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God in the Silence

Silence. It’s sort of a mixed bag. For instance, when I’m trying to study, I need silence. I used to be able to listen to music and study at the same time. Things have changed. I need silence in order to get things done. As parents, when do we worry about what’s going on with our kids the most? When it suddenly gets real quiet in the house. As the father of two kids ages 7 and 3, I experience this on a fairly regular basis. My wife and I don’t interpret the quietness as inactivity, quite the opposite. We are aware that there may be some things happening that should give us reason for concern. When the kids are playing loudly, or even fighting, we know what’s going on and there is an element of comfort that we gain by the noise.

For many of us, we come to our spiritual experience and even life experience with the sense that there has to be some noise for us to feel that things are OK. However, silence seems to lend itself to a great deal of anxiety. Unlike how we interpret the silence of our small children, we tend to interpret the silence of God as inactivity on His part. This assumption, however, is not reality.

Recently, I re-read the account of Joseph and besides determining that it is in fact one of my favorite stories in all of Scripture, I was reminded of the great contrasts in his life as compared to his father Jacob, grandfather Isaac and great-grandfather Abraham. Those three men all had something in common — very clear and precise promises from God. When you read the book of Genesis, you see some of the character flaws in all three of the aforementioned patriarchs, but you really have to dig to see anything in the life of Joseph that remotely resembles a flaw (I’m not suggesting he was perfect) and when you do think you’ve found something, you’re not 100% about it. However, the most striking contrast in his life when placed alongside his forefathers is this...silence. God spoke to Abraham on several occasions. God spoke to Isaac and to Jacob.

Yet, as you scour the last one-third of the book of Genesis which deals with the life of Joseph, you have no hint that God spoke to him in the way that He had to the patriarchs. In fact, Joseph seems to go through some terribly painful things without even a clue that God saw what was going on, much less cared about what was happening to Him. Let’s face it, most of us would have concluded in bitter anguish after being sold off by our own family members into slavery that God didn’t care. Then after being falsely accused of making advances toward Potiphar’s wife, which landed him in an Egyptian prison, you would expect that somehow God would show up and tell poor Joseph to hold on because he would eventually promote him to be the number two guy in the nation, but God didn’t. What did He do? The Lord stayed silent and didn’t speak to Joseph about it. And, by the time Joseph interprets the dreams of the butler and baker only to be forgotten about by the butler to seemingly waste away in an Egyptian prison, you might think that if God doesn’t speak to him now, then it would be safe for Joseph to not only assume that God doesn’t care, but that God didn’t exist at all.

Unfortunately, we make the very bad mistake of assuming that silence on God’s part means that He’s inactive, uncaring and worse, not there! Joseph, in all he went threw,
never jumped to such a ridiculous conclusion. Instead, we find a man who, in the middle of what seemed to be silent injustice served upon the innocent, stood by God in complete faithfulness. Joseph remained true to God from Potipher’s house to the penitentiary, and at just the right time God brought him out of his painful crisis and caused him to see a plan that was larger than him. So big was this plan that he was able say with forgiving confidence to his brothers And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Gen. 45:5 - NIV)

Joseph didn’t understand what was going on in the silence, but he eventually saw that there was
something going on and that silence didn’t mean inactivity on God’s part. He never allowed the “negative” stuff to make him bitter; he just trusted God no matter what happened (or didn’t happen).

Oh, and the dreams Joseph had in Genesis 37 (dreams that God gave him) where the stalks of wheat bowed down to his stalk of wheat, and then the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed down to him, all came true.

My Move to the Mac and Accordance Bible Software

One of my hobbies is computers. I like what they can do and certainly how they have helped me in my ministry and in everyday life.

I first started using a computer in 1994 when I was hired to work in a mailroom. I had no clue even how to turn a computer on and thought explosions could occur if left alone with one. However, the IT person was very patient and assured me that I wasn’t going to mess anything up. As I sat down in front of a Mac Quadra I was struck by how cool the MacOS interface was at the time. My introduction to computers was not on a PC, but on a Mac. That having been said, I ended up buying a PC for personal use and from there on in, I dove into the world of computers tinkering with this part or that, upgrading memory, hard drives, software, etc.

