Bumper Sticker Christianity

One of my pet peeves is people who post trite little “Christian” sayings as their Facebook status or on Twitter. They sound really good and they’ll get about 100 “likes” from all their like-minded friends, but most of the time they’re not defensible from scripture and as a result they do little more than lead empty-headed people in the wrong direction.

The other day someone said, “You can’t be like Jesus and hate politicians”. First, there are two ways to take that. The wrong way is: “Jesus hates politicians, and there’s no way you can be like him in your hatred of politicians.” The right way is: “You can’t uphold the biblical mandate to be Christ-like while claiming to hate politicians”.

The implication is that Jesus doesn’t hate anybody, therefore if we hate politicians, we’re not Christ-like.

First, I don’t think there are many people who truly hate anyone, let alone politicians. Real hatred wishes the worst for people and would rather see them dead. While I have a long list of politicians whose policies I hate, I don’t think there are any people I truly hate.

But second, and more important, the fact of the matter is that God does hate some people. I’ll vamp for a minute while you think about that. Who does God hate? There are plenty of verses that tell us that God loves everyone, but there’s at least one verse where God talks about people he hates.

Give up? How about Proverbs 6:16-19

16There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him: 17haughty eyes,
a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

So I responded that I only hate the wicked schemers and the ones who stir up conflict. My friend reminded me that Proverbs 6 puts judging in God’s hands, which is true, but it wasn’t the question. The question is, can we hate and be Christ-like. My argument was simple:

God hates schemers and conflict-stirrers; I hate schemers and conflict-stirrers; therefore I am like God; Jesus is God; therefore I am like Jesus. QED.

My point isn’t so much that God hates people so we should too, but rather that we need to think before we toss out nice-sounding trivialities as if they are scripture. Christianity isn’t that simple. It requires some thought and can’t be reduced to a bumper sticker.

Life as a Sport Pilot

These days I’m flying as a “private pilot exercising sport pilot privileges”.

To get a private pilot certificate, one is required to pass a medical exam every 2-3 years, depending on age. A while back I had some heart problems that resulted in two cardiac stents. Of course the FAA panicked, convinced I was going to have a heart attack and crash into the White House. Ironically, before I had the stents I was more likely to have a heart attack, yet I was flying legally. Now that the problem is resolved the FAA gets concerned. Go figure.

I waited the requisite six months then submitted all my medical records and got my medical certificate approved. Then in May 2011 my cardiologist made the mistake of mentioning “sleep study” on his office notes. He wanted me to be tested for sleep apnea.

Let’s talk about sleep apnea. People with this problem stop breathing in the middle of the night. As a result, their oxygen levels drop and they wake up with bad headaches. They also don’t get all the sleep they need, so they tend to fall asleep while watching TV, driving, or — as you might’ve guessed — flying. I had none of these symptoms. I never wake up gagging. I never fall asleep while watching a movie or TV. I never fall asleep in church. I never fall asleep while driving or flying. But because it was mentioned in the doctor’s office notes, the FAA was going to panic. So I didn’t bother re-testing for my medical certificate.

Instead, I did a sleep study. The minimum number of events per hour that qualifies as “mild sleep apnea” is five. That is, you can stop breathing every fifteen minutes and nobody worries. But if you stop breathing every twelve minutes, you can’t fly an airplane. My score was 11.4. Higher than five, but still considered “mild”.

So now I use a CPAP (actually a BiPAP) machine when I sleep. It is a mask connected to an air pump that increases the air pressure over my nose and mouth. The “Bi” in BiPAP means it is bi-level. It increases the air pressure a lot when I breath in, less when I breath out. The machine actually counts my apnea events. I’m down to less than two per hour.

Symptomatically there is no difference. I still get about the same amount of sleep every night. I still stay awake while watching TV and movies. I still stay awake while driving and flying. I still have no headaches when I wake up. So several thousand dollars later I’m no more safe to fly than I was before, but the FAA is happy. I haven’t yet submitted my medical data for re-certification, but I will.

In the meantime, I can still fly but with fewer privileges. The FAA lets me drop from “private pilot” to “sport pilot” privileges, since I don’t have a medical certificate. So I can only fly in specially designated “light sport airplanes” that weigh no more than 1320 lbs and go no faster than 120 kts. I can’t fly at night or in the clouds, even though I’m instrument rated. I can’t fly above 10,000 feet even though I have a high-altitude endorsement and 300 hours flying pressurized aircraft. I can’t fly multi-engine airplanes even though I have a multi-engine rating.

This works out just fine. My current airplane is a Jabiru J250-SP, which is a light sport airplane I own with my dad. While I’ve flown my twin-engine Baron 58P from Boston to Seattle and San Diego to Atlanta at altitudes up to about 23,000 feet, I’ve also flown the Jabiru to those places and more. It just takes longer and you have to go around, rather than over, the mountains.

One of these days I’ll get my records together and re-apply for my medical certificate. In the meantime, assuming I don’t fall asleep or have a heart attack, I’ll be flying low and slow and enjoying the view.

