5 Books Worth Laboring Over on this Labor Day

Deborah and Her Pancakes at IHop in Auburn
Deborah and Her Pancakes at IHop in Auburn

It was a nice lazy rainy Labor Day in Auburn today. For some reason it seems to rain on Labor Day. I would only know this because last year I noted it was a rainy Labor Day due to Tropical Storm Lee. This year Hurricane Isaac is long gone but we did have a nice storm front come through, giving us some much needed rain for the second half of the day. I thought it would be great to start off this Labor Day holiday with a big stack of pancakes and then labor over one of the many books I’m trying to read right now. Deborah and I were able to get the pancakes today, but I never got to the reading part, instead opting to redesign my blog.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to labor over books. I thought by now reading would come easy, or easier, but I still have to force myself to read. I know this is in part due to the multi-tasking, sound-bite culture I’m a part of, but I know reading is of the utmost importance. Even Paul said as much himself (2 Timothy 4:13).

It probably takes me 2-3 times as long to read a book, but I do get through them. Each book I finish changes me, even if ever so slightly, but I am, at least in part, a compilation of every book I have ever read. On my currently being labored over reading list is The Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, and The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler. Call it some tech form of ADHD or something, but I like to bounce around from book to book. I’ll leave those three for another day.

Below are five books well worth your time, and these five books I’m laboring over myself. I have read cover to cover the first book on my list, but the rest I am slowly and methodically laboring over page by page.

5 Books Worth Reading on Labor Day or Any Day

  • How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren
    If you are reading a book right now, and haven’t read this classic book, just put down all other books and read this one first. This is truly the book of books, one of the best books I have read to date, mainly because it provides great instruction on how to better understand what you are reading. For my full critique of this book, see the review here.
  • 25 Books Every Christian Must Read by Renovaré
    Ok, so this book is like a whole list of it’s own, but if you are looking for a fantastic starting point for some of the greatest books ever written, this is a great place to start. This book is #37 on my bucket list, not this book, but all the books in this book. Most are epic volumes, like Calvin’s Institutes and Augustine’s City of God, but they are classics for a reason.
  • The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by David Brainerd and edited by Jonathan Edwards
    Not the easiest book on the list to read, but a real incredible look at the life of a believer and missionary. Brainerd’s diary shows how someone tried to understand how to serve a sovereign God while fighting depression and illness.
  • The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal
    This was a total unknown to me until I read it through some footnote in some book, which might have been #5 below, at this point I don’t remember. This book is just an overpowering book. John Wesley said that of all the definitions of Christianity that he had encountered, the best was that of a Scotsman who lived in the 17th-century. He said: “Christianity is the life of God in the soul of man.” It’s a short read, and an easier book to read, but one of unending depth that requires time to digest.
  • God’s Passion for His Glory : Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards by John Piper and Jonathan Edwards
    This book, the only one on the list that isn’t currently available on Kindle (although it was when I bought it in 2011), is two books in one. In the essay The End for Which God Created the World, the great theologian Jonathan Edwards proclaimed that God’s ultimate end is the manifestation of his glory in the highest happiness of his creatures. John Piper adds as a Part One to this essay in the form of a fantastic biography on Edwards, one that makes the Edwards essay easier to understand.

5 Descriptions of What Makes a Great Tweet on Twitter

What Makes a Great Tweet

This Actually is My 20,000th Tweet

This post is actually going to mark my 20,000th tweet on Twitter since I joined back on November 1st, 2007. Over that period of 5 years I have tweeted approximately 10 times a day, from 3 different countries, on 3 different continents, posted approximately 1,000 original images, and 1,000 original blog posts, while following around 1,000 unique very specific individuals. In honor of this pointless historical marker I have published my next list, 50 Reasons Why I Still Love Twitter, and give you 5 examples of what makes up my favorite tweets below. By the way, the Twitter favorites (star) is the greatest ever feature of twitter, and you can even create your own rss feed for your favorites list.

Twitter as an Essential Tool

Twitter has become an essential tool of our culture, and that’s where Twitter gets it’s power, it’s a tool, and a useful one. My very first post about Twitter on my blog back in 2008 asked just that question, Is Twitter Really a Useful Tool for Your Business? While that post is now far outdated, at the time, I really didn’t know the answer to that question. Back then people would tell me I don’t want to know what you are having for lunch, but now Twitter can facilitate changes to governments like we saw in Egypt and elsewhere, it’s gone beyond expectations. Many still choose to ignore it’s significance, but the power of Twitter has an almost undeniable usefulness the world has never seen.

What Makes a Great Tweet

So what makes a great tweet? Harvard Business Review did this study on just that very subject, and provided their results in this superb graphic shown above on what makes a great tweet and what makes the worst tweet. Overall, their conclusions seem to be spot on, but it can also be summed up in saying the overall best tweet is one that leads to something else. It provides some useful piece of information, or some unique insight such as this post I came across yesterday, What Would Peter Tweet?, and then leads the reader to take some action. So here are five descriptions that makes an overall great tweet.

