Faithlife Study Bible (ITS FREE!)

I’ve been a pretty huge fan of the NLT Study Bible – and still am…but the Faithlife Study Bible by the folks over at Logos is garnering some of my attention as well.

Logos is primarily known for its Logos Bible Software – some of the premier software for academics and ministry “professionals” studying the Scriptures.

Faithlife Study Bible's Beta Logo.
Faithlife Study Bible’s Beta Logo.

The Faithlife Study Bible (FSB) isn’t a book you can purchase – rather it is available digitally – on the web, on iOS, Android, or the Kindle Fire. It integrates with Logos Bible Software and Vyrso eBooks – so anywhere you can use these, you can use it.

What I love about the FSB – and what I’ve been saying needs to happen for some time now – is that the FSB keeps growing. It isn’t a static entity. They are constantly adding new resources and notes to the Bible!

Ohh, and did I mention the Faithlife Study Bible is free? Yup, no strings attached, free. They are giving away 2.5 million copies – which I hope is a “gimmick” to get folks to download it now and that when they hit 2.5 million copies that they will continue to give it away for free…It would actually make business sense for them to do so imho, as individuals who come to love the FSB will be much more likely to purchase their Logos and Vyrso products.

And in fact, the stinkers make the FSB a non-annoying advertising tool for their Logos products already. You get tons of information in the FSB, but if you want an even more in-depth look at a topic they link out to various resources they have available that contain more in-depth information – but those you have to pay for. See, sneaky…but a great way to win new customers – and they aren’t giving a crappy product away just to get additional product purchases – the FSB is a robust resource in and of itself.

So what exactly does the FSB include? First off, it uses the Lexham English Bible (LEB) as the underlying bible translation. This translation is part of Logos’ publishing arm – which creates “digital first” products. The LEB is a new English translation of the Scriptures. The LEB is included free with FSB, but the FSB can be used with other translations as well (including the ESV, KJV, NKJV, NRSV, NASB95, and NIV2011).

It currently includes (and remember, this is always expanding) over 240 photos of biblical locales, over 35 videos, and over 120 infographics, timelines, and tables…and let me tell you, these are not you sub-par infographics, timelines, etc. one finds littered across the internet!

It also includes the Lexham Bible Dictionary (another “digital first” publication by Logos) which has over 2,700 articles on a variety of biblical topics.

There are a bunch of other features I haven’t explored too much – including some powerful community options to facilitate group study of Scripture (e.g. by a church or small group). Hopefully this has been enough to whet your appetite – go get your free copy of the FSB now. You won’t regret it.

Eros Redeemed by John White (Book Review).

Dr. John White was a Christian physician, psychiatrist, pastor, and prolific author. In 1977 he published a groundbreaking book, Eros Defiled, which provided a straightforward, bluntly honest, and compassionate survey of sexual sins from a Christian and psychiatric perspective. I wrote a review of this book in May of 2012 which can be read here.

Cover of Dr. John White's book Eros Redeemed.
Cover of Dr. John White’s book Eros Redeemed.

In 1993 White published a second book – Eros Redeemed – which continued and refined his thoughts in Eros Defiled. In-between these dates he moved from the Christian psychiatric field more fully into pastoral work…and probably of more significance in the differences between these works – became involved with the charismatic movement.

White attended a course taught by John Wimber at Fuller Theological Seminary. I have been unable to discover when exactly White attended this course – but it must have been between 1981-1985 (as these were the years Wimber taught it at Fuller). White became a leader within the charismatic movement, was instrumental in leading Dr. Jack Deere into the charismatic movement (Deere had been a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), a strictly cessationist seminary at the time), and became a leader within the Vineyard Church movement (a particular strain of charismatic belief. If memory serves me right, the Vineyard is the more charismatic arm which broke off of the common root from which Calvary Chapel developed).

This seems to have resulted in White moving away from his earlier positions and towards more charismatic interpretations – and this is evident in Eros Redeemed. According to some sources (I have been unable to verify) White regretted writing Eros Defiled and desired Eros Redeemed to be read in its stead. I must admit that for my money, I prefer Eros Defiled.

It is perhaps important for me to note here that I do not say this b/c of White’s embracing charismatic beliefs. I consider “book mentors” (I read their books and respect their work) Dr. Wayne Grudem, Dr. Mark Rutland, Dr. Mark Brown, and Charles Colson – among others – from a charismatic background. Rather, I have read (but again, cannot confirm) that White suffered from bipolar disorder throughout his life and feel that Eros Redeemed may have been written during a manic episode – as its connective tissue is weak and its organization haphazard. (Unfortunately, I do not know anyone who knew Dr. White, I wish that I did and I could speak with them about this and other areas of his life to understand him better – he fascinates me)

In any case, Eros Redeemed clocks in at a hefty 285 pages. The book is divided into three parts with numerous chapters in each part. I’ve included the contents below:

  • Part I: Eros Enslaved and In Chains
    • A Sin-Stained Church in a Sex-Sated Society
    • Nakedness: What Went Wrong?
    • The Uniqueness of Sexual Sin
    • Overcoming Idolatry and Sexual Sin
    • Sexual Sin and Violence
    • The Question of Satanic Ritual Abuse
    • Satanic Sex
  • Part II: Men, Women, and Sex
    • The Marriage of Sex and Love
    • Sex for the Castaway
    • Sex and Gender Confusion
    • The Roots of Inversion
    • Manliness and Womanliness
    • Christ, Model of Manliness
  • Part III: Redemption from Sexual Sin
    • Hidden Memories
    • Forgiving Family Sin
    • Facing Your Repentant Future
    • Prayer: A Means of Grace
    • Healing Hidden Wounds Through the Body
    • The Healing Session
    • Your Future

As you can see from the chapters – the book covers the gamut of human sexuality – theological underpinnings, relationship to pagan fertility worship, Satanic Ritual Abuse (which is generally seen now as a much smaller issue, if existing at all, than it was viewed as at the time), the philosophical differences between sex and love, homosexuality (“inversion” – an older psychological term from before homosexuality was removed from the APA’s DSM), the nature of manhood/womanhood, the importance of forgotten memories to healing of the past, various methods of healing (forgiveness, repentance, prayer, church community), and instructions on running a “healing session” (appears to be a time in which deliverance from an ailment or sin was expected to be immediate, or at least that significant progress would be made in overcoming it).

