All Things Work for Good?

I got to preach from my favorite Bible passage on August 2017. If you’ve ever struggled with believing God loves you, this message is for you! 🙂 Below is a recording of the sermon as well as the English manuscript.

All Things Work for Good?

My favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:28. It goes like this: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

I can’t remember when it became my favorite, but I do remember why. As an anxious young person, that verse was a great comfort whenever I was afraid of a bad outcome.

Before taking important tests, before violin auditions or sports tryouts, before applying for school or jobs, before nerve-wracking interviews, before asking a girl out, before difficult conversations and major decisions, I could pray and remind myself that for those who love God, all things–including the possible undesirable outcomes–work together for good.

So all I had to do was love God…and go crazy doing everything I possibly could to ensure that I got the outcome I wanted.

Sometimes things would go well. When they didn’t, I could attribute it to God’s will and trust that it would work for my good. This was my way of practicing the saying, “pray as if everything depends on God, work as if everything depends on you.” It was a form of therapy, a way to let go of negative things outside of my control by believing something better was on it’s way.

As Christians we can be conditioned to always look for ways God is turning unwanted circumstances for good. But, as I’m sure many of you can attest, life does not always follow this pattern.

Eventually, you hit a stretch, a prolonged season of trials, disappointments, hurts, failures and defeats. A season of doubting God’s love. A season that feels like it will not end until it contradicts and crushes your formerly childlike faith.

This season began for me about four years ago.

Weathering the seasons of doubt

To keep a long story short, about four years ago, I believe God called me (and confirmed it through trusted friends and family), to leave my job as a software engineer at Amazon in order to start a technology company that would make God its customer. A company that would obsess over God’s desires and work backwards to invent products that would aim to fulfill those desires.

It was like a voice saying, “Chris, I want you to leave your job and devote your attention to the purpose I have called you to and trust in me to provide for you.”

And so I did. I co-organized an event bringing together Christian technologists to use their tech skills to build solutions to Kingdom challenges. We launched Ceaseless, a free smartphone app that helps people pray for others by showing them three contacts to pray for each day. I built spf.io the real time translation solution my grandma is using to get this message in Indonesian right now, believing that it would help churches reflect the multilingual glory of God’s Kingdom.

Yes, by God’s grace we’ve accomplished many things, but what is the #1 thing a business needs?

Paying customers.

And this was the great struggle. We certainly had fans who were supportive of our mission, but paying customers were scarce.

I wanted to trust that God would provide, but many times it felt like I was providing for myself. It felt like I was being faithful and giving my best to serve God’s purpose only to find that seeking “the Kingdom” first wasn’t working.

Maybe it isn’t more blessed to give than to receive. Maybe God won’t bless and establish the works of our hands. Maybe God called me to failure to humble me. Or to mimic ancient Israel’s grumbling: Maybe God brought me into the wilderness to kill me.

When everything feels hopeless, Romans 8:28 can become a forgettable platitude instead of a strong comfort.

Today, I’m using my story in conversation with Romans 8 as an example, but the real aim is to help all of us remember and rejoice in the hope of the Gospel, so that in the most difficult circumstances we are facing or will face, we can praise God for His unfailing love and obey Him.

I think sometimes we feel far from God, not because God is far from us or doesn’t “get us,” but because we don’t “get him”. The Bible helps us to “get him”, so that instead of assuming we know God, we get to have the heart to heart conversation with God that we need. And not just a one-way, “I’m pouring out my guts to you God” conversation, but also the “I’m listening…oh, so that’s what’s on your heart…I see”

What are we hoping for anyway?

So let’s read through Romans 8 beginning with verse 14.

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

A little commentary here: Paul has explained the new identity in Christ we receive as a free gift, and the holy living it creates by the Spirit (as opposed to the law, which could only condemn). The spirit of slavery to sin controls us through the fear of condemnation and death.

The Spirit of God whom we receive by faith casts out fear and testifies that we are God’s children. This includes the intimacy of crying out to our Dad as well as the regal privilege of inheriting everything that belongs to Him, namely all of Creation.

But God’s promise and inheritance come with suffering. God’s children suffer with Christ because suffering is the prerequisite to glory.

