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The End (of Summer)

This week was big for me. Returning to my college town. Moving into a new apartment. Praying for hours with inspiring Christians. Reuniting with college friends. Watching my friends start classes without me. Starting full-time work in the Olive Tree Bible Software office. Eating plenty of free food as an Olive Tree employee. Big stuff.

But what does this mean for you, if you care to read this blog? My summer is now over. The frequency of book reviews may decline, since I have less time to devote to reading and no more long bus trips planned for the near future. On the flip side of the coin, this should mean an increasing variety of topics discussed besides Christian books. Well, that will start once I have internet in my new apartment, instead of using the free WiFi on my college campus. We’ll see where it goes. I know no more than you do at this point.

The good news is that God feels closer now all day, every day lately. His greatness and love amaze me to no end, and his wonderful qualities have been easy to see from morning to night. I think I am justified to take a break from the usual discussions on faith, theology and publishing to praise him here. God has surrounded me with people who show me I am loved and valued, even those I have recently met and do not know well. My co-workers make up only one such group of people. God provided much besides to put me where I am this week. It all just emphasizes to me his infinite goodness and wonderful care for me, for everyone.

As I feel God’s presence strengthen in my life, he urges me to draw continually closer to him. This week, that means for me to dive into prayer and reading the Bible, two habits I fail to keep regularly with any devotion. Thankfully, God has always been a step ahead and provided college friends to pray with, as well as prayer time with others at my work, both of which should help keep me motivated.

He has also inspired me to start reading those obscure passages in the Old Testament that are still unfamiliar to me. Frequently over the past several months, those praying college friends have gushed to me about how much they love reading the Old Testament, especially the prophets. They would flip open their Bibles and point out passages from their studies that amazed them and let them see God under new lights. Most of the time, I hadn’t even heard of those particular passages before.

I’ve decided to start my study in 1 Samuel and continue through the life of Saul, David, and the following kings of Israel. It has already surprised me how irresistibly addictive it is to read the fascinating history of Israel. Once I get started, wrapping myself in the drama of battles against the Philistines and Saul’s unexplained thirst to murder David, I find myself unwilling to put down this most incredible written work that far surpasses all other books in the world.

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Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Other thoughts

 

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Convicted by the Summer Reading List

You know that feeling you get that can only be described as conviction? You might swear all day and even when you’re sleeping, but one Sunday you hear a powerful sermon about the evils of the tongue. This feeling sparks in you and makes you fidget in your seat. The uncomfortable feeling takes root, digging into your mind, until it changes into a nagging doubt. It tells you maybe cussing at coworkers is worse than you thought before, maybe your use of language damages how other people see Christians and, by extension, Jesus. You start to wonder if you should cut out swearing altogether.

God has convicted me to read the Bible daily. That small, still voice whispered every time I picked up one of my books that I am missing out on something greater in my spiritual life by not choosing The Book. Doesn’t God’s Word deserve the top spot on my reading list?

At the beginning of the summer, Olive Tree Bible Software (where I work) released the Olive Tree Summer Bible Reading Plan. The e-book gives readers a guided tour of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, along with short introductions to each genre collection and book. The people who came up with the idea for a summer reading plan invited me to help pull it together in time for the release date. Besides joining the collaborative editing process, I wrote the introductions for the genres of Books of Wisdom/Poetry and Gospels/Acts, as well as introductions for all the books those genres include.

Readers learn background information and contextual details as they cover an overview of the Bible in three and a half months. According to the description page, “A reading plan for new believers and mature Christians alike, Olive Tree’s Summer Bible Reading Plan will take you through the Scriptures book by book and fill your summer with the Word of God.” (Intrigued? The plan is downloadable at the above link for the steal… uh, deal… of 99 cents.) 

Why am I telling you this now and not on June 1 when it released? Well, when we finished the work, I plugged it all over my social networks and to the certain friends I thought would be interested. I downloaded it myself and fully intended to support the project by following the plan for the summer. The download was free back then, and I had the time for a little daily reading.

