Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Cherubim Removed

When Adam and Even sinned, Cherubim were put in place to guard the Garden. Adam and Eve could no longer enter because they were unclean. The unity they once had with God in the Garden was gone.
He [God] drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)
The Flood likely destroyed the Garden, but that doesn't mean the Cherubim were left jobless. The Flood did not change the nature of humankind. People were still fallen and unable to approach God as Adam once did. The Cherubim were still needed.

When the law was given to Moses, the Cherubim reappear. It's an easy detail to miss because it appears in the instructions on how to build the temple:
And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it... And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. (Exodus 26:31,33)
The Cherubim stood as guards in the temple. They stood watch on the curtain covering the Holy of Holies, which was the place where God's presence dwelt. Only one man could enter the Holy of Holies each year. The author of Hebrews explains it like this:
...into the second [the Holy of Holies] only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. (Hebrews 9:7)
The role of the Cherubim changed with the coming of the Messiah. Recall what happened when the sacrifice at the cross was complete:
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:50-51)
Imagine the shocking look on the faces of the priests as the curtain guarding the Holy of Holies, as if by magic, ripped itself from top to bottom. Before their very eyes, the temple opened. And with its opening, the Cherubim were no longer needed. The Man who would crush the head of the serpent had come (Genesis 3:15). The curse was finally beginning to be reversed.

No longer do the Cherubim stand as a barrier between believers and their Creator. Imagine Adam, perhaps gazing into the distance; see him dreaming of somehow being able to sneak past the Cherubim, back into the Garden where he had full communion with God. If you are a Christian, you don't need to dream of such a thing. Christ has removed the Cherubim for you! Your relationship with your Creator has been restored! And though you do not yet live in a world like the Garden of Eden, there is a much better world to come— a world that will be far superior to what Adam had in the Garden.

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Friday, August 02, 2013

Announcing the Launch of The Greek Alphabet Game for Android™

I've been doing a lot of writing lately; not essay or article writing— but a different kind of writing. I've been busy coding away, writing a new app to help people learn Greek.

Android app on Google Play

After over a month of hard work, I'm pleased to announce the launch of a new (and my first ever) app: The Greek Alphabet Game. Here's a short description of it:
Test your knowledge of the Greek Alphabet with this fun, yet educational app! Even if you don't know the Greek Alphabet at all, this game is still for you! Included in the app is a training mode, which will teach you the Greek Alphabet (lowercase and uppercase) in order.

Two different Greek Alphabet game modes will send letters flying at you, testing your visual and audio recognition. In one game, your job is to grab the letters in alphabetical order. In the other game, your job is to grab the letters in whatever order they're called. For bonus points, any incorrect letters can be shot down!

This game is designed for anyone new to Greek. It will be especially useful if you are planning on studying, or if you are just starting your studies in Koine Greek (Biblical Greek), Ancient Greek, or Modern Greek. This app could also come in handy if you are in a mathematics class, physics class, or some other class that makes heavy use of the Greek alphabet.
Here are the places the app is currently available: Google Play (Free), Google Play (Full Version), Amazon (Free Version), and Amazon (Full Version).

At this moment, the app is available only for Android. If I received sufficient funding for licencing purposes, I could easily (relatively speaking) deploy it to iOS.

I designed this app especially for anyone just beginning their studies in Koine Greek (Biblical Greek). Learning the alphabet is the first challenge most first year Greek students face. Students who are slow in completing this first challenge quickly fall behind. With this app, that first challenge becomes a fun, addicting game.

Even if you already know the alphabet, this app could serve as an entertaining way to review both the lowercase and uppercase Greek letters. The oldest biblical manuscripts are written in all uppercase letters. Ironically, I've noticed that many people (myself included) are less familiar with the uppercase Greek letters. With this app you can easily change the settings and play with only the uppercase letters.

I don't know if this will be the first of many apps that I write, or the last. I have a lot of ideas about new apps I could make to help people learn Koine/Biblical Greek. Such apps would delve beyond the alphabet and help the user internalize the Greek language. How awesome would it be to ditch the rote memorization of paradigms, opting instead to internalize the many intricacies of Greek verbs by playing a game?

