OliveTree Mobile Bibles

Are you tired of toting those heavy bibles? Ever wish that you had the bible with you when you really need it? Have I got deal for you :)

For the past few years I have been using bible software from Olive Tree. I have used it on a Palm device and since March of 2007 on my Motorola Q (pictured right). I love this software and find it easy to use and very reasonable - many of their bibles, Christian literature and tools are free.

They are currently looking for some of you iPhone folks to help them check out their new software.

So, here are a few reasons to give Olive Tree a try:
  • free and easy to install and use.. I love how intuitive it is.
  • customizable for us geeks.. don't get me started on colors :)
  • great search capabilities.. use this all the time.
  • easy to look up passages.. by transalation, book and verse.
  • always carry the word with you.. great for waiting rooms.
  • study with commentaries.. helpful for the studious.
  • read books on your phone.. lots of free ones.
  • available on all mobile platforms.. even iPhone.
  • they have a blog - check them out!
Please let me know if you do try it and if you like it or not.. and specifically what you like about it.

Mystery: Hidden and Revealed

I love this picture. I think that an iceberg is a great picture of mystery.. ten percent above the water.. the rest hidden below it. Do you like the idea of mystery or are you uncomfortable with it. I am a bit of each.. my head wants to understand everything.. my heart seems to be a bit willing to live without that understanding. It reminds me of this passage:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:24-27)
Paul speaks about a mystery that was hidden for millenniums.. a secret that even the most discerning intellectuals could not uncover.. a truth that only came (and comes) by divine revelation. Paul tells us that this revealed mystery is Christ in us.. and it is glorious. Isn't it interesting how, when we look back, this truth doesn't seem to be mysterious at all. I guess that is just the nature of the timeline of the kingdom.. mystery is relevant.. once revealed the mystery is no longer a mystery.

Paul often speaks of mystery in his writings.. he again speaks about this mystery in this passage:

But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"-- these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (1Corinthians 2:7-11)

I love that it says that we cannot even imagine what God has prepared for us - our minds are unable to see it. We read that the Holy Spirit is the agent of this revelation.. He can unfold the mystery to us.. as with Peter only He can reveal Jesus to us as the Christ.

I guess my hope for us today is that our hearts will, in a small way, give room for mystery.. living our lives embracing the mysteries of suffering.. indeed, embracing the mysteries of His kingdom ways. There is so much that we do not know yet.. so much of that divine iceberg to discover.

An Angelic Warning

Lee Grady wrote an interesting article titled Angels, Deception and a Cry for Biblical Truth. It is a good article and a warning to us all about how we can become fixated on the supernatural aspects of faith.. I recommend it to you. Following are a few excerpts from Lee's article:

Weird teachings about angels have become the norm in some charismatic circles today. It’s time to demand sanity on the subject.
When I look at what the New Testament teaches us about angels, and specifically what the book of Acts shows us about them, here’s what I find:
  • Angels who looked like men told the early disciples that Jesus would return one day (see Acts 1:11)
  • Angels are actively working behind the scenes to minister to the saints, especially to offer protection (see Acts 12:7-11)
  • In one case an angel directed Philip where to preach (see Acts 8:26)
  • Angels sometimes appeared in visions to give instructions, as one did for Cornelius (see Acts 10:3,7,22)
  • An angel came to Paul to strengthen him and to assure him that he would preach to Caesar (see Acts 27:23-24).
If we look at Paul’s epistles, we find only a few references to angels—and most are actually warnings to the early church about a wrong emphasis on angels:
  • Paul warned the Galatians that false angels can bring deception (see Gal. 1:8)
  • Paul warned the Corinthians about "angels of light" that are messengers of Satan (see 2 Cor. 11:14)
  • Paul warned the Colossians about misguided people who worship angels and deceive people with their emphasis on mystical experiences that are rooted in their hyperinflated egos (see Col. 2:18).
...There are many flaky, weird and foolish concepts being circulated in our movement today that must be corrected. If we don't hold tightly to Scripture, we might unknowingly give birth to a cult that could bring great damage and division to churches worldwide. It’s time to get back to the Bible!

Never Having to Say You're Sorry?

I was 21 years old and in the Army when I read Eric Segal's book and later watched the film Love Story. The book and movie popularized the schmaltzy "Love means never having to say you're sorry" line. I thought of that line recently when I read a fellow blogger's posting. The essence of the post was that God forgave his enemies and we should forgive ours as well.. whether they ask for forgiveness or not.

So, I wonder, does God's love for us mean that we never have to ask for forgiveness? Will He always forgive whether we ask for it or not? The answer is not as simple as one might think.

The question of asking for forgiveness was one that haunted Martin Luther. As a Roman Catholic monk he was obsessed with confessing his sins and frustrated by his inability to remember all of his sins when he confessed them to his priest. Of course this journey, laced with frustration, ultimately led him to the revelation that one is justified before God by faith.

So what about this need to say that you are sorry.. and say it to God? Is the journey all about faith.. is it just living a positive journey of believing in God.. does God require us to say we are sorry.. and what about people who don't believe and don't pray? If we Christians don't need to ask for forgiveness then why should anyone be required to ask for forgiveness?

