May 2009 be a blessed year under God!
Now, the blessing: A few weeks ago, I made an astonishing discovery, one that, by the grace of God, is now presented as a Christmas 2008 blessing to the churches and people of the Caribbean:
e-Sword.(For those who long ago found out about this amazing free-for-download Bibles and Bible resources software and have been quietly using it all along, I know I am late to the party; very late! But, that is even more true for 99.9+% of the people of our region. The ones who have not found out about it yet. And, I have a few things in mind . . .)
As the publisher, Rick Meyers -- and if you can, generously bless him with prayers and financial support for such a wonderful extremely high value for money blessing to the churches and peoples of the world -- sums up, e-Sword is: a fast, effective way to study the Bible, using modern database technologies [actually, it uses Microsoft Access database . . . for those who can hack this stuff].
The software provides dozens of Bible translations [including Hebraic roots and Hebrew ones] and original language tools, with supportive Dictionaries, encyclopedias, commentaries, STEP Reader support, and a host of books etc presented as Topic Notes. (You can also make your own study notes as you work your way through Bible texts. Highlighting is also possible. And, a lot more.)
All, in one clean interface that allows instant access for verse by verse study. (How I remember having once had to travel all the way across Kingston to find a Commentary reference on one verse! No more!)
To get concrete:
--> My set-up for e-Sword has Barnes' Notes, Matthew Henry's full and concise commentaries, Adam Clarke, Young, Jamieson- Faussett- Brown, Wesley and Calvin all immediately to hand, among other free classic commentaries.And, much more.
--> I even have a Quran (though not in one of the three major translations; in an 1880s "Orientialist" translation). I access Muslim Student Association's 3-translations in parallel when I want to do a Quran reference. But an "on my PC" Quran is worth it too -- and the translation seems to be quite good. This is as a topic note
--> I could put up Hindu and Buddhist, Mormon etc. materials if I wanted. (BTW: if you need it I also ran across an obviously e-Sword-inpired full set of the Quran and Hadiths, in English, by a Croatian Muslim. Fat file, 6MB or so in Zip; so let me know if you need it for apologetics or other "tidal wave no 2" related ministry purposes. It's an exe file so your firewall may reject it when I email. No viruses or worms as far as I can see, though. No surprise: the Croatian was trying to do a service to God as best he knows him.)
--> I have also zipped most of my modules as a backup -- hard to keep up with fresh additions -- into a 200 + MB file. In other words, I am looking at about a Gigabyte of resources all told.
--> I guess we could eventually arrange to do a self-loading Caribbean e-Sword DVD with Mr Meyers. Any PC technology-savvy volunteers to help on that one?
--> Also, I have an unusual apparent Rastafarian text I ran across, the Holy Piby. [All you experts out there, could you help me on that one? What is it?] )
--> Oh, yes, I have Chesterton's Heresies and his Orthodoxy.
--> Not to mention, Machen's Christianity vs Liberalism and R A Torrey et al on The Fundamentals [1st 2 vols].
--> For illustration of my new approach to Bible Study: I have my four-column parallel mode set up to give me the ASV -- I prefer this ancestor to the NASB to the British RV -- as a basic reference in modern English; next, OT or NT in original Language with "hot" Strong's Heb/Gk numbering keyed into the relevant original language tools, and with KJV next to that. (I also have transliterations of the Heb and Gk text.)
--> Then I can pick my version of the moment for the fourth column: from Wycliffe's 1385 translation to Coverdale on and the Vulgate and Douai-Rheims all the way across to the New Jerusalem Bible. Good news Bible and other current translations too. (There are also resources in many other languages. Even saw a missionary trying for a Haitan Creole Bible.)
--> I have set up my new daily computer-based Bible reading scheme:  OT,  Gospel, Acts and Revelations, and  Epistles; in three different parallel cycles; using The New Jerusalem Bible -- which I have liked ever since I met it in 1st Form at Campion College -- as my preferred text. (NB: By paying for it I can have the 1984 NIV etc too. I have run across the 1978 NIV and the AMP as "free" resources, but the copyright status is a question on these. Do, please be cautious.)
-> NB: some of these extra non-e-Sword site resources are not self-loading. They require adding files manually to the e-Sword folder in program files. (Not for the faint of heart; but not rocket science either.)
--> Did I mention; e-Sword is also in Pocket PC version, and there are serious attempts to port it over to Linux and Mac? [Not for novices or the faint of heart, it seems. but the software is so important that I would recommend that you get an old reconditioned laptop for ~ US$ 300 - 350 or one of those student specials available from several major suppliers at US$ 400 - 500 or so and load it up with e-Sword.]
--> I have also now got major works like the Ante Nicene Fathers, Eusebius' History, Bede's History, Schaf's History, his work on the Creeds, Calvin's Institutes, Augustine's Confessions, the Didache, the Westminster Confessions, some Catechisms, and the like, as topic notes.
--> Even the old Catholic Encyclopedia and the equally veteran but still useful 1915 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. (A significant number of current as opposed to classic resources are also available, on a reasonable- fee- to- download basis.)
