Ministry Tech – Part 1

Let me start by saying am not an Apple hater! If you like Apple products, that’s great, keep using them. But they’re just not for me. Having said that, I don’t hate on you, Mr/Mrs Apple user, so please don’t hate on me for my preferences. This series of posts is not intended to bash on Apple, simply to highlight the tools that I use on the platforms that I choose to run.

At the Office

I’ll start with the tools I use in the office, both at work and at home.

Hardware

Computer: Dell Inspiron 5765 
It’s reasonably priced and has all the power I need for my day to day work. It comes installed with Windows 10 Home, which I promptly removed and replaced, but more on that later. At the office I connect it to a larger external monitor as my primary display and the laptop becomes my secondary. It sits on a stand and I also use an external keyboard and mouse. At home I just use it as is, with the addition of a wireless mouse – I dislike touchpads.

Operating System: Xubuntu 16.04 LTS (Linux)
I’m not an Apple user, but I don’t use Windows either. Xubuntu is what’s called a Linux distro (distribution), a “flavor” of Linux. Its actually based on another distro called Ubuntu, but it uses Xfce as its user interface instead of Unity that comes installed with Ubuntu, which I strongly dislike. I find Xubuntu to be extremely light weight and fast. Where Windows has always been clunky and unreliable, your mileage may vary.

Software

Using Linux does mean having to find replacements for more common applications on Windows or iOS, but that doesn’t mean they’re not as powerful, oftentimes they’re on par if not better than the more mainstream.

Most software on Linux is open source (free) just like the operating system itself is. Again, don’t let that word “free” fool you, they’re still very powerful. There are packages out there that cost, but by and large they will be open source. The developers would certainly appreciate donations if you find their software beneficial.

Bible Software: Xiphos
I like Xiphos because its just a solid performing software with great support from the developer. Its based on the Sword Project’s module system. Most of the library you can access through the Sword Project is public domain, so the materials are older and not as vast as you can get through Logos or Accordance. I have several Bible translation modules installed, all in synced tabs in the main pane of the program. When you move from tab to tab, the tabs stay synced to the same passage. Strong’s Greek and Hebrew displays in a small pane to the lower right on my “standard” translations while I usually have Clarke’s Commentary on the right side bar. You can configure the support panes based on the translation, so when I’m using the ESVS (ESV w/Strong’s Numbers) the right pane shows a larger version of Strong’s Greek/Hebrew instead of Clarke’s.

Productivity: Google Apps / Google Drive
I use Google Apps for pretty much everything document related. Its all based in Google Drive, so everything I write in Google Docs: devotionals, lessons, sermons, papers for school, etc, are all automatically saved in Google Drive. This is awesome when I’m co-teaching a class or work with other folks on material like camp or VBS, because sharing is ridiculously easy in Google Drive. I also use Google Slides for my presentations for Bible classes and sermons. Google Sheets is comparable to Excel. Importing from and exporting to other formats is great in Google Apps as well. I have exported Slides to PPT several times for sermons and only had to make minor tweaks. I generally export to PDF for school work.

There are other office type programs out there than run on the system rather than online in a browser like Google Apps. Libre Office is probably the biggest one.

Graphics: Inkscape and Gimp
Inkscape is a vector drawing program, similar to Adobe Illustrator. I use Inkscape a lot, like, a lot a lot. I use it for my presentations in Google Slides, for graphics on my congregation’s Facebook and Instagram pages, for activity flyers, for the graphics on this site, and more.

Gimp is a raster drawing program, similar to Adobe Photoshop. Most of what graphics work I do is in Inkscape, but it doesn’t print well, so I usually end up exporting to PNG from Inkscape and opening it in Gimp to print. Gimp is also far better for editing photos than Inkscape.

Desktop Publishing: Scribus
Scribus is a desktop publishing program, similar to Adobe InDesign or Microsoft Publisher. I have been able to do most printing from Gimp, but I did design our new contact/connection cards in Scribus. I just exported them to PDF and sent them to the local printer and everything turned out great.

Those are really the big ones you’d have to get used to in a switch to a Linux environment. There are other things I use that are either the same or very similar to Windows/iOS, or are Linux specific tools that I prefer to use over the ones included in the distro I’m using.

Here are some odds and ends I use that should be familiar to most people: Google Chrome, Firefox (occasionally), Thunderbird (email), Google Earth, Audacity, VLC, FileZilla (FTP), etc.

Next time we’ll look at mobile devices and apps. 

But, who raised Job?

That’s a good question isn’t it?  Who did raise Job? Hmm…

We know already that Job was a Godly and righteous man. God’s Word says that he was blameless (Job 1:8)! Can you imagine God calling you, or the child you raised, blameless? But how did Job get to be that way? It’s possible that he came to knowledge of God through study. Or maybe one of his “good” friends taught him. But Job 31:16-18 tells us something about his upbringing:

If I have withheld anything that the poor desired,
    or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail,
or have eaten my morsel alone,

    and the fatherless has not eaten of it
(for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as with a father,
    and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow)

You see, Job’s parents were servants before him. He witnessed his parents helping orphans and widows, just as we are told by James what true religion is (James 1:27).

