totally stumped.

Today, I memorized the text that is written below, and discovered a very peculiar sentence: "The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, aand they married any of them they chose."

I've read this verse many times, but my reaction to it remains the same to this day: WHAT ON EARTH DOES THIS MEAN???? Were angels marrying human women? Was this the work of demons (who are God's creation and, though evil, are in some sense His disobedient children)?

Or was this a metaphor, used to artfully state that the human race was "increasing in number" because we were breeding with one another after becoming married? If this was the case, then "sons of God" would be an antiquated way of referring to men, because God made Adam directly from the dust. Likewise, "daughters of men" would be an antiquated way of referring to women, since God made Eve from Adam's rib, thereby making Adam, in a sense, Eve's parent.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years, and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Lamech lived 777 years, and then he died.

After Noah had lived 500 years, he became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Genesis 6

When men began to increase in number on the earth, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Of all the various scary things that you might find in a horror movie, and all the various frightening things that you might see on "Cops", and all the scary things that you see in a 7-11 at one o'cock in the morning, do you know what scares me the most?


No, I'm not kidding.

I've often wondered why zombies disturb me more than anything else. They're slow. They're weak. They're stupid. Most movie monsters are superior to zombies in all of these respects. Most criminals are scarier than zombies in the sense that they actually exist. So why is it that, even when I see a picture of a zombie, I'm messed up for three days?

I think I have a reason for it.

Zombies are motivated and persistent. They want ony one thing: to get you. And until they do, they will never stop trying. You can't bribe them. You can't threaten them. You can't reason with them. They don't need to eat. They never sleep. They never stop. Ever. If you lock our door against a zombie, he may not be able to pick the lock, but you can bet that he will still be banging on your door a month from now. If you shoot them anywhere except the head, they ignore it and keep coming. If they somehow lose their legs, they will drag themselves toward you with their hands. Nothing ever deters them from their goal.

This thought came fluttering by today as I was reflecting on Bible study. The few people who have heard that I was trying to memorize the Bible treated it like it was going to be really hard. But I have discovered that it isn't. The day-to day work of it is relatively easy. The hard thing is to make up your mind to actually do it every day. If you have persistence, then little by little, the work gets done. So, as much as they frighten me, I suppose that the living dead have something to teach me about persistence. And perhaps, if I learn that lesson, the task of memorizing the Bible will go a little more smoothy than it has in recent weeks.

Everything was done on-schedule today. Here are todays' memory verses:

When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. And after he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah ived 782 years, and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died.

When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah, and said, "He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands, caused by the ground the Lord has cursed."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Well, I'm happy to report a second day of faithful study. I feels so good to be working again.

Today, my reading took me to a most famous portion of the Bible-the story of David and Goliath. It comes on the heels of a different kind of story-the very short tale of Saul's ascension to the Kingship and his subsequent fall from grace.

Nearly everyone-even the unchurched-knows this story. The Israelites are about to make war with the evil Phlistines who live to the West of them. But just when the battle is about to begin, a Philistine champion named Goliath steps out and proposes that the entire war be decided in single combat. The Israelite's best man would fight Goliath, and the loser's army would become the slaves of the winner's army. Fair enough-except that Goliath is over nine feet tall and strong enough to bench press my house! So no one is willing to take the Philistine up on his offer, until a young boy named David (who would probably be in the fifth grade, if he lived in modern America) steps forward. He accepts the Philisine's challenge, and does not even put on armor or take a sword in order to slay the giant. His reasoning? That the Lord has always taken care of him in the past, and He will give him the help he needs to slay Goliath. Armed only with a slingshot, David then kills Goliath with a single blow and uses the giant's own sword to cut off hs head.

I think people try too hard to make something profound out of this story. They analyze every line of dialogue, and even find some significance in the number of stones David picked out of the river to load into his slingshot! What they tend to miss is the main point of the passage, which God is making as obvious as possible. A FIFTH-GRADER, ARMED WITH A SLINGSHOT, KILLED A FULLY-ARMED, NINE-FOOT-TALL, EXPERIENCED SOLDIER! OW IS THIS HUMANLY POSSIBLE???!!! It isn't-and that is the point. It happened because God made it so. And it didn't matter how unevenly matched these two were; God determined the outcome. his is the way it is with the entire universe: God is in total command of everything; He decides that a thing will happen, and it does. The wise warrior will make certain that he is fighting on God's side.

Here are today's verses:

Altogether, Jared lived 962 years, and then he died.

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years, and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
I owe an apology to many people.

I have neglected my commitment to Bible memorization over the past week and a half. I am now too far behind to catch up, and have let my former, noble-sounding commitments go by the wayside.

