Blending in with the culture

In the previous articles in this series we talked about why we do not view where we live with the same focus and intensity as we do when we go to other countries for missions because we spend all of our time focused on making this life our home.  But why do we do that?

The reason we get so sucked into the comfort of this world is because we have adopted the philosophy and ideals of our culture. In many ways we have become part of the world.  What is it we do that sets us apart from non-believers?

Every year hundreds of billions of dollars are spent in advertising; just to tell you why having those Nike’s will make you run better, why you need the latest iPhone (or Android) or how Coca-Cola will refresh you more than any other drink.  They spend that much money because it works.  We are bombarded with those images every single day while we try to entertain ourselves with television and then we get obsessed about needing the next new thing.

But in order to get all that fancy stuff you need to make more money, which means spending more time going to school for that better degree and working overtime.  You spend all this time dwelling on these obsessions and it steals our thoughts and our time away from the family and away from our mission, the gospel.

Then we get hindered even more because we don’t want to share the gospel with those we work with because someone might get offended and we will get in trouble which means no raise this year or even loosing your job.

Welcome to the American Dream.

The American Dream is a vicious cycle that we get ourselves trapped in.  We have fun with all of the latest stuff but then it catches up to us.  I got so caught up with this trap that I had to borrow money to buy more stuff because I did not want to wait a few months to get my iPad or a second car with cash.  Now I have to work just to pay off the credit cards and loans from things I purchased in the past that I do not even use anymore because I replaced them with other things I bought with yet more borrowed money.

And then we think nothing about it because the rest of the culture is the same way.  Even the culture of the church is caught in this trap.

But while you or your church and your pastor may not think much of that lifestyle, God is offended by it.  God even goes as far as calling those who do live like society enemies of the Cross.

For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. – Phillipians 3:17-19

By focusing on the things of this world instead of God you are not just failing to do what is best, but you are being an enemy to Christ, to His mission, and to the cross.  Christ came for a mission and if you are so distracted by the things of this world that you are ignoring those around you that are dying, then you have become an enemy to that gospel.

You can’t be in the middle, there is no neutral position, we are either For Christ or against Him (Luke 11:23) and this verse in Philippians 3 makes it clear that we are really seen as the enemy of the cross.

You will, of course, deny that you are the enemy of Christ, I mean, who would admit that?  Unless you are an atheist who directly opposes God you would not consider yourself an enemy of God.

But then look at the rest of the passage.  Does that describe you?

“Their god is their stomach”… Do you care more about what you eat and drink than you do about serving Christ?  Does eating and drinking consume more of your time than you give to God?

“Their glory is in their shame” really hit me.  How many times have you bragged about something and found joy in something that, in comparison to God, you should be ashamed of?

“I got so drunk last night I don’t remember what happened.”
“She’s hot. I would sleep with her.”
“Check out this new beamer I got. Only $500 per month.”
“Last Saturday we had a Lord of the Rings marathon… It literally lasted all day”

How  many of these things that we brag about would we, or should we, be ashamed of if we thought about bragging about it to God in light of our mission?

Simon Cowell at the National Television Awards...
Simon Cowell at the National Television Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, London, October 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I boasted for a while that I got to meet Simon Cowell (You know, from American Idol).  I would tell everybody that I met that I thought would be slightly interested.  “Hey there guard on the military base, did you know I got to meet Simon Cowell?  Yeah, I did! Met him in a hotel hallway, I even got my picture taken with him!”

Yeah, I was so proud of that moment…

And then God whispered to me “Why are you not this excited to tell people about me?”

None of that stuff is wrong in itself but they shouldn’t be what we are proud of or things we really find joy in.  We should be boasting in Christ because we are sinners and honestly we have nothing worthy of boasting about outside of Christ.

Next time you want to brag about something, think about bragging to God about it.  Is it something that you should be ashamed of in light of His holiness and perfection?

Then the final part of that passage I know hits me hard, and almost all of our culture as well.  “Their mind is set on earthly things.”

What is your mind set on?  Do you spend your time dwelling on things of this earth, or on God and His mission?

This ties back to the beginning of this article series.  If you are in Africa on a missions trip you are focused completely on the gospel, on your mission, on others.  When we get back home our mindset changes back to “normal” and we focus only on the things of this earth.

That shouldn’t be.  Our minds should always be on Christ and on the gospel, on our mission, nothing else matters even a tiny bit in comparison.

Am I saying that you are not allowed to have any fun on earth at all, and that our life needs to be nothing but witnessing on the streets, going to church, and living with the bums on the street and if I sit down to watch one movie I am being an enemy of God?

Well….