Of course I could say that asking for forgiveness is a part of the Lord's prayer.. depending on your denominational persuasion, we are instructed to ask forgiveness for our trespasses (sins) or debts.. as we forgive others of like offenses. So is forgiveness just an issue of living at peace with God and each other?

Some often paint the picture the way that Jonathan Edwards once did as "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God". These often present repentance and forgiveness as something God requires because He is mad at humanity. In this picture asking for forgiveness is an act of appeasement and is done if fear.

I think that the heart of asking for forgiveness is humility. I think that it might be an evidence of pride if one does not feel the need to ask for forgiveness. When I think about this I think of what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit:
And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:8-11)
I think that this is the essence of asking for forgiveness - responding to the convicting voice of the Spirit.. a voice that leaves us without excuse.. one that speaks to us in a firm and quiet voice of our need to be forgiven.. a voice heard by Christians and others as well.

I think that it is an arrogant person who quenches that voice and refuses to acknowledge their need to ask for forgiveness. Truly, in a sense, love means wanting to say that you are sorry.

Psalm 3 Sung

This video reminded me of the days in the late 70s when we sang the scriptures in church.. this was always one of my favorites.

Ticket to Heaven

I saw this Ticket to Heaven card used by Robert Schuller (the younger) on the weekly broadcast from the Crystal Cathedral and thought that I would briefly post about it. The scripture on the ticket comes from John 6:37 and reads this way in the New Century Version:
The Father gives me the people who are mine. Every one of them will come to me, and I will always accept them.
This is a straighforward verse.. I love the simplicty of it. I have had many conversations with folks who don't believe that it is even necessary to pray or come to Jesus in any way.. at least in this side of the grave. I have also been exposed to a lot of rules about what coming to Jesus looks like.. everything from baptism to church attendance. So, for me anyway, I will go with simplicity and say that all one needs to do is to simply come to Jesus.. and He will do the rest.

My Chinese Adventure

This picture is of an underground church that I visited in China in January 1987.. I selected this one because it doesn't show the faces of these brothers and sisters who had to worship in secret. I guess all of the hubbub of the Beijing Olympics brought back memories of my trip to China so many years ago. So I thought that I might share a few memories about my trip.. not that I remember everything.

Our church was invited to participate in a Bibles for China outreach. The trek began on a Saturday when we headed out for a two day journey to Hong Kong (via Dallas, Los Angeles, Honolulu and Manila) – that was one long trip. When we arrived in Hong Kong our hosts met us and explained the nature of the Bibles for China outreach. Our group of 23 would carry the scriptures into the mainland – but first we would eat. Walking downtown Hong Kong was very strange experience for us – raw skinned chickens, ducks and snakes all over the place. Besides all of that we were just not used to all of the people.. it did remind me of my home city of New York in some respects :)

For a few days we lived in a suburb of Hong Kong with a missionary couple. In the mornings we would pick up gym bags full of bibles and shuttle them via van, bus or train to a staging area in a Chinese border city. The gals would often wear long skirts that had inside pockets for small new testaments - they said that they were very heavy.. I know those gym bags had me wishing that I trained with weights when I was stateside.

Each time we crossed over the border we had to go through a random checkpoint where our bags would be examined. Both times that I crossed carrying two bags and I got through without being checked – guess the Lord was watching over me.. I just acted lost and dazed.. not a hard act for me.. and the guards let me pass. Only one of us got checked and they just had their bibles confiscated.

Our journey to mainland China had an amazing start. We were transporting our bags from the storage facility and it seemed that we had a few too many bags (we estimated the combined weight to be about 1,000 pounds) for the journey and was keeping the train from leaving on time. A few Communist Chinese guards came over and we thought that the ‘jig was up’! To our amazement these guards began to help us load our bags on the train. That made for great conversation on the train - all of the way to our destination city we sat in amazement at God's provision. When we arrived we brought our bags with us as we checked into a hotel.. from there the bags were transported by others to places further into the mainland.

I remember how we were taken by our hosts to the underground church. I am humbled by the simple, sincere and courageous faith of these newfound brothers and sisters. An older man spoke in Mandarin for about an hour (with no English translation) as he taught the scriptures to his flock. I found out later that I was listening to a true hero who was jailed for his faith for 20 years under the Mao regime. Thinking back on this group I must say that I feel humbled to have had a chance to spend some time with them.

After that visit our group spent the next few days traveling the countryside on a bus.. sharing stories.. singing songs.. and worshipping Jesus together. Our journey ended with a hydroplane boatride from Macau to Hong Kong. By the time we returned to Hong Kong most of us were experiencing a sense of both exhilaration and exhaustion. Our plane would leave the next day for Manila where our adventure continued.. maybe I'll tell that story another time.

