Transitioning

Leaving a job you love is hard. Leaving a job you love at a church is harder. 

One the kids said so honestly in my last Bible class this Wednesday night: 

"It's hard to say goodbye because you're used to them."

My soul and spirit have gotten used to the family here at Church Street Church of Christ. I am not happy to leave. It, in fact, terrifies me to do so. But I know that I leave of my own choice, to move on to another position which will allow me to tackle new challenges and spend more precious time with my family. 

I am happy, however, to leave the youth ministry at Church Street in the best place that I know I could. I know the parents, deacons, youth committee and elders will find a great replacement and will continue the long tradition of strong youth work in Lewisburg. 

All this being said, I am very sad to leave. This is my last day in the office here. And I will miss Kyle, Bill, Talitha, Billy, and Hector very much. Working with all of you has been an honor. 

Working with the Elders, Deacons, and Youth Committee has been wonderful. I could not ask for a better support team for the youth program here. 

The congregation as a whole has been very supportive, and they continue to be supportive as we transition out. We are so very thankful for that. 

I do not exaggerate when I say that my family and I have been truly blessed by being here. May the Lord bless you and keep you, and shine his face upon you, and give you peace. 

Go with God, Church Street. 

May The 4th Be With You: Don't be a LUKEwarm Christian

What does it mean to be a LUKEwarm Christian? (See what I did there?)

According to Francis Chan, there are 18 ways that you can tell a lukewarm Christian. Wow.

1. Lukewarm people attend church fairly regularly. It is what is expected of them, what they believe “good Christians” do, so they go. Isaiah 29:13

2. Lukewarm people give money to charity and to the church as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living. If they have a little extra and it is easy and safe to give, they do so, After all, God loves a cheerful giver, right? 1 Chronicles 21:24, Luke 21:1-4

3. Lukewarm people tend to choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict. They desire to fit in both at church and outside of church; they care more about what people think of their actions (like church attendance and giving) than what God thinks of their hearts and lives. Luke 6:26, Revelation 3:1, Matthew 23:5-7 4.

4: Lukewarm people don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin. They don’t genuinely hate sin and aren’t truly sorry for it; they’re merely sorry because God is going to punish them. Lukewarm people don’t really believe that this new life Jesus offers is better than the old sinful one. John 10:10, Romans 6:1-2.

5. Lukewarm people are moved by stories of people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act. They assume such action is for “extreme” Christians, not average ones. Lukewarm people call “radical” what Jesus expected of all His followers. James 1:22, James 4:17, Matthew 21:28-31

6. Lukewarm people rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers, or friends. They do not want to be rejected, nor do they want to make people uncomfortable by talking about private issues like religion. Matthew 10:32-33

7. Lukewarm people gauge their morality or “goodness” by comparing themselves to the secular world. They feel satisfied that while they aren’t as hard-core for Jesus as so-and-so, they are nowhere as horrible as the guy down the street. Luke 18:11-12

8. Lukewarm people say they love Jesus, and He is, indeed, a part of their lives, their money, and their thoughts, but he isn’t allowed to control their lives. Luke 9:57-62

9. Lukewarm people love God, but they do not love Him all their heart, soul, and strength. They would be quick to assure you they try to love God that much, but that sort of total devotion isn’t really possible for the average person; its only for pastors and missionaries and radicals. Matthew 22:37-38

10. Lukewarm people love others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves. Their love for others is typically focused on those who love them in return, like family, friends, and other people they know and connect with. There is a little love left over for those who cannot love them back, much less for those who intentionally slight them, who kids are better athletes than theirs, or with whom conversations are awkward or uncomfortable. Their love is highly conditional and very selective, and generally comes with strings attached. Matthew 5:43-47, Luke 14:12-14

11. Lukewarm people will serve God and others, but there are limits to how far they will go or how much time, money, and energy they are willing to give. Luke 18:21-25

12. Lukewarm people think about life on earth much more often than eternity in heaven. Daily life is mostly focused on today’s to-do list, this week’s schedule, and next month’s vacation. Rarely, if ever do they intently consider the life to come. Philippians 3:18-20