I found some of what White said from a theological perspective to be powerful and ingenious – but other portions had me scratching my head regarding exactly what he was trying to say and/or how he made the connections he made. White shares more about his personal life and experiences in this book – as he did in Eros Defiled – but I found some of these more disturbing than past ones (in Eros Defiled), perhaps indicative of a unresolved trauma to the psyche rather than a healthy revelation of personal trauma for self-healing and to encourage healing in others.

I was disappointed by the emphasis on Satanism (not on Satan, but on Satanism), but this may have been an appropriate emphasis at the time the book was written (I remember the Satanism hysteria of the 1990’s). His compassion for the sexual addict is admirable – as it was with Eros Defiled – and while he writes a strong call to repentance he also offers lots of mercy and understanding. This is perhaps one of the strongest aspects of the work.

White attempts to take on far too much – in addition to general sexuality issues such as masturbation, adultery, and fornication he tackles homosexuality (which in and of itself wouldn’t have been too much of an addition – he tackled it as well in Eros Defiled), the nature of manhood/womanhood (not as it relates to the act of sex, but as it defines the difference between men and women including roles/leadership), hidden memories, and so on. It may be the sheer volume of topics he covers which results in the disjointed feel. He could have written three or four books covering these topics in more detail and with more elaboration and the work may have felt more continuous, professional, and insightful.

White also tackles theological topics like the nature of sanctification and how we experience healing – Do we initiate? Does God initiate? While relevant to the discussion, the conversation is just one more tangent which distracts from the main focus of the book (human sexuality).

It took me probably a year to make it through this book…It is interesting, but I can’t really recommend it. White continues to demonstrate a broad base of knowledge – he kept himself current on psychological theories and quotes from a wide variety of Christian authors and theologians including Augustine, C.S. Lewis, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Keating, Andrew Murray, John Bunyan, Charles Colson, Charles Finney, John Owen, Clinton Arnold, and so on which demonstrates the vast breadth of his knowledge (which far surpasses my own). I’m not sure, other than the aforementioned possibility of a manic episode, what could have caused the breakdown in his writing this time. In all honesty, I’m surprised IVP published it – and wonder if this was done in part to honor a man whose legacy is significant (he has made significant and genuine contributions to contemporary Christian thought).

I will continue to read White’s works, I have enjoyed The Masks of Melancholy, Eros Defiled, and The Sword Bearer. The only disappointment thus far has been this one (Eros Redeemed) – and I suppose every author is allowed to pop out a defective one once in a while.

Book Review: Are You Running With Me, Jesus? (Author: Malcolm Boyd)

Introduction

I don’t know why but I have always had a deep desire to smoke. I can’t think of anyone I really looked up to as a child who smoked, the smell oftentimes made me feel nauseous, and I have still never taken a smoke…I suppose perhaps it was all those John Wayne movies I saw growing up where Wayne always had a cigarette and the best way to handle stress or injury was always to light up a smoke.

A photo of my copy of Malcolm Boyd's Are You Running With Me, Jesus?
A photo of my copy of Malcolm Boyd’s Are You Running With Me, Jesus?

In any case, this was one of the two reasons I picked up Malcolm Boyd’s book from a thrift store – a pastor was smoking on the front cover. The other was that I have a hard time praying (I think it is related to my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and so I am always looking for books of prayers or on prayer.

Well, I’ll keep picking up books with smoking pastors if I see them, because this one turned out to be a real gem. You know how some books you underline a few lines here and there? And every once in a while you find a book that is so powerful you feel like you might as well underline the entire volume? Boyd’s slim volume of prayers was the latter for me. I have a hard time even choosing what quotes to share with you, there are so many.

Boyd Teaches

In the Introduction Boyd offers some insightful thoughts on prayer, the rest of the volume will be prayers – but here he philosophizes or theologizes a bit.

Pray as Life

“Prayer, for me, used to stand as something separate from other parts of life. But I have come to learn that real prayer is not so much talking to God as just sharing his presence. More and more, prayer and my style of life as a Christian seem inseparable.” – 3.

On Community

“I came to realize that, for me, ‘community’ was no longer an ideal but a reality, here, now. Each evening when I talked with groups of students, this was it–the sharing, the common life experienced together. I no longer had to seek for it; it was given and I had only to accept it.” – 4.

On Prayer Initiative

“Prayer, I have learned, is more my response to God than a matter of my own initiative. I believe Jesus Christ prays in me as well as for me. But my response is sporadic, moody, now despairing, now joyful, corrupted by my self-love and desire to manipulate Christ’s love…I find in the Psalms much the same range of mood and expression as I perceive within my own life of prayer.” – 6.

On Jesus as Grounding for Prayer

“It has been asked by some persons why this book is not entitled Am I Running With You, Jesus? The query overlooks the fact that my prayer life, as the state of my spirituality, is neither very respectable nor quite correct. Needless to say, I am a self-centered man, sinfully immersed in my own welfare and concerns, attempting to manipulate God, and often lost in my own self-love and self-pity. Are You Running With Me, Jesus? more accurately reflects the grounding, motivation, and style of my prayer life and spirituality as I grapple with imperfections and ambiguities in myself and my society.” – 7.

