Monday, September 3, 2012

Yes, Adam Gray, I Am Actually Going to Blog About It!

Something happened this evening; something that turned the tables around for me. I was out evangelizing with one of my best friends, and co-authors of this blog, Adam Gray. We were at the mall handing out tracts and talking to folks when we decided to take a stroll through J.C. Penny. We ran across a lady and her son and Adam handed them a tract and proceeded to talk to them. She glanced at Adam, then at me, then back at Adam and, pointing at me,  politely asked Adam, "Is that your son?"

It was priceless! Now, for those of you reading this and don't know us, you're probably scratching your heads and wondering what the big deal is. For starters, I am about 6 years older than Adam and so the statement was simply a compliment for me. But the real kicker is this: every now and again Adam cracks a joke at me about needing to rest, or having a walker, or back pains–everything a guy in his early forties (yeah, right!) is supposed to experience.

I promised Adam I would never let him live it down. And so, Adam, yes, I am actually going to blog about it!

Soli Deo Gloria, brother :-)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Atheists, Scripture, and Authority

I recently came across an article entitled Using the Bible Against Christians: Sola Scriptura Atheism. The article can be read here. Part of the argument seems to be that atheists, secularists and liberals, when using biblical passages to refute or embarrass conservative (ie., orthodox) Christianity, are merely following the idea behind sola scriptura. One example of this from the article:
What struck me about all this is that these atheists and various other assorted anti-Christians were reading the Bible essentially as sola scriptura fundamentalists. In essence, they presume to claim that their own reading of the Bible is the only possible one, that their reading is also quite obvious (perspicuity), and that the Bible is the sole basis for Christian doctrine, life and legitimacy. If the Bible can be made unpalatable even to Christians, then it just shows that the whole Christian enterprise is bunk.
While it's true there are liberals, secularists and atheists who grab passages of scripture and use them against Christians, to make the claim that they are coming from a sola scriptura mindset is fallacious for one simple reason: their basis of authority. The foundational principle of sola scriptura is that scripture, as God's revealed word, is the final authority. An atheist cannot possibly say that God's word has authority without being inconsistent with their position, while secularists and liberals will find their personal opinions at odds with the authority of God's word.

The author themselves admit this when they say: "I don’t expect an atheist or any other non-Christian to believe what the Bible says to be true." If the atheist does not believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and the sole infallible authority over their spiritual lives, then you can't say that they are coming from a sola scriptura mindset. That would be like saying my use of the Quran to respond to Islam in the negative somehow shows I believe the Quran to be divine. The author likewise admits that, rather than seeing how scripture interprets various topics, non-Christians are "looking for 'gotchas' in the Bible to throw in Christians' faces." The author even makes sound points, such as explaining to non-Christians that "not everything depicted in the Bible is commanded by God, not everything allowed by God is endorsed by God, and not everything commanded by God is meant to become an absolute, eternal rule."

His being aware of all this, how then can the author presume that atheists, secularists and liberals are reading the Bible "with a sola scriptura hermeneutic"?

What appears to be occurring here is, as often happens with sola scriptura, is a misunderstanding of what the doctrine truly is. This is especially seen when the author suggests the mindset is "the Bible’s meaning is obvious to anyone who just happens to pick it up and read it for any reason" and "that your mental context is the only needed context for proper comprehension." The tone throughout out the article is not one of sola scriptura, but what many have nicknamed "solo scriptura," or even "scripture isolated." Any one who has done a fair (and I do emphasize fair) study on the subject knows this isn't the case. While it's true that not every passage in scripture is readily understandable to the average person, it was never contrary to sola scriptura for that person to engage in careful study, examination, and research into those troubling passages of scripture. Even the author confesses that many of the so-called troubling verses used by atheists and others can be understood when seen in their context. We must confess, then, that in many of these passages where there seems to be a disagreement on interpretation, that there is indeed a correct interpretation. If a man is misinterpreting and mishandling scripture - and this can be clearly demonstrated - then the conflict is not on the matter of sola scriptura's integrity, but on the person themselves.

