Creative Biblical content at the intersection of life and faith.

Glo Bible (Another Great Pastor App)

Since it is Cyber Monday I must call attention to a great app for your PC, MAC, or iPad – Glo Bible. A few weeks ago our youth pastor, Caleb, introduced me to Glo Bible on his iPad. I was immediately impressed. Glo Bible is unlike any Bible application I have ever used; and I have used quite a few dating back to GodSpeed back in the early ‘90’s. My copy of GodSpeed used 3 3.5 inch floppy disks, so you had to insert the right one to perform certain searches. It reminds me of Tripp and Tyler’s iBible video (could do without the bleep out humor). We’ve come a long way baby!

Glo Bible is the first Bible app I have seen that integrates images, videos, timelines, maps, and articles into the text. The interface is attractive and easy to use. There is no way I can describe it to you, you must see it for yourself to truly appreciate. Unlike most Bible applications it requires 0 knowledge of “search” lingo. You simply click on the passage and all related content is immediately available. According to their website Glo Bible contains 5 modern translations, NIV Study Notes, over 2,300 high resolution photos, 450+ virtual tours, 3.5 hours of interactive video, 140+ maps, and a host of related articles. It truly makes the Bible a visual experience.

Over the last few weeks I have used the Glo Bible app on my iPad to teach my daughters. Every passage we read together is full of content that helps them see and experience the Bible. We can read a passage and immediately take a tour or watch a video that helps them get a true sense of the text. No more dry seminary explanation of Bible lands by dad, now they get the cool stuff. Until today I have been using the free version of Glo Bible because I am a cheap nerd. The free version offers a ton of material itself, but only one version of the Bible. Today Glo Bible is offering the full upgrade for 30% off. Or you can buy all of the software content on CD for the same price of $35. Seeing that I have paid well over $1,000 for my content on Logos, Glo Bible is a must have, especially for laymen who really want a captivating way to study the Scriptures.

For the teacher/preacher Glo Bible is a must have, especially on iPad 2 with its desktop to monitor feature. If you are able to teach from a networked classroom or auditorium space the possibilities for use of Glo Bible to enhance your teaching time are endless. The main reason I went to iPad last year was so that I could get away from pre-packaged powerpoint presentations. I always found myself wanting to show or illustrate something that I failed to put into my slideshow. iPad gave me the capability of making my presentations more interactive, GloBible will help me take this to an all new level.

Its Cyber Monday – gift yourself the GloBible.

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GoodReader (another great pastor app)

Instead of taking paper notes with me into the pulpit I now convert my material to PDF and open it in iBooks on my iPad. With some creative cover pages you can create a nice library of all of your sermon material through iBooks. The downside to iBooks is that there is no way to jot down those last few ideas in the margins that may come to mind on Saturday night or Sunday morning. A few weeks ago, I discovered GoodReader as a solution.

GoodReader is a PDF reader that allows you to make a wide variety of annotations to your document. You can freehand notes, highlight text, add callouts, or strike out marks. Anything you can do with a pen to a piece of paper, you can do to your PDF with GoodReader. Open your PDF in GoodReader, make your marks, save the new copy, and open it directly into iBooks.

GoodReader also provides a great file management interface that can interact with DropBox or MobileMe (or Mac Cloud, or whatever they call the thing now). Because of the file management capabilities, I also use GoodReader to organize all of the staff documents and reports that come to my office. The last three years I have compiled what I refer to as “the giant book of knowledge.” By the end of the year it is an oversized notebook with several hundred pages organized by month. Now I simply use Adobe’s PDF creation software, some folders on my MobileMe cloud drive and GoodReader to create forms and organize the returned reports. No longer do I have to haul the “giant book of knowledge” home or to offsite meetings, the whole thing is contained in GoodReader. Another added bonus is that I am saving a rainforest – go green Rev.!
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MealSnap - Another Great Pastor App

