Why I Chose Olive Tree

I’ve looked into many of the electronic library options for a Christian resource library, the most popular being Logos, but there is also Accordance, Bible Works, Olive Tree and PC Study Bible. I also came across something from Zondervan called Praxis that appears to only have the full version of the Expositor’s Commentary Series. It also looks like its old enough to be run on DOS. I’ve also had some samples of the PC Study Bible. Ultimately, I went with Olive Tree.

It came down to a few reasons. Frist, its app based, this was particularly important because at the time I was looking, I didn’t have a computer with Windows. I had/have a Chromebook, so there isn’t even the possibility of installing software. Of course, I found out that Olive Tree doesn’t have an app for Chromebook. However, it does have it for just about everything else. I have it on my tablet that I use as my Bible for church and Study, my wife has the app on her phone for her Bible Study and I have it on both my home and work computers.

Probably the best feature to me was the ability to sync my notes. I can type my notes on the computer, then pull out the tablet at Chic-fil-a, hop on their Wi-Fi and have all of them there. My wife will also sync my notes to her phone when she has forgotten to read, so there’s that. I’m sure others may have this ability, but I liked Olive Tree’s setup the most.

What sold me the most, and what made me initially download the app was the Tyndale Commentary on the whole Bible (43 Volumes) for only $99. I saw it pop up once and skipped it, then regretted it. When it came up again, I jumped on it. Now I see it comes up about three or four times a year. This is a great deal and they have been very useful. I was also able to download the ESV Study Bible notes for $9. Again, tough to beat. The ESV text is free, along with many others.

Why not the others? Other than the portability issues, it was mainly because I didn’t want to buy any of the packages. The packages are massive and very expensive. If you are a full-time pastor or professor, Logos is probably worth it. If you are looking to enhance your study, it seems a bit much to me. I figure I’d be unlikely to read all of it. If I were to buy one of the systems with packages, it’d likely be PC Study Bible. They are much more affordable than Logos. Continue reading

Updates

I haven’t been active on this site for a quite awhile, about a year and a half. actually. I’ve been writing elsewhere and doing other things. This week, I’ve decided to consolidate the other writings and move everything here.

So, there’ll be a bit of a post dump, but then I should be getting into some new content.

Considering Seminary, Part 2

As I mentioned last time; the idea of seminary was basically gone from my mind. I had always figured I would go back to school at some point. After finishing my masters, I was probably at my job three months before I started looking at programs to attend. I was trying hard to move into economic development, so I mostly focused on masters programs in Economics. The other major idea was to go for a PhD. There are two top Policy programs here in metro Atlanta. That idea would come and go, but mostly stay in the back of mind for quite awhile. Even when I was considering seminary, I looked into going the Masters in Theological Studies route then heading to a school of Religion for a PhD in History of Christianity, I especially liked Emory’s.

So a few months ago, I decided I had to do something. I couldn’t take work anymore. I knew I had to try something. I started poking around at Policy PhD programs again. I noticed that Georgia State’s program offered a stipend of between $18-24K. As far as grad school goes, that is a huge payment. The sad/interesting thing was, I make so little, that I could get the stipend and work a coffee shop job and probably being in about the same amount of money.

I started really digging deep, looking at entrance requirements, possibilities of part-time, the commute from my home/office. I started throwing out the idea to close friends, asking for prayers. One day I met my pastor(PhD from Princeton) for lunch and mentioned this was something I was considering. He had the mindset of, if you don’t have to pay for it and it won’t negatively affect your job prospects, then why not? If it led to a new job, great, if it didn’t, I hadn’t really lost anything and at least I had accomplished a personal goal or bid my time until my boss retired and I took his position.

This put me in overdrive, I couldn’t sleep at night, it was all I could think about. I did my best to pray and really ask God for guidance. It was really a different world than when I considered going a few years before; mostly because of the pills. This opened up everything for me, I could teach, I could give presentation/seminars at conferences and it meant I could seek a professoriate and a think tank/policy organization at the same time.

As I researched more, doubt started to chip in. I read of the horrible job opportunities for professors (just google it, there is too much out there to link). I read that in many think tanks, you really don’t need a PhD, just a master’s or maybe two. I also saw that salaries were really not greater with a PhD. Another problem was that I had assumed wrong about the applicability of my masters (city planning) to a policy degree. My thinking was I would go into economic development as my specialty field. However, both GSU and Tech required the ‘core’ of an MPP, which was 24-33 hours of course work. I was pretty deflated, until I was looking at the background of the ED people at Tech and saw most had PhDs in city planning; so I headed on over to the City Planning Department website.

I was pretty encouraged because I saw their grads ended up in many different places and positions. Some even went on to consulting; which would be great money, almost double what I make now. I started to think about what would set me apart, what my research field would be. As I said, my main focus would be ED, but I kind of needed a hook, a way of looking at it differently. I liked the idea of doing research on affordable housing or ED from a Christian prospective; especially after reading Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll. Of course, this led me to look at seminaries again.

On top of all that, I was starting to doubt that I would even be accepted into school. Mostly due to my lack of academic research for the past few years and, even more so, my lack of academic references. Meanwhile, I was praying in earnest in hopes that God would lead me to a decision. I was really just not hearing a response. I felt no reassurance that this was the Will of God for my life. Then magically/providentially/mockingly a job came open at one of the research centers associate with Tech and their City Planning School. I applied with high hopes that this was God leading me, opening a door for me.

To be continued…

Daniel

Well, I just started this blog and have already taking a longer break than I anticipated. It started by taking a few days away from work as my wife’s sister and her husband came into town and continued on through Veterans Day yesterday. Thank you to all who served in war, especially those who had no choice.

