Monday, November 28, 2011

Tempus Fugit... time flies

It's been a busy couple of months for me. Lots of changes, challenges, and blessings.  From mundane to sublime:

After spending the most part of the past 2 years unemployed, I am now working.  It's contract, but full time, and it could turn into a permanent position.  I'm doing tech support for a company that makes practice management software for dental offices and there is lots of work to do.  The pay isn't great, but it's a good work environment and that counts for a lot.  It has been tough to get used to my new schedule, heck, even going to work every day takes some getting used to after so long on my own.  My wife works 7-4 and I work 9-6.  This makes for long days as she doesn't drive due to her epilepsy.  Almost a month in and we are getting used to it.  I am very blessed to have found this job and very thankful for it.

About the same time as I got the job my computer died.  I'm now reduced to using an old netbook that was donated to me with a broken screen.  Replaced the LCD and it works just fine, just old and slow.  On the positive side I will be able to afford a nice laptop to replace both my dead desktop and this very useful little netbook with in a few weeks.  I'm going with a high end laptop for a reason :)

Forgot to mention I ran my first marathon at the end of October too

A friend at church has been asking me to come to a men's discipleship group on Monday evenings.  I finally made it to one a few weeks ago.  What a blessing that turned out to be!  The young guy who did the music was incredible.  Great voice, good with guitar, and a love for Christ that just showed through everything he did.  The group is a good mix of ages, I'm probably the oldest person there unless the church's pastor is there.  A lot of the guys have had a rough time with drugs and alcohol, the teens and 20's guys are dealing with the usual issues that come at that age.  It's just a great time of fellowship, sharing a meal, worship, and either a message presented by a member of the group or testimonies.  I've enjoyed being a part of this group and taking part in discipleship with them.

My wife and I attended the annual youth retreat to Camp Greenville at the beginning of November.  The picture above was taken at the chapel at the camp.  Eric, the young musician from the discipleship group acted as our praise leader and the youth pastor delivered 5 messages over two and a half days.  It was amazing!  We did two baptisms in the very cold lake while we were there, and three more when we returned... the Spirit was moving on this retreat.

I was asked by our youth pastor if I could present the message for the entire youth group one Wednesday night. I was more than happy to do it, though, a bit unsure how I would be received.  The week after we returned from the retreat I gave my message.  I got some positive feedback afterwords from a couple of the youth group members which was good, let me know that I reached them.  To my surprise, the youth pastor approached me a week later and said he had gotten a lot of positive feedback and wanted to know if I could cover a couple of nights in December for him.  It's very humbling to be used like this.  It feels good to be used for His purpose.

Last, my wife and I have been married just over 5 months.  After 6 months we will be eligible to apply with Operation Mobilization to become missionaries. We have talked about this for a couple of years and prayed about it together and with our pastor and we are ready, spiritually at least.  Last Sunday the pastor preached on missions and we decided to go forward during the alter call.  Pastor of course knew our minds, but we wanted to share our plans with the congregation and ask for their prayers.  Pastor said a few words and I explained our calling to the congregation.  We were greeted with applause, hugs, and lots of support.  Some of it was bittersweet in that they did not want to see us leave.  But, as the pastor said in his sermon; there are 16 Baptist churches within a 2 mile radius of us, yet, there are places in this world with people who have never heard the message of Christ. How can we stay?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Truth, what is Truth?

Check out this podcast by Steve Runner:

For more on running from me, check out LightFighter's Ramblings.  Like the podcast?  Hear more at Phedippidations.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Is Running a Religion?

Is Running a Religion?
(thanks to Steve of for introducing me to Dr. Sheehan's writing)

George Sheehan's article really moved me when I read it yesterday. As I was reading it several applications of his work came to mind. You don't have to be a runner to take away a profound message from this work.

In his article he writes about Father Nouwen retreating to a monastery to escape from a hectic life and refocus on God. he spent some period of time there, probably weeks if not months. When he was getting ready to leave he realized that his time there was really just a lull in the constant battle we all fight, and that if he wanted to retain some of the peace he had found there he would have to do something to maintain it. The Abbot tells him he must put aside 90 minutes a day for prayer.

You may see the differences between this Catholic priest's experience than your own. Think of it like this... We attend church once or twice a week. We try to leave behind life and concentrate on worshiping God. But, like Father Nouwen, we all know it's just a lull. When we walk out those doors the world is waiting for us with all of it's demands. The Abbot's advice is just as applicable to us, spend time with God every day in order to maintain that relationship and the peace that comes with it.

For me, running provides some of that time. I get out there early in the morning and just run. Once I get warmed up I have my mind all to myself, no distractions, no demands. I can talk with God, think things over, listen for his guidance.

Where/how do you find time to spend with God?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Having faith is hard

I have not written in a while.  Part of my PTSD is that i sometime feel very anti-social, and I have been feeling that way a lot lately.  I know you may be thinking that writing a blog entry is not being social, it's just me sitting at a keyboard.  But, it is social, it's my voice that I'm writing, even if no one is reading it is still me voicing my thoughts.  Anyways, that's where I've been, in the dark recesses of my own mind, unwilling to give my thoughts up for others to look at.

Faith.  It seems like a pretty simple concept, it's just your own belief in something.  In this case the belief in Christ and his message, in God, the Bible and what it tells us.  Simple enough that a child can do it.  As a matter of fact, we are told that we must, "...receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all." (Mark 10:15)  But it's not mere belief that we need to have, for, "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder" (James 2:19) Faith also includes believing in the whole message of the Bible.  The part of that message I have been struggling with is that god cares for us individually, has a plan for each of us, and that he will always provide what we need. That is a lot to have faith in when things aren't going well for you.

I have to admit that us Christians sometimes sound like a bunch of Pollyanna's.  When feeling down and lost we invariably try to point the way upward with Biblical anectotes or quotes that are ment to be uplifting.  Unfortunately when I am struggling with depression and anxiety they often just sound like hollow platitudes or greeting card slogans.  I guess it's my cynical nature that gets the best of me at these times.  I feel like Job.