  1. One that calls you to an action of some kind
    This can be anything from going to buy a pair of shoes from Toms because they do good things to doing the mundane
  2. A tweet that sends you to something bigger than the tweet itself
    Many times this can be as simple as providing a link to a book that the majority of your readers may not be familiar with, often this is a link to a news article or a blog post that will send the reader off to another site other than twitter
  3. A message that gives the reader some unique insight into your own personal life
    Too many tweets are party line tweets, whatever that party line is for you. It could be theology, it could be politics, or just pick something, but this is meaningless without being able to get to know the writer. All business and no play makes for a boring repetitive tweets.
  4. One that asks a question of the reader
    It doesn’t have to be a hard question, it just needs to invoke a response from the reader. This can be totally overdone, but this creates interaction, and that creates community, and Twitter is a community of followers and followees.
  5. One that shares a general piece of knowledge or information
    This is the biggie for me. There is so much noise on the internet and in the world today. Provide me with some useful knowledge about my faith, about the world we live in, about how other people live, about different unfamiliar communities. Twitter’s greatest power comes from its free flow sharing of information and knowledge, and this is the great advantage to society as a whole.

The worst tweets, totally not worth reading, are those that are complaining about something else or someone else. I personally can’t stand reading tweets from my followers who only say what’s wrong with this person or that (even if that actually is the case), and I will often quickly unfollow that user. Give us some insight into your life, in a positive way, and send us on our way better than when we came.

Some Recent Examples of Great Tweets

Those are just a few examples of great tweets from my most recent favorites list, and there you have it. My 20,000th tweet 740 words instead of 140 characters. Coincidentally, much of what makes a great tweet also makes a great blog post as well, but that’s for another day.

5 Reasons Why We Should Still Read The Book of Leviticus Today

Studying the Book of Leviticus
Studying the Book of Leviticus

I just finished reading the Book of Leviticus this morning for the second time this year on my quest to finish two canonical readings for 2012. In honor of that reading, I have finally published my next list page (see my list of lists), called the 613 Mitzvot Laws or Commandments of the Old Testament, many of which are found in the book of Leviticus.

Leviticus is one of those books that Christians tend to want to ignore, while those in the opposite camp tear it apart Hebrew letter by Hebrew letter. About a year ago I actually debated with another Christian about the worth of even reading this book, and he was convinced there was nothing of importance or worthy in Leviticus for us to read today. This was no uninformed, unintelligent Christian, he has a PhD, is a leading scientist in his field, and has a heart for important social justice issues, but Leviticus was not for him (nor really any of the Pentateuch). At that time I did a lousy job at explaining why this book, and every one of the 66 books of the canon, are all still very important and relevant to read in the 21st century. Since that conversation I’ve never really been able to rectify my lack of knowledge in Leviticus and reasons why it is important to read.

This second go-round I started reading Leviticus back on August 14th and finished up today, August 21st, so reading the entire book does not take that long if you read a little bit each day. I will say, Leviticus is not a very difficult book to read, but it is a difficult book to understand, especially in light of our culture today. We are so far removed from the customs of the sacrificial systems and just overall life during the 13th-15th century B.C., it’s very hard for us to understand, within the proper context, how to apply Leviticus to our life today without reading, study, contemplation, and meditation on these 24 chapters.

So here are a few reasons why all Christians should still read this book today. I’m going to skip the obvious reason of because it is part of the canonical Bible, and go on to others, but this is first and foremost. We should read it, because it is part of the writings given to us by God himself through Moses.

Reasons We Should Still Read Leviticus Today

1. It’s the Enemy’s Favorite Book to Tear Apart (Think Shellfish, Polyester, Tattoos, and Homosexuality)
They, the enemies of Truth, call it a book full of contradictions and hypocritical living. This is generally because they don’t understand the book in context any more than we do, but they can read the obvious to make stupid arguments like Christians still eat pork and wear polyester, therefore homosexuality is not a sin (see Homosexuality, Polyester, and Shellfish for reasoning behind this tired debate).

Apologetically speaking, we should know what this book says, because it is used as an excuse for everything under the sun in the 21st century. The book has a great narrative that is often overlooked by the fact that it is a list of laws. These “laws” range from capital punishment for adultery, to not cutting your hair, to laws on homosexuality, to not getting a tattoo because it follows the evil Canaanite tribal practices. Why is it acceptable for Christians to get a tattoo, or eat pork, but not put adulterers to death? Understanding this book in proper context shows exactly why some laws are historically customary for their culture and time, and why some are moral obligations that transcend time.

2. The Theological Holiness Code Developed in Leviticus is Still Used Today
In 1 Peter 1.15-16 the Apostle Peter says, “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” That is a direct quote from Leviticus 11.44, which is then repeated several times such as in Leviticus 19.2. In seminary circles this is called the “Levitical Holiness Code” from chapters 17-27. It mainly deals with the idea of sanctification, the idea of holiness affecting how one lives in the covenant community.

For Christians today living in the 21st Century, the New Testament applies to Christians using the same principles of life stated in 11:44, and many of the “holiness codes” still show us what is displeasing to God (cf., 19:11-18, 35-36). On the other hand, as noted above, there are also symbolic aspects of the holiness code we no longer follow such as prohibiting garments of two different kinds etc.

3. To Understand How the Work of Christ Saves the Soul
Studying Leviticus today gives us an extremely important understanding of the sacrifice that Jesus made as the Christ when he died on the cross. The animal sacrificial system may be totally foreign to us now, but this enables the 21st century reader to understand why Christ’s sacrifice is one of salvation.

