Sunday, October 12, 2014

"Which______are you?"

I don't know why I bother with the "which _____ are you" quizzes on Facebook. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment. In the past I've learned: what southern accent I have, which Andy Griffith Show character I am, which state I "belong in", which Star Wars character I am, which Disciple I am, which comic book character I am, what super hero I am, and even had a prediction of where I am from based on what I call a sweetened carbonated beverage (among many other things I can't remember at the moment). These quizzes are very edifying to say the least.

Over the past few days I have seen a new one: "Which Bible verse describes you." For those who really know me, you know that I'm generally not a "Bible verse" kind of a guy. I'm more of a pericope kind of guy a at minimum. I think context is king. I don't look down on folks who have their life verse taped to their work computer monitor, or on their dashboard. I think some aspects of faith and how we interact with God and how He speaks to us can be very personal and different for folks. So please, don't get me wrong. However, ask me what my "life verse" is and I'll probably tell you Isaiah 53. Well, recently I had seen where one friend had taken the "What Bible Verse Describes you" quiz and got Philippians 4:13...then, I saw where another got Romans 8:28. I was feeling lucky so I took it and got...wait for it...yup Jeremiah 29:11 -- the trifecta of mis-quoted, mis-applied Bible verses! But hey, at least I got an Old Testament verse! No offense to anyone who has had those verses speak to them, has given a High School graduate something with Jeremiah 29:11 on it or has used Philippians 4:13 to run a 5K -- do what works for you (but that's not what those texts mean!) ;-)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Best ESV for the Money, and why Crossway is awesome!

Back in August, right before starting at SEBTS, I went into my local Lifeway and purchased a ESV New Classic Reference Bible in Genuine Leather.

I knew I was going to standardize on ESV for the foreseeable future, and I wanted a leather ESV that would last me, since a "premium" goatskin or calfskin was out of my reach right now.

I hated that Bible. I know you shouldn't hate a Bible, but this Bible was particularly awful. I used that Bible for 2 months and it looked 20 years old. The leather developed white "cracks" (for lack of a better description), and the "Genuine Leather" was hard, thin and shiny. It didn't remind me of anything leather I'd ever encountered before. In fact, this Bible looked, and felt more like one of those $5 "Imitation Leather" Gift and Award Bibles (and no, I don't mean the nicer TrueTone type stuff, I mean that really cheap hard, cardboard-y kind of stuff).

I got into touch with a contact I had a Crossway from doing a review for them in the past, and she stated that they had switched leather providers, and that certain newer Bible's such as the Large Print Thinline Reference Bible was much better.

I then contacted Crossway customer support, and they offered to send me a Genuine Leather Large Print Thinline Reference. First, I was blown away at the level of customer service, but I was even more blown away with the Bible that arrived.

This Bible (if mine is representative of all) has got to be the best value in ESV Bibles. The leather is soft, has a bit of a semi-yapp and the Bible has just the right amount of floppy-ness. I've never had the pleasure of holding a Heritage or Omega Crossway ESV (or an Alan, or Cambridge either), but this Bible, I imaging is probably one of the nicest you can get without going "premium". The font is great -- it's "Large Print" but it's not obnoxiously large -- would be great from reading from a pulpit. The Bible has a dual-column layout, there is line matching and the references are collected at the bottom of the right column rather than being in the center column.

If you are looking for a good ESV Bible which can be had for lest than $40 at some online retailers such as WTS Books, look no further. I highly commend this Bible.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Biblical Technology

Often my role as a student of the Bible and my inner nerd come together. Although I much prefer physical books, I find myself often exploring the various apps and webapps that provide Bible study tools. Some great tools are free, and some cost a little (or a lot), but even the costly ones are well worth the investment.

I'm not going to go in depth here, but I want to give an overview of some of the tools I use and recommend. I will start with free tools and work my way up.

YouVersion (also known simply as "The Bible App") Free:

This app is probably the most well known piece of Biblical technology around. Although some people use it for their primary tech Bible, or even their primary Bible, I have a few uses for it. Overall, despite it's popularity, it really has the fewest features of all of the popular Bible apps. It does offer a lot of English translations, some reading and devotional plans, as well as some social integration (following other users, etc.). It's not a bad app, but I find it a little slow sometimes. There are others I prefer, and although I keep this on my phone, it doesn't get a lot of use.

Bible Gateway (Website and App) Free:

Bible Gateway is the next step up from YouVersion. While it has most of the same basic features it adds some additional resources in the way of Commentaries (and yes, more than just Matthew Henry's), Dictionaries, the Encyclopedia of the Bible and the study notes from the Reformation Study Bible.

