Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

2020 Bible Reading Plan

January 1st, 2020 No comments

I should have thought about this earlier. Today, I just finished a chapter of N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God. But tomorrow, I’ll try the 5 Day Bible Reading Plan.

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Honoring God’s Name

December 31st, 2016 No comments

In the book of Malachi (Malachi 3:16) we read that “a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name.”

What is the honor of God’s name? What does it mean to think about it?

I suspect that many of us have our own ideas about what would honor God’s name in different circumstances.

The first thing I noticed is that this is a continual rethinking: you can’t simply act as if you always know what brings glory to God’s name, as if it never changed in different circumstances.

The second thing is that our ideas are suspect, because we are the fallen people. The only trustworthy way to think about God’s name and what brings it honor, is by study of the Scriptures, and especially the example of Christ.

For example, we can honor God’s name by thinking what the name is. In the Hebrew Scriptures the name of God is YHWH, the Tetragrammaton. It means the living God: the God who is not a dead idol, but who acts.

In the New Testament the name is Jesus. Joseph is told to name the child Jesus … why? Because he will save his people from their sins. His name is the name of salvation. It is in his name that we are taught to pray—not our own name and our own merit, but his. It is his name that we are to gather in. It is his name that we are to baptize in. It is his name at which every knee shall bow, and which every tongue will confess. It is his name that is superior to the names of the angels.

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Habakkuk – a Good Question

December 19th, 2016 No comments

In verses 12–13 of the first chapter of Habakkuk, the prophet affirms that God is sovereign. Israel’s troubles are not because God is unfaithful or weak. Rather, the Babylonians are tool God is using to punish Israel:

O Lord, you have ordained them as a judgment,
and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.

The prophet poses this question:

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you are unable to look at disaster.
Why would you look at the treacherous
or keep silent when the wicked swallows one who is more righteous?

There’s an unstated assumption at the end, that Israel’s sin is less than Babylon’s. This is shaky ground. Who can say whether one sin is more offensive to God than another? Is religious pride and idolatry less offensive to God than violence and cruelty?

If we can find a way resolve that matter, however, there is a great question here: does the end justify the means? Is it right for God to use an evil tool to achieve a good result? That’s a great question even for us frail mortals, who work in a world where everything is tainted with evil. How much better a question is it for God? On the one hand, God can see everything clearly, and will not be overcome by the tools he uses. But for him not to stand off and watch, but to engage evil directly in order to use it: how can he do that?

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April 8th, 2016 No comments

Accretion Disc | Flickr

“Consider the ravens,” says Jesus (here).

Ravens are popular in Alaska, and for much of the year, they’re the bird we see the most, possibly because their obnoxious croaking attracts one’s attention.

That croaking may be how they got their Greek name. The Greek word for “raven” is korax, –akos. If you’ve heard them, you have to wonder if their Greek name is onomatopoeiac. (From a Greek word that means what Greeks mean when they say echomimetico, which would probably be a better word than onomatopoeia.) I don’t know that, and BDAG is silent, but it seems likely to me.

Raven Chow

Certainly, Jesus is right that God feeds them. Ravens in Alaska are huge, like our deer and bears. I routinely see ravens as big as chickens—or maybe turkeys. What I’ve seen them eating isn’t very appealing, however. In the zoo (pictured right) it’s revolting, but in a parking lot, it’s worse.

Scavenging carrion may be one reason ravens were unpopular (judging from the Hebrew Scriptures) in ancient Near Eastern culture. Leviticus declares them unclean, Proverbs points to them as a caution, and Isaiah uses them in a curse. Only two references to ravens are neutral or positive: Noah initially sent out a raven, but we hear no more about it. Subsequently, Noah used only doves. In the Song of Songs, the woman compares her lover’s wavy hair to a raven.

But Jesus probably wasn’t thinking about that when he mentioned ravens. (Luke records Jesus saying “raven” specifically, rather than just “birds,” as in Matthew; Luke 12:24 and Matt 6:26.)

Two references in the Hebrew Scriptures suggest that Jesus was alluding to proverbial wisdom about ravens’ foraging ability: Psalm 147 credits God with feeding them. Job 38 uses this idea to illustrate how far God’s wisdom is above men’s.