Find out in the next article on this series. 🙂

TuneIn Radio – iPhone App Review

App Name: TuneIn Radio
Price: Free, ($0.99 for ad free version)
Platform: iPhone, iPad, Web

Tune In Radio is one of my favorite iPhone apps for listening to audio on the go (second only to Pandora). It is the ultimate app for listening to local or world wide radio stations. TuneIn Radio is full of features while still maintaining an easy to use interface. If you enjoy listening to music, sports, or talk radio on the go, then TuneIn Radio is for you.

Features

Local Radio

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After you enter your location you can view a list of the radio stations in your area. Stations that do not have an online feed are grayed out., but, at least in my area, almost every station offers online access. This means you can listen to the station broadcast from just across the street, listen to all three of the radio stations in Cocos Island, Costa Rica, or get a taste of the down under by listening to the show Wake Up Australia live.

This app provides an interesting way to add a little unique variety to your life.

Categories

What if you know what you want to listen to, but it is not on any station in your city? This is where categories come in.

Categories are divided into three main areas, Music, Sports, and Talk. From there you can select what genre you want to listen to, be it conservative talk, disaster relief, or religious shows, and then several other categories for specific countries or languages.
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After selecting the category a list of shows is displayed. This is one of my favorite features of this app. Select the show you want to listen to and you will be given a list of every station currently broadcasting that show and how long is left. There have been a few instances of the show listing being wrong, but for the most part it is accurate.

What if there are no stations playing that show? You may still be in luck. Some of the shows have a list recent episodes you can listen to, making it like a smart TiVo for your radio.
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If you do not know the category the show you want is in then you can make use of the search feature.

Favorites

Any show or station you listen to can be marked as a favorite. Favorites show up together on one page for easy browsing. Stations in your favorites list show you what is currently being broadcast on that stream making it easier for you to find what you want to listen.

Login

You have the option of logging in to your free TuneIn Radio account. This will enable the app to sync your favorites with your TuneIn radio account. You can then access your favorites from TuneIn.com or sync your favorites to another mobile device.

Overview

This app does everything you could expect from a radio station app, all packaged with a very nice, easy to use, user interface. Add in the fact that it synchronizes your presets with an online account and with other devices makes this a versatile app for listening to the radio anywhere you have an internet connection. And for the price of free you really cannot go wrong.
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Christian application

This app goes outside of our normal app review for ETM since it is not a Christian app, but I have found it to be very helpful spiritually. I added shows such as Family Life Today, Dave Ramsey, and Renewing your Mind as my favorites allowing me to listen to wholesome talk radio wherever and whenever I want.

Family Life Today has about 2 dozen shows in the recently played section, ensuring you always have some uplifting content at your finger tips even if the show is not broadcasting anywhere at that moment.

Out running errands with the kids and need to keep them quiet? Put on some Adventures in Odyssey. This is an app your whole family can enjoy. So turn off that TV and tune in to your favorite Christian radio.

myPrayPal

App Name: myPrayPal
Price: Free
Platform: iPhone, iPad

As I promised in my review of Prayer List, I will give a review of the free prayer list app called MyPrayPal. Even though I personally like Prayer List better, myPrayPal has a lot of nice features that make it worth considering. To begin I will explain some of it’s shortcomings in my mind.

Cannot specified an answered prayer
The app has a button you can press to mark a prayer as answered which removes it from your main prayer list, but there no text field to enter how the prayer was answered. This may make it harder in the future if you want to look back on how God answered your prayers.

user interface
The user interface is just okay, but several things you try to do just do not work like you would expect an iPad or iPhone app to work. There are several actions, such as assigning a category where after you finish you expect the setting to hide but it doesn’t, because there is a save button for every setting that is placed at the top of the app. This may not be a problem for iPhone users but when viewing it on the larger screen of the iPad it can be easy to miss.

Design
The look of the app is very plain. This may not matter to most of you but to me if I am going to use an app daily it has to be pleasing to use. Along the lines of design the whole app looks like it is made for the iPhone first and iPad users just get a larger version of it. Sometimes while using this on my iPad the display looks like it reverts to an iPhone screen size.

Lack of settings
This app has absolutely no settings besides setting a pin. This is a good thing if you are looking for an extremely simple app, but if you are one who likes to customize your experience with an app this is a negative.

Categories
The way this app does categories is slightly off from normal. For one you cannot have something not be in a category or search for “uncategorized”. Also the category called “all” acts just like any other category except you cannot edit it. A prayer can be assigned to the “all” category which is a bit odd.

Now that I have mentioned what I do not like about the app let’s talk about what I do like about it.

Free
The main thing to like about this app is that it is free. It is awesome to see developers create software for the community without expecting profit in return. Although I am sure if there were a small fee for this app the developer could spend more time to support the app to make improvements quicker.

Last prayed for
My favorite feature is that this app keeps track of how long it has been since you have prayed for a certain prayer request. Prayer requests that have not been prayed for in a while are moved to the top of the list and it tells you how long it has been since you prayed for that request. There is a “pray” button you press to mark a prayer request as prayed for. Although a down side is that when you hit the button you are taken to a loading screen for 5 to 10 seconds before being returned to your list.

