I'll be honest - very rarely do I use this feature on the Instagram app. But if you tap on that tab at the bottom of the app, you might be surprised what you find.Read More
Today, I have been a Christian for 20 years.
But what does that mean?
Especially with a presidential campaign looming, being identified as "Christian" has been relegated to being part of a certain demographic. It has been "downgraded," if you will, to a social group.
But at it's basic core, what does it mean?
I sat weeping on a couch in a dormitory at Freed-Hardeman University as a fourteen year-old boy who didn't know a lot about the world. I had just been told a story that particularly impacted me, and I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was time to put on Christ in baptism. That was twenty years ago.
It's still the best decision I've ever made.
It wasn't a decision that was made lightly. I was peer pressured into it. I didn't do it for my parents. I did it because I wanted my soul saved.
So after I got back from church camp that week, I walked through the aisle at the invitation songs, said "I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God," and put on Christ in baptism.
People that try to degrade the act of becoming a Christian by saying that you can just pray a prayer or "call upon the Lord" are just flat wrong. That's not what the Bible says, that's not the example Jesus set, and we've tried to shortcut and degrade it just like we have everything else.
My life as a Christian (so far) has been extremely challenging, probably just as it has for you. But I'm a different person than the 14 year-old boy that got baptized in the summer of 1996.
What am I trying to say? I'm not really sure. I guess I'm trying to encourage you to not degrade the experience of being baptized. To me, it was the most vivd and important event in my life. It needs to be much more greatly emphasized to our teens today. It needs to be known that perfect people aren't baptized - sinners are.
I can point to a lot of significant events in my life, but even getting married and seeing my beautiful boys born into this world isn't as important as that summer day twenty years ago when I put on Christ in baptism.
Be glorified, O Christ.
There are some things you hear that you simply can't believe. You say, "No. No way. That's not happening. Is it?"
There's an epidemic going around with Snapchat and our teens. Snapchat, if you didn't know, is a photo/video/texting service that allows people to quickly send messages and funny animations back and forth between their friends. Lots of services do this, but the distinguishing feature of Snapchat has been that the pictures and videos are only available for a short time, a few seconds, and then they disappear.
In case you didn't know, Snapchat, as quoted by its own creators, was originally designed for sexting - sending nude photos back and forth so that they self-destructed after a few seconds, to never be seen again, and to only be seen by those viewing it at that time.
Only it doesn't work that way.
Because we always find loopholes. Whether it's with scripture, our taxes, or Snapchat, we always find loopholes to justify what we want to do.
Teens are now using Snapchat to blackmail one another.
Let me walk you through a scenario. A scenario that a friend recently told me about that actually happened.
Girl meets Boy. They hit it off. Both are upper-middle school, age 14. They immediately friend each other on Snapchat, because if you're between the ages of 13-18 these days and don't have Snapchat on your phone, you might as well be wearing hand-me-downs and shoes from 1998.
Things are fine for a while between Girl and Boy. They send goofy pics with text on them, all of it harmless.
Then one day, Boy asks Girl to send him a nude picture of herself. She does.
Why does she? She wants approval from this Boy. She wants to be sexy. She wants him to like her. She also figures that, "Hey, he's only going to be able to see this for 10 seconds, right? Because Snapchat photos go away."
Only they don't. Not when the Boy takes a screenshot on his phone.
It's a handy tool on iPhones - you can take a screenshot of what's on the screen by hitting the power button and the home button at the same time.
The Girl had not thought of that.
So the Boy blackmails her. "I have the photo," he says. "Send me a video of you doing _ or I send this picture to all your friends."
Now, there's lots of things that should not have happened here. But regardless, this is apparently a regular occurrence between teens on Snapchat. In talking to my friend about his situation, he said that the girl had said "Yeah, of course. This is a normal thing that happens. Especially with kids in high school."
Parents, how are we letting this happen? Are we that clueless?
You know of a good way for this not to happen? Don't let you children have this app!
Parents, this is out of control. We always want to assume that our child would have the sense not to do something like this, but we would be naive and wrong.
Check your children's phones today. Have them delete Snapchat, along with any other apps that hide use from parents (apps like Whisper, Yik-Yak, and Tinder come to mind). Ask the hard questions like "Have you done this before? Do you know people who do? Have you ever been asked to send nude photos of yourself?"
Parents, make a stand. Now. Before your child gets into lots of trouble.
Other Articles on Snapchat You Should Check Out
Adam McClane - Why You Should Delete Snapchat
Below are the notes for my lecture I gave at Faulkner at their Youth & Family Summit on February 29, 2016.