13. Lukewarm people are thankful for their luxuries and comforts, and rarely consider trying to give as much as possible to the poor. Matthew 25:34, 40, Isaiah 58:6-7

14. Lukewarm people do whatever is necessary to keep themselves from feeling too guilty. They want to do the bare minimum, to be “good enough” without requiring too much of them. 1 Chronicles 29:14, Matthew 13:44-46

15. Lukewarm people are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control. This focus on safe living keeps them sacrificing and risking for God. Matthew 10:28

16. Lukewarm people feel secure because they attend church, made a profession of faith at age twelve, were baptized, come from a Christian family, vote Republican, or live in America.

17. Luke warm people do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to. They don’t have to trust God if something unexpected happens-they have their savings account. They don’t need God to help them—they have their retirement plan in place. They don’t genuinely seek out what life God would have them live—they have life figured and mapped out. They don’t depend on God on a daily basis-their refrigerators are full and, for the most part, they are in good health. The truth is, their lives wouldn’t look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God. Luke 12:16-21

18. Lukewarm people probably drink and swear less than average, but besides that, they really aren’t very different from your typical unbeliever. They equate their partially sanitized lives with holiness, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Matthew 23:25-28, Luke 14:34-35

Review: The New Macbook, and Why It Might Be The Perfect Tool for Ministers (In Two Years)

I've recently had a chance to spend some time with one of Apple's new Macbooks. That's right, just Macbook. No Macbook Air, no Macbook Pro. Just Macbook

It's clear that Apple is pushing the envelope and showing us the future when it comes to this new machine. After spending some time with it, I could say that it might be the perfect tool for any minister of any type. 

First off, the specs. The new Macbook sports a 12-inch display that has 2304 x 1440 resolution at 226 pixels per inch. Basically that means it's Retina quality, meaning that from a standard viewing distance, you won't be able to distinguish any individual pixels. The screen, as you would expect on any Apple product, is fantastic. Colors are bright and there is no ghosting or glitching that you might see with cheaper panels. 

The machine does not have any type of optical (CD/DVD) drive. This is nothing new, since Apple stopped putting optical drives on their machines over 5 years ago. 

What is new is the ports, or lack thereof. There are only two ports - a reversible USB-C (think Lightning connector, but slightly bigger) and a headphone jack. That's it. More on that in a minute. 

There are only two configurations offered, both of which have only 8GB of RAM included. There is a 1.1 GHz option, and a slightly faster 1.2 GHz model. I was only able to test the 1.1 GHz model, and I did not notice any lagging or sputtering, especially when scrolling fast on a big website with lots of images. It was actually pretty impressive. In the new Photos app, scrolling fast was smooth as silk. I couldn't get the machine to actually stutter at all until I had 8 tabs open in Safari, all playing HD Youtube videos. At only 1.1 GHz (I currently use a 2.4 GHz Macbook Pro) I fully expected it to stutter and slow down, but it was pretty resilient in all of my tests. And coming from a machine on which I've had 8GB of RAM for the last two years and work heavily in Photoshop, Illustrator, and Final Cut, the 8GB is very acceptable, especially if you're not doing those intensive processes. 

The 1.2 GHz model that's $500 more doesn't just give you an extra bump in power, but it gives you twice the storage with a 512GB SSD. Apple claims that the new SSDs have twice the speed, and I wouldn't doubt it. Given my tests with BlackMagic Disk Speed Test, I'd say they were correct. Which brings me to an interesting point: we may look at the processor speed and say, "Wow, that is low. Not enough power for me." But unless you're working in Photoshop or Final Cut, this machine will be fine for your tasks: note taking, web browsing, watching videos, light photo editing, and even light video editing. 

 

The Cons

 

As stated before, Apple is really throwing the future in our faces with this new Macbook. Their relentless pursuit of thinness and simplicity is almost detrimental to the overall success of this new laptop. 

USB-C is the only port offered. For ministers who want to travel and present with this machine, that creates a problem. Mac users are accustomed to traveling with adapters for VGA for connecting to projectors, but this lone port brings about a whole new set of problems. 