PocketBible 2 for iOS

We’re just about to release an update to PocketBible for the iPhone/iPad. This version adds some often-requested enhancements and some new features that you probably didn’t even know you needed.

First, we’ve added the ability to select any text and copy it to the clipboard (what the iPhone calls the “pasteboard”). You’d think this would’ve been a standard feature of the program from a long time ago, but since we wrote our own HTML rendering code, it all had to be implemented by hand — including the cool magnifying glass that shows you what you’re touching as you select text and the lollipop-shaped “drag handles” that let you expand the selection.

Next, the multi-paned user interface was enhanced to allow you to represent each pane as a tab. This lets you easily jump from a Bible to a commentary and back by just selecting a tab. This feature was further augmented with the ability to open all your books in one operation. Your books will open in five tabs/panes labelled “Bibles”, “Commentaries”, “Dictionaries”, “Devotionals”, and “Other”. If you don’t have any books in a particular category, that tab/pane is not shown.

For those who take notes in the expanded toolbox, you’ve been frustrated by the fact that expanding the toolbox covers any open books beneath it. As a result it can be hard to both follow the Bible text and take notes (or preach from your notes). We’ve modified the behavior of the toolbox so that it switches you into tabbed mode if you’re not already there, then moves the current book out of the way of the toolbox. Now your Bible can be displayed in a narrow column above, below, or to either side of your notes. Very nice.

Two major new features are introduced in version 2. First is what we call “Autostudy”. By simply selecting a verse (or a word), you can quickly get a report showing everything your library has to say about that verse/word. While Autostudying a verse, you’ll see that verse in all your selected Bibles, the verse with Strong’s numbers if you have one of our Bibles that contains Strong’s numbers, definitions of every word in the verse from your selected dictionaries, definitions of all the Strong’s numbers in the verse from your selected Strong’s dictionaries, and all the cross-references for the verse from the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. You can select which books and Bibles are used by this feature and in what order the material appears.

When Autostudying a word, you’ll see how many times it occurs in each of your Bibles, what Greek or Hebrew Strong’s words are translated to that word, and the definition of those Strong’s words and the selected word from your dictionaries.

Autostudy reports can be browsed in PocketBible, saved to PocketBible’s public folder (and from there transferred to your desktop computer through iTunes), copied to the clipboard, or printed to an AirPrint-compatible printer.

Finally, PocketBible now has the ability to speak any Bible or reference book you own. Simply purchase a voice (eight voices in two languages are available) using In-App Purchasing in PocketBible or at our website, then select the text you want to read. You control the volume and can even have PocketBible read while your iPod music plays in the background. You can set PocketBible to start reading at a particular verse and just keep going until you tell it to stop, or give it a specific passage to read.

The basic PocketBible program with the same features as the current version (1.4.7) will be free. The advanced features described above will be available for a nominal fee, either as an In-App Purchase or at a lower price at our website.

Tax the Rich!

The “tax the rich” fallacy: If we tax the top 0.1% of taxpayers ($1.8 million and above) at 100%, the net new revenue to the government would be $640 billion. Obama is currently spending $8.8 billion per day. So if we CONFISCATE 100% of the income of the super-rich, we could keep Obama afloat for 73 days. Raising taxes to solve a SPENDING problem is a fool’s errand.

Hebrews 4:12 and “The Word of God”

Recently, a Facebook friend posted a comment about Hebrews 4:12:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

His assertion was that the “word of God” in this verse refers to Jesus, and not to the Bible as he had previously been led to believe. That prompted this response from me:

The “Word of God” is not a synonym for the Bible or the scriptures: In Lk 3:2 the Word of God came to John; he did not receive a Bible. In Lk 5:1 Jesus was preaching and the crowds were listening to the Word of God; he was not reading the Bible to them. In Acts 4:31 the disciples spoke the Word of God; they were not reading the Bible. In Acts 6:7 the Word of God kept on spreading; they were not distributing Bibles. In Acts 8:14 the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God; they weren’t talking about a shipment of Bibles. In Acts 11:1 the Gentiles received the Word of God; they did not receive BIbles. I could go on.

Paul defines the “Word of God” in Colossians 1:26ff as “the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints… which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The “Word of God” is the message that God has for his creation. Specifically, it is the Gospel; more generally it is whatever God has to say — whether it was recorded in the Bible or not.

Jesus Christ is the physical manifestation of the Word of God (John 1:1-4,14). I imagine your interpretation of 4:12 is coming from 4:13, which refers to “Him”, and 4:14 goes on to talk about Jesus. I don’t know that 4:12 is specifically talking about Jesus or if it says that the Word of God is the tool/sword that Jesus uses to divide soul and spirit, joints and marrow, thoughts and intents, during the process of judging. But I know for sure that the “Word of God” in Heb 4:12 is not our 66-book Bible, because it is never used with that meaning anywhere in scripture.