Pastors are usually round jolly old elves that shake when we laugh like a bowl full of jelly.  Although we may not carry a bag full of toys, we are like Santa in the sense that we do like to eat.  I vowed early on, “I don’t want to look like a preacher.”  So I work out, and try to watch what I eat; but the problem is that I also like to eat what I watch.
A year or so ago my wife went on Weight Watchers.  She lost a lot of weight.  I experienced second hand weight loss.  It is sort of like second hand smoke.  If someone around you all the time is doing it, it is bound to impact your health.  However, I found that Weight Watchers may be strong enough for a man, but it is made for a woman.  I have noticed through the years that things that appeal to women operate on a completely different system of mathematics.  As prime examples I bring you Mary Kay, Weight Watchers, and couponing.  There is not a calculator on the planet engineered to figure out the math in these communities.  Oh wait, I retract my statement and offer this correction – Weight Watchers offers its own calculator.  I stand corrected.  To demonstrate this mathematic absurdity I offer you the strawberry in the Weight Watcher world.  A strawberry is 0 points.  But if you eat enough of them you start scoring, it adds up – 1, 2, 3, 10 . . .  In my world 0 + 0 – 0 x 0 / 0 is ZERO!  If you can score with a strawberry then let’s do it like basketball – you shoot, you score – give the fruit some initial value.  Weight Watchers needs a man.
So to my reverends out there who live in the standard math planet, I offer the app MealSnap.  MealSnap takes a picture of your meal and calculates the calories for you.  Pictures are worth a thousand words, in this case you may find out it may be worth about 1500 calories.  It is very cool.  I have found it for the most part to be incredibly accurate.  It won’t offer you a dead set number, but rather a range based upon what’s on your plate.  I eat out quite a bit so it’s a handy way to help me realize how much I am eating in a given meal.  If there is any question, I MealSnap it, it logs the meal on the date, and I can always go back for future reference.  When I bought it, MealSnap was a $2.99 app – its well worth it Rev. if for nothing else than the fact that it is something fun to play with at the table.  Just another way to get fat and impress your friends – or if the caloric calculation convicts you – share a roll or two with a buddy. 
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Clean Sheet

