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

The Golden Age of Podcasting [Video]

Since my friend Adam Faughn started his Legacy of Faith podcast a week or two ago, it's really brought to my attention two things: 1) There's never been a better time to become a podcast listener, and 2) there's never been a better time to start your own. 

Podcasts have actually been around for over a decade, getting their name from some of Apple's first iPods back in 2001-02. But I think we may be ushering in the golden age of podcasting, both in listening and producing. 

If you've never listened to any podcasts, it's a perfect time to start. There's some great apps (both paid and free) for iPhone and Android to get you listening today. Podcasts are great for commutes - I don't have a commute but I do take long trips and they help pass the time very well. 

The best part is that podcasts are free. All of them. Some apps to manage them can range up to five or ten dollars, but that's a small price to pay for great organization and access to content. 

And podcasts have a incredible wide variety of content. You can listen to shows about Christianity, Science, Mathematics, Star Trek, Technology, Cooking - anything you can imagine and there's probably a podcast for it. And some podcasts aren't shows at all - they're merely recordings of sermons or speeches that have a serialized format. Here at Church Street, for instance, we don't stream our sermons live but they are available in audio form or on our podcast feed

The best and easiest way to get your feet wet in podcasts is to download the free Podcasts app for iOS. You can discover and find a few podcasts to listen to and search them via the iTunes Podcast Directory

And if you want to give your hand a try at actually podcasting yourself, all you need is microphone, an audio editing program (Audacity is free and great), and an iTunes Podcast RSS feed (instructions) and you're good to go. 

So whether it's listening or producing your own, there has never been a better time to step into the podcasting world. There's a whole wealth of knowledge out there for you to discover. 

If you're curious as to some of the many podcasts and networks I listen to, check out my Favorite Things page and look under Podcasts. My long-standing favorite app is Instacast, but I've recently switched to the excellent Overcast on my iPhone. 

Below is an excellent video rundown on some of the most popular podcast-catching apps to discover, download, and listen to new podcasts. After the video go check out Robert McGinley Myer's site Anxious Machine


Is The Church Too Simple?

There is one company on this earth that I follow with almost the same gusto as I follow Jesus (or at least I hope I do). And that's Apple. 

In Ken Segall's book Insanely Simple, the overwhelming idea that he tries to paint is a picture of simplicity in Apple's business decisions. Everything, not just their design of products and marketing, but everything that Apple stands for exudes simplicity. Many times in the book Segall makes a point to remind readers that simplicity may seem easy to achieve, but in practice is anything but.

Contrast that with a recent discussion I had with two teens, older teens who were going off to college soon. They called me over after church and one said that he wanted to be baptized. I was, as anyone should be, overjoyed. Without thinking, I suggested that his close friend next to him (who was a Christian) baptize him.

If you could have seen the look of terror, confusion, and bewilderment on his face at that moment you would have been astonished. His eyes got big, he raised his eyebrows and said, "I don't know about that. I don't know what's all involved with that."

This was a kid who had grown up in the church, who had been baptized years before, and didn't understand how simple it was to baptize someone.

Find some water, ask them to confess Jesus as their Savior, and then dunk them! is what I wanted to say to him. It really is that simple. 

That got me thinking - is the church really so simple that people can't understand it? Even people in the church?

In his excellent article entitled 10 Things I Love About The Church of Christ, Michael Hanegan states that one of the things he loves about the church is An intrinsic commitment to simplicity of worship. He says that by and large we have chosen to engage in worship instead of a "production." In other words, we've chosen to put the focus on the worship of God rather than our own entertainment. 

But think about it. Our worship is incredibly simple. Songs. Prayers. Scripture readings. Sermons. The Lord's Supper. 

Baptism, the required means to gain entrance into God's fold (Acts 2.38, Matthew 3.13-17), is also simple. Water. Confession. Immersion. 

Is the church too simple? Is there such a thing? 

