Tips for Using DropBox as a Portable Library

Using DropBox as a portable library

I rarely store files on my hard drive these days. Since I discovered DropBox, I use it to store pretty much everything. I also discovered recently that it makes a great portable library.

One of the best things about DropBox is the ability to access your files on any device, including smart phones and tablets – the same places you often read e-books. And because there are thousands of free books available as PDF files, you can store these in DropBox to read at your leisure.

Organizing

As with my Kindle library, my DropBox library is organized by category. First I created a folder called “Books.” Then, within that folder, I created folders for each category or genre: writing, economics, history, etc. When saving a book, I also change the file name to the full name of the book and the author using this format: TITLE by AUTHOR. For example,  Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt.  Because the file names PDFs come with are often not helpful in identifying the work, this makes finding a book much easier. It also makes locating books using the DropBox search function easy. From your “Books” folder, simply use the author’s last name or part of the title as a search term and it will find your book – very helpful if you have a lot of books.

Sharing

One of the great things about a DropBox library is how easily you can share your books. PDF files, like any other file, can certainly be attached to emails and sent to others. But, with DropBox you can easily share the folders you create with another DropBox user. This way they can read any book you save in the shared folder – something not as easy to do with Kindle or other e-readers.

Reading

So how do you read these books? You can simply open the files from your computer and read them on the screen. But that limits portability. You can also open them via the DropBox application on the iPad. This solves the portability problem but you must scroll through the document vertically – not ideal for reading in my opinion.

To read them more like other e-books, you’ll need to take an extra step or two. The best options I’ve found are opening the document in iBooks or sending it to Kindle. Within the DropBox iPad app is a feature called “Open in.” This gives you a drop down list of all the apps on your iPad that will open the file. One of those will be iBooks. Once opened there you can read the document using a more book-like right to left page swipe. IBooks also preserves the original formatting of the PDF and faithfully reproduces any images. A drawback is you cannot highlight text and make notes in the book. If this is important to you, you can purchase an app like  PDF Expert This will allow you to read with page swipes as well as highlight and make notes.

Finally, if you have a Kindle you can send the PDF document there using your Kindle email address. Create an email with the document as an attachment, being sure to type “convert” in the subject line. The book will show up on your Kindle a few  minutes after sending. This allows the PDF to be read like any other Kindle book. You will also be able to highlight text and make notes. One drawback is that formatting sometimes doesn’t come across exactly and images are often not easy to see, especially if the originals were in color. As a consequence, this method works best for high text, low image documents.

In a future post, I’ll list some places to get free PDF books for your DropBox library.

What are the best ways you’ve found to store and read PDF books?

10 Characteristics of False Prophets

Fixed: In sheep clothing

Christs tells believers in Matthew 7:15 to beware of false prophets and warns they will come to us disguised as believers. They will outwardly appear to be His followers but inwardly they are “ravenous wolves” seeking to destroy the flock. How can we know if someone who appears to be a fellow Christian is in actuality a false prophet (or teacher)? One helpful resource is the Book of Ezekiel.

Ezekiel was a priest called by God to be a prophet to Judah in the sixth century, B.C. In the thirteenth chapter of his writings, Ezekiel speaks against the false prophets of Israel who were leading the people away from God and into judgment – just as false teachers and prophets do today. Though his message is hundreds of years old, the characteristics he describes continue to be true of those who attempt to lead believers astray.