In the past three years I have gone from having a good paying job, to having a poor paying job, to spending the past two years mostly with no job.  Everything I have is old and wearing out and I have no way to pay to repair or replace them.  I have learned new levels of survival that I never expected to experience.  Getting by on temp jobs, unemployment, and odd jobs I've managed to hang in here longer than I would have expected without becoming homeless.  But I now find myself once again out of options, no place to turn, the future looking like a gaping hole that will swallow me up.  Facing this abyss has started to crush me physically, psychologically, and spiritually. 

For me, faith comes from deep inside.  It's not something that can be shored up by others, at least for me.  It is intensely personal and at the core of my being.  I've been broken before, and I'm sure I will be again.  But, I think it's necessary for us to be broken, to have our spirit crushed, to be so out of control that we can no longer fool ourselves.  This is how character is built and how we learn that we must trust God for everything.  We are hopeless and helpless sinners who are beholden to Him for everything, even the air we breath.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Thoughts on our government

If, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."(Mark 10:25) And, at least 237 member of Congress are multimillionaires.  Then perhaps we need to take a closer look at who we trust with running our government.  Now, I know that all things are possible through God, but Christ didn't make that statement for no reason.  We also need to take into account the context of the statement.  It was made right after the encounter known as The Rich Young Ruler.

When you take this abstract thought, and then look at some examples of how our representatives act it becomes a little clearer to me:
She is earning $174,000 per year and won't be able to make ends meet if she misses a pay check.  If that weren't enough, we also have an example of what our representatives think of us, the unwashed public:
Now, when it come time to get re-elected we will hear all the things we want to hear from our representatives.  We will hear about their faith, caring, how they fight for us in Washington, how they are just like us.  I think we need to go further than listening to their words and look at who they are and what they do.  Beyond that we need to look at the entire political system and how polluted it is with money.  In an environment like that it would be darn near impossible for even the best person to maintain their moral compass.

In our culture we now venerate the rich, we hold them up as better than us, somehow more trustworthy than us.  The idea that if they are rich they are beyond being bribed or tempted by financial gain.  In fact, if they are wealthy they have already been bribed.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Church & State

In Washington D.C. for the weekend for the National Epilepsy Foundation Walk.  While at the Lincoln Memorial I read his Second Innaugural Address.  Take a few minutes and Google it.  Pretty clear where he stood on the seperation of church and state.

Location : 5784 Westchester St, Alexandria, VA 22310,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Study of the Book of Revelation

I have been working through a study of the Book of Revelation with my Wednesday night Middle School bible study group.  After spending a couple of weeks going over the letters to the churches in chapter 1-3 I covered Chapters 4-5 last week which set the stage for John's apocalyptic visions of the end of time.  Beginning with chapter 6 I plan on using the following timeline from this site.  All about Popular Issues has produced a pretty good timeline with citations that I'm going to use as a guideline for reading and teaching.  For tonight I'm going to cover:

  • The First Seal (Revelation 6:1-2), likely the coming of the antichrist.

  • The Beasts and Mark of the Beast (Revelation chapter 13), the antichrist enforces loyalty.

  • The 144,000 (Revelation chapter 7:1-8), evangelists sent out into the world.

  • The First Seal is opened, "1 Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, "Come!"2 And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer." (Revelation 6:1-2)  The "Lamb" is Christ, as we learned in chapters 4-5.  At the opening of the Seal the command, "Come" is given and a rider on a white horse comes forward with a bow.  It is commonly thought that this is the antichrist who will conquer the world and reign over it.  This also most likely lines up with the last week of Daniel's 70 weeks and with the "Prince who is to come." (Daniel 9:27)

    The Beasts and the Mark of the Beast are introduced in chapter 13.  There are dozens, if not hundreds of possible interpretations for this chapter, so I will just give the most basic interpretations.  The first Beast that rises from the sea with 10 horns and 7 heads is commonly held to be the anticrist and the dragon who gives him authority is Satan.  The second Beast rises from the land and has two horns like a lamb, but speaks like a dragon.  This is generally thought to be the false prophet.  This false prophet will perform miracles and lead worship of the first Beast.  The mark of the Beast is given to us as 666, a human number, repeated three times, perhaps representing humanism/secular philosophy.

    In chapter 7 we have the 144,000 sealed with a mark on their foreheads.  This also can be interpreted many ways both literally and figuratively.  From my reading this group is generally considered to be the remainder of the Church on earth.  This seal is the antithesis of the mark of the Beast.

    That's a quick overview and a very surface level look at this section of the Book of Revelation.  I look forward to teaching this tonight.

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Where to look in tough times?

    I have been going through some very tough times in my life in the past year or so.  I've been struggling to find permanent employment and dealing with the financial hardships that go along with irregular income.  It has been a trying time.  I have often just barely been able to pay my bills each month.  This near constant anxiety and stress has taken it's toll on me.  However, one part of my life has been better than ever before, and that continues to keep me going.  That would be my spiritual life.

    When things get really tough I try to look to the Bible for support and comfort.  I already know that I'm different from many others, and I'm sure my favorite readings for these difficult times are no different.  While there are many verses that can be found in different places throughout the Bible, I have found the Epistle of James to be one place where I have found messages that are useful in tough times densely packed.

    James (most likely the brother of Jesus) starts off this letter by getting right to the point, "2 Count it all joy, my brothers,t when you meet trials of various kinds,3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)  All of my self-doubt and low feelings are tests of my faith since we are told that God will provide for our needs in many places in the Gospels.  Here James frames these tests as trials by which we learn to strengthen our faith.  You may be thinking, "Count it all joy? Are you kidding?" Well, it is a joy (not happiness) to know that the trials we go through are only helping to increase our strength and faith for further use by God.  This helps me to look for the joy in the pain of circumstances.

    Just a few verses later we read, "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."(James 1:12) Not only can we look at the temporal profit we can receive from our trials, we can also look forward to eternal reward if we can remain steadfast.  That's a very comforting thought and one which I find uplifting as well.