A few notes before we begin:
- Isaiah 44.9–20 – don’t make your tech an idol
- People shouldn’t say “Wow that was a great presentation” - they should say “He or she really brought that passage to life”
- Don’t ever let your tech speak louder than the Word.
- God used people - Moses and Joshua and Jesus and Paul - he didn’t use an app to spread the Gospel
- If your focus is on your PowerPoint and not pointing kids to the Gospel, you need to reevaluate your preparation
- My process:  Look at the Word,  Write my lesson,  Add in any technology.
Bible Study / Apps
- TheBible.org app / greattreasures.org (it ain’t pretty but it works!)
- Logos Bible Software
- YouVersion (YouVersion Live interactive notes)
- Faithlife Study Bible
- ESV Bible
- AIM Series
- Ministry Bits podcast
- Active Digital Parenting
- Wes McAdams
- The Bible Project on YouTube
- The Youth Cartel
- Download Youth Ministry
- The Source for YM
- Youth Ministry 360
- The Clues Brothers (escape games from Andrew and Philip Jenkins)
Reasearch and Writing
- Editorial for iOS
- Byword for iOS
- Apple Notes for iOS
- Copied for iOS
- Evernote (good app but not recommended)
- Microsoft OneNote
- Instagram (fastest growing social network in the world)
- Flow for Instagram (nice UI, multiple accounts, iPad app)
- Tweetbot for Mac / iOS (great Twitter client, multiple accts)
- Fenix for Twitter for Android
- Tweetdeck for Mac (multiple accts)
- Buffer (time-deliver posts, multiple accts)
- Adobe Post
- Adobe Clip
- Canva for iOS
- Photoshop + Lightroom subscription (9.99/mo)
- Pixelmator for Mac
- MinHub Youth for iOS
- Microsoft Excel or OneNote
- Ink Cards
Websites / Mobile Apps
- Clover sites
- MinHub Youth for iOS
- Microsoft Excel or OneNote
- Ink Cards
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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!
I am always getting tons of questions around this time of year from parents and students who are heading off to college and they ask me what compute they should buy. My main question is to ask them, "What are you going to use it for?" And English major writing tons of papers isn't going to need the same processing power that an Engineering major might need.
So, I decided to come up with a simple and straightforward buyers guide for college students. It's not as detailed as I would like, but it will certainly point you in the right direction when buying a computer for your soon-to-be college student.
Click the image for a larger view or download the PDF to your computer or device.
I preached this sermon last Sunday night for our 11 grads going off to college. I hope it helps you as much as it has helped me preach it.
Congratulations, graduates. In just a few short days, you’ll step onto a stage and receive your diploma, and while doing that two big things will be happening for you - 1) You’ll be making a significant accomplishment on 13 years of work and dedication, and 2) you’ll be closing one chapter of your life and opening a whole new one.
On a personal note, this Class of 2014 is a very special one to me. This is the first group that I saw as Freshmen. I remember walking into class that Sunday morning in January 3 ½ years ago, terrified at how such a large group of freshmen were going to react to my teaching. Since then, we’ve had a lot of great times to share at activities, sporting events, and here in worship.
Safe to say that I, personally, have some pretty good memories from you all.
So the main question I have for you tonight is:
What memories will you make from here on out? And what path will they take you on?
Tonight we’ll be talking about God’s path: how to stay on it, where it might lead you, all those things.
If we’re moving forward on this path, we can’t dwell on the past. We can’t relive memories from high school. After you walk across that stage in a few weeks and get your diploma, high school is over. High school, and all the tests, grades, drama, and sometimes, the relationships are over. So where does your path go from here?
If you’re not a Christian, there’s a lot of uncertainty with that question. You can’t move forward on God’s path if you’re not first a Christian! If you are, then your path is actually very clear. This evening, very quickly, we’re going to talk about your path that you should walk with God and how to seek out God’s direction.
1. Steps are ordered.
You’ve always heard “A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step,” but what does that actually mean? It means that in life there are lots of steps.
High School is a big step that you’ve just completed. But that’s all it is, is a step in your life. The next step may be college. It may be going out to work. It may be both. But the next step for you, whatever that may be, comes after the last. Like we said before, dwelling on the past doesn’t do you a lot of good when going to your next step.
Our steps have to be ordered, just like we order our food. One of the best parts about graduation is all the eating out. I must have ate out with parents and grandparents for like 4 days straight when I graduated high school. It was great. But when you go out to eat and your order food, you expect the food that you ordered to be what they bring out. If you ordered something small and they bring out a 7-course meal for you, that’s going to be too much. We usually only order what we can eat, and when we don’t, when we eat too much, our stomachs let us know fairly quickly.
