The Future is Still Bright

When I watched Back to the Future Part II as a 10-year old, I was in awe. Hovercars. Hoverboards. Holographic sharks. Video phones. I've always been facinated by the future, but that movie had me wishing for it to be now.

I thought then, "Man, the future looks bright."

It still does.

Today is the future. Today is the day in that movie where Marty and Doc go to the future to correct an injustice - a mistake - that would cripple Marty's family for years to come.

Can we go back in time and fix mistakes? Certainly not. But we can appeal to the One who is in charge of our future.

If you look at the headlines or talk to people over age 50, you might get a pretty bad impression of the world today. They'll say the world is doomed, that people can't be trusted, and that we're all heading to oblivion on the same boat.

It's a good thing that my faith isn't in this world. It's a good thing that my faith is in God, who is able to do far more than I can possibly imagine. It's a good thing that I know that he's going to take care of my family. It's a good thing that I know He will take care of His Church.

I know, without a doubt, that my future is still bright with God. And yours is too.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3.20-21

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!


You Will Be Missed

Then Jonathan said to David: ‘Tomorrow is the New Moon festival. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty.’ - 1 Samuel 20:18

Growing up, I was made to go to worship. Every time the church doors were open, I was there. My mother would (almost) let me miss school before she’d let me miss church. It was engrained into my mind that I would be there.

This carried over to later in my life when I found a purpose in worship. I found that it wasn’t just about me getting what I could get out of it, it was about participating in the worship of our Lord and giving what I could to Him.

empty-seats.jpg

I think that maybe a lot of us fail to understand that these days.

As a youth minister, I see it a lot. If there is something better to do, then that certain kid won’t be at worship services, whether it’s sports, a concert, or homework. So what are we raising our kids to think their priorities are?

Without getting too much into the actual importance of being at worship, I just want to say one thing: that when you’re not there, believe it or not, you are missed.

In 1 Samuel 20 Jonathan says this to David, talking about the New Moon festival. Without reading the context of this verse, we may think, “Aw that’s sweet. Jonathan was concerned for his friend.” But if you read into it, you’ll understand that David was staying away from the festival because he was sure that Saul would try to kill him.

Every true worshiper needs to understand this verse – You will be missed, because you seat will be empty. If they do not understand this, perhaps the rest of us need to remind them.

As Christians, we have a lot of things in our job description. Be an example of Christ. Care for those less fortunate than you. Preach the Gospel to everyone. But another part of our job that we sometimes overlook is something I like to call Retention.

During my time spent in the Marine Corps, I learned that every base of large unit has something called a Retention Officer. This officer’s only job was to make sure that Marines were staying in the Corps past their allotted time of duty. He would call us from time to time to see if we were thinking about reenlisting and what those reenlistment options were. Sometimes, big incentives were given to high-value occupations.

As Christians, in our local churches, in our local communities, what are we doing to keep people there? Do people know you care? Do people know that they are missed when they’re not there?

I encourage you - members, youth ministers, ministers, what have you - to start making an effort to see where the empty seats are located. Christians need to be with other Christians. Christians need to worship.

It may sound like just one more thing we have to do, but the rewards of finding that one lost sheep among the ninety-nine will be incredible.

 

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?