Monday, March 21, 2011

I Like Bibles!

It has been almost a year since I rededicated my life to Jesus Christ. Before that, I had been away from my faith for about fifteen years. During a difficult cleanout session, I had to discard several Bibles that I had owned for many years because they were starting to mildew because of being in storage. It was painful.

Yes, mine looks just like this.
I began to replace them. But I was not going to get carried away, needing to own over a dozen versions like I had done in the past! In an online forum, someone had recommended the English Standard Version. I had never heard of it, so I read up on it and then bought one. (It is almost funny, I was starting to get teary-eyed in the Barnes and Noble store as Malcolm and Alwyn's wonderful song was playing in my head.."Got myself some wisdom from a leather-backed book...") It felt...strange. Strange, and yet very good, to be reading a Bible again after so many years. Then I looked for the little green Gideon New Testament I had been given several years before, to no avail. But I really wanted a pocket-sized New Testament, so back to Barnes and Noble for a pocket New International Version.

I will not bore you with the details of my further acquisitions, but for me, there is no such thing as one Bible. Advice given by Matt Slick of CARM as well as others is to have at least three good versions, and to be familiar with them. So, I am rotating my NIV, ESV and New American Standard Bibles. The liberal-leaning Revised Standard Version from my childhood is still intact, and I will not part with it. Since the Holman Christian Standard Bible has just been updated, that is also on my purchase list. But I am not a clutterer or accumulator, even if it is in the name of "research", or "reference".

In other Weblogs, I have gone on about "decluttering" and "minimalizing". After all, our existence is not defined by our wealth or our possessions. Ironically, I was seeing the spiritual value in getting rid of the junk in my life (if it has sentimental value, how much is it really worth if it is boxed away and forgotten until the box is investigated again?), and I had to get rid of clutter. The library was very thankful for the several boxes of books that I donated for their book sale — including Bibles that were in acceptable shape.

Being rational in my possessions is getting easier, except for books. Especially Bibles. I really like Bibles! The smell, touching, reading, all of it. Yes, I can hoard and research to my heart's content with theWord, but let's face it, Bible software is not as pleasurable. Also, doing research for upcoming articles has made me aware of some other Bible editions that I had not know about previously, and I have to tell myself, "No, that is not in the budget..."

That is enough for today. I have more to say about Bibles in our next meeting. Until then, I hope you like this audio piece. It is "spoken word", and it was taken from a scratchy vinyl record album by Isaac Air Freight:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday Resource: Battle for the Beginning

With a resource like the one I am going to give you today, I am very glad that I posted that information last week about getting more information in less time. Because this week, I am all keyed up to offer you John MacArthur's "The Battle for the Beginning".

Regular readers know that I am a Biblical Creationist and that I reject evolution. (In case you're curious, I reject it on its lack of science as well as believing what the Bible says.) I have stated on occasion how compromising the Word of God with man-made scientific philosophies causes all sorts of problems with other parts of Scripture that cause a need further compromise; a theological "domino effect". John MacArthur covers this, and more. He mentions some of the scientific errors in evolution. (Unfortunately, he touches on some items that I wish he had left alone, but I think they were hot items when this series was delivered in 1999.) My main concern is the authority of the Bible. Are you going to believe God or use ever-changing man-made theories to interpret the Bible?

It is in the best interests of every Bible believer to give "The Battle for the Beginning" a listen. As always, MacArthur's materials are free to listen, free to download or available for purchase.

While looking for images, I discovered that a book version came out, if you're interested. No, I am not getting anything for recommending this.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Turning the Other Cheek

But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Matt. 5.39 KJV

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

This is a topic where some people will have an opinion (and express it), without serious consideration of the subject.

Reaching back centuries into the dusty corridors of my memory... Was it a Dennis the Menace cartoon drawing? Anyway, someone is asking the pastor after a church service, "But what if he punches you in the nose?" Or something like that. Good question.

I have to admit that I was reluctant to use this verse because it is so horribly misused by believers and unbelievers alike. It has been ripped out of its textual, historical and cultural contexts and used to mean that Christians should simply be doormats.

Image before editing, "The Sermon on the Mount" by Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1877
Here is a bit of a conversation in a Facebook post:
Although bad, We are commanded to love our enemies, pray for them, our kingdom is not of this world, there just words, God has abandoned our nation, this shouldn't be surprising! Satan isn't going to fight against his false religions, Jesus said, "The World will hate you because it first hated me" We stand for the truth, but not with hatred. We pray for them and are kind to them, it's like heaping hot coals on there head by not returning evil for evil. Not surprising at all.
I took him to task for praying and not taking action about the topic in question. How can we be salt and light (Matt. 5.13-16) if we do nothing?