    He also warns us of what to be aware of, "19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God."( James 1:19-20)  It is easy when under pressure to speak out of frustration and to act out of that frustration or even anger.  This advice is useful to all people at all times, listen more than we speak.

    James is also very clear about how we are to live, " You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (James 4:4)  This unambiguous admonition, to me, helps to put things in perspective.  It helps me to see that I need to be faithful to God's will and not worry about what the world has to say about it.  Helps me keep the ever present marketing of things at arms length.  Keeps my eyes up, thoughts on the Kingdom, and my spirit willing to do what needs to be done. 

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Fruit of the Spirit

    Inspired in part by a recent comment to the effect that we, as Christians, do not follow Christ's teachings, I thought I'd sit down and look at how we are to live as Christians. What attributes should we show through our example to the rest of the world, what makes us different or what should make us different? The most succinct statement of these attributes can be found in Galatians 5:22-23; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control. To some degree these should all be present  in any Christian's life.  While these are gifts from the Holy Spirit, we must not only be aware of them but we must also nurture and develop them in our lives.

    Love - "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16). The word translated here as love is from the Greek word agape and is very common in the New Testament. This is not romantic love, it is Christian love, unconditional love. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians that if he had all things, but had not love, he would have nothing. While this is unconditional love, it is not blind love. We are still to be there to help others see their mistakes and help them. Paul goes on to give the definition of what Christian love is: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). We should constantly refer to this checklist of aspiring attributes and hold ourselves up to these traits as a way to check our life's progress. As a checklist of attributes to aspire to have in your life, we should constantly refer to and hold ourselves up to these traits to check our progress.

    Joy – Do not confuse this with happiness, the two things are very different. Happiness is situationally-dependent, joy is not. Again, Paul is a great example as through his years of incarceration he undoubtedly had some very unhappy times. However in his letter to the the Philippians, he still expresses his joy in the Lord and talks about the work he has yet to do for the Gospel. "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). I have found that this joy is what can sustain me when nothing else can. It has been the one constant for much of the past few difficult years of my life. "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). To me, joy is also very closely related to the next attribute, peace. I don't know that you can have one without the other.

    Peace - "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). This is inner peace that comes from knowing that no matter what happens in life, we have nothing to fear because we have heaven to look forward to. It comes when we can relinquish the hold that material things have on us and when we can understand that while we live in this world we are not to be caught up in it. "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34) This for me is a constant struggle. It's one of those things that's very easy to know and understand yet very hard to practice.

    Longsuffering (patience) -- We are "strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness" (Colossians 1:11). As this passage shows, none of these fruits exists entirely on its own. They all work together and reinforce one another to make a picture of what we should look like. Patience for us humans is difficult. We don't like to wait for anything or anyone. I have found that when I can be patient with others they generally respond in a positive manner, particularly when dealing with government agencies or large corporations. Even if they don't respond any differently, I feel different for having treated them with patience and respect as opposed to blowing up at them in frustration. "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love" (Ephesians 4:1-2).

    Gentleness (kindness) -- “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”(Ephesians 4:31, 32) Being kind to one another seems like such a simple thing. It is something most of us learned in kindergarten and then forgot at some point. It is far easier to give a sharp reply to someone and walk away than it is to take a moment to be kind and care about them. But it's in these small acts that we set ourselves apart from the rest of humanity. I know I have experienced in my life how a simple act of kindness that took only a moment longer or a step out of my way had a much greater impact on the recipient than on my day. This is one of the precepts of Christianity that is easy to brush off as being overly simplistic and naive, even childlike. Perhaps it is, but these simple childlike acts are the ones we should be doing on a regular basis and the ones that show others that we care for them particularly if we don't even know them.

    Goodness – What is goodness? What does it mean to be good? How do we measure what is good over what is not good? To answer these we have an encounter with Jesus to pull from. He was approached by a man who called Him “Good Teacher,” to which He replied, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19) So there we have it, God is good. Obviously we cannot be like God, but we can do our best to emulate Him and the example set by His Son while he was on earth. Unlike Google's motto, “Do no evil,” our motto is to; do good. Just doing no evil is not enough. "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9).

    Faith (faithfulness) - "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?"(Mark 4:40) These were Jesus' word to His disciples after He calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Even these men who were selected by Jesus were at times uncertain in their faith, and they lived with Him for years. How much harder is it for us today to maintain our faith? I lost faith at 13 years old after my father died, and it took me 25 years to find my way back. It takes maintenance to keep your faith. By continuing to read the Bible and surrounding yourself with believers who can lift you up, support you, and who aren't afraid to call you out when you are stumbling. But this term also refers to faithfulness or trustworthiness. We are to be good stewards of things were are in charge of and we are to do our best to live our lives beyond reproach. Particularly, those of us who teach the Bible ( I teach adult and middle school Bible study) are to keep in mind the responsibility we have to our students to not only teach them the right things but also to live our lives as a testament to what we teach.

    Meekness - “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”(James 1:21) This attribute is not to be taken as weakness or as belittlement of ourselves. It refers to us never being too proud to do any job that needs to be done, no matter how humiliating or low it may seem. Christ gave us the best example of this when He washed the disciples feet (including Judas) at the Last Supper. He took on the role of a servant, not because He was weak, but because He was not above the lowliest task. "With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2).

    Temperance (self-control) - "But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love" (2 Peter 1:5-7). To me this concept wraps around all of the other attributes listed here. Gaining salvation does not make us sin-free, nor does it make it so that we can live all of these attributes without work. The majority of that work involves self control because our base and worldly nature is to act in just the opposite way. We must crucify these innate impulses on the cross with the help of the Holy Spirit in order to grow beyond them and into the full maturity of living a life worthy of being called Christian.

    This short list of attributes is one which we must use to evaluate our walk with Christ on a regular basis. While the concepts are simple and easy to understand, it is apparent that we all can and should spend the rest of our lives working towards attaining them.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Against Heresies: Are you sure that you want to be a theologian?

    Against Heresies: Are you sure that you want to be a theologian?: "It is all too easy for our interest in theology to be little more than a love of intellectualism applied to the being of God. It is all to..."