First, I have sinned against God by ignoring a commitment I made to Him.

Second, I have disrespected all of you by making a big show about "memorizing the Bible", and then quitting a few weeks in.

Finally, I have dishonored myself by choosing mediocre things, like video games, over truly valuabe things, like the knowledge of scripture.

So, confessions having been said, it is time to start back. I can only hope that in the future, God will hep me to remember that this task cannot be accomplished through some monumental effort, or by a few midnight cram sessions (as many of my tasks in grad school were). Rather, tis task can only be done by steady, persistent and unflagging effort over a very, very long time.

Here are today's memory verses:

When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he became the father of Jared. And after he became the father of Jared, Mahalalel lived 830 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Mahalalel lived 895 years, and then he died.

When Jared was 162 years old, he became the father of Enoch. And after he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Well, folks, it has been some time since I have written on the blog. But I have kept up the same pace of scripture memorization as before. The italicized section below was written in one sitting, without needing to look at the text. I am enthralled at the progress.

Now that I am getting into the process of memorization, I think I see one major impediment that has kept people (including me) from memorizing the scriptures over the years. I'm talking about multiple translations of the scriptures.

Don't get me wrong. I think there are many good translations of the Bible, and I believe that it is necessary to retranslate the Bible every so often, so as to have it available in modern English. In this way, I have little common ground with those who see the King James Version as the only true translation of the scriptures. But those who do see the KJV in this way have one keen advantage when it comes to scripture memorization: They never expose themselves to other translations, so they only hear the Bible spoken in one particular way. So it is easy for them to almost unconsciously pick up verses in their memories, as they hear them spoken over and over again.

In the past, I have not had this advantage. I have indiscriminately read the KJV, the NIV, the NRSV, the RSV, the ESV, the NEB, the NASB, and the HCSB. While I was at it, I'm pretty sure I read the SUV, the KGB, the PTA, the NYPD, the CSI and the JFK. While these were all legitimate versions (except for the ones in that last sentence), they all phrased things a little differently, and the result was confusion in my mind about what exactly the Bible said. As I have been working to memorize the Bible, I have found that many of my mistakes would have been correct if I had been using a different version.

To eliminate this problem, I have tried not to study any translation of the Bible except for the one I am memorzing-the NIV. The result has been very helpful so far.

Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door. It desires to have you, but you must master it."

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field". And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is your brother, Abel?"

"I don't know", he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?"

The Lord said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth."

Cain said to the Lord, "My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence. I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me."

But the Lord said to Cain, "Not so. If anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over." Then the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who found him would kill him.

So Cain went out from the Lord's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain lay with his wife and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son, Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech. Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain's sister was Naamah.

Lamech said to his wives, "Adah and Zillah, listen to me. Wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me; a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times!"

Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, "God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him."

Seth also had a son and named him Enosh. At that time, men began to call on the name of the Lord.

This is the written account of Adam's line: When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them, "man".

When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image, and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years, and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died.

When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh. And after he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years, and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Seth lived 912 years, and then he died.

When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan. And after he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enosh lived 905 years, and then he died.

When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel. And after he became the father of Mahalalel, Kenan lived 840 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Kenan lived 910 years, and then he died.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Well, my Bible reading has taken me into the book of Numbers, for the first time in years. I have formerly avoided this book like the plague-namely, because it is very appropriately named. This book is full of numbers! And at times, I would be tempted to skip over these sections or regard them as something like reading from the telephone book. But I refuse to fall into this trap. Every word written in the scriptures is Revelation from God. God would not have placed something in the Bible if it was not important. So I read it, in the hopes of learning it's significance.

Some of this is paying off, since I am now rereading some stories that I had long since forgotten.

In one of these, Moses and Aaron are leading the people of Israel in the wilderness, when a rebellion suddenly arises among the people. A man named Korah, leading a large number of men whose words carried weight in the community, challenged Moses. He believed that he, along with his followers (most notably Dathan and Abiram) were more fit to lead Israel than Moses. Moses, as one can easily imagine, was badly upset by this. After all, leading the people of Israel hadn't exactly been easy for him, and he certainly hadn't applied for this job. And now, after he had given all he had for these people, they spat in his face!

Moses proposed a solution, in which everyone would stand before the Lord, and God Himself would reveal who He had chosen to lead Israel. The following day, this was done. Moses, Aaron, and all those who had rebelled stood before the Lord. Then Moses declared that if nothing happened soon, it would be proof that the rebels had been chosen by God to lead the people. But if the earth opened up and swallowed all the rebels, burying them alive, it would prove that God had chosen Moses and Aaron. No sooner had he said this than the ground opened up and swallowed the rebels whole, burying them alive. Korah, Dathan and Abiram were immediately crushed to death, along with their whole families.