4. The Festal Calendar of Israel in Leviticus Shaped the Christian Calendar We Still Use
The three main festivals, or sometimes called the national pilgrim feasts of Israel, are the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Harvest, and the Feast of Booths. Most of our modern day church denominations from Baptist to Catholic still follow these festivals. These celebrations today find their climax in the corresponding days known as Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost.

5. Because Without Leviticus the Other 65 Books Don’t Make Any Sense
Every book is intertwined with every other book. This is a huge reason to me. If you are reading Kings or Nehemiah, or one of those other “important” books, you are reading part 11 or part 16, but you never read part 3. Knowing and understanding Leviticus is crucial to understanding any of the other books, just the same as reading and studying Kings is important to reading Matthew.

What sense does Christ being crucified on the cross make without knowing how the sacrificial system works? I understand you can watch the Lord of the Rings or the Star Wars movies out of order and you can still understand them individually, but don’t they make a whole lot more sense as a whole?

So there you have it. Five reasons why Leviticus is important for us to read today. I know these points aren’t developed very extensively, but it that wasn’t really the point.[1]


[1] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).

The Catholic Church, the NCAA, and Penn State Football

Emmert Podiumh NCAA Penn State

I tend to stay away from topics I’m not involved with or have studied to some degree, but I am a follower of the greater Church Body, and an avid football fan (albeit Auburn Tigers Football not Penn State). I also try to steer away from current events as well, but in this case, it just deserves attention. While the Catholic Church has been having to deal with similar sexual sins for a while now, it is a self-governing body, while the top level of college football is governed by the NCAA, and this is basically their first large dealing with sexual sins and child abuse.

Today, the NCAA handed out the penalty it felt was justified for these horrific sexual sins against children, and it was a heck of a penalty. You can read the full pdf of the NCAA decision here, but the list of sanctions the NCAA placed on Penn State went well beyond the death penalty in my opinion, and rightfully so. The president of the NCAA made it clear that, at least Penn State, had put football, and winning football games, above all else, even the welfare of its own children. Living in a part of the country where football rises above everything, and is somewhat the religion of Saturday night, this penalty should raise awareness across the entire college football continuum. We love our football, but to what expense? Well, at least for the governing body of college football, the NCAA has made it clear, if you take football above the welfare of everything else, this is the list of what you get.

Punitive Component of the NCAA Penn State Penalty

  1. $60 Million Fine – this is the equivalent to the approximate average of one year’s gross revenue from the Penn State football program, to be paid over a five-year period to an endowment for programs preventing child sexual abuse and/or assisting the victims of child sexual abuse
  2. Four-Year Postseason Ban – they can’t play in a bowl game from 2012-2013 season until the end of the 2015 season. Some might think this isn’t that big of a deal, but this is where athletic programs get extra money, recruiting, and will basically disband any future NFL stars.
  3. Four-Year Reduction of Grants-in-Aid – the NCAA is limiting the Grants-in-Aid monies to 15 grants where in 2017-2018 they can go to 65
  4. Five Years of Probation – they are independently monitored for five years and any violation can mean higher penalties
  5. Vacation of Wins since 1998 – this is huge! This means Coach Joe Paterno will have these wins removed from his record as well
  6. Waiver of transfer rules and grant-in-aid Retention – this will allow any returning or new football player to be able to leave Penn State without any restrictions. This will basically have the affect of mass exodus with any football players of super high talent levels
  7. Individual penalties to be determined – open door for future action against specific people involved

Corrective Component of the NCAA Penn State Penalty

  • Adoption of all recommendations presented in Chapter 10 of the Freeh Report (full PDF of Freeh report here)
  • Implementation of Athletics Integrity Agreement (which is a huge list of things)

That’s quite a list, and in my view, which is just one of a mere spectator and lover of all things college football, this is worse than the death penalty that SMU received many years ago. I’m actually not sure the NCAA could put down a penalty or sanctions that would be too severe. Penn State removed the statue of their famed coach, and will probably begin to do what all quality higher education institutions in this country should be doing, focusing on winning through education, not football.

What does this have to do with the Catholic Church? Well, it is always interesting to me to see what secular institutions do when you compare that to what the church does. Although it is very hard to compare the Catholic Church and the sexual abuse of children by priests spanning centuries with college football, these were similar sins of the flesh, and above is how the secular world of NCAA College Football handled their sexual sin problem. How does, or how did the church handle their problem? In an overview, they instituted #7 above, and then whatever the court of law said they had to do.

Paul alone has a lot to say about the sexual sins of the flesh. They are not to be tolerated, and in his day, they were indeed worthy of the death penalty, but not the one where you can’t play football anymore, the capital punishment kind (see at a minimum Colossians 3:5). How can the church of today be less forceful against sin than a secular institution? There is of course a greater element of forgiveness and repentance involved, but in this particular case today, I think the church body can learn something from the punishment of the NCAA. This will really hurt Penn State right now, but in the end their football program will be one of integrity and honor.

I say the Catholic Church in this post only because they are the most prominent, the highest profile, and some of the worse abuse from within the greater Church Body. Things like this go on in Christian Church just like it goes on in college football, but that doesn’t mean we don’t meet these challenges as a Church Body with integrity and honor, and justice. After all, our governing body may be the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, or the United Methodist Church, but ultimately we are accountable to God, a much higher authority than even the NCAA, unless perhaps you ask someone from the state of Alabama on a Saturday night that is.

