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Thursday, October 29, 2009


by Michael Jones

And there in my dream, I saw a table.
On the table was a swirling cloud,
Moving and changing,
Pulsing with energy,
And I knew it was my life.
Looking straight at it I could make out nothing.
It was constantly evolving,
Developing and dissolving,
With the details always just out of reach.

But next to my life were five viewers,
Hand-held like a detective's magnifier,
With lenses five different colors.
I knew in my dream that if I used them to view my life,
They would help me see the truth.

I picked up the rose-colored glass.

Through it, I saw my family and how much they love me.
I saw that I have been blessed with food to feed them and
Money to buy things for them.
I saw my good friends, my favorite movies,
My talents and my joys,
My happinesses and my comforts.
And I also saw my blissful, willful ignorance of poverty
And I put down the rose-colored glass.

Then I picked up the sepia-colored glass.

Through it I saw my childhood, with all its happy times.
Summers playing outside
Shooting water pistols
Playing games, bought and invented
But I couldn't see the sad and hard times I remembered.
No confusing homework
Snubs by girls
Fear of the monsters under the bed
It was comfortable but it was a lie, so I put down the sepia-colored glass.

Then I picked up the glass with the blue lens.

I could see the day my dog died
The day my grandmother died
The days my hope died
I saw report cards with bad grades
Myself crying at night and not knowing why
Favorite toys broken
Not getting the job
That miscarriage
The friend who cheated me
The associate who used me
The year without a job
The deep, dark vortex of depression
I couldn't live without happiness — I put down the blue glass.

I hoped for better luck with the glass with the crystal-clear lens.
The handle was white, and it cast a light of its own.
And when I looked at my life in that harsh light,
I saw it with a brutal
I saw that I sometimes hate, even to the point of fury.
I saw that I desire, even to the point of covetousness and sometimes lust.
I saw that I am prideful and sometimes look at others with disdain.
I saw that my selfishness often overrides my generosity.
I dropped the lens like it had just come out of a fire.
It was then that I noticed that it was nicked and scratched
Like it had been used as a weapon
And the lens, though crystal-clear, was distorted
And the whole thing smelled of sulfur.

The last glass scared me a little bit.
The lens was transparent, but it was blood red.
The handle was wooden, with a cross-beam, almost like a sword hilt.
For some reason, it seemed to me
In my dream
That this lens would show me the WHOLE truth
Not the par
th the others.
The pieces of the truth were terrible enough;
How awful would the WHOLE truth be?

But I picked up the blood-red lens.
The lens of The Whole Truth.
And what I saw astounded me.

I saw the things that bring joy to my life: the people who love me,
My talents and my joys,
My happinesses and my comforts.
I saw the happy times of my childhood and my adulthood,
And I also saw the sad and lonely times.
I saw deaths, physical and emotional.
I saw my gaping flaws of character
That cause me to fail time and again.
And I saw the deep, dark depression that sometimes seeks to consume me.

I saw all of those things.
But it was as though they were covered with blood,
Overpowered by blood,
Eradicated by blood.
Made irrelevant.
Ancient history that never happened.
The handle was not just the hilt of a sword;
It was also something else.
And as the blood dripped down from the crossbeams
And covered my pathetic attempt at leading a good life
I knew that I was being cleansed,
Given another chance.

And I knew I would fail again.
And again.
And probably many more agains.
But I knew that the blood-red lens would not only show me the truth,
But it would change that truth
And make me whole.

And then I woke up
And closed my Bible
And how about that?
It was all true

Copyright ©2009 by Michael Jones

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bible Giveaway

Here's the blurb:

Logos Bible Software is celebrating the launch of their new online Bible by giving away 72 ultra-premium print Bibles at a rate of 12 per month for six months. The Bible giveaway is being held at and you can get up to five different entries each month! After you enter, be sure to check out Logos and see how it can revolutionize your Bible study.

Now here's the backstory:

Logos really is giving away some beautiful Bibles, and one of the ways to enter to win is a blog post like this one. :) You'll also notice the search box on the right-hand side of this page... this will take you to the online Logos Bible search site, which includes the NIV, ESV, NLT, NKJV, and KJV translations, and that's just for starters... there are also a dozen MORE translations to look at, too. Check it out; it might be just the Bible site to help you out in your study!