You don't hear that story in Sunday school when you're 5 years old.

I think that some people would say that this depiction of God is inconsistent with the New Testament, which focuses heavily on mercy as a theme. But I find this to be oversimplfied. In fact, Jesus addresses the subject of Hell more frequently than any ther subject in His preaching-more frequently than everyone else in the Bible, put together. And in the Old Testament, we find an almost unlimited number of cases where Israel rebels against God, then repents, and God forgives them.

I beleve that this passage is meant to teach us that God is no one to be trifled with. When we sin, he takes it seriously. His wrath against evil in its various forms is terrible to behold. The fact that this wrath is so great is all the more impressive in the New Testament, when all of God's wrath is poured out on Jesus, who willingly submits to it for our sakes. If we do not understand the immensity of God's hatred towards sin, we cannot undersand the immensity of His love in forgiving it.

Here is most recent passage I have memorized: Genesis 3:20-4:5.

Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, "The man has now become like one of us-knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever." So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden, to work the ground from which he had been taken. After He drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden Cherubim and a flaming sword, flashing back and forth, to guard the way to the tree of life. Adam lay with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a man!" Later, she gave birth to his broher, Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time, Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering. But on Cain and his offering, He did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Thanks, Honey. It's good to see you mean so much to someone. You mean the world to me, too.

I have not written on the blog in about five days now. This is mostly because of a trip I took out of town that threww my whole routine out of whack. But I have not stopped reading the Bible or memorizing the scriptures at the usual pace. Here are some things that I've noticed:

IT'S WORKING!!!!!! Last Sunday, I had my first review day which (as per the plan) spanned 35 verses. To my delight, I found myself recalling all 35 verses with only minimal review. Evidently, the system I've adopted with the help of my wife is a good one (and God be praised-because I was kind of taking a shot in the dark with this system. )

Second, I'm beginning to fnd a rhythm. My brain is getting used to doing this every day, so it is not as much of a strain as it was at first. Again, God be praised.

Third, I am noticing that it is much easier to make time for Bible reading when you have a plan or a goal in mind. If I say, "I will read the Bible some every day", then I will open up to a random page and readin for an indeterminate length of time. When I stop, it will be awkward, because I don't have a plan of where I should stop. But when I say to myself, "I will read the Bible for thirty minutes each day, reading from cover to cover", then I know exactly what I am supposed to be doing, how long I should plan into my schedule, and when I have finished satisfactorily. This makes me feel more comfortable in my quiet times, and helps me not to shy away from them, as I have done in the past.

In my Bible reading, I am now about 5 chapters into the Book of Numbers. I have also memorized he following passage since the last post:

So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper as found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called, "woman", for she was taken out of man." For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were boh naked, and they were not ashamed.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, "You shall not eat fruit from any tree in the garden?" The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat from the trees in the garden, but God did say, "You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and ou must not touch it, or you will die". "You will not surely die", the serpent said to the woman. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will become lke God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was god for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of boh of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves ogether and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid themselves among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God calleed to the man, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid." And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree I commanded you not to eat from?" The man said, "The woman you put here with me-she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I did eat." Then the Lord God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your ofspring and hers. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." To the woman He said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing-with great pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, "You must not eat of it", cursed is the ground because of you. Through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken. For dust you are, and to dust you will return.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


This is The Scribe's wife...and I am Hijacking his blog!

I know this blog is about his journey to memorize the Word of God, but today we are taking a break from that subject, and writing about how AMAZING he is!!!

Here is a small list of some of the ways he is amazing, and it is certainly not exhaustive or in any particular order (my brain doesn't think too well like that)....

1. He prays with me and for me.
2. He is a leader in our home.
3. Whatever he is doing, he gives 110%. This includes some things he has done with me that other guys might turn their nose up to (i.e. cooking class). He approaches it with enthusiasm and flare.
4. He helps me out in any way that I need. He has read aloud a book to me that I needed to complete for a training, driven me to school on snow days, served chili at my school to 500 people, just to name a few things.
5. He goes to the grocery for me. This is not a task I particularly enjoy. He doesn't mind doing it, and happily does so.
6. He takes out the trash. :)
7. He is becoming quite the handyman.
8. He memorizes crazy long orders of how I like things (i.e. my coffee: a venti breve sugar-free cinnamon dolce latte with whip and one pump of mocha).
9. He is very compassionate. When you are in his company, you have his full attention and engagement. I've also seen this demonstrated as he speaks with the nursing home residents with such love.
10. He is a great dancer, and makes me feel like a princess out on the dance floor.
11. He takes his time to make big decisions, but once he makes them, he is firmly committed to the decision he makes.
12. He makes me laugh all the time.
13. He is very creative.