10 Reasons To Learn Social Media if You Are a Christian

Scott Fillmer on Facebook

I decided to start a series of sorts on social media and how we the people of the church body use, don’t use, or outright diss the majority of the world at this point. I’m hereafter coining this series of sorts as the SMFT (Social Media, Facebook, and Twitter) discussion. Part of the necessity of this discussion comes after reading some of Viral: How Social Networking Is Poised to Ignite Revival by Leonard Sweet (or @lensweet), which I would highly recommend to anyone, but should almost be required reading for anyone born prior to 1985. I have written on this many times before, but I do so now mainly because there are still some in the church today who continue ignore this medium, which has now become the most powerful tool in the world to connect with other people.

Much of the premise behind Viral is to bring the older generations of believers (that is those born prior to about 1985) into the fold of understanding in the world we live in today. It is far easier to say “I’m not part of the world, the culture, the depravity of our society,” and ignore everything our world has become, even though we do still live in the world. We are supposed to be the salt and light to the world, not to be just the salt and light to the baby boomers. Many of us do ignore the power of social media in our calling as Christians to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).

How in the world can we make disciples if we don’t know and understand the different forms of social media like Facebook and Twitter? So you say I’m on Facebook, got that covered… well, I would say Facebook is the most closed, the least evangelically available social media tool there is. You can close yourself off in Facebook by locking every aspect of your Facebook account and never be heard from again, what type of witness is that? Did you know that most younger generations are moving away from Facebook at this point (partly because we are now on there). It’s extremely important to get beyond Facebook and into other areas like Instagr.am, Pinterest, Foursquare, FlickrSpotify, YouVersion, Kindle Books (yes it’s social), blogging, texting, and various avenues on Twitter.

[On a side note… if you are only on Facebook, you are not a part of the social media revolution, this is basically pseudo social networking at best. I say this because Facebook is close to reaching saturation levels. Facebook has become like the telephone or cable TV of the 80’s. Once everyone is on there who wants to be on there it’s growth is all but flatlined. I don’t mean if you aren’t on there yet, you shouldn’t get on there, and fast, but If you are only willing to get into one single social site, I would not recommend it be Facebook, I would first make it a smart phone, where you can learn how to access everything the world now takes for granted.]

So, if you are a believer, and think this social media thing is going to go away, I’m sorry, it’s only going to get more and more ingrained into the very fabric of the world we live in. In another 5-10 years it will encompass the world’s population, except for those who ignore it’s existence. For us the church to ignore social media is akin to the church ignoring electrical power and the car when they were invented, choosing instead to stick with candles and horses.

10 Reasons To Learn Social Media if You Are a Christian

  1. Jesus would have used this media (this is a later post, but I will show from Scripture why this is the case)
  2. We are called to disciple the world, and the world is connected via social media
  3. If you don’t learn the basics, instead of you teaching your kids, your kids will be teaching you at some point
  4. By the time you are ready it will be too late (it’s already quite late as it is)
  5. Your target audience are all sitting right there waiting for your witness
  6. How many people in your neighborhood have your talked to (witnessed to) lately?
  7. Door to door is dead. Buried… and greatly frowned upon in our society. Social networking is the norm.
  8. The disciples used every tool to their advantage (they wrote books and distributed them)
  9. The Bible is the greatest social media tool every created, it’s meant to be socially shared
  10. Because there are lost people who do not know Jesus and you may be their only connection

So there you have it. That’s just a start. I didn’t put a lot of references, or other specifics as to where my ideas came from, I will put those in future SMFT posts, and those 10 reasons are just off the top of my head, I’m sure there are a ton more. I beg the church body to not let itself become irrelevant in such an overwhelming way as to not be able to reach our world today. We make disciples by investing in people’s lives, and more than any other time in the history of the world, we have access to more people, to discuss the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with more people, than any generation who ever lived before us.

Google Drive vs Dropbox, Amazon, or Microsoft Sky Drive for Cloud Storage?

Google Drive Storage

There was some great news from Google this week concerning cloud storage, and while it isn’t up to what I want in replacing your hard drive, Google Drive is a great step forward in drive cloud storage with 5GB free, and apparently I’m grandfathered in to my 20GB $5/year plan (see screenshot below). Finally Google put some effort into developing something we can truly use instead of trying to beat Facebook or Twitter at social networking. Eventually, this type of storage is going to do away with our need to keep purchasing more and more hard drives to store our files with only a small flash drive needed on the system for the OS. I have almost 8TB’s of data stored on local hard drives at this point, so this lousy 5GB of storage won’t help that, but it’s a start.

If you aren’t familiar with using cloud storage, until now, there was really only one real option, and that was Dropbox. Yes there are those like Box.com and Amazon Cloud Drive (provide 5 GB), and Microsoft’s SkyDrive (offers 25 GB) who just made some nice improvements this week, probably in anticipation of the release of Google Drive. Each of those have some significant disadvantages, and I don’t ever really consider them to be viable options because of their limitations or issues. Apple’s iCloud is great for backing up devices, but it doesn’t even offer an option for drive storage in the cloud. While I love Dropbox, the basic computer user still isn’t really familiar with Dropbox, and they are with Google. That doesn’t make Google better than Dropbox, but it does make Google Drive easier to integrate with your friends or family to share files. So which one is better, Google Drive or Dropbox? There services seem to be almost identical, but Google has some significant advantages over Dropbox.

