The internet is a minefield—there is no doubt about it. For every blessing it brings (and there are many) there seem to be innumerable dangers. For every relationship forged and strengthened, there is another damaged or destroyed. For every minute of time saved through some great technological advance, there are hours wasted in distraction and procrastination. For every good use, there are uncounted evil uses. Such is the fate of technology in the hands of sinful human beings.
Can a Christian Deny the Virgin Birth? Dr. Mohler takes on this question. His answer? “The answer to that question must be a decisive No. Those who deny the virgin birth reject the authority of Scripture, deny the supernatural birth of the Savior, undermine the very foundations of the Gospel, and have no way of explaining the deity of Christ.”Round trip with Endeavour A Great photo essay that follows Space Shuttle Endeavour as it prepares for and then heads out on a trip into space.The End of Parchment Paper Cuts blog says “Whatever else it’s remembered for in the publishing industry, 2008 may be remembered as the year that e-books finally caught on.”Bush, Cheney comforted troops privately This is a neat story from the Washington Times. “For much of the past seven years, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have waged a clandestine operation inside the White House. It has involved thousands of military personnel, private presidential letters and meetings that were kept off their public calendars or sometimes left the news media in the dark. ”
On Saturday night, Aileen and I joined some friends to take in a performance of Handel’s Messiah. And what a performance it was. It featured the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. It was, in a word, sublime. Conductor Noel Edison clearly understood the piece (I guess I should say “the oratorio”) and wonderfully separated gravitas from joy. As the piece moved from prophecy, to the life of Christ, to his death and to his impending return, the music rose and fell, swelled and crept back in all the right places. If the world has ever seen a more powerful piece of music than Messiah, I don’t know what it would be.
As much as I love the “Hallelujah” chorus, it is merely the beginning of Messiah’s most beautiful part. It is in the third part that the soprano declares “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.” It is here that the chorus and the soloists combine to share the gospel message. “Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” It is here that we hear the promise of new life to those who are found in Christ. “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” And it is here that Handel puts to music the words of the elders and the living creatures and the angels as they sing “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” It is here that we, those who have been redeemed by Jesus, look to the future with hope, waiting anxiously for the day when Christ returns.
The year 2008 is drawing to a close. Last week the Boston Globe’s feature “The Big Picture” told the story of the year 2008 in photos (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Warning: some of the more violent photos are quite graphic). With three galleries each containing 40 photos, they pointed back to the year’s most important moments. And what a year it was. As with every year since Adam and Eve disobeyed God, it was a year of both triumph and terror. Looking at the Globe’s photos, it seems that terror has prevailed. In one photo a boy and girl, a brother and sister hug one another at the funeral of their father, a police officer who was gunned down in the line of duty; in another, the foot of a suicide bomber lies close to the camera, with carnage in the background; in another still, a young Kenyan boy screams as a baton-wielding police officer approaches his ramshackle home, seeking his father. While some photos share moments of joy, far more share moments of pain and death.
It was not always this way. It will not always be this way. On Saturday night we partook in the strange cultural experience of hearing the gospel proclaimed far outside the walls of the church. We heard the message that assures us, even as we see such evidence of sin, that better times are coming. Indeed, better times must come. Death has been defeated. It will not be long now before the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. And, oh, don’t we look forward to that day.
Surreal Faith Mark Tooley writes a review of Shane Claiborne’s Jesus for President. “In Jesus for President Claiborne wants Christians to disavow their country and all civil governance in favor of exclusive allegiance to a nonviolent Jesus whose chief mission is resisting “empire.” But Claiborne’s interpretation of Jesus, his few selective quotations from early church fathers notwithstanding, is largely divorced from the universal church’s understanding of the Savior.”The Demise of Dating According to this article in the Times, “The paradigm has shifted. Dating is dated. Hooking up is here to stay.”Joe Scarborough challenges the MSM This is an enjoyable four minutes of television. “Joe Scarborough challenges the MSM on the lack of attention to Obama’s Chicago roots in light of Blago.”Loving Your Cellphone to Death “In the latest you’ve got to be kidding, in funerary trends, funeral directors are now telling us that people currently under 40 are increasingly requesting to be buried with their cellphones, or in some cases with their Ipods or Xbox games.”
