Expressions of Faith

an outlet of encouragement, explanation, and exhortation

Fulfilling, or “Filling Full” the Law and the Prophets

I thought this highlight from this week’s Bible Project playlist on the Sermon on the Mount was really helpful and captured an important concept – so helpful and important that I wanted to remember it and pass it on. So, here it is.

When read on its own, apart from the whole biblical story, biblical law often is misinterpreted, leading to religious-looking behaviors that allow ongoing contempt and hatred in our hearts. But Jesus and the apostles say that these commandments, taken together with the rest of the Hebrew Bible, are instructions that restore human beings’ love for one another. In this way, love _fills full_ the Law and the Prophets.

Bible Project

Five Reliable Online and Electronic Resources for Jesus Followers (2024)

Many Christians are making use of online resources to stay informed and grow their faith. There are many excellent resources online. I will offer five that I find I use the most often, aside from simple Bible software that I use to access Bible text and reference resources. (If you are curious, I use Logos and Bible Gateway – mostly I use Logos but Bible Gateway starts up faster for quick reference. Both of these have apps in addition to websites.) So, here are my five resources.

Bible Project – Everything they do is of the best quality, and free! Bible Project issues a weekly 20-30 minute playlist on a particular topic. In 2024, it is the Sermon on the Mount. It is available by email subscription or in their app. The app offers access to all of their material. Bible Project has a podcast with weekly episodes and many YouTube videos. If you know me you know that I recommend Bible Project highly – no reservations. I have listened to their podcast since its beginnings, and it is one of my most valued resources. Their videos are very useful in classes and even in Sunday messages.

Holy Post and Holy Post Plus – Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales, and Skye Jethani began Holy Post in 2012. It is in a sort of talk-show format to discuss current topics and conduct interesting interviews. The weekly show regularly includes Kaitlyn Schiess. Phil has moments of profundity in the midst of his general playfulness and humor. Skye is generally serious and has long experience as a Christian leader from which to comment. Kaitlyn is a good-spirited, quick, a serious scholar, and a well-informed commenter. And soon Esau McCauley will be part of the mix – one of my favorite Christian writers. The Holy Post has various videos, podcasts and educational material, some of it free and some available only to supporters.

Regent College Audio – There are several educational institutions with “Regent” in their name. I am recommending audio and other educational material from the one in Vancouver, B.C. This material is generally quite scholarly – not lightweight. The classroom audio they offer is top-notch. Some of it is free, particularly their chapel talks, which are more like short sermons by educators. They offer a podcast which is generally interviews of professors speaking on the topic of classes they are teaching.

Biologos – For the science-oriented Christian. Francis Collins founded Biologos and sets the tone for their material

Lectio 365 – This app offers a brief scripture-focused daily devotional, one in the morning to start the day and one for the evening. Many people have found this a great help in their devotional life. I use it most days.

There’s this Thing about the Kingdom of Heaven

The kingdom of heaven does not and cannot come by being imposed upon others by human government. It cannot be legislated. The kingdom of heaven arises and grows when hearts and minds and spirits of humans are changed as they choose to trust and follow Jesus. The role of Jesus people is to follow Jesus so others see how good that is. Salt of the land. Light of the world. A city on a hill.

A Prayer for Meeting God, by Rich Villodas

On Monday, Rich Villodas posted a prayer he wrote on Twitter/X. I found it encouraging and helpful. This is the text of the prayer:

Lord, I’m here. I’ve come to meet with you.
I’d rather be somewhere else. I’d rather be doing something different.
But here I am.
Only you can awaken my heart to desire you. I can’t make it happen. But you can.
So here I am.
I sit here with a divided mind. But I long for singularity of heart.
So here I am.

–Rich Villodas, February 12, 2024

I hope you find it as helpful as I did. So I’m passing it on.

About that “rapture” stuff… It’s not in the Bible.

Skye Jethani gives a very quick and fairly thorough debunking of a contemporary, mostly American misunderstanding of end times. What so many American Christians believe about a “rapture” isn’t in the Bible and wasn’t taught by Christians before recent times in North America. Of course, he takes much flak for his video in which he gives accurate Christian teaching on this topic, even though he is simply explaining what Christian scholars have long known to be the meaning of the various passages in scripture which some believe support the idea of the rapture. Check it out here.

Skye Jethani got so many comments (many apparently from people who didn’t actually watch the video!) that he did a follow-up podcast with a couple of Christian teachers, Mike Bird and Mike Erre in which they give even more background and demonstrate how a rapture is inconsistent with scripture.

If that’s not enough for you, here’s a brief article by New Testament scholar N.T. Wright called Farewell to the Rapture.