Let’s continue with verses 18 to 25.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

So first Creation is groaning. Adam’s sin subjected Creation to futility and decay–it can’t fulfill its purpose, its full potential. Creation desperately wants to be set free, so it eagerly awaits the revelation of the glorified children of God, those who are to rule Creation, so that it can be unleashed to its full glory also.

Second, we are groaning. Why do we groan? Well, it’s not because someone told a bad joke. It’s because we’re in pain. Creation is in the pains of childbirth and we are in the pains of waiting for the day of our adoption when we will attain the full rights and privileges of being children of God, a major one being immortality, eternal life, the redemption of our mortal bodies for new glorified ones.

This is the payoff. This is what we’ve been waiting for. This is why we put our faith in Jesus.

Why were we justified by Christ’s blood? Why were we saved from the wrath of God? Why were we reconciled by Christ’s death and saved by his life? It was for this, getting in on this resurrection from the dead is what the Apostle Paul and us have been hoping for all along.

Let me restate it. We are hoping and eagerly waiting for the day when God will restore and glorify all of Creation, beginning with us, his children, who are to inherit the New Creation and rule it with Christ.

Paul is lifting our sights here to show us why our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. He zooms out to a cosmic scale, stretching our imagination and making us think bigger and bigger in order to feel the vast scope of God’s redemption, so that we get why the groaning and waiting is worth it.

When we’re clobbered by our circumstances, we need to Think Big. We need to zoom out and think about the Big Picture of God’s redemption. Don’t shift from the hope of the Gospel. One of the mistakes I often make is to shift from the Big Picture hope to the small. I interpret Romans 8:28 in light of my immediate circumstances and shift my hope from receiving a resurrection body in the new creation to a particular relationship, a financial breakthrough, defeating an adversary, a miraculous healing, etc.

If I shift my hope and get disappointed, I end up doubting God’s love and God’s goodness. I try to clobber the circumstance into a lesson learned. I try to psychologize why the bad circumstances are actually good. I get obsessed expecting that God must do the impossible in my life (for his glory of course!) only to feel utterly let down when he doesn’t.

Even if I get what I want, shifting my hope is dangerous because I get comfortable thinking I must be in God’s will because of my successful circumstances and so in love with the comforts of this world, I stop hoping for the Kingdom of God.

Keep your eyes on the prize. Don’t shift from the hope of the Gospel.

Getting the help we really need

Now on to verses 26-30.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

So we read earlier that Creation groans for the glory, that we ourselves groan for the glory, and now we read that God’s Spirit groans with us.

I have a friend who likes to end every phone call with, “Brother, is there anything I can do for you?” and it’s funny because most of the time it catches me off guard and I just think of something he can pray for me.

If God were to ask, “Is there anything I can do for you?” I’m sure we would blurt out quite a few ideas, but pretty soon the breadth of our requests would be so overwhelming, we would be too weak to think, much less say them all.

And here is where the Spirit comes to our aid, groaning with us and turning our groans into intercessory prayers that God fully understands. You have a Comforter who fully empathizes with your inexpressible pain and expresses it to God for you. Think about that.

How we know God absolutely loves us

And now we come to my favorite verse Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Why? Why do we know this? In Romans 5, Paul wrote, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is a past reality that assures us of God’s love.

But in Romans 8, we read about the future reality that assures us of God’s love: God predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son. Keep in mind, this image is not just character, it’s a full likeness that includes an immortal resurrection body. We will be with Jesus and we will be like Jesus biologically as well as spiritually.

This is why we know all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who love God’s Son, for those who love the future God has prepared for them. It is a future so certain, Paul writes about the progression as if it has already happened: “Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Now Paul knows that some people may still have doubts.

“What if this glorious future does not apply to me?”

“What if I sin and fall out of God’s favor?”

“What if someone or something powerful attacks me to prevent God’s good purpose for me?”

“What if my life falls apart and everything goes bad? Does that mean I’m separated from God’s love? Does it mean God’s purpose for me failed or wasn’t good after all?”

He immediately addresses these doubts in verses 31-38

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This is Paul’s response to any lingering doubts that God loves you.

First, God has proven that he is for us, not against us. God gave up his Son for us all, how could he ever be against you? On the contrary, he is so for you, that he will give you everything along with his Son.