Earlier this year John Naish, a British journalist, released a book titled Enough (which does not seem to be widely available in the United States). He subtitled the book, “Breaking free from the world of more.” He uses the book to encourage people to stop when they have enough—enough stuff, enough food, enough work, enough information. There were parts of the book I thought were much better than others; one part I thoroughly enjoyed was his discussion about information and the incredible volume of information we are exposed to today. In one part of this chapter he writes about his approach to tackling information overload. I thought I’d share that with you.
It involves fighting—and here’s my own new word—infobesity, by restricting one’s data diet. There are compelling reasons. The glut of information is not only causing stress and confusion; it also makes us do irrational things such as ignore crucial health information. The British Government’s latest survey on our food-buying patterns shows that while we are given more information than ever about healthy eating, our consumption of fresh food has fallen. This is partly because we are too busy getting and spending to enjoy the simple pleasures of cooking. But Catherine Collins, of the British Dietetic Association, says that info-overload is often to blame for this food-choice paradox: “We are so informed that we can’t be bothered.” That’s a fantastic slogan for the twenty-first century. We are so wired to gather information that often we no longer do anything useful with it. Instead of pausing to sift our intake for relevance and quality, the daily diet of prurient, profound, confusing and conflict information gets chucked on to a mental ash-heap of things vaguely comprehended. Then we rush to try to make sense of it all…by getting more.
As I read this, I thought of the Golden Labrador Retriever (i.e. Golden Lab), that ridiculous (but family-friendly) breed of dog that has a far bigger stomach than brain. The Lab, or at least the Labs I’ve known, cannot be trusted around found. They will eat until they are sick, throw up, and eat some more. Indefinitely. Some dogs have more common sense; they will eat for a while and save a portion of their food for another time. Not so the Lab. It will eat, and eat, and eat.
I do wonder if we are this way with information today—we eat and eat and eat, never pausing to digest, rarely showing any sensible moderation.
It’s probably not a good idea for a drug addict to work as a pharmacist. Actually, I’d say it’s definitely not a good idea for a drug addict to work as a pharmacist. And yet, in 1996, when Jared Combs graduated from school and became a licensed pharmacist, he was heavily addicted to all kinds of drugs—any kind of drug, really.
As is so often the case, Combs had to be brought low—very low—before he could see any substantial change and healing. In his case, Combs had to spend time in prison for stealing and consuming drugs. He was twice arrested and twice fired from jobs he loved. And yet today he is a testimony to grace. He has been sober for several years and once more practices pharmacy, this time at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. He is the father of three young children and is a committed husband. The strangely-titled Incomprehensible Demoralization is Jared Combs’ story of addiction and recovery. It is a story of one man’s transformation from a hopeless alcoholic and drug addict on the fast-track to a lifetime behind bars to a sober, church-attending family man.
The name Ryan Ferguson may be familiar to some of the readers of this site. Ryan has appeared at a couple of conferences where he has recited long passages of Scripture. I first saw him at WorshipGod ‘06 where he dramatically recited all of Hebrews 9 and 10 (though he had memorized the entire book). I recently got ahold of Ryan and asked if he would answer a few questions about memorizing Scripture. I trust this brief interview will serve to encourage you either to begin memorizing passages from the Bible or to press on in your conviction that you ought to.
Why did you decide to memorize large passages of Scripture? It began when I saw a man named Tom Key recite the book of Revelation. He is a professional actor out of Atlanta, Georgia. I was blown away. At about the same time my church had just studied Ecclesiastes so I started memorizing and asked our teaching pastor if I could recite it for the church.
What are some of the passages you’ve committed to memory? I have memorized the books of Ecclesiastes and Hebrews. I have memorized various Psalms, Genesis 1, and various other smaller sections.