Google Drive Storage 20GB $5 year

The biggest news, at least to me, about the Google Drive launch in the fact that they are going to allow you to keep up to 100GB of data stored for a reasonable price of $5.99, it’s just too bad once you get above that, it’s outrageous, but that too will change. This is great on multiple levels, and something probably only Google could do with some massive data centers that companies like Dropbox, and perhaps even Microsoft, just don’t have. When you are looking at possible server farm potential for cloud storage, the biggest possibilities right now are Google, Amazon, and of course Apple who just built a massive cloud server farm in North Carolina, which is even visible from space now. All of this is good for those who want all files stored in the cloud instead of on local home hard drives that fail.

Advantages and Disadvantages in Google Drive vs Dropbox

  • More storage – 5GB of Storage on Google compared to 2GB on Dropbox (you can gain more on Dropbox)
  • Blanket Existing Coverage  – most of us already use Google for just about everything from email to Internet searches
  • Google Recognition – sometimes this is negative, but in this case, everyone has heard of Google, tech-nerds know Dropbox
  • Integration and Development in OS – both have ability to run within MAC OS-X or Windows but Google has greater development potential. The biggest plus here is with Google Docs and other Google products.
  • Automatic Syncing – both have this as well, that’s the point of cloud storage
  • Works with iOS and Android – both have this too (Google Drive says coming soon on iOS), but the Dropbox versions could use some better features, hopefully Google will do this
  • Backup – this is a big question for me, what happens with my account and my files if the company goes Chapter 11. Google has less chance to do this.
  • Potential Increases in Storage – Google is known for increasing storage size constantly, and to me, the more storage the better
  • Integration with Google Apps – Not sure how soon this is on their radar, but at work we use a Google App account
  • No URL Links – Dropbox just released this feature this week, a feature that lets you have a unique URL for each file. I see no mention about this in the Google Drive information but it has to be in the works, they couldn’t have just overlooked this feature. For now, I only see this available on Dropbox.

For now we all have to wait until Google actually rolls it out instead of just giving us the information, and of course, they developed the Android OS before the iOS, so us Apple iPhone and iPad users will have to wait even longer. Still, it’s a step in the right cloud storage direction!

WordPress Self Hosted vs WordPress.com Hosted Blog Pros Cons :: Review

Wordpress vs GoDaddy Self Hosted

I know many people will be reading this thinking about if they should switch between a WordPress.com site to a WordPress.org (self-hosted) site, not the other way around. It’s been about a week since I made the switch over from being a self hosted blog (almost 10 years on the WordPress.org codex) to now being a WordPress.com hosted blog, and the move, hopefully the last one I ever make in the hosting realm) has been great.

I had always sorta scoffed at the non-self-hosted WordPress blogs. After all, those were just blogs who couldn’t or didn’t know how to self-host, right? Well, my Rule #29 says I have had a change of heart. I am amazed, to say the least, at the difference between the two options, and while each has their own advantages and disadvantages, WordPress.com has built an enormous community of bloggers based on their hosted platform that a self-hosted blog is completely removed from. This is just the nature of self-hosting, you are on your own, you have full control over all the code, can make any change you want to the php files and so on, but you do give up an incredible community of bloggers.

Below is a list of the fifteen best and worst things about the hosting differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org in no specific order. Which one is best for you would be the one that has fewer cons I would think, but I used a self-hosted (GoDaddy.com) blog for almost 10 years until I found the cons outweighed the pros of letting WordPress.com host my site. After one week on WordPress.com I am thrilled. So if you are trying to decide between a WordPress hosted blog or a self-hosted install of WordPress.org Codex, read through the list below first. Any question feel free to ask in the comment, not a problem.

Pros of Worpress.com and Cons of Self-Hosted Blog

  1. Price, free (this depends on if you pay for custom design, domain, and no ads, which I did, then it’s a wash $90/year)
  2. You do not have to handle any heavy coding
  3. Participation in and traffic from the WordPress.com community like, blogs of the daytags, their reader
  4. Possibility to get Freshly Pressed (Five Ways to Get Featured on Freshly Pressed) (happened here on October 2012 with this post)
  5. No SQL Database and tables to backup or mess with
  6. You will not get hacked, or you greatly lessen to possibility of getting hacked
  7. You will not lose your data, it won’t get corrupted, deleted, or all around messed up
  8. The UI (user interface) or dashboard is slightly better than .org version
  9. You do not have bandwidth limitations, sky is the limit if your blog gets hammered
  10. You don’t have to handle the upgrades to the WordPress.com platform (that is often a pain)
  11. Never any down time (even though GoDaddy says they never go down, “connection to database” comes up)
  12. Extremely fast server response times in loading the site and saving new posts
  13. You don’t have to deal with GoDaddy.com (exception see #8 below)
  14. Custom domain mapping available (this is a must for me, if this wasn’t here, I’m out)
  15. Customization of the CSS code (this one was also a huge deciding factor for me, but #14 and #15 are not free)