Fortunately, some people have a grasp of the bigger picture.

First, the most direct textual context is that Jesus was talking about being slow to retaliate. Look at the context and you will see that he was talking about interpersonal dealings and doing good for those who misuse you.

Next, the cultural context. Did you notice he specifies the right cheek? The natural assumption is that two people are facing each other in an argument. Walter Wink points out that a slap on the right cheek had to be done with the left (unclean) hand. A backhanded slap was done to punish, or to humiliate inferiors. By turning the other cheek "robs the oppressor of the power to humiliate". If he resorted to using his fist, the recipient is no longer an inferior, but has become an equal. The whole point is to stop the insults and violence from rapidly escalating.

Jesus did not answer the question of Dennis (above): "What if he punches you in the nose?" Hopefully, the principle would apply and the Holy Spirit would guide the believer so that he was slow in his response, and not just reacting out of rage.

But nowhere does Jesus advocate standing there and being beaten bloody. Remember, Jesus is the one who made a whip and drove the money changers out of the temple (John 2.14-16). I am not using this as an excuse for myself or anyone else for simply becoming consumed with rage, because that leads to sin (Eph. 4.26).

If a woman is screaming for help in the parking lot of the apartment complex, I most certainly would not say, "I'll pray for you!" No, I would not only call the police, but my nature (and probably the Holy Spirit) would probably have me take direct, physical action if necessary. I have said before that prayer is important, vitally so, but we must do our part as well.

There are times when we must take a stand for what is right, even if it means violence. Otherwise, the weak and helpless are victimized while we stand by with our misunderstanding of a verse or two of Scripture. Addendum: A similar application is with the Answers in Genesis lawsuit against religious discrimination in the state of Kentucky. See "Should AiG “Turn the Other Cheek” Concerning Its Lawsuit?"

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Word on the Word

This is a bit of a re-post of a re-worked article I did on "Stormbringer's Thunder". My reason for doing it again here is because I am determined to make sure people know that free Bible versions are available, and several of those rival the more expensive versions. If you want a Bible on your computer, you should be able to have one.

No, I'm not writing another essay about theWord Bible software. Today.

And I still say that, even though my loyalty is to theWord, e-Sword is also very good Bible software.

"Uncle Bob, theWord is great, e-Sword is excellent, but I need something that is a bit less feature rich. Also, something that will work on a Mac or Linux, natively." 
Enter the CrossWire Bible Society.

"We have an abundance of applications, available to support you in your Bible studies on many different platforms. Several of these applications are cross platform. All applications in this section use the same module library and most store their library in the same place on your computer. All are based on The SWORD Project You can therefore try several and see which one you end up liking best".

They are volunteers, making Open Source software available on many platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Mobile and Web-based. CrossWire's main program for Windows and other platforms is The SWORD Project, an ambitious Bible study piece. However, I have not used it myself, and it has not been updated for some time. My suspicion is that it will not work well on Windows 7, as I had considerable difficulty getting some of their other products to work properly.

Oops, time for my disclaimer: They do not even know I exist, so they are not giving me anything for writing this article. I am doing it as a public service because there should always be Bible software available, even if you have an older, slower computer or you're not a "techie". Again, I have not installed and tested most of this software. I am offering it to you to check it yourself. But this is not some fly-by-night outfit, they've been around a while, and the software is free (Open Source). Some of the Bible modules are not, but you can get some very good versions for free.

"SwordBible" did not work for me. Well, not completely, anyway. But I did not have a Windows XP machine to test it on, either. Sorry for the incompleteness of my comments, but if someone wants to try it on an XP system, I would like to know if it worked for them. Since there are so many other options available, I would suggest skipping it entirely.

Xiphos has some things going for it, and it is designed for Linux, UNIX and Windows (yes, it does say Windows 7). I was not entirely happy with it, probably because I am so biased from e-Sword and especially theWord. But that's my problem, not yours. You may very well like it. There are many features and functions available.

I used BPBible for a while because it has the capability to run on a flash drive. This is still in active development, and the beta version I downloaded was only a few days old at the time. There are still a few quirks in it that I was unable to answer, but answers may be available in their forum. You cannot print from the program, but it would not be a deal-breaker for me because you can copy and paste into another document and print from that. If I did not already have my preferences on other software, I might very well settle in with BPBible.

