Think different.

September 11, 2013 — 5 Comments

If you hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible—and I do—then you believe that there will come a point in time where every man and woman, boy and girl, will be faced with the decision of accepting the Mark of the Beast. This mark will control your ability to buy and sell according to the description in Revelation 13:16-18 (ESV):

Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

Yesterday Apple announced the iPhone 5S which, in addition to the typical speed and functionality enhancements, features a fingerprint scanner built into the home button and a new software authentication system called Touch ID. You simply touch the home button, and the phone instantly recognizes the user (or other users you trust and have enter their fingerprint) and unlocks the phone. You can also use it to authenticate purchases, rather than enter your password.

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My wife and I had a long discussion about this last night. We’re big Apple fans, and I usually stand in line with the other Apple drones on launch day, camping out to be among the first to get my hands on their goods.

I’m not sure about this one, though.

Here’s what I think so far: this isn’t the Mark of the Beast. From what I understand of Revelation 13, the Antichrist will come to power first, the world will follow him, and he will institute the mark as part of his authoritarian rule. So a fingerprint scanner on a phone it ain’t.

But it’s a step. And it’s unnerving because when I was a kid, the explanations of Revelation sounded like science fiction—so detached from the reality of the world around me that it seemed impossible. Not anymore.

But I’m also not so sure that Apple is the evil one, here (or at least not the only one). As I was doing research this morning on Touch ID, I came across an article featuring Heather Adkins, Google’s Manager of Information Security:

“Our relationship with passwords are done [at Google]…passwords are dead.”

That’s a pretty bold statement. So what, then, will we be using for security? From the CNET article:

Although Adkins didn’t offer any real specifics on how Google will innovate beyond today’s security, she did say the company is experimenting with hardware-based tokens as well as a Motorola-created system that authenticates users by having them touch a device to something embedded, or held, in their own clothing. “A hacker can’t steal that from you,” she said.

Now, on the surface that seems pretty innocuous. After all, many of us use hardware tokens as security devices at work each and every day. But you need to watch Google closely here. Or, more specifically, Motorola, which Google just purchased. Motorola is on the forefront of authentication technology, and has recently announced two products under development in their labs. The first is a pill that is ingested each day and powered by the acids in your digestive system. The pill emits a signal that authenticates the user’s identity to the phone. Weird. The second, however, is slightly more disturbing.

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The image above is Motorola’s other development, an authentication “biostamp,” or electronic tattoo. Announced at the D11 conference in May, Motorola sees this inexpensive silicone tattoo as a viable alternative to current passwords.

“…it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark…”

And remember Google’s justification, “A hacker can’t steal that from you.”

I’m not an “Endtimes Scholar” by any stretch. But it’s abundantly clear where all this is heading, and the groundwork that is being laid. Maybe Apple’s Touch ID is completely innocent. And maybe Google is living by their “Don’t be evil” motto. But at some point, Christians will have to decide where they’ll draw the line, and at what point they’ll stop funding the companies that will eventually be the ones turning their name over for failing to take the mark.

It’s something to think about between now and the new iPhone’s release on September 20th.

What do you think? Is Touch ID safe? Should Christians embrace this technology? At what point do Christians have a moral responsibility to say “no” to advances such as these? Let me know in the comments.

 

If you ask my daughter Eliza what flavor of popsicle she wants, her eyes will get wide and an excited grin will spread across her face as she exclaims, “PURPLE!”

This is an interesting phenomenon to me, and it’s certainly not limited to my daughter. Children everywhere have learned to shout a color when asked for a flavor. What’s your favorite slushy flavor? BLUE! What’s your favorite Pop-Ice flavor? GREEN! What’s your favorite flavor of snow cone? ORANGE! (Okay, that last one is tricky.)

So why is this? Are our children just fundamentally stupid? Unable to discern between a color and a flavor? Has Chris Rice’s “Smell the Color Nine” had horrible, permanent effect on our society? In a word…maybe. For the purpose of this post, however, I’ll just say “no.”

See, a grape flavored popsicle tastes nothing like grapes. And are green popsicles lime flavored, or green apple? Why not both! Blue snowcones? While my personal favorite, they taste absolutely nothing like blueberries.

And this isn’t just limited to kids and frozen treats. We have an entire segment of the adult populace that thinks Velveeta is actually cheese, the grayish meat product in their Big Mac is beef, and a great steak can be found on the menu at Waffle House (“Extra A1, ma’am!”).

