3 Study Bible Apps I Recommend

jenny-smith-421727Whenever I sit down to read the Bible I make sure to have some form of study help close by. I’ve learned over the years that good and Biblical sound resources are a huge when it comes to better understanding and applying the Scriptures. I have some great physical resources that help me in this area but I’ve come to love digital resources well. There are thousands of digital Bible study resources you can use but there are three that I use the most and would highly recommend to others.

ESV Bible AppIn addition to offering a sharp and clean layout for Bible reading this app offers great resources to help you dive deeper into the Scriptures. It comes with free access to the ESV Global Study Bible and it’s study notes and for a few bucks you can purchase and download even more resources such as the ESV Study Bible and notes, Literary Study Bible and notes, Gospel Transformation Bible and notes, and the ESV Men’s and Women’s Devotional Bibles. This tends to be my go to digital resource as I study God’s Word.

MacArthur Study Bible AppThere are a ton of great study Bibles out there. One of those is The MacArthur Study Bible. In this study Bible pastor and theologian John McArthur offers in depth study notes to go along with the Biblical text. This app is basically a digital version of that study Bible. In the app you can read the Bible in either the ESV, NASB, or KJV. You do have to pay a few bucks to get full access to the study notes but it’s a one time charge and well worth it. I’ve always enjoyed MacArthur’s study helps whether that’s through his study Bible or commentaries and this app helps me continue learning more about God’s Word through his resources. I do disagree with him on various parts of theology (for example, his dispensationalism position as well as other parts of eschatology) but overall the study notes I have access to through this app are very beneficial.

Faithlife Study BibleI don’t use this app as much as the two previously mentioned but it’s a solid resource I go back to from time to time. The most basic use of this app is for the Faithlife Study Bible and it’s note. The best part is this is entirely free! However, if you have a Logos Bible Software account you can get access to all your resources to go along with the Biblical text. I’d highly recommend using this app if you have Logos as a simpler and faster way to view your resources alongside the Biblical text.

Even though there are many digital resources I have used three tend to be the ones I use the most. I’d highly recommend you check them out if you are looking for tools to help you go deeper in your study of God’s Word.

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Ways to Use Social Media In Your Ministry

d_kow7ihnnw-saulo-mohanaSocial media is a vital part of doing ministry in our world. A ministry that isn’t leveraging social media is missing, in my opinion, one of the most effective ways of communicating with people in our culture. Everyone seems to be using at least one social media network and most people are using multiple ones. So how can we in ministry take advantage of this?

I want to suggest a few simple ways you can use social media in your ministry. Some of these suggestions are things we are currently doing in our ministry while some of them are things we are not doing but other ministries are.

Event Promotion. This is by far the easiest and most popular way ministries are using social media. However, this can be overdone. People want to see more than event promos on your social media accounts. More than likely if all they see is promos for your next event they may stop looking at your account all together or glance over it in the future. So promote your events but do so wisely.

Event Pictures. It’s easy to post promo stuff about your event but it’s another thing to intentionally get good photos from your events to post. People both at the event and not at the event will enjoy seeing pictures. This is also a great way to show people on the outside what your ministry looks like. Be sure to capture good photos. Have someone who is gifted in this area take photos at your events and post them on your social media accounts.

Sermon Quotes. This is a creative way many churches are using social media. It’s also a great way to get the sermon out of the pulpit and into the minds of people throughout the week. Take quotes from the sermon and post them throughout the week. This allows people to be reminded of what they heard but also share God’s Word with other people via social media.

Worship Set. This is another creative thing many churches are doing. Simply post the songs your worship band did on social media. This is a great way to communicate the songs you sang with your people since many of them may love the songs you sing but not know the title. I’d encourage you to search #worshipset and #sundaysetlist on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to see some examples of churches doing this kind of thing.

Highlight Volunteers. Volunteers are vital to any ministry. We should always be looking for creative ways to brag on them and a way to say “thank you.” Social media is a great place to do just that. It allows us to publicly thank them and brag on them for a bit. Some churches do a “Volunteer of the Week” type thing. They pick a volunteer every week that serves in their ministry and they post a picture and some thoughts about them. They usually highlight where they serve in their ministry and then give them a public “thank you” for all to see. One of the churches that is doing this very well on a weekly basis is Collide Church. Jump over to their Instagram page to see their “Volunteer of the Week” posts.

These are just a few simple ways you can use social media in your ministry. Be creative and be looking for ways to leverage the power of social media for your ministry.

Suggested Books: Going Social by Terrace Crawford and Social Media Guide for Ministry by Nils Smith (both of these books are a few years old so they may be outdated in some areas in regards to social media).

Yik Yak – What Parents Need to Know

XP1PspM3There is an app that is has been growing in popularity among teens that parents need to be aware of called Yik Yak. In this post I want to share a few things parents need to know about this app.