The author admits this at the end with "I believe that there is a true meaning to the Bible," but submits himself to "the authority of a particular interpretive community that was constituted in the preaching of the men who wrote it" - meaning, in this case, to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Herein lies a dilemma: when a person says they appeal to the interpretation of an ecclesiastical authority, does this authority (by this meaning any church authority) preach contrary to, or in accordance with, God's word? Does it interpret what scripture says, or in spite of what scripture says? That is, does it read into God's word what it prefers to see, or what so-and-so commentator has said, even if such a conclusion clearly contradicts what the verses tell us? If this is the case, then you are following what one might call sola ecclesia, and you are submitting yourself to the authority of the church and not God's word. I might add, if you find that your ecclesiastical body is turning away from scripture on many important matters of faith - in particularly the gospel - you should depart. Not from the universal church, mind you, but from that individual ecclesiastical body.

If, however, none of this is an issue, then I might say congratulations, as you are, in fact, following sola scriptura.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Walking Among the Living Dead

Potato Festival 2012 - Downtown Elizabeth City, NC
Scripture declares that man is dead in his trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1) and that he must be regenerated by the Father before he can understand spiritual truth (John 6:37).

That is why the Intrepid Evangelist group is dedicated to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in the public arena. Yesterday was no exception as we headed to downtown Elizabeth City to the 2012 Potato Festival. This festival occurs every year and on average and about 30,000 people attend. It's a perfect opportunity to preach and witness to folks one-to-one.

As I preached and handed out tracts I made it a point to study peoples' expressions. Some seemed to listen intently but most jeered, or shouted, or mimicked our speech while laughing and shaking their heads. Sometimes this can get very discouraging and I wonder why I bother to do it all. But then it hit me: I was out preaching, talking, and walking among the living dead–literally!

Why should I expect any other reaction? After all, those who do not know Christ are volatile to His message and consider what they hear as absolute foolishness (1Cor 1:18, John 17:14). This reality became more clear as I stepped up to the stool to preach and saw one of my former bosses and his wife pass by. He was shaking his head in disbelief as if he found it offensive that I would dare publicly proclaim salvation and God's mercy to a dying world. I simply said, "hello," and kept on with my message. The salvation of souls is much more important than my pride and those of us who stand in the public with the Word of God should always keep this in mind. But there is something else that all believers need to keep in mind:

Christians, remember two things: (1.) You are alive among those who are dead. God has called you to be the savor of life to those who will be saved (2Cor 9:16). As they see the Spirit of God sanctifying your life they will begin to wonder about the differences you show from day to day. (2.)Christ has called you to be His witnesses throughout all the earth (Acts 1:8). If you are born again you cannot help but overflow with eternal life. This overflow should cause you to tell of the same saving grace that pulled you out of the mire. I'm not suggesting you stand on a stool like us but you are responsible for opening your mouth to declare the salvation of the Lord.

Remember, you walk among the dead. Therefore, walk as though you are alive!

Affirming the Solas,
Steven (AKA, Ekklessia Boy)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Every Breath You Take

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. 
Proverbs 27:1
Proverbs 27:1 became a stark reality in my life last Monday. I began work in the usual way I did every Monday, arriving shortly before 6 am to receive and unload an ice cream truck. After talking to the driver and his helper and telling them I needed to wait to unload when my help arrived, I ran off to grab the hammer and chisel so that I could chip the ice away from the dock door.

I work in a freezer where the temp is -10 degrees and when it rains the moisture gets under the crack of the dock door and causes ice to form under it. It is therefore necessary to chip the ice away before the door can be opened. I stood there, with my back to the truck, chipping away at the ice. I never heard the truck backing up. I suddenly felt myself pinned against the dock, unable to breathe, and was sure that the life would soon dissipate from my body if I stayed in that position much longer.

I didn't see any bright lights and my life didn't flash before my eyes. But I'll tell you what did happen. During those few seconds my priorities suddenly snapped into focus! In that moment it didn't really matter how much money I had made, or what kind of car I was driving, or even that we had just bought and was getting ready to close on a new home. None of that mattered in those few seconds.