photo by sharon k.a. winiger
The Book of Acts tracks the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem into Judea, Samaria and on to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).  There is a lot that can get in the way between here and there; language barriers, religious issues, prejudice, persecution, safety, fear.  As each chapter of the story unfolds God works to break down those barriers.  In Acts 2 the language barrier falls.  In Acts 5 God deals with deception.  In Acts 9 God converts Saul, the persecutor to the persecuted.  In Acts 10 the barrier is a personal one.  It is a prejudice in Peter fostered by years of religious distortion.  Here is a man who is called to take the gospel to the ends of the earth but who, at the time, would find it repulsive to eat dinner with a Gentile.  It would be impossible to take the gospel global if the church failed to get it as far as the table.  God gives Peter a vision of a sheet.  Inside the sheet is Peter’s prejudice.  The end result for Peter is a clean sheet; a better understanding of the gospel and a new way of relating to the people who desperately need to hear it.
We all need a clean sheet.  In each of us are barriers that must be overcome if we are to enjoy the full expression of the life giving power of the gospel in our lives and in our relationships.  For some people it is the vice grip of sin, something of which we refuse to repent.  For others it is the bitterness of a failed relationship.  The barrier may be in the home, a strained marriage, a difficult child, a large amount of debt that causes a great deal of tension.  It may be a bad church experience.  Or, like Peter it may be prejudice.  Maybe you are considering a move, adopting a child, a career change, or pursing a calling, yet you are full of fear.  Your mind races with reasons why you can’t, why you shouldn’t, why it would never work.  Whatever it is, the purpose of God is for you to have life in Jesus Christ; but for now there is a hindrance, a barrier that seems to choke the life . . . out of life.  We all need a clean sheet.
On Sunday we will be talking about clean sheets from Acts 10.  For both services (9:30 and 11 a.m.) I am asking the congregation to bring objects that are representative of issues that may be barriers of the gospel in your life.  For some, considering these things may lead to salvation.  For others, this may be a Peter type moment, an ongoing moment of change, an adjustment of life so that the gospel can continue to grow in and through you.  I am also proving a link to a webpage on which you can post a message via text message.  Anonymously share with everyone what needs to be in your clean sheet.  Over the weekend we will be posting your messages to the page and they will serve as a growing testimony of how we are seeking God’s power in giving us a clean sheet. 
To text your response, send your message to 62935 and include the letters “RBC” before your response.  For example, your response should read, “RBC my difficult barrier.”  Your response will not appear immediately, it will be submitted for approval.  Check back over the weekend and read the responses. We will also use the displayed responses in worship on Sunday.   Also, let’s pray for one another that this will be an incredibly freeing weekend in which God grants the people of RBC a clean sheet.     
Instructions for the weekend:
1.      Read Acts 10
2.      If you were Peter, what would go in your sheet?
3.      Text to 62935 rbc+your message
4.      Go to http://www.jarbyco.com/ridgecrest/ to read responses through the weekend (If you use Internet Explorer, you will need to refresh often)
5.      Pray for those responding
6.      Bring something representative of what needs to go into your sheet on Sunday.
7.      We will also have a "text in" Q & A in 11 a.m. worship this Sunday. 
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Our ancestors talked; now we text.  Somewhere between our preference for conversations with less than 200 characters and our incurable fear of public speaking the art of the “testimony” is all but dead.  Some of my most fond memories as a child growing up in church were the times when the saints of God would stand and share stories of what God was doing in their lives.  For me, testimonies made the gospel alive and current.  Testimonies made worship less of a spectator sport and more participatory.  You were not just at church to hear a sermon or to sing a song, you were there to share and respond.
Last week we decided to bring the testimony back to worship – with an upgrade.  Using cell phones, wifi, and projection I asked questions throughout the sermon and the congregation responded with short texted testimonies.  We paused for brief interludes throughout the service to watch the responses scroll on the screens.  The result was an incredible worship experience with the congregation sharing with one another and responding to God.
For example, when I asked, “What was happening in your life when you started listening for or seeking God?”  Here are some of the responses:
·         Drug use/overdose, I realized the profession I made at 13 was just to get someone who was a Christian to leave me alone.
·         Jail, he was publically exposing me to my sins.  He opened my heart and ears to hear and see that my righteousness can’t and won’t save me.
·         I realized I could not “fix” everything.  That left me hopeless, so I turned to someone who gave me hope.
·         I was in college struggling with sexual sin when God opened my eyes to the truth that I could have a relationship with Him.
·         Divorce, job change, being a single parent, lack of hope.
·         When I was diagnosed with diabetes.
·         Chaos at home, a sense of desperation and a longing for something more in my life.
Here are a few of the responses to the question, “What are you asking God right now?”
·         Am I doing it right???
·         Am I serving Him where he wants me? Feeling failures as a mom and wife.
·         Who are you God?
·         Show me how to make up for lost time as a godly husband and father.
·         Heart break.  Why did you choose me for this God?
Our second service is a little awkward simply because most of the people in it are fairly new to one another.  I think seeing the texted testimonies helped to break down some relational barriers as each person in the room realized they were sitting around people who were experiencing many of the same insecurities, seeking the same sense of meaning, and asking the same questions.  At the end of the service I encouraged our folks to move those stories from text and into meaningful conversations.  After the weekend it made moving forward seem more safe.  We are all in now.  Let’s talk.
Now the pastor-tech part, how did we do this?  Our initial plan was to have three people holding cell phones, provide the congregation with three numbers based on seating, and type in responses as we got them.  After the way this all worked on Sunday, I can testify, THERE IS NO WAY THAT WOULD HAVE WORKED.  There were too many texts coming in way too fast.  It would have been a disaster that would have done nothing but distract from the service.  Fortunately, on Thursday night I searched for a solution and found Jarbyco.com.  For a reasonable fee you can subscribe to their service for a month.  Keith Baldwin got us set up quickly and helped us throughout the weekend with a few tech support questions.  Jarbyco offers a variety of ways you can use the text to screen technology such as polls, trivia questions, Q and A, or in a testimony service like the one we experienced on Sunday.  I highly recommend Jarbyco.  We found the text to screen technology to be a great way to reinvigorate worship, to resurrect the art of the testimony, and call our people to not just be a spectator but a participant.
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Another Great Pastor App

I know I have been doing some iPad gushing here lately, but I have found another great pastor app.  Maybe I need to start a weekly "pastor tech" column - very nerdy, yet cool!  If you are a blog reader Early Edition is a must.  This app gathers all your favorite feeds and displays them in a newspaper layout.  No more boring linear email looking readers.  This app makes scanning through the clutter of the blogosphere easy and inviting.  If you already use google reader Early Edition will import your current feeds.  This one is well worth the $4.99 price tag.
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The Pastor App