Cons of Worpress.com and Pros of Self-Hosted Blog

  1. You do not get as much control over your own site
  2. Only customization you can do is in the style.css file (that wasn’t as bad as I thought either)
  3. No control over the code, can’t customize php files
  4. No control over the robots.txt file (can’t set/change crawl rates)
  5. Seems to be harder to get Google to index your site (verdict is still out on this one)
  6. Can’t use plugins (I thought this would be a bigger deal than it is)
  7. Can’t upload a custom theme, only options are theme WordPress.com makes available to you
  8. You will still need a domain to host files if you want off-wordpress.com file storage
  9. Price, could possibly be cheaper than the “free” WordPress.com hosted if you only pay for Godaddy.com $5/mth host
  10. WordPress.com hosted pushes ads on your site unless you pay $30/year to take them off (this stinks)
  11. No ability to host your own advertising on the site from third party vendors
  12. You don’t have any type of FTP access to your files, can’t download the wp-content/uploads directory (this also stinks)
  13. Self-hosted is complete and total control over all php files, do as you like
  14. Self-hosted is a great learning tool for customizing php code, themes, design, etc
  15. Self-hosted you own everything that has to do with the content, the files are your files

Reasons Why Google+ is Already Better than Facebook

So I almost felt obligated at this point to do a post about Google+ just because it really wasn’t what I was expecting from Google. What I was expecting from Google was another failed attempt at doing something social (they do have a good long history of trying social networking and missing big time), but this time I think they created something that just might work long term. Of course, it works, because basically they finally developed a format stream that is just like Facebook except without much of the garbage that is Facebook. When (not if) Google adds an iPhone AND an iPad app they will have surpassed Facebook, at least in functionality.

When Zuckerberg made the statement that the iPad was not a mobile device, and therefore Facebook would not be developing an app for the iPad, he pretty much told everyone using Facebook that Facebook is whatever Zuckerberg says it is. Google, even though they seem to have the biggest rival with Apple, can no doubt see beyond this and will very quickly release apps for the iPhone and iPad. Once Google+ hits the iPhone/iPad users they will grow at an alarming rate. It’s the “mobile” users that will feed Google+ and the easier Google makes it to use on ANY mobile device the faster they will grow Google+. The misses right now with Google+ remain the lack of an iPhone app and some other minor functionality issues like being able to hide comments in a stream, being able to view several circle streams at the same time, and at the moment people. The people thing is a plus and a minus at the same time. The millions and millions of masses on Facebook are what makes Facebook work. Google+ has a different genre of people right now and I don’t see that as a bad thing, but they do need more buy in.

Why is Google+ better than Facebook already?

  • No Ads
    so far (who knows how long this will last) there are no ads, anywhere. This is top on my list, and key. This is why I like twitter, this is why the experience on Google+ is better right from the start. All that junk on Facebook’s sidebars is the worst. You never know what’s going to come up but you know you don’t want to look at it.
  • No Spam
    Facebook and spam go together like spam in a can, or something like that. Spam is not the telemarketer calling you at dinner anymore. Spam is ANYTHING sent to you unsolicited. Facebook is full of this stuff from Mafia Wars to stupid games and poll questions, event invites, and all the other stuff that clutters up your feed stream with stuff you don’t want to look at. The stuff you do want to read is so buried in the mess of Facebook I often just give up trying to find actual real high quality content.
  • Design is Cleaner
    everything is cleaner, but making a cleaner design makes it easier to read, has less clutter, call it whatever you want but Google+ is just flat out easier on the eyes. Google has long since prided itself on simplicity of design, and in this case it works so much better than Facebook
  • Messaging System
    while Facebook has been vastly improving their messaging system, trying to overtake email, the message system on Facebook has always been one of their weakest points, and until recently, no one wanted to look at that inbox, it was just annoying. Google+ has made sending a message to a single person, or a select group, extremely easy. I would expect this since Google has built it’s non-search business around Gmail, but Google+ has the potential to be able to do away with email all together.
  • Integrates with Google Everything
    this is a no-brainer but it’s worth pointing out. There are some things I like better off Google, like their photo system Picasa (Flickr still has better functionality) but overall everything you do throughout the day is basically run on Google’s cloud anyway, you are already there, so adding Google+ isn’t too much of a burden.
  • People Who Don’t Like Social Networking Will Like Google+
    there are still some people that are not attached to a social network at all (really, I know this for a fact). For those people, Google+ is a way into that social networking circle without being in Facebook or Twitter. For many (or most) of these people they are already on Google. They use Google, they use Gmail, they are familiar with Google and in some ways have a trust built with them as a company. If you aren’t on Facebook or Twitter or anything else, you are probably already on Google, and Google will make trying Google+ a breeze for the non-adopters.
  • It isn’t Facebook
    there are many people who just hate Facebook, for them, this isn’t Facebook and that is good enough for them.
  • It is Google
    this is just like the Apple vs Android thing. Some people think Apple is straight from the devil himself and think Android is not. Facebook has a lot of “you are the devil” fans so being anything but Facebook is a plus.
  • It’s New and Has a Lot of Potential
    everyone doesn’t necessarily like change but new is always a big seller. Since every company puts out products or services today that are a work in progress (beta) and not a final completed entity, Google will continue to develop and improve Google+. Yes I know Facebook does this too, but they seem to take 2 steps forward and one step back and make everyone mad in the process.
  • Facebook still Doesn’t Give you Ownership of Your Data
    some will say Google doesn’t either, but they have made far more progress in this realm than Facebook has, and Facebook has no intention of ever letting go of your data. Every time you put content on Facebook instead of your own blog or somewhere that you have access to your own data you are building up the mother ship, not your own history. Google+ has a really cool download data set functionality that will probably improve over time. Facebook has nothing. Facebook owns everything you put on there and you own nothing.
So there you have it. I am sure there are plenty of other points I could make but those are my first and initial observations after using Google+ for about a week now. What has your Google+ experience been so far? If you need an invite just send me an email and I will send one over.