Though I was scared, mainly thinking about Faith and the kids and what would happen to them once I was gone, my main thoughts rushed to my spiritual priorities. I began wondering if I had done "enough" for the Lord for the time He had given me on this earth. I know we are not saved by our works but for good works (Eph 2:8-10). But still, I couldn't help but think if I had done enough. It's true what they say about experiencing some near-death tragedy: you never focus on what you had but who you are and the impact you have had. After all, this is what Solomon had concluded when he stated, "The whole duty of man is this: to fear God and keep His commandments." I suppose I was thinking more in that moment of that reality than anything else.

But there is another side to this story. You see, fifteen years ago, on April 13 1997, at around 7 pm, God reached down from His throne in Heaven and ripped the heart of stone out of cold hearted young man and gave him a heart of flesh; He gloriously regenerated him and caused him to believe the glorious good news of the gospel in order that he might be a clean vessel of use for the Master. He caused him to see that he had violated His perfect standards and that he was, by nature, a child of wrath awaiting the judgment of his crimes against the Most High. He was, according to God's own Law, a thief, liar, adulterer, and so much more. But by His marvelous grace the young man (I'm sure you've guessed by now who it is) came out of darkness and stepped into light.

And so, this is what I have been pondering so much over the last week; and especially on this Resurrection Day. I've read through 1Peter several times this week and my mind continues to rest on this verse as I come to it:

1Peter 1:3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead

It is God who took a filthy man like me and has given me hope; it is the Father who caused my dead soul to believe; it is Love that has shown me great mercy!

And so, this Easter weekend I am thankful to God for every breath I take. I will rejoice in His goodness and tell of His mercy and wonders. His praises shall ever be upon my lips and those I meet will be afforded the same opportunity of life that was given me on that Sunday evening so many years ago.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Substitute

The Substitute
by Daniel Long
Your tears of repentance, they cannot save. 
And the hope of your works are empty and vain. 
the best of your deeds are filthy and vile, 
so how will you plead on the Day of your trial? 
The demands of perfection cry out from the Law, 
and justice for sin is required from all. 
And God will not bend His holy demands, 
obedience required to all His commands. 

So what will you say on that soon dreadful day, 
when the great books are opened and your works are displayed? 
Your mouth will be stopped, and then you will know, 
the wrath you deserve, and to hell you will go.


On the day of your trial stands One in your place, 
a Savior, a Substitute, pleading your case. 
"Father," He says,
 "This one trusted in Me, 
all of his sins were nailed on the tree.
Every drop of Your wrath on the cross I absorbed, 
and justice was served for each sin that I bore. 
And as for the law, 
I kept Your commands, 
My perfect obedience is counted as his. 
Now declared righteous by My perfect life, 
through faith in my blood he is clean in My sight. 
I as the Substitute died in his place, 
My life as a ransom, freely, by grace." 

So what will you trust in, what will you say, 
when you stand before God on that fearful Day? 
Your only hope and your only plea, 
is faith in the Substitute, to Him you must flee!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Finally, My New Bible Software. And the Winner Is...

Some of those who have been following me on Facebook, as well as my personal friends, know that I have been looking at investing in some Bible software for sometime, now. There were four major software packages I had considered buying (Logos, Accordance, Bibleworks, Olivetree) and had spent several weeks looking on their sites, calling and asking questions, and watching hours of video tutorials. I wanted to make sure I had as much information before making a decision. Of course, when considering and software, you want to make sure your software does what you intend for it to. I had come up with my own list, as well:

  1. A decent interface. I wanted something that wasn’t too ugly but also functional. 
  2. Image rich. I’m a very visual learner and so I love maps and pictures. They can help you see exactly what place is being talked about and the relative distances between two places mentioned in a passage. I also wanted to be able to copy or export these images to a Power Point since I do a lot of Power Points in my teaching. 
  3.  Diverse resources. This was also important as I consider the historical/cultural context to be a very important step in the hermeneutic and exegesis process. 
  4. Original languages. I’m certainly no expert with Hebrew and Greek but I do understand the basics. I wanted a program that would allow me to go a bit deeper without having to spend too much extra on language helps. 
  5. Mobile capabilities. This was probably one of the biggest ones for me. I am always on the go and enjoy being able to open a Bible program on my iPad without getting some kind of an error message telling me the file can’t be viewed. If I need information on a book I certainly don’t want to have to wait until hours later when I return home to my laptop to get that information. Being able to view an entire library on my mobile device would be a great advantage.
Keeping all those things I mind, and spending lots of time researching, I had finally narrowed it down to two: Bibleworks, and Logos. And the winner is…