He has spoken to us by his son…

Recently, the Lectio 365 app included a paraphrase of Hebrews 1.1-3 in one of the daily morning devotions. For some reason, it struck me quite differently when personalized as they gave it. I thought I would share it and remember it. Below is the Lectio 365 personalized version of Hebrews 1.1-3 adapted from the New Living Translation.

Long ago I spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, I have spoken to you through my Son. I promised everything to the Son as an inheritance… The Son radiates my own glory and expresses my very character, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.

Hebrews 1.1-3 [NLT], adapted and personalized by Lectio 365

C.S. Lewis – “a living house”

Mere Christianity was one of the first non-fiction books I read by C.S. Lewis. As I recall, my first C.S. Lewis books were the Space Trilogy. I entered the C.S. Lewis world through Science Fiction! Next, I began to read his non-fiction, probably beginning with the Four Loves? Soon in my reading, I encountered Mere Christianity. I found such a compelling description of Christianity thoroughly refreshing.

Mere Christianity paperback

My copy was often loaned out to others and leafed through to find quotes for various writing projects while I was a college student. Soon, a replacement copy was needed. I think this was the replacement copy. It cost a what then seemed exhorbitant $1.45, plus tax! I thought that was kind of expensive at the time! I’m not sure this is my first replacement copy because I’ve given away so many copies over the years. Recently, I came across a quotation taken from Mere Christianity, which occasions this note. The quote is below.

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

C.S. LewisMere Christianity

C.S. Lewis. What a gift to the 20th century! And to me.

My most useful Android apps in January, 2024

As we exit 2023 and enter 2024, I continue to use my Pixel 7 Pro. So far I have not been persuaded that it would be worth upgrading to a Pixel 8 Pro; though perhaps I’m not taking into account the extended software update period of the 8 or the trade-in value of my 7? Why Pixel? Because the Pixel phones receive Android updates sooner than other phones and because I want more of a stock Android experience and less bloatware.

Why Android? Because I started with Apple and their excellent engineering and innovation. Then they lost me with their marketing approach that disregards standards and uses unnecessarily different software and hardware to force customers to buy high-priced Apple products instead of more standard accessories and peripherals. Also, for quite some time it was not easy at all to use an iPhone like a computer, with straightforward file access and transfer! Perhaps this last issue has been mitigated. I don’t much care any longer. The Apple marketing approach remains arrogant and elitist. Just look at the iMessage debacle when it comes to interacting with Android phones. Apple won’t allow others to use iMessage protocols and they won’t use more standard protocols themselves, all in the interest of making Android users look bad to iPhone users to exert social pressure on teens (and others) to get an iPhone.

I don’t mean to say that no one should get an iPhone or a Mac or whatever. The quality of these devices is quite good. My advice is to get whatever sort of devices are used by those to whom you will turn for support – and that you can afford. If your tech-savvy friends all use iPhones and that’s where you’ll go for help, you should get an iPhone. If they all use Android phones, you should also go Android. If you’re an early adopter, trail blazer type, you don’t need me to tell you what to do.

In any case, I thought I’d list not all of the apps on my phone, which would be a lengthy list including apps that I rarely touch, but some of the apps that I really use a lot – and one lament/gripe. I found as I wrote that I also drifted a little into other cloud and computer applications related to my Android usage. For me, my phone is a personal computer and camera and network access device that I carry around with me in my pocket. That it is a phone is kind of incidental! I don’t think I’m particularly unique in this respect.

Google Chrome – I continue to use Chrome as my main browser

Nova Launcher – While the Pixel Launcher is good enough that I might just use it and forgo the enhancements of Nova if I was starting now, I’ve invested in creating groupings of apps that I access from icons on the home screens of my phone that are not easily reproduced in the Pixel Launcher – there’s no way to easily export and import between these launchers. I don’t normally recommend that others get Nova unless they are tech nerds. And then I don’t need to recommend. The downside to this is that it makes it less easy to offer support to others who use the Pixel Launcher, such as my dear wife.

Gmail – I continue to use Gmail to access my various email accounts.

Google Photos – This is a good tool for less-than-ideal online backup and for share photos with family and friends. The automated gathering of collections that include certain people is very useful. This can be use to turn Nest Displays into picture frames to share photos with geographically distant family. The editing tools are pretty reasonable, too – particularly if you have a Pixel phone. I still like editing in Snapseed for a some edits (like fixing white balance), and use ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate and Adobe Photoshop and Premiere products for sophisticated editing on my PC. I only let Google Photos automatically sync my phone pictures to the cloud.

Google Messages – I use this for standard messaging. (I use Signal for secure messaging; but not very often.) I don’t care about the color of bubbles that iPhone users see and I use Google Photos for sharing photos with iPhone users instead of sending photos via messaging. What? They don’t have Google Photos and don’t want it? OK, I’ll send the photo as an email attachment.

