Sometimes I run late for work and I fail to make myself some breakfast. Unfortunately my fail safe is a pit stop at the local fast food joint. Although the indulgence is pleasurable for a season, I look forward to running into some of the regulars more than the slimy sausage whatcha-ma-jiggy.
One of those regulars happens to be my old Sunday School Teacher. He was a an important part of the puzzle that became my profession in Christ. Much of what I knew up to that point came from the lessons he was faithful to teach me. He has been a steady disciple for as long as I remember.
This meeting was the same as most of our others. We exchanged a salutation, inquiry regarding each others families, and small talk. But this time, he had bad news. The assembly he was now a part of (the result of a previous congregation split) was closing its doors. I was saddened to hear this as the group is a great, friendly, caring, giving, and energetic witness for the Lord. They rented a school for their meeting place and had minimal overhead. When I asked why they were closing his response did not surprise me:
Dave Black, noted author, blogger, and bookworm extraordinaire has had the privilege of experiencing the celebration of the Lord’s Table at his current assembly. This is no ordinary experience however, as they have had the benefit of celebrating this event with a singular cup and singular loaf of bread. Before you cringe at the thought of germs, it is noteworthy to consider the antibacterial qualities of wine, and I am sure that the bread was handled in a hygienic manner as well!
In his post, he posed an essay question. It is extra credit, so I will do my best to raise my grade with this particular entry. His question was, “Did Jesus ever invite anyone to the Lord’s Supper? Or are we commanded to partake of the elements?” This is an excellent question, especially for personal bible study. This is also a perplexing inquiry when considering that many churches across the land have distinct “attendance” requirements for receiving the elements of the table.
The final post in my current series on higher Christian Education will discuss free bible study software. The prices for good software are varying. While some are within an acceptable range that I would have no problem paying. Others breach the ridiculous price threshold and are not worthy of such large amounts of cash. While you can contact various publishers of the higher end software and request review copies, it is often easier to find free comparable programs that will serve your basic needs.
In lieu of racking up several hundred dollars in bible study software lets start with these:
E-Sword Software and E-Sword Live: Some of the best things in life are free, and as the old saying goes, this is actually for real. This program is by far one of the best programs for students of the Word to become equipped, do word studies, compare translations, and even learn the Greek and Hebrew meaning of the scriptures. There is a plethora of add-on’s now available through the new downloader built-in to the software. Some of these are free, and some require a nominal fee. With the 1,000’s upon 1,000’s of free software, paying for some of the modules pales in comparison. Either way, it’s worth it. If you like it, donate to the author and he will send you a copy of E-Sword on disc. Note: The live version is extremely convenient as it allows you to set up a personalized online account and gives you access to E-Sword from anywhere there is internet access. Also, BibleSupport.Com has a plethora of free tools add-on’s and hard to find commentaries to add to your e-Sword toolbox.
The Word appears to be a fantastic alternative to the E-Sword free bible software. Over the years, E-Sword has been unprecedented in bringing bible study software to the masses for free, while be comparable to many of the paid modules on the market. But, TheWord has demonstrated itself a worthy alternative with as many, if not more modules freely available as well.
Some of the functions I really enjoy are the enhanced graphical interface, the plethora of free modules and resources available, the compatibility with E-Sword modules (has a built in module converter), and the portability of the USB option. You can install the entire module library, plus the software on a single USB drive and take your Bible software and library anywhere you go. There is also an alternative MAC installer available through Douglas Hamp’s website.
Rich in resources, free tools, books, and commentaries, this program is also a must have for any student of the bible. There is so much to this program it could easily take an entire site to detail it’s incredible value. But wait, there already is one here. You can also download it straight to your PC or MAC and be up and running in no time. Be ever watchful for the free books that are made available from time to time. Manage a library of theology and have instant access to topical studies, commentaries, and many more tools right from your desktop.
Hopefully, this will prove helpful as you begin to develop your ability to dig into the Word of God. I also hope that you are able to develop your own Christian Education effectively with better theology, plenty of books to make your bookshelves look smart, and excellent scholarly bible software to faithfully disseminate and teach the word. Most importantly, that it would make you a better witness for Christ Jesus.
This post is part of a series on higher Christian Education:
In my current series on higher Christian Education we have talked about the expenses related to professional ministry. In my first post we covered the overall financial obligation of seminary and professional ministry. In a follow up post we dug deeper into practical ways to get similar knowledge without the expense. I suppose you could call it armchair theology. I like to keep higher Christian Education as free as possible. How about a proof text to back up my agenda?
(Mt. 10:8) Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
Granted, publishers and authors need to make a living off of their work, I don’t like paying for books. The realm of Christian publishing has increasingly become a niche market where books get churned out of the mill strictly for profit. Being selective of the material we consume is important. Unfortunately the cost issue will come up time and time again.
So if cost is the core contention in this series, let’s look at some options for securing free theological books that will make your bookshelves look smart! I will list a few suggestions that I use regularly to secure great books at zero cost.
Book reviews: This is my primary source of free books. Book reviewing has its pros and cons. The primary pro is obviously the books are free. The most significant con is the need to produce reviews that are substantial and actually benefit the publisher for providing you the book copy. There are several things you can do to get these books.
Write the publisher of the book you are interested in. Ask them if they will provide you with a reviewers copy and ensure them a post on your blog, Facebook, or other media outlets at your disposal.
