The Absolute Truth

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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. 

The Big Switch

All right, I've been hinting at this for a while, but I did it. I finally did it. I switched over to Android. 

Now, I'm not Android-exclusive by any means (I still have my iPad mini), and I'll never give up my precious Mac, but I've decided to go to Android for my daily driver smartphone. 

Some of you who know me being a hardcore Apple guy will (jokingly) call this a betrayal. You will call me a traitor to iOS. So this is to give you my primary reasons for switching. 

1) I just needed a change. I've been on iOS since before it was called iOS. I'm just bored. I needed a new experience. I love changing my tech and doing different things, and it seemed like things just hadn't changed all that much since I used the first iPhone back in 2007. It was nothing against iOS or Apple - I still love the OS and the company - I just wanted to have a different experience. And for that reason this was a very personal and not technical decision. Both Android and iOS are pretty equal now in quality. Some may argue that fact because they are biased either way, but the fact is that both operating systems are now on the same bar. They're neck and neck. One platform has advantages over the other, and vice versa. I tend to think that Android has the upper hand right now, but not by much. 

2) The variety of devices. Some Apple purists would argue that this is a major downside to Android, that device fragmentation would dilute the experience, but Google has done a good job the past year of reeling in manufacturers like Samsung, HTC and the like to make Android on these devices with much less "skinning" and bloatware. I'll have a more in-depth review later, but the reason I chose the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, among other reasons, was that TouchWiz (Samsung's take on "skinning" Android) is much much better than when I used it on a Galaxy S3 two years ago and tons better than when I used it on the first Galaxy Tab three years ago. If I wanted a pure Google experience, I could have went with a Nexus device. My options were limited with Verizon though, and the more I looked at the Note the better I liked it. 

3) The size. Android devices come in a variety of sizes now and I can get something even bigger that Apple's 4.7- and 5.5-inch variations. I personally wanted to get as close to a tablet as I could without going over the 6-inch mark. I wanted to replace my tablet and my phone with a big phone, and the Galaxy Note 4 lets me do that. It's big enough to preach and teach from but yet not too big to carry around. 

4) Customization. This to me is huge. iOS never really allowed you to customize anything before iOS 8, and even with that it's still limited. I can change my keyboard, my lock screen, add widgets, place my icons anywhere on the screen I want them, change my pictures viewer, change my default camera, and many many more things. I am a true geek and customizing the phone to my liking is wonderful. One of the big things is being able to choose and change your own Launcher. This is a foreign concept to anyone who has never used an Android device, but basically you can change the whole look and feel by downloading a new Launcher for your device. Want a Nexus feel to your Samsung TouchWiz phone? Download the Google Now Launcher. Want a completely different "looks-like-the-movies" look? Download my personal favorite: Atom Launcher. These Launchers don't mess up your whole phone either - Settings and apps still look the same, just the look and feel of your home screen and app drawers. It's really fantastic. 

5) Google's new apps and designs. I got an Android device just in time for great material design updates to apps like Gmail, Inbox, Keep, Messenger, and Calendar, among others. All these apps are fantastic and simply redesigned to get the most done in the least amount of time, which is exactly what I need. The new material design adapted for Android 5.0 Lollipop is what Steve Jobs would have called "lickable," to say the least. It is a very flat design aesthetic, but I look at it and it seems more functional than the flattening and translucency of the iOS 7 redesign a year ago. Animations are quick and subtle. The UI is bright and colorful but not offendingly so. Buttons and interactivity is easy to figure out. 

6) Expansion. One of the reasons I chose to go with Samsung was the ability to expand my space. I now have a 32GB phone with a 64GB micro SD card at the back. I also have access to that card and can switch it out any time I want. When shooting 4K video with this thing (which it does beautifully) you average about 200MB for just 30 seconds of video, so if intend to shoot any of that UHD video, I'll need extra storage. Android lets you change you camera settings at will though - I can record 720P regular 'ol HD, or I can go crazy with 4K UHD. I also have four options to shoot stills: 16, 12, 8, and 6 megapixels respectively. I can switch many apps to store my photos, videos, games and other files on my SD card instead of my device. And with Android File Transfer for Mac, I can upload things like ripped movies directly onto my device, much like you would just drag and drop to an external hard drive. 

I've probably stepped over my own toes by partially reviewing the Note 4 already, but look for a full review in the next week, where I intend to count in all the advantages and disadvantages of using an Android device exclusively now. 

I'm not 100% sure I'll stick with it for the long term (1 year or longer), but I will stick with it for now. If you're due for an upgrade and have been looking hard at some Android devices, the lines between Apple and Android are way more blurry now. Do your homework and figure out what device is best for you, regardless of what your friends might tell you. 

Top Phones Compared: The Struggle is Real

Okay, so maybe it's a first-world problem, but I digress. 

When Apple announced their big iPhone in September, I knew that was it. I had to have it. It would solve my self-prescribed multi-device problem - meaning I personally wanted a phone big enough to preach and teach from where I could just have it with me all the time and not worry about a tablet. 

So I ordered an iPhone 6 Plus over a month ago, and it's just now being shipped. But I have a 14-day window to take it back. And that month has given me a long time to think about what else is out there. 

In my opinion, iOS 8 is a disappointment. Lots of people would be surprised to hear me say that, but I'm bored with iOS. I've been an iPhone user since 2008. iOS 7 was a nice redesign, but I was hoping for more customization and hackability, because, well, I'm a nerd. And I've never once said that I'm a fan of Apple - I'm a fan of what's the best. I will continue to use a Mac because it is the best. I'm not so sure that's true with iOS and devices anymore. 

