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. 

 

Exposing the Darkness of Domestic Violence

An NFL player knocks his wife unconscious in an elevator and drags her body out of said elevator and when this comes to light, he is given a 2-game suspension. Then when the video surfaced five months later of him actually hitting her and went viral, the NFL finally acted and suspended him indefinitely. 

The star Quarterback of the #1 football team in college football did not play a few weeks ago because he shouted an obscenity across campus at a female student while standing on top of a table. 

Why does it take something so public to come out for us to stand up and do something about such an injustice? 

Domestic violence is not a new thing, it's just been in the headlines recently with several high-profile athletes. So why is it being exposed for what it is just recently?

As Christians, we are called to expose darkness in any form (Ephesians 5.11-12) and not participate in that darkness. So how does one expose darkness? With light. 

The tour at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky will lead you down in the dark depths of the earth. At one point, the tour guide tells everyone to shut off their lights. It's pitch black dark - you can't see your hand in front of your face. Exposure to that darkness for a prolonged period (only 3-4 days) can cause you to lose your eyesight permanently

Then the tour guide takes out one match and lights it. It is amazing - it illuminates the entire cavern. Just that one speck of light can pierce the deepest darkness. 

Odds are that you know someone who has suffered from domestic violence. You may have yourself. Domestic violence is a darkness that has gone unexposed for far too long. So my question is: how long are we willing to leave it that way? How will we be a light to pierce the darkness of domestic violence? 

People suffering with domestic violence feel trapped. They may feel like they can't ever report it because they would get a loved one in trouble. They may feel like if they do that people will look at them differently. 

But just like any other sin, domestic violence lives in the shroud of darkness, and we must expose it to the light. We must not fear the wrath of a loved one, the consequences of a child losing their father or mother, or any other public repercussions. We must stand up against it and report it, whether we are the victim or an innocent bystander. We must do what's right

If you know someone in a domestic violence situation, don't keep it to yourself. Stand up. Report it. Be heard. Expose the darkness with light. 

 

This post was part of The Light Network's Campaign Against Domestic Violence for the month of October. To read more from the blog hop, head over to their website at thelightnetwork.tv/stopviolence

The Osteen Doctrine: Taking the Christ Out of Christianity

This, from Matt Walsh:

Our nation wants a shallow Gospel that doesn’t challenge us to make sacrifices and be righteous, and Joel Osteen has come to give us exactly that.
He distorts Scripture and offers up a hollow, empty message, but he is adored because he does it with a smile, he doesn’t offend, and he gives off the general vibe of a man who probably chuckles at Family Circus cartoons. In other words, he is exactly what our society believes a Christian should be: nice, non-threatening, non-Biblical, and superficial.

So I'm sure we have beat this dead horse enough, but every story I read about this, including both excellent articles by Matt Walsh and Albert Mohler, it just makes me more confused and angry. 

Confused that thousands in Joel Osteen's "church" could be duped to follow his message, and angered that thousands if not millions more Americans and those around the world buy into his doctrine. 

I'm not angry at Joel Osteen, nor his wife who made the ridiculous comments in their service a week or two ago. I'm angry at the millions who have bought into this shallow and shameful doctrine that does not include, in any form or fashion, Jesus Christ. 

I, like so many of you, have seen Osteen on television while flipping through the TV on Sunday morning. He has great little stories mixed with a message that God wants us to be happy. Unfortunately, it's a message completely devoid of Jesus Christ

Why? Because Jesus suffered. Because Jesus was persecuted. Because Jesus said hard things. 

You can't take Christ out of Christianity, or the Bible for that matter. It defeats the whole purpose. It's like taking penalties out of football completely - eventually people would come up with their own versions of football and we would have lots of different versions floating around...

Wait. That's precisely what the Osteen "church" is doing. They're taking Christ out of the Biblical equation and making worship all about ourselves. 

The entire Bible is about God's one and only Son. The entire purpose of the Gospel is to tell the story of Jesus and how He lived His live and died to save us from our sins. 

But Osteen won't tell you that. He won't talk about sin, obedience, or consequences. He won't because it's designed that way. They've come up with their own version of the Bible, and it's all about peace, harmony, and prosperity. It may have glimpses of truth, but it's mostly false doctrine. 

The base of the problem is that people see what they want to see. And when they don't see what they want they turn to something else - even if it isn't correct. We want to be reassured. We want to have hope. But we don't want to have to deal with difficulty. 

Joel Osteen needs to get rid of his writing team and open his Bible. And so do you and I. We need to open the Word every day to see what it says to us. If we learn from the source, then we don't have to worry about what anyone else says. 