Cruise the blogosphere! Zondervan publishes a blog with weekly Wednesday giveaways at their academic blog site Koinonia. You are bound to get a great title here and there if you are diligent in entering the giveaways. Follow popular blogger websites like Tim Challies, who posts a regular blog featuring free and low cost book deals at least once a week.
Join services that specifically targeted to bloggers interested in reviewing books. Here are just a few of many:
NetGalley is home to a very large number of publishers. They cover every genre in the publishing realm. They also provide copies early before the items are even in print. Although the copies are digital, completed reviews are often awarded with print copies if its in the publishers description to do so. Works with most popular E-readers as well.
Blogging for Books is the reviewing program developed by Waterbrook Multnomah. Ebooks and hard copies are available in limited quantities to reviewers in exchange for reviews on their websites.
BookSneeze is the reviewing program developed by Thomas Nelson. Hard copies and Ebooks are available in to bloggers/readers in exchange for “honest reviews”.
I also keep my eye out for free books on the discard shelf at local libraries. If your thrifty, you can even find low-cost deals at garage sales, inconspicuous used book shops, second hand stores, and even local churches who discard older books indiscriminately. Sadly, they often discard older gems in favor of newer and more “progressive” titles.
While this may not put all the best titles on your bookshelves for free, it is a great start. Honestly, it is also a significant way for you to afford that library that will have all your friends thinking you are a scholar, even if you haven’t read most of them!
Next, we’ll talk about Bible Software. Finding good sources for bible study while expanding your theological library digitally.
This post is part of a series on higher Christian Education:
(Acts 6:8) And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.
Stephen, means crown, or crowned. This Stephen, selected as a deacon was also selected to die as one of the church’s first martyrs. Along with the many other martyrs down through the ages it is his blood that is considered as a worthy sacrifice to the Father (cf. Lev 4:7, Rev 6:9) Certainly a fitting name for such a one as he. After all, Stephen will be one of a few chosen to wear a white robe (Rev 6:11) and await the judgment of those who chose to take the life of the Father’s selected messengers (Rev 6:10).
It is true that Stephen was a martyr, but he was also a deacon (Acts 6:1-5). We know that the word for deacon is diakonos. Which otherwise means servant or attendant. You can find it used some thirty-seven times in the New Testament to reference the work of ministry in various forms, not just to the modern “office” we are accustom to assigning it.
What are some of the things we know and what is yet left to learn of this Stephen?
- selected as a deacon (therefore not one of the twelve) (Acts 6:1-5)
- a servant of tables and widows (Acts 6:2)
- full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3)
- full of faith and the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5)
- full of grace and power (Acts 6:8)
- a performer of great wonders, signs, and miracles (Acts 6:8)
- an instigator of wicked men and provoked their conscience (Acts 6:10, Acts 7:54-7)
- accused of blasphemy (Acts 6:11)
- seized by the people to be condemned by a council of conspirators (Acts 6:12-15)
- seen as having the face of an angel (Acts 6:15)
- a man with a vision ofglory and a witness to the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56)
- stoned by his accusers and of a man called Saul (Acts 7:58)
- a man who chose not to resist evil men (Acts 7:60)
- a catalyst of the church at Jerusalem’s dispersion (Acts 8:1)
- a man who was greatly missed and revered by his brethren (Acts 8:2)
Truly a biography of an interesting man! While his ministry was short lived in the sense of our modern standards of “successful”, it is clear that Stephens actions were purposed! One of the most revealing condemnations of the Jewish rejection of Christ is also found in the message Stephen gave during his defense to the council who would soon put him to death. Certainly worthy of its own extrapolation we will settle for the conclusion that what Stephen stated was prophetic and enraged the hearts of these wicked men (cf. Acts 7:54).
So following the well accepted designation of martyr, let’s explore the duties discharged by this faithful servant, Stephen.
As a Deacon one should be:
It is apparent that Stephen fulfilled the requirements of a Deacon, and did so magnificently. We should count it a guarantee that he heard the words, “well done!” (Mat 25:21).
And so, we see that the ministry of a deacon is not just waiting tables, serving widows, or collecting the offering plate at the ends of pew after pew. The demonstration of deacon is that of service to others, even if those whom we are serving are picking up stones to murder us. So Christian, are you serving your brethren and your enemies?
This post is part of a series:
- Portrait of a disciple: Philip, deacon or evangelist?
- Portrait of a disciple: Stephen the sacrifice?
Approximately three years ago, a brother and I were discussing the topic of marriage and divorce over lunch. During our discussion, this brother shared with me that one of our own brethren had completed a work on the very subject we were elaborating upon.
At that time, there was a PDF known amongst our brethren in the assembly as the “divorce book” and was appropriately entitled “Let Not Man Put Asunder: A Biblical Study of Divorce.” By H. Van Dyke Parunak. (This version is freely available at the above link to those interested in reviewing the version that surveys the entire bible on this issue). The brother in whom I was in discussion with, charged me with the exhortation to read this brother’s treatment of the topic.
With a conclusion that divorce was at times permissible amongst believers under exceptional circumstances, I could not reason with a free conscience that it was acceptable for divorced persons to ‘remarry.’
Yes, that puts quite a number of folks into a tight position does it not? It is a personal issue for many people, and a difficult and trying topic to wrestle with effectively. In the end, it creates a dilemma for those who would provide counsel or advise individuals facing marriage, divorce, or remarriage. It effects us at home and abroad. Mothers, Fathers, Step-Family, Cousins, Uncles, and Aunts. Continue reading Divorce and remarriage, no big deal?