How do you decide which passages you will memorize? It depends. When I did Hebrews that was a specific choice to serve the people at my church. I memorized it while our church studied for one year. Some of the Psalms I did specifically for the WorshipGod08 conference this summer that centered on the Psalms. Ecclesiastes was a work that God was doing in my heart. I memorized it in response to a time in my life when like Solomon I was asking a lot of questions.
You are known for reciting passages “dramatically.” Is there benefit in memorizing Scripture with dramatic recitation in mind? Yes, but answering yes doesn’t mean you have to be an “actor.” In a sense we are all actors. Many people will tell a story to kids and do character voices; most of us have played make believe or pretend; any time we make a joke we are acting, that is, we are using text (or words) to make point or get a reaction. If we think of Scripture as more than just recorded words, but specific words written in a specific time to specific people to make a specific point we can understand more than just the denotative nature of the words. We can see the heart behind the words. Everyone does this in one way or another, for example, a wife reads a note from a husband on Valentine’s Day and experiences joy beyond the mere words on the page. She knows those words communicate so much more than just “I love you.” Whenever we receive emails, we don’t just read them we interpret them; we try to figure out what the person is saying, and that, in a sense, is acting. Actors take words on pages and interpret them. So when we approach the memorization of Scripture, it will help to think dramatically; it will help us to think of more than just the written words. Think like an actor; think about what you are trying to communicate with those words.
What are some of the blessings you’ve experienced in memorizing Scripture? I have heard it said that joy comes through obedience. I would say that I have experienced joy in memorizing Scripture because God has asked me to hide his Word in my heart so I don’t forget him. There is a joy in knowing God’s Word. In a different way, I have been blessed to be able to use the Scripture that I have in my head in specific instances to encourage or exhort a brother or sister in Christ.
What benefit is there in memorizing entire books of the Bible? If we value Scripture as God’s inspired Word, then I would suggest that the benefit of memorizing entire books is that we get to experience everything God wanted to say through that author at that particular point. For instance if you memorize Ephesians, you get to experience how the Spirit inspired Paul to write the first three chapters declaring truth after wonderful truth about God, and then you would experience the practical power of Scripture in chapters four through six as we have multiple commands given to us about our living. When we have whole books in our minds, we can experience the entire story of that book.
I have also thought that the benefit of having entire books memorized will be revealed if we ever have to endure persecution. If the printed Scriptures are removed from our lives how much will we be able to recreate from the passages we have diligently put into our minds.
Do you have any warnings or exhortations you’d want to extend to people who are seeking to memorize Scripture? Yes, and I believe this is key to memorizing. Don’t memorize data!! Our minds while often compared to computers are not computers. We need more than just letters, words, and sentences to be able to connect our minds and hearts to the text. We need to know what it says, why it was written, and what the text is trying communicate. It is very difficult to just sit down and memorize a sequence of words that has no connection or story. For instance, it would be much more difficult to memorize the genealogies in Chronicles than it would be to memorize a narrative section in the book of Genesis. Why? Because we communicate ideas with our words; we don’t communicate words with our words. Many of us could tell a fairy tale to a child that we have not memorized because we know the story; we know the idea. The same is true with Scripture. Memorization is knowing the story and then choosing to use the specific words of any piece of text to tell that story. I hope this makes sense…
What are some longer passages you would suggest for beginners? Prior to giving specifics, let me first suggest that whatever longer passage you choose, make it a passage of Scripture that God has used in your life and heart. This connection will assist you in your memory work, because it will be connecting God’s powerful Word to your thinking and living. I would suggest the following: Psalm 1, 46, 139, 150, Genesis 1, John 1, I John 1, any chapter in Ephesians, James 1. I would also suggest (and would like to do this) II and III John and Jude because they are short books, but you would still be encouraged by having memorized an entire book.