Boyd Prays for Freedom of Self

  • “I’m crying and shouting inside tonight, Lord, and I’m feeling completely alone
    All the roots I thought I had are gone. Everything in my life is in upheaval. I am amazed that I can maintain any composure when I’m feeling like this.
    The moment is all that matters; the present moment is of supreme importance. I know this. Yet in the present I feel dead. I want to anchor myself in the past and shed tears of self-pity. When I look ahead tonight I can see only futility, pain, and death. I am only a rotting body, a vessel of disease, potentially a handful of ashes after I am burned.
    But you call me tonight to love and responsibility. You have a job for me to do. You make me look at other persons whose needs make my self-pity a mockery and a disgrace.
    Lord, I hear you. I know you. I feel your presence strongly in this awful moment, and I think you. Help me onto my feet. Help me to get up.” – 12.
  • “I’m scared, Jesus. You’ve asked me to do something I don’t think I can do…I’m sure I wouldn’t want to do it except that you asked me….Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying I won’t do it. I’m just saying I don’t want to do it. I mean, how in hell can I do it?…You know me better than anybody does, but then you go and ask me to do something crazy like this. I can’t figure you out. I wish you’d just leave me alone today, but if this is what you think is best, I’ll try. I’ll try. But I don’t want to. Pray for me, Jesus.” – 15.
  • “I want to be alone and not to be alone, both at the same time….But this silence is filled with demons, Lord, so that I’m not alone at all. I’m with demons. And I’d rather be with other people, Jesus, and with you. I’ve thought it out, and this is what I want. Will you help me cut loose from these demons so I can be with you and the other people?….Warm me, Jesus, so i can give out some real warmth to some other very cold people.” – 18.
  • “I’ve just about had it today. Really, it’s too much. Don’t ask me to be patient…Okay, I’ll try some more to be human, but it’s nearly been knocked out of me for one day. Stay with me; I can’t do it alone.” – 22.

Boyd Prays for Freedom of Society

  • “Save us from ourselves; spare us the evils of our hearts’ good intentions, unbridled and mad. Turns us from our perversions of love, especially when these are perpetrated in your name. Speak to us about war, and about peace, and about the possibilities for both in our very human hearts.” – 27.
  • “We can’t make it alone, Lord…God knows, we’ve tried, and we’ve even reached the point where we could blow up everybody, including ourselves. Teach us how to listen carefully and patiently to other people. Teach us how to say what we have to say clearly, simply, and openly. Teach us what responsibility toward you and others really means.” – 34.
  • “I was there, Jesus, as you know. I am a part of mankind, although I like to remember it only when I want something from my brother or society at large, and like to forget it when it involves me in humanness outside myself…I shouted for your crucifixion, Jesus. I taunted you as you bore your cross, and I stood in the crowd to watch you die…I did this again just today, Jesus…Forgive me…” – 37.

Boyd Prays for Racial Freedom

  • “I know you’ve done a lot to wise us up, Lord, but please keep on trying. You’ve even given your own self to wise us up. But, Jesus, please don’t give up on us.” – 41.
  • “Lots of well-fed, comfortable, middle-class people everywhere are praying for ‘situations’ like this all the time. But they don’t seem to do enough about changing such situations by altering political and economic facts of life, or helping specific men, women, and children who are victims…Isn’t prayer expressed in action, Jesus, and isn’t real action a form of prayer?…Otherwise, wouldn’t it be more honest not to go through the mere motions of praying, Lord? I mean, if we do not intend to offer ourselves and cooperate with you in fighting evil?” – 42.
  • “O God the Father, our Father, who created man in your own image and after your own likeness, so that we are all sons of God who are loved equally by you and share equally the privilege of having been created in your own image, Have mercy upon us.” – 48.
    “O God–you who are neither red, yellow, black, nor white, but who has created us in a marvelous variety of rich colors and marked us with your image, We ask you to hear us, Lord.” – 51.

Boyd Prays for the City

  • “They’re having a party in a hotel suite which is elegant and located in the best hotel in the heart of the city. There’s music, jewelry, glamour, gin, V.I.P. status, and POWER, Lord.
    But nobody’s having any fun. They’re too busy sparring with one another in the POWER game which, tonight, is also the sex-and-booze tournament…
    Everybody looks slick and, underneath tans and wigs, somewhat lonely. I mean, they’re not relating, Jesus. They’re only observing the stiff protocol of small talk and ground rules…
    The masks are on parade tonight, Jesus. The masks are smiling and laughing to cover up status anxieties and bleeding ulcers.
    Tell us about freedom, Jesus.” – 55.
  • “I look at their faces and realize how they are our victims, especially when we like to say they are beautiful children, but we don’t change conditions which will make their faces hard and their hearts cynical.” – 58.

Boyd Prays for the Campus

  • “Please work with him in his restlessness, Lord. Give him all the interior peace that’s possible without letting him go soft. Help him to pace himself in the fight, Jesus, and not to sell out under the pressures.” – 67.
  • “He feels raw and bleeding, Jesus; he just wants peace, and not to be bothered any more. Who’s going to show him that your peace means starting to care all over again?” – 72.
  • “Get her out of the hell she’s in, Lord. She’s got to understand that you find real beauty in her. Help us to provide the mirrors in which she can begin to see that beauty herself.” – 73.

Boyd Prays for Sexual Freedom

  • “He’s a married man, Lord, but he says he doesn’t feel married…Underneath his words, what is he really saying, Jesus?…Was he forced to settle down too soon? What kind of impossible demands is he making of life that he can’t work out his needs within his present situation?…I find myself wanting to shake him, maybe partly because he stays so even-tempered, soft-spoken, low-key….Can you get past his defenses, Lord?” – 92.