Last fall Ken McKibben of Mediamerge gave me the idea of using the iPad as a way to integrate my tasks of study, blogging, annotation, teaching, and preaching. The initial quest was to find a way I could take control of presentations from the pulpit and be more spontaneous while teaching as if I were teaching in a small classroom with a whiteboard. Ken offered me the iPad as a solution and since then I have found it to be the most versatile and indispensible tool of my ministry. Here is a list of apps that make iPad a must have for pastors:

1. Kindle and Logos – the books are cheaper than print copies, and no matter how many you buy the iPad never gets heavy! If you are like me, you always have a stack of books in your hand. When I leave the office I look like a camel. I usually have a gym bag, a computer bag, and a book bag. With the iPad I have alleviated any need for carrying my laptop and I have reduced my book bag down from 40 pounds to about 3. Now my book bag consists of an iPad keyboard, the iPad, my journaling Bible, and a magazine or two that I am working through. I have a feeling that in a matter of months most all magazines will also be iPad apps thus drastically reducing my mag stack. Mrs. Branam will be overjoyed!

2. Whiteboard HD and Airsketch – these are two “whitboarding” apps that allow you to post maps, charts, graphics, or a clean canvas for teaching. Each of them offers a selection of colored marker tools which when used along with the iPad stylus allows you to mark up the screen as you like. Warning: writing on the iPad is difficult. My penmanship is just below doctor’s prescription to begin with, on iPad it descends to hieroglyphics. What makes writing on iPad difficult is that you can’t rest your palm on the screen as you do when you write with a pen and paper. Whiteboard HD updated their app so that you can draw on two separate screen touches. For me, this update made Whitebaord HD even more difficult for my applications, but I still use it.

The iPad does not naturally translate to a secondary monitor, only certain apps offer visual output – be careful when buying them that you get one that does. I do not understand why the iPad has a monitor out but does not translate the desktop to monitor like a laptop. If the folks at Apple ever allowed iPad to visualize the desktop on a monitor, the pastor/teacher applications for iPad would grow exponentially.

Whiteboard HD is a good app, but you must have the iPad plugged into a VGA cable to use it. The connection can be “iffy.” If you own anything Mac you know the connections to plugs can be precarious. I know this is so that you won’t catch a cord with your leg and thus turn your small fortune of an investment into a pile of electronic floor junk, but for me, these connections are a little too safe. Airsketch un-tethers your iPad as it uses a wifi connection to transmit the image from iPad to another monitored system on the same network. Airsketch offers the user great versatility as you can move around the room freely and transmit your images to your auditorium monitors.

3. Notes and Notify – I am a legal pad junkie. Notes and Notify have helped me to drastically reduce my legal pad trash piles. Notify is more versatile as it allows you to build separate notebooks, annotate web pages, type notes, or insert graphics. Notify also offers several ways to export your data for printing. Notes is a simple legal pad on iPad. If you need to type in a quick thought, Notes is the way to go.

4. Keynote and Keynote Remote – If you have a scripted presentation created in PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote, the iPad allows you to control your presentation from the pulpit. With Keynote you can not only build attractive presentations, but you can also import PowerPoint presentations without any virtual jumbling that will mess them up. Keynote Remote allows you to control another computer on the same network that also has Keynote. Like Airsketch, Keynote remote allows you to un-tether your iPad from a VGA cable and move about the room.

5. Pages – Pages is Apple’s answer to Word. I write a lot. With Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard (which weighs virtually nothing, is very reasonably priced, and is the same size as a laptop board) I have alleviated any need to carry a laptop. There are some features of iPad’s Pages that is missing from the laptop version, ie. footnoting, but hopefully future editions will add this feature. Even still, Pages is a must – and yes, it easily imports and exports documents for printing or to and from Word.

6. The Unknown App – like the unknown god at Mars Hill, with Apple’s App store, there is always room for one more. Weekly I find new apps that are useful to ministry or are just plain cool. Some of my favorite non-ministry apps include Pinball HD, SimCity DLX, TweetDeck, Star Walk, Google Earth, Netflix, The Weather Channel, Appstream, Nightstand (a must if you travel), and Bowmaster HD. With such an open community of development the iPad morphs and literally “becomes” something else week to week.

If you are a pastor or a teacher, I highly recommend the iPad. Thanks Ken!
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