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.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hard lessons

I've been teaching from A. W. Tozer's book, The Pursuit of God in my Sunday School class. This is a fantastic book that I get more from each time I read it. Today we were talking about chapter 9, "Meekness and Rest." Tozer relies on Matthew 5:5, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." and also on Matthew 11:28-30, where Jesus tells us to take up his yolk, for his burden is light.

Personally, I have had great trouble with both of these passages. Being meek is just not in my nature, I tend to push back against those who push and against most authority. That's just something I need to work on and I'm sure I'll come back to it at some time. However, the second set of verses has also troubled me and from reading the chapter of Tozer's I think I've finally come to terms with it.

First, in Matthew 11:28, Christ says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." What is our burden that is so tiring, exhausting that we need rest from? Tozer lays out three burdens that we create for ourselves; Pride, Pretense, and Artificiality. Pride causes us to be constantly on guard of our own perceived honour. It keeps us on edge, listening closely and ready to jump to our defense from any slight or negative opinion. Pretense is that desire to always look and be seen doing your best and at the same time hiding our weaknesses. This keeps us in a constant state of fear that we might be found out, it gnaws at us constantly. Artificiality is that persona we try to project to the world. This also leaves us fearing that someone will see through it, be smarter than us, or more well traveled, more well read. I've really never had too much problem with understanding that we have heavy burdens, though it was enlightening to look at some of them that we create for ourselves.

Next is the part I've not understood so well. Christ says, "
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” in Matthew 11:30. I found it interesting that I never questioned what "my burden" Christ was talking about, it seemed straight forward to me. But I guess it's not, I had a couple of people ask me just what I thought it was. I always got caught up on the "easy" and "light" part. As I see it, Christ's burden is that we follow his example in our lives and that we work toward fulfilling the Great Commission. My trouble has always been seeing this as "easy" or "light." The first scripture that comes to mind is Revelation 2:10, that says we are to be faithful unto death. Also in Hebrews 12:4, it says that we have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. These don't particularly seem "easy" or "light."

Finally, reading this chapter for the fourth or fifth time has helped me see this in a very different way. We put a terrible amount of pressure and stress on ourselves. Society and culture add to this. We live with these stresses day in and day out even to the point of needing to be medicated in order to function. That is a really heavy burden. Following Christ, really paying attention to his words and the words of the bible writers and taking them into ourselves and living it helps take a lot of that stress away. Tozer's example, the meek man's motto, "In himself, nothing; In God, everything." sums it up. If we stop relying on ourselves and being so concerned about how other's see us, what other's think about us, worrying about how the world sees us we get relief and freedom in exchange. Though it sounds simple, in practice it is harder, yet it's there none the less. By releasing the world's hold on us and only being concerned about the eternal and what God' will think of us we can get relief, rest. And this peace is what makes Christ's yoke "easy" and "light."