But as Jesus’ audience considered ravens, they would surely have remembered how God provided for Elijah in the wilderness (1 Kings 17). Not only does God feed the ravens, but sometimes, God uses ravens to feed people. That was the point Jesus was making, that you don’t have to be anxious, since God will take care of his children. Maybe even by means of ravens.

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August 25th, 2014 No comments

One of the students in my preaching class in seminary used to preach a sermon based on a sticky note in his Bible. I was preaching from a written manuscript. Over time, I replaced the manuscript with a detailed outline, then a smaller outline. And now I have arrived at the point where my colleague was 10 years ago:


(A recording of the sermon is available online. Start at the church website and follow the links.)

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The Bible as an Enjoyable Reading Experience

July 30th, 2014 No comments

The Bible as an enjoyable reading experience — does that sound wonderful to you? Or maybe even ‘unimaginable?’ Watch this video:

Bibliotheca Kickstarter from Good. Honest. on Vimeo.

I’m not enthusiastic about doing so much work on the reading experience while using an older translation. The ASV, for example, predates the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Still, it’s much better than the KJV, and the archaic word forms are being eliminated, so it’s not bad.

What do you think? Should the Bible be enjoyable to read, as well as practical to study?

(I was originally alerted to this project by Jason Morehead, via Tim Chailles.)

(Cross-posted from Pastor Luke’s blog at JLP.)

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Navigation in Accordance 10

September 17th, 2013 No comments

Something jumped out at me in my last posting, where I mentioned the “QuickTip” about the Accordance 10 auto context slider.

In that tip, they say,

many people use the top search bar as a navigational tool.

That suggests there is another way to navigate. And what might that be? I looked at their help to find out. Accordance help is a web page, but it’s local to your system, which is great when you’re offline, but makes it hard for me to link to it here.

Anyway, it turns out that Accordance offers several ways to navigate.

The first is using the Scroll bars. Since Apple ruined the scroll bar in Lion, that’s useless. (Sure. Use a scroll bar to move around among 37,000 verses. Just give it a flick like you were on your iPhone. Yep.)

The second is the navigation buttons, shown in the blue circle here:

Navigation in Accordance 10

Those are great for fine-tuning your location, but not all that helpful if you’re trying to to a specific location. Quick: find Psalm 119 with those buttons.

That leaves the “Go To box” (in the green circle). That gives you all the functionality of the “verse search” feature. Unfortunately, it gives you the same problems as well. It shows you context whether you want it or not. If you ask for Psalm 117, you’re going to get 118 too. It offers a drop-down, but the drop down is based on your text, not the portion you’d like to limit it to. So if your text includes the Apocrypha, which the NRSV does, then your Navigation will include that. The book after Malachi is Tobit, even if you’ve tried to wish it away using the Range feature:

Navigation - Accordance 10

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Accordance Auto Context

September 17th, 2013 No comments

As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of the Accordance 10 “auto context” slider, but YMMV. Accordance publishes an email newsletter (not repurposed on their web site, apparently, or I’d link to it) describing the use of the context slider. In the article they explain some of the logic that is supposed to make the “auto context” feature intelligent:

  • Romans 10:1: For this verse search, auto-context will set the Context slider to All. This is because many people use the top search bar as a navigational tool, and when searching for an individual verse, users often intend this to be a starting point for further study.
  • Romans 10:1-5: For this verse search, auto-context will set the Context slider to 0. Since you set a specific range of verses, auto-context assumes you only want to see the versers in that range.
  • Love: For this word search (and all others), auto-context will set the Context slider to 0. This allows you to quickly scan through your search results and add context as desired.
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Accordance 10 Nano-Review

September 4th, 2013 No comments

I’ve been a user of Accordance Bible software for a decade, and last week I upgraded from Accordance 9.x to 10.x.

I’d sat on my wallet these past several months because I just didn’t see anything new in 10.x that would make it a compelling upgrade for me. However, they were running a promotion that enabled me to “buy and save” (both! at the same time!) so I went ahead and bought the upgrade.