First, the one port is where you power the machine as well. Granted, Apple claims 10 hours of battery life and, according to reports, it gets that and more, but the *last* thing you need is your computer dying in the middle of a presentation. 

Second, the cost for adapters is high. I expect there will be plenty third-party adapters in the near future, but right now, Apple themselves can't even guarantee you one of theirs until June. 

The keyboard is the next problem, but it may not be an actual problem. I would describe the keyboard as frustrating and extraordinary at the same time. It will take some getting used to, for sure. Because of the thinness of the machine, Apple had to basically invent a new way for keys to be depressed. It's innovative, and it offers up a full-size keyboard, but the key travel is so short that it feels more like typing on the glass of an iPad screen rather than a Macbook. I think that after a couple of days of typing on it that I would get used to it, and even like it. But for those of us ministers who do a lot of typing, it may be problematic and frustrating. 


The Pros

 

Portability. This is the thinnest, lightest Macbook ever made, and probably the thinnest and lightest in the world. That means you can take it anywhere. If you've always struggled with an iPad trying to get what you need done, to type fast on it, or have great portability like an iPad, the Macbook is for you. It's basically an iPad with a keyboard attached to it, but it runs OSX. 

Design. Apple shines again with this design, pushing the limits of what is possible in portable computing. The new Macbook is also available in iPhone colors: gold, silver, and space gray. I personally find the space gray extremely attractive.

Force-Touch Trackpad. Also available on the new 13-inch Macbook Pro, the Force Touch Trackpad features Apple's patented Taptic Engine and makes you feel as though you're physically clicking, but you're not. Your mind will play tricks on you when you use this. It's a great feature and it's going to be wonderful to see what they can do with this in the future. 


So all in all, would I recommend this new Macbook if you're in the market for a new Mac right now? Sadly, no.

 

The one thing that holds this machine up for ministers is USB-C, and the lack of current support for the platform. Ministers will need to plug a variety of things into their laptops, and until the support for USB-C becomes more widespread, I can't recommend this machine at this time. If Apple had shipped this Macbook with just one other regular USB 3.0 port, that would have changed my mind. For me, and looking at what most ministers are going to use this machine for, that's a dealbreaker. You can get around the lack of processor speed with a speedy SSD and 8GB of RAM, but you can't overcome the frustrations of having to daisy-chain multiple adapters together just to connect to a projector, connect to power, and have a USB thumb drive running at the same time. 

In 2 years, however, as USB-C becomes a standard, I see this being the ultimate minister's computer. 

What do you think? Do you agree with my review? Sound off in the comments.

Why I Don't Care About What's Happening in Indiana

I don't care at all about what's happening in Indiana.

And that's no April Fool's joke.

Why? Because it doesn't matter.

"How dare you, Chad! It DOES matter! The very foundation of our religious freedom is at stake!!"

No, it's not.

"If we don't take a stand NOW the church will be destroyed!"

No, it won't.

"We have to stand and fight!"

No, we don't.

In his article, A Letter to Christians In Indiana, From Jesus, John Pavlovitz writes what he thought a letter would look like - from Jesus, to Christians in Indiana. It had nuggets that I really believe Jesus would say, such as:

This isn’t what I had planned. This wasn’t the Church I set the table for. It wasn’t the dream I had for you, when I spoke in those parables about the Kingdom; about my Kingdom.

And this:

My kindness, my goodness, my forgiveness; you were created to be the method of transportation for all of it.You were made to deliver the greatest good news to a world so desperate for it. This wild, extravagant, world-altering love I have for my people, was intended to travel from my aching heart, through your trembling hands, to my hurting people. This has always been your calling. It has always been your purpose. It still is. This very second it is.

And this.

Do you really think that the grandstanding and the insult-slinging and the side-choosing, that it feels like me? Do you truly believe that the result of your labors here in these days, is a Church that clearly perpetuates my character in the world? Is this the Gospel I entrusted you with? To be honest with you, I simply don’t see it. How did you drift so far from the mission? How did you become so angry, so combative, so petty, so arrogant, so entitled?

I don't know what the law does or does not say. I don't know what the intention behind the lawmaker's hearts was. But I do know one thing - for us as Christians to get torn up about this isn't what Jesus intended.