Boyd’s Other Prayers

  • “Jesus, you ruined all the phony success stories forever when you didn’t come down from the cross, turn your crown of thorns into solid gold, transform the crowd at Golgotha into a mighty army, march on Rome, and become the king…When you refused to play the role of a Great Man, or the ultimate Big Shot, you really made us level with you as yourself, Lord.” – 100.
  • “…Nevertheless, you were actively, creatively, responsibly loving, even on the cross, Jesus. Help us to see that love for what it is–in all its fierce passion and sweep of forgiveness.” – 102.
  • “Grant us tension, Lord, in the midst of false peace, and grant us that peace which passes all understanding, in the midst of the struggle in which we are engaged on earth for the dignity of man. Amen.” – 111.
  • “Jesus, we’re here again. What are we doing here? I mean, how is communion with you possible? You’re holy, and we’re very human. Yet I remember that you also became human.
    I wonder how we can honestly be nourished and cleansed by your body and blood. Yet I realize communion is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. I accept this mystery.
    We are grateful for this intimacy with you, Jesus. We thank you for letting us share this corporate action as we offer to God all of creation including our own lives. Give us faith to understand what it means to be thankful.” – 112.
  • “‘Send me.’ But where, Lord? To do what?
    To bring pardon where there had been injury in a life I casually brush against at my daily work? (But I had thought of mediating a teenage gang war in Chicago!)
    To help turn doubt into faith in a person with whom I live intimately in my circle of family or friends? (But I had thought of helping a tired drunk on skid row!)
    To bring joy into a life, consumed by sadness, which touches the hem of my life at a drinking fountain? (But I had thought only of a far-off mission land!)
    ‘Send me.’ Send me next door, into the next room, to speak somehow to a human heart beating alongside mine…
    Send me to reflect your light in the darkness of futility, mere existence, and the horror of casual human cruelty. But give me your light, too, Lord, in my own darkness and need.” – 115.
  • “Help us, Lord, who claim to be your special people. Don’t let us feel privileged and selfish because you have called us to you. Teach us our responsibilities to you, our brother, and to all the people out there. Save us from the sin of loving religion instead of you.” – 118.
  • “God:
    Take fire and burn away our guilt and our lying hypocrisies.
    Take water and wash away our brothers’ blood which we have caused to be shed.
    Take hot sunlight and dry the tears of those we have hurt, and heal their wounded souls, minds, and bodies.
    Take love and root it in our hearts, so that brotherhood may grow, transforming the dry desert of our prejudices and hatreds.” – 119.

Conclusion

This is a great book for anyone who wants to be challenged to combine honest, gut-wrenching prayer with action. It is a clear look in the mirror of our own souls. A short and fantastic read. Go get a copy – its old and almost free.

Document Scanning Software.

Historically when I’ve bought a scanner it has come with scanning software – usually an outdated version of PaperPort.

Flat-bed Scanner.
Flat-bed Scanner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More recently, however, the software that comes with various scanners has been limited and sometimes almost useless. Windows built-in tool (Windows Fax and Scan) is okay if you are scanning images – but for documents, you really need something more robust. Here I’m going to provide a brief guide to some of the products currently available – including some free options.

Please feel free to reply in the comments if you

  • Know of other software that should be listed here.
  • Have feedback on any of the products listed here.
  • Are related to the company and want to provide additional insight on the product.

ScanWorks

This is interesting – it is a web-based scanning application, though it does require installing a client on one’s local machine. It is free and there is also a premium version available for $20/annually (not bad). I wasn’t a huge fan of the web interface, but it might be more attractive to others.

iCopy

Everyone likes free and open source – and that is exactly what iCopy is. I used it to scan in some documents recently and it worked fairly well, but its UI is not intuitive and it is buggy. It doesn’t create an output file until the end of a multi-page scan and if you scan too many pages it will crash due to consuming too much memory. Still, a free and fairly easy to use option.

VueScan

This software is extremely popular though I found it to be more focused on image scanning than multi-page document scanning. A free trial is available and purchase cost is $40-$80. It does support a vast number of scanners – including numerous older scanners for which other software is unavailable.

PaperPort

The “standard” in document scanning and management, pricing starts at $200, though it is sometimes bundled for free with scanners (usually an older version). It isn’t bad, but I prefer Lucion’s FileCenter.

FileCenter

Of all the applications I have encountered for document scanning and management, FileCenter is my favorite – even over PaperPort. That said, it does cost $50 for their standard edition and $200 for their professional edition. A free trial is available.

Presto! Page Manager

This software looks interesting mainly b/c it integrates with Google Docs and Evernote. Price starts at $100.

ABBYY FineReader Express

I used some of Abbyy’s software years ago and enjoyed it, I imagine it is still of the same quality as I know it is quite popular. Software pricing begins at $50.

Advanced Scan to PDF Free

Simple, free, and easy to use – if you are doing document scanning and the price FREE is right, this is probably the best option.

OfficeDrop

This is a freemium service, they used to offer desktop software (which was buggy) but appear to have dropped the desktop software in favor of mobile apps and document management. That is unfortunate.

Simple Doc Organizer

I’m not familiar with this software, but the site looks nice and they have a Home edition that is available for free.

Other Options

These are other options that aren’t incredibly expensive but I have no personal experience with…

Holy Snikes You Are Expensive

I didn’t feel like reviewing the really expensive options (e.g. above $500), but I’ve included links to some of them for those who are so inclined…

OhDontForget: Useful, But Not Perfect.

Oh Don't Forget SMS Remind Service logo.
Oh Don’t Forget SMS Remind Service logo.

Trying to keep track of what I’m supposed to be doing and when is complicated. I’ve gotten much better at it over the years – but I still manage to miss a meeting here or there, forget to pay a bill, or so on. I use Asana, Google Keep, and Google Calendar, along with their integrations into my Galaxy S3 smartphone to keep me going.

But now the question is – how do I keep other people going? I’m in the position of assigning responsibilities to folks – if it is something with an impending deadline, how do I remind them that the deadline is impending without wasting my time? And how do I remind someone if something needs to be done on a certain day or at a certain time of day? These are more difficult questions.

Right now I use a combination of Boomerang and Ohdontforget – neither of which is a perfect tool and both of which I wish would have their functionality integrated into Asana.