So I've taken it upon myself to do lots of research and looking around to find the perfect phablet smartphone for my needs. My wish list:

  • The biggest, hi-res screen I could find close to 6 inches
  • Has to have the apps I use the most (Plain text apps, productivity apps, 1Password, etc.)
  • Can't be too big to fit in my pocket (with a case on it)

The only phones I found to meet this criteria are the iPhone 6 Plus, the Google Nexus 6 built by Motorola, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. All these phones are brand new. 

When comparing specs on paper, the iPhone lags in several categories, especially in processor speed, RAM, and camera size. While those things don't mean a better phone, I don't want an iPhone slowing down greatly on the next version of iOS. I know Apple makes the hardware and the software, so it's probably okay, but I still look at those numbers and cringe. 

The clear winner on this list is the Samsung Note 4, but is it the winner all the way around? How hard will it be for me to move to Android after all these years? 

One of the biggest factors for me has actually been the apps that I use on iOS. Apps like Drafts, Reeder, Calendars 5, and Instacast are not available on Android. But there are great alternatives to those apps on Android, some of them with nifty widgets you can place on the screen.

It all comes down to this question: which device will make me more productive and efficient? 

I look at the Samsung Note 4 and see a productivity powerhouse. I can retain my plain text writing with Draft (not to be confused with Drafts on iOS), I can get rid of the TouchWiz interface by installing Google Launcher, and I can have a big, beautiful screen in front of me to teach and preach from. 

Like anything, it comes down to personal preference. I love the upgradable storage options and swappable battery on the Note 4, but I love the Apple App Store. I love the nice big screen of the Nexus 6 and stock "pure" Android 5.0, but that device won't be available on Verizon for who knows how long. I love the way that iPhones interact and work with Macs, but lots of people have written Chrome add-ons for interactivity for Android phones now as well. 

There's positives and negatives on both sides and between these three phones, but I just thought I'd share what a longtime iOS user is thinking about when looking at Android as a real possibility. 

Christian Men Should Wear Suits and Ties to Worship: A Response

If you haven't already, go read Wes McAdams' article entitled "Christian Men Should Wear Suits and Ties to Worship." Below is my response. 

It was the Summer of 1996. I had only been baptized for a month. I had been on fire as a Christian, reading everything I could get my hands on and going to every youth activity that was scheduled. 

I was sitting about 15 minutes before services talking with one of my friends when one of our deacons came and asked if I'd like to serve on the Lord's Table. 

I was so excited. Me? On the Lord's Table? So soon? I was thrilled that they would ask. 

The people who were serving in the service met back in a back room before heading out to worship. I walked with confidence and excitement down the long hallway to the back. 

And then, before I even got through the door good, a gruff man said, "He can't serve. He's not wearing a tie." 

I was fifteen. A brand-new Christian. On fire for the Lord. And you could have knocked me over with a feather. The one Sunday I don't wear a tie. 

I could have been bitter. I could have taken it personally, whether it was meant to be personal or not. I could have left that church. 

But I didn't do any of those things. I'll tell you what I did do: I remembered it, even 18 years later. 

So bravo, Wes McAdams, for speaking up and addressing an issue that I have felt strongly about for a long time. 

Our judgmental attitude that we wear to worship to look down our nose at people who aren't dressed as nicely as some is a far more serious issue than what we are actually wearing to worship. 

I have always worn a tie to Sunday morning worship, and being a minister, I probably will never stop doing so. Why? Because I think it's professional and respectful. 

But how can we judge others based upon what they are wearing? How can we impose tradition as doctrine when there is no such thing? 

I am not saying that our dress shouldn't be respectful, because it should. We should take the worship of our God seriously and not just throw something on and come to church. 

But for us to pass judgement on others? I think the Bible has stuff to say about that. 

Ask yourselves this question: are you pushing people away or bringing people to God with your comments about dress? Have your comments ever left a sting that lasted 18 years like mine did?

Introducing Squarespace 7

Squarespace today introduced their new version of their content management system. I'm composing this new post in it, and while different, I must say that it is fantastic. I manage lots of sites on Squarespace and this will help me a lot.

From Squarespace themselves:

Squarespace 7 is the result of a year-long effort to refine the simplicity of our platform while retaining its power. The biggest change you’ll notice is in our interface; you can now make live edits in your website without switching back and forth between preview mode and your Website Manager, and we've annotated every editable element on your site to make everything easier than ever. We've also reorganized our menus to create a more intuitive experience overall.

We’ve made great efforts to solve some real pain points for anyone that’s building a website. Often, a great website relies on great imagery – with our new Getty Images integration, you now have access to tens of millions of premium creative and editorial images, all starting at $10 per image. For those of you who want personalized email, you can sign up for Gmail for Work and other Google Apps features right within Squarespace (starting at just $5/user per month). When you don’t necessarily need a full-fledged website for your idea, you can use our Cover Pages tool to create a beautiful landing page.

The new platform will be available to groups of existing Squarespace customers starting today in a controlled public beta format.

For more information, including how to gain access to Squarespace 7, please visit our launch site at www.squarespace.com/seven. For specific questions, see our Squarespace 7 FAQ www.squarespace.com/seven/faq.

To find SS7, just look for 'Squarespace 7' under your Settings tab and enable it. Squarespace promises that you can go back if you don't like it, but I doubt you won't. 

If you're looking for a great website building, I can't recommend Squarespace enough. It's less than $100 a year for a great website that will function on anything and look great on mobile devices. And as you can see, they keep making their platform better and better. 

Email me at chad.landman@gmail.com and ask any questions about it you want. I would love to help you find a web solution for your church, business, or organization.