Memory palaces (click here for more info) are a good replacement for rote memorization, and I'm convinced that interactive games are another.

For the most part, many of my game ideas at this point are pipe-dreams. Writing an app is a major time investment. It's risky business; I'm not guaranteed to receive anything in return. After a month straight of coding, I have no idea if I'll sell 3 apps or 3000 apps.

Regardless of what happens, teaching myself to code an app was a great experience. Koine Greek and Java coding aren't two areas of expertise that commonly overlap, but I had a lot of fun combining them. For anyone who might download this app, I appreciate your support. And who knows? This might just be the first Greek app of many.

If you have any questions or comments, leave them below or send an email. If you're looking for a good place to go after learning the Greek Alphabet (or if you're looking for additional resources to accompany a traditional Greek grammar), then I highly recommend Randall Buth's Living Koine Greek Part 1 (click here to read my review of it).

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A "Painful Paradox" and the Defeat of Death

I recently came across this quote from Ernest Becker's book, The Denial of Death:
A person spends years coming into his own, developing his talent, his unique gifts... becoming mature, seasoned— finally a unique creature in nature, standing with some dignity... it takes sixty years of incredible suffering and effort to make such an individual, and then he is good only for dying. This painful paradox is not lost on the person himself— least of all himself." (268-269, The Denial of Death, 1973)
The quote is reminiscent of something that you might read in Ecclesiastes. Indeed, Solomon writes:
Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind. (Ecclesiastes 2:15-17)
It's hard work to master a skill, and once you do, death is all the nearer. If you live life for the advancement of self— if you live life merely to develop your talents so that you can stand with dignity, then what's the point? What are your accomplishments worth when you're dead? For the unbeliever, little answer can be given. It is indeed a "painful paradox". And that's the way it should be. What else could be the outcome of a life lived for something or someone other than the eternal Creator?

Becker's "painful paradox" only exists in the lives of those who try to pretend that God doesn't exist. With such a worldview, there is no hope. Death is final. For a person with such a mindset, a long life of suffering that leads to some sort of dignity is pointless. What hope is there that can be found? All that can be hoped in is the defeat of death.

We should be eager to listen to what Solomon has to say, for though he sees this paradox, he does not leave us in hopelessness. Solomon writes, "Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, 'I have no pleasure in them'" (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

As Christians we put our hope in the eternal kingdom of God that is to come, in which death will be eliminated. The hope in the defeat of death is a good hope, but our secular culture today twists this hope; they put their hope in the defeat of death in this world. That is not the Christian hope. The Christian does not hope in a continuation of life in this sin-filled world. Instead, the Christian recognizes that this world is not home. There is a new Heaven and new Earth yet to come, and whatever "dignity" the Christian may accumulate in this life will be nothing compared to the joy of standing in the presence of Christ forever.

The Christian hope in the defeat of death is not founded upon medical advances or human ingenuity. Instead, it is a hope that we place in our Creator. We trust in the God who made all things, who "knows our frame" and "remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:14). We trust our mourning will one day turn to comfort (Matthew 5:4). We trust that "the last enemy to be destroyed is death". The day is coming when death will be "swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:54). It is for this reason that you, if you are a Christian, will be able to look back at the end of your life and agree with Paul's conclusion that "in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Quote of the Day #228 - Charles Spurgeon

A quote from Charles Spurgeon:
If I had the power to do it, how would I seek to refresh in your souls a sense of this fact that you are “bought with a price”? There in the midnight hour, amidst the olives of Gethsemane, kneels Immanuel, the Son of God! He groans! He pleads in prayer! He wrestles—see the beady drops stand on His brow! Drops of sweat, but not of such sweat as pours from men when they earn the bread of life, but the sweat of Him who is procuring life itself for us!