The M2Y Conference: A Review

I'll readily admit that I was very skeptical about the Ministering 2 Youth Conference in Orlando, Florida. I didn't know who had thought up the idea, who put it into motion, but I did know some of the players and a few members of the board. I was ready to give the conference the benefit of the doubt, and my congregation was gracious enough to sponsor me to go. 

I made the decision with my wife that I would not bring our family. Even though Disney was mere miles away, our boys were too small (a 3 year old and a 5 month old) to even remember it, and our second child was being difficult by not sleeping well at night. In hindsight, I'm glad I didn't, because I would have wanted to be with them more than be sitting in sessions and my mind would not have been on what I was trying to learn. 

So what was I trying to learn? What did I want this conference to help me with?

I wanted a few things:

  • Ideas about how to make our ministry more God-centered
  • Ideas about how to make our  ministry more vibrant (i.e. more involving, engaging)
  • Lesson/cirriculum ideas
  • Fun activity and game ideas
  • Encouragement

So what did I find?

Looking at the schedule of talks and keynotes, you may not see a youth-centered cirriculum, but that could be deceptive. EVERYTHING was about kids. EVERYTHING was about focusing on young people. Keynotes by David Shannon and Kirk Brothers were focused on how we can impact young people and get them back in the Bible and back to God. Classes - most were open to discussion - focused on everything from handling crises in youth ministry to ethical and legal concerns. 

For the first year of a conference, I was impressed with the quality of speakers and teachers as well as the content. There were over 150 in attendance, which was also impressive for the first year. Childcare was provided (noted by myself even if I didn't use it), and two wonderful meals were provided on Friday and Saturday for lunch. 

Thursday morning, registration began at noon and the first session at 1:30. On Friday and Saturday, the sessions began a 8:30. Each session was an hour with a half-hour break in between, and a two hour break for lunch. The last session ended at 4PM to let people have the evening to themselves or with their families. 

Sessions I attended:

  • Building Faith in Youth - David Shannon (Keynote)
  • Maintaining Faith in Youth - David Shannon (Keynote)
  • Apologetics - Kyle Butt
  • Developing a Family Ministry - Tim Frizzel
  • Equipping Parents as Spiritual Leaders - Tim Frizzel
  • Developing A Vision In Youth Ministry - Craig Evans
  • Dealing with Crisis In Youth Ministry - Jerry Elder
  • Youth Minister Care for Elders - Jerry Elder
  • Exposing Darkness & Evil - Kirk Brothers (Keynote)
  • Developing Teens that Shine - Kirk Brothers (Keynote)

Overall, it was an outstanding conference, especially for the first year. The only negative factors were the location - although I think for bringing a family along it was great, and a good start for the conference. The hotel was marvelous and centrally located to all attractions and food. The conference fee was very modest for the quality of speakers and teachers that were there. 

I do not say this lightly or for dramatic flair either - but speaking just for myself, the ideas and concepts taught have and will change my ministry and how I minister to teens. 

I will definitely be going back to M2Y next year in Chattanooga, and I will be inviting as many people as I can to go with me. What a great start for a much-needed conference. 

Audio and notes will be posted to my blog here in the coming days of nearly every session at M2Y, and also at their website. Be sure to check back soon!

Preaching from a 5.5-inch iPhone

The supposed 4.7- and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 to be announced next week. Source

If the overwhelming rumors hold true, Apple will announce not one, but two new iPhones next week at their special event in California: an newly-designed iPhone 6, one with a 4.7-inch display and one with a 5.5-inch display.

If you take a ruler to your current iPhone, it's just 4 inches diagonally. Now expand that out to 4.7 and 5.5 inches. You'll see that the 5.5-inch phone is much bigger. You get a whole lot more screen real estate with 5.5 inches.

Which brings up an interesting question - if you use an iPad mini to preach from, would you consider using a 5.5-inch iPhone to do the same thing?

I would. And I'm planning to. And here's why.

1) One device, not two. Right now I have the trifecta - the iPhone, iPad mini and my Macbook Pro. But I would love to trim that down to just two devices - my iPhone and Macbook. I use the three devices I have now for very different things. I use the phone for taking pictures, checking Twitter, taking down quick notes, and oh - texting and talking on the phone. I use the iPad mini to preach from, and I've found myself not using the iPad mini as much as I've wanted to. I surf the web and read a lot on my laptop versus my iPad. I write and watch videos on my laptop. I'm not much of a digital reader so I don't use the iPad for that (plus I do most of my reading right before bed, and they say that looking at screens before bed leads to sleep problems).

2) It won't be a 'blown-up' iPhone. Apple wouldn't do that (or at least I hope they wouldn't). They didn't just blow up iOS to fit on an iPad, they made a different interface for it. The 5.5-inch iPhone, whether it comes out 10 days after the announcement or not until 2015, will have a different kind of OS. In my opinion, it will still run on iOS of course, but it will be some kind of hybrid between iPad and iPhone views. Don't ask me to explain all of that, I just think that's what Apple will do with it.