So what is On Don’t Forget? Its an SMS reminder service that allows you to schedule an SMS message to be sent to a specified phone number at a specified time and can include the ability to repeat the message on a specified basis.

So, lets say Isaac needs to do something for me tomorrow night at 7 pm, but I know he might forget –  I can use ohdontforget to schedule a SMS reminder to go out to him at 7 pm. This won’t help if he is out of the area, but as long as he is in the area – it is a lifesaver.

The service does cost $5/mo., but I’ve bit the bullet and signed up and have been using it for a few weeks. The biggest feature it doesn’t have that I would like it to have is the ability for individuals to reply back to my initial message with a status update: e.g. CANT, COMPLETED, POSTPONED, etc. Then I should get notified by email or text regarding this update. This way I not only know someone has been reminded, but I can also relax knowing that the task has been done (or make alternative arrangements if it isn’t getting done).

Besides that, I’d also like to see them add the ability to search sent SMS messages, to delete SMS messages en masse (especially sent ones), and to create templated messages. But all of these are fairly minor compared to the ability to receive status updates regarding tasks (and also to auto-kick off a snooze/delete of the reminder once the task is completed).

Safari Books Online for Leadership.

I began writing an article on Safari Books Online, but then I decided I wouldn’t do it justice if I wrote about all of Safari Books Online – so let me just focus in on one of the audiences Safari  targets – leaders.

Safari Books Online is an online, subscription library with 24,000+ books and videos on a variety of subjects – 840+ of those are on leadership.

For $10/mo. (not shown in advertising on their site) you can sign up for a 5-slot bookshelf. This means you can read any five books out of that 24k+ library in its entirety anytime you want. After you are done reading a book, return it and a slot frees up and choose another book to utilize that free slot.

But what sort of books am I talking about? Old books? Crappy books? Books by authors and publishers you’ve never heard about? Nope. I’m taking about the good stuff, lots of it, by well-known authors and publishers.

Sorting the results for leadership books these are the top ten most popular currently:

  1. Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal’s Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2008).
  2. Scott Cromar’s From Techie to Boss: Transitioning to Leadership (Apress, 2013).
  3. Daniel Goleman’s Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence (More Than Sound, 2011).
  4. James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner’s The Leadership Challenge 4th Ed. (Jossey-Bass, 2007).
  5. Nicole Lipkin’s What Keeps Leaders Up At Night (AMACOM, 2013).
  6. Jamshid Gharajedaghi’s Systems Thinking 3rd Ed. (Morgan Kaufmann, 2011).
  7. Maria Gonzalez’s Mindful Leadership: The 9 Ways to Self-Awareness, Transforming Yourself, and Inspiring Others (Jossey-Bass, 2012).
  8. William F. Baker and Michael O’Malley’s Leading with Kindness: How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results (AMACOM, 2008).
  9. Niamh O’Keeffe’s Your First 100 Days (Financial Times/Prentice Hall, 2011).
  10. Michael Armstrong’s Handbook of Management and Leadership 3rd Ed. (Kogan Page, 2012).

I browsed through the books quickly and stumbled upon Patrick Lencioni’s books. I loved his Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers, and Facilitators (Jossey-Bass, 2005) and I see that The Four Obsessions of An Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable (Jossey-Bass, 2000) and The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable (Jossey-Bass, 2008) are available as well.

I also noticed Andrew J. DuBrin’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Leadership, 2nd Ed. (Alpha Books, 2000). No, I’m not calling you an idiot – but I personally find the idiot’s and dummies’ guides to be really helpful – especially as first-look primers for jumping into a subject.

One will also notice some well-known names such as John Wooden (On Leadership, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Ken Blanchard (Leading at a Higher Level, FT Press, 2006), Warren Bennis (On Becoming a Leader, Basic Books, 2009), and Peter Druck (as seen in William A. Cohen’s Drucker on Leadership, Jossey-Bass, 2009).

If we constrained ourselves only to the leadership category we’d have plenty of reading material for quite some time, but there are also several other relevant categories for leaders such as Personal and Professional Development (2922 books).

Yes, one could buy these books…But one book will set you back the cost of a month’s subscription – and for that same month’s subscription you can read five of these leadership books. Pretty slick, eh?

Singularity: The New Religion.

Introduction

The Singularity may be defined in different ways depending upon whom you are talking to. In this article, I’m particularly interested in discussing the utopian vision posited by Ray Kurzweil and supported by Singularity University. In this sense, ‘the singularity’ is a point of technological innovation to be pursued that will result in a fundamental disconnect from reality as we now experience it. This culmination of technological process will continue to escalate and result in beyond-humans or perfected-humans.

I Am An IT Geek

Ray Kurzweil at Stanford Singularity Summit.
Ray Kurzweil at Stanford Singularity Summit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m an IT Geek. I spent the last six years working full-time in the IT world and spent most of my self-aware life before that immersing myself in technology. So, I’m interested in the singularity and I am especially interested in the ways in which technology can be utilized to improve the world we live in, for example:

  • Reducing healthcare costs while improving outcomes.
  • Advanced warning systems for earthquakes and tsunamis.
  • Automated Cars that can drive themselves and eliminate the tens of thousands of deaths each year in accidents.
  • Improved political processes through public awareness made possible via the internet and mobile device networking.
  • Innovations in “green” technologies that allow for a healthier environment.
  • Innovations in food production and distribution which could eliminate starvation.

I get really passionate about the ways that technology can change our lives. My smartphone has changed my life – just ask my wife. I am now a more responsible version of me b/c I have a “brain enhancement” in my smartphone that alerts me to upcoming meetings and ensures I don’t miss them.

I am an early adopter when it comes to using technology to improve health – I bought a Zeo, want a Withings, use Noom, and so on.

I Am A Christian Pastor

At the same time, I am also a Christian. I went to Cairn University for Pastoral Studies, have spent nine years as a youth minister, the last two to three years pastoring, and now am full-time as a pastor. I am passionate about Jesus in an evangelical way. I believe that Jesus has changed my life and continues to do so – and I believe He can change yours as well. Yeah, I know, I know – you may not like that – but I’m just being honest.