    Saturday, March 12, 2011

    Paradoxes that aren't

    I'm reading G.K. Chesterton's, Orthodoxy at the moment and have been really impressed with his writing.  It was very surprising to me to read his thoughts on the criticisms of Christianity and on the seeming paradoxes within Christianity itself.  I have often wondered how critics could maintain that Christianity was at the same time an overly passive, meek, even week theology/philosophy and also claim that it was too warlike, aggressive and controlling.  Even within the Bible itself we have statements that seem to create paradoxes, "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." Luke 9:24(NIV) How can this be? It would seem either that Christianity makes no sense at all or that it is so obstruse and complicated that few actually understand it.  Chesterton does a very good job of showing that it is neither.

    The truth is that both views are correct, at least in part, and they are both held at the same time.  When called to battle we are called to devote everything to it no matter the odds.  When called to be passive we are not to be just somewhat passive, but fanatically passive.  In Chesterton's own words:

    No one doubts that an ordinary man can get on with this world; but we demand not strength enough to get on with it, but strength enough to get it on.  Can he hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing?  Can he look up at its colossal good without once feeling acquiescence?  Can he look up at its colossal evil without once feeling despair?  Can he, in short, be at once not only a pessimist and an optimist, but a fanatical pessimist and a fanatical optimist?  Is he enough of a pagan to die for this world, and enough of a Christian to die to it?  In this combination, I maintain, it is the rational optimist who fails, the irrational optimist who succeeds.  He is ready to smash the whole universe for the sake of itself.

    This fell together with something else I read recently.  I have been doing a study of the book of Revelation with my middle school youth group.  Christ's letter to the church at Laodicea captures this thought so clearly.  Christ rebukes this church for being lukewarm, neither hot not cold, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!" Rev 3:15 (NIV)  There it is, we are called to be hot or cold, in or out, on or off.  Christianity is not Buddhism, there is no middle path in Christianity.  The middle path is compromise, conformity to the world, and death.

    So, are you radically sold out to Christ, or just going through the motions?

    Saturday, March 5, 2011


    A couple of different thoughts were running through my mind the other day while I was running. Actually, they've been running around in my head for a week or so.  I run fairly long distances and am working my way up to really long distances(you can keep up here).  This gives me lots of time to think things over.  I usually listen to music while I run, sometimes I pay attention to it, sometimes it is just background noise.  The other day the music just clicked with my thoughts and helped me to crystallize the two different thoughts into one coherent idea.  The first thought that I was working on was from Paul where he writes in Hebrews 12:1, "...let us run with endurance (perseverance) the race that is set before us."  Now, this may seem an obvious verse for a runner to think about, and I suppose it is.  But, I was really thinking about how my actual perseverance running applied to my metaphorical race.  What is our spiritual race that is laid out before us?  What is the nature of this race that requires endurance?
    video link

    We are not called as Christians to live comfortable safe lives.  We are called to a life of service, to be out in the world showing our faith by living it (Ye are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.)  Putting yourself out there, sharing your faith is not easy.  Loving our enemies, sharing the Gospel, helping others in need, having proper relationships with family, government, business... all these things are difficult to do every day.  As I wrote here, we are all called to be missionaries. Paul says in is second letter to Timothy, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith." We are even called to be faithful unto death.  While all these things are difficult, I don't think most of us really ever deal with most of these things.

    I think the trouble most of us have is that we grow comfortable in our surroundings.  We surround ourselves with like minded people.  We don't leave our circle of friends and family.  By doing this we insulate ourselves from ever being put in a situation where we will be faced with people with different views, even (Gasp!) non-Christians. Even our churches are generally sanctuaries for saints, places full of like minded people with similar backgrounds, that come together every week to provide a safe place to have Bible lessons told to us.  To paraphrase and old saying, church has become a museum for saints instead of a school for sinners.  To me this means that many of us are not running, or even walking the race.  We are seated comfortably in the box seats observing the race.
    video link

    This is where the music I was listening to really struck me and things started to come together.  Running long distances is not easy, it takes dedication and determination, and it's hard on your body.  But, if you stop running for any length of time you start to lose your fitness level, it slowly fades. More difficult that if you had just kept running.  Remember when you were a new Christian? Not just the immediate feelings, but even weeks and months later.  You wanted to be involved, share your faith with everyone, you had a desire to bring other people to the fantastic place you found.  Over time this fades, we let people dampen our enthusiasm, we are shown by example that it's ok to sit on the sidelines and let worldly ideas slowly creep in.  We learn all the "church" answers to avoid stepping out of our comfort zone; "I don't feel called," "I'll have to pray about it," "I don't feel led to..." (while these can be valid reasons, I think they often become easy excuses for inaction)

    I think there is a good reason that Paul uses running as his example.  It is hard to keep going running long distances, it takes endurance of pain and exhaustion.  I think Paul had in mind the run that the modern marathon was based on, the run by Pheidippides(300 miles, not just 26).  More than that, if you stop, then try to start up again it is so much harder than if you had just stayed at it all along.  Paul also talks about "fighting the good fight," and "putting on the whole armor of God." Being a Christian is not about being a spiritual couch potato.  It's about fighting a long battle physically, mentally and spiritually.  It's about giving it our all every day and not saving anything for the end, it will be too late to use it by then. 

    A little motivational video with pictures and video from the Ironman Triathalon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride 26.2 mile run).  My thought is... are we putting as much effort into being a Christian as these people are putting into this sporting event? Why not?


    Saturday, February 26, 2011

    Recent events, are they Biblically significant?

    I've had a couple of people ask me about my take on the recent events in the Middle East, New Zealand, and the Adam's killed on their yacht by Somali pirates.  Political unrest in the Middle East is at a stage never seen before, earthquakes in Haiti and New Zealand,  general persecution of Christians... does all this mean that the End Times are near?  It seems to me (and others) that every generation thinks they are living in the last days.  My short answer is, no, we are not yet there.  For the long answer, keep reading.

