What’s New In 2018…

Well, 2018 is finally here, and Studying With God is officially entering its third calendar year!

So, 2017 was an odd-year in many ways. I got in a bad car accident early on, which radically altered my day-to-day life for over 75% of the year. Now, it wasn’t all bad, and I learned a lot and was able to spend time with my parents, which was great.

Additionally, in Fall 2017 I started at Bible college (at Liberty University), and completed a couple courses. Now, 2018 will be slightly different, mainly because finances are a bit tighter overall, and I need to adjust my education spending.

I haven’t quite decided yet, but I may only be taking one class this Spring semester vs. two … my goal is to do around 15-20 credits annually (three semesters) but that can be tough. So I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be doing Liberty University-wise as the year starts.

Luckily, in December I finally took the plunge and got Logos 7 Gold, a Bible software program and library designed for serious Biblical study. I’ve gone through nearly half of the introductory video lessons for it, and it’s amazing. I may be doing some sort of topical writing/media as the year goes on, using that software. It’s being paid off on a monthly basis, so that’s another reason why I may reduce my Liberty class load (to lessen education costs overall).

Lastly, I plan to drastically cut back on book and video spending this year. I have dozens of things that are new/haven’t been covered yet, and I’m all set that way.

I want to thank everyone who has come by and followed the blog since early 2016, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you about Biblical movies, shows, books and translations for years to come!

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Thomas Nelson KJV Study Bible, Second Edition

I got this KJV study bible from Thomas Nelson back in late 2016, and I did so mainly because I saw it in a bookstore and liked how packed-full the pages were with notes, diagrams, charts and definitions of terms. There’s also a good deal of verse cross-references in the inner margin area, but I never really looked at that. I mainly just looked at word definitions and verse analysis text at the bottom of each page.

The hardcover edition which I got is far cheaper than the softcover/leather kind, and holds up well in terms of book spine condition even after months of use.

A study bible is a great way for a new Christian to have an all-in-one, quick-and-easy reference to terms, insights and topic descriptions that otherwise might be found only by referencing many books simultaneously (albeit in a more condensed form). Additionally, the authorship descriptions at the start of each book are very detailed and helpful too.

Unfortunately, after reading the entire New Testament using this (and doing so very slowly and methodically by using the definitions and explanatory text on each page), I found a few major issues with the study bible. For one thing, not all verses are covered at the bottom, and dozens of times I wanted to understand the wording/meaning more and there was nothing to look at. I could also say the same about word definitions, which many times are just absent.

The biggest issue for me is the questionable analysis text presented. Later in Revelation I believe the study notes say how such-in-such verse means that we should compensate preachers, and other verses talk about tithing — when none of these verses actually say that at all. This feels like a modern church commentary slapped on the KJV.

Self-Study Bible Course

Around this time last year I announced that I would be giving a self-study Bible book a shot, because of how inexpensive it was, and I wanted to see if real value could come from a straightforward book, vs. more expensive Bible courses.

During this past year however I decided to actually enroll in a Bible college, and follow that path, because I wasn’t feeling like my Christian education was formal/detailed enough (for if I ever wanted to dive into deeper Biblical subject matter). I shelved this book rather quickly as a result, and I only ever completed the first lesson.

Flash-forward to the end of 2017 and I decided it was time for me to review the guide, even if I hadn’t completed all of its content. Instead of doing all the questions, reading and memorization, I instead decided to just read the content, and then answers’ summaries at the end of each chapter. I figured that alone would give me a good enough grasp of whether or not this was a good studying tool.

Boy, I’m glad I never actually finished this book. By about Chapter 4 or 5 the horrible realization hit me — that this was a study guide written by a charismatic believer (Derek Prince, who I only looked into AFTER discovering this craziness). Charismatic followers believe the spiritual gifts the Apostles got are still in use today — speaking in tongues, laying on of hands to heal, etc.

In short, from Chapter 4 or so onward you are sometimes obviously and other times not so clearly indoctrinated into these weird teachings. I’m so glad I never finished this book, and I am going to throw this out when I get a chance, because it’s really that pointless. Avoid this nonsense at all costs.

Time Changer

I had never heard of this early 2000s Christian film until I came across a mention of it in an online preacher’s video … and surprisingly, Time Changer turned out to be a very good movie.

The story revolves around two seminary professors in 1890 having a disagreement over whether or not the teachings of Jesus should be taught, even if Jesus Himself is omitted from the conversation. The disagreeing professor urges the other to visit him late one evening, to show him something. The other reluctantly visits him, only to find that the urging professor claims to have build a time machine. The reluctant professor initially thinks it is a prank, but nevertheless, he goes along with it, as a doubter, and soon finds himself in the year 2000, but only for a few days at the most.

However, in that time the professor (who wishes to teach the message of Jesus even if it means not mentioning Him) learns very quickly how corrupt the world has become.