Friday, October 23, 2009

I Thought I Was Over It

Once upon a time, I worked in the IT department at a fairly large Christian publishing company. I had made a move to that company at the urging of a friend from my previous job who had done the same thing and who said I would love it. He was right: I did love it! (And he got a recruitment bonus, so everybody won!) I enjoyed my work, I enjoyed my coworkers (some of whom I am still in touch with), and it was just an all-around fun place to work. One day I was chatting with my department manager, whom I had become pretty good friends with by that time, and we agreed that we hoped we could continue to work there until we were too old and had to retire!

Then 2001 happened.

There were several factors, I think, to what happened to me... the dot-com thing was coming to a head, and so the economy was suffering. The company had some financial struggles, and apparently some internal difficulties, most of which I didn't know about then and don't know about now and honestly hope to never know the details of. And then the September 11 attacks happened and the whole country went into an uproar. And because of some or all of those factors, the publishing company started selling off divisions and letting employees go.

For months I felt a target on my back. I was the Web site programmer, for goodness sakes. What's easier to outsource than Web design and programming? I just knew that I was going to be among the first to go... but it didn't happen that way. Maybe it was because I had a new baby (about a year and a half old by that time) and a newer mortgage (about 8 months old by that time) to feed, and my bosses knew it. Hopefully it was because the quality of my work was such that they hated to see me go. I wound up hanging on for several months, but eventually one day in November of 2001, I found myself loading a couple of boxes of my personal belongings into my car and driving away, unemployed.

I was optimistic at the time. I knew that companies were looking for seasonal help around that time of year, and I expected to at least be able to get some work in retail. And you know, that season and that next year were both scary and exciting. We saw God provide for us over and over... as soon as one source of income would dry up, another consulting job would turn up or another opportunity would present itself. I took some classes in database design that have served me well in my jobs since then. And we never even had to so much as get our cable TV turned off. All year I was incredibly optimistic. But by the end of 2002, my unemployment benefits were running out and I still didn't have a regular job, and I was starting to feel panicky. I stopped praying in faith and basically started to cry out to God in fear. I think I traumatized myself a bit in that couple of months. God was faithful, however, even though I had stopped walking on the water and started to sink, and He presented two permanent job situations to me at the same time! I took one of them, and the next three years there were a wonderful experience. (Why I'm not there now is another story, but it was a voluntary and amicable parting.)

Fast-forward to yesterday. I had occasion to pick something up at the same office building where the publishing company had been housed. I'm pretty sure I haven't been there since the day I was laid off. The parking lot has been changed up a bit, and the lobby has been heavily remodeled (it looks fabulous). As I walked into the same set of doors that I had walked out of with my boxes of stuff, though, I felt a strong sense of sadness. I love the job I'm at now, but I loved that job too... so many friends and so many happy memories. I didn't and don't feel a sense of rejection about the whole thing... just a sense of loss. When we left our long-time church recently I was reflecting on how whenever God is telling me to make a change of some kind, basically the current situation just starts to become more and more uncomfortable until I do what needs to be done. Maybe that's part of why I had that "target-on-the-back" feeling, I don't know. Maybe I should have left voluntarily, and if I had I wouldn't have had quite the sense of having something taken away from me.

But for whatever reason, yesterday as I entered the building I had once had an office in, even after the eight years in between I still felt the sting of loss. Thank God, He is good. Thank God He provided then and still provides now. Now our second child is roughly the age the first one was then. We still have the same mortgage. This is my third "permanent" job after the one I got laid off from. Even with all that, I guess there's still a little scar there. Maybe that hurt will never heal completely, I don't know. But I do know that I'm going to serve God no matter what, and one day it won't matter anymore anyway... I'll be with Jesus in Eternity, all hurts will be healed, and that day will be ancient, ancient history!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 is moving!

I am moving the Web site to a new Web host. My other site,, will be along for the ride as well. The hosting service where the site has always lived has some difficulties tech support-wise, and for the second time this month the site was taken down without warning because of what they cryptically call "resource abuse". I'm excited about the new host,; after some pretty extensive research a few years ago I very nearly moved the sites over to APlus, but had a few difficulties that made it so much trouble to switch that I gave up trying. This time my old host has backed me into a corner; I've got to either move or resolve myself to them taking my sites down periodically without warning, so I have chosen to move.

