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Uplifting Apps and Podcasts

Part One

By Gary F. Zeolla

 

      In this two-part article, I will overview a variety of apps that can be used on smart phones and tablets and podcasts that can be listened to in order to uplift your spirit throughout the day. I have been using these apps and listening to these podcasts for many years and personally find them to be very inspirational. I use android devices, but I am sure equivalents for these apps can be found for iPhones and iPads.

 

Bible Apps

 

      The last issue of Darkness to Light Newsletter (V21N1) began with a short article titled Happy New Year! The Bible in a Year. It recommended reading or listening to 3-4 chapters of the Bible every morning. By doing so, you would get through the Bible in about a year.

      To do so, you could use a hardcopy Bible or an eBook version of a Bible. My own Analytical Literal Translation of the Bible (ALT) is available in a variety of both such formats. However, it is not yet available in an app.

      The difference is, with an app, you can do a search on a word or phrase, and it will bring up a list of verses that contain that word or phrase. In an eBook, you can still do a search, but it will just take you through each occurrence of the search item, or in the case of the Kindle app, give you a list of pages with that word or phrase as they are numbered in the app. Therefore, when I want to do such searches and for general Bible study on my phone, I use the Blue Letter Bible (BLB) app. It has a variety of English and non-English Bible versions available on it. Those non-English Bible versions include the original Hebrew and Greek texts.

      I particularly like this app, as you can set two versions side-by-side for easy comparison. I have the New King James Version (NKJV) on the lefthand side and the Greek Septuagint (LXX) on the righthand side for the  Old Testament (OT) and the Greek Majority Text (MT) for the New Testament (NT). These are the original language texts underlying the ALT.

      The OT was originally written in Hebrew. That text is also available in the BLB. Also available are the slightly different Greek texts for the NT of the Textus Receptus (TR) and the Critical Text (CT). For a discussion of the difference between the MT, the TR, and the CT, see my book Differences Between Bible Versions.

      But here, other English versions available on the BLB include the King James Version (KJV), the New International Version (NIV), the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the New Living Translation (NLT), along with various older public domain versions like the American Standard Version (ASV). For a discussion of these versions and the differences between them, see again my Bible versions book.

      Another app that many Christians use and that also has a wide variety of versions available on it is YouVersion. Another is Olive Tree. For the latter, there are also multiple versions available for it, though you need to purchase some of them. There are also Bible study aids available for purchase.

      There are also many other apps for specific versions, most especially for the KJV.

      For listening to the Bible, I use an app that is just titled Audio Bible. It has all of the same English versions as the BLB, along with several foreign language versions. Some are available in both dramatized and non-dramatized versions. I recommend the former.

      It also has the Geneva Bible. It predates the KJV and was the version the Pilgrims brought to the New World. Although, the version on the BLB updates the Elizabethan language, so it reads more like the NKJV than the KJV.

      There are also various audio Bible apps for specific versions. There are a wide variety that use the KJV, again, in both dramatized and non-dramatized versions. I am currently using a standalone app for the NKJV. It has both dramatized and non-dramatized versions.

      To find these, just search “audio bible” in your app store, and you should find one to your liking.

      But whichever app you use, I would highly recommend starting your day by reading or listening to the Bible. I have been listening to the Bible every morning since the spring of 2017. I am now on my tenth pass through.

      For the previous nine passes, I used the NKJV, Geneva Bible, ESV, KJV, NSRV, NKJV, NIV, KJV, and NKJV. This time, as mentioned, I am again using a dramatized version of the NKJV in a standalone app I have used before. The dramatization is very good, especially in The Revelation. It was actually quite exciting to listen to the first time.

      I have long thought Hollywood should produce a big budget movie based on The Revelation, but to do it literally, without trying to interpret all of the symbolism. By that I mean, depict a literal seven-headed beast coming up out of the ocean (13:1). If Hollywood can create movies with realistic depictions of dinosaurs and natural disasters, I am sure they could depict a seven-headed beast and all of the destruction described in The Revelation.

      But until then, if nothing else, I would recommend listening to The Revelation via a dramatized Audio Bible. No matter the version, every one I have listened to has been awesome.