Them being here lead to an idea for a post that I had for a while, but wasn’t sure I really wanted to write about. Back in August, my sister in law was due with their first child in a few weeks when suddenly the child died. Apparently he had an issue with the umbilical cord.  When my wife called me to tell me there was a problem, I thought worst case scenario, he’d be born premature (my wife’s sister, my brother and I were all born earlier in pregnancy), so I really didn’t give it a second thought. I had no idea that there was such a thing as cord issues or that baby could still die this late in pregnancy.

I suppose I was also a bit naive. A week prior, my brother’s wife had to have emergency surgery due to an ectopic pregnancy that resulted in a miscarriage and her having one of her fallopian tubes removed. For some reason, I felt as if since one bad thing had already happened, another would couldn’t. Obviously, that is not the way the world works and so while one of my sister in laws is recovering from surgery the other is being told she has lost her son and tragically will still have to go through labor. She delivered Daniel earlier the next morning.

Later they decided it would be good for them to get away from everyone one and come visit us (we are about a 12 hour drive away) and that is why they were here over the weekend. Now obviously, I can’t imagine they pain and anger they felt. Outside of my grandmother dying about a year and a half ago, I have never experienced death. They, on the other hand, had experienced what many people consider the worst loss, the death of a child.

Talking with my brother in law (well, technically my sister in law’s husband, but that is harder to saw) this weekend, I began to realize more of the frustration that comes with tragedy. He is understandably angry with God; but he also realizes that God didn’t kill Daniel. Recognizing God’s sovereignty, he is angry that God didn’t intervene and save Daniel. So he struggles with the question of why, why did this happen?

The answer, in my mind, leads to more frustration because it is so utterly unsatisfying: we live in a broken world. I think my brother in law knows this. I think he knows that this wasn’t some punishment for his sins or divine retribution, but instead that death is a just a part of life. Outside of the Garden, tragedy happens. Away from paradise, there are murderers and rapist, 30 year olds get cancer, people bomb buildings, storm surges kill thousands and umbilical cords get tangled.  And really, that just sucks. It is not comforting during times of loss. It does not encourage us emotionally, but instead reminds us that we could be, at any moment, seconds away from death and tragedy.

My pastor likes to say that life was great in the first two pages of the Bible and will be again during the last two, but in between is terrible as we experience loss and separation from God. I suppose in times of tragedy we should be reminded that one day we will experience no death; that we will walk with God and worship him for eternity. It should give us hope for the future and of Christ’s return. We should be reminded that our time is short and that we are commanded to go to every nation preaching the Gospel. Instead of renewed hope I think most people experience hopelessness; instead of looking to the future the dwell in the past and what could have been; instead of vigor for those without Christ, they feel apathy and the sinking feeling that life is pointless.

Our models for this include Job who continued to praise God and even Christ who asked forgiveness of those who crucified Him. Most people fail to meet these standards; I know I would in the face of tragedy, I usually do just in the face of minor inconvenience.

Too rich?

For Halloween, I went to party at a mansion. I mean that in the fullest extent possible. One of those eight car garage, 10,000 square foot (not counting the full basement), 15 bathroom kind of houses. The ones in neighborhood that are gated with guards that have to have your name on a list to let you in, kind. Everyone’s reaction to the house was pretty much split into two groups, the jealous and the judgmental. There was a good bit of awe with people wondering what he did and another group that condemned him for him for the ostentatiousness of the house.

I went back and forth between the two. Obviously, I would love the kind of salary that would afford this house, but I doubt I could ever pull the trigger on something that nice or big and fancy. Regardless, it got me thinking about money and really how much you should spend.

This house was probably around two million dollars. That’s roughly $70K a year on a mortgage; which is more than I make in a year, but what if he makes a million? Then he is spending less as a percentage of his income than I am. What if he gives $100K to charity or $500K, then you are talking someone who spends less on his mortgage and gives more to charity than the average person. Take it a step further, say he makes $5 million and bought the house outright, then I’m the ostentatious person who took out a loan for a house.

Maybe that is too dramatic, but my point is, there aren’t clear guidelines in the Bible. No one can point to any specific verses that would tell you how big your house can be. All anyone can ever give you is the ‘love of money’ and not to chase money or serve two masters. On the other hand, there has to be a point that is too much, even if you don’t love money.

Another example, it would be pretty foolish for me to buy a BMW. I don’t think any of them are less than my annual salary. It would be poor stewardship of what God has given me to spend so much of my monthly income on that when I can’t even afford a Corolla. Someone else may be able to buy one straight up with no problems. If they did it for status or envy or some other reason, then I guess you could throw a stone. But if a guy just likes them, probably nothing wrong there. Again, though, where does it stop? What if someone can buy a Bentley? Surely there are better uses for our gifts. The issue becomes, where is that line? Should you be eating steak when people in other parts of the world don’t have clean drinking water? I really have no idea, and have struggled with this since I first read Richard Stearns ‘A Hole in our Gospel’.

It is also something I’ve been struggling with since the media storm around Steve Furtick. I know that part of what bothered people so much is that he is a pastor and I guess that means he should be poor (pastor pay should be another posts all together). If he is paying for the house out of his book sales, why should his salary matter?

But I get it. We hold our pastors to higher standards. Non-believers hold a Christian to a higher standard of living as well. Maybe that’s part of the take away here. When you appear so rich that it takes away your credibility to those who need Christ. You can’t blame someone for their income, but you have to be aware that when telling other people to give to the church and to give generously, maybe an 18 bedroom home is too much.