    Whether you are a pre-tribulationist, mid-tribulationsit, or hold some other view, there are some signs that the end is near that all agree on.  The first of these is that the Gospel needs to have reached all peoples.  This can be found in Matthew 24:14, and Mark 13:10.  Even with our incredible technology today, this has not yet happened.  According to the Joshua Project there are still 2.8 billion people who have not been reached.  From a people group perspective 41% of the people groups have yet to be reached.  That's still a great deal of work to be done.

    The "birth pangs" that the earth will go through is another sign.  This relates to natural disasters, earthquakes, tsunami, volcanoes, the earth itself reacting to the immanent coming of Christ.  Not to minimize the loss of life and destruction of resent events in Iceland, New Zealand, the 2004 tsunami, or any place else, but, there have been far greater natural disasters with greater loss of life and with greater global impact.  There was the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, many other eruptions,  the earthquakes in Armenia, Mexico City, and Haiti. While these are individually terrible losses of life and property, they do not stand out as a global event.

    Then we have the Beast with 10 Horns(Daniel chapters 2/7, Revelation 12/13/17), which has been interpreted to mean 10 nations that will band together to solve the world's problems.  When I was younger the EU was supposed to be this.  However, the EU now has double that number of members.  There is the G10, the Group of Ten(now eleven) economic powers that set economic world policy    China and Russia are also involved with all G10 meetings, so that probably does not fit.

    While things are not good today, they probably have more to do with Kondratiev waves than with end times. In the end there is only one thing that we, as Christians, have any control over.  That is the spread of the Gospel.  If you want to see Christ return, get busy spreading the word, the rest will work itself out.

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    We are all Missionaries

    We are all missionaries

    16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Mat. 28:16-20 (ESV)

    While this command is given directly to the remaining 11 disciples, it is commonly understood to be of general application. That is, that the commands in verses 19 and 20 apply to all Christians. We all have a duty to advance the faith, to help spread the Word. In that sense we are all missionaries.

    I know my concept of what a missionary looks like has changed over the years. It started out as a picture of people hacking through jungles to reach remote tribes. Then I found a friend of mine from High School, Steve Kaptain, is a missionary in Nepal with Operation Mobilisation and that really changed my view. Here was a guy I knew personally, went to church and school with, a missionary, and no jungle either. My girlfriend's brother, Jason Boyle is also a missionary, he's in Mexico with his wife doing church planting. Reading through the “Opportunities” section of OM's website also gave me some insight into the various roles a missionary can fill. Reading blogs has also opened my eyes to various people, places and work that can be done (Laura's blog, and Johnny and Kate's blog) Not everyone is out planting churches in the third world, there are lots of jobs all around the world that need to be done that are either directly evangelizing or supporting those who do.

    There is also, unfortunately, the image of missionaries who have used force or coercion to bring about conversions. The missionaries who accompanied the colonizing forces of Europe into Africa and the New World come to mind as historical examples. There are also modern day examples of 'so called' missionaries who given aid (food, medical) to people in dire need but conditioned the aid on conversion, creating what are known as 'Rice Christians.' While I'm sure their numbers looked impressive when reporting, this is just wrong, and I would go so far as to say, anti-Christian (see Luke 6:30). Regardless of the fact that people have done things wrong in the name of spreading the faith, the commission still stands.

    I often hear said, “Lord, use me as your servant... just don't send me to Africa”, or something to that effect. Personally, I have no problem going to Africa, or any place else for that matter. But not everyone feels that calling. If you don't feel called are you being a bad Christian? No, of course not. Spreading God's Word is not a 'one size fits all' mission. There is a whole spectrum of things we can do to spread His Word.

    What can we do? Some ideas:

    1. Live our lives as a testimony to those we live and work with.
    2. Support those in active ministry through prayer, funding, or other material support.
      1. If you can't fund them yourself, you can help them help themselves raise funds... invite them to speak at your church, help publicize their mission...
    3. Share your faith with others publicly. (face to face, through outreach, volunteering, short term missions, on Facebook or Twitter, share a blog :) [took me years to share this], and many other ways)
    4. Get out of your comfort zone and give God the opportunity to show you what He can do through you.

    There is nothing easy about any of these things. But then, the Bible never says it will be easy.

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    The Horns of a Dilemma

    The current situation throughout the Middle East(particularly Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain) has reminded me of of a topic that I usually only think about each July. Biblical justification for revolt or revolution or the lack thereof. I think being an American makes this a particularly difficult topic to look at objectively since our country is the direct result of revolution and, for the most part, the results have been good. I propose to look first at what the Bible says about our relationship to government, then at what our Founding Fathers said about the Bible and war/revolution, last at where that puts us today.

    I'll start with the most applicable and direct quote on the topic of our relationship with the government in the Bible, Romans 13:1-3:

    1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,4 for he is God's servant for your good. (ESV)
    To set the stage of the writing, Paul wrote this around a.d. 57, probably from around Corinth. The Roman Emperor from a.d. 54 to a.d. 68 was Nero, who is known for his persecution of the Jews and Christians late in his reign and the execution of Peter and Paul around a.d. 67. Given this setting, go back and read verses 1 and 2 again. There are no “weasel words” in those verses (ie. Might, should, some, most), no equivocation at all as a matter of fact. Instead we see words like: every, have been, whoever, will. Paul tells us very clearly that we are to subject ourselves to the government that is over us regardless of whether we like it, and that resistance to the government is a sin.

    Peter, writing around the same time has a very similar message. In 1 Peter, chapter 2 he has the following things to say about submission to authority:

    13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme...”, “17 ... Fear God. Honor the emperor.”, and “18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.
    I don't see much room for interpretation of the words here. The plain meaning of what is written seems to unambiguous. So how does one interpret these passages to support resistance to the government or even the overthrow of the government?

    We do have some examples of Biblical heroes who defied the government or overthrew a government. Daniel (in Daniel 6:8) prayed to God in defiance of a law passed by the ruler King Darius. Also in the Book of Daniel (chapter 1-3) we have Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who refused to worship the king in open defiance of his law. I don't think that these examples can be used to justify resistance or revolt except under similar circumstances. These examples distinguish themselves since these acts of resistance are only about the worship of God or the Law of God. They simply refused to obey the one offending law, they did not call for revolution, the breaking of any other law, or question the legitimacy of the ruler.