Second, sin could separate us from God’s love, but God has already declared us just and Christ, the very person who was condemned for our sins, lives and continues to pray for our salvation with complete authority. Any accusations against us would defy God’s righteous judgment that we are justified and any condemnation for sin has already been fully exhausted on Christ–there is no condemnation left for those in Christ Jesus.

And lastly, suffering circumstances cannot separate us from the love of Christ. The Gospel teaches that we are fundamentally inseparable from Christ who loved us. He is in us and we are in Him and we are one. So, it is impossible for suffering–even the worst kind–to cut us off from his love. Whenever it tries, Christ in us makes us more than conquerors and the circumstances are overturned for our good instead.

Nothing in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Conclusion

So what happens when we are absolutely convinced that God loves us?

Take a moment and think about that. In the hard trials you or someone you love are facing, what happens when you’re absolutely convinced that God loves you?

I’ll close with some of the things I thought of:

When we are absolutely convinced that God loves us, we stop going crazy trying to figure out how all things work together for good when they really feel like they aren’t. We stop interpreting negative circumstances and suffering as evidence that God doesn’t love us. We stop blaming ourselves for our failures and circumstances. We stop blaming God for our circumstances.

And what do we start doing?

We start to love God for giving us everything to ensure we are glorified with Christ. We start to love our neighbors as ourselves hoping that they too will share in our future inheritance in the New Creation. We start to rejoice in our sufferings because we finally believe they just aren’t worth comparing with our future glory. We start to identify with Christ as closely as he identifies with us in everything: the terrific, the terrible and even the mundane. And lastly, we start producing an abundance of good works because we simply can’t contain our eagerness for God’s good Kingdom to come.

And that is why Romans 8 is my favorite text.

What Have I Been Up to Lately?

It’s been awhile since my last post, so here’s an update on one major thing I’ve been working on lately. My company TheoTech, built spf.io, a product that provides AI-assisted real time captions and translations of live events.

You plug in audio from the soundboard, spf.io converts sound to text, translates it and distributes subtitles/captions to people’s smartphones.

This past weekend, we used it to run everything from slide projection and video playback (NO Propresenter or Powerpoint needed!), to of course real time English captions and Spanish translation. One speaker even controlled slides from her smartphone without any training!

It was an exciting milestone. Seeing the product mature enough to handle everything was particularly gratifying.

Many people ask how to pronounce spf.io and what it means. Here’s the story behind the name [the rest of this post was originally posted on the spf.io site].

How it all started

Many years ago I took a class on entrepreneurship. We formed teams to write a business plan and pitched it at the end of the quarter. The iPhone had just revolutionized the world so my team pitched a real time translation app.

The problem was that pitches can be pretty boring without a product demo. You can talk about the problem and market opportunity but unless your audience experiences the solution, it’s all theoretical. So I decided to build a “minimum viable prototype” or MVP.

My MVP was a powerpoint slide with the picture of an iPhone in landscape mode. I scripted an introduction in Indonesian and put the English translation in the picture of the iPhone. Kind of lame, I know. But then I added animation so that the text would appear character by character.

I memorized what I wanted to say, practiced the timing a few times, and presto! A magical demo.

On the night of the pitch, I nervously walked up to the front, took a deep breath and started speaking in Indonesian so my audience could feel the confusion.

Then I advanced the slide.

An early prototype of spf.io

Suddenly, the English translation appeared, in sync with my speech in the giant iPhone mockup projected behind me. The class erupted with cheers and applause.

Despite my “smoke and mirrors” prototype, they were impressed and delighted to “understand” my language.

A better way to do translation?

Fast forward several years later to the inception of spf.io.

We were feeling the painful drag of doing bilingual worship services at my church. Service lengths were doubled and people were tuning out half the time, hearing a language they didn’t understand–or worse, hearing the exact same thing twice!

There had to be a better way.

Then I remembered what I did for the business class. Even though my MVP felt silly, I realized that my audience loved it and that it actually worked! They didn’t care that it was scripted, they loved the experience and my presentation became “performance art”.

So I built a prototype for my church to make it easy for the pastor to upload his manuscript and project the translation on screen, in sync with what he said. I called it the “Synchronous Presentation Framework”. (I’m a nerd, I know).