I believe that God has intervened in history (through Jesus) and will bring history to its ultimate consummation at some junction in the future. I believe I will become a beyond-human or perfected-human and that I have that life in seed already within me.

In other words, I believe in a Christian singularity, but I also am fascinated by a technological singularity…and I think the greatest challenge to Christian belief in the future will not be from another traditional religion (e.g. Buddhism or Islam) but from The Singularity.

Singularity vs. Christianity?

“But the Singularity isn’t a religion.” In one sense it is not, but in another sense it is. It is the “higher power” to which men call out in hope of a better future. It is the way many are looking for ‘salvation’ to be realized.

“Singularity is more of a philosophy.” The fields of philosophy and religion overlap. Both are inherently a worldview which represents how one lives and acts in the world. But I digress, I don’t need to convince anyone it is a religion to suggest that it could replace religion.

I don’t want to spread FUD[1] and encourage Christians to be afraid of the singularity or to think those spearheading it are evil. I believe people who are pursuing the singularity are well-intentioned – desiring to see a better world. I do want to encourage Christians to interact more intentionally with the concept of the singularity and to talk more deeply about how it interacts with Christian theology.

Theoretically – what would keep us from “saving ourselves” via technology? The traditional answer is that we will keep ourselves from saving ourselves. But is this a legitimate answer? And if it is not, then what role should the Christian take in pursuing the singularity? Should the Christian be opposed to the singularity?

I pursue technological innovation, I pursue medical innovation, I advocate for better lives lived now – yet I also believe in Christ and His sole ability to reconcile us to Himself and one another. How do I (we) balance our belief in technological/natural progress with the belief in the necessity of divine progress?

I know this will skirt on the fringes of heresy [2] – but I think it is an important question for us to interact with: “Could God use the singularity as the means of bringing about His intended reconciliation?”

In the Singularity we are facing a variant of humanism, but perhaps it should have a different name – technologyism. We recognize our inherent flaws, but believe we can rectify them through technology (see for example, Peter Kramer’s[3] excellent book Against Depression which discusses the disease processes behind depression and how we may soon be able to “cure” these problems).

Obviously, for premillennial[4] Christians there are significant issues with a divinely guided singularity redemption, but for postmillennials or amillennials perhaps there is not such a dilemma?

Conclusion

At this juncture, I am positing that while it is theoretically possible that a technological singularity could “redeem” mankind, that it is practically impossible. That is, that humankind’s interactions with nature[5] and each other will ultimately sabotage such an effort. That while life exists on earth there is always the “hope” that man could “save himself” through technology, but that in reality this cannot occur. That is, in all possible universes that God could have created while retaining humanity with the freedom and design He has given us, there is no universe in which humanity would embrace technological salvation, thus the necessity of Christ’s sacrifice.

This is a variation on the Law. That is, just as the Law could theoretically result in a beyond-human/perfect-human yet it never will,[6] so a singularity could result in the same, but it never will. If it was possible, Christ would not have needed to die and rise again.

On the other hand, I am willing to contemplate the possibility that God would divinely utilize a singularity to bring about the perfection of His people. This tastes bitter to my tongue and rough to the touch of my hands – I cannot (barely) imagine it as such – but if we as Christians believe that humans[7] could be so wrong about the Messianic prophecies – is it possible we could be wrong about the end-of-the-world prophecies? Could the conquering hero come as suffering servant? Inconceivable! I cannot imagine it! But could He? I will not limit Him, I lay the matter in His hands, while embracing what seems the clearer teaching of Scripture.

Questions

  • Do you believe in a coming technological singularity? If so, what are your thoughts on religion, Christianity, etc.?
  • Is anyone aware of materials written by Christians interacting other than from a FUD perspective with the concept of the singularity?
  • What about more generally the role of technological progress and supernatural salvation and our relative dependence/investment in either?

Postscript

“Boy, Dave, this rant came out of left-field.” Well, not exactly. It was inspired by Steve Aoki, Angger Dimas, and My Name is Kay’s music video “Singularity.” (HT: Tom Olstead/Mashable) I’ve embedded it below. Note, it is quite disturbing – it doesn’t contain offensive language or sexual content but it does portray a disturbing reality including some disconcerting forms of becoming beyond-human.

  1. [1]Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.
  2. [2]I am not advocating such a position, but I think it must be discussed. We cannot simply close our eyes to the implications of singularity philosophy upon the future of the world.
  3. [3]I do not know if Kramer is even familiar with The Singularity, I am not suggesting he is an advocate of it, only that his work demonstrates how technology could cure significant ‘human problems’ – and if it can be used for this – could it not be used to restrain people from violence, etc.?
  4. [4]Those who, generally speaking, believe in a eschatology in some form similar to the Left Behind series. Though even here, there is significant freedom in fictional work and many who would hold to a premillennial eschatology would not hold to a pretribulational rapture as is represented in the Left Behind series.
  5. [5]I hypothesize, based on chaos theory, that all natural disasters, etc. are the result of humanity’s sins. Not that those who are destroyed by such disasters are the sinners – but the conglomeration of our sins causes the disasters. Even to say that sins in America might result in a natural disaster somewhere on the other side of the world would be a vast oversimplification of the matter. It is more that all humanity’s negative actions past and present have resulted in those disasters.
  6. [6]Perhaps it could have if God had created a different universe, but perhaps such a universe could not have had humans such as us in it.
  7. [7]I say humans rather than Jews b/c I believe that the Jews of Jesus’ time were not more stubborn or wicked or etc. than we, but are representative of us – their stubbornness and wickedness, their rejection of Christ is our rejection. There is no grounds for anti-semitisim within the Christian faith.

Did Hackers Gain Access to All Your Personal Information?!?