    The stories that should be most applicable here would be stories that talk about overthrowing the government. We have two such stories. The story of Gideon (found in Judges 6-8) tells of the overthrow of the Midianite's who had ruled over Israel for many years. We also have the Story of Samson (found in Judges 13-16) where he overthrows the rule of the Philistines. At least in the case of Gideon it is clear that God specifically ordered him to take the actions necessary to overthrow the government. In Samson's story it is less clear.

    Many of our Founding Fathers and most of the colonists were Christians and the justification of rebellion was a topic of concern for them. The reasoning of the colonists can be found here in more detail, but here is a synopsis: 1.) That Romans 13 referred to the institution of government and not a specific ruler. Basically that as long as you weren't trying to get rid of all government so you could live in anarchy you were justified. 2.) That King George was illegitimate as a ruler because he was a tyrant and not a “servant of God.” 3.) They saw the war as a defensive war, not offensive, and a such justified. 4.) If the government was unrighteous and passes unrighteous laws, then it would not be righteous to follow those laws, “for the Lords sake.” 5.) Hebrews 11 mentions several Biblical heroes who were involved in overthrowing tyrannical governments. The quote, variously attributed, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God” was made popular at this time.

    These rationalizations just don't convince me of Biblical justification. The first argument is clearly a secular humanist argument that looks like it was written by a lawyer, not a reasonable reading of the passage. The next one fails because Nero was not a “swell guy” either, the later Emperor's of Rome were to be worshiped much like King Darius. Third, if you push a government into a corner where there only options are to fight or surrender, can you really claim innocence if violence ensues? Fourth, same as number three, the Roman Empire was never righteous to the best of my knowledge, yet both Peter and Paul tell us to respect that authority. The last argument has some validity, just not sure it's enough to carry the whole case.

    So, where does that leave us? I think it's fair to say the the Founding Fathers, despite of rhetoric to the contrary, were far more influenced by John Locke, Thomas Hobbes and other Enlightenment philosophers than by Biblical direction.

    That being said, I am a patriotic American who thinks that the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution are incredible documents. I also feel that people should have the right to chose their own form of government, that they should be free from tyranny and oppression. I applaud the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and other countries of the Middle East for their courage and determination to seek representative governments. I'm just not sure how to fit the two competing ideas into some harmonious concept. The sites I have read on this topic try to emphasis the religious and embellish the Christian credentials of the Founding Fathers. To me, it just comes off like putting lipstick on a pig.

    I would love to hear from people on this topic.

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    5 Essential Christian Doctrines or Beliefs

    There are certain core beliefs that cannot be trimmed down, short-cut, or glossed over. They are non-negotiable.  I have been thinking about this since my last post and the responses I got to it. After doing some research and some thinking I think I've come up with a pretty good answer to what those core beliefs are. A quick Google search of the terms, “core Christian beliefs” will give you web sites listing 10, 12, 25 or more beliefs. Some are statements of belief like the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, others are lists of individual doctrines and scriptural passages that support them. I would propose that there are five core beliefs that cannot be compromised; The inerrancy of the Bible, the deity of Christ, man's sinful nature and need of salvation, Christ's death for our sins and resurrection, and that salvation is by grace through faith.

    If we don't believe that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God then we have no basis for our faith. The book we have today was written over a period of approximately 1,600 years by around 40 different people, and yet it is internally consistent. The Old Testament is extremely accurate, and the New Testament is 99% accurate. Most of the differences that make up the remaining 1% are misspellings or word order changes. Beyond that we have the record of many of those who were eyewitnesses to the events written about in the New Testament who went to their deaths proclaiming it to be true.

    The fact that so many were willing to die for what they knew to be true is very strong evidence that not only has the Bible been handed down accurately, but that what is contained in it is also true. Internally the Bible has its own proofs of divine inspiration. There are about (depending on how you count) 40 Old Testament Prophesies that were fulfilled by Jesus Christ as one example. The combined proof leaves little doubt as to the inspired nature of the Bible and the truth it contains. Implicit in this belief is that no other writing has the same authority as the Bible, and no person or organization has the unique ability to interpret the Bible.

    The fact that Jesus was at once fully human and also fully God is another core belief that cannot be compromised if one is to call himself a Christian. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis; you cannot say that Jesus was just a wise and moral teacher. He was either a madman or He was what He claimed to be, God. In John 8:24 Jesus says, “...if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins.” John also writes In Philippians 2:5-8 that Christ was both God and man. Though there are many heresies that denied that Christ was God, questioned his humanity, or some combination of these two, it is a recognized precept of Christianity that he was both God and man at the same time. Intertwined with this is the doctrine of the Trinity, or the Triune nature of God (I wont try to explain this, the provided link has a good overview).

    Man is sinful and in need of salvation. The Bible says that "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) I fail to see how this can be argued with or denied, perhaps due to a lack of imagination on my part. Even neglecting to doctrine of Original Sin there is no doubt that all of us fall short. If you are in doubt, a quick read through the Sermon on the Mount should clear that up for you. Yet, there is hope because the Bible also tells us, "[T]he wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23) This leads nicely into the next core belief.

    Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, lived for about 33 years, was crucified under Pontius Pilot, died and was buried, and rose bodily from the grave and ascended into Heaven where He is seated at the right hand of God, and he will return to Earth one day. This is attested to by all four Gospels and also, in whole or part, by near contemporary non-believers such as Flavius Josephus and many other sources. While none of these non-Biblical sources gives a complete history or understanding of the life of Christ this should not be a surprise. A small religious sect in a backwater of the Roman Empire would hardly rate much mention at the time. The fact that there is any mention in these remaining writings is significant.

    Beyond the historicity of Christ and the factual events, the meaning of those events is also vital for Christians to believe. His death was the penultimate sacrifice to atone for our sins. He died the death that we all deserve for our sins, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24) Christ’s death was payment for our sin, in advance.