Describe the methodology you’ve used to file away large passages of Scripture. I have been asked this in almost every church to which I have traveled. I work in a very specific way, and it may not work for everyone. When I memorize a book, I first put it into a Word document and remove all the verse numbers but leave the chapter numbers. I then break up the book into paragraph form so that it looks and reads more like what I am used to reading. I then memorize one paragraph at a time. When I have one memorized, I add the next paragraph and do them together. I do this process until I have memorized the desired section.
This particular way of memorizing has some inherent problems that people have raised that are valid. I do not have verse recall. I can’t just jump in and tell you Hebrews 7:6. For some people they would rather have the chapter and verse reference, especially those who are counselors. I understand this, but for me it is the way it works. I also believe that sometimes communicating the Word of God to people doesn’t have to be referenced…this is purely my opinion. I believe that God through his Spirit can quicken our mind and bring particular Scripture to mind when needed. It is interesting that in the book of Hebrews the author quotes this way, he uses the phrase “as it says also in another place…” when referencing the Old Testament. He doesn’t even say who wrote it or in what book.
Can you share any final tips and tricks that may be useful? I am not sure if this is a tip or trick, perhaps it is more of an encouragement. I often hear people say, “I just can’t memorize.” In some instances that statement may be true, but I have started asking people questions to show them how well they do memorize. I will ask questions like the this, “How many lines from movies can you quote?” or “Tell me every phone number you know” or “Tell me the names of every sports team you know” This list of questions could go on and on. We all can memorize. Much of memorizing depends on where you put your attention. I love mountain biking; I study it; I read about it; I look online at blogs about it. I could tell you a lot about mountain biking other than my experience. I have memorized a lot about the topic I love. Developing our memories takes work, time, and discipline. Don’t be disappointed if it takes you a while to memorize Scripture. God has not set up a Bible quiz to determine if you have all your verses memorized this week. God desires that you love his Word. Psalm 19 uses very specific language, language of desire when referring to God’s Word. Love God’s Word, spend the time with God’s Word to hide it in your heart.
The High Cost of Being (and Staying) Cool Dr. Mohler writes about Rick Warren and his choice to pray at Obama’s inauguration. “It doesn’t take much. We would all like to be considered cool. Cultural opposition is a tough challenge and bearing public hatred is a hard burden. Being cool means being considered mainstream, acceptable, and admirable.”On Sex Within Marriage Piper pens a very useful article on this question: “How should a husband and wife manage having opposite sex-drives?” He says, “Compete with each other about how to bring the other person joy, to maximize the other person’s gladness and satisfaction.” Now that does not solve the problems, but it gives you an orientation that is so wholesome and so helpful.”Get Thee Behind Us Christianity Today writes about a company that will send “mystery worshipers” to your church to help gauge how your church performs in welcoming visitors. Mark Galli writes, “It’s hard to know where to begin. This is a near-perfect example of what happens when we let marketing experts into the church building.”Deal of the Day: The Truth of the Cross For a donation in any amount, Ligonier Ministries will send you a copy of R.C. Sproul’s excellent little book The Truth of the Cross.
Today we arrive at our third week of reading through Mere Christianity. The first week we read the Introductory bits while last week we read the first book, “Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe.” This week we read the second book, “What Christians Believe.”
In Mere Christianity Lewis attempts only to teach only the very foundations of the faith. Hence his look at “what Christians believe” touches only on the most basic but foundational beliefs. In this section we see, I think, Lewis at his best and his worst; we see his amazing brilliance at times but also see where some of his beliefs seem borderline unbiblical.
Lewis begins this book by looking to rival conceptions of God and does a fantastic job of showing the intellectual dishonesty of atheism. When he was an atheist, he says, “my argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” Atheism turns out to be too simple, too dishonest. “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.”
In the second chapter, “The Invasion,” he deals with the entrance of evil into the world. He says here that one of the reasons he believe Christianity is that it is a religion you could not have guessed. There is an “otherness” about Christianity; this proves that it could not be the invention of men. As he introduces evil he says “wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way. … Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled.” This is a theme that we see in The Chronicles of Narnia as well. Badness and goodness are not equal forces; badness is simply goodness gone wrong.
