The Evolution of the Alphabet

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From Matt Baker at Useful Charts: This chart shows how the letters used to write English (and many other languages) evolved from Proto-Sinaitic, through Phoenician, early Greek and early Latin, to their present forms. You can see how some letters were dropped and others ended up evolving into more than one letter.

For obvious reasons, this hits my Venn Diagram of my love for Biblical languages (Hebrew & Greek) and my love for typography and design. This one may find its way onto my office wall as a print.

Twenty Years a Christian

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.

God's Word Over Google

How many times have you been in a conversation with someone and been wondering about something?

I'll sit with friends at lunch and we'll be discussing some topic. Usually sports. There's always a question. Where'd that guy go to school? Who beat that guy's record? When was the last time that team went to the Super Bowl?

As adults in our mid-thirties, we have still not become accustomed to the idea of having access to the wealth of all human knowledge in our pockets. We will sit and argue (politely) about something when someone says, "Well, why don't we just ask Google?"

There's no need to wonder anymore - we have the answers in our smartphones, which are constantly connected and seeking out that information, important or not, that we desire.

I think if we took the same idea with Scripture then we'd be much better Christians. Instead of arguing pointlessly about an issue, we need to ask, "Why don't we just ask God's Word about that?"

We may have access the wealth of knowledge in our pockets, but we have access to God in our Bibles. We need to be looking to the Bible for answers to life's most important questions, not to Google.

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. 

Bibliotheca

Bibliotheca is a great Kickstarter project started by Adam Greene. It's the Bible, American Standard Version (modified), in four volumes. It's a "readers Bible," meaning it doesn't have the typical cross references or chapter breaks of a regular Bible. It looks more like a novel that one might read here in 2014. The custom typography is beautiful and the cloth binding looks amazing. 

Apparently the project has already met its threshold, which is great. I'll be picking these up as soon as they're available, if I don't already change my $5 donation to get the four-volume set right now. 

With a culture that is increasingly making the Bible irrelevant, it's very refreshing to see someone making the Bible more relevant. Greene explains in the video about his choice of the ASV as the translation - and to me, the coolest part is that he's replacing some of the terminology (thee, thou, hast, etc.) with up-to-date terms such as you, I, and me. Some conservatives may balk at this - especially since he's also stated he's replacing and augmenting some of the text with Young's Literal Translation - but I see it as a step forward. 

This argument is a microcosm of the church as a whole today - how can we make the Word of God more relevant without changing the message? 

Anyways, I implore you to check out the video below. It's got some really cool stuff and it will have you saying "Take my money" in no time. 

Update: After seeing this post, Adam emailed me. He wanted me to make sure that this is a limited edition kind of thing, and may not be available after the initial run. He says:

A lot of people are wondering if this product will be available to purchase after the Kickstarter campaign. Although I would be thrilled to make a second printing available for purchase after the campaign, I cannot guarantee it by any stretch. I am trying to get the word out that this is not a campaign to make the product available to buy indefinitely. Rather, it is essentially a limited pre-order that will end when the campaign is over. As of now, the only guaranteed way to own the set is by pre-ordering on the Kickstarter page.

Thanks, Adam!


The Bible in the Bloc

Richard Riehn of Eastern European Missions tells the story of exactly how Bibles were smuggled into the Communist Bloc in Germany in the 1960s and 70s - in, believe it or not, cowboy boots. 

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Riding a train was the only mode of transportation from West Germany to East Germany at the time, and soldiers would check IDs and ransack bags on the way across. 

A prominent businessman who had business in the Bloc also helped smuggle Bibles into East Germany. The man was a devout Christian. He was on his way one day to the Bloc when the soldiers came in for their customary searches and his heart jumped up in his throat because he realized he had his personal Bible, not one of the smuggled ones, in with his regular bag. 

The man was well-known, and some of the soldiers even knew him. They searched him and his bag and upon finding the Bible, one of the soldiers was greatly surprised. 

"A respected businessman like you, and you read this TRASH?" he said as he threw the Bible out the train window. 

The businessman was allowed to proceed, sans Bible. He was devastated. This was his personal Bible, it had handwritten notes all throughout, and while it just a Bible and he could get another one, everyone knows that personal Bibles are sometimes special. Although it had his name and address inside, it was probably lost for good. 

Two years later, he was on the same train bound for the Bloc when someone returned the Bible to him. As it turns out, two little boys beside the train tracks had found the Bible that day, taken it back to their village, and started making copies for the entire village. They had been reading the Bible and baptizing one another for the last two years. 