    Salvation is by grace through faith alone. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast." He also writes in Romans 10:9 that if someone will say, “Jesus is Lord”, and they believe that God raised Him from the dead they would be saved. Paul took this right from Jesus’ own words(see cross reference). We cannot be good enough nor do enough “right” things to save ourselves. (Romans 3:20, 28)

    I think that I have covered the minimum set of beliefs that almost every Christian denomination would require a person to understand and agree with. I have no theological training whatsoever, so, as an amateur I welcome comments, complaints, and constructive criticism. 

    * Edits in bold 

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    Hallelujah in the Subway

    The gentleman singing is a friend of mine from high school, Woody Williamson.  On the accordion is his friend Michelle.

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    Mere Christian Movement?

    Maybe it's just me, but I seem to be noticing what seems to be perhaps the beginning of a movement.  I just keep running across books, sermons, media of various types that all seem to have a common thread.  The thread is a non-denominational, Biblically based, Christianity without dogma and very little doctrine.  For example; I came across Martin Thielen's book, "What is the Least I can Believe and Still Be a Christian?"  I have not read the book, just a blog post by Mr. Thielen and I looked over the study guide provided.  Another example is the documentary, "Lord, save us from your followers."  The documentary examines non-believer's perception of Christians and shows examples of people actually living out Christian principles. The book is as it's title says, it's about stripping out all of the unnecessary dogma and doctrine and focusing on the core of belief that is necessary for one to be a Christian.

    Now, obviously two examples do not a movement make.  Hearing Chris Tomlin songs being sung at a Catholic church service, books like The Shack, or Crazy Love are other examples.  Now, some of these are better than others, more substantive than others.  I've also seen various sermons online from different churches that have followed this direction as well.

    I may be missing something, that wouldn't be unusual.  But, I really think this is a much more effective way of reaching people than insisting on one denominations idiosyncratic dogma being correct.  Why add extra doctrine that is not necessary for salvation into the mix up front?  It's not a zero sum game (ie. if the Methodists convert someone they win, and the Baptists lose).  It's a positive sum game (ie. if anyone is brought to salvation the Church wins).

    Keep it simple.  We have the rest of our lives to disagree about 6 day/Day Age/Old Earth -Creation, Predestination/Free Will, Pre/Mid/Post-Tribulation, and a hundred other doctrines which don't effect our salvation.

    Just my thoughts.  I'd like to hear your thoughts.

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    Salvation, a beginning not the end

    If you've gone to an evangelical Church for any length of time, read any books by Bible believing Christians, or listened to/watched much current Christian radio or television you have heard people give their testimony. If you aren't quite sure what that term means, it's the person's salvation story. How they came to believe in Jesus as their personal savior. I have had the opportunity to hear quite a few and to give mine a few times. Most times they follow a similar pattern; either they were saved as a child or they spent years living a life of dissipation and then found God. The narrative ends shortly after their salvation event. This tends to give the wrong picture of what it means to be a Christian.

    Telling about ones life prior to salvation can help to show, as yet, unbelievers that we Christians used to be just like them, lost. There is value in this, that's for certain. However, I think by not continuing the story we do a disservice to our audience. Finding your way to salvation is a very good thing, but it's only the first, very short, act of a very long play. I feel that where we have gone from that point and what we have learned is something that needs to be told as well. Without that part of the story it makes it sound like once you saved you are done, everything after that just comes naturally. Salvation is as much the beginning of a story as it is the end.

    If it is the beginning of a journey, then there must be a goal at the end and trials along the way. Sometimes it becomes difficult to keep our focus on the direction we should be heading. There are just so many distractions in our lives.  Even in the "Church" part there are always programs, studies, sermon series that can distract us.  I know I find myself needing guidance, a roadmap so to speak sometimes. I would like to suggest reading The Sermon on the Mount at these times. It is three chapters of “red letter” instructions on how we should think and act as Christ followers.

    I think more time spent applying this to our lives will go a long way to improving our walk with Christ, helping to guide us and giving us a way of measuring our progress. This cannot help but improve the testimony we give others by the example of our lives. It's application to our lives and our struggles/successes with the guidance laid down in The Sermon should be something we share with others as well.  We all need to be reminded that God's work in us began at our salvation and that we all have a long way to go.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    A reminder of His forgiveness

    I saw this video and thought it was worth sharing here.  It's a great reminder that we all fall short, and we can all be forgiven.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011


    Riding down the road the other Sunday I had an all to common experience.  The person driving in front of me cracked their window and threw their cigarette butt out.  This irked me for several reasons.  First, I ride a motorcycle and I find it very rude for people to lob flaming objects burning at near 1,000 degrees towards me.  Next, I can only assume that people do this so that they don't dirty the ash tray in their car (dirty ash trays smell bad, look bad).  They must think that they evaporate on the ground, or that the world is so big that no one will notice.  Anyways, this is not too uncommon unfortunately.  But this particular case really got my attention because the person was driving a Toyota Prius hybrid.  My first thought was, "I guess you feel that you are saving the planet from CO2, so a little litter just evens it all out." Karma neutral living.  But then one more thing caught my attention, the church sticker on the read window.  This was a sticker from a local church, not just a generic Christian one.

    Okay, so... he wants everyone to know that he belongs to Church X and cares about the environment.  While at the same time showing a blatant disregard for other people and the environment. I had an almost overwhelming desire to follow him to his church parking lot and have a word with him.  I felt that fire start burning in the pit of my stomach, anger, indignation...

    ...Then I caught myself.  I've felt that before and it never led to anything good, cathartic for me maybe, but not good.  Would confronting this person with my observations and assumptions change anything? "Excuse me sir, I see that you are uncaring and hypocritical..."  I know I wouldn't respond to that well at all.  I took a deep breath, let it out.  It occurred to me that I didn't know this person or anything about them, I just had my assumptions.  But God knows him and everything about him.  If God had wanted me to get involved in this person's life I'm sure he would have made it clear to me... and maybe, just maybe, this person had only this one time ever done the combination of things they did that day that once.  Maybe it was so that I could be brought face to face with myself.