Ok...I'm done for now, but watch out for future hijackings!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I owe you all apologies for not writing in the past few days; I became distracted, though that is not a good excuse.

The work has been progressing very well. On Thursday, I read the BIble for thirty minutes, reviewed the verses from previous days, and learned Genesis 2:5-9.

On Friday, I reviewed Genesis 1:31-2:9 and learned Genesis 2:10-14. I allowed myself to procrastinate on the Bible reading until it was too late.

Today, I read the Bible for an hour, to make up for Friday. Then I reviewed Genesis 2:5-14 and learned Genesis 2:15-19.

I am beginning to understand, to a degree that I never understood before, the helpfulness of reading the Bible in large chunks. Today, As I was reading the Bible for an hour, I came to the part of Exodus which comes after the ten commandments, but before the making of the golden calf. As you might remember, this is a very long and tedious section which gives detailed instructions for how to build the Tabernacle, how to construct the ark of he covenant, what sacrifices are supposed to look like, how the priests are supposed to dress, and a variety of other topics. Back when I used t read the Bible one chapter at a time, I had a lot of trouble feeling uplifted by this section. Scratch that. I couldn't stand this section. It would take me weeks to get through it, and by the end of that time all I had to show for it was a vague knowledge about how to build and operate the Lord's tabernacle. But by reading it in one day, I got a different feel. I started to sense broad themes in this section. God was trying to build up a people who were set apart for Himself as holy-different from the other nations. They were to worship differently, live differently, do business differently, than all the nations around them. God, in turn, resolved to treat them differently. He was blessing these people by giving them His laws. Just think of it-The Jews were the only people on earth who had heard how they could best please God from the mouth of God Himself!

Here are the verses I learned over the past three days:

And no shrub of the field had yet come up from the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground- but streams came up frm the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground-God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden, and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground-trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river watering the garden flowed from Eden. From there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon: it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is good. Aromatic resin and onyx are also there. The name of the second river is the Gihon: it winds through the enire land of Cush. The name of the fourth river is the Tigris: it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. God put the man in the garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden. But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die." And the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them. And whatever the man called each living creature-that was its name.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

So today was a fresh start-a chance to actually keep to the schedule I laid out to begin with. I have learned the hard way that it is a lot easier to do things on time tan to play catch-up later on. So today, I did this:

* Read the Bible for thirty minutes. The passage I covered was Exodus 3-10. I am becoming pleasantly surprised by two important facts: (1) At the rate of thirty minutes a day, I'm actually moving through the Bible very quickly, and (2) It is much easier to get a feel for the flow of the story when you take it in large chunks-instead of reading a few verses, or even a chapter at a time. I think that the text was written with an ancient, illiterate Jewish audience in mind. So it was intended to be read aloud, in large portions for large groups of people. So now that I am reading the text in large chunks, it is much easier to keep track of everything that is going on. If I weren't, it would be easy to get lost in the endless details recorded by the Bible.

*I reviewed the ten verses I learned yesterday. They came back surprisingly quickly. I think one more day of review will really help to cement them into my head.

Finally, I learned today's memory verses, Genesis 1:31-2:4. I've finally gotten through the first chapter!!


God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus were the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day, God had finished the work He had been doing, so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done. This is the account of the heavens and the earth, when they were created: When the Lord God made the earth and heavens...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Well, my friends, It has been days since my last post, and I have been forced to learn some things about discipline in the meantime.

To begin with, you may have noticed that in my last post I did not do any Bible reading. That is because I let it slide that day, telling myself that I would do it the following day. It was at this point that I wish an opera singer had popped out of my closet and sang,


Because that is exactly what it was.

The following day, I had an entire hour of Bible reading to accomplish. I managed to read it, and to review verses from previous days. But as I was doing this, I had my back on an electric blanket which gradually, seductively, lured me into the most peaceful and blissful night's sleep...


When I woke up this morning, I had ten-count 'em-TEN verses to memorize. And these weren't just ordinary verses, either. Just one of them took about 10-15 seconds to pronounce. I had to work for about two hours to get them down, and even then, My memory was shaky. So I asked for help from my supermodel-turned-schoolteacher wife...


She helped me with my flash cards, and quizzed me until I could say all ten verses, from beginning to end, without a mistake. At long last, I was caught up, except for today's thirty minutes of reading, which I did.