It is blood, it is crimson blood—great globs of it are falling to the ground. O Soul, your Savior speaks to you from Gethsemane at this hour, and He says—“Here I bought you with a price.” Come, stand and view Him in the agony of the olive garden, and understand at what a cost He procured your deliverance! Track Him in all His path of shame and sorrow till you see Him on the Pavement. Mark how they bind His hands and fasten Him to the whipping-post. Look, they bring the scourges and the cruel Roman whips. They tear His flesh. The plowers make deep furrows on His blessed body, and the blood gushes forth in streams—while rivulets from His temples, where the crown of thorns has pierced them—join to swell the purple stream.

From beneath the scourges He speaks to you with accents soft and low, and He says, “My child, it is here I bought you with a price.” But see Him on the Cross itself when the consummation of all has come—His hands and feet are fountains of blood—His soul is full of anguish even to heartbreak. And there, before the soldier pierces with a spear His side, bowing down He whispers to you and to me, “It was here I bought you with a price.” O by Gethsemane, by Gabbatha, by Golgotha—by every sacred name collected with the passion of our Lord! By sponge and vinegar, and nail and spear, and everything that helped the pang and increased the anguish of His death—I plead with you, my Brothers and Sisters—to remember that you were “bought with a price,” and “are not your own!”
~Charles Spurgeon (Bought With A Price 1004)

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Saturday, April 06, 2013

Quote of the Day #227 - F. W. Krummacher

A quote from F. W. Krummacher:
Heaven must fall, the order of the divine government be annihilated, and Christianity be forever destroyed, if the Holy Scriptures compel us to regard the cup which Jesus drank, as essentially the same as that of which Job, Jeremiah, Paul, and many others partook. Jesus’ cup contained something far more dreadful.
~F. W. Krummacher (The Suffering Saviour, Chapter 13)

This quote was taken from Samuel Jackson's translation of F. W. Krummacher's book The Suffering Saviour: Meditations On The Last Days Of Christ.

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

What We Have Heard, Seen, and Touched - 1 John 1:1-4 Bible Commentary

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:1-4)
The world was dark, filled with shadows. Though fire could be summoned, it still required fuel to burn, one that had to be bought or gathered. Though the sun, free to all, would certainly rise, darkness was just as sure to follow.

Night and the darkness it brings is a universal human experience. Night is when the thief comes. It's when the normal sounds of day become suspicious. Mysterious and unknown, darkness is a veil, beyond which the eye cannot see.

In the introduction to his gospel, John writes of Jesus that He is the "true light, which gives light to everyone" (John 1:9). It is this light that John saw. He didn't merely see Christ illumined by the sun's rays, but he saw Christ fully illumined. In a spectacular display that we cannot fully grasp with our understanding, John saw Christ in his glory on the mount of transfiguration.

Sight is just one sense. John also writes that he heard Christ. Not only that, but John says that he touched Christ with his hands. This is something more intimate. There is light, and there is darkness; but there is something even deeper to the human experience. There is the cold shunning, and there is the warm embrace. John had reclined upon the bosom of Christ in that final hour before Golgotha (John 13:23). He had not merely heard the Saviour, nor merely seen Him, but he had come into direct contact with God Himself, condescending in human flesh.

It is the message of this Christ, whom John, fully aware of in every human sense, proclaims in his letter. The One who was with the Father Himself— who is the word of Life— it is the message of that King whom John seeks to set before us. And why does John do so? "So that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3).

John came into contact with Christ, and though we cannot travel back in time to see our Saviour in His incarnation, we can experience what John experienced through his writings. We too can hear the words of our Saviour. We too can look upon our Saviour. And though we may not be able to touch our Saviour with our hands, we can come into contact with Him in a way John never experienced during Jesus' earthly ministry— through the Spirit who has been given to us.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Quote of the Day #226 - Richard Sibbes

A quote from Richard Sibbes:
God is glorified in making us happy, and we enjoying happiness, must glorify God... A heavenly soul is never satisfied, until it be as near God as is attainable. And the nearer a creature comes to God, the more it is emptied of itself, and all self-aims. Our happiness is more in him, than in ourselves. We seek ourselves most when we deny ourselves most. And the more we labour to advance God, the more we advance our condition in him.
~Richard Sibbes (The Soul's Conflict and Victory Over Itself By Faith, Chapter XXVI)