I used the internet to keep everything in sync so the pastor could release his manuscript from an iPad and the translation would appear on screen. I also built a mobile view so people could follow along on their smartphones in the language they preferred.

That’s when I bought the domain name spf.io. I wanted to keep it short to make it easy to type on a phone. I also wanted it to not mean anything in any language to avoid problems down the line.

What spf.io means

In the beginning, I kept spelling “s-p-f-i-o” out literally until my co-founder pronounced it “spiffy-oh” one day. It felt right and the name stuck around ever since.

When people see “spf.io”, they may feel confused about what to call it, but when they hear it pronounced “spiffy-oh” it suddenly makes sense and that tiny moment of understanding brings a smile to their face–a moment that mimics the joy we hope to spread through our product.

So what does “spf.io” mean? Technically, it means “synchronous presentation framework,” but I hope one day it means “the joy you feel when you finally understand someone for the first time”.

What spf.io can do today

A screenshot of spf.io in landscape mode, showing a slide with subtitles overlaid.

Spf.io has come a long way from the early prototypes.

We now support automatic captioning of live speech, automatic translations into more than 60 languages, automatic slide translation and much more. We also enable humans to intervene at any time to keep quality high.

All of this is carefully designed to create a simple and seamless experience for your audience. They just visit a url, select their language and get translation on their mobile device. They can even hear the translations read to them!

It doesn’t get much easier than that.

——

If you made it this far, thanks for reading! Would you or someone you know like to try our product? Drop us a line today to get started: https://spf.io.

Untangling 10 Life Assumptions

My twenties have been a season of un-learning assumptions about life. Here are ten I’m untangling:

1. emotions and truth. It’s tempting to believe something is true because of how deeply we feel about it or that it is false because we don’t feel strongly about it. Deep emotional experiences are not indicators of truth, although they often accompany powerful expressions of truth. Emotions must be tested as much as facts to see if they are true.

2. success and love. Success is no indicator of love or the lack thereof. They are completely separate. Love cannot be earned or lost, success can. Seeking love through success brings anxiety and depression. Believing you are loved makes success a fun day at the beach instead of an existential crisis.

3. ignorance and fear. Ignorance doesn’t have to produce fear. Fear obscures truth by belittling or exaggerating the unknown (i.e. I don’t know it, so it must not be important OR I don’t know it so I’m probably going to completely fail). Do not fear the unknown, fear God and explore the unknown.

4. passivity and God’s will. Don’t think something is an indicator of God’s will simply because it happened outside of your control. Being passive is not a way to discern God’s will, it is a way to hide behind your fears. Your actions are as much a part of God’s will as the actions of others, so don’t discount it in your prayerful discernment.

5. parsimony and frugality. Saving money is good. Not spending money is not necessarily good. There are things you should gladly spend money for and there are things you should gladly withhold money from. Which is which requires judgement.

6. acceptance and trust. Someone may accept, welcome, encourage, help and praise (i.e. flatter) you, but it does not mean you can trust them. Trust is built through trials, conflicts and vulnerable experience. Acceptance can be given or taken away on a whim.

7. rejection and self-rejection. Rejection is usually not your fault nor is it a reflection of your worth. People are usually self-focused and their own circumstances and values are often bigger factors than your actions. So don’t beat yourself up if you are rejected…rejecting yourself does not help.

8. perfectionism and responsibility. Perfectionism says that if you’re perfect you can’t be rejected and conversely if something fails, it must be your fault. That assumption is false. First you’re not perfect, second even if you (or your work) was perfect, you could still be rejected for it for no fault of your own. The world often runs off favors, advantage, envy and image rather than truth or righteousness. So relax. Accept responsibility for your part and relax about the rest.

9. responsibility and reward. Many times you will not be rewarded for taking responsibility. Sometimes this is because life is unfair, other times it’s because you missed something (i.e. you make a great app, but nobody uses it because you didn’t market it). If you want to be rewarded in this life, you need to pay attention to the mechanisms for turning your effort into reward; you cannot not take responsibility for this part. However, you can be free from a lot of stress if you also humbly believe God will take care of it eventually.