So how did Job’s parents teach him to be such a good man? Deuteronomy 6:6-9 springs immediately to mind:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

I can’t say for certain, but I would imagine that this is how Job learned, and this is how we are to teach our children. Notice that this passage doesn’t say to let Sunday school teachers teach your children. Neither does it say let the youth minister raise your children. No, the Bible says for YOU raise them (Ephesians 6:4). It says to teach by your example. How do you talk about God? Do you talk about God? Do you pray in the morning, before meals, at bed time? Do your children see you studying the Bible? This passage says they should literally see the Word everywhere!

Now that I’m done stomping all over my own toes, I pray that you have an amazing day.

God can see in the dark!

All throughout the Bible, people have tried to hide their sins from God.  From the very beginning of creation, Adam and Eve tried to hide that they had eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:8).  Then we see their son, Cain, killing his brother and sidestepping God’s questions (Genesis 4:9).  David, the man after God’s own heart, tried to cover his sin by having the husband of the woman he committed adultery with killed (2 Samuel 11:14-17)!  God saw through all of these people and their lies, and they all received different punishments. From hard work and painful childbirth, to wandering the earth, to the death of an innocent.

As if these weren’t bad enough, there are two dynamic duos in the Bible that lost their lives as a result of their attempted deceits.  First up, Nadab and Abihu.  They were sons of Aaron, the brother of Moses and High Priest.  They offered an offering of fire that God did not approve.  They were then stuck dead with fire for it (Leviticus 10:2).

Next up, Ananias and Sapphira.  They were members of the early Church.  They sold a field they owned and gave part of their profits to the Church.  This would have been a great thing, if only they hadn’t lied about it!  They told the apostles that they gave 100% of the profit to the Lord, but they held back a portion for themselves.  When questioned by Peter, Ananias was struck dead on the spot.  When Sapphira told the same lie, she too was struck dead (Acts 5:1-11).

This message isn’t very uplifting or comforting, but this message is very important: God can see in the dark!  Hiding our sins from the world, from our loved ones, from our brothers and sisters in Christ, from those who look up to us as an example does not work on God!  He knows what’s in our hearts (Psalm 44:20-21, Luke 16:15, Acts 15:8)!

While God does indeed see everything we do in the dark, John 1:9 says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Now that is comforting!

The Nephilim

I’m reading the Bible through, and thought I would blog about some topics that I find interesting along the way.

The first mention of the Nephilim is in Genesis 6:4.

 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

There are several theories about the origin of the Nephilim and what they actually were.  The most probable to me is they were the offspring of a union between two differing peoples.  They may have differed in physical traits, beliefs, or even social status.  It may have been that Godly people married un-Godly and their offspring were evil in God’s sight.

Another theory is that the Nephilim were offspring off angels and humans.  One branch of this theory is that the angels were rebellious fallen angels who found humans to be beautiful and had children with them.  Another related idea is that the union of angel and human was sanctioned by God.  I don’t believe the God would sanction such a union because He created marriage between a human man and woman (Genesis 2:18-25), also Genesis 1:11, 1:21, and 1:25 says that God’s creations reproduce after their own kind.  Angels are heavenly beings and humans earthly (although in God’s image), this is a thing that I don’t think God would allow to happen.

The Nephilim aren’t mentioned again until the Hebrew spies are sent into Canaan to scout the land.  The more faithless of the spies said this about the people of Canaan in Numbers 13:32-33.

So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselveslike grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

But in truth the people of Israel wouldn’t know what the Nephilim looked like, because they were all destroyed in the flood.  They would only know of them by stories passed down by Noah and his sons.  My personal belief is that perhaps the Nephilim were used as scary stories by the Hebrews and when the spies saw the giants of Canaan, think Goliath of Gath, they immediately thought back to the stories they were told growing up.  Of course this is pure speculation on my part, as the Bible doesn’t mention any more about the Nephilim than what has been quoted in these few scriptures.

I just want to make note again that these are human ideas, some of others and some of mine, there is very little said about the Nephilim in God’s word.

Consider my toes stepped on!

Tonight in Bible class, we read Galatians 5:19-21.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

What I want you to see is this: “fits of anger”.  This is a Christian dad’s blog, meaning I have kids, two of them, 5 years and 3 years.  I know that all of you parents out there have had a few (by few I mean thousands) fits of anger, but God’s word lumps those of us with the occasional short fuse with idol worshipers and sorcerers and the like, and look and that last bit again, “will not inherit the kingdom of God”!  Yikes!  I know what I’ll be working on in the coming weeks.