Google Meet and such- I use Google Meet to call my Dad on his home display. I use Zoom for meetings. I use FreeConferenceCall with a paid private-to-me phone number for straightforward conference call meetings, audio only. For privacy, consider Signal.

Google Maps – I use Google Maps every day. I tell it to save my location history. I use it as a kind of journal of where I’ve been. I’m not very nefarious, so I don’t worry too much over the potential privacy issues. I don’t share my location with others except temporarily or with close family members.

Pixel Camera – The camera on Pixel phones is a major motivator for my choice of Pixel phone. If the camera was not excellent I would consider other phones. I chose the Pixel 7 Pro over the Pixel 7 purely due to the 5x optical telephoto camera feature that the 7 lacks. Otherwise I’d have gone with the smaller form factor of the 7. Having this phone with good-enough zoom for most stuff means I don’t lug my real camera around nearly so often. I even travel without my real camera most of the time. Convenience! Less shoulder and back strain! But if I want to take a picture of a soaring hawk or an air show, the real camera with a good telephoto lens is a much, much better choice.

Cloud Storage – I use Google Drive quite a lot, and have a Google One subscription. I also have OneDrive through Microsoft that comes with my Office 365 annual subscription. I find OneDrive excessively clumsy to use. But hey, there’s a terabyte of storage for me there. I try to keep it from doing anything automatically because a terabyte isn’t enough for anything automatic with me and OneDrive seems unreliable even when I configure it for background tasks.

Evernote – Sigh. This is my lament. I have appreciated Evernote quite a lot over the years – enough to pay around $30/year to use it. But the new pricing since Evernote was acquired is more like $130/year! That’s too much for what I get out of it. So I’m saving my notes elsewhere. So far, I’ve saved my old notes to OneNote through a complicated process that I am not yet sure was reliable. I still have access to my old notes through the free Evernote account I retain. I find that I’m saving new notes in Google Docs in a designated folder tree. We shall see where this goes – if OneNote can capture my note taking attention or if Google documents prevail. FYI, OneNote uses part of my OneDrive terabyte for what it keeps in the cloud. This is fine by me, since OneDrive isn’t so useful to me otherwise.

Office 365 – This is good software. I like it and use it a lot, particularly Word, Powerpoint, and Excel. I also like Google apps – particularly Google Documents on Google Drive. So far, I’m not a fan of Office trying to push me to OneDrive instead of local storage. I have my local storage system worked out already, thank you, with good backup and sharing solutions in place. I really like that Word in Office 365 online will transcribe audio files. This is very helpful to me since I tend to combine study using audio classes and lectures with exercise.

Weather apps – I have Accuweather, 1Weather, The Weather Channel, Wunderground…. and others. I sort of like Wunderground even though it has never really recovered from being purchased by IBM some years ago. I use Chronus Pro to display weather info on my home screen.

TV Apps – Pick what you subscribe to, be it Netflix or Britbox or Acorn or AppleTV or…. There’s nothing interesting to see here. They’re all kind of bad at user interaction but adequate for showing TV shows. Some allow downloading for viewing offline. The offline experience is iffy at best for all of them, in my experience. Sometimes it works ok. Other times… Oops, that show is “expired” or it just won’t play. I use VLC for viewing video files and sometimes for listening to audio files from my private library.

Adobe Acrobat – Yeehaw! While there are other good PDF file readers, Acrobat will audibly read your PDF to you. And the Liquid mode, or whatever it is that makes PDF files more readable on a phone screen is kind of nice.

Adobe Scan and Google Photoscan work well for digitizing documents into pictures. I haven’t done a lot of converting scanned images to text, but Google Lens does the trick for me in simple cases I’ve needed.

Google Lens – Speaking of Google Lens, this is a really useful tool for identifying whatever you just took a picture of or extracting text from a picture. You can access it from Google Photos or the Camera app or even Chrome. Google image search is also pretty good at finding the origin of photos on the web.

Travel Apps – It’s generally worth having the app for the airline that you are traveling on and the car rental company that you are renting a car from. The airline apps keep you officially informed and can be used for checking in, digital boarding passes, etc. The car rental apps are often helpful in bypassing the rental counter (and the associated long line) and going directly to your car. For generic flight tracking, I use Flightview Elite in addition to airline apps.

Financial Apps – I use the apps from my Bank and Credit Card companies. When anything is charged to my card anywhere, I get an immediate notification on my phone. I mean, while I’m standing in front of the cash register even and the clerk is processing my payment (whether touchless or by handing over a card), I get a notification that my charge account has been used. And yes, I use GPay (aka Google Pay) so I don’t have to even carry my wallet or hand over a card to a cashier when I can avoid it. Google Wallet is a good way to slim down what you have to carry in your physical wallet.

Bible Software – I use Logos nearly all the time. I also use Bible Gateway occasionally, and also the YouVersion Bible app. The YouVersion Bible app is quite good if you don’t have something like Logos. I am a big fan of the Bible Project; they also have a nice app.