10. merit and grace. Human effort matters, but grace is real too. Sometimes after experiencing grace we want everything to be given so freely because it is such a relief and seems to be so obviously of God. Then we confront situations where grace does not seem to be operative…nothing happens unless we make it happen or nothing changes period. Instead of wanting everything to be one or the other, patiently live with both. Some things are accomplished by God’s grace alone. Some things are also accomplished by our effort. Life is both and that back and forth is how we experience Jesus’ life lived through us.

I hope some of these disentanglements are helpful for you (they are admittedly easier said than done). Feel free to share more in the comments below!

App Review: Accordance Bible Software

At TheoTech, we have three Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) that exemplify the need for technology entrepreneurship for the Gospel:

  1. Personal prayer for everyone on earth
  2. Thriving, Ubiquitous Multilingual Churches
  3. Worldwide Biblical Literacy

Each goal stems from a Biblical mandate with a contemporary flair rooted in technology’s leverage and scale. We’re pursuing BHAGs #1 and #2 through Ceaseless and spf.io, but haven’t done as much for #3.

So when my friend David Sanford at Accordance Bible Software gave me a free review copy of their English Learner Collection, I was delighted to give it a try and see what’s already happening in this space.

My Bible Study Background

I got hooked on the Bible as a pre-teen, putting the book on my nightstand to remind me to read a passage before going to bed. In middle school I got a Dell Axim PDA and discovered the useful Pocket e-Sword app. This got me reading on the bus. My favorite feature was seeing different translations like the ESV and The Message in parallel.

During my college days I devoured podcasts from Ravi Zacharias, John Piper, RC Sproul and Chuck Swindoll, listening to their teaching during the long commutes. And as a student leader in Cru at the University of Washington, I often referred to Blue Letter Bible and BibleGateway to prepare Bible studies.

Then came the Bible app. By this time I had switched to an Android phone which didn’t have Pocket e-Sword, so I tried the Bible app and stuck to it for two reasons: 1) my notes were synced to the cloud, 2) the daily reading plans were built-in. To this day, I miss viewing translations in parallel and having quick access to commentary resources. I don’t care much for the activity feed/social features.

Which leads to this review of my first real experience with professional Bible software.

Review: Accordance Bible Software

I have a confession to make: It’s been a long time since I’ve done an in-depth Bible study of a text. Though I read for personal and devotional reasons nearly every day, I rarely need to prepare a Bible study, sermon or paper. Most of my recent talks have been focused on the intersection of God’s Kingdom and technology and hence, I’ve leaned away from word studies to working with passages and themes.
Accordance Bible Software

So without further ado, here’s my experience using Accordance as a complete novice.

Installation

I received a link to download the English Learner Collection, entered my key and was greeted with this installer. 705MB of resources! Not too shabby, but I had to wait awhile before I could start using it.

Installation was simple, but it took awhile to download all the resources.

First Impressions

I looked up Ecclesiastes 4 and researched the word “toil”. The Research panel opened on the right showing me the definition. So many words are hyperlinked, which makes it convenient to look up related materials, but I also found my curiosity taking over and leading me down Wikipedia-like rabbit trails. I suppose getting lost in the Bible isn’t a bad thing :).

Looking up the word “toil”.
Diving into “toil” in the original language.
Worship leaders could find this hymn lyrics search useful.

After poking around for a few minutes, two things came up on my wishlist:

  1. I wish I could hear the original language words spoken in Hebrew/Greek by tapping on it.
  2. I wish I could have this on my mobile phone since that’s where I do most of my Bible study nowadays.

 

Word Study

I decided to dive deep into the word “reward”. First stop, the Hebrew lexicon. First discovery: the name Issachar means “there is reward”.

While taking a screenshot on my mac, I discovered that holding the command key while hovering over a word conveniently shows details in the instant detail view.

I clicked on the scripture reference and the instant detail view gave the context for the use of “Issachar”.

Average hits for the word “reward” in each book of the Bible.

Next I tried the “Simple Construct” workspace and stumbled on an analysis view that gave several visualizations to see where words appear in Scripture.

I was surprised to find that “reward” occurs relatively frequently in 2 John, but it turned out to be an anomaly because the book is so short.

A sophisticated analysis tool, which I need more training to understand how to use.

Parallel View

Next I looked up 1 John 5:6 to see if comparing different translations would shed light on the tricky passage.