 

KLove/ Air1

 

      KLove and Air1 are two very similar radio stations. Both play Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) of a softener nature 24 hours a day. Both are nationally syndicated and can be found on the radio in most major markets.

      Here in the Pittsburgh, PA area, KLove airs on 98.3 FM, while Air1 is on 88.7 FM. To find the stations in your area, use the stations finders on the websites for KLove and Air1. However, those stations do not come in very well on an old-fashioned radio in the valley in which I live. That is why I am glad both are available on their apps. They can be found in any app store.

      The tagline for KLove is “Positive, Encouraging KLove.” For Air1 it is “Air1. Worship Now.”

      Both have one or two hosts interjecting between songs with uplifting comments. Sometimes it is strictly spiritual, and sometimes it is just light-hearted banter.

      Both also often have one-minute segments of various Christian artists giving the background to one of their songs. Sometimes there is an uplifting one-minute commentary by a preacher. Then there is the “verse of the day.” Unfortunately, they both use the NLT.

      I say  “unfortunately, as the NLT is a not very literal version, so it differs greatly from my ALT, the NKJV, or any other more literal version. As such, I need to “translate” the verse in my mind into its more literal format to recognize the verse. That is one problem with such a wide variety of Bible versions available. It keeps Christians from having a common way of repeating a particular Bible verse. Again, for much more on the differences between Bible versions, see my Bible versions book.

      But here, another caveat for these two stations is they seem to have a short play list, so they play the same songs over and over again throughout the day. That is why I do not listen to them that often.

      I generally listen to one or the other app for a few minutes first thing in the morning, as I am getting out of bed and getting dressed. Then I start the Bible app while doing the rest of my morning stuff. It just takes a few minutes before I can concentrate enough to focus on the Bible, while soft Christian music is best while shaking off that morning grogginess.

      I also like a little feature on KLove. At 6:05 am, it always has what sounds like a classroom of children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. It warms my heart to hear schoolchildren reciting the Pledge, with the phrase “under God.”

      In any case, I also listen to one of these apps at the end of my workouts, as I am stretching and cleaning up. The soft music is perfect to help me calm down from my workouts. And with it being Christian music, it can turn my few minutes of stretching into a time of meditation.

      I then listen to one of these stations as I am getting ready for bed. Again, the soothing music helps me calm down and get prepared to sleep, while focusing my mind on the LORD as I lay down to sleep. Thus, three times a day, these stations help me focus on the LORD.

      However, I should mention that on occasion, the hosts take calls from listeners. The callers often say they listen to the station all day at work or home, so maybe it is just me who finds their play list too redundant to listen to all day long.

      In any case, both stations are listener supported. That means there are no advertisements. That is good. But it also means they often ask for donations, and twice a year, both stations set aside two weeks for a focus on asking for donations. But that still amounts to far less time asking for money than you get of commercials on commercial radio stations.

      Come Christmastime, the KLove app has a separate station that plays Christmas music, though I was disappointed it plays a mixture of Christian and non-Christian Christmas carols. I would have preferred just Christian Christmas carols. I get enough of secular Christmas songs from other sources. That leads to the next app.

 

Pandora

 

      Pandora is one of many music apps available. It has both free and paid subscriptions available. With the free version,  the music gets interrupted by ads. The paid subscriptions eliminate the ads and provide various additional features. The subscription I have costs $10.69 per month, including tax. That is a bit pricy, but it is worth it to me, as I listen to this app many hours a day, both on my phone and on my desktop PC.

      What I like about this app is you can start with a particular song or artist and build a “station” based on it or him or her. By that I mean, Pandora will play songs and artists similar to that first song or artist. By clicking “Like” or “Unlike” you can form the stations to play the particular style of music you want for that station.

      But what is cool is that you can have multiple stations. What you “Like” or “Unlike” in one station does not affect the playlist for another station. Therefore, you can create a variety of very different stations. The app initially names the station based on what you started with. But you can rename each station as you want.