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Quote of the Day #225 - Charles Spurgeon

A quote from Charles Spurgeon:
I am never to look to myself for wisdom, and to fancy that I am the creator of truth or the revealer of it—but ever to go to Him—my Lord, my Teacher, my All—and to believe that the highest culture, the best results of the highest education are to be found by sitting at His feet. And the best results of the deepest meditation, too, are to be gained in lying down in the green pastures beside the still waters, where He, as the Good Shepherd, leads me.
~Charles Spurgeon (The Fourfold Treasure 991)

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Saturday, March 09, 2013

Jesus: Repent, For the Kingdom of Heaven Is At Hand - Matthew 4:17 Bible Commentary

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17)
The first word recorded for us in Matthew from the lips of our Saviour is a command: Repent! From this single command, we have enough information to— once and for all— dispense of the idea that Jesus is a tolerant man who merely meets you where you're at and doesn't demand that you live a holy life.

This command for repentance was nothing new. The prophets of old had always called for it. In fact, Jesus' first words in Matthew, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," are identical to John the Baptist's first recorded words, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2).

Anything repeated twice should certainly draw our attention. This message of repentance is central to the Gospel. Any preacher who removes the command to repent from sin in his proclamation of God's kingdom cannot be called a Christian preacher at all; such a preacher has neglected to mention the first words out of both John the Baptist's and our Savior's mouths!

But what are we to make of that phrase: "the kingdom of heaven"? Is this kingdom already here, or is it yet to come?

Throughout his gospel, Matthew often refers to the "kingdom of heaven". The phrase is unique to Matthew. Mark and Luke instead use the phrase "kingdom of God". The two phrases are identical in meaning (for instance, compare Mark 1:15 to Matthew 4:17).

When Jesus was on earth, He proclaimed that "the kingdom of God is in the midst of you" (Luke 17:21). He also said that "if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matthew 12:28). Paul writes that God has delivered Christians "from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son" (Colossians 1:13). We see, then, that God's kingdom is, in one sense, already here— and Christians are its citizens.

Yet other passages make it clear that God's kingdom is something we have not yet entered. Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven..." (Matthew 7:21). Our entrance into the "eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:11) is something that will happen in the future.

From this, we conclude that the kingdom of heaven has already come, but it is not yet here in its fullness. Not until the end of the age, once Satan has been conquered, will the kingdom of heaven be seen in its fullness. For now, we must be content to ask the same question that the disciples asked shortly before Jesus' ascension, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6).

We can be assured that one day, the kingdom will be here in its fullness. We will see it, and we will live in it. For now, we look forward in expectation of that day when the seventh angel will blow his trumpet and proclaim, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever" (Revelation 11:15).

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Saturday, March 02, 2013

Quote of the Day #224 - William Beveridge

A quote from William Beveridge on the natural man:
Man's understanding is so darkened that he can see nothing of God in God, nothing of holiness in holiness, nothing of good in good, nothing of evil in evil, nor anything of sinfulness in sin. Nay, it is so darkened that he fancies himself to see good in evil, and evil in good, happiness in sin, and misery in holiness.
~William Beveridge

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Quote of the Day #223 - Paul Washer

A quote from Paul Washer
To know Him, that is what everything is about. That is eternal life. And eternal life doesn't begin when you pass through the gates of glory. Eternal life begins with conversion. Eternal life is to know Him. Do you honestly think you are going to be thrilled about swinging on gates of pearl and walking down streets of gold for an eternity? The reason why you won’t lose your mind in eternity is because of this: there is One there who is infinite in glory and you will spend an eternity of eternities tracking Him down and you will never get your arms even around the foothill of His mountain.
~Paul Washer (Ten Indictments)

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Square of Stops - Koine Greek Learning Made Easy

Looking for an easy way to memorize the square of stops? If you learn the square of stops for koine Greek using the method described in this post you will be able to recite it horizontally, vertically, and even diagonally (or however else you might want!).