Pin protected
You can you a 4 digit pin to protect your list. Even though this is not as a full password like Prayer List has it gets the job done easily enough.

Reminders
A nice feature of this app is that you can setup push notification reminders for different prayer requests. You choose the time of the reminder and if you want it to be daily or on a certain day of the week. After the reminder goes off a red number badge appears on the app icon and stays until you hit the “pray. Button on the prayer request with the reminder.

Sharing
Prayer list allows you to hit a button to send your prayer to someone via email, but myPrayPal let’s you email, text message, tweet, or publish to facebook.

preloaded with categories
The final feature I like about this app which is kind of minor is that when you start it for the first time it already has several categories for you to use, making it easier to start adding prayer requests right away.

There you have it. My thorough review of two different prayer apps for the iPhone and iPad. Which app do you use, and why do you like it?

YouVersion.com…a great website for Bible stuff!

For the longest time I used biblegateway.com for my computer Bible stuff. But I hated how much it was lacking, and it’s horrid interface. Recently I have discovered youversion.com. It is one of the best Bible “stuff” doing thingy websites that I have seen…why? Let us take a look!

The first thing I noticed was the rather simple and straight forward interface. You simply type in the verse you need, and there it is! Not only that, but on the right there is a built in audio player for listening to the chapter you are on.

Anyways, time to stop boring you and get on the features, and what makes this such a nice site.

First off, you can make an account, which saves all your settings, bookmarks, notes, and a whole lot of other useful things, such as setting up your own Bible reading plan. There is also a built in social networking thingy, but I have not and am not going to look into that, so you are on your own on that one.

Lets look at some of the “My” features (the stuff worth mentioning anyways).

Bookmarks: This one is kinda self explanatory, it let’s you set a bookmark at a certain place, you can have as many as you want, across multiple translations.

Notes (my favorite feature): The ability to write a note about a certain verse(s) or chapter(s). This is very useful when trying to remember something you read, or something you want to share with someone (if you choose not to use the sharing options).

Reading Plans: This lets you set a reading plan. They have many reading plans with options for customization and support to help you stay on track.

youversion.com also gives you the ability to share a verse or verses via Facebook, Twitter, Email, or just grab a direct “short” link.

Their features are also available mobile via iPad, iPhone, iPod, Blackberry, Android, and webOS.

Well, that is all I am covering on the site. They offer a lot more than I mentioned here, but hopefully I got you interested enough to check out this awesome website for your Bible stuff.

Prayer List

App Name: Prayer List
Price: $1.99
Platform: iPad & iPhone

I use my iPad for pretty much everything, from reading my Bible to checking Facebook to writing articles for ETM. My goal lately has been to have a serious prayer life, so I started the search for an iPad app. I could just use any of the text editors, but I wanted something a little more specialized. I ended up finding two decent prayer apps. The first is called “Prayer List” and costs $1.99, the other is called myPraypal and is free. I liked Prayer List more so it will be the subject of this week’s Media Monday article. Tune in next week for a review of myPraypal.

Prayer List lets you enter a subject for your prayers as well as the full text. This makes a clean one line list when viewing a list of the prayers. You can also assign any prayer to a category and have the main window show just one category or all categories. You can mark prayers as answered as well as put a comment of how they were answered. One thing that makes this app nice is you can leave a prayer marked unanswered while still filling in the answered comments. This is useful for ongoing prayers which are being answered slowly over time. Once a prayer has been answered it is removed from the active list and moved to an answered list and the date answered is also recorded for future reference.

There are no default categories so you have to set some up when you start the app, but this is easy to do. The entire application works pretty much like you have come to expect ipad apps to work which makes the learning curve for this app very small.

Prayer List has the added advantage of being password protected, and not with just a 4 digit pin; full passwords are accepted. Another nice feature of this app is you can have backgrounds which make the app pleasing to the eye. You can adjust the contrast or turn the text white to make sure the text works with the background you are using. When viewing any prayer request you can press the envelope button at the bottom to email the prayer request to someone to help get others to pray with you.

One really nice feature of this app is sorting. They have various sorting methods, alphabetical, or date added, but my favorite is manual sorting. How I use it is to drag what I just prayed for to the bottom of the list so I have at the top of the list things I have not prayed for in a while. This allows me to make sure I cover everything in prayer.

You may say a prayer list is a bad thing because it just makes you go through prayer like a check list and not praying from your heart. I admit I fell into that trap a couple of times this week, but more often than that I just used this app to start me off in what to pray for and I prayed as the spirit led. When I was done I then went back to the app and put things that I prayed for on the bottom and then I prayed for the top thing and the spirit led from there. Or you can just pray for one category at a time.

The beauty of this app is that you can use it however you want to encourage and remind you to pray and it looks beautiful at the same time.