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    The Spirit at Work

    Ever have one of those days, or couple of days, when it seems that each thing you read, the conversations you have, sermons or bible studies all point in the same direction?  They each build on and reinforce each other.  Usually they come from different directions and different people.  But they all lead to the same message.  I've had one of those weekends.  Reading and writing last night on following Christ just flowed into today's sermon and R12 small group study on giving God what he wants.  It was even added to by our, off topic, discussion this morning in Sunday School.  Seeing others catching the same movement is incredible.   I'm excited about what God has planned next for my life and for the lives of the people in my Church family at Lee Road.
    Mildorfer, "Pentecost" 1750's

    Saturday, January 22, 2011

    Follow Me

    "Follow Me" is the motto of the United States Army Infantry.  This motto not only embodies the spirit of the infantry but it is also a challenge.  A challenge to be at the forefront of the battle no matter where or when.  A tough job.  But, they were not the first to use this saying or the ones to issue the greatest challenge with it.  Jesus Christ used these very words to call people to his ministry.  Some rose to the challenge and other's balked at it.  He calls each of us today to follow him, not just for a job or for a period of time, but for our entire lives.

    There are no half measures in being a Christian, a follower of Christ.  The examples that are given in the Gospels make it very clear that Christ wants us to follow him now and without delay or excuse.  Matthew was at work one day, sitting in his tax collector's booth when Jesus approached him and asked him to follow.  Without question, comment, complaint or hesitation, Matthew got up from his work and walked away forever.  He was called, and he went.  Now, don't try to put yourself in Matthews position and figure out how hard it was for him.  Put yourself in your position and ask if you have answered God's call in the same way.

    If you think that it would be different for you if Christ was standing before you asking you may want to think again.  At least three men were in this very situation and did not follow.  The man known only as the Rich Young Ruler came to Christ asking for his teaching.  But when told the cost of following he could not pay it.  Another man is asked by Jesus to, "Follow me." But he asks to go and bury his father first (burial of the dead being very important in the Jewish faith).  But Jesus says to him, "let the dead bury the dead..."  In other words, there is nothing more important than that you go out and proclaim the gospel.  At the same time  another man asks to first go and say goodbye to his family.  Jesus' response is to tell him that anyone who starts to follow him, but then turns to other things is not fit for the kingdom of heaven.

    These examples are clear, there is nothing vague or difficult to interpret in them.  We are called to follow Christ in exactly the same way as these men were called.  Not tomorrow, not after we do something else, not how we want to but now and forever letting nothing distract us or get in our way.  If we are not 100% sold out to Christ, living as if we were not of this world, then we have not yet risen to the challenge. 

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Review of the Youversion Bible Application for Android

    Home Page
    Are you tired of hearing, "There's and app for that."  Well, not only is there an app, there are probably several for whatever you want to do.  When it comes to Bible apps there are at least 30 of them in the Android Market today.  I have tried a few of them, the free ones, and have found the Youversion application to be the best by far.  This app is also available for iOS, Blackberry, Java, and a few other platforms including the web site itself.  In this review I'll go through some of the features available through this app and try to give you an overview of why this is the highest rated Bible app out there.

    First of all this app is free, I like free.  Free and high quality is even better.  This app is very well put together and well tested before each update is posted.  In addition to that it's a great value.  Many of the other Bible apps come with one or two translations of the Bible, usually older more archaic versions like the King James Version of 1610.  Why is this?  Simple, it's not copyrighted so it's free to distribute.  Youversion has 48 version in 22 languages, 20 English versions.  This include such modern translations and the New American Standard (NASB) and The Message.  Some of these copyrighted versions are only available while you have a data connection.  However, Youversion has managed to get some of these translations to allow downloading of their copyrighted works to your phone for you to use when you don't have a data connection... for no extra charge.

    I signed up on the website first, then installed the app on my phone.  Under setting I connected to my Youversion account, Facebook and Twitter.  Then selected the Bible icon from the home page to check out the Word.  here you can see what a typical chapter looks like. The font type and font size can be changed as needed.  There is also a "Night" version for reading in low light situations.  The fonts are very readable and the font color and background colors can even be changed to suit your preferences.  personally, in the night reading version I can't take the white on black, so i changed the font to a light grey which I find much easier on my eyes.

     Navigation is very straight forward.  The top bar includes a Home icon that will bring you back to the home page.  The center portion of the bar notifies you of the Book, Chapter, Verse you are looking at, and in parentheses the translation you are currently reading from.  By tapping on this bar you pull down the menu you can see in the picture right.  From this menu you can scroll through all of the books of the Bible and select the one you want to read from.

    By selecting the number to the right of the book you can select the chapter number.  This can be a bit tricky for large fingers.  The most impressive part is this next picture, the translations available.  The icon next to most of the versions in this screen shot indicates that they are available for download to your device.  You can also see that I have the ESV downloaded on my phone.

    So far I've covered features that most of us would expect from a Bible app, without them it would not be very worth while.  The best is yet to come.  By selecting a verse, or a selection of verses you are greeted with this pop up menu.  You can bookmark the verse or makes notes about this particular verse.  These bookmarks and notes are synched with the Youversion website, so that you can always get to them and they are backed up all the time.  Notes can be public or private.  To me, the best part is the ability to share verses with your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter with ease.  There are also "Live" events (you can see that in my January 5 blog post).  It's very nice of Youversion to even make the code available for you to embed the "Live" event information right in your website.

    ** Update**

    A new capability is being added to this application shortly.  The ability to listen to Bible passages.  Not all versions will be supported at first, but, at least ESV, NIV, and NASB will be available.  Testing this feature I have found it to be one of those things that I never thought I'd want, but now really like.  At the moment it will only read chapters from the beginning, not individual selected verses, but that functionality is planned.  You can even listen to the reading plans and it will update your progress.  When you reach the end of a chapter it will pause, then continue on to the next chapter or book.  This update also include UI improvements and should be available in the next couple of days, so look for it.

    In conclusion, this is a great application.  One that has a growing community of users and developers that are all working to make the experience of reading God's Word easier and more social than ever before.