In order to use the method, you need to be familiar with memory palaces. See this post if you are not.

Building the Koine Greek Square of Stops Palace

First, choose a rectangular room to use as your memory palace. You are going to be breaking up the room into a three by three grid. Perhaps you could just use the classroom in which you learned or are learning Greek.

In the front left hand corner of the room, imagine that there is a pig. Make the pig interact with something in that corner of the room. If there isn't anything there, perhaps you could imagine the pig is wallowing in a bucket of slop that's in the corner.

Now in the front center of the room, imagine a bear. If you are using your Greek classroom, it might work well to imagine that the bear is substituting for your Greek teacher.

In the front right hand corner of the classroom imagine a flamingo. Maybe he is standing on one leg trying (and failing miserably) to climb up the wall.

Now, above the pig, bear, and flamingo, imagine that there is a giant cage stretching across the front of the classroom. The cage hangs down from the ceiling, and it's filled with pandas.

As always with memory palaces, make sure you can clearly see all of this. Make it real in your mind.

Now, in the middle part of the room on the far left side, imagine a kangeroo. Imagine the kangeroo doing something ridiculous.

In the very center of the room, imagine a goose waddling around in circles, suddenly, a viper lurches down from the ceiling and tries to grab the goose.

Still in the middle part of the classroom, imagine in the far right a random group of camels. Once again, see these camels doing something ridiculous. Maybe they just came in the room after tearing down the wall and are looking for something to drink.

Finally, at the back of the classroom in the left corner, imagine a tiger. See the tiger interacting with that corner of the room in whatever way you like.

At the back of the classroom in the middle there is a dalmatian, barking in agreement at the great teaching.

Lastly, in the back right corner there is a turtle. Once again, make the turtle interact with that corner of the room in some memorable way.

An Explanation of the Koine Greek Square of Stops Palace

As I explained in this post on learning the order of the alphabet, the pig is pi, the bear is beta, the flamingo is phi, the kangeroo is kappa, the goose is gamma, the camel is chi, the tiger is tau, the dalmatian is delta, and the turtle is theta (to keep from thinking that the turtle could be tau, notice that a turtle is shaped like the letter theta). Also, the panda is psi (the pig goes with pi because pi and pig start with the same two letters), and the viper is xi.

Note that the psi and xi are the letters that you get when you add a sigma to the rows of letters that the panda and viper are above (e.g., so if you add a sigma to a pi, you get a psi, and if you add a sigma to a chi, you get a xi). You may find it helpful to add more animals or other objects to your palace in order to help you remember other rules related to the square of stops.

Now that you've placed all the animals in the room, look back through your room again and make sure you can picture everything. If you can, then you've successfully memorized the square of stops— and I can assure you of this: you will remember the square of stops much longer using this method than if you had learned it by rote!

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Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Order of the Alphabet - Koine Greek Learning Made Easy

If you learn the order of the alphabet according to the method described in this post, you will be able to recite the koine Greek alphabet backwards just as easily as you can forwards.

In order to use the method, you need to be familiar with memory palaces. See this post if you are not.

Building the Koine Greek Alphabet Palace

The first step is to decide what you want to use for your memory palace. Then, mark out a journey of 24 distinct locations in that palace.

At the first location, place an alligator; alligator represents the letter alpha. Make sure to relate the alligator to your location in a ridiculous way. It will make it more memorable.

At your second location, place a bear. Bear represents the letter beta. Next, at the third location, place a goose, which is gamma.

Continue placing animals in this manner. Here is the complete list of animals with their corresponding letters:

1. Alligator - alpha
2. Bear - beta
3. Goose - gamma
4. Dalmatian - delta
5. Elephant - epsilon
6. Zebra - zeta
7. Ape - eta
8. Turtle - theta
9. Eagle - iota
10. Kangaroo - kappa
11. Lamb - lambda
12. Mouse - mu
13. Numbat - nu
14. Viper - xi
15. Owl - omicron
16. Pig - pi
17. Rhino - rho
18. Skunk - sigma
19. Tiger - tau
20. Moose - upsilon
21. Flamingo - phi
22. Camel - chi
23. Panda - psi
24. Doe - omega

A Brief Explanation of the Koine Greek Alphabet Palace

You can avoid confusing what the turtle and tiger stand for by noticing that a turtle is shaped like a theta. Also notice that for the pig and panda, the word pig and the letter pi have the first two letters in common.

