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$0.99 to $2.99 for many Kindle editions of the Christ-Centered Exposition Series featuring David Platt, Tony Merida, Jim Hamilton, and more

Days of Our Digital Lives. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz of the New York Times looks at Google search data to remind us that nothing good happens after dark.

Free audio of Redeemer Gospel & Culture Lectures, feat Tim Keller, NT Wright, James KA Smith, Anthony Bradley, etc. This series is a few years old…but still good!

As a Beatles fan like everyone else, I found The Story of Hey Jude interesting and sad.

Words Matter: Rejecting the Vocabulary of the Abortion Industry by Clay Kraby

If you’re looking for some good podcast recommendations, check out the recent Twitter and Facebook threads from the Gospel Coalition, where followers share their favorite podcasts.

Is Christian Exclusivity Petty and Dangerous?

Email in Real Life

The Best Prayer App - PrayerMate Interview with Andy Geers

About a year ago, I began to search for the best prayer app for an article I wrote. I downloaded about a half dozen apps that left me uninspired—and soon deleted them.

The one app that I kept was PrayerMate. PrayerMate doesn’t do the praying for you; it helps you organize your prayer life by providing categories to file your requests under, and then rotates each prayer request as often as you would like. One of its great features is an alert that reminds forgetful (or distracted) people like me that it’s time to pray. PrayerMate is the #1 most useful tool I have found to keep me organized and focused in my prayers.

One day when traversing the blogosphere, I ran across the blog of the man behind PrayerMate: Andy Geers. Reading Geers’ short bio showed me that we share a lot of the same ministry DNA. Geers worked and studied at the Cornhill Training Course in London, a ministry of the Proclamation Trust, formerly led by David Jackman, who along with Dick Lucas, has been a key influence to inspire the ministry Leadership Resources has training pastors in exposition.)

After making that connection, I realized I needed to learn more about Andy’s story and what led him to create my favorite prayer app. Below is an interview I did with Andy Geers sharing his journey of faith, background to PrayerMate’s creation, and helpful thoughts about Christians and technology.


Andy Geers Developer of PrayerMate AppCan you describe your journey of faith?

I had the privilege of growing up in a Christian home, where prayer was a really integral part of our life as a family together. That said, I still managed to become pretty self-righteous and thought I knew it all – so I’d say it was only really as a teenager at summer camp that I discovered the Bible’s teaching on God’s grace—that I was a rotten sinner who needed Jesus to be righteous for me! That was a really humbling experience which totally changed the nature of my relationship with God.

Pretty much since then I’ve always walked this line between wondering whether I should go into full-time ministry so that I could share what I’d discovered with others, or whether I should keep going as a software developer. An opportunity came up to study on London’s Cornhill Training Course, run by the Proclamation Trust, and to look after their IT and website for them part time whilst I did it – it seemed like the perfect fit where I could keep developing both passions! Since finishing the course I’ve gone back into the technology industry (working at Hubbub UK), but the lessons I learnt at Cornhill have been invaluable in equipping me to serve in a “lay” capacity at my church where I’m a churchwarden and help lead a Bible study for dads, and so on.

The Best Prayer App for iPhone Android

PrayerMate’s reminder to pray: one of my favorite features

How did the idea for PrayerMate come about? What has your journey with it been like?

I think like most Christians, I’m somebody who *wants* to be faithful in prayer for people, but I find it really hard work. My email inbox is full of prayer letters that, if I’m lucky, I read once, but feel like they don’t really turn into actual prayers. Whilst I was studying at Cornhill I got my hands on a second hand iPad and it occurred to me that it would be the perfect platform to automate the little paper prayer lists that I kept at the time, and have it automatically pull up the latest prayer letter from each person.

During one of the Cornhill Easter holidays I locked myself away in my parent’s living room for ten days and bashed out a very basic first version – pretty much the first time I had ever written an iOS app. When that launched back in June 2011 in was a *long* way from fulfilling my initial vision, but I’ve just gradually chipped away at the missing features in my spare time until I am where I am today – and there’s still plenty left to do!

It’s fair to say that when it first launched, PrayerMate was a very “niche” kind of app – it suited a very particular kind of person who thought and prayed like I did! But those who did like it seemed to find it really helpful – and the encouraging emails I get in my inbox from time to time really keep me going.

For a while now I’ve been working pretty relentlessly on trying to make the app simpler and clearer – and I think it has definitely been a learning process for me! It has taken me a little by surprise just how hard it is to create software that’s intuitive to somebody who isn’t me – as a developer you are so ingrained in a certain set of assumptions that it can be hard to see how the app’s behaviour clashes with the expectations of new users. (There’s probably an illustration in there somewhere about writing sermons that make sense to your congregation!)

The real tipping point for PrayerMate was in January 2014 when the folks from London City Mission persuaded me to make the app free – and the growth really exploded from then onwards. Now it’s just a few weeks shy of its 100,000th download, which I don’t think I could ever have anticipated!

PrayerMate Prayers from the Bible App

A screenshot of some downloadable prayers available

What’s great is all the reviews from people who say that really struggled to pray before they discovered PrayerMate, and how it’s really helped them to grow in their relationship with God – those kinds of comments are really thrilling! In particular there seems to be a growing little pocket of users with ADHD who keep saying that prayer was a really challenge for them, and that PrayerMate has been a real blessing.