I think sometimes we underestimate the true, undiluted power of the Word of God. We underestimate what it can do. We don't need fancy preachers in high-dollar suits giving creative and interesting illustrations, we need the Word

We also underestimate the saving power of the Gospel. The story itself cuts us to the heart - there's no need to add to that message. 

This was a nice mid-week pickup for me. I hope it's the same for you. 

Bible Cross References Visualized

This may be cooler looking than iOS 7.  

From Chris Harrison:  

The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc - the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect.

Too cool. Gonna frame it and put it in my office.  

You can visit Chris' site and get the original in super-hi res if you want.  

Click for larger

iPad Mini: The Ultimate Preaching & Teaching Tool

Ever since the "big" iPad debuted in 2010, I'm sure that there were a ton of posts (and probably still are) that the iPad was the ultimate tool for preaching and teaching. 

But I haven't read any of those articles, because for a long time, I didn't have an iPad. In 2012, I picked up an iPad, my wife and son fell in love with it, so I used that excuse to get an iPad mini. 

I love the smaller form factor. I love that its the size of my Bible. I love that the screen is the same resolution as the iPad 2, except packed into a smaller size. 

And I haven't used paper ever since. 

My iPad mini coupled with my Bible is all I need to teach a full-length class or preach a standard 30-minute sermon. I've went through many different workflows to perfect my process. And I'd love to share it with you. 

PDF to Dropbox

My first workflow with the iPad involved me styling a pretty document in Pages on the Mac and exporting it to PDF to a specified folder in my Dropbox. With it there, I could use a variety of apps (including the Dropbox app itself) to view the PDF for teaching my class. 

This was a clunky solution. Although pretty, the PDF wasn't editable. I couldn't add or delete content on the go, I would have to open the original document, edit it, re-export the PDF, and sync the changes across my devices. I grew tired of this workflow very quickly. 

Evernote

The second app/workflow I tried was Evernote. Evernote is an excellent all-capture app for things such as text, photos, and even audio. For a while this worked - I was able to write my class notes in the Evernote app for Mac, and after a few seconds the changes would sync to my devices. The problem here though is that I had a WiFi-only iPad mini. Unless the notes are cached and ready to go, it's not possible to pull them up on the go unless you have tethering to your smartphone. (You also run into roadblocks with this in almost every other syncing method, by the way.)

Had I stuck with my Nexus 7 and with Android, I would have stuck with Evernote, and I probably would have been happy. 

Simplenote

Very similar to Evernote in my opinion, except Simplenote is just for text. There's a couple of ways you could compose your material - through the very nice Simplenote interface on the web or through a number of apps such as Brett Terpstra's NV Alt, or with the dedicated iPhone and iPad apps. I didn't have too good of luck with Simplenote, despite loving the service, because I'm a bit too organized for it. Simplenote maintains that you should organize through a tagging system, and while I love tags, I had no need for it in my folder-by-month file structure for all my class and sermon notes. 

Simplenote is excellent for quick notes, and will even sync via my beloved Drafts app, but  that's all I currently use it for. 

.txt to Elements in Dropbox

My current workflow my not seem as simple as some of the others, but it allows me the most flexibility and is, in fact, incredibly simple and automated. I was hesitant to implement this workflow because I thought it may be too complicated, but it turns out that it's right the opposite. 

I compose my lessons in TextEdit on the Mac (or any other text editor that will save as or export to .txt format) and simply save them into the appropriate sub folder in my Elements folder, which is housed in my main Dropbox folder. Writing in plain text (.txt) allows lots of flexibility - namely file size, transfer times, and the ability to edit pretty much anywhere. 

I use the Elements app on my iPad to display my material to teach my classes. Elements will cache that folder's contents on wifi and will allow you pull up the latest version even if the app hasn't connected for a while. If you make changes though, you will have to refresh the file list. But on wifi and even over cell phone signal, this is incredibly quick considering file sizes are a tenth of the size of Pages or Word files. The app will also allow you to create a new text file in the file directory that you wish and will sync that file with Dropbox once a connection becomes available again. 

Elements does allow limited styling of your text through Markdown. If you don't know what Markdown is, it's just a neat HTML-like way to style plain text, with headline sizes, bold, italics, and bullet points. Elements will also allow you to change font sizes as well as pick from many nice fonts to display your text. 

This current workflow seems to be working, because I haven't changed it in the last 12 months. 

I love my iPad and I love the flexibility it gives me to edit my lessons on the go and compose them wherever I want. With 3 apps - Elements, Dropbox, and Drafts - I control my own creativity when and where I want to edit and create new thoughts. 

What about you? What do you use when you preach or teach?