5 Reasons Why You Can't Ignore Facebook Anymore

I have always loved this clip from Friends where Chandler goes in and tries to “quit the gym” Everyone who has ever joined a gym like Gold’s Gym or President’s knows… it’s impossible to quit the gym, but today, it’s even harder to ignore Facebook than it is to quit the gym.

This week I started reading Tim Challies new book called The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion, which talks about how to balance our faith with the explosion of technology. Challies makes a great point to say right off, completely removing ourselves from all forms of technology is not what we are called to do, or as Challies puts it “there is no biblical reason to utterly separate ourselves from them“, but we must be disciplined and discerning.

We cannot run away from digital technology—mobile phones and computers and the Internet and television are likely to be with us in one form or another for some time. Nor would we necessarily want to run away from them. Certainly, not all technology is harmful or dangerous. Is there a way, then, to live virtuously, immersed in this strange new digital reality?

Today, Facebook has made it far more difficult to get away from than it ever was years ago, and I have tried for years to stay far far away from Facebook. The short of it is, if you are in business, work for a non-profit organization, or are part of any organized group at all, it’s almost impossible for you not to have a presence on Facebook. And if you don’t, your organization, peers, co-workers, and friends, do, and they will be exchanging ideas, planing meetings, and discussing the overall day to day business of the “group” whether you are there or not.

It’s not that you personally have to be in the know on every single piece of information that goes on in your organization, but where meetings and information use to be exchanged face to face, they now can (and are) easily take place between private Facebook groups and even the new Facebook messaging system. If you are not on Facebook, you are out of the loop at this point. They may not be a big deal to you at all, but it’s more than finding out who went where on vacation, it’s impacting the world within your sphere of influence.

Reasons You Can’t Ignore Facebook Anymore

  1. Facebook is Where EVERYONE Connects Now
  2. This is basically everything Facebook has going for them in a nut shell, with 600 million people on Facebook, there is no other single organization that has more people connected and has a bigger area of influence. Yes there are far more than 600 million people in the world, but that is the single largest collection of people in one single organized area, and Facebook really hasn’t scratched the surface yet of what they can do, especially in China.

    Facebook has been embraced collectively by people and groups all across the world that never agree about anything, everyone from churches to commercial organizations, to government entities, to even the Vatican.

  3. You’re Kids Are or Will Be on Facebook
  4. Even if you don’t let your kids on Facebook yet, eventually they are going to go to college or get a job, and chances are they will end on Facebook, mainly because that’s where all their friends are. You don’t have to use Facebook to spy on your children but not knowing how it works or what Facebook is all about leaves you on the outside looking in. There are a thousand other things that go along with this but I’ll leave those points to someone who knows more about the subject at hand.

  5. It’s a Buy-in Method for Group Communications
  6. Your church, non-profit, charity, company, softball team, any group of like minded people can and will meet on Facebook. I have spent several years trying to find a better communications method that didn’t include Facebook and, while there were many great options, buy in was difficult outside of Facebook. No one wants to learn a new system and keep up with something new when they are already on Facebook.

  7. Someone Else Will Speak For Your Organization
  8. This is one of the biggest reasons to me. If you are not on Facebook as a company or organization, you are leaving a huge void that is going to be filled by someone, and probably not someone your organization has invested hours and hours in, like yourself, developing that organizational DNA. Eventually someone will make the “abc group” that represents your organization, and everyone on Facebook will join in and develop your presence for you. This is never a good idea. Your organizations has probably spent an enormous amount of time and energy into developing a specific marketing and organizational plan, why leave your business to the untrained masses where they can run wild with your image or passions, especially when it’s free?

  9. There Will Never Again Be a World Without Facebook
  10. We are not going to wake up one day in a world before Facebook. It is best to learn and understand how Facebook functions and use it to our advantage than to ignore the single largest organization of people on the planet. This is an organization that started in February of 2004. It isn’t even 10 years old yet and it has 600 million users! It’s not a fad, it’s not a passing gimmick, it’s a privately held company, estimated to be worth over $50 billion.

    I spent years trying to just ignore the Facebook monster, but in the end, it goes back to my first point, it’s where everyone is. I have thought about pulling the Facebook plug and deleting my account many times but there are many people I communicate with on a weekly basis that only communicate through Facebook. Some people are ok with just not communicating, but if part of your job includes “communication” of any kind, I don’t see how you operate without Facebook, even if it’s just a user ID.

