How to Use Ulysses for Bible Study

Chris Bowler over at The Sweet Setup is blowing my everloving mind. What he's done is exactly what I'd like to do - have my own notes and my own database all in one place, locally accessed by my app of choice, in this case - Ulysses.

It would be a lot of work to get all the Biblical text into one app (it's over 800,000 words, but it is just plain text, after all), but I think to have everything in one place would be amazing.

How to use Ulysses for long-term research - The Sweet Setup >

Bibliotheca

Bibliotheca is a great Kickstarter project started by Adam Greene. It's the Bible, American Standard Version (modified), in four volumes. It's a "readers Bible," meaning it doesn't have the typical cross references or chapter breaks of a regular Bible. It looks more like a novel that one might read here in 2014. The custom typography is beautiful and the cloth binding looks amazing. 

Apparently the project has already met its threshold, which is great. I'll be picking these up as soon as they're available, if I don't already change my $5 donation to get the four-volume set right now. 

With a culture that is increasingly making the Bible irrelevant, it's very refreshing to see someone making the Bible more relevant. Greene explains in the video about his choice of the ASV as the translation - and to me, the coolest part is that he's replacing some of the terminology (thee, thou, hast, etc.) with up-to-date terms such as you, I, and me. Some conservatives may balk at this - especially since he's also stated he's replacing and augmenting some of the text with Young's Literal Translation - but I see it as a step forward. 

This argument is a microcosm of the church as a whole today - how can we make the Word of God more relevant without changing the message? 

Anyways, I implore you to check out the video below. It's got some really cool stuff and it will have you saying "Take my money" in no time. 

Update: After seeing this post, Adam emailed me. He wanted me to make sure that this is a limited edition kind of thing, and may not be available after the initial run. He says:

A lot of people are wondering if this product will be available to purchase after the Kickstarter campaign. Although I would be thrilled to make a second printing available for purchase after the campaign, I cannot guarantee it by any stretch. I am trying to get the word out that this is not a campaign to make the product available to buy indefinitely. Rather, it is essentially a limited pre-order that will end when the campaign is over. As of now, the only guaranteed way to own the set is by pre-ordering on the Kickstarter page.

Thanks, Adam!


Bible Cross References Visualized

This may be cooler looking than iOS 7.  

From Chris Harrison:  

The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc - the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect.

Too cool. Gonna frame it and put it in my office.  

You can visit Chris' site and get the original in super-hi res if you want.  

Click for larger

iPad Mini: The Ultimate Preaching & Teaching Tool

Ever since the "big" iPad debuted in 2010, I'm sure that there were a ton of posts (and probably still are) that the iPad was the ultimate tool for preaching and teaching. 

But I haven't read any of those articles, because for a long time, I didn't have an iPad. In 2012, I picked up an iPad, my wife and son fell in love with it, so I used that excuse to get an iPad mini. 

I love the smaller form factor. I love that its the size of my Bible. I love that the screen is the same resolution as the iPad 2, except packed into a smaller size. 

And I haven't used paper ever since. 

My iPad mini coupled with my Bible is all I need to teach a full-length class or preach a standard 30-minute sermon. I've went through many different workflows to perfect my process. And I'd love to share it with you. 

PDF to Dropbox

My first workflow with the iPad involved me styling a pretty document in Pages on the Mac and exporting it to PDF to a specified folder in my Dropbox. With it there, I could use a variety of apps (including the Dropbox app itself) to view the PDF for teaching my class. 

This was a clunky solution. Although pretty, the PDF wasn't editable. I couldn't add or delete content on the go, I would have to open the original document, edit it, re-export the PDF, and sync the changes across my devices. I grew tired of this workflow very quickly. 

Evernote

The second app/workflow I tried was Evernote. Evernote is an excellent all-capture app for things such as text, photos, and even audio. For a while this worked - I was able to write my class notes in the Evernote app for Mac, and after a few seconds the changes would sync to my devices. The problem here though is that I had a WiFi-only iPad mini. Unless the notes are cached and ready to go, it's not possible to pull them up on the go unless you have tethering to your smartphone. (You also run into roadblocks with this in almost every other syncing method, by the way.)

Had I stuck with my Nexus 7 and with Android, I would have stuck with Evernote, and I probably would have been happy. 

Simplenote

Very similar to Evernote in my opinion, except Simplenote is just for text. There's a couple of ways you could compose your material - through the very nice Simplenote interface on the web or through a number of apps such as Brett Terpstra's NV Alt, or with the dedicated iPhone and iPad apps. I didn't have too good of luck with Simplenote, despite loving the service, because I'm a bit too organized for it. Simplenote maintains that you should organize through a tagging system, and while I love tags, I had no need for it in my folder-by-month file structure for all my class and sermon notes. 

Simplenote is excellent for quick notes, and will even sync via my beloved Drafts app, but  that's all I currently use it for. 

.txt to Elements in Dropbox

My current workflow my not seem as simple as some of the others, but it allows me the most flexibility and is, in fact, incredibly simple and automated. I was hesitant to implement this workflow because I thought it may be too complicated, but it turns out that it's right the opposite. 

I compose my lessons in TextEdit on the Mac (or any other text editor that will save as or export to .txt format) and simply save them into the appropriate sub folder in my Elements folder, which is housed in my main Dropbox folder. Writing in plain text (.txt) allows lots of flexibility - namely file size, transfer times, and the ability to edit pretty much anywhere. 

I use the Elements app on my iPad to display my material to teach my classes. Elements will cache that folder's contents on wifi and will allow you pull up the latest version even if the app hasn't connected for a while. If you make changes though, you will have to refresh the file list. But on wifi and even over cell phone signal, this is incredibly quick considering file sizes are a tenth of the size of Pages or Word files. The app will also allow you to create a new text file in the file directory that you wish and will sync that file with Dropbox once a connection becomes available again. 

Elements does allow limited styling of your text through Markdown. If you don't know what Markdown is, it's just a neat HTML-like way to style plain text, with headline sizes, bold, italics, and bullet points. Elements will also allow you to change font sizes as well as pick from many nice fonts to display your text. 

This current workflow seems to be working, because I haven't changed it in the last 12 months. 

I love my iPad and I love the flexibility it gives me to edit my lessons on the go and compose them wherever I want. With 3 apps - Elements, Dropbox, and Drafts - I control my own creativity when and where I want to edit and create new thoughts. 

What about you? What do you use when you preach or teach?