My Marine instinct says to fight. My Jesus says to love.

Yes, the church may be on a one-way track for a collision with the law and the liberals, but that doesn't concern me. My job is to preach and teach the Gospel to every creature. My job is to show the love of Jesus to everyone I know. My job is to make sure that I can encourage others to do so as well.

So if you find yourself getting really bent out of shape about all this, remember two things: 1) the media will do anything to stir up a dramatic story, and 2) this isn't what Jesus wants us to focus on.

The Absolute Truth

Experiencing-the-Way-the-Truth-and-the-Life.jpg

I sat in astonishment, with my mouth hanging open. I had just played the above 2-minute excerpt from a podcast I listen to from above (take a listen if you haven't), and then asked the question, "Is there an absolute truth?"

To which I got mostly questioned looks, but a few fairly confident "nos." 

"Really?" I said, in disbelief. "That's what you all really believe?"

I asked questions about a true right and true wrong. Why does the world's postmodern mindset say that "Everyone's religion is ok - and we're all ok," but yet something like stealing and lying is wrong? If we apply the same logic to religion, would that not infer that there is a true right and wrong religion

And if everyone's different religion is right, then why even believe in religions? What's the point?

Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe I'm not. But it seems to me that the general mindset of everyone in the world is that "You're ok, I'm ok, we're all ok and we're all going to heaven." 

That's just not the truth. 

I even had a very smart and intelligent 16 year old argue with me that it's not wrong from someone to believe in Buddhism, because that's what they grew up believing.

The single truth about all this is that our teens don't know what the absolute truth is. They know the difference in right and wrong, but the truth? They're foggy on that. And that astounds me. It was a great class that we had this week and I think a lot of the teens learned a lot, but we need to be preaching and teaching the one absolute truth: That Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God and that he died for our sins. All other religions, all other ways that promise eternal life in heaven or some form of it are wrong

That will get you into hot water in the world if you say that. You'll be branded as an intolerant bigot. But it still does not answer the question:

If everyone is right, then who is wrong? 

Daily Devotionals with Remind + Day One [VIDEO]

Apps these days, man. It's amazing what they can do. Now you can do a daily devotional that people can subscribe to with nothing more than your iPhone. 

We started a Daily Devotional called 15for15 - we take the first 15 minutes of every day of 2015 and spend it with the Word. I wanted to think of a super-simple way to get kids in the Word every single day. Something where they could just pick up their phone and a message was waiting right there for them. 

That's when I started to use Remind for this. Remind was originally a service designed for teachers to communicate with classes but has evolved into so much more. And the best part is that anyone with a phone that sends and receives text messages can subscribe - they don't have to have a smartphone with Remind installed. Day One is a simple journaling app for OSX/iOS that lets you publish entries as nicely-formatted web pages. 

I've made a screencast below that I think you'll enjoy. If you would like to start a daily devotional for your ministry or congregation and you have an iOS device, this would be the way to do it. 

Note: the Publish feature is currently only available on iOS from Day One. No idea why you can't do it yet from the desktop version, but you can't. You can, however, compose your devos in the desktop app and then pull them up on your phone and publish them there. 

Ten Years with the Mac: My Most Valuable Tool in Ministry

My first Mac - a Mac mini desktop. 2005.

My first Mac - a Mac mini desktop. 2005.

People are always asking me: "why should I use a Mac?" I get calls from youth ministers, ministers, and church workers of all types about why they should go to a Mac. There's no really simple answer to this question.

10 years ago, I decided that I wanted to purchase a Mac. My first Mac computer of my own was a Mac Mini with a half a gig of RAM, which, in hindsight, wouldn't run anything today. I was able to get it used for about $450, got my own keyboard, mouse, and monitor and set out into the great undiscovered country. And I've never looked back.

There's no simple answer to why you should move to a Mac because there are many answers.

Apple's design is unmatched. Even hardcore Windows users will agree with that. The current aluminum designs have evolved over the last ten years to produce sleek and powerful computers. Yes, Apple may be obsessed with thinness, but can't argue that they have the best designed hardware in the biz.