How Does this App Work
Yik Yak is very much like Twitter but with some unique differences. On Yik Yak everything is anonymous. That is the big catch with this app. Users post what is called a “Yak.” A “Yak” must be 200 characters or shorter. Once a user post a “Yak” it is posted on a live stream. The other big catch with this app is that is location based. So the live stream of “Yaks” is made up of only users within a 10 miles radius of where you are. Users have the ability to reply to “Yaks” as well as “upvote” (like) or “downvote” (dislike) them. The two big things to remember about this app is that everything is anonymous and is location based.

Some Negative Things to Be Aware Of
There are a few negative things about this app parents need to be aware of. First, sexually explicit content is common on this app. For an example, when I downloaded this app and opened it up, three out of the first six “Yaks” on my feed were sexually explicit statements. I know some people will argue that sexually explicit content can be found on any form of social media but apps like this (and others like Snapchat and Whisper) make it easier for teenagers to view and share this type of content. A second thing parents need to be aware of is the cyberbullying risk that comes with this app. Like Ask.fm, since users can post anything as an anonymous user there is a huge opportunity for users to cyberbully other users. This will often happen through users replying to other users “Yaks.” Because of this, many schools, both high school and college, have banned this app. Yik Yak developers do use a technology called geofencing, which allows certain areas like schools to be “fenced” off to avoid cyberbullying. However, this doesn’t always work and is not always used which leads to continued cyberbulling on this app. The last thing I want to make sure parents are aware of with this app is the illusion of location privacy. Even though this app, and many others like it, ensure location privacy there are always ways for people to find out where other users are. This may not be easy to do and the average user will not be able to do it but it can be done. For an example, two teenage girls where arrested when they made threats about a campus shooting on this app. The two girls were tracked down by police and arrested. One article reminds us that “every digital device has an IP address that allows for it to be tracked.”

What Parents Should Do
Once parents are informed about this app and are aware of how it works as well as some of the negatives things that come with it, what should they do next? First and foremost parents must not be afraid to have an open conversation with their teenager about this app. Explain to them how it works if their teenager doesn’t know already (impressive them if they don’t) and talk to them about some of the negative things that come with using this app. Once parents have done this they will need to decide if this is an app they are ok with their teenager using or not. My suggestion for parents is to not let their teenager use this app. There isn’t really any point to it and there is no good way for parents to track what their teenager may be viewing or doing on this app. However, a parent could see what their teenager has posted as a “Yak” or their replies to other “Yaks.”

I’d encourage parents to also check out iparent.tv’s post on this app. They share some good insight on this app that would be worth checking out.

What Parents Need to Know About Their Teen and Sexting

teen-using-cell-phoneOne of the popular trends among teenagers today that parents need to be aware of is sexting. In this post I want to share a few thoughts on sexting that I believe will both inform and help parents have conversations with their teen about sexting.

What is sexting? The first thing we need to do is establish what sexting is. Sexting is sending sexually explicit messages, photos, or videos via text messaging or some other form of social media messaging. In the past the idea of sexting has been referred to as phone sex or cybersex. Research from Pew Research found that last year 78% of teenagers had their own cell phone. They also found that half of them not only had a cell phone, but had a smartphone. We can assume the percent of teens with cell phones has risen above 78% since last year and with the popularity of smartphones more teens are not just getting a cell phone but a smartphone. The majority of sexting happens via text messaging. However, sexting, as we see in the definition above, can be done also through social media networks. So sexting can happen via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram since these networks all have private messaging features. Other apps like Snapchat are extremely popular for sexting.

Why is sexting popular with teens? There are a few reasons why I think sexting is popular with teens that I think are important for parents to know about. First, sexting seems to be popular with teens because “everyone is doing it.” Many teens who may not feel comfortable sexting will eventually do it because their friends are. Which leads to the second reason I think sexting popular with teens, which is peer pressure. Teens feel pressured to sext because “everyone is doing it” or maybe their boyfriend or girlfriend is pressuring them into it. For example, one girl said she was pressured into sexting when she was only 12 years old by the boy she was “going out with.” Usually it’s the guy that pressures the girl into sexting. One article says that 51% of girls said they felt pressured by guys to sext while only 18% of guys said they felt pressured from a girl. The third reason sexting seems to be popular with teens is the false sense of safety that comes with. Many teens that will not engage sexual activity in person will sext because they feel “safe” or “comfortable” behind the screen on their phone. Also, the app Snapchat has a feature that allows you to set a time limit on how long someone can view your picture. However, all this is a false sense of safety and comfort. An article I already linked to mentions two great points on this – photos and videos sent privately can be easily shared publicly and once digital images or videos are out there they leave a digital footprint cannot be “taken back.” When a teen sends a semi-nude or fully nude photo to someone within a private message the person that receives that message can easily save the image to their phone and share it however they want. Even though apps like Snapchat give the user the ability to set a time limit, the person receiving the picture can easily take a screenshot before the time limit expires. There are many more reasons why sexting is popular with teens, but these are a few important ones for parents to know about.