3) The resolution will be crazy high. And that will lead to great looking text - at any size. Whether you're looking at Evernote, Simplenote, or a PDF in Goodreader, it's going to look fantastic. Text will be able to be resized to whatever you want it to be.

Are there trade-offs to a huge iPhone? Why sure. For one, you look wacky with the thing on your ear talking on the phone. Like holding small Bible to your head. Another thing would be how portable it is - will it fit in your pocket?

But to me, having one device that has everything I need and is big enough so that I can preach and teach from it will be invaluable to me.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments.

The Moment You Realize It's Deleted

Four times. Four times in the past few weeks a young person or college student has come up to me at church and said something like, "I think my computer crashed."

"Well, do you have a backup?" 

"Umm...no." 

"Why not?" I ask. 

What follows is a look of I know I should be doing that but I don't.

Why don't people back up their stuff?

My wife and I were attending Polishing the Pulpit two years ago and my wife was trying to clear up some space on the hard drive on her computer when she accidentally deleted the photo library. 

This was the photo library that contained nearly every photo from the first ten months of our firstborn son's life. 

My wife was obviously completely distraught, and so was I. Fortunately, I was able to procure a sketchy program to retrieve deleted files and was able to salvage about 80% of those photos. 

But you won't be so lucky, especially if you hard drive stopped working. Or if you had a fire. Or you dropped your phone in the toilet that had 6 months of pictures on it because you don't ever plug your phone up to a computer. 

Here's what you can do today. 

Start making regular backups. If you can't remember, set a calendar alert. Plug your phone into iTunes and let it do its thing and backup once a week. Make sure Auto Backup is enabled on your Android device - all your files, photos and settings will be backed up to the cloud. That way you're only out the last 7 days of photos or files if you're making regular backups. Conversely, you need to make a backup of your computer. This requires an external hard drive. I recommend the Seagate Slim 2TB - just about a hundred bucks. This is easy to do if you have a Mac - just plug your Time Machine drive in every ten days when it reminds you to. Then you can also use an app called SuperDuper to make a literal bootable copy of your hard drive in case something bad happens. Do that every month at least.  

For the Windows people, Windows' built-in Backup and Restore [video] is actually pretty good. First of all it's free and built-in, so all you have to do is search in the Windows Menu to find it. You can set timed backups, which files to backup, and how often to do it. You can also use the lightweight DriveImage XML to make a full bootable backup of your PC. 

This all sounds complex, but it really isn't. Just a few minutes a week and a few more a month could really save you a lot of trouble if your hard drive fails, you have a accident with your computer or you get a virus and your files are corrupted. 

Making a big image copy of your hard drive? Just set it before bed, plug in the external HD, and it'll be done when you wake up. 

Making a weekly backup? Set your reminder alarm to remind you to do it just before you go to lunch. Incremental backups (like Time Machine) only take a really long time the first time they back up. Then they are done in minutes on every sequential backup. 

Get an external HD and keep it in a safe place when not using it. I wouldn't recommend using your backup drive to store other files on, by the way. Only use that drive for backups. 

Backing up isn't for the paranoid, it's for people who don't want to lose their stuff. 

Autism, Temple Grandin, and Christianity

Autism is very near and dear to my heart because my little boy Jacob was diagnosed in December 2013 as being on the Autism Spectrum

I love my little boy and we've had some difficulties, but nothing we can't overcome, and nothing Jacob himself couldn't overcome with our help. We are working with him every day to better develop his speech and social skills. 

If it weren't for Jacob's diagnosis, I may have never looked for movies like Temple Grandin. 

Temple Grandin is the title of a movie about a real person by the same name. Temple was a woman who had Autism, but because of her mother's encouragement and steadfastness, Temple excelled in prep school and in college. She is now responsible for developing new methods in the 1970's and 80's on how cattle were handled on big cattle farms. 

At one point in the movie when Temple seems to have a lot of difficulty, her prep school professor who used to work for NASA and now teaches science, told her something very simple and very profound. Temple was frustrated and indicating that she was too different from everyone else and couldn't cope with the stresses of being at school. 

That's when her professor simply said, "You're different. Not less."

We as Christians in this world today are many times viewed as less because of what and who we believe in. We are battered by a world that laughs at us and says that the Christian life is a joke, and that there is no God. We know better. 

We are different, but most definitely not less

And on the flip side, we should not look at the people in the world as less. We should see every person in our lives as a soul that can be won for Christ, not look down on them because they don't prescribe to our way of thinking. 

We as Christians are called to be different. But not less. 

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. - 1 Peter 2.9