Because the Bible app just isn’t the same

I can’t imagine life without Facebook, YouTube, Google or my smart phone. That’s really weird when you consider that all of those are only about 10 years old (some much less), so I can distinctly remember life without them. And I enjoyed life without them.

I’ve written before on all the positives and negatives I see in Facebook and the impact it has on our relationships. I know older generations point to video games and the explosion of television shows as a cause of the decline in imagination. For me, the biggest shift has been the loss of memory.

I have a really good memory, at least when it comes to random things that most would argue should not hold a place in our brains. Song lyrics stick with me almost effortlessly, as do random movie quotes. Bible verses used to be the same way.

Back in the day (wow, I sound old), I was really good at memorizing Bible verses. That sounds weird, like a weird combination of pride and boasting about a book that teaches humility. But (at the risk of once again taking my nerdiness beyond what anyone thought possible) I really was.

For six years between third and eighth grade I participated on Bible quizzing teams, which is exactly what it sounds like. And anyone who knew me back then can verify that I was pretty much always one of the “strongest” (Of course, I mean physically strongest – I can’t believe you would even feel the need to ask after reading this far) members of the team. They could also probably verify that I was a total brat.

Last week one of my friends started talking about the impact of memorizing passages of scripture. She mentioned the power of being able to have verses come into your head in key moments, and not just one or two phrases but full paragraphs, chapters and books. She mentioned it as something we should strive for, and it started to trigger my own memories.

Back then I could spout of hundreds of verses word for word (New King James Version, of course…) if you gave me even half of the citation. But somewhere there was a great disconnect, and the verses were only triggered by reference and not by situation. By the time I reached a point where I started longing for the right verse to come to mind in the most difficult circumstances, my memories had begun to fade.

I don’t know why, but I struggle much more with the memory of scripture today than I did before. I still memorize song lyrics with little to no effort, among other things. But I can tell that my reliance on technology has made it more difficult for my mind to hold onto such things.

I love the convenience of being able to search for a verse from anywhere thanks to my smart phone. Never before has the Bible been so available. But that has its downside. We see it in the scriptures themselves, as people would gather around Jesus and hang on his every word. Jewish children would learn the words of the prophets and the Mosaic Laws by memory, since they had no access to a printing press or even (in many cases) the ability to read.

I wonder how many people would have followed Jesus – I mean literally followed everywhere he went, as disciples – if they could have simply “followed” his Facebook or Twitter updates. Who would have joined crowds of thousands to cling to and cherish his every word if they’d known that some low-quality amateur video of the lesson would appear on YouTube within a few hours?

We hear stories of people in prisons across the world memorizing chunks of scripture to comfort their hearts when they don’t have access to the Word. We read of Christ’s temptation in the desert, when he answered all of Satan’s questions with scripture without hesitation. How differently does that temptation experience go down with you and me, as we stumble to find an answer to the prodding questions of the devil and possibly (although not likely) fumble through a Bible for words of support to help us overcome?

First Corinthians 10:13 promises God will provide a way of escape in those situations. But I’ve learned through way too many experiences that the power of flipping somewhat aimlessly through pages searching for words falls flat next to the power of a situation reminding you of a passage you have stored in your mind and heart.

To put it in a much more “Tyler” scenario (because you knew I couldn’t write 1,000 words without bringing up karaoke): imagine two karaoke singers. One sings a song she does not know. She stands with the microphone, staring at the words on the screen and mumbles through a butchered performance of a cherished classic.

Next up to the mic is someone who possesses full knowledge of the lyrics and lacks any amount of shame. The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” comes on, and he serenades everyone in the crowd (and especially, somewhat awkwardly, the married guy sitting next to the stage) with a stirring rendition, literally getting on his knees and begging please.

Let me tell you, that second example is far more memorable (and perhaps traumatizing, you can ask my friend Jeremy about that) than the first. My point is simply that limiting yourself to the words on the screen prevents you from experiencing life to its fullest. Only when you know the song by heart can you truly live it out; only then will it really impact you and those around you.

I am so thankful that whenever I think of a few words in a verse I can grab my phone and do a quick Google search. But so often I read my Bible and come across promises of hope and joy, words that should change my life. But as soon as I close the book and turn my attention elsewhere, those words have left my head and my heart.

My challenge to you (and me) is to devote yourself to memorizing God’s words. Start small with a couple verses that really encourage, motivate or push you. But don’t just remember “the gist of what it says,” memorize the true words of the God who loves you and longs to fill you with joy. You’ll be amazed how quickly those words will comfort your heart the next time you face a tough situation.

It might even be faster than a Google search on your smart phone.

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” – Hebrews 4:12

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