Introduction

“Out of sight, out of mind.” This is true of so many important aspects of life. We know we should do something about them, but we don’t – because we forget about them or the effort seems greater than the benefit.

Unfortunately, sometimes these important aspects of life decide to blow up in our faces. For example, most of us have learned the importance of keeping oil in our cars and performing regular oil changes. We know that while this is “out of sight” it cannot be “out of mind.” But, have you ever been in a that ran out of oil? I have and it is not a pleasant experience. The engine implodes on itself with many strange, loud, and scary sounds while smoke billows from the hood and nauseous odors waft through the vents. The car slows to a stop and never starts again. Cue tears, tow truck, and etc.

Burglar from OpenClipart.org. Thanks to tzunghaor for his generosity.
Burglar from OpenClipart.org. Thanks to tzunghaor for his generosity in making this image freely available.

It is time that our technology security becomes one of these “out of sight” but better not be “out of mind” aspects. It has long been time…but if you are a casual technology (computer, smartphone, etc.) user you probably don’t think much about security – and if you do, I hate to say it, but a good bit of your knowledge is probably based on outdated or downright false information.

Today, LivingSocial, a company with over 50 million users, was hacked. This follows a few weeks after Evernote was compromised with its similarly millions of users. Whether you are or are not a customer of these services isn’t the point. What is the point is this: Your identity, personal information, and financials are not safe.

Don’t wait until your Facebook page is plastered with pornographic images to change your password. Or until you send all of your friends emails explaining how you are really lost in London and need them to send money orders to a bank near you. Or until your credit report shows debts you never accumulated. Or your personal emails and documents are flouted across the web for all to see.

Don’t Unplug

Resist the temptation to unplug the computer. I know what I’m saying is a lot of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) and in general I hate when people use FUD. It is usually uncalled for and unproductive. In this case I think it is both called for and productive – but it will only be productive if you take the right steps. The right steps are not to unplug your computer and abandon technology forever. The right answer is to take the time and energy it will take to learn how to live and act in a more secure way in a technological world.

Why not just unplug? Good question – this is the usual action folks who spread FUD about technology are hoping to provoke. That or they want to convince you to buy expensive technological solutions to resolve your issues. Let me give you a few good reasons not to unplug:

  1. Technology is not going away. To withdraw from it is to withdraw from reality. Yes, technology can be overwhelming, addictive, insecure, and bad – but you have to learn how to utilize technology and not be enslaved to it. This is necessary for your job, for communicating with friends and relatives, and for living a productive life.[1]
  2. This isn’t just about your connection to the internet. Look, part of this is simply an educational campaign, b/c the truth is that technology security is horribly weak everywhere. You can unplug from technology – but you can’t force your bank, your relatives, your credit card companies, or so on to withdraw – and so your information is still out there.
  3. We are on the edge of extinction. By this I mean, don’t allow fear to control your life. Take reasonable steps towards risk management – but don’t stop living. Look, this entire world, this entire universe is crazy. At any moment we could all be dead. Don’t believe me? Look at the earthquakes that hit Haiti and Japan or the tsunamai that wiped out hundreds of thousands of lives in moments just a few years ago. “But Dave, that wouldn’t happen here. We aren’t on tectonic plate faults, etc., etc.” Then look at the Spanish Flu which wiped out millions of lives – many of the young and strong – during the early 1900’s, the millions that died in World War I and World War II in combat, or even better – look at the Black Plague which wiped out perhaps 50% of the world’s population a few hundred years ago.
  4. Manage risk, don’t run from it. Let me reiterate on the above point – everything is a risk. We can’t avoid risk, we aren’t in control. We can manage stupid risks. Don’t run in front of someone with a loaded gun; don’t drive a car at excessive speeds in bad weather[2]; and don’t wait until your identity or finances have been compromised to get serious about security.

What Should I Do?

  1. Remember, we are talking about risk management – not risk elimination. These steps will reduce the likelihood of exposure, but they won’t eliminate it.
  2. Invest some time into learning about technology generally and security specifically. The better you understand what you are working with, the better you can utilize it safely. For learning about computers generally, check out GCF’s Free Computer Training courses. For information on security specifically consider reading materials available from US-CERT[3] They are a government organization focused on technology security and offer a number of documents aimed towards the general reader.
  3. Begin utilizing LastPass to manage your passwords, ensure you have secure passwords, eliminate weak passwords, and so on. It is a little bit of a learning curve – but once configured it’ll make life easier and it is free.
  4. Continue to learn about technology generally and technology security specifically on an ongoing basis. Think about how many hours you spend using technology (not just on a computer but also a phone, tablet, using an atm, credit card checkouts at local stores, and so on) and also about all the ways your information is used technologically (banks, schools, non-profits, government, and so on). Consider the total number of hours you spend each year and then choose a reasonable number (say five or ten…or maybe twenty five…depending on how quickly you pick up on technology subjects) to spend on learning about technology and security in the upcoming year. Note how small of an investment you are making relative to the amount of time and energy you spend with these technologies.
  5. Consider talking to someone who knows technology who can make more personalized suggestions for you and who can review your technology overall for safety. If this individual tells you not to spend any time on security – find someone else. Make sure what they are saying is lining up with what you are learning from US-CERT or similar authoritative sources of security information.
  6. On a similar note, most techs (in my experience), including myself don’t mind talking to people about security – but feel frustrated when asked about security and then ignored. Please make the conscious effort to listen and understand. Far too many technology conversations are started with someone asking me a technology question and immediately letting their eyes glaze over. This communicates two things, “What you are saying isn’t important” (and for many of this, this is our livelihood) and “I didn’t mean I wanted to learn, I meant can I use you to make me secure so I don’t have to learn?” (okay, okay, maybe you wouldn’t put it in those words, but when we regularly get these questions with a regular lack of interested in the answers…it is hurtful).[4]
  7. Consider the practices your employer utilizes for maintaining security. Do they exist? Are they realistic? Many companies are horribly insecure…and it might be time to sit down with your boss (if they are open to that sort of conversation) and talk to them about the need for technology security in the workplace.
  8. Share this article or similar articles and the documents from the US-CERT with friends, family, and co-workers. Help raise awareness about the significant issue that is before us in a way that encourages others to do something about it rather than being overwhelmed by fear and running away.

