Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Perfect Bible?

I have wanted a Cambridge Clarion Reference Bible for a very long time -- specifically, one bound in Goatskin leather. The problem is I am a combination of too cheap and too poor to afford one, until I found a fantastic deal on a used one in very good condition on eBay. I had some "extra" money sitting in Paypal from selling a bunch of extra books a while back, so I pulled the trigger, and any guilt I felt for the purchase left once I picked this liquid Bible up out of it's box. Although it was used,  it doesn't look like it was used much. The only thing I noticed was a little wear and scratches on the gilding from use, but nothing major at all, especially since I got it for a small fraction of what a new one would have cost!

The Binding is outstanding -- the leather is soft, flexible, supple and liquid. It just feels good to hold it.

The Clarion is available in three binding options: A black Calf-Split leather, a brown Calfskin leather and a black Goatskin leather. You can read more about these options here. In short, they increase in softness and suppleness (and price, obviously) as you move from Calf split with Goatskin being the top level, softest and most supple. It's really something. Also the Goatskin and Calfskin have "art gilding" which is the red-under-gold look, and the Calf split just has regular gold gilding.

The best thing about the Clarion, however is the text setting itself. The text is set in a single-column paragraph with references on the outside edge. The references really stay out of the way, and I actually don't even notice them unless I go looking for them. The Bible is just the right size -- it is similar in size to the famous Pitt Minion compact Bibles, but thicker -- about 3 times thicker. It's a "chunky" Bible, but it's proportioned well -- it looks classic, and it feels just right in the hand for one handed reading. The font is a very nice Lexicon and it's listed at 10.5 pt for the Bible text, but it reads larger -- the text has good line spacing and room to breathe.

The paper is thin, but ghosting is minimal. My only quibble is that the pages tend to curl up at the edges in some places in the Bible. This has been reported in other places, however it doesn't bother me that much. I hope to be carrying this Bible with me for many, many years to come.

If you are looking for a "lifetime" Bible, this is a good choice in any of the three bindings. It is available in ESV, NASB, NKJV and KJV.

Here are some pictures:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Favorite Hymns

I love hymns. I love sitting with my Baptist Hymnal and just reading the beautiful poetry. I love playing hymns, and I love singing hymns.

Unlike a lot of folks my age, I'm not a huge fan of Contemporary Christian Music. I have a few "favorites" -- of contemporary hymns my favorite has to be "In Christ Alone" by the Getty's. I would say a big factor in this is lack of exposure, and I welcome any suggestions to check out.

Of older hymns I have a pretty wide range of styles, and I though I'd share a list of my favorites. These are not in any particular order -- If I were pushed, they'd all be favorites.

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Abide With Me
Amazing Grace
And Can It Be
Be Thou My Vision
Because He Lives
Blessed Assurance
Come,  Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Doxology (Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow)
Have Thine Own Way Lord
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty
How Great Thou Art
I Shall Not Be Moved
I'll Fly Away
It is Well
Just a Little Talk With Jesus
Just As I Am
Nearer, My God To Thee
Love Lifted Me
The Old Rugged Cross
Precious Lord, Take My Hand
Rock of Ages
Softly and Tenderly
The King is Coming
To God Be the Glory
Victory in Jesus
What A Friend We Have in Jesus
The The Roll is Called Up Yonder
When They Ring Those Golden Bells

This is my short list, believe it or not. I could practically list the contents of several hymnals here. Any of these songs will hit my soft spot. I wish they were sung more often in churches, and although I know that church has to progress, and "keep up", I wish more churches would turn off the projector some time and pick up the hymnals and sing, the old fashioned way.

Friday, November 14, 2014

True repentance...

I am always inspired by George Whitefield. What it must have been like to hear this (physically) little man preach the gospel to tens of thousands before the days of headworn condenser microphones!

I just came across this quote from one of his sermons (the full sermon is at the link below).

"True repentance will entirely change you, the bias of your souls will be will delight in God, in Christ..his law..his people" -- George Whitefield (Cf. Luke 13:3b -- "but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.")

Friday, November 7, 2014

NT Textual Criticism

I'm becoming more and more interested in NT Textual Criticism.

I've been reading a lot of articles and essays by Dr. Maurice Robinson as well as a book that has been sitting unread on my Kindle for some time: Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: Four Views.

Let me preface this before I go any further. I am at least ten steps below an amateur Textual Critic. My grasp of Greek at this point is below elementary. I haven't taken Greek yet -- everything I know thus far has been self taught using Interlinear Texts, Accordance Bible Software and watching Dr. Rob Plummer's excellent free videos (Thank you Dr. Plummer!!!).

As I have blogged about previously, I grew up in a KJV-Only environment. Not in that I'm old enough that the KJV was only what was around, but the true "believe that the KJV is the only preserved English Word of God" kind of stuff. I still love the KJV -- it's beautiful and majestic. The Psalms are the epitome of beautiful poetry. However, it is not the same English language as today.

As I was exposed to new, more modern translations I learned of the different Greek text types. The first difference I noticed was the end of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew being in a footnote of the ESV I purchased (my first non-KJV Bible). As I explored translations, I learned more. My own curiosity drove me to learn more about the different text types. It wasn't long before I noticed the long ending of Mark and the Pericope Adulterae in brackets. Then I noticed Acts 8:37 either in brackets (NASB, HCSB) or missing, demoted to a footnote (ESV, NIV).

Right now, I'm at a big fat point of "I don't know." However, Dr. Robinson (and others) make good points, and they are based on scholarly research rather than screaming that translators are "perverting" the Word of God (yes, I've heard the terms: New International Perversion, the Revised Standard Perversion, the New American Standard Perversion...well, you get the idea). I also never understood the difference between the MT and the TR until recently.  I simply find it interesting. Perhaps Dr. David Allan black has the correct view, as he states in his chapter of "Perspectives on the Long Ending of Mark", perhaps that none of the text types are superior to the others and they have all been preserved for us to use in resolving textual issues.

Another thing I find interesting is the New King James Version. I totally dismissed it when I started reading new translations a couple of years ago. I think because I didn't want anything with King James in the name, but I read in one of Dr. Robinson's articles how the NKJV specifies which manuscripts contain variances, rather than just saying "other-MSS have..." -- I think that is very helpful. I never have really read from the NKJV but I've been reading from it more lately. It's a very good translation, and the footnotes are outstanding. There are some places where I'm not crazy about how it translates, but it won't be my primary Bible anyway. I agree with Dr. Robinson, however that it would be nice to see a modern translation that tracks fully with the MT.

I'm thankful that Dr. Robinson is at SEBTS, perhaps I'll be able to take him for a class one day. I find all of this fascinating! I can't wait to learn more.

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!) ;-)

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.