      After many years of use, I have now developed dozens of different stations. First up are three different CCM stations. Two of them were already available in Pandora. One was titled “Today’s Christian Hits” and the other “Christian Workout,” though it played mainly softer CCM, not my kind of workout music. Therefore, I renamed them simply CCM 1 and CCM 2. I added a third CCM station based on Mercy Me.

      There is not a lot of difference between them, but having three gives me some variety. Although, the songs I hear in these stations are similar to what I hear on KLove or Air1, which is to say, softer modern Christian music. The difference is there is no talking between songs. At the above indicated times I listen to KLove or Air1, I like that uplifting banter, but when I am working, it can get distracting. That is why I pay for a subscription, rather than use the free version, as the ads are also distracting.

      For variety, I also have a “Classic CCM” station. That plays older (1970s-90s) CCM.  I based it on Michael Card.

      However, even the words in CCM can be distracting, so most often I listen to instrumental music while working. For that, Pandora already had a “Instrumental Christian Songs” station. I renamed it, “Instrumental Hymns & Worship Songs.” That gives me uplifting music without distracting words.

      I also created two classical music stations for listening to while working. I began with Beethoven and Brahms for them. And for real variety, I created a “Film Scores” station (starting with Jurassic Park) and a “Instrumental TV Themes” station (started with MASH). Though, the variety there is not that great, as there are not that many theme songs without words.

      Come Christmas, I have three Christmas music stations. The first was already in Pandora and plays general Christmas carols, both Christian and secular. It seems to prefer older stuff like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. However, I created a station that plays just Christian Christmas music. For it I began with “Mercy Me (Holiday).” The third is “Christian Christmas Instrumental” music, again, for while I am working. For that I began with an instrumental Christian Christmas song that just happened to play when I was playing my Christian Christmas station.

      I then created multiple stations to play while working out. This is when I need harder Christian rock and “White Metal” to get psyched up for lifting. I have two “Christian Modern Hard Rock” stations (started with Skillet and Pillar), a “Christian Classic Hard Rock” station (Rez Band), two “Christian White Metal” stations (Bride, Barren Cross), a “Christian Alternative” station (Theocracy), a “Christian Medium Rock station for lighter workouts (Kutless), a “Christian Rap” station (Lecrae), and even a “Christian Metalcore” station (War of Ages).

      The latter two I would never listen to for secular music, as the language is just awful. But you get no such foul language with Christian rap and metalcore artists.

      If you don’t know whether a particular artist is Christian or not, clicking on the artist’s name in the app will take you to a list of “Similar Artists” and other details on the artist.

      I put “Christian” in the front of all of the titles just so all of my Christian stations are in a row at the top when ordered alphabetically. That is because, to be honest, for variety’s sake, I do listen to secular hard rock and heavy metal on rare occasions, both modern and classic. For those times, I have a variety of stations created. But I don’t listen to them very often, as I prefer to be uplifted even while working out.

      For more in regard to my music habits and the debates about CCM and about Christian versus secular music, see the section Contemporary Christian Music on my Christian website. See also the section on “Music and Other Media” about half down my extended autobiography (see My Life Story) on my personal website.

      Finally on Pandora, for any station, there are different versions of the station you can listen to. They are: My Station, Crowd Faves, Discovery, Deep Cuts, and Newly Released. These will give you even more variety within the type of music in that station.

 

The conclusion to this two-part article will be posted after it appears in the next issue of Darkness to Light Newsletter.


Differences Between Bible Versions: Third Edition

    Why do Bible versions differ? Why does the same verse read differently in different versions? Why do some versions contain words, phrases, and even entire verses that other versions omit? Which Bible versions are the most reliable? These and many other questions are answered in this book. Forty versions of the Bible are compared and evaluated. 


Uplifting Apps and Podcasts: Part One. Copyright 2023 by Gary F. Zeolla.

The above article was posted on this website March 1, 2023.
It first appeared in the free Darkness to Light Newsletter.

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Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament

    The ideal version for personal Bible study. The only Bible that is a literal translation of the second edition of the Byzantine Majority Greek Text, brings out nuances of the Greek text, and includes study aids within the text. Promotes understanding of what the New Testament writers originally wrote.