The acting is pretty good throughout the film, and even though the main character is portrayed almost childish and naive at times, I suppose that is how someone might behave if propelled forward a century where so little makes sense. The message presented to the audience is good, and on the whole the film is satisfying (and warrants repeat viewings).

The thing that stuck out with me the most though was the final scene, in which the music, editing and content makes you go, “Wow.”

Bamboo In Winter

Recently I watched a film about Christianity in oppressive Communist China, and I felt like it didn’t do a very effective job of showing the transforming nature of belief in Jesus Christ, or have a strong narrative regarding ordeals normal Christians dealt with in that country.

Bamboo In Winter, released in 1990 (on an obvious low budget and mere 58 minute runtime), focuses on the everyday Chinese resident and is set in a rural community, but at a time when cars and televisions are known to citizens — so maybe late 80s, early 90s.

The plot begins with a girl who is home from studying at a university, and enjoying her brief time with her father, a farmer (her mother passed away years earlier). She enjoys the familiar, slower-paced lifestyle, but fully expects to return to college, where she can study modern things she enjoys, like science, logic and topics like Darwinism. When a traveling preacher comes through town though, she humors her elderly grandmother by attending the service, and becomes enthralled with the teachings of the Bible. She asks the preacher one question after another, in an attempt to not only trip him up, but understand why he genuinely believes it’s the word of God.

Ultimately she has to decide between following the teachings of Jesus Christ or going along with what atheist China demands of its citizens, and she makes the difficult, life-altering choice, with minutes to spare before the credits roll.

It may not have the biggest budget, camera quality or best production values, but it certainly has heart, and very good acting throughout. I would definitely recommend this … and even better, it’s free on Amazon Prime.

Tares Among The Wheat And Bridge To Babylon

In these follow up videos to A Lamp In The Dark, the film series dives into the deep and rich history and controversy surrounding the non-Textus Receptus-based translations which all modern day translations are based upon. The second film — Tares Among The Wheat — carefully details how the two main manuscripts used for the basis of the non-TR came to be, and the mysteries surrounding them. For example, if it wasn’t bizarre enough that the primary text upon which the non-TR translations are based upon was being burned by monks in a random Catholic sanctuary (only to be saved at the last second by a random scholar over multiple visits spanning 15 years) … it’s even more bizarre to learn that a well-known and another respected ancient manuscript scholar of the time claimed the found document wasn’t old at all — but that he wrote the document in question years earlier, for royalty, as a gift!

From there a variety of people like Westcott and Hort are discussed — the two individuals largely responsible for the claimed “more accurate” Greek text that every non-KJV translation nowadays uses. The films do a wonderful and extremely detailed job explaining how these individuals thought, whose company they often kept, what their motivations were and the great lengths they went to promote whatever they were working on.

The third film goes even more in-depth with name after name from the 1800s onward, detailing just how complex and widespread the coordinated attack against the Word of God (and the KJV specifically, since the reformation) has become and how it has intensified in recent centuries. The one complaint I have with Bridge to Babylon? The large amount of screen time devoted to James White, an author of a book criticizing the KJV. While I do believe the film includes him to give balance to the narrative, so watchers are aware that the filmmakers know of other opinions, his multiple appearances are confusing if you don’t pay close attention. That’s not a guy on the side of truth.

There’s apparently another part in the series, but it won’t be released for another couple of years. But with each film clocking in at three hours, and nothing being filler, it’s worth the wait to hear what these filmmakers have to say next. Until then, be sure to watch both of these (available now for free, on Amazon Prime).

China Cry

While looking for older Christian films, I came across a reference to this early 90s film set in Communist-era China. I read it was the story of a young girl, telling her true story of how Christians were persecuted during regime changes after World War II.

Despite an odd 20-minute making of feature at the beginning you better skip to avoid plot reveals, China Cry starts off well, with good acting and writing and an intriguing/cute relationship between the main star and a boy she likes at school. Bizarrely though, the eventual-husband character is always portrayed as a constant mystery, even after they have multiple children. Does she even know him at all? Very odd.

Even stranger is the Christian aspect of the film, which feels made up. Sure, the main character goes to a Chinese church service (I will admit, the silent singing scene was pretty eye-opening), but beyond that we see nothing that she personally does in the name of Christ. The main character is supposedly saved from a firing squad by a miracle, but that seems highly suspect to me … mainly because in the film not only is this pregnant woman kicked in the stomach/beaten multiple times, she’s even forced to work in a labor camp, hauling giant rocks around (wouldn’t Communists just kill her at some point?). Oh, and her husband and children all leave China safely, and no one is ever hurt, except for her father, who the Communists punish repeatedly. Why?

It’s a very strange film, and feels too-inwardly-focused about “how God favored the protagonist.” I’m not saying she wasn’t a Christian, but modern-day heavy-miracle-filled stories always raise an eyebrow. There may be a tiny bit of truth in her story (like she escaped China), embellished immensely for dramatic effect.