So coming from the perspective of a semi-reluctant purchaser, here are my first quick impressions:

The new look is more Mac-like, but still pretty idiosyncratic. For example, you can still only resize windows using the widget in the bottom right corner, but you do get to have the new despicable, vile, thoroughly rotten and utterly useless Lion/Mountain Lion scroll bars.

Some of the changes are to my liking and others are not.

A change I mostly like is how the redesigned search window makes it easy to cascade search criteria. Here I’m doing a search for “David” and “Abraham” in the NT, and I limit it so they have to appear in the same verse.

Accordance 10 Search

You can see the little drop-down list (with “verse” selected above) that lets me change that to paragraphs, chapters, etc., as you can see here.

The reason I said “mostly like” instead of “like” is that when I work with the NRSV, I normally limit my searches to the Protestant Bible — a preset I made for Gen-Mal and Matt-Rev — and this search criteria widget is less accessible than before, and takes up more vertical screen real-estate. So it’s better, but not a 100% win.

However, not all the changes to Search were to my liking. In particular, I was unhappy to learn (the hard way) about “Auto Context.” What it does is add supporting context to all your searches. There’s a little knob (at the far left of the search bar, right above the search results window) you can use to reduce the amount of context.

The problem is that by default it doesn’t give you additional context in a search, even when the search doesn’t provide much information. When I did the above search for David and Abraham, it (sensibly) assumed I only wanted to see the matching verses.

But when you search for verses, Accordance shows you the context. I can barely see a use for that when you’re searching for a specific verse and you can’t remember what it was. Suppose you couldn’t remember where John 3:16 was and you searched for John 3:17 instead. Here’s what you get:

Accordance 10 Search

You get a ton of context, and it’s all unhelpful, because it starts where you told it to start. You miss the only thing that would make it helpful. The context includes 37415 verses, but it doesn’t display a single verse prior to the one you searched for. Note how the (horrible useless vile rotten OSX) scroll bar shows that your window really has all 37K verses there for your browsing pleasure. You even get the Apocrypha as “context” despite having limited the search to the Protestant Bible.

Why isn’t the smarts in auto-context smart enough to do for verses what it did when I searched for words like David and Abraham, above? Beats me. What I did was turn it off. Here’s how:

Accordance 10 Search

(I whined about this “feature” yesterday on Twitter, and was delighted that someone at @AccordanceBible who monitors Twitter tweeted a tip about how to turn it off. Social Media-savvy companies FTW.)

For blocks of text larger than verses, though, why would you ever want to see more context? The context of chapter 3 is chapters 2 and 4. Duh. The context of Romans is Acts and 1 Corinthians. The context of Malachi is…, well, that’s actually kind of complicated.

But there’s a greater problem. Accordance thinks its users “search” for verses. But who does that? John 3:16 is always located in the same place. I want to navigate there, not search for it.

But what (you say) if you want to find that place in John 3 where God sent Jesus into the world, but you can’t remember if it was God or Father, or Jesus or Christ or the Son, and all you can remember is “world.” Wouldn’t it be helpful to search for verses then?

Sure. You just can’t do it when you’re “searching” for verses. If you add words to a verse search, you get an error message telling you “There are extra characters after the verse reference,” and offering to fix it by adding a colon. (Which doesn’t fix it.)

But that kind of search is useful. That’s why Accordance lets you add a range of verses when you search for a word. Like this:

Accordance 10 Search Word in Range

(Note how the auto-context feature is automatically narrowing the search to exclude the context. If only it was smart enough to do that with verses!)

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It really is better to give…

April 12th, 2013 No comments

The Apostle Paul cites a saying of Jesus (not recorded in the gospel accounts):

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

According to this New York Times profile of Wharton Business School professor Adam Grant, Jesus just might have been on to something:

For Grant, helping is not the enemy of productivity, a time-sapping diversion from the actual work at hand; it is the mother lode, the motivator that spurs increased productivity and creativity. In some sense, he has built a career in professional motivation by trying to unpack the puzzle of his own success. He has always helped; he has always been productive.

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