What's the moral here?

When you have a big project, or a series of loan payments, or any oher big thing that you have to do in tiny installments, NEVER PROCRASTINATE. If you do, you'll wind up drowning in work, or drowning in debt, before you can say "pudding". May God grant that I learn this lesson, and keep it close in the days ahead.

Here is a typed copy of today's memory verses, Genesis 1:21-30.

So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which he water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird, according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number, and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth." And there was evening, and there was morning, the fifth day. And God said, "Let the land produce living creaturesaccording to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind. And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground, acccording to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, ver all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground". So God created man in His own image. In the image of God He created him. Male and female He created them. God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, and over every living creature that moves on the ground". Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit wih seed in it. These will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth, all the birds of the air, and all the creatures that move on the ground-everything that has the breath of life in it-I give every green plant for food.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My beautiful yet brilliant wife has the unusual distinction of having turned down a career in swimsuit modeling so she could teach underprivileged children in the public schools. Speaking from the perspective of a professional educator, she recently offered me some advice.

She told me that, in her experience, people do better at learning material when they are not continually learning new material. She discussed a time when she used to take one day out of the normal school week and use it to "relax and review". Students would play games using the skills they had learned during the week. She thought I could benefit from a similar strategy.

I plan on taking her advice, and mixing it with a concept God invented (a little something called "the Sabbath"). So, previously, this was my daily routine:

Read the Bible, out loud, for thirty minutes. Review two flash cards. Learn one flash card.

Now, that is only my routine for Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, the plan is:

Read the Bible, out loud, for thirty minutes. Review the previous thirty-five verses.

Of course, this decision did not affect yesterday's work. I reviewed Genesis 1:6-15. Then I read Genesis 26-31. Then I learned Genesis 1:16-20, which goes like this:

God made two great light-the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God placed them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning-the fourth day. And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth, across the expanse of the sky".

Today, I reviewed Genesis 1:1-20.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Here's a story that I can't shake out of my head:

4 years ago, I took a Hebrew class with a great scholar of the Hebrew language, Dr. Duane Garrett. One day, at the end of class, he said that he had one last lesson to teach before class was dismissed. He then spoke a sentence in French, and translated it:

"To learn, you must first love".

He then elaborated by saying that, if you love a thing, you will find yourself easily, even unconsciously, learning all about it. Your brain assigns top priority to the thing you love because your emotions demand it.

Then he asked, how many of you have read J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit"?

About a dozen of us raised our hand.

"Who can name for me the thirteen dwarves who accompanied Bilbo Baggins on his journey to the Lonely Mountain"?

Everyone's hand went down, except for mine.

"Well", he said, "Ben knows. Please name them for us, Ben".

I was a little overeager to show off. "Balin, Dwalin, Kili, Fili, Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, and Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thror, Oakenshield, King Under the Mountain".

He nodded. "Correct."

I was wonderfully pleased with myself.

"As you can see, Ben has developed a love for his subject matter, and the result is a comprehensive knowledge of it."

I was beaming at this point.

"Now", he continued, "can anyone name for me the twelve sons of Jacob, as recorded in the Book of Genesis?"

Dreadful, stunned silence. No one raised their hand-especially me.

What Dr. Garrett said next was graceful. He simply explained the method by which he learned the twelve sons of Jacob when he was in school. But far more cutting was what he didn't say, because he didn't have to say it: "If you really had a love for studying the scriptures, you would have learned basic facts like this, instead of wasting your time learning the names of dwarves". He didn't say this, but I immediately saw that it was true. Needless to say, I learned the names of Jacob's sons soon after this:


This is a lesson I wish never to forget. If I want to learn the scriptures, I must cultivate a love for them. But the only way to do this is to ask God to give me a love for them. There's no other way.

Today, I continued reading the Bible out loud-for thirty minutes, as before. I also reviewed Genesis 1:1-10. Then I learned Genesis 1:11-15, which went like this:

Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation; seed-bearing plants and trees on the land bearing fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds", and it was so. The land produced vegetation;plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearingfruit with seed in it, according to their kinds, and God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning-the third day. And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky, to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so.

Tomorrow's another day!
My apologies, ladies and gentlemen, but I missed blogging yesterday.

What I did not miss was the memorization of scripture.

Yesterday's work proved more difficult than the day before's. The reason for this is not that I had more material to review, but because yesterday's verses were less famous than the day before's. Nevertheless, I did the work according to plan:

I read the Bible, out loud, for thirty minutes. This took me from the end of Genesis 8 to the end of Genesis 18.

I reviewed Genesis 1, verses 1-5.