Rhomphaia mentioned that her husband uses Action Bible. This is not from the SWORD Project/Crosswire, but it is definitely worth a mention. If you want to just read your Bible and make journals and notes (i.e., sermon preparation), this should work for you. No maps, dictionaries or commentaries. It does not strike me as a system resource hog, either. It comes with a few e-books that did not impress me, and a couple of other features that actually seem to have been abandoned.

There are a few "features" on here that I suggest that you avoid, such as "Action Overlay" (I had to use other software to make it go away) and "RSS Feeds", which is a feed from only one site. The Help file says that it has an address book, which I could not find. 

Action Bible has a "Date Reminder" tool, and a rudimentary task list. Also, it is very customizable to make your own work display pretty much the way you desire. The Search function will let you search through more than one version at a time, as well as setting limits instead of searching the entire Bible every time.

If you do not want the trappings of other programs and just want to read, search and make Bible notes, Action Bible is worth a try.

There are still other free and low-cost Bible study software applications available, and there is no way I can take the time to check them all out. I would probably want to own lots of them, I get nutzo like that. From the feature-rich theWord and e-Sword through the various applications that CrossWire has available, or the stripped-down Action Bible, well, if you want Bible software on your computer, here ya go, Zeke.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

On the Origin of Respectability

In the beginning God created the heauen and the earth. And the earth was without forme and voide, and darkenesse was vpon the deepe, and the Spirit of God moued vpon ye waters. Then God saide, Let there be light: And there was light. And God sawe the light that it was good, and God separated the light from the darkenes. And God called the light, Day, and the darkenes, he called Night. So the euening and the morning were the first day.
Genesis 1.1-5 (Geneva)

Or, to say it another way: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָֽרֶץ׃ וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵי תְהֹום וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל־פְּנֵי הַמָּֽיִם׃ וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אֹור וַֽיְהִי־אֹֽור׃ וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאֹור כִּי־טֹוב וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים בֵּין הָאֹור וּבֵין הַחֹֽשֶׁךְ׃ וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים ׀ לָאֹור יֹום וְלַחֹשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה וַֽיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹקֶר יֹום אֶחָֽד׃ פ (WLC, but someone with real knowledge of Hebrew will have to tell me if this copied and pasted correctly.)

Today is 12 February, 2011. It is failed theology student Charles Darwin's birthday. On February 13, many churches will disgrace themselves by promoting evolutionism from the pulpit.

Since the primary thrust of this Weblog is theological and not scientific, I will let you check some resources on your own. But I will give you some suggestions: Answers in Genesis, Institute for Creation Research, Creation Ministries International. If those are not enough, I have many more apologetics links here. What, you're bothered because I am not giving equal time to evolution? We are constantly exposed to biases, skewed reports, tendentious interpretations of the facts and outright ridicule of our viewpoints. This is equal time!

There are church people who simply do not believe that the Bible is true (including having historical value), so they have no problem giving the appearance of scientific respectability to their churches. Some people believe in "theistic evolution", where God used evolution to cause his creation. Or they have God start the whole works and then he stepped back and let nature take its course.

Naturally, there are compromisers who do not want to take a stand or who have not bothered to examine the evidence for Creation. Nor have they examined the implications of their compromise with evolution. However, there are honest, intelligent people who have looked at some of the evidence and insist that the Earth is ancient, disagreeing with Creationism. 

I want to give you a few things to think about, from the perspective of someone who believes that the Bible is true, evidence for an ancient Earth is dubious, and that evolution is a lie:
  • Which of the gradually evolving primates was Adam, and which was Eve?
  • When did Adam and Eve sin?
  • If they are simply stories or archetypes, we are being lied to throughout the Bible because Adam is spoken of as a real man. This becomes much worse because Adam is in the lineage of Jesus (Luke 3.28), Jesus referred to Adam and Eve as real created people (Matt. 19.4). Paul refers to Adam as a literal person, by whom sin entered the world (Rom. 5.12-14). Paul also referred to Jesus as "the last Adam" (1 Cor. 15.45). Jude referred to Enoch and Adam as real people (Jude 1.14).
  • As I have said before, the word יוֹם translated "day" means "indefinite period of time" (as well as assorted other meanings, like part of a day, the darkness part of a day and so on), or as an indefinite period of time, but Genesis has strong qualifiers to make it a literal day: "Evening and morning, the (number) day". Also, this is the way it works throughout the Old Testament. Why should the early chapters of Genesis be the exceptions?
  • People will refer to Psalm 90.4 and 2 Peter 3.8, taking "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" to support their belief that the days of Genesis were not literal. How about a logical extension, then? “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. You shall labor six days, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God. You shall not do any work in it, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates; for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy." (Exodus 20:8-11, WEB) Look at the text again. God worked for six days and rested for one day as an example for us to follow in the Fourth Commandment. Those who compromise with the Bible have two problems here: Did God work for six thousand years and then rest for one thousand years? Or did he work for six indefinite periods of time and rest for an indefinite period of time?
  • If God used evolution, then why do we need God at all?
As for me, I am not willing to let science interpret Scripture. After all, science is man-made. God's Word is eternal (Isaiah 40.8 NASB). If we changed our understanding of God and the Bible with every scientific "discovery", we would be a mess and Christianity itself would have collapsed long ago.
I am not going to go the other way, however, and say that we must believe no matter what science says. Perhaps our understandings of Scripture need to be adjusted on occasion. But carefully, with the bigger picture in mind.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sgian Dubh