What’s also been fantastic is the growing list of churches and organisations who are signing up to publish prayer feeds that their supporters can subscribe to – almost 200 now. I love the thought of helping whole congregations pray more faithfully for the ministry of their church and what God can do with that!

What are some guiding principles for Christians engaging with technology?

A lot of people tend to approach technology at two ends of a spectrum: either with immense scepticism (and I’ve had plenty of people react with disgust at the very notion of a “prayer app”!) or just embracing it wholeheartedly as if the right technology will solve all their problems. (And anybody who has used PrayerMate for a while will know that it is *still* hard to pray – even with an app to help you—we still have sinful hearts.)

Then there’s the people who try to rise above it all and say that technology isn’t good or bad – it’s just neutral, it’s entirely about what you use it for that counts. There’s a couple books that have really helped me understand why none of these approaches is entirely satisfactory – The Next Story by Tim Challies and From the Garden to the City by John Dyer.

Think of a shovel – you can use it for good to dig a well in a village in Africa, or you can use it for evil to hit somebody over the head to kill them and then bury the body. But it doesn’t matter whether you use it for good or for bad, the effect on you will be the same – it will give you blisters, and if you keep using it enough, those blisters will eventually turn into calluses.

Think of a shovel – you can use it for good to dig a well in a village in Africa, or you can use it for evil to hit somebody over the head to kill them and then bury the body.

But it doesn’t matter whether you use it for good or for bad, the effect on you will be the same – it will give you blisters, and if you keep using it enough, those blisters will eventually turn into calluses.

All technology is the same – it changes us as we use it. Our technologies tell us a story – they sell us a “gospel” of what they can do for us (“get this app to revolutionise your prayer life!”) and we need to be proactive in analysing that story and working out which bits are true and which bits are lies – and that will help us anticipate how that technology is likely to change us. So in my case, I’m encouraged by how PrayerMate is helping me pray more widely for things I never would have done otherwise – but I also need to be conscious that in some ways it can also *limit* what I pray for: if something doesn’t appear in my PrayerMate list (or if I forget to take my mobile phone with me somewhere) then I might be less inclined to pray for that thing.

Are there any future projects we should know about?

In many ways it feels like I’m still only just getting started with PrayerMate! I’ve got a bunch of new updates scheduled over the next few months adding various bits of 3rd party content and easier ways to get those prayer letters out of your email inbox and into the app – as well as finally adding a sync feature and a way to edit your prayer data on a desktop.

I’ll never truly feel PrayerMate is “done” until I’ve managed to persuade the publishers of the Valley of Vision to let me license it for inclusion in the app but I fear that may never happen (you can help out by signing my petition here). I’ve also got a team of volunteers at the moment helping me translate it into other languages, but there’s always scope for more if you want to offer to help out!


Thank you Andy for the hard work you’ve put in on this amazing app. You are a great example of using your gifts for God’s Kingdom (1 Peter 4:10-11), and I for one am someone you have blessed!

You can follow Andy Geers on Twitter.

Download the PrayerMate App on iTunesGoogle Play, or the Amazon App Store

PrayerMate App - Prayers for Personal GodlinessA few of my favorite features:

  • An alarm that alerts you when to pray (see image above)
  • PrayerMate cycles through a variety of prayer request categories. This is the main feature of PrayerMate, and I have found that it helps me be well-rounded in my prayers.
  • Several great feeds of prayers you can read including: Praying the Bible, Operation World, Heavenward by Scotty Smith.

Bonus Resources:

Links-To-Make-You-Think-and-GrowFree Kindle Book: How Then Shall We Worship?: Biblical Principles to Guide Us Today Kindle Edition by R. C. Sproul (Author) See more R.C. Sproul Kindle deals here (Over 20 free, others $0.99 —$1.99)

Self-Refuting Statements You Must Know by Sean McDowell

How the Gospel Ended My Same Sex Relationship (A Guest Post on Mike Leake’s Blog)

The Planned Parenthood Fiasco: A Few Questions We Should Ask by Dan Phillips

6 Bible Passages I Consistently Pray Over my Wife by Sam Biereg

Don’t Divide Your Christian Principles from Your Practical Decision Making by Matt Perman

Outraged at Planned Parenthood: 5 Things You Can Do Now by Dan Darling

How to Make a Pro-Life Argument in 2 Minutes or Less (HT)

Sad video comparing childhood memories from three different generations:

Banner of Truth Documentary: Learn the History of a Great Publisher

Watching the news these days can be downright discouraging. Checking Facebook or Twitter might be just as discouraging for the same reasons—we’re living in increasingly difficult times for Christians. Even listening to Christian news might leave you wringing your hands and crying, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

And in such times, that is an appropriate response (to a degree). But even as evil rises like a dark cloud over our world, God is using ordinary people to positively impact the world in great ways that the news won’t cover. Or, to speak in biblical terms from the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, even though the tares are growing rapidly, wheat is still growing alongside it.

In Restoring All Things: God’s Audacious Plan to Change the World Through Everyday People, Warren Cole Smith (of WORLD Magazine) and John Stonestreet (of Breakpoint and the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview) team up to share powerful and positive stories of what God is doing through His people. The goal of this book is:

…to inspire everyday Christians to “run toward the plague when everyone else is running away,” and we hope to see the church today have