So there it is, my Facebook rundown. This really only scratches the surface of what is Facebook. I can’t imagine the influence Facebook with have in another 5 years when they have 2-3 billion users. As with all technology, there are things about Facebook that aren’t cool, and aspects that enable great connectivity with other people. Learn how to use Facebook, understand the privacy issues that go along with being on Facebook, but don’t ignore Facebook because you don’t understand it.

Top 10 Best Apps for the iPhone or iPad iOS 4.3

Since the new iPad2 and the Apple iOS 4.3 was released last week I have had several people at church ask what “Christian” apps I would recommend for their iPad or iPhone, and I finally just decided to do a blog post about it. Since there really was only one app I would call a “Christian” app that applies to a lot of people that I would highly recommend (YouVersion), I have included an overall top ten I would recommend for people just starting to use an iPad or iPhone instead.

This list can easily apply to anyone wanting to get a lot of good use out of their new iPad, I say that above only to show that this app list is from a Christian perspective on currently available apps and I would consider all of these safe to download, and would also provide some productive value in your daily use of these two devices.

If you are new to the iPad or iPhone App Store then these might be a good place to start. For those who have been around the iPad for a while now these may seem old news, but I still like to evaluate the apps I use periodically to determine if they are still worth keeping. Most of these below I have used now for more than a year. I tend to find a good app and stick with it while the developers continue to improve it’s performance and features.

I will have an in depth review of a few of the apps listed below in upcoming blog posts, it was just too long to list right here. In the mean time, here is the brief overview of each of the top 10, plus four extras that almost made the cut:

Top Ten Best iPad / iPhone Apps

  1. YouVersion – Bible app
  2. Rating, 9/10 :: Best bible app available, period. It’s free, has tons of translations and is constantly updated. Most heavily developed app (possibly ever), has both iPad and iPhone formatted versions, and you can download some translations for offline reading. Access to live events, post to Twitter, Facebook, SMS, and email, loaded with features and still be developed. The best of the best. Price, free. (app info)

  3. Official Twitter app – Social Networking
  4. Rating, 8/10 :: If you are on twitter this is the first (but not only) app to have. Price, free. (app info)

  5. Facebook – Social Networking
  6. Rating, 4/10 :: Still included because of it’s siginificance but no official iPad app available, only iPhone app, which is awesome. Still, you can bookmark the Safari homepage but surely Zuck is working on an iPad exclusive app for Facebook. After almost a year, we still only have impostors available. (app info)

  7. MaxJournal – Journaling or Diary
  8. Rating, 6/10 :: Best journaling app available for iPad (no iPhone) but has room for improvement. If you’re not a big fan of MaxJournal, try iJournal for $4.99 with a higher rating but has less features. MaxJournal has far more features and options like fonts, import-export abilities (though somewhat limited), and the ability to create multiple journals. Price, $3.99 (app info)

    UPDATE: According to the developer they are possibly handing off this app to someone else, best to keep an eye on development if you are a heavy users of this app. Hopefully they will work it out. Another option (a few here too) is to use MacJournal from Mariner, which has a long running desktop app to sync with. They then added an iPad/iPhone app, so it’s not just a mobile app developed, it’s full fledged. The reviews are all over the map but I have used MacJournal Desktop app for years and love it.

  9. Amazon’s Kindle app – eBook Reader
  10. Rating, 8/10 :: Best eBook app reader, recommended over iBooks, Nook, and several others. I picked Amazon’s Kindle app over all the others for 3 reasons; (1) total books available, (2) price of available books, and (3) features. In depth review coming soon. Another GREAT feature of Amazon’s Kindle app is that you can access your highlights and bookmarks via the cloud at https://kindle.amazon.com/, that alone got me to switch from iBooks. Price, free. (app info)

  11. The Daily – Daily News and Current Events
  12. Rating, 8/10 :: New to the app store but has great content, always updated, highly interactive. This is the future of newspapers or online news in general. Complete review available, see Pros and Cons of The Daily app for iPad. Price $9.99/Mth or $40/year (app info)

  13. USA Today – Daily News and Current Events
  14. Rating, 9/10 :: Best overall rounded source for news with a dedicated app for the iPad. Not as feature or design rich as The Daily but more in depth news and constantly updated. Price, free. (app info)

  15. Pandora – Music
  16. Rating, 9/10 :: Best music streaming app available, at least until Spotify can get out of the UK and over to us here in the United States. If you like music I would highly recommend the paid version at $35/year, you get commercial free music with higher bit rates. Price, free. (app info)

  17. Evernote – Notes/Archiving of All Kinds
  18. Rating, 8/10 :: Best app for saving and archiving notes of all kinds, syncs across all platforms including a desktop app. This is the archival app, scan, scrape, email, text right into a cloud based note program that integrates with a host of other apps and programs. They offer a free service but once again I recommend the premium version of their service (app is free) as they give you much more for a small price. Price, free. (app info)

  19. Netflix – Movies
  20. Rating, 7/10 :: Online steaming movie app for both iPhone and iPad. Title selection needs improvement but it’s getting better every month. Most new releases are delayed and not all titles are available for streaming, some you still have to get the DVD mailed to you. Netflix has led the way in movie streaming and I suspect delays in titles or other issues like that are not their doing but the movie industry. Price, app is free but service will cost $7.99 per month. (app info)

Other Apps That Almost Made the Cut