I would say that it is not. Our society has become more complex. Business has become more complex. Technology has become more complex. The church, in my opinion, is largely the same church I read about in the New Testament. It's the same church I've read about in the 1950's. Simple. Effective. Genuine. 

I guess the real question is: is our simplicity and adherence to the New Testament tradition turning out to be to our detriment? Are people so bored with the simplicity of the original idea of the church that we're losing ground to other denominations and religions? 

I've done no research, and I have no statistics, but I see the church as a healthy organization. We don't see record growth, and maybe we shouldn't. What we do need to do is not be confused and swayed by the complex ways of the world. The New Testament vision for the church is something that very few abide by these days. And I'm proud to say that I belong to a church that has respect for the scriptures to adhere to that vision. 

The Best Bible I've Ever Owned

I have a lot of Bibles. I kind of collect them. All different form factors, all different translations. Big ones, thick ones, thin ones, small ones (and some as big as your head, haha). But I have never come across a Bible that I love as much as the one I purchased three weeks ago. 

I'm a Bible design newbie of sorts, so some of you that are more experienced with Bible design, binding, layout and text may find this review a bit elementary. I think it lets me look at design with a fresh perspective. 

I've been looking for the perfect Bible for me for a long time, probably about 3 years. I had some requirements for my perfect Bible:

1) It had to be an ESV. I've been using the English Standard Version for over 10 years, and it, to me, reflects a "best of both worlds" kind of approach. It has complexities and tradition of old King James Bibles, but nuances and flair of modern English like newer translations. Plus, I believe it to be the most accurate of the translations, along with the 1901 ASV. 

2) It had to be black. Not super-hard to find I know, but I think you'd be surprised if you looked at certain styles of Bibles that weren't available in black. 

The Cambridge ESV Bible (bottom) in size as compared to other objects. Click for larger view.

3) It had to be thin and compact(ish). I didn't want a super-small Bible, but I didn't want one that was big and thick either. Finding a thin and small Bible was challenging. For the past ten years I've used an ESV Thinline, which has been great. The only problem was that it was bonded imitation leather and didn't last very long (yes, I'm aware I could have just re-bound the cover for my current ESV, but I wanted something different). 

4) It had to have cross-references. Not a lot, but I wanted at least a good number of cross-references, whether at the bottom or in a center column on each page. 

My search finally ended while perusing through a Lifeway Christian store while looking for some study Bibles for some recent young men who had been baptized. 

I came across the Cambridge ESV black goatskin Bible. I had seen Cambridge Bibles before - there were some for sale at the FHU Campus Bible Bookstore that I could never afford, at least at the time - but never one that met all my previously stated requirements. 

The Cambridge Bible wasn't cheap - mine retailed for over $100 on Amazon - but it is the highest-quality Bible I've ever used. 

A sample of the inside. The font is small but not so small that you can't read it. 

The first thing you notice is the feel of the leather. It is actual goatskin, no bonded leather that you find in 95% of other Bibles. It's soft and great to touch. The spine is sewn rather than glued, giving the binding great flexibility. It lays flat on a desk from the first time I opened it. The pages are thin but opaque, and they're lined on the outside with a red-gold color, giving it a very old-school look. 

Moving inside, the page layout is wonderful, with a serif font that's easy on the eyes. Some might find the font too small, but for me it's just right. Cross-references are at the bottoms of pages as well as in the center column - a lot of references for a Bible this size. At the end there are 10 full-color maps as well as really good concordance. 

Overall, I think this Bible is perfect for me and I look forward to using it for many, many years to come. This won't be my reading Bible (I can thank Bibliotheca for that soon), but it will be my working Bible. 

It isn't cheap, but it's a little more manageable cost over at Amazon. For a Bible you might use for the rest of your life, I'd say that the price isn't all that bad. 

Four Questions Everyone Should Ask [Video]

Excellent thought-provoking video from Jon Acuff. 

My favorite:

It's the job of entire companies now to do background checks on potential employees. You've got to be really deliberate about how you live your life online...would I want to talk to a future boss about this thing I'm going to post?

Be sure to check out the short video below.