In “The Shocking Alternative” he discusses free will and man’s response to God. He says “free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” Though I understand why people hold to this (it is, after all, a very common belief), I am not convinced that we can easily prove it from Scripture. I am not convinced that God gave us free will because the alternative would be robotic, automated worship. This may be the case, but I don’t think Scripture tells us as much. Lewis also treads on dangerous ground by introducing “risk” in connection to free will, saying that God “thought it was worth the risk” to give people free will. The niwhole idea of risk seems to contradict God’s omniscience and omnipotence. It may be that Lewis sees risk as mere anthropomorphism. If so, I can see some validity in such a statement. However, I do think we are on potentially dangerous ground here. Much of the rest of this chapter is fantastic. Lewis says, for example, that “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” He begins to introduce Jesus, asking the reader to deal properly with Jesus’ claims and not allowing the reader to see Jesus as merely a good or kind man. He concludes with his well-known “liar, lunatic or Lord” grid.
“The Perfect Penitent” deals with the atonement. Here we see a vague outline of Lewis’ thoughts on the atonement; and what we see is not necessarily orthodox (think: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). He warns, rightly I think, that theories of the atonement are not themselves the thing you are asked to accept. But this must not let us off as we attempt to understand it and to understand it rightly. While Lewis has the basics right (“We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity.”) from what I can see, he gets the details wrong.
He concludes this book with “The Practical Conclusion.” Here he admits just how strange this whole thing is—how strange the Christian claims are. He draws an analogy to sex saying, “He [God] did not consult us when He invented sex: He has not consulted us either when He invented this.” As odd as the Christian claims may be, we are not asked by God to do anything less than accept them and to trust in him. This final chapter is a call for the reader to simply believe and obey. Unfortunately, while Lewis affirms “that no man can be saved expect through Christ” he leaves a door wide open, saying “we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.”
As I said, in these few pages we have seen Lewis at his brilliant best. But we have also seen how some of his beliefs were simply not biblical. I suspect we will see more of this as we continue through the book.
Next Thursday is Christmas. The Thursday after that is New Years Day. These are about the lowest-traffic days of the year for the Internet and I know not too many of us will be thinking about C.S. Lewis. So why don’t we reconvene on January 8. We’ll read the first six chapters of Book III. That’s about 35 or 40 pages in three weeks; shouldn’t be too hard!
The purpose of this program is to read these classics together. So if there is something you’d like to share about what you read, please feel free to do so. You can leave a comment or a link to your blog and we’ll make this a collaborative effort.
Theology for Kids Andy and Jennifer Naselli provide an excerpt from Themlios (a journal) outlining some of the best theology books for children, from Bible story books to mini systematic theologies. Good stuff.Daycare: A High Stakes Gamble “A surprising new document from UNICEF puts the spotlight on the possible fallout of the decreasing role of the family in raising young children, and the proliferation of daycare in affluent western nations.”Themelios - December 2008 The new edition of Themelios has been published online. There is lots of good content to dig into!Rick Warren to Give Invocation at Obama’s Inauguration Rick Warren will give the invocation at Obama’s inauguration ceremony. Gay leaders are furious.A Story of Forgiveness Chris Brauns shares an update on the well-known story of the Willis family. “The Willis family lost six children in an accident that involved a driver who obtained his license illegally through fraud in the Ryan administration. You can read more about what happened in an excerpt from Unpacking Forgiveness given at the end of this post.”Snow White This little devotional seemed appropriate as we in Southern Ontario prepare to get slammed by two storms over the weekend.Deal of the Day: Gift Certificates “For Christmas of 2008 Monergism Books has a very special offer. From December 16th through the 25th for every $50 gift certificate you purchase for a friend we are offering an additional $10 bonus gift certificate (for you)”
I am a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to Aileen and a father to three young children. I worship and serve as a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, and am a co-founder of Cruciform Press.