Bible Study Tools (Website and iOS App) Free:

Bible Study Tools has similar features as Bible Gateway, but one big bonus for Bible Study Tools is that is still has the NIV '84 available for those attached to that translation which is hard to find electronically.

Logos for iPhone, iPad or Android Free:

I've never used the iPad or Android app, but I've used the Logos iPhone app a good bit. I don't own the desktop Logos, but many resources are available free for online use only with the app, including original language tools. This is probably the most full-featured "free" app. I find the content "too much" on an iPhone. I'm sure it would be better on an iPad.

OliveTree (Desktop and Mobile):

A fantastic free app, with the ability to purchase additional resources. Denny Burk from SBTS did an excellent write up on OliveTree recently. I have not used it much, so please check out his write-up for more info.

Lumina Bible Study Tool (Website) Free:

Outstanding resource with choice of several English texts, original language texts and the excellent NET Translation notes.

Blue Letter Bible (Website and App) Free

BLB has lots of resources; comparable to Bible Gateway or Bible Study Tools. Much overlap, and some additional. It is worth checking out and installing.

ESV Study Bible Online (Free with purchase of a physical copy) and App $14.99:

This is the app I use the most on my phone. It is exactly what it sounds like. It has the text of the ESV Bible (in the same font that Crossway uses in their physical Bibles) combined with the ESV Study Bible notes and resources. A new version coming soon will allow you to sync your personal notes between the Web app and the iOS app.

HCSB Study Bible (Website Free and App $4.99):

The Website is a fantastic free resource with access to the HCSB Study Bible notes and a choice of several English translations. I was terribly disappointed with the iOS app. I loved the features, but it didn't fit the iPhone 5/5s screen size instead putting black space at the top and the bottom. I e-mailed Lifeway to inquire and was told that Olive Tree developed that app for them, Olive Tree was purchased by (competitor and NIV translator) Harper Collins which cancelled their agreement with them. In short, the app isn't going to be updated, which is a bummer because I paid $9.99 for the app and Lifeway did not offer a refund in my interaction. They did mention that they would be looking into creating new apps in the future, and my reply asking if those "future" apps would be free upgrades for those who purchased the HCSB Study Bible app, was not answered.

Now For the Big Guns:

For a full fledged Desktop solution with access to huge libraries (potentially costing huge amounts of money) as well as many integrated tools, features, search tools, markup tools...more stuff that I can possibly list here, check out Logos, Accordance or BibleWorks.

I chose Accordance, but your mileage may vary. I ruled out BibleWorks right away due to the lack of a Mac version. Accordance was on Mac first, and has the reputation of being the most polished tool for Mac (although they now have a Windows version and Logos now has a Mac version). I would advice scouring through the features, library packages and pricing just as I did before making a decision. This is an expensive decision. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pray for those building the Technology you use every day!

I have been involved in many online communities over the years in areas involving technology. Most especially I have been involved in many Linux communities (a Free, Open Source Operating System that basically runs the Internet, for those who aren't in the know).

When Google+ came on the scene a few years ago, most of the world ignored it, and it never really took off, but many niche groups, such as tech guys and photographers really gravitated to it. It was like a big online hobby club.

Linux folks were no exception. It became the social media platform for Linux guys. I was able to connect with many brilliant people from all over the world who were involved in making Linux. It was great.

It was also during one of my spiritual low-points leading up to returning to Christ. It was during this point that I was very close to becoming an atheist. Largely as a result of these folks, honestly.

You see, many of these people think that just because they are smart, they can't buy into religion. Religion is just something for dumb, weak minded sheep. Right? Well, sadly I had almost bought into this. I was beginning to think "I am smart, I can't believe this stuff anymore either". These were people I respected. These were the people I wanted to be like.

A funny thing happened though, Christ touched my heart, he changed it. Sitting in a field beside a little country church back home in South Carolina on the 4th of July, 2013 he changed my heart forever.

After returning to Christ, my priorities, obviously changed. I was simply less interested in Linux and more interested in learning more about the Bible, theology, the church, well the list goes on, and you get the idea. If you look back, you will see a definite change in the topic of this blog just over a year ago -- you'll get the idea.

As a result in this change in priority, I just stopped checking Google+ and specifically my Linux circles. To start with, to read the things that these folks wrote about Christians (or really any religion) in general just made me mad, and I felt it was best to simply not read them. I just couldn't "hang out" with these guys anymore.