As you can probably predict, other summer plans soon distracted me from the Summer Bible Reading Plan. My previous reading commitment faded from memory, and I turned to books made of paper, not bytes, I had collected beforehand and had yet to finish. Since then, the list of books to pick up has only grown. My summer apartment has a small bookshelf that is quickly running out of shelving space, even with most of my book collection still at my parent’s house. Last week, a friend let me borrow two more books by C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce and God in the Dock, which are waiting on the bookshelf

I’m trying to keep up by reading all at once Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, Too Busy Not to Pray by Bill Hybels, and 19 Gifts of the Spirit by Leslie B. Flynn. Another book joined the list Tuesday, given priority for professional improvement, when The Chicago Manual of Style 16th Edition came in the mail.

But there’s something still missing from my daily reading. I’ve recently started to notice how everything I read tells me reading the Bible itself is beneficial and good, necessary even. I find little reminders in the verses at the end of each Jesus Calling devotional, Bill Hybels’ frequent examples of prayer in Scripture, and how spiritual gifts are apparently rooted in regular devotion to the Word. Besides Chicago, my book list reduces down to reading about the Bible, yet most of my time in the Bible only comes through my work for Olive Tree.

I decided to start with Psalms, which I’ve wanted for over a year to read straight through. Somehow, it never happened. I started this Monday, and in five days, I’ve already covered 78 psalms. Psalms lasts 120 pages in my Bible. I only have 58 pages to go, just short of half. Not too hard for the longest book of the Bible, right?

The best part: Psalms is one of my favorite biblical books. I prefer to read Psalms aloud, enjoying it not only as part of the Bible, but as a collection of ancient Hebrew poetry. Each psalm is written as a song or prayer addressed directly to the Lord. The themes of praise, thankfulness, sorrow, celebration and trust connect with every human emotion and experience in relationship with God. Whatever your situation in life, there’s a psalm that tells in beautiful poetry what you are feeling and God’s loving care over you.

But now that I’m halfway done with Psalms, I don’t know what to read next. Suggestions are welcome. What are your favorite books in the Bible? Tell me what part of the Bible I should read, and if you’re looking for a Christian book outside of the Bible, a summer reading list is coming your way in my next post. Let’s help each other.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Other thoughts

 

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Branches on the Olive Tree

E-books are the current driving craze in publishing. Last Christmas, my own mother got a Kindle Fire and started loading it up with free e-books. I’ve had friends ask me how I feel about the future of e-books since I plan on being a book editor. I told them I’m not worried because writing in any form will always need editing.

If e-books are the future, it only makes sense that you could download the Bible to your tablet or smartphone.

This week, I started an editing internship with Olive Tree Bible Software, which specializes in helping people “connect with God and the Bible via technology.” The company produces various translations and versions of the Bible as well as study resources like commentaries and devotionals.

Off the website, customers can download Olive Tree BibleReader, an application for every major platform that allows you to organize your library of electronic Bibles and study materials. Think iTunes. It’s free to download and then you load it up with your purchases. It is entirely searchable and allows for easy note-taking and highlighting… almost like real books.

Here’s a video (also produced by Olive Tree) introducing the BibleReader for Windows, which recently came available:

In the 1450s, Johann Gutenberg looked pretty cool printing his Bible with a moveable type printing press. He set each letter by hand. Now publishing Bibles doesn’t require letter blocks, a press, ink, or even paper. Doesn’t that sound crazy? To publish and distribute Bibles today, a company just needs a software engineer, a computer, and probably lots of coffee.

If you’ve jumped on the e-book bandwagon, you might as well know Gutenberg did, too. You know, a few hundred years after he died. You can find free e-books (most of which have expired copyrights) at Project Gutenberg. The website is the “first and largest single collection of free electronic books.” It could be worth a look.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Publishers

 

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