We’ve learned to crave the artificial.

What makes the situation worse is that, for a time, the artificial can actually be more enjoyable than the real thing. If you’re used to eating Velveeta and then you have a slice of Carr Valley Cocoa Cardona (goat milk cheese with a ribbon of cocoa powder) you’re going to want to vomit. Not just because of the taste, but a pound of Cardona will set you back $16 while Velveeta costs roughly a nickel per square foot.

In his documentary, “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead,” Joe Cross explains that the culprit is the richness of these processed foods, together with their caloric value vs. how filling the foods are. These new processed flavors are super high in calories, but not very filling. The graphic below illustrates the idea:

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Here’s the point I want to make—it’s a dangerous place to be when we would rather have the artificial than the real. It’s killing us. We’d rather ingest 2,500 calories in one meal that’s rich in flavor and more immediately satisfying than eat what is good for us and keep us, you know, alive and stuff.

Craving the artificial is dangerous in every area of our lives, but especially as it pertains to our relationship with God.

Noise is not a substitute for worship, no matter how talented the musicians or beautiful the voices creating it. Oratory is no replacement for unction. Uniformity is not the same as holiness. Passion is no substitute for prayer. And it doesn’t matter if 10,000 people are into it, fists pumping in the air, singing together in “worship” and everyone looks like they were manufactured in the same plant. By that same measure, millions of Americans are so fat that they’re considered disabled. Consider that.

Don’t mistake atmosphere, crowd electricity, and even shouts of “AMEN! Preach it, preacher!” for the authentic or the approval of God. Yes, those things are immediately satisfying. They’re craveable and satiating. They make for fun conferences and exciting services. They’re also cheap, and easily manufactured.

The authentic bears a stamp. Just like choice meat is marked “Grade A” and the best vegetables have an “organic” sticker on them, the authentic in worship and experience is immediately recognizable.

It’s Pentecost. It’s the promise of God, as Joel prophesied, Jesus testified, and Peter verified. And unlike organic foods that tend to be expensive, this experience—this promised gift—is absolutely free.

So, why would we settle for Purple?

#SoSlam 2013 Live Blog

April 5, 2013 — 1 Comment

We’re all set up and ready to roll at Social Slam 2013 at the Knoxville Convention Center. Imma be honest—I’ve never live blogged before, and I have no clue how this works, but I thought this would be better than the 1,500 tweets I sent out during this one-day social-palooza last year. Here we go…

I was honored recently to be interviewed for the UPCI Ohio District News by Anthony Nutter, Student Pastor at The Anchor Church in Zanesville, OH and Promotions Director for the Ohio District Youth. Do to space constraints (and the fact that I don’t know how to answer anything in less than 1,000 words apparently) the “transcript” of the full interview is posted here for your reading enjoyment:

Q: What would be your first piece of advice to a church with a struggling, or non-existent media department?

A: For those just starting, I’d say don’t get intimidated or overwhelmed. You don’t have to do everything all at once. It’s so easy to roll into a larger church that has everything in place and want to compete with or hang with what they’re doing. Don’t get caught up in that trap. Instead, focus on doing the very best your church can do. That’s not an excuse to do sub-par work or to phone it in. That means doing a lot of research and educating yourself about the four main components of any media department: the computer, the projector, the software, and the staff.

That last one—the staff—is so critical; not just for those starting out, but it’s usually the one area where churches that have struggling media departments are hurting. Maybe you’re not large enough to have a multi-person crew, but it’s vital that you have that one “go to” guy (or gal) who you can lean on. And that person should be someone who is willing to learn, and try creative things. Churches tend to plug in their most technically-adept person, just because a computer is involved. But just because someone’s great with computers doesn’t mean they belong in the captain’s chair of the media department. A creative, willing volunteer can easily overcome having poor equipment, but all the pricey equipment in the world can’t make up for the wrong person in the wrong job.

Q: When a church is thinking of moving to a new logo, who or what should they pursue?

A: My first question to churches who come to me wanting to redesign their logo is “Why?” There should be a purpose behind any redesign or rebranding, and I recommend that churches spend a lot of time before they even speak with a designer just figuring out what they want to accomplish with the logo. A “brand” and a “logo” are two different things, but each should strengthen the other. A logo is an identifying mark, but a brand is the essence of who you are. It’s what you say, and what you do. A lot of times there’s a total disconnect between a logo and a church’s real brand because they update their logo to reflect current design trends, but it’s not an accurate reflection of who they are as a church body. So, step number one is simply figuring out what you want to say with your logo so you can give the designer something to work with beyond “make us look cool,” or “I’m bored with our current logo.”