Conclusion

Technology security is everyone’s concern. This is not a hopeless awareness issue. We’ve brought awareness about drinking and driving, drug addiction, mental illness, and healthy eating to varying levels of public awareness – the same is necessary for security.

You will be safer and more productive using technology securely. You will be a better employee but helping encourage safe technology at work. You will be a helpful citizen by encouraging proper security implementations at local, state, and national governmental levels.

I’m available to answer questions, comments, and criticisms via

the comments on this post. Please feel free to write me with your technology security concerns, if any of this is confusing, or if you find the materials I provided for training in technology or technology security too difficult and I will do my best to assist you in finding materials which will work with your current knowledge level regarding technology.

  1. [1]Those who aren’t convinced might consider reading Kirkpatrick Sale’s Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and Their War on the Industrial Revolution: Lessons for the Computer Age.
  2. [2]Or at all, but I’m just trying to emphasize the outrageous.
  3. [3]United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team.
  4. [4]Yes, geeks/techs do have feelings, even if they may not express them.

The Problem of Evil

Introduction

I’ve experienced my fair share of heartache and suffering in this world…but I do not consider myself to have suffered anywhere near what others have suffered and I feel disoriented, sick, and weak when I even think of some of the ways in which individuals suffer. I think of a small child being taken into a dark room by a parent and there forced to engage in painful, strange, and disturbing acts. This occurs not just once – but repeatedly. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

Or I think of the children who are sold into sexual slavery. Prostituted from infancy on – pushed into the arms of sick individuals who hurt them and use them over and over and over again. A constant stream of faces that do things that are practically unspeakable.

The fundamental questions that arises in the midst of all this evil is, “Where is God?” If God exists, if God is good, if God is powerful – why does He not intervene?

I’ve heard and read many of the logical and philosophical answers offered by Christians to explain the existence of evil, but I have none to be satisfactory. There have been times when I have nearly abandoned my faith. Not because I stopped believing in God, but because I didn’t know how I could believe that He was good.

I do not think that we can provide a satisfactory philosophical answer to the question of evil. No equation can stand against the realities of evil in our world. Yet, I still believe in a good, even more, a perfect God. How? For what it is worth I want to share how I believe.

Before I do, let me note that it is not that I do not struggle with the problem of evil. Sometimes I am a man in the midst of an ocean of evil and pain and I am drowning. I can’t see my way out and no logical explanation will suffice. But I have found that this answer – at least for me – is enough to keep me from drowning. It does not dry up the ocean and I still slip below the surface with frequency, but it is something to hold onto – with bloody finger nails that scrape into hope with all their might.

So, here it goes…

Life Raft

God the Father 05
God the Father 05 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

When evil, pain, and suffering overwhelm me. When I find myself drowning, hopeless and lost I center my mind upon the cross. I transport in my mind’s eye back to that day as Christ hung upon the cross. I look upon his blood drenched and naked body. I sit at the feet of the cross and let his blood splash onto my head and face and as I sit there on that horrible, horrific day, I experience something – love and joint experience.

I can’t explain why we suffer. I can’t even explain why Jesus had to suffer. Yes, yes, I know all the proper theological answers – but there is an experiential aspect, a fogginess to it all, that leaves me feeling as if my understanding is only partial. That God has yet to unveil to me the depths of His mind on this matter.

What I do know is that as I sit at the foot of the cross with my agony and with the agony of the world bearing down upon my mind and shoulders, His blood drips onto me and I know. Jesus is God. God is suffering. God has chosen to enter into suffering with me.

While I have been tempted at times to think that God was a sadist – enjoying inflicting pain on others, I have never been tempted to think that God is a masochist – receiving pleasure from suffering Himself. So, here is God and He is suffering with me. He does not explain to me why suffering is necessary, why evil must run rampant, but He also is willing to enter into that suffering and allow that evil to ravage His mind and body as it does ours.

This in and of itself could be enough. That God chose to suffer as we suffered, but I do not see God suffering only during the cross, nor only during His earthly life – I see God suffering today, yesterday, and forever – until evil has been stomped into the ground, never to arise again.

Sometimes I feel despair for those I love. I ask God to heal them, to save them, to help them and they remain in the midst of their suffering. Then the reality comes to me, “I love them more than you do.” I don’t understand why He allows them to suffer – but I know that His heart aches more deeply and thoroughly than mine ever can.

What does all this mean? That God, from the beginning of time till the end, has chosen to suffer. He suffers not only my pain and your pain, but each of the billions of humans on this earth’s pain – and I think, the pain of the animals and of everything that has life and breath.

So What?

This belief allows me to be actively pursuing the good for myself and others. I know that God desires the good for us, yet at the same time I do not feel responsible when I cannot make the good happen. I know that God is in control and that whatever suffering we must face as a result will be suffered with Him. That the tears on my face, on your face  – are matched by the tears of the Father.

I’m Afraid

I’m still afraid at times. I know when the evil comes it throws me against the wall, tears my heart out, rips my intestines and ties them in knots, squeezes my heart till it bleeds, crushes my brain till is splatters. I see others suffering and I am thrown into desperation. I want so badly to make a real difference. I want so badly to help. Yet so often I am incapable. And I always know that as I am in the midst of the ocean my bloody fingers are only holding onto that old wooden cross – the symbol of a God that suffers – with the barest of strength.

Sometimes I lose my grip and begin to drown…and when I am not in that moment, I know, I know, that the Savior will come for me. That He will catch me and bring me back. He loves me more than I love myself. He loves you more than you love yourself.

Notes