A move of this kind is tricky because the two sites are heavily database-integrated, so it's not just a matter of moving a bunch of Web pages... it means getting all of the database stuff set up properly as well. It is likely to take a few days to complete the work, so please be very patient with me as I get things squared away. I've got all of the information; it's just getting all the dots connected so it all works. Imagine that I have an engine block, a gas tank, a carburetor, and an alternator, all sitting in my garage next to my car. I've got everything I need; I've just got to hook it all together.

I have a few design changes in mind as well; probably I'll get the sites working as they are first and then make the changes later, but don't be surprised if you see something new coming up soon!

Update: is back up! You'll have to really search hard to find the few things that aren't working again now. is still not fit for human consumption yet, but I expect to have it back up within a day or two.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Bema

Last night, my wife, my 9-year-old son and I listened to a CD of a dramatic presentation called The Bema. The presentation, which occurred at Bent Tree Fellowship in north Carrollton, Texas (just north of Dallas), was based on a book of the same name. "The Bema" refers to a future judgment at the end of time; this is not the "sheep and goats" judgment, which separates believers from unbelievers, but the "wood, hay and stubble", "receiving crowns" judgment which will be for God's people only. It is not a judgment for punishment, but for reward. The story and drama are a narrative about a man who goes to Heaven in the Rapture, but at the Bema seat of Christ, he discovers that he has done hardly anything of eternal significance. I won't give away the ending, but the message is that we should do the work of God's Kingdom while we have the chance during the short life that God gives us on Earth. It is very similar in some ways to a chapter from The Rapture by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, which I read recently (and which was written years after this story).

My brother sent me the CD, and I listened to it myself first... after I heard it, I knew my family was going to love it. We've been thinking a lot about what God wants us to do in ministry as a family and as part of a church family, and this story resonated so much with us. Afterward we sat in the living room and talked for some time about ministry and doing what God calls us to do. We also had some really good talk time about Bible reading and how important it is to hide the Word in your heart. You know, that's what family is really all about... having other people to seek God with. I'm so grateful that God provided that time for us!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Launching Today: Glo Bible (Bible study software)

A few days ago, I got an email from about Bible software. I usually don't pay very close attention to that email, because although I've used QuickVerse and Logos both fairly extensively at various times, and sampled other Bible software packages, I've found the free e-Sword to have everything from the commercial packages that I've ever needed. Generally, what I want is to be able to compare a fairly large number of English translations of the Bible easily. That means finding them quickly and then having the other translations at your fingertips. I like to have some commentaries available to me, too, as long as they cost me little or nothing. Photos of the Holy Land, videos, that sort of thing... even maps... generally have left me cold when they come from Bible software. But in that email, the simple, distinctive packaging of one of the boxes caught my eye enough to get me interested in taking a look.

The package that caught my eye was the new Glo Bible software, which comes out today. And the more I saw, the more interested I got! Now, I haven't held a copy of this software in my hands. I haven't used it. I haven't even seen it in action in person, only on the demo videos. It looks to be fairly resource-intensive, so it might even not work very well on the aging computers I have at home. But boy, if you can get it to do what it's doing in the videos... WOW!

I'll give you a brief introduction, kind of to help you get your bearings beforehand, and then you can take a look at their demo videos and see what you think for yourself. If you've used Bible software before, put that out of your mind for a second, becuase that's NOT the way this thing works. I don't even think there's a place that you can type in "John 3:16" and get the verse to come up... this is a different interface to the Scripture text. You access the Scriptures using what they call "lenses." The five lenses are "Bible", "Timeline", "Atlas", "Topical", and "Media". You could think of them as paths that all eventually lead to the same place... the Bible text ("Media" is a little different, because in addition to Bible text, it also leads to videos, pictures, immersive 3D tours of Bible locations, etc.) The "Bible" lens presents the Scriptures in the way we're used to seeing them... starting in Genesis and ending in Revelation, and all strung out in their whole 66-book canonical (Protestant) order. The "Timeline" lens comes at it from a different perspective: Bible events are laid out in a time line from beginning to end. Events in the life of Jesus are all there in their real-time order, for example, not segregated out by each of the four Gospels. The "Atlas" lens actually plots the Biblical events out on a map of the Holy Land, so if you wanted to see everything that ever happened in the Bible in Bethany, or in Jerusalem or wherever, you just have to check that place out on the map. The "Topical" view presents Scripture by topics... the same basic premise of but in a much flashier way. The "Media" lens is where you will find photos, videos, and those really cool 3D tours of sites related to the Scriptures you are studying. You can also combine lenses, so, for example, you could find everything that Jesus said in Jerusalem during the Passover in the book of John (which is the example from their demo videos). Interested? Here's the short & sweet video about it:

Looks cool, huh? If you have about fifteen minutes to spare, take a look at these two demos that demonstrate the usage in a little more depth:

I was totally WOWED after watching those demos! To my way of thinking, this is the first time since searchability (which I saw happening way back in the late 1980s) that Bible software has been created that can actually do something you can't do just as easily with a paper Bible. Because the features are based on "tags" placed on the Scripture verses by humans and not straight text searchability, the relationships between the verses feel a lot more organic.

However... this may be a shortcoming of the software as well. If the people who tagged the text have a different theological perspective than you do, you may not agree with the way they've arranged things. Are you pre-Trib, mid-Trib, post-Trib? Depending on which is your theory of choice, the books of Revelation, Daniel, and even Isaiah and other prophetic books may not show up the way you'd like to see them in the Timeline lens. What about that passage from Isaiah about the king of Babylon... is that about a man, or about Satan? Your answer may effect whether you agree with the Timeline view on the placement of the passage.

I also immediately noticed something in the demo of using multiple lenses together to narrow down your search. About five minutes into the "part 2" video above, there is a screen showing the location of all of the words of Jesus in the New Testament. There are passages in each of the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation... but what about this passage in 1 Corinthians? Looks like an unintentional omission to me. And the Topical view has potential to show Theological bias even more, especially in hot-button topics like abortion or eternal security. Don't get me wrong; every single study Bible and commentary has a bias, so this couldn't be an exception. But I don't see different editions of Glo based on your eschatology or whether you sprinkle or dip. I don't see a Catholic version and a Protestant version. Whatever is there, is there.

That may change, though. Based on information you can find at, a lot of new stuff is coming down the pike... a full-length audio version, for example, and Web accessible and mobile phone versions, not to mention social networking features. It sounds like some of these new features will basically be downloadable. I can't see why there couldn't be separate flavors, using the same Bible text and multimedia materials, but simply tagging the Scritpure verses slightly differently... and then Glo owners could sort of "subscribe" to the "channel" that they fall in line with, and their own copies of Glo could change to reflect their own biases toward the text. It appears that Glo will ship with the KJV and the NIV (it's a Zondervan product, and they own the NIV text) but there are negotiations taking place to add other versions... I probably wouldn't plunk down the money for myself until my ESV was represented. The very limited number of translations available at present is, to me, another very puzzling omission.

Oddly, I don't actually see in the demos a way to do a straight word search. Can you find all of the places that the word "soul" appears in the text? Maybe so, but I don't see it... you might have to visit for that one. What about links to original-language materials? Where are the Strong's definitions and other similar material? I guess you'd better not delete your link to Blue Letter Bible quite yet. Now, I should be totally fair... those capabilities may be present in the software but not in the demos. Or maybe they have been intentionally left out in favor of cool stuff like 360-degree walk-throughs of historical locations and other stuff that would interest a more casual reader in the Bible text. Obviously, this software is not targeted at your basic seminary professor or knowledgeable pastor... this is layman's software for people who want to know what God says about something but don't know how to find out. But I do hope there is a doorway there that people can walk through and get into more depth with the Scriptures.