"The sword of the Spirit,
which is the Word of God..."
— Ephesians 6.17

If you have no objections, I am going to indulge in some speculative fiction. (If you do have objections, it will be here if you change your mind.)

My eschatological beliefs are pretty much the most common view, where Jesus will come back at any moment for his people in what is commonly referred to as the "Rapture", followed by the rise of the Antichrist, the seven-year Tribulation period (you definitely do not want to be left behind at the Rapture — are you sure you're ready?), the triumphal Second Coming of Christ and his people and so on. But I will not defend or debate my position, I am just letting you know what I think the Bible teaches on the subject.
So, this speculative fiction, which could be considered "science fiction", as it has future-based elements, involves those left behind to face the Tribulation and deal with the Antichrist. (If I have believed the wrong teachers, Christians will endure all or part of the Tribulation. Or you can skip the Tribulation aspect and insert some sort of persecuting, totalitarian government.) Are you with me on this? It will be a time of unprecedented intense persecution for people who become followers of Jesus after the Rapture. Anyone who has read accounts of the persecution of Christians in former Soviet-controlled countries, as well as what is happening even now, will know that persecution is relentless. Add to this some of the end times Tribulation movies ("Left Behind" series, "A Thief in the Night" et al) and you can get a good mental picture of what will probably be coming along.

Also, secrecy is essential. People are skilled at hiding things all through history, but even more so in this electronic age. Obviously, Bibles will be confiscated. Where can you hide yours if you're still here? Hiding methods are good (check a "spy supplies" catalog sometime), but so are search methods.

As you know, I am rather excited about theWord Bible Software. One of the features that grabbed my attention is that you can put theWord, with all of its Bibles, dictionaries, commentaries, maps and books onto a flash drive. And some of those flash drives are very small.
"What's the funny title, Cowboy Bob?"
It's Gaelic, pronounced skeen doo. It means "black knife". Not always because of the color, but because of the use. A kilted Scot puts it into the top of his stocking... I remember an episode of "Doctor Who" where Jamie McCrimmon was held from behind in a choke hold. He reached down into his stocking, pulled out the sgian dubh, and knifed his attacker in the knee.

So anyway, this comes from the Ministry of Dreadful Analogies. Putting the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, onto a flash drive, SD card, memory stick or whatever. What would you call a very small sword? A dagger. Daggers can be hidden for later use. Our electronic daggers can be stashed carefully to be retrieved later by us or by someone the Lord directs to it after the Rapture.

In a more practical sense, not only can these Bibles get smuggled easier (especially on an SD card or memory stick), but having theWord on a flash drive could be a very interesting gift or evangelism tool. Depending on your intentions, you may want to spend more money on a durable flash drive. But always look for reviews before you spend a great deal of money.

Consider putting a foreign language Bible on the flash drive if invading soldiers find it. I selected Chinese.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Giving Good Service Part 2

"For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord."
Ephesians 5.8-10 ESV

This article is a sequel of sorts to "Giving Good Service", but this one is not about our employment. In that article, I discussed how followers of Jesus should be bringing him honor by remembering that he is the one we are ultimately working for and not just Mr. Greedyfingers that signs our paychecks. So, we should do our best in our jobs to bring glory to God.

One additional note that may have belonged in that original article is that some Christians wear it on their sleeves, so to speak. They get showy and announce, "Hey, you're going to be glad you hired me, I'm a Christian!", and then they proceed to do lousy work. In some cases, the employer begins to wonder if it is a bad idea to hire Christians! If we consistently gave good work, then it would be true, the employer could very well become glad to hire Christians. Unfortunately, it is not the case.