I didn't completely quit using Google+, but I did set my "Linux" and "Software Dev Folks" to not show on my timeline. This morning, for some reason I clicked it, and mixed in with all the cool software development post were a few post that sent these guys on a big "Christians are idiot sheeple" rants as usual, and it dawned on me.

I can't ignore these people. I have to pray for them!

Will you join me? These are the very people who make the stuff you use and depend on every day. They make the platforms you use to read your digital Bible. Do you use Android? Well if so you are using Linux, friend! You should read some of the cursing rants Linus Torvalds (the creator of Linux) has gone on with people who volunteer their time to make Linux...he's not a nice person, he really isn't, he treats people like dirt regularly and I can't believe how long I idolized him and many others just like him in that industry (if you want to see what I mean, just Google 'Linus Torvalds f word' if you aren't sensitive to such's sad really).

So please, join me in praying for these folks. Pray that God will touch their hearts just like he did mine, and show them that you can be smart, and Christian. Pray that they will find the pure joy that I found. I hope they do, I really do.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

This week we have been celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights act here at Southeastern Seminary. This morning, we had a special Wednesday chapel with a panel discussion composed of activists and historians reflecting on the Civil Rights act.

The panel was moderated by Dr. Danny Akin and was made up of historian Dr. Gerald Smith who is currently currently an associate professor of history and the Martin Luther King Center Scholar-in Residence at the University of Kentucky. Also, Dr. David Roach another historian who earned his PhD in church history from Southern Seminary in Louisville where his dissertation focused on Southern Baptists and civil rights during the second half of the twentieth century. Also on the panel was our own Associate Professor of History and Associate Dean of the College,  Dr. Brent Aucoin who not only authored the book A rift in the Clouds which examines the efforts of some Federal Judges in the South to protect the civil rights of African Americans, he also has a book soon to be published, The Strange Career of Thomas Goode Jones, which shows how one white leader in Alabama worked secretly with Booker T. Washington to end debt peonage, convict leasing, and the lynching of African Americans. And I especially enjoyed hearing from Mr. Clarence Henderson who bravely participated in the sit-in in 1960 at Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro NC.

With recent events that have occurred, such as what has occurred in Ferguson, MO I am delighted that Southeastern Seminary is dedicated to Kingdom Diversity.

Photo from SC Department of Archives and History
As I was listening to a discussion this morning that turned to Emmett Till, an African-American boy who was murdered in Mississippi at age 14 because he was accused of flirting with a white woman. I was reminded of the story of George Stinney Jr.

George Stinney never made it past age 14 either. George Stinney was one of the youngest persons to be executed in the United States in the 20th Century. In March of 1944, Stinney was arrested for the murder of two little (white) girls, ages 8 and 11 in Alcolu, SC. They passed by the Stinney's property asking George and his sister if they knew where to find some flowers they were searching. The girls never returned home, and after a huge search party was organized, the bodies of the little girls were found the next morning.

The entire process from arrest to execution for this young boy was just 81 days. He was executed on June 16, 1944. He carried a Bible in his arm to the Electric Chair (where a booster seat was required). The boy was only 5'2" and 90 lbs.

I first heard of George Stinney when I was in High School. We had moved from my home town of Florence, SC to Manning SC (in Clarendon County, near Alcolu where Stinney was from). In my history class in 9th grade, I had to write a paper on a historical event from SC. I have been fascinated with history, and doing research through old newspapers and such since I was a child, and I was in the Clarendon County Library doing research for my paper and the Librarian told me about George Sinney, and guided me toward some old newspapers with articles containing information on him, and the trial. This was in 1995. I was scolded by my history teacher for writing a paper on the subject. You see, in Manning (actually all of Clarendon County) at that time was a very racially tense place. The KKK was still very active, black churches were being burned, there were cases of police brutality against African-Americans, and my teacher said that was not an appropriate subject for me to be writing on, and strongly suggested that I take the next week and re-do my assignment (we were to give a presentation in class). I didn't, and got a standing ovation from the (probably 90% black) class, who had never heard the story.  I still only got a C on the paper. It didn't matter how well written, or received it was at that point. I wish I still had a copy of it -- I'd like to go back and read what I had written then.

There has been some good news recently regarding George Stinney. Back in January of this year, Lawyers were finally able to argue on behalf of George in a courtroom -- something he was denied back in 1944. His supporters have applied for a pardon.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

By Faith...