Of course, if you don't like the animals I have chosen, feel free to use different ones.

After you place all the animals, go back through and review what you placed at each location. Start at the first location on your journey, and move through each location sequentially until you reach the last location. Notice that if you start at the last stop on your journey and work your way backwards, this will enable you to recite the alpabet backwards.

Once you can recall all the animals at your locations successfully, you should wait an hour or so before you review again. Continue reviewing once per day. After a few days, if you did everything correctly, you'll be able to go weeks (and eventually months) without review and still retain the ability to recite the Greek alphabet (forwards and backwards!).

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Memory Palaces - Memory Techniques

Memory palaces take much of the rote out of learning. Arguably, they are one of the most useful memory techniques. The best way to convince yourself that this is true is to try the technique out for yourself.

Counting The Doors In Your House

Take a moment and answer this question:

How many doors are in your house (or some other building that you are familiar with)?

Stop, and take as long as you need to tally up your answer.

Finished? Chances are, you didn't have the answer to this question memorized. Thus, you probably went through your house in your mind and counted the number of doors.

The fact that you were able to explore and visualize your house in your mind shows that you are capable of memorizing incredibly complex material about locations. The memory palace technique takes advantage of this amazing ability of the human mind.

The Memory Palace Technique Demonstrated

The best way to learn the memory palace technique is with an example. For this example, you are going to be memorizing the following five items in order: icicle, jar of jam, leaf, egg, and desk. Before you do this, you need to pick out five loci (distinct locations) in or around your house. For the sake of example, let's say those locations are the mailbox, the front door, the bathroom sink, the roof, and the backyard.

First, imagine an icicle in front of your mailbox. The more ridiculous you make the scene, the easier it will be to remember. Perhaps your mailbox has become encased in a giant icicle and the mailman is trying to thaw it out with a flamethrower. Whatever you visualize, make sure that you really see it in your mind.

Second, place a jar of jam at your front door. Perhaps, you no longer have a front door. Instead, there is a giant jar of jam sitting where your door would have been, guarding the entrance. Once again, make sure you visualize what this would look like. Really see it.

Now walk in your front door and head to a bathroom in your house. Place a leaf in the bathroom sink. Make up a ridiculous situation. Perhaps the faucet is on, but leaves are coming out of it instead of water.

Next, go up to the roof of your house. Place an egg on your roof. Imagine something absurd. Perhaps your roof has been pelted with hundreds of eggs as a prank.

Finally, place a desk in your backyard. Once again, create an exaggerated, ridiculous image.

Now it's time to test yourself. Can you remember what you placed at your front door? What was the fourth item that you placed? Where did you place the leaf? What was the fifth item? Where is the icicle?

If you did a good job visualizing what you placed, you should have been able to answer those questions fairly easily. In fact, without any farther review, you will be able to answer some of those questions a few days from now.

So you've done it. Using the memory palace technique, you've memorized a list of five items in order. Although there are more efficient ways to memorize a list of five items in order, using the memory palace technique is definitely more effective than learning it through rote memorization.

The Usefulness of Memory Palaces

At this point, you might be impressed that your mind is capable of memorizing a list of objects like this, but you might not yet see how to apply the technique to anything practical. Notice, however, that a person could use this same technique to memorize some of the books of the Old Testament in order: Icicle/Isaiah, Jam/Jeremiah, Leaf/Lamentations, Egg/Ezekiel, Desk/Daniel.

There are an endless number of ways to memorize practical information using memory palaces. It just take some planning and creativity.

Note that in the example in this post, you created a "journey" through a memory palace. In other, words, you started at the first location and went through your palace in a certain order. Going on a journey like this is useful if the order of what you're learning is important, but if you are not concerned about the order of what you're memorizing, it isn't necessary to go on a journey (although it could be helpful for organizational purposes). In short, the simple use of vivid images placed in any sort of memorable location— in any configuration— will be effective.