It is not just in employment that believers are lacking. So often, Christian products and services leave a great deal to be desired. Recently, I gave a CD of Christian music to a friend. She was hesitant, because she had heard Christian music before, and the quality was absent. Well, that was true in many cases of early "Contemporary Christian Music", which had good intentions and enthusiasm but not very many skilled producers and engineers; secular experts were often needed. Today, yes, there is definitely quality in the field.

When I read reviews of Christian movies, many of them are panned because the acting, the writing and the production values are lackluster at best. (However, some of the critics are atheists who want to bring down the total scores by giving one-star reviews, so watch out for the extremes, which are suspect.) Some of the criticisms are justified, others are from people who have preconceptions of what comprises a "good" movie. I can tell you of several that I have seen that seemed to be a good ideas at the time, but had poor execution.

The first two examples, music and movies, involve having the money to make a good product in the first place. Sometimes, you just have to do the best with what you have, including a low budget. Some movies are genuinely good, despite bad reviews. Other times, you want to ask, "Did you seek God's will before you made that dreadful product?"

I listen to radio shows that are podcast. Some of them are very badly done. I know that they exist to spread their message and not dazzle me with entertainment, but how about a bit of basic radio engineering skill? One microphone is too hot and distorted, the other is too low. Things like that.

Christians are sloppy in business practices, especially in dealing with the public. There are major ministries that I have corresponded with, and they failed miserably. One had a discussion board, and the "unsubscribe" button did not work. Someone promised to fix it for me, but instead, I had to block it from my e-mail account! Another one replied to my e-mail, said they would forward my question to someone else — and I never heard about it again. But I did get an appeal for money. In other instances, I have asked questions or given information, but received no reply. What would have happened with someone who was not a well-grounded believer, or a seeker? That opportunity may have been lost because of carelessness, and the person may have felt pushed away.

What about "us regular people"? We should be giving excellence in all areas. I have received too much garbage from well-meaning religious people in my e-mail that is nothing more than making wishes on fairies, angels and "saints" (I put that in quotes because all Christians are saints according to the Bible). Also, I have had some gullible things sent to me, such as the "atheist professor drops chalk that does not break" tale and so on. (Readers of my other Weblog know how I feel about forwarded e-mail that contains sentiment and sensationalistic rubbish.)

In crusades against the evils of rock music, I have heard some rather startling things: Ozzy Osbourne insisted that people stomp puppies to death (but not real ones), he bit the head off a dove (no, it was a bat, and he thought it was one of his rubber props), Black Sabbath did Satanic altar calls &c. Listen, if you want to talk about the evils of rock music, get the facts and not the rumors or urban legends. There is plenty of documented evidence from the raunchy lifestyles of the performers. More importantly, simply use the lyrics. While you're at it, add to your anti-rock lecture something about the alcoholic promiscuity of country music lyrics. But those have cleaned up and become substantially better in recent years, I must admit.

One problem I see with the enthusiasm for spreading the sensational in an effort to shock people into getting right with God is that many Christians seem credulous. We should take a cue from the "skeptics": Pause and say, "Substantiate this assertion" instead of spreading rumors.

By the way, this may seem out of place, but it has to be said: Christians can be downright cheap. For people who claim to love the Lord, we sure to like to hang onto our money (Matt. 6.24). Waiters and waitresses complain that they do not like to wait on church groups because they work very hard but get very little by way of a tip. We're driving people away by our selfishness (Luke 6.9)! I waited on tables for a while, and I believe that I only received one tract. And that was in lieu of a tip, if I recall correctly.

I could go on with examples, but I want to say that we need to use discernment. Pay attention, check your facts, don't run off at the mouth with something "big" unless you can back it up. Avoid stinginess, and trust God to meet your needs so you do not tightly cling to your money. Do your work wholeheartedly. Some people believe in "lifestyle evangelism", where people will see how different we are and come up to us and ask, "What must I do to be saved?" It does not happen to me much, I hate to admit. OK, it does not happen to me at all. I know full well that the things I am writing to you are written to me as well.

Remember 2 Peter 3.15? I like the NET Bible's wording: "But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess." While I think this verse is a foundational verse for apologists (remember, "give an answer" is based on apologia, apologetic, a reasoned defense), this part had to be pointed out to me: " anyone who asks about the hope you possess." Here is your lifestyle evangelism, Horatio! Be a sensible, discerning, generous, knowledgeable Christian. Be strong in the Word and prayer and full of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5.22-23 NASB), then maybe people will come up to you and ask what is different about you.

But since Jesus said to go (Matt. 28.18-20 NASB), we need to be presenting more than we need to be waiting.