This morning in chapel here at Southeastern Seminary, Dr. Thomas White, president of Cedarville University preached for us. He preached from Hebrews 11, specifically lingering around v. 23 but I'm going to quote 23-28 here for you:
By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. (Hebrews 11:23-28, ESV)
His message really hit home to me in several ways. I sat there thinking about how happy I was just to be here. I wake up every single day just happy to be HERE. I know the Lord put me HERE at Southeastern for a reason. All I could think about for the 9 months or so leading up to coming here was being HERE at Southeastern.

By faith I asked my job if I could work remotely. By faith I packed up some stuff in my car and drove here. By faith I'm living in a half of a room in the basement of an old house, sleeping on what amounts to a little more than a cot every night rather than in my own home I'm still paying for, sleeping on my nice new mattress that I'm still paying for. I'm getting up at 6AM and juggling work responsibilities, school responsibilities and still maintaing some personal time for my sanity. I'm doing this all by faith that God has big plans for me.

Not unlike Moses, I had a perfectly good life back home. I have a good job, I make enough money to meet my financial obligations and still shove some away for a rainy day most of the time. Although I love my company and I know that they are supportive of me, I took a risk asking to come up here and work remotely, and I'm still praying that it will work out for a more long term situation. I don't want this to end. I'm doing all of this with absolute and pure joy. I have never been happier or more at peace with myself as I have been since I arrived at this campus.

I know that God has plans for me. I have put all of my trust in King Jesus to support me and give me the strength, grit and determination I need to get this done. I know he will. I have faith in what God has revealed to me through the Bible about Jesus, and I know that I will accomplish my goal here.

I still get down on my knees every single day and thank God that I am HERE at Southeastern.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Calvinism vs. hyper-Calvinism

One of the classes I'm taking  this semester is "Faith, Reason and the Christian Mind" which is being taught by Dr. Jamie Dew.

The question came up  about how Calvinists could support missions (or Evangelism) if they believe that God controls everything, and that only certain people are called or elected to salvation. Dr. Dew handled the question superbly. A fellow student was simply going on what they had been told by others, and I'm really glad that they asked the question so they would no longer hold such a skewed view of many of our Christian brothers and sisters.

Early on in my conversion I was a full fledged 7-point "Piperist". I got through that phase but I would still consider myself Calvinistic, let's call me a "moderate" Calvinist, a term I have heard in a couple of books I have been reading.1

I won't quote Dr. Dew here, but we agree that there have been many from church history such as Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards, Boyce, Broadus, Judson -- all Calvinistic men who were evangelical, missional and still embraced Reformed Theology.

It brought back to mind some thoughts I'd had as I was reading the two books I mentioned above. So many times I hear where people relate 5-point Calvinism (or "High Calvinism" as a term I've seen in both of these books as the opposite to "Moderate Calvinism") to hyper-Calvinism. I'm going to quote from an excerpt from an e-mail our seminary president, Dr. Danny Akin wrote back in 2006 in regards to some concerns he had with students and theological integrity and responsibility.
In regards to 5-point Calvinism being the same as hyper-Calvinism: This statement again demonstrates historical ignorance. Hyper-Calvinism is a particular movement that appeared in the mid 1700's that rejects the mandate to share the gospel, denies man's responsibility to repent and believe the gospel, and in some instances runs perilously close to making God the author of sin...Perhaps what some mean by "hyper-Calvinism" is extreme Calvinism or Calvinists with an attitude. I have met more than a few in my lifetime and to be sure, they were not of much value when it comes to the health of the church and reaching the lost. Still, we need to be honest with history and accurate with the facts. Mischaracterizations are of no value on any level.2
I don't believe a contemporary supralapsarian 5-point Calvinist would agree with any of those points.

I would also like to point you to an article our seminary president Dr. Akin wrote back in 2006 on Calvinism. Now, if you know Dr. Akin's theology, you'll know that he is not a 5-point Calvinist but I feel he described and critiqued the doctrines of grace very succinctly here and I highly commend it to you if you are interested.

Sure, there are some Calvinists that are jerks about their theology, but I've come across some non-Calvinists (I won't use the term Arminian for this blanket category) who were also jerks about their theology. I don't feel that either camp does anything to help the Kingdom. We should be focusing on a sound, Biblical theology that preaches the gospel of King Jesus rather than standing on different sides of the issue and pointing fingers over things that Christians have consistently disagreed about throughout the history of the church such as soteriology and eschatology.

Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism and Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue
2 Sage, Courageous Counsel from Dr. Danny Akin