Christianity 201

January 1, 2022

Sending Things of Lasting Value Across the Internet

Heaven and earth [as now known] will pass away, but My words will not pass away. – Matthew 24:35 Amplified Bible

True, the grass withers and the wildflowers fade, but our God’s Word stands firm and forever. – Isaiah 40:8 The Message

Your word, O LORD, will last forever; it is eternal in heaven.  – Psalm 119:89 Good News Translation

In January of 2013, I didn’t know the word “meme.” Nobody I knew was sharing things on Facebook, and I was a few months away from ever retweeting something on Twitter. The medium of the day was email forwards.

We tend to think that online hoaxes and conspiracy theories are a recent development, because of their proliferation over the past 2-3 years, but they were a big part of email culture. I had friends who were especially susceptible to them, whose emails I would delete after reading the first paragraph.

At a wedding reception around that time, I was asked by someone how the removal of all the religious broadcasting from radio and television would affect interest in Christian books. He was, I think, serious.  It was so very strange to encounter this subject without either my keyboard or monitor close at hand. In a face-to-face conversation. (A similar email hoax proclaimed that all Bible portions were being removed from the internet.)

Someone had sent him the information and he had taken it at face value.  I assured him it was a hoax, and he was willing to believe me. (But that too he accepted at face value! Doesn’t anybody check anything?)

My other observation at the time about e-mail forwards which applies today’s memes concerns the ones that are sent containing philosophical platitudes combined with cute stories and breathtaking photography, and an encouragement to send it to everyone you know.

Back in the day one was a PowerPoint presentation containing the aforementioned high resolution pictures which fill the whole screen.   But it also contained practical advice for living.  Frankly, I’d rather see the photographs.  I don’t need a shot of the Grand Canyon spoiled by graphics reminding me to brush my teeth after every meal.

Yes, that was the nature of the ‘advice.’  I don’t think any of them actually said that, but there were forty of them, and for the life of me, I did not remember a single one.  It was sincere, but it was drivel. And it was wrecking the pictures.

All of these are sent by Christian friends, and it occurred to me at the time that very, very rarely did any of them contain scripture.  (That has improved over the years, thanks to people creating scripture slides for Instagram and Pinterest.) Back then I would have settled for a bad paraphrase.  Instead it was just empty, pop psychological advice splattered over shots of sunsets and oceans. A Biblical quotation would be a refreshing change.

That got me wondering how much time Christian people spend mentally ingesting somewhat shallow online content that could be spent reading the Bible online. Even if it short nuggets.

In a much, much earlier day, when people would send people actual printed letters — i.e. using stationary, and a postage stamp — it was customary for Christians to sign off a letter with a scripture reference. They weren’t all looked up, I’m sure, but today it’s possible to have a signature line in emails which contains a tag line, which could easily be a scripture verse quoted in full.

The Bible comes with a guarantee that its words don’t just bounce off the walls.  If we believe in the inspiration (God-breathed origin) of scripture, then this is what the Bible is saying about itself in Isaiah 55:11 where, speaking through the prophet, God says –

It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.   ( ~ NLT)

So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them  (  ~ Message)

So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void [without producing any effect, useless], but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. ( ~ Amplified)

Thus it is of my word which leaves my mouth:  It does not return to me without effect;  without having carried out my will and achieving my intentions.   ( – Louis Segond, trans.)

If you really wanna ‘bless’ someone today, forward them a hand-picked Bible verse just for them. But do this quickly before all the Christian programs are taken off the air, and then they decide to remove all Bible portions from the internet.

Practical steps to choosing a Bible verse to send someone:

First, pick a theme, and then type “Bible verses about _______________” into a search engine. The sites Bible Study Tools, Knowing Jesus, and Daily Verses will offer you best results.

Second, if you’re looking for something different, start with a verse you know or one that has meant a lot to you, and type the reference into a search engine and then choose the result for Bible Hub (almost always one of the first three search results). Scroll down the right margin and take a look at the section headed “Cross References.”

Third, choose a translation of the verse that is best suited to the person to whom your sending it to, or doesn’t obscure the meaning relative to the specific intention you had in choosing that verse.

Fourth, if you end up with the ‘perfect’ verse, but it’s one you’re not as familiar with, read it in its longer context, to make sure you’re not simply proof-texting or cherry-picking a verse which was written to have an entirely different application.

Words spoken at the right time are like gold apples in a silver setting.- Proverbs 25:11 Common English Bible.