And that is my biggest concern with this awesome piece of software. Let's say you buy Glo, install it on your laptop, and then spend the next three weeks figuring out how everything works. You become a Glo expert, and you can find out which Scripture verses refer to insects with six legs, or which verses are about women whose names start with the letter "A", or whatever other crazy lookups you can think of. You continue to use the software every day, and you continue to find nuggets in the Word, but you never actually read all the way through any book of the Bible. In fact, you rarely read three verses in a row all at once. You use the lenses to severely limit which verses you read, based on what you tell it you want to know about. In that scenario, not only have you given yourself a bad case of Scriptural tunnel vision and destined yourself to begin to share the bias of whoever tagged the verses, but you are robbing yourself of the insight you can gain from context. You've turned yourself into someone who gets his Theology from the "promise box" on the kitchen table, or the snatches of Scripture that you hear in songs on Christian radio. I think the danger is that we can turn ourselves into fans of the Bible instead of students of the Bible. The Word is not a Whitman's Sampler where you can eat the ones with the caramel in them but leave the ones filled with pink stuff for your Aunt Gertie. The Bible is an all-or-nothing proposition. In an age where it is easy to zero in on specific verses, and where many preachers skip from one verse to another in the course of a message with no reference to context, we're not used to just plain old reading the Bible like the book it is. Now, Glo has a Bible reading plan built in (and it sounds like the plan is to have the mobile version and even the audio version sync up so that if you read a chapter at home and then listen to the next chapter in the car, eventually all of that information winds up back in Glo!) and there is absolutely nothing to stop you from reading it straight through (the Bible lens would actually be pretty great for that), so the "danger" isn't really a danger, but a caution to not let the very cool features of the software package deceive you into thinking you know all about what the Bible says just because you clicked into the Topical lens. To truly know the Word takes effort. Hard work. A great shovel is only the first step in digging up the riches present in the Bible. Software that can bring some of them a little closer to the surface for you is a great start, but it's not the whole journey.

Even the coolest, shiniest, round-buttoniest software won't turn you into something you're not. If you're not a student of the Word, this software (or any software) will not change that, although given the right circumstances, a snazzy interface may get you to engage the text in a way you wouldn't have been otherwise. When it all comes down to it, either you're hungry for the Word, or you're not. This software probably won't make you hungry. But if you are hungry, this software could be like an express train from your house directly to Olive Garden. It'll get you to places you never thought to go, faster and easier than ever before, and in ways you never dreamed of (or maybe you did dream of but never thought it could actually happen).

I hope I actually get a chance to play with this sometime. Besides being an awesome tool, it just looks incredibly fun! I doubt it'll have me giving up my ESV Study Bible (my favorite Bible study resource of all time), but it could add a dynamism to my study times that wouldn't be there otherwise. I'll be watching Glo to see where it goes next. Glad to be here at lift-off!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The same, yet different

Everything is different, but the same. Things are more moderner than before, bigger... and yet smaller! It's computers!


- OX, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
This morning I was walking through my neighborhood in the rain. Sort of. When you ride the bus to work, you have three options when it comes to weather: (1) Stay home when the weather is unpleasant (not a viable option); (2) wimp out and drive that day; or (3) learn to enjoy the weather, or at least put up with it. I had decided to rise to the challenge and not let a few drizzle drops force me to have to negotiate traffic for myself. That's what umbrellas are for, right?

Anyway, when I actually got out into the neighborhood, I realized that the only place it was still raining was under the trees. The rain had stopped, but there was water on leaves and when the wind blew, the water would come on down and seem just like rain. I was either going to have to open my umbrella, or get out from under those trees.

I opted for the second option... umbrellas can be a real pain in the neck in Oklahoma wind. The only way to get out from under the trees was to walk out in the street, so that's what I did. As I walked, I thought about all of the times I've walked that particular route. I've been riding the bus for several years now, and some times of year it's hot and I seek out the shade of the same trees I was trying to avoid. I've walked in pretty heavy downpours, too, where it really didn't matter much whether I was under trees or not... I was going to get soaked. I've also walked through the neighborhood at other times when everything was frozen and there were no leaves at all on the trees.

Then something came to me. A few weeks ago here, it was pretty hot out. Then, I had sought the shade of the same trees I was avoiding. The neighborhood was largely the same, but my experience of it was different. Why? Two reasons: the weather, and my response to the weather. I could have walked exactly the same footsteps I had walked on a hot day, and my experience would still have been a little different... but instead I was altering my route a bit, and my experience of the neighborhood was quite a bit different.

And I thought about God.

Several years ago I blogged about how God remains the same, even though our experience of Him changes at different times. But it seems to me that my walk through the neighborhood sheds a slightly different light on things. The neighborhood is the same; my experience of it changes based on (1) the season, and (2) my reaction to the circumstances. What if the way we experience God changes for the same reasons? What if we experience Him differently in different seasons, and even within that context, in different ways based on our response to those different circumstances?

(in case you're wondering... here's the source of the quote, on YouTube.)