Social Media – Blah, blah, blah. Use what you use; don’t let it use you… too much. I’m not going there, but I will mention Substack and Flickr. Flickr is more of a place to share and curate photos without the ads of that other more popular place.

Pocket Casts – I started using Pocket Casts long ago. Then they had a lifetime deal on the better pro-like version. Then they were acquired and that wasn’t really honored so now they have a higher cost tier. I’m not paying them any more money but I continue to use the version that doesn’t cost. It’s quite good.

Audio – I pay for a Spotify subscription to avoid commercials and listen to whatever I want to listen to. I also use Amazon Music because I have quite a lot of past purchases of albums that I can listen to online and download to listen to offline with Amazon. And I have an extensive library of MP3’s made to back up my old CD and Vinyl library. There are many apps for listening to MP3’s on your phone. I sometimes use PowerAmp; but it has become cluttered with features. So often I just use VLC for audio. I use Smart Audiobook Player to listen to my downloaded talks, classes, and book that I have saved as MP3 files in the past – things like Regent College classes that I purchase. I use Audible for audiobooks. LibriVox is pretty good for listening to audiobooks made from stuff that is out of copyright. Sometimes I resort to Patreon to listen to podcasts that are exclusive to paid subscribers. Lectio 365 is a really good audio daily devotional app; there are devotionals for morning and evening with parallel text of what you hear in the audio for reference. Logos also does audio and I should probably make more use of it. I listen to lots of podcasts using Pocket Casts and “Hey Google, play the news” through the Google assistant. Be sure and configure what news sources you want Google Assistant to play.

Video – I use VLC to play my video files. You know, MP4’s and the like. Home video and other non-streaming video. Streaming video needs an app determined by the stream you are watching, like YouTube.

Google Home, Nest, and other Home Automation – I use Google Home and the Google Assistant for smart home stuff. I don’t like that internet connectivity is required for controlling my devices; but Google Home is easy. Sigh. Since Matter came into use, the need for other home automation apps is fading. But I still have the Philips Hue and the Kasa apps on my phone. There are fairly easy ways to get home automation offline using open source software on a Raspberry Pi with a few accessories, and I may do that. I haven’t done it so far at the turn of 2024.

DuckDuckGo – DuckDuckGo includes a browser that is pretty good for looking at things you don’t want to influence ads and the other things trackers do. They also have software that disables tracking from all apps on your phone. Some apps really don’t like this and stop working, like the ESPN app. For most apps you just stop being tracked. I appreciate being able to throw a wrench into the tracking gears; but I’m not really fanatic about it. The DuckDuckGo anti-tracking software reports the tracking that is undermines. (It is kind of stunning how much tracking Google does through apps that are not Google apps!)

Passport – You need this app to park in some lots and along some streets around here. Why does it tell me that my parking spot at Seal Beach from months ago is expiring every time my phone is restarted?

Peakfinder – What’s that mountain over there called? This app will tell you. You can set it up to have offline information.

FlightRadar24 – You use this app to find out what that airplane is (or those airplanes are) that are passing overhead – not private airplanes.

BackBlaze – I use Backblaze to back up my PC. The app allows me to access the backed up stuff from my phone. I use client-side encryption.

Brother Print Service, Brother iPrint&Scan – I have been purchasing Brother printers in recent years. They work and are not too expensive to keep in supplies.

Authy and other Authenticators – I use authenticator apps when available for two-factor authentication. I prefer Authy when an authenticator app is needed.

Battery Widget Reborn – I use this widget on my home screen for high-visibility battery level display.

Astro Clock – I like the plethora of location, moon, sun, and planetary information this app squeezes onto one screen! OK, this is for astro-nerds.

Sky Map – there are a lot of apps for helping you identify things in the sky at night. I’ve been using Sky Map, which is usually good enough for me. There are other, more sophisticated apps and apps that will avoid messing up your night sight (and that of others nearby) by using carefully selected colors on your phone display.

Information Apps – There are many apps for specialized information: Tide tables, tying knots, First Aid, trail maps, recommendations for craftsmen. I have some of these. Choose those that tell you what you want to know and avoid excessive ads and costly or unfair marketing strategies. I don’t have much that is interesting to say regarding these apps. I’ll just recommend that we all pay to eliminate ads as appropriate. Programmers deserve compensation like any other laborer.

Technical Information Apps – I’m not really going to get any deeper into my techno-nerd apps here. I have apps for network analyzing, monitoring wifi, mapping wifi coverage, checking what devices are on the LAN, managing my access points and network access, benchmarking connection speeds and processing speed, checking hardware status, etc.

Programmer/Developer Apps – I’m leaving all these out, too because most would not find them of interest. However, I can benchmark Lisp on my phone. Just sayin’. 🙂

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