Unfortunately, my English Learner Collection didn’t come with the translations I wanted to compare, so this view may not be useful unless you buy additional translations.

Also, the comparison view begins as a diff (showing you what words were added/removed between each translation), which makes it hard to read.

The parallel view was difficult to read by default because it shows the differences between each translation. Unchecking “Compare” makes it more readable.

Readability

Speaking of readability, it turns out that the app has a nifty reading mode (shortcut ^R) which makes the text fill the screen.


You can also pop out the instant details widget and put it close to the words you are looking up.

Note Taking

The last thing I tried was creating a note based on my study of the text.

This step is where I realized that although jumping from resource to resource satisfied my curiosity, I needed to pause and simply meditate on the text. The application puts a lot of information at your fingertips, but you still need to stop and think to make something of it.

 

Conclusion

After using Accordance for an hour, I noticed that the tool was leading me to pay closer attention to words, to ask questions about syntax and grammar, to explore inter-textual relationships and to probe. I found myself slowing down and trying to pronounce Hebrew words while reading verses in English. And I found the interface to be easy to explore with many features discoverable by simply clicking around.

I think people seeking an intuitive way to explore the Bible in its original languages will find Accordance very accessible and useful.

However, not being a biblical scholar or pastor by profession, I’m not sure how often I would turn to these tools and resources for personal devotions. Oftentimes the rich resources resulted in more questions than I had time to research.

This curiosity-driven exegesis was enjoyable, but I didn’t reach the point where the app helped me interpret the text and synthesize its implications for my life or others. Perhaps I simply need to spend more time learning the relative value of the different resources and how to use them effectively.

With regard to the goal of Worldwide Biblical Literacy, I think the biggest win would be having the Instant Detail View on my phone (Accordance has an iOS app, but I use Android) along with Strong’s numbers linked to foreign language translations.

The ability to tap on a word and study the underlying Greek or Hebrew and see where else it is used can go a long way to understanding the Bible more precisely. Having it widely available for the majority world (in their language!) on mobile devices would be transformative (Note: it seems like Accordance hosted several seminars in Asia in 2011 2016, see links in comments).

Of course, ultimately Biblical literacy means going beyond understanding Scripture accurately to believing and obeying it and for that we must rely on the Holy Spirit :).

You can learn more about Accordance at accordance.bible and thanks to David for the review copy of the software.

Marathon Faith

Marathon faith takes blood, sweat and tears,
But those who give up cannot master their fears.

For the twisting and turning,
the bruising and burning
Sensations all mean that your training
Is gaining the traction you need
To make it, not fake it, to finish the race.

Milestones are there to keep your head high,
Eyes fixed on the prize though it’s still out of sight.
They don’t seem like much, but point to your hope–
A benchmark, a pacer so your heart won’t grow cold
While you still have the power to fight, not to fold.

And what of the pain and injuries too?
Keep walking or crawling and moving on through.
Your joints will heal if you do what is right.
They’ll get straighter and stronger, turn your weakness to might.

And what of the burdens that weigh your heart down?
In casting them off your solution is found.
You don’t need to carry these things from the past,
Keep your eyes on the prize and move–fast fast fast!

And when disappointment leads to hopeless despair,
just lift up your gaze–
See? You are almost there!

Where thousands of faces are cheering you on,
They knew that you’d make it, since they’d already gone.

As the judge, the true champion, crowns you with honor,
He speaks holy words prepared for that hour:

“This child of mine has finished his race.
I crown him with life in my holy place.

This glory I give to all of my own,
So all of Creation will finally know
The fullness of splendor it has only glimpsed,
In seed and in sorrow, a few humble hints,
While his life seemed failed and far far below
Standards of living and standards of wealth,
A foolish exchange that cost him his health–
Or so it would seem to those who don’t know
That one day everyone will reap what they sow.

My child you have sown with all of your might
And gave your life for the Kingdom of Light.
So my grace sustained you through fear and through foe
Until this day on which I will show
Why it was worth it,
Why it was so.”

He lifts his gaze a burnishing beam,
Brighter than your happiest dreams–
“My beloved son, my holy one:
Job well done!
Race well won!
Enter my joy, my boy.
Enter my joy.”