I learned Genesis 1, verses 6-10, which go like this:

And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters, to separate water from water." So Go made the expanse and separated the water below the expanse from the water above the expanse. And it was so. God called the expanse, "sky". And there was evening, and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear", and it was so. God called the dry ground, "land", and the gathered waters He called "seas". And God saw that it was good.

Going through the Bible in this slow fashion is giving me the time I need to reflect on what is happening in these passages. God creates the universe in Genesis 1:1. But the earth is totally chaotic and empty, as shown in Genesis 1:2. Even in this chaotic state, though, God's Holy Spirit is needed to hold it all together, as Genesis 1:2 also shows. From that time on, God forges an orderly universe out of the chaos by His mighty hand, giving form and content to the earth.

I'll post again later today, to tell you what today's efforts have brought!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Okay, here we are at day one of attempting to memorize the scriptures. I don't want to get over-optimistic, but it seemed easy-even fun! I got out my first flash card, which read like this:

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light", and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light, "day", and the darkness he called, "night". And there was evening, and there was morning-the first day.

What an appropriate set of verses for my first day on the job!

So I set to work, and found to my amazement that the work was finished in only a few minutes!


But I should not be overconfident. These verses are fairly famous, and I had a pretty good idea of what they said before I even started. Will I still find things so easy when I get to the book of Leviticus, and God is laying down regulations for the inspection of homes that have been infected with mold spores? That remains to be seen. But for now, I am happy.

But if you will recall, Going over a flash car was not all I had to do today. I also had to read the Bible or a full 30 minutes, out loud. It was right about here that I discovered a new use for our microwave oven. It has a setting on it that says, "Kitchen timer". Just enter a given amount of time, and the microwave sounds an alarm when the time is up. I set the timer on 32 minutes-to give me time to get situated-and set to reading. Thirty minutes later, I had read the first eight chapters of Genesis-more than I have read in a sitting in a long time. Then-oh, what a feeling! I felt moved to prayer.

Do you know that feeling you get when you start to pray, but you feel like you have to force yourself to do it because some invisible force inside yourself simply does not want to do it? Well, that force has been hampering my prayer life lately, but it was not doing so now. Praise and thanksgiving came forth naturally. It felt so good to pray. I have no doubt that it was the reading of God's Word that brought about this change in me. Praise be to the One who spurred me to start doing this! I can feel my life improving already!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Today, I spoke with my professor, Russell Fuller, and asked him what technique the Jews used to memorize the Old Testament. His answer shocked me:

"They began when they were children. Every day they would go down to the synagogue and, together with many other children, chant the scriptures continuously for about two hours. They continued doing this every day for years, until they knew it."

"Really?" I said. "Even on the Sabbath?"

"Especially on the Sabbath", he told me. "Probably twice on that day".

So apparently memorizing things is not complicated; just difficult. I have since reflected on this technique, and concluded that it must be effectual. My own life experience bears it out.

When I was in my second semester of seminary, I had few friends and spent a lot of time by myself. To keep from going stir crazy, I would play movies on my computer. Usually, I played "The Lord of the Rings". For months, the characters from "The Lord of the Rings" were my constant companions, and their words were repeated over and over and over in my hearing. Now, watch this:

It began with the forging of the Great rings. Three were given to the elves-immortal, wisest and fairest of all beings. Seven, to the dwarf lords-great miners and craftsmen of the mountain halls. And nine-nine rings were gifted to the race of men, who-above all else-desire power. For within these rings were bound the strength and will to govern each race. But they were all of them deceived, for another ring was made. In the land of Mordor, in the fires of Mount Doom, the Dark Lord Sauron forged in secret a master ring to control all others, and into this ring he poured his cruelty, his malice, and his will to dominate all life. One ring to rule them all. One by one, the free lands of Middle Earth fell to the power of the ring. But there were some who resisted. A last alliance of men and elves marched against the armies of Mordor, and on the slopes of Mount Doom, they fought for the freedom of Middle Earth...

Victory was near, but the power of the ring could not be undone...

It was in this moment, when all hope had faded, that Isildur, Son of the King, took up his father's sword...

Sauron, the enemy of the free peoples of Middle Earth, was defeated.

The ring passed to Isildur, who had this one chance to destroy evil forever. But the hearts of men are easily corrupted, and the ring of power has a will of its own. It betrayed Isildur, to his death, and some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for two and a half thousand years, the ring passed out of all knowledge-until, when chance came, it ensnared a new bearer...

"My precioussssss..."

The ring came to the creature Golem, who took it deep into the tunnels of the Misty Mountains. And there, it consumed him.