Healing and Chronic Sickness

I recently received an email message from a friend titled: Why God Doesn't Always Heal. They used the passage about Paul's thorn in the flesh from 2Corinthians 12:8-10 as the basis for the exposition of the topic. The email involved a list of seven reasons why people are not healed. The first 5 involved the usual unbelief, sin and neglect reasons, the sixth invloved "the mystery of divine providence", and the last reason said:
Often times there are dimensions of spiritual growth and moral development and increase in the knowledge of God in us that he desires MORE than our physical health, experiences that in his wisdom God has determined can only be attained by means or in the midst of or in response to less than perfect physical health. In other words, healing the sick is a good thing (and we should never cease to pray for it), but often there is a better thing that can only be attained by means of physical weakness.
Generally speaking, I thought that the treatment of this topic was fairly rote as I have heard it espoused for many times over the past 30+ years. Here are a few excerpts from my email message back to my friend:
I was glad to see that you eventually got to the heart of the thorn in the flesh in #7.. I was wondering if you were ever going to take the burden off the chronically ill believer.. most charismatic Christians who suffer with chronic illness are part of the suffering crowd that wrongly blames themselves for their pain wondering if they could just believe enough or find out that hidden sin.. it is a blight on the church how these are made to feel sub-Christian.

I wonder why the many who try to discern why people are not healed do not include “the church” and its leaders (the focus of James 5:15-16) in #1-5 of your list. Why do we always feel a need to, like Pharisees, add burdens to the sick? Why not say that the unbelief and/or sin of the elders are preventing healing from coming?

I also wonder why it is so hard for us to say that Paul’s thorn was God’s will.. and maybe a sickness falls with the confines of His will for contemporary Christians? I think that when we do this or something similar we help people to be content with their physical limitations instead of causing them discontentment. In case you are wondering – even people who have learned to be content with their physical limitations continue to pray for miraculous healing :)

Being in and pastoring in a charismatic church, I always find it interesting how people respond to my wife’s wheelchair.. there is often a superiority projected in these interactions that embody your points 1-5.. people listening to the faith teachers look at people who are sick as subpar Christians.. it is very sad.. both for the way it makes my wife feel and more importantly the delusion that upright (read that standing upright) people suffer under.

Hope I didn’t come across as upset or angry. I just wanted to give you an alternate view and perhaps a peek into the life of a guy who prays every day for his wife to arise out of her wheelchair.. and of guy who has had to pastor people who pray and are not healed.
I received a response from my friend thanking me for sharing my insights and saying that I should think of writing on it some day.. yeah, he is not a reader of this blog :)

Tasting the Love of God

Just an inspirational excerpt from the postings of my blog friend Shaun:
I, never felt so convicted in my life about casting judgment on anyone as I did that morning. It changed me. God changed me that moment and opened my eyes to how real those people were. I never saw anything so beautiful in a church service before or since.

I guess I was wrong. I thought they were just going through the motions, I saw this as religion and as just an act that most of them were putting on, I didn't think it had anything to do with God; not really.

Then as I kept going they showed me how, in an unsophisticated way that some might discount as small meaningless gestures, to love people where they are.
We were drug dealers, and thieves and violent criminals and they treated us like men. Not just men, family. We ate home made fried chicken and cakes and every bite tasted like the love of God for us. I never had it so good. I never saw Jesus in another person until my misconceptions were shattered by grace. And, even in the process of showing me how wrong I was about His people, God gently told me over and over that I am His, and He loves me right where I am , right now.
I encourage you to read Shaun's entire post here. You will be glad that you did! Comments off here but please leave an encouraging one at Shaun's place.

Evolution of the Church

Richard Halverson, former Chaplain of the United States Senate once suggested that:
“In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and women centering on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece, where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome, where it became an institution. Next, it moved to Europe, where it became a culture. And, finally, it moved to America, where it became an enterprise.”
I sometimes hear someone say that the 1st century church is a model for how church oughta be.. hmmm.. I wonder if that statement is reflective more of a dislike of the modern day church than a real identity with the early church. Halverson's comment got me to thinking.. is it possible to have a fellowship of men and women centering on the living Christ in the 21st century that looks different than that of the 1st century? I think that it is.. even if it is within the context of an enterprise.

I think that if the focus is on fellowshipping around Jesus and His mission the church could be a dynamic setting for changing the world. The issue is one one of focus. The word missional is batted round much these days and everything espoused from a certain sect of the faith seems to include that word - I like the word. It speaks to me of the need we have to live our lives with a mission. For me the mission is a simple and overused one - love God and love people.

This love does not come without cost though. I am always amazed at.. like the early church.. how much I am called to follow Jesus in a way that challenges me every day. What I really want is to live my faith out of a cerebral context.. but it just doesn't work because to live a life of faith means to live it with my innermost being fully engaged. Engaging our innermost being is the essence of loving God and loving people. It doesn't make sense to our head and I hope it never does. When Jesus says:
"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." -Matthew 16:24
He speaks to us at a inner and outer being level.. for to deny yourself your inner being must be stronger than your outer being. The taking up of your cross and the following of Jesus are matters of the inner being. I guess in that respect the church has not evolved. Though physical and organizational structures may have changes the essence of faith has not. The church is still all about loving with our innermost being.