False prophets:
  1. Follow their own spirit rather than God (Ezekiel 13:3). Today we might say they take Disney’s advice and follow their heart rather than the scriptures.
  2. Claim God has spoken to them or through them when He has not (Ezekiel 13:6-7). In Ezekiel’s day this meant claiming to hear from God outside His chosen channel of revelation – His prophets. Now we should be wary of anyone claiming extra-biblical revelation from God.
  3. Are liars (Ezekiel 13:8). People for whom truth flies out the window the moment it is inconvenient or unpopular.
  4. Speak “peace” when there is no peace. In other words, they give people false assurance regarding their standing before God (Ezekiel 13:10).
  5. Whitewash evil. They dress up wickedness trying to make it presentable (Ezekiel 13:11-12).
  6. Will eventually be exposed and judged by God (Ezekiel 13:13-16).
  7. Utilize good luck charms and other superstitious methods (Ezekiel 13:18). They are syncritists – dabbling in the practices of false religions. This is seen in such things as efforts to mix new age practices with Christianity.
  8. Do not really care for those they claim to minister to (Ezekiel 13:18). The false teacher’s main concern is himself, not those sitting under his teaching.
  9. Spare the guilty and punish the innocent, often for financial gain (Ezekiel 13:19). Is the teacher willing to compromise truth or cover up wrong-doing in order to avoid personal loss or achieve personal gain?
  10. Encourage sinners to continue sinning leading to their destruction (Ezekiel 13:22). False teachers encourage people in their sin rather than pleading with them to turn from it.


Notice how many of these concern their approach to truth. The primary characteristic of false teachers is that they hate God’s truth and therefore they use their teaching to undermine it. Nothing is more dangerous to the church than truth-haters in positions of authority. Like Ezekiel, we should be quick to call out such teachers. The protection and health of Christ’s church demands it.

Have you encountered a false teacher in the church? If so, how did you handle it?

The Test For An Unfaithful Wife?

The Test for an unfaithful wife? Numbers 5:11-31

The Book of Numbers is a history of the wanderings of the people of Israel in the desert after their liberation from slavery in Egypt. It is organized in two parts. The first section, 1:1 – 9:14, concerns how the people are to worship God and relate to one another as God’s people.  The second section, 9:15-16:50 concerns the failure of the first generation of Israelites to possess the Promised Land and the consequences resulting from that. One of the oddest passages in Numbers and perhaps in all the Bible comes in the first section. It describes a test that can be done to determine if a wife has been unfaithful to her husband (Numbers 5:11-29).

A Strange Ritual

The woman suspected of adultery is to be brought to the priest who prepares an offering of grain and incense and oil. He then makes a mixture of holy water and dust from the tabernacle floor. After loosening the woman’s hair, placing the offering in her hand and placing her under oath, he is to write on a scroll the curses upon those who commit adultery and then wash the words off in the holy water and dust mixture. The woman then drinks this concoction. If she’s guilty she will get sick, if she’s innocent she will not.

This is the kind of passage detractors of scripture love to keep in their pocket for just the right gotcha moment. “Oh, you believe the Bible is inerrant? Well,what about…THIS! You don’t believe this nonsense do you?” Well, do you? What are we to make of this strange sounding ritual? Is the Bible teaching that jealous husbands should use some kind of magic spell to test their wives’ faithfulness?

The Interpretive Key

They key to correctly understanding this passage is in verse 11 “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,…” Everything that follows was spoken to Moses directly by God. This was not some man-made ritual developed by a primitive, superstitious society. This wasn’t the Old Testament equivalent of throwing suspected witches into the water to see if they float. This was a test designed and ordained by God Himself. As such, it could be trusted to be accurate 100% of the time – exposing the guilty and protecting the innocent.

The Application for Today

So if that’s true, that God ordained and commanded this test, are we to perform it still today? Let’s look at what’s required for the test: A priest from the tribe of Levi (v. 15), the tabernacle, since dust from its floor is required (v. 17), holy water (v. 17) and an altar on which to burn some of the grain offering (v. 26). None of these things exists today. The tabernacle became obsolete when the temple was built and the temple along with the Levitical priesthood and the sacrifices became obsolete with the coming of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9 & 10). The relationship God had with national Israel in the Old Testament is unique in history. No nation is or ever will be their modern equivalent. God’s people this side of the cross are identified by their possession of His Spirit, not their ethnicity or the real estate they occupy (Revelation 5:9). As a result, they now hail from many nations and live under the authority of a variety of political systems (Galatians 3:28). Therefore, Old Testament ways of dealing with transgressions of the law under the theocratic political system of Israel are not directly transferable to New Testament believers.