As a pastor the challenge had been to effectively and efficiently research my resources to be able to find exactly what I needed. The time looking often outweighed the actual time of study or reading. I soon realized that Bible software was the way to go and I somehow stumbled on Quickverse 3. I was soon compiling notes and sermons on the computer and the time to actually find what I needed was cut down greatly so I could study more and broaden the scope of my study. I used Quickverse all the way up to version 7. However, somewhere in the midst of version 7, Parson’s was sold to FindEx and it was the beginning of what I believed to be the dumbing down of my favorite PC Bible Study Software. Version 8 for me was a disaster and I soon headed for Logos Bible Software.

Logos had been around for a long time and seemed to have a big following. At the time I moved to Logos, they were coming out with the Libronix Digital Library System (LDLS). This took some getting used to and there was a definite learning curve. I spent a lot of time moving my notes from Quickverse to Logos (that’s right copying and pasting). However, I never would come to feel as strongly for Logos’ software as I had Quickverse (honestly, anything above Quickverse 4 was also a step in the wrong direction - in my opinion). Maybe it was that Quickverse had been my introduction to the power, speed and efficiency of Bible Study on the computer as opposed print.

I came to find that Logos had enormous amounts of resources and I would use the LDLS right up until version 3 came on the scene. The frustration mounted that some of the things I could do with my own personal notes in Quickverse 4, were note so easily handled in LDLS or even Quickverse 5-7 for that matter. Creating notes and being able to search them was a big deal to me. I guess it’s because they are uniquely mine and was often the basis of a future sermon. It seemed that any kind of notes feature within LDLS was more of an afterthought and they were not searchable in any kind of way.

It was right about this time that more than one virus had wiped out my data. On one occasion, I even had an anti-virus program with updated definitions. It told me I had a virus, but it neither prevented it nor could it clean it. At this point, Apple Stores were popping up all over the place, and I decided to take the plunge. I bought one, tried it out and then returned it. Bought another one, then returned that one. It would be about a year before I finally got completely fed up with the PC and got a Powerbook. I never looked back. I suppose my indecision over the Mac was simply the fact that I had put some money into Bible Study software on the PC that I wouldn’t be able to use anymore. Virtual PC was around, but mind-numbingly slow, so I had to find Bible software that was native to the Mac.

I ended up at the Accordance Bible Software website. I started with the Introductory version and purchased my preferred translation. Opening up the software, I could see right away it was different than all the other Bible software I had used. It took some getting used to and there was a learning curve. Honestly, isn’t there with most things that are new and unfamiliar to you? Anyway, my big beef with the PC Bible software had been the fact that the notes feature seemed to be an afterthought and you couldn’t do much with it. Not so with Accordance. My standard had been Quickverse 4 on a PC, but almost every other Bible Study annotation feature after QV4 on the PC, including the subsequent versions of Quickverse seemed to be an add-on in which you could make notes, read them, copy and paste them, but you couldn’t search them. I realize grading Bible Software for any platform based on its notes capabilities may not seem to be as noble as its handling of Greek and Hebrew resources, but after building a fairly extensive notes file, I wanted my notes to be part of my Bible Study experience. When Accordance landed on my Powerbook, it outdid every other Bible software for Mac or PC by giving me the ability to create user notes that could be searched (for essentially anything). And, there was the ability to create a User Tool as well, which could be your own work or a public domain work, and this too would be a completely searchable module. So a separate database of my sermons preached over the years, became a module that was integrated with all my other resources. To me, this was extremely useful. Here I am 4 years later using Accordance 8 for pretty much every aspect of Bible Study and sermon preparation.

I realize that Logos came out with their Mac offering and I cross-graded from my Windows version. There are lots of resources, but you can’t do much with them. Oh, and no notes in the Mac version. Quickverse is no longer a player in my mind for Windows or Mac (and they have both versions too). There’s WordSearch and they have their engine running on a Mac under the X11 environment using WINE. They have good resources too, but it’s not a native to the Mac. I have them all (except for Quickverse), but my only choice (daily) is Accordance. They don’t have as many “resources” as other companies, but then again they don’t actually count their resources the same way as others do. Additionally, they have some “resources” or “modules” as they call them, that other companies do not have. Oddly enough, what pulled me to the Mac environment was the announcement by Logos that they would have a Mac version of their software within about 6 months of the announcement. After 2 years they still hadn’t produced the Mac version. It was during that time that I found Accordance. So, I look at it that Logos helped bring me to using a Mac, while Accordance gave me reason to continue using the Mac.

So, when it comes to Bible Software for your daily use, my recommendation is always, get a Mac and use Accordance. This program alone is reason enough to move to a Mac and stay with it.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, the only virus in my household from time to time is... a cold!