It doesn't run Windows. When I left Windows a decade ago, XP was going on six years old. Microsoft was clearly riding the coattails and not innovating. I know some Windows users will scoff at my supposed shot over the bow, but the Microsoft ecosystem was seriously lacking in 2005. Office was confusing, XP was old. One of the biggest advantages for the Mac was that it didn't run Windows. When you control the hardware and the software on your machines, there's a lot you can do to maximize the experience. At this point 10 years ago, Apple was iterating and innovating on OSX, and I came in at OSX 10.3 Panther. That was seven versions ago. Safari was brand new. Wow.

In my humble opinion, OSX is far superior to Windows, even the new(ish) Windows 8. Although, I must admit that Windows is coming up again, not in market share, but in public opinion. Why is OSX superior in my mind? The sleekness. The speed. The stability. The only time OSX has crashed on me was when I did something I wasn't supposed to do on the machine.

The premium price tag is an illusion. You buy $9 shoes at Target and your feet are going to hurt. You get what you pay for. Same for computers. You may buy one Apple laptop for $1200, but how long will you keep that machine in the same time frame that you would have have two Windows machines? Or three?

Macs aren't as likely to get viruses. This isn't a myth, and this isn't something touted by Apple either. At the time of this writing, Windows holds a firm 85% market share in personal computers. That means that only 13-15% of the rest of the computers on the planet are Macs. So if you were writing a virus, which platform would you write for? The one who's odds are 8 out of 10 or 2 out of 10? Simple math will tell you that's why more viruses are on Windows.

High-quality software and apps. I haven't been on the Windows side of computing since I graduated from college, so I can't speak to the quality of Windows apps. But I can for Mac and iOS apps. The Mac App Store may not get the press that the iOS App Store does, but it has had as a huge an impact on how I work just as iOS has. Apps like TextExpander and 1Password, apps that I couldn't imagine working without, aren't available on Windows. Plus, where else are you going to find a Word Processor (Pages), a phenomenal PowerPoint replacement (Keynote), and a powerful spreadsheet app (Numbers) - all for FREE? These apps, along with GarageBand (audio editing) and iMovie (video editing that borders on professional-grade) are also made available for free.

Those are my answers for why I use a Mac. I'm not an Apple elitist, I just want to use the best tools for the job that I'm doing - and ministry is the most important job there is. Other than the Word of God itself and the people in the church, my Mac is the most important tool I use in my ministry to communicate, design, and move.

The Most Wonderful Product in the World

On Tuesday Apple announced the biggest quarterly earnings any company ever has in the history of, well, companies. It is amazing to me how much some of these companies make. With $74 billion in revenue, Apple has the most profitable quarter in corporate history the last three months of 2014.

What's the reason behind this? iPhones. The sales of iPhones went through the roof with Apple introducing to new iPhones both with larger screens to combat the ever-growing Android market. And people are buying them like they are literally going to disappear if we don't.

Apple has undoubtedly been able to tap into what people perceive as being a reliable device and make an emotional connection through touchscreens, apps, services and the like. The product that they are selling is undoubtedly one of the most successful in history.

That really makes me think and connect the idea of what Apple is selling with what we are selling as Christians. Think about it: what are we selling? We're selling something infinitely more important than a touchscreen device that can access the web in your hands. We're selling the hope of salvation. We're selling the peace of the Gospel. We're selling the life and example of Jesus Christ every single day. We're selling the most important "product" that has ever been produced.

God has entrusted us with his message. God does not have a backup plan – there is no Plan B. We are God's plan for saving this world, and sometimes we don't act like we're selling the most wonderful product in the world.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1.3-5

The Holy Bible, Version 2.0

I, like many others, were saddened and frustrated by Fourth Avenue Church of Christ's indulgence of a very talented young woman being put in the pulpit this past Sunday. The leadership at Fourth Avenue is obviously speaking where the Bible does not speak and making inferences where it does not. 

It makes me wish we had updates on the Bible. 

Just like we would update to iOS 8 or Android 5.0 and see all the new designs and features, I wish we could receive updates and changes and amendments to the Bible - direct from Jesus Himself. 