There are a lot of different "palaces" that you can use; you don't have to limit yourself to locations you have personally visited. Using an artificial location that you know well from a movie or video game also works (and if you're really creative, you can construct an original location or building in your mind).

More Memory Palace Examples

If you are looking for more examples of the memory palace technique in action, take a look at the two posts below:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Quote of the Day #222 - Richard Sibbes

A quote from Richard Sibbes:
We must lay siege to the hardness of our own hearts, and aggravate sin all we can. We must look on Christ, who was bruised for us, look on him whom we have pierced with our sins. But all directions will not prevail, unless God by his Spirit convinces us deeply, setting our sins before us, and driving us to a stand.
~Richard Sibbes (The Bruised Reed, Chapter 2)

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Land of Zebulun and Naphtali See a Great Light - Matthew 4:12-16 Bible Commentary

Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
"The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned."
(Matthew 4:12-16)
With Jesus' departure to Capernaum, we see that His very steps were prophesied long beforehand. Indeed, this is true for many of our Saviour's travels. Matthew has already told us of the prophecy of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:5-6), His flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:15), and His return to Nazareth (Matthew 2:23).

Jesus, having been baptized and having stood against Satan's temptations, now begins His ministry. Interestingly, He does not launch His ministry in the great city of Jerusalem, but instead in Capernaum— in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali.

These lands were among the first to be taken in the Assyrian invasions of Israel (compare 2 Kings 15:29 to 17:6). This would explain why they are referred to as "Galilee of the Gentiles". Darkness had lain over these lands longer than any other in Israel. Doubtless, these northern regions of Galilee were home to many non-Jews. Yet, by God's grace, those who were the first to face the Assyrian invasion were also among the first to see light again.

The prophecy Matthew quotes comes from Isaiah 9, a chapter which contains many such Messianic prophecies. Many of these prophecies have yet to be fulfilled, such as that "the government shall be upon his shoulder" (Isaiah 9:6). And, while it may be true that the Jews in lands of Zebulun and Naphtail saw the light with their eyes, sadly, their hearts were not enlightened.

In Matthew 11, Jesus singles out three towns in Naphtali for rejecting the light: Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Even though most of Jesus mighty works were done in these areas, the people within them generally did not repent (Matthew 11:20). They rejected their Messiah. Jesus specifically said concerning Capernaum, "And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day" (Matthew 11:23).

Let this be a lesson for us. Let us never be content to merely see the Light with our eyes. We must not be content to merely look with interest upon Jesus Christ. We must make sure that our hearts are penetrated by His truth. If our hearts are not transformed by it, we are no better than those residents of Capernaum who saw the Light, but then hardened their hearts in their blindness.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Quote of the Day #221 - William Gurnall

A quote from William Gurnall:
Have you ever looked at a grog and felt thankful God created you a man instead of such an ugly creature? How much more grateful should you be that He has changed you more from the hypocrite you once were by nature into an upright Christian? Lactantius asked, 'If a man would choose death rather than have the face and shape of a beast - though he might keep the soul of man - how much more miserable is it for the shape of a man to carry the heart of a beast?' The hypocrite is in the worst shape of all, for he carries a beastly heart in the disguise of a saint.
~William Gurnall (The Christian in Complete Armour Volume 2, Chapter 1, Part 2).

This quote was taken from the book The Christian in Complete Armour Volume 2 - A modernized abridgement of the Puritan Classic by William Gurnall, published by Banner Of Truth.

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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Book Review: Living Koine Greek Part One (Randall Buth)

If you want to learn Greek, "Living Koine Greek" is a good place to start. Currently, there are three books in the series. This is a review of the first one.

From the moment I opened Randall Buth's "Living Koine Greek," I knew I had found something that would help me learn Greek in a new way. A short explanation of the book's method is followed by 1000 pictures, which are divided into groups of 100 for a total of ten lessons.