A good designer will be one who asks those probing questions and not just churn out a lazy design.

Computers, software, and graphic designers are plentiful, but a great logo is way more than mouse clicks and clip art. I absolutely recommend that churches work with an established professional—someone who can show you real world examples of their designs in use, and who pay their bills with their design work. With few exceptions, I also think a logo should cost you something real rather than being a freebie favor granted by your uncle’s cousin’s nephew. The value in a logo is sometimes hard to quantify, so when you have something tangible and valuable like real dollars attached, it helps organizations understand the importance and take the process a little more seriously. You can also demand more from the designer that way.

I would also highly recommend that churches stay away from design competition websites and websites that offer a dozen logo ideas for a nickel. That’s not to say you have to spend a fortune, but you get what you pay for, and if your church’s logo costs less than a tank of gas, you’re probably on the wrong path.

Q: What is your recommendation for worship software? What about a low-cost, efficient Windows option?

A: I absolutely adore ProPresenter from Renewed Vision. It’s really the software that’s setting the standard for church presentation. It’s scalable, so it works great in small church settings with just a handful of people, but can also grow into a multi-projector environment suitable for tens of thousands. At $399 it costs exactly the same as the other big names in presentation such as EasyWorship, SongShowPlus, and MediaShout. You get an incredible feature set for the same price as much less capable software, so in my mind it’s a no-brainer. It was originally Mac-only, but a while back they released a PC version.

Low-cost and efficient are kind of mutually exclusive terms with presentation software. There are a handful of free and open source worship presentation programs for Windows such as OpenLP, but I’m not a huge fan of the quality. I’m not being a design snob with that statement, but if the software is glitchy and sluggish then you could actually do more harm than good by using it.

Typically it’s smaller churches or church plants that are concerned about the cost of the software, and for them I would recommend Proclaim. For churches under 100 in attendance it’s $10 per month, and does everything a church needs to do, and also includes some really nifty templates for churches who may struggle on the design end of things. Once you go over 100 in attendance the price rises considerably, however, so I don’t think it’s a great solution for mid-size or larger churches.

Q: When visiting apostolic conferences, churches, camps and events, what is the main mistake that you see most often? How can we avoid it?

A: You know, it’s a little like “A Tale of Two Cities” out there. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” In the past year or two, it seems like a lot of events and conferences have really stepped up their efforts to do something great in terms of media, but there’s also a lot of room for improvement for others.

Probably one of the most common mistakes I see that makes me cringe is text handling. There’s almost an art form to how song lyrics should be displayed. Either they shove every word of a verse on a screen in a font so tiny no one could possibly read it, or at the events where they’re displaying lyrics over video they’ll throw up one line at a time about mid-way through that line being sung. We’ve forgotten that the whole point of these brilliant media systems is to better facilitate corporate worship. You’ve got to give people enough time to see, process, and respond to (sing) the lyrics, but too often media teams are kind of playing keep up with the worship team. A lot of that is probably because media teams aren’t participating in the practices, which is a mistake not just at events, but at the local church service level, too.

Q: Any last parting words of wisdom?

A: If you want your church media department to be great, take some personal responsibility and push yourself to learn, learn, learn. I try to spend an hour each weekday learning something new. Set aside a little time every day to improve your skill set or to get inspired. Connect to people on Twitter or design sites like Dribbble.com that are doing things you like in media and design, and then try to figure out how they did it. Read a book about color theory, or typography, or watch a free online video tutorial. There are thousands upon thousands of free online tutorials to learn everything from running worship presentation software to mastering Photoshop. Challenge yourself to remove the words “I don’t know how” from your vocabulary.

 

In addition to the work I do designing logos, brochures, motion graphics, and the like, I’m also an illustrator. I don’t get to draw nearly as often as I’d like, but I recorded this short tutorial last year while I was working on a dream assignment for the ever-so-excellent Group Publishing in Loveland, CO. This is a break from the norm, but I thought I’d share it with you anyway. Enjoy…

Here’s a handful of the hundreds of illustrations I completed during that assignment:

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