"It came to me. My own. My love. My own. My precioussssss....Golem!"

The ring brought to Golem unnatural long life. For 500 years, it poisoned his mind. And in the gloom of Golem's cave, it waited. Darkness crept back into the forests of the world. Rumour grew of a shadow in the East. Whispers of a nameless fear. And the ring of power perceived-it's time had now come. It abandoned Golem. But something happened then that the ring did not intend. It was picked up by the most unlikely creature imaginable.

"What's this?"

A hobbit. Bilbo Baggins of the Shire.

"A Ring."


For the time will soon come when hobbits will shape the fortunes of all.

If I really felt like boring you, I could go on, but you see my point. I didn't have to watch the movie in order to write any of that down. It just flowed out of my mind because it is locked in there by the power of repetition. The same could become true of the Bible, if I will only have the discipline to regularly, consistently, faithfully read through the scriptures.

Two hours a day will do the trick, but I am not sure I have enough discipline to do something like that. For right now, I think I'll just commit to thirty minutes a day and see where it leads.

But just because I am adopting the strategy of reading extended portions of the scripture, that doesn't mean I want to abandon other other strategies. So I have developed some flash cards, each of which has five consecutive verses of scripture on it. The first one starts at Genesis 1:1, and the last one I've made closes out Genesis 10. So here's the plan of attack, as I see it:

Day one: Read the Bible, out loud, for thirty minutes. Learn flash card #1.

Day two: Read the Bible, out loud, for thirty minutes. Review flash card #1. Learn Flash Card # 2.

Day three: Read the Bible, out loud, for thirty minutes. Review flash cards, numbers 1 and 2. Learn Flash Card # 3.

Day four: Read the Bible, out loud, for thirty minues. Stop reviewing flash card #1. Review flash cards, numbers 2 and 3. Learn flash card #4.

Day five: Read the Bible, out loud, for thirty minutes. Stop reviewing flash card #2. Review flash cards, numbers 3 and 4. Learn flash card # 5.

And so on, until I reach the end of Revelation. Then I'll probably start all over again, taking the flash cards in larger chunks this time.

The process will take years, and being consistent with it will be very daunting. But when God has spoken, the more familiar I am with what He said, the better.

I'm starting tomorrow. No turning back now.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "If I had 8 hours in which to chop down a tree, I would spend the first six hours sharpening my axe". So here I am, three days into the project, and I still haven't started memorizing the Bible. But I have not been idle; I have been planning.

The first question to be answered here is , "If I am going to memorize the Bible, which translation should I use?" What would be a terrible shame is if I went to all the trouble to learn a translation, then quoted a verse to someone and they responded,
"What translation is THAT supposed to be? I've never even heard of it before."
"I don't understand a word of what you just said."
"Well of course that verse is bloody rubbish because it was translated by Joseph Smith, and he changed his version in about 600 separate locations so he could convert everybody to Mormonism!"
After giving the matter some thought, I have decided to use the New International Version (NIV). I have three reasons for this:

(1) The NIV is written in modern English. It is thus easily understandable and its words will flow off my tongue without oo much trouble while I am working on it.

(2) The NIV is more widely used for personal devotions than any other translation.

(3) My seminary professors always recognized the NIV as a very good translation.

So if I memorize the NIV, I will have memorized a translation that is both accurate and easily understandable. Also, it will be recognized as legitimate by most any Christian I come in contact with.

Now, how do I actually do the memorizing?

Monday, February 1, 2010

As I said, I am scared. And what I am afraid of can be summed up in one word: failure.

What if I try this task and don't succeed? What if I never reach my goals? And worst of all, what if I quit? The shame that goes with my lack of discipline would haunt me far into the future.

As I consider this, I am reminded of something that a very wise man once said: "Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source. True humility is the only antidote to shame." Taking this advice to heart, I will recognize that I am a sinful man, lacking in discipline and wisdom. This is one of the reasons I need to know more scripture, in the first place.

If I go into this project trying to reach a goal or accomplish some great feat, my risk for failure will be very great. After all, anything short of complete memorization of the Bible would be considered failure, under that model. But if I consider the model of success to be obedience to God, then success is within my grasp. For God does not require any great intellectual feat from us before He will consider us successes. What he asks is that we study his Word and obey it (Joshua 1). Memorizing the Bible may be hard, but studying it is easy, and the goal of memoriazation will give me something to shoot for while I am obeying God's command to study His Word.

A good friend of mine (he's 27, but he's wise enough to be thousands of years old) told me that I have nothing to be concerned about in this challenge. "After all", he said, "any scripture you memorize will leave you better off than you were before. You don't have a single thing to lose!" I like that attitude. I think I'll use it.