So, do I believe this “nonsense?” Yes. I believe it was a method given by God uniquely to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament as a valid way to determine guilt or innocence in cases of suspected adultery. Today, it provides information on how God interacted with His people during the Old Covenant and highlights the seriousness of sin. But, this ritual is not applicable to God’s people today. God’s displeasure with the sin of adultery remains (Matthew 5:27-28) but this particular method of dealing with suspected adultery is unique to the time and circumstances in which God gave it.

Picking Up Hay

Bails Of Hay

Every summer, the time arrived to gather in the hay.
 
My grandfather mowed and raked the waist high field with his blue Ford tractor, leaving long golden rows.
 
Then with a rhythmic clack, clack, clack the baler moved along the rows, turning them into bales of hay.
 
Leaving a field dotted with neatly bound parcels.
 
We walked the field beside an old pickup truck, hoisting bales into the back.
 
Sweat poured down my face and soaked my shirt.
 
Hay stuck to my clothes and in my hair and on my skin.
 
Finally the truck was full.
 
We climbed atop the hay and rode to the barn relishing every moment in the breeze.
 
Wishing the barn was miles away.
This poem is based on my memories of picking up hay, as we called, it on my grandfather’s farm when I was a boy.
 
 

10 Ways to Be a Better Student of the Bible in the New Year

10 Ways to Be a Better Student of the Bible in 2013

This is the time of year people begin to think about their goals for the coming year. If one of your goals is to be a better student of the Bible in the New Year, here are 10 things to consider:

  1. Read the Bible through during the year. If you’ve never read the Bible all the way through, this should be your number one goal for the coming year with regard to your Bible study. It’s impossible to rightly understand God’s word apart from a holistic view of the Bible.  If this seems intimidating, remember that it can be done by reading less than ten chapters each day. The key is to have a plan. Don’t just start with Genesis 1:1 and say “I’ll read a little each day until I’m done”. Have a plan and follow it. One of the best is Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System.
  2. Choose one book of the Bible and read an in-depth commentary on it. When you visit a new city for the first time, you don’t want to explore it totally on your own, you need a tour guide. Commentaries perform much the same function for books of the Bible. It’s like having a tour guide to show you the best places to eat or the most important sites – theologically speaking. If you need some suggestions, try here.
  3. Read without stopping to look up things you don’t understand. This helps get the flow of a passage or book. Paul’s epistles, for example, were originally letters and would have been read in one sitting.
  4. Read stopping to look up things you don’t understand.  As a pastor at our church is fond of saying, the Bible was not written to you but it was written for you. Those to whom it was written lived in a different era and sometimes we need to understand things about that era to best understand a passage or book. So if you don’t understand a word or a custom, take time to investigate.
  5. Invest in a good systematic theology book. Two of the best are Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem and The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way by Michael Horton.
  6. Familiarize yourself with BibleGateway.com. This site allows you to view a Bible passage in multiple translations (even multiple languages if you like) as well as view notes from several commentaries (click the “Study This” button in the upper right when you’re in a passage).  One of the most powerful features is the ability to find something in the scriptures using key words. Great for those “I know it’s in there somewhere” situations when all you can remember is a few words from a passage.
  7. Study the Bible with a friend. You can put any of these tips into practice along with someone else. For example, if you and a friend each buy a different commentary for a book study, you can benefit from two commentaries for the price of one. Partnering up is especially helpful if you’ve decided to read the Bible through during the year. A bit of accountability or even friendly competition makes reaching your goal much more likely.
  8. Attend a Bible-believing and teaching church each week. To be a serious student of the scriptures, you must belong to a church that takes them seriously as well. Look for a church where the pastor exposits the Bible each week. This will be a powerful supplement to your individual or small group study.
  9. Do a teaching outline of a passage or book. Even if you never intend to teach the Bible to others, thinking about how you would teach a particular passage if you had to will help you learn it as well. Write down the main points of the passage and then think about how best to explain those to another person. Who knows, if you practice this one enough, you may begin to desire to teach the scriptures to others.
  10. Pray. Lastly and most importantly, remember that the best resource for understanding and studying the scriptures is God Himself through the Holy Spirit. Ask God to open your eyes to the truth of His word and for the things you read to sink deeply into your heart and mind making you more and more like Christ.

What has been most helpful in your study of the Bible? I’d love to hear some other ideas.