In the same way, God orders our steps and steps that we are able to take. Psalm 37.23 says The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.
If our steps are ordered, then we must assume that there is some planning involved as well. Think about it - you don’t ever do anything without a plan. Whether it’s deciding and going to eat Mexican or Chinese after Sunday morning worship this morning or making plans for where to go to college, your steps in life are ordered and your plans don’t just happen, they are put in place and planned carefully. Proverbs 16.9 says, A man's heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps. Notice the word ‘step’ again. Our God directs our steps.
2. Paths are directed.
Proverbs 3.5 says Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths. The key to unlocking God's direction is by acknowledging Him in all our ways.
Going to college, you probably feel like (or will feel like) you’re on top of the world. You’re finally out of your parents house. You’re at a place where no one is going to badger you with rules. You have a lot more freedom than you might have had at home. And most of us will look at our lives and say “I’ve got this.”
Like me. Even with the rules and structure of the Marines Corps, I thought to myself, “This is great. I’m finally off on my own. I can do whatever I want. I’ve got this.”
One of the worst mistakes I ever made in my entire life was not seeking God when I probably needed him the most. After two combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, I was completely depressed and burnt out. I didn’t go to church. I didn’t seek out Godly things. I didn’t seek out God’s people to help me on my path.
If we are Christians, God directs our paths. Not activities, or degrees, or careers, or others, or boyfriends and girlfriends - GOD DOES. And if we let God direct our feet to walk His path, we will be taken care of.
Those two years without the church in my life were probably the darkest my life had ever been. Don’t forget about God when you’re off on your own. Don’t forget how He has taken care of you so far. If you trust in him, He will take care of you. Just as the verse Kyle mentioned last Sunday night - Romans 8.28 - For we know that all things work together for good.
Ah, wait a second, that’s wrong. If we look at the verse carefully, and we see the parts we sometimes glaze over:
And we know that for those that love the Lord all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.
Speaking from personal experience - it was the times that I did not let God direct my steps and was not active in his church that I had the hardest and darkest times of my life. Let your path be directed by God, and nothing else.
So as we close this evening, I want to offer you four ways that you can find (and stay on) God’s path.
1. Follow the instructions. We follow instructions in everything else in life, yet sometimes we put God on the back burner. Know God’s Word. Read it, study it, just as you would civil engineering or nursing. Because there will be a test later, and you need to be prepared.
2. Seek the narrow path. You are not the first person to struggle with sex, drugs, alcohol, or any of the other various temptations and things that would seek to take you away from God’s path. Stick with those who are struggling the same way you are. Seek out fellow Christians. Seek out churches nearby. No one has promised that the Christian life will be easy, and that’s especially true in your years to come, when you really find out who you are and what you will do with your life. So ask yourself the question that stems from Matthew chapter 7: will your path be wide and easy and lead you away from God, or will it be narrow and difficult and lead you to God?
3. Don’t seek wide ways or strange Gods. Idols can come in many forms. Maybe your idol is yourself - you’ve finally gotten away from parents and you now choose to do what you maybe couldn’t at home. Or maybe that idol is schoolwork. Or money. Or a boyfriend or girlfriend. Whatever form that idol takes, if it prevents you from following God in any way, it should not be a part of your path in life.
4. Always plan with God in mind. As I told you earlier, my life did not go as I’d planned. I had hoped to be married by age 23. That didn’t happen for me until age 27. When I joined the military in 2000, it was a totally different world come September 11, 2001. I didn’t plan on that. My life did not turn out as I thought it would, but it turned out exactly as God thought it would.
Jeremiah 29.11 says I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. I know the plans I have for you, Austin. I know the plans I have for you, Grayson, He says.
In the scripture that was read earlier, Psalm 16.11, David says You have made know to me the path of life. We know what God’s plans are - it’s in His Word.
I love the phrase that Kyle has said in some past sermons recently, and that is to ask the question, “What is God up to?”
What is God up to and how is He working in my life when I arrive at UT Knoxville in August? Or at MTSU? Or Cumberland University? What is God up to when He gave me THIS roommate? What is He up to when my Christian morals are challenged in my classes? What is God doing right now in my life?”
We should always plan with God in mind. God should not fit in our plans, He should be the most integral part of the plan. And we should always be asking what God is up to in our lives, because He always is.
Tonight, this lesson has mainly been for our graduates, but the message applies to us all. Have you been true to God’s path? Do you need to get back on God’s path? Maybe you need to start your journey on God’s path by becoming a Christian and being baptized tonight. If you have any spiritual needs this evening, come while we stand and sing.