--> A useful Philosophical Dictionary
--> Strong's Greek in a Nutshell.
--> The 1828 Webster's Dictionary [a Bible dictionary in its own right . . . seems Webster also produced Bible resources] and several classic Bible Dictionaries, e.g. Smith's.
I even downloaded the 2008 CIA World Factbook as a graphics file, from the e-Sword site. (Useful; but I would love to see a World Missions survey as well.)
These resources come form three main sites, some utilities and some e-groups:
 the e-Sword Downloads pages. Just use the drop-down window at the top to see the various resources. this is for the easiest to download, install and use stuff. A good basic loadout.Altogether, I suspect I have well north of US$ 2,000 worth of Bible resources, accessed from a community that does not even have a full bookshop. As well as utilities that allow me to develop my own resources, in part by re-purposing existing materials. And that holds for in effect "anybody."
 David Cox's e-Sword resources page. Mr Cox is a fundamental -- as opposed to Evangelical --Baptist missionary in Mexico and maintains a considerable online theological and church resource library, of course reflective of his particular theological views. (I think he, too, is deserving of a bit of support! Even if you may not agree 100% with is theological perspectives. For that matter, across time I don't agree with my own older theological perspectives 100%!)
 Craig White's e-Sword library. This is not so extensive as Cox's site, but it is important as the easiest access to the next level of e-Sword: creation of our own resources. For, in that page we can find what seems to be the easiest to use e-Sword resource creator and editor, e-Sword MEd, i.e. Module Editor; which is designed to work with a Word Processor that generates Rich Text Format (rtf) or plain Text format files. Cox's tutorial is here.
 So, we can create and make available our own library of resources, which will be especially important to address the key gap I see in the material I have found to date: discipleship and reformation supportive materials. (I am working to port over my ABCD basic follow up course, and will also, DV port over the Why Not Now series from Caribbean Challenge 1999 - 2000, the Cell Leader's Manual, the Apologetics Primer, my Intro to Phil course, the Ethics and Development public lecture of 2002, and the Mars Hill Strategy materials, as well the missions worksheet, the MVAT Kit and One Stop Missions Shop resources, for starters.)
 Two key online resource user and developer support groups are at Yahoo Groups; eSword and e-Sword_Tools.
Now, on relevance.
Let's just say that just through discussing with people I have been seeing in the local public library, the Dan Brown type myths and misrepresentations [the link goes to Josh McDowell's book, availabel online] on the Christian Faith's credibility are gaining ever more traction, are becoming commonplace, increasingly accepted opinion. And, in such minds, the Christian church and the Bible is ever more being viewed as a discredited fraud.
Indeed, stuff from that real C2 gnostic fraud, the so-called Gospel of Peter, is apparently being presented on cable TV as if it were just as credible as an historical source as the provably C1 NT; allegedly "implicating" our Lord in a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene. (It seems to have now progressed far beyond "merely" being allegedly "married" to her. Behold the persuasive, deceptive power of of un-addressed heresy!)
Not to mention, we have the spectacle of this year's annual Christmas-time Newsweek anti-Christian outrage: an attempt to twist the scriptures to discredit those who use the Bible to object to the rapidly advancing Romans 1 style apostasy in and linked homosexualisation of our civilisation.
All, with the implication in train that those who stand on the Biblical teaching on God's creation order for human sexuality are hateful, Bible-twisting bigots who must be stopped, by force of law. Just as the racists eventually were through civil rights law. Indeed, the latest homosexualist slogan I have seen is the utterly unwarranted but plainly highly persuasive assertion that "gay is the new black."
(And in our region, in the name of stopping "stigma" against AIDS victims, we are presented with passionate appeals from senior medical and public health policy people, such as Dr George Alleyne [did you hear him on BBC Caribbean report?] that we "must" change our laws to in effect make them teach the legitimisation of sodomy. [NB: While there is a legitimate concern that we must not shun and hate the sinner, but help him including in finding treatment for the diseases of sin; that has nothing properly to do with the principled objection to behaviour and associated agendas that are objectively destructive to the society. If you doubt me on that destructiveness and danger, just look North.] )
Sorry if I just slightly spoiled your Christmas. (But then, the first Christmas was held under the threat of Herod's murderous rage, too . . .)
But, we have to face facts and challenges, before they get utterly out of hand. And we have to seize and hold the cultural initiative and high ground.
Not to mention, we now have in hand a powerful tool that we can use in discipling work and in capacity building for our people, the churches and the community.
Indeed, e-Sword has now joined Moodle and Tiki Wiki as core technologies for the Cybercollege campus that is now under initial stages of development, with a Caribbean regional campus and a North American Campus envisioned as the initial regional campuses to work with affiliated local community based microcampus centres.
For, we now have to create an informal Bible and Discipleship school, using resources that are instantly available and easily accessible to every teenager, every church member, every seminary student -- and indeed every pastor and Christian minister.
eSword offers us that capacity.
It is that important.
And that simple.
Why not now? Why not here? Why not us? END