The Method

Each lesson in the book has its own audio track. There is no English in any of these tracks, only koine Greek. For each lesson, a description of the first picture is given once and then repeated, followed by a description and repetition of the second picture, and then the third, all the way up to the 100th picture.

Buth recommends listening through each lesson at least three times. The goal of each lesson is to be able to close your book, listen to the audio, and be able "to understand 90% of what is being described" (13).

After the tenth lesson, Buth introduces the Greek alphabet. Then he introduces how to read words. Finally, at the end of the book, there are 1000 Greek sentences. These sentences are identical to the descriptions of each of the 1000 pictures given in the audio tracks.

Here is a video of the first lesson so you can get a better idea of how it works.

Why The Method Is Helpful

If you know anything about Koine Greek textbooks, then you'll know that Buth's method is far from traditional. The method for learning Greek today typically does not place emphasis on being able to understand spoken Greek. This missing emphasis on audio, however, doesn't seem to concern many. After all, the goal is to be able to read the New Testament in Greek, not hear it... right?


You are able to understand this review because you are hearing it in your head. In other words, even when you read something silently, you still hear it. This is called "subvocalization". As you read through this review, you're probably subvocalizing what you read. Some people can subvocalize faster than others, enabling them to read faster (speed reading programs try to eliminate subvocalization, but this tends to cause comprehension to go down— not to mention that it's next to impossible to understand any sort of technical writing without subvocalizing!). There is, therefore, a connection between being able to understand a language audibly and being able to read it. To be truly fluent in a language you must be able to both read it and understand it audibly.

Furthermore, Buth is spot-on when he states, "When a person is fluent in a particular language, they use all of the correct forms without consciously thinking about which category a word belongs" (201). Buth also states, "Analyzing a language and translating into English, while useful in themselves and for their own purposes, do not build toward fluency" (201).

Does It Work?

I can answer this question only as a student— as someone learning Greek— not as someone who already knows it. I should note that I have some prior experience with Greek. In high school, I tried to teach myself Greek using Mounce's text. Now, in college, my class is using Croy's text. Before starting Buth's book, I also was able to give English glosses of all the words in the Greek New Testament that occur twenty-four times or more.

Although I had this prior experience, it did not allow me to speed through anything in Buth's book (except for the section on the alphabet). Learning to understand spoken Greek takes an entirely different mindset.

That being said, the time investment to go through Buth's first book is small (yet also incredibly rewarding!). The audio tracks tend to be right around fifteen minutes long. I committed to going through at least one lesson a day (some days I listened through a lesson two or three times, but that was not the norm). Doing this every day, it took me about 10 weeks to get through it (if you have no prior experience with Greek, it might take you a couple extra weeks).

I found that I needed to listen through each lesson more than the minimum of three times— and that's the great thing about the book. You can listen through as many times as you want until you feel comfortable enough to continue. It's not that the material is particularly challenging (a young child would be able to follow it), it's just that it takes some time to sink in (especially if you're only able to commit to listening through one lesson each day as I did).

Buth's book makes learning Greek enjoyable. Does it take commitment? Of course. But what language doesn't take commitment to learn?

There is no doubt that I have gained more from going through Buth's first book than I have from any other resource. I went from understanding basic descriptions in lesson one (such as "the man is eating"), to understanding geography lessons about first-century Israel in lesson ten.


If you're looking for the best way to learn Greek, "Living Koine Greek" is a good place to start. Buth's first book in this series is not a grammar book, nor is it an endless compilation paradigms. Instead, it's a series of 1000 pictures. If you make the time commitment to go through this book, you will be well on your way to thinking in Greek.

UPDATE (Nov. 2014): As of now, I have not yet gone through the second part in the "Living Koine Greek" series. I have also moved away from the pronunciation Buth uses in this first book and back to the Erasmian pronunciation. This is not to say that I did not like Buth's Imperial Greek pronunciation system; rather, I felt that it would be more practical to stick with the type of pronunciation used by most. I still would still certainly recommend this first book, but I think Buth's methodology could spread easier if he also recorded the material using an Erasmian pronunciation.