I'm not saying there's bugs in the Bible that need to be fixed. I'm not saying the Bible is inaccurate in any way. 

It would just be nice to get some updates on things that happen in our society that maybe the Bible isn't specific on, or there's not much content on. Maybe it would look something like this:


The Holy Bible, v. 2.1.1

What's New in this Version

  • Extra explanation and clarification on Matthew 19.9 (12 scriptures added)
  • More on Jesus' life between 12 years old and 30 years old
  • Extended discussions from Jesus, Paul and Silas on Women's roles in the church

No matter how conservative or liberal you are, you have to admit that this would be great. 

But, unfortunately, it's not. 

The Bible we have is the whole, inspired Word of God and should not and cannot be changed. While it would be great to get 'version updates' direct from Jesus on certain scriptures, that's just not how it is. God isn't sending an update to the Bible from his cloud anytime soon, because what He has given us is it. It should be the first and last word for the governance of our lives as Christians. And when we impose our own wants and wills on this holy book then we are just flat wrong. Interpretation is one thing, adding or taking away from what God has said is another. 

Do not be deceived, this is not the only 'movement' going on in our churches. There must be a clear divide to what the Bible actually says and what we want it to say. 

Because that 2.0 update isn't coming along any time soon. 

Racism and the Church

My wife and I often talk about the differences between our childhoods growing up. She grew up in a small suburb of Indianapolis while I grew up in the heart of the south in Huntsville, Alabama. We often talk about racism and the attitudes that people in different areas of the country have on the subject. As witnessed in Ferguson these past couple of weeks, we can readily see that racism is still very prevalent in our society in 2014. 

But what about in our churches? 

I'd like to share a few ideas about racism in our churches - what is sure to be a hot-button issue that no one talks about. 

The Church of Christ is designed to work together. Families, members, bodies - these are the terms used to describe the church in the Bible. When we think about the church as a structure, we need to think about it as a building. If a building is going to stand, then the stones need to be in the right place to support that building.

We have a common master in Jesus Christ. We have a common message in the Gospel. We have a common mission in the Great Commission. 

We share the image of God (Genesis 1.29). We have the same parents - Adam, then Noah. Our family is not those who share our blood, but those who have been washed in the blood. 

We have to learn to work together. 

Popular personalities and the "drive-by" media have split us apart - we need to understand that those people are not our people. We need to turn off the world and turn on the Bible. We have a great nation, but Christ's nation is paramount. Our allegiance is not to a flag, but to Christ. 

Doctrine splits us. We don't work together. Personality, not problems, keep us apart. 

Your children? They will believe everything you say. They are innocent. If you are racist, they will be too. 

Our skin is just a shell. We are all made in God's image, we are all God's children. "Mixed marraige" isn't black and white, it's Christian and non-Christian. 

Racism does not come from God (Genesis 1.26-27). We have made the shell everything, but God hasn't. We have been crowned with glory and honor (Psalm 8.5). Has there ever been a human being not crowned with glory and honor? God is concerned about every human life. God made man. He made us all. We are his workmanship (Ephesians 2.10). 

Racism does not come from Jesus. Jesus is not concerned about the shell, he's concerned about the soul (Matthew 16.26). If we were to weigh the two, the scale would always tip on the side of the soul. Jesus died for all men. Have you ever looked at someone and said, "Jesus didn't die for that person?" Racism is absurd, and the one who professes it is more absurd - and in sin. 

Nobody does not need the message of Christ. The message of Christ is for all, not just a select few (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). We did not invent the problem of racism in America. Egyptians would not eat with the shepherds. Jews didn't deal with Samaritans. Peter preached that God has made no distinction, but he also struggled with it in practice. So do we. 

Working together simply isn't enough. There is division in the military, but they work together. Quite amazingly, in fact. We work together in war. Anybody can work together to accomplish anything, for good or bad. Previous enemies can work together. The church is just more than working together, it is issues of the heart. The issue is the condition that my heart is in. I decide to do what's right. 

Racism is a human invention, not a Biblical one. We must see as God sees, see past our own prejudices, disregard the shell, and work together for the common good of humanity - and more importantly, the church.