It really was a close race between the two, but the fact that Bibleworks didn’t have a mobile app, and probably won’t be creating one in the near future, I finally decided on Logos. It met or exceeded all the criteria I had set for myself. The 15% instant discount I received for being a pastor wasn’t too shabby either! Not to mention that they allowed the payment to be spread out over twelve months; that alone, along with the mobile capabilities, were the two biggest reasons that factored into my purchase. Accordance also offers the same payment plan but they didn’t have all the tools I was quite looking for.

With all that said and done, I would now like to take the rest of this blog post to talk about some of my favorite features in Logos.

It may seem a bit strange that this would be a favorite, but the homepage is where everything really happens. On this page you find the daily Bible passages, any deals going on at the Logos site, and articles that may interest you based on your collection and purchases. Below, you can see a shot of my homepage. 

This is one of the very useful features in Logos. You may find yourself studying multiple passages for one reason or another and may need to adjust your resources and window tiles, accordingly. The Layouts feature is great for this job! For example, we are studying through the Minor Prophets in Sunday school, but I am also doing a study of God’s grace and election in salvation from Romans 9, as well as my own personal enrichment study through the book of 1Peter. I certainly don’t want to waste time opening and closing resources and adjusting my windows every time I need to switch from one study to another. The Layouts feature allows me to name and save each layout as I work with them. Then, I simply hit the ‘Layouts’ drop-down arrow, choose the Layout I’d like to work with and click. The program automatically loads that layout! Got some resources you need to add or take away? No problem. Just adjust what you need, right click on the named Layout, and choose ‘update to current snapshot.’ The program adjusts itself so the next time you open that particular Layout your added or minused resources also adjust. Check out my own layout below! 


This is very useful for those of us whose language skills might be a bit rusty, and even for those who don’t know Hebrew and Greek. The Interlinear is built into several of their Bibles and can be opened separately. The Inline feature can be opened in the same Bible you are working in and shows your parsing, lemma, Strong’s numbers, Louw-Nida numbers, and a couple of other things. The check boxes in the Inline feature allow you to add or subtract as much information as you need. This especially helpful when you just want to deal directly with the text. 

The Interlinear, on the other hand, lines up with your English text and when you hover over an English word, automatically highlights in the original text. This is also a helpful feature, but personally, I prefer the Inline feature. It is more like the printed versions of Interlinears that I became accustomed to in the past. Below, is a screenshot of the inline feature in the ESV. 


Bible Word Study
This feature allows you to look up an English word or a word in the original languages. If you use and English search you get both Hebrew and Greek words. When the word study loads you will see a colored ring, with each color representing how the word is translated in the text you are currently using. Click on one of the rings and it opens to the passages in which that particular English translation is used. An original word study shows a bit more detail, even giving information on how certain words are used as subjects, objects, predicates, etc. below is a word study example using the Hebrew word ‘hesed.’ 

Word Tree
You may recall that I stated that I was a visual learner. The word tree was a big plus for me as it allows you to see how any given word is related to the clauses and phrases in the passage. The tree shows how the word you are studying is connected to each of the individual phrases. You can also reverse the tree to see how the individual phrases are related to the word. Below, is a screen shot with the word ‘word’ from John 1 in both forward and reversed trees. 

Those are some of my favorite features. There are much more features in Logos that just can’t be covered in this blog post. Hop on over to Logos and check out one of their base packages. You won’t be sorry! And don’t feel intimidated if it all seems a bit overwhelming. They have a great set of tutorial videos to walk you through many of their most used features, as well as setting up the program on your computer.

So if you’re in the market for any Bible software packages soon, I certainly don’t hesitate to recommend Logos Bible Software. Of course, you’ll want to take the time to research all of your options so you’ll get exactly what you want.

Affirming the Solas (even with Bible software)
Steven (AKA, Ekklessia Boy)