Why is sexting is a bad idea? For starters, sexting is a bad idea because it can lead to teens being publicly humiliated if their private photo or video goes public. Not only that, but in many states sexting is actually illegal and is considered a major crime (click here to sexting-related laws based on your state). What I am about to say next may not sit well with you if you do not believe in the Bible and view it as God’s standard of absolute truth. However, since I am a Christian and believe in the Bible I want to point out what God has revealed about sexual activity, which is what sexting is. 1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, and Ephesians 5:3 tells us to flee, abstain, and to not even have a hint of sexual immorality. What does sexually immorality mean? Sexual immorality, when used in the Bible (Greek word – porneia), refers to any form of sexual activity outside of the context of marriage between one man and one woman. God’s design is for a man and a woman to enjoy sexual activity within the context of their marriage. Any form of sexual activity outside of that, like sexting, is considered sin and is wrong.

What can parents do about their teen and sexting? The best thing parents can do is to have an open conversation with their teen about sexting. Talk to them about the pressures and dangers that come with sexting. Talk to them about how they should use text messaging and social media. Also, do some research and learn about the sexting trend among teens so you be informed and be intentional about helping your teen in this area. Lastly, don’t be afraid to set boundaries for your teen when it comes to their phone. Keep an eye on their social media accounts (get their username and password so you can check them from time to time) and other things they may be doing on their phone.

There is much more we could say on this topic, but this should inform you as a parent and help you understand your teen and sexting.

Sobrr – What Parents Need to Know

Sobrr-Life-in-the-moment-598x326Parents need to know what apps their teens are using on their smartphones. One of the apps that I have been telling parents about is Snapchat. Snapchat is one of the most popular apps out there right now for teens and parents need to know how it works and what some of the dangers are with it (click here to read about Snapchat). By the way, the whole idea behind Snapchat is not good. If you don’t believe me, click here and read this helpful article.

But that’s enough about Snapchat. There is a new app that just came out called Sobrr, which may gain popularity with teens shortly. It’s an interesting app that to teenagers will sound fun and exciting, but in the long run is not very healthy.

Sobrr is an app that is built on the whole idea of “living in the moment.” Sobrr basically does three major things. First, Sobrr users “vibe in the moment.” Vibes are basically things you and others post (what they call “moments”). Then you scroll through the current vibes to see what others are posting and can either “cheer” (same idea as a “like” on Facebook) or “pass.” The catch though is everything expires in 24 hours. So what you post and what others are posting will be gone in 24 hours. Completely gone. Second, Sobrr users can have “24 hour friendships.” Yep, you read it right, temporary friendships that last for 24 hours. However, if both people enjoyed their “24 hour friendship” they can choose to stay friends, but only if they both choose to do so. Third, Sobrr users can have “ephermal conversations.” Sobrr chatting is a one-time chat experience. You must read it before it expires. What’s the point of this? Sobrr says it “keeps the conversations free and in the moment.” You can click here to check out the Sobrr website and read more about it as well as watch a short video about it.

Why do parents need to be aware of Sobrr? It seems fun and not harmful. However, when you really step back and think about what this app is all about it’s not really that healthy for teenagers. A few things stand out to me about this app parents need to think about. First, Sobrr (much like Snaptchat) opens the door for teens to get involved in sexting. Sexting has gained a lot of popularity among teens because of apps like Snapchat (and of course because of texting) and Sobrr will do the same thing in making sexting easier and more accessible for teens. Because of the one-time chat feature and the fact things you say will expire, teens will be more likely to say things they wouldn’t in person or even in a normal online chatting session. Second, Sobrr cheapens real community. We are designed to be in relationships with other people. Community is necessary for us in how we have been designed. Sobrr redefines what friendships look like by making them just a 24 hour experience. Third, Sobrr will give teens a false sense of no accountability. In their minds, things they say and do on Sobrr will disappear in 24 hours so why would they think about using discernment or even hold back in what they do. However, parents, especially Christian parents, should realize this is not true. Even though what they do may disappear in 24 hours they will still give an account for it before God one day. In Romans 14:12, Paul reminds us, “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (ESV).

Parents, check out Sobrr. Don’t just take my word for it. Research the app yourself and talk to your teen about it if it comes up. Don’t just let your teen use apps like Sobrr without knowing about it first or having a conversation with them. You may even decide to not let them use this app at all.