Well, so much for fear. But that leaves the next question: How on earth am I supposed to go about doing this? I'll explore that tomorrow.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I am ashamed to admit that I do not study the scriptures as much as I should. As a Christian, my entire religion is based on the teachings of the Bible, and yet I do not spend the time and attention necessary to really study and understand the scriptures.

This problem is compounded by the fact that I am a Christian MINISTER. So not only is my entire religion based on the teachings of the Bible, but most of my life's calling is based around teaching it to other people. The unavoidable fact is that I will deliver lesser-quality sermons, give lesser-quality counseling, and lead my church in a less effective manner because of this lack of acquaintance with the very foundation of our faith.

When I was in seminary, they taught us about world religions, and one of the facts they taught about Islam struck me as being particularly fascinating. Students at Islamic seminaries do not carry copies of the Quran to class with them (as students in Christian seminaries do), despite the fact that Muslims value the Quran just as much as Christians value the Bible. The reason for this is that any student at a Muslim seminary is expected to have memorized the entire Quran (roughly3/4 the length of our New Testament) by the time they arrive at school. Because these men know the Quran from cover to cover, they can easily make applications to their daily lives, quoting various scriptures at length to back up their views. In short, they knew their material, and it made them better at what they did. But even this story pales in comparison to what I heard about the Jews.

A professor of mine, Russell Fuller, spent time studying Hebrew in Jewish schools (what better place to learn?) and he told me about the more respected Jewish scholars and their attitude toward the scriptures. He said that their knowledge of the Old Testament ("Torah") was so extensive that they could start at the beginning of the book of Genesis and recite the entire text, all the way to the end of Malachi, stopping only to eat, drink and sleep. So scrupulous was their knowledge that you could read any sentence from any chapter in any book in the entire Torah to them, and they would be able to recite the entire Torah, beginning at that point. Needless to say, these men had little trouble relating one part of the scriptures to other parts, or recognizing broad themes that flowed throughout the work. THEY KNEW THEIR STUFF. And knowing their stuff made them much better at what they did.

When I was in college, a man came to visit as a guest speaker. He was a Messianic Jew, meaning that he came from a Jewish background, but later accepted Jesus as the Messiah. He had become a Christian, without ceasing to be a Jew. This left him with a Christian worldview, but an attitude toward the scriptures that is more commonly practiced among orthodox Jews. As he spoke, it became noticeable that all of the statements he was making were predicated on passages of scripture, which he quoted for us with chapter and verse citations. He did this so frequently, and with such exuberancy, that his enthusiasm for the scriptures and the Christ they proclaim soon became infectious. Finally, even our campus Pastor was moved to ask, "How did you learn all this scripture?!" The man looked almost puzzled, as if knowing all this was no great accomplishment. Then he said, "One verse at a time."

My reason for bringing up the Muslims, the Jews and this extremely faithful Christian brother is to point out some key differences between these men and myself. Although I have been bought with the blood of Jesus Christ and have the Holy Spirit living inside me, the Islamic and Jewish clergy have a more faithful attitude than I do toward the scriptures. They, like me, believe that knowledge of their holy book is absolutely sacred and necessary to growing in a right relationship with God. But unlike me, they have actually done something about it and taken the time and effort that is necessary to learn their books. The scriptures, for these men, lives in the marrow of their bones. It penetrates to the foundations of their souls. It flows in their very veins. It does not flow in mine.

And now to the purpose of this blog. It is my intent to gain more than a mere intellectual knowledge of the scripture. I don't want to know only general themes or proof-texts, nor do I want to skip over parts of the scripture that are less popular or exciting. I want the scriptures to be as close to me as my wife is in our most passionate embrace. I want scripture so intricately worked into the fabric of my mind that I don't have to do extensive research to know what the Bible says about a given question. I want the Bible to become a part of me. I want scripture in my veins.

To this end, I have decided to lay out the following concrete goals for myself, and to write a blog about my efforts for you good people. Perhaps the fear of public embarrassment will help me to stay on task when things get rough.

Goal #1: Memorize the entire Bible, cover-to-cover (Chapter and verse citations for individual verses not necessary)

Goal #2: Be able to recall, from memory, what each chapter in each book of the Bible is talking about.

Goal # 3: Be able to cite the chapter that any quoted, biblical passage comes from.

If I attain these goals, I will be able to recall scriptures to deal with life as I encounter it. I will also be able to look up specific scripture passages whenever necessary.

I am not sure how to achieve these goals, but I know they can be done, and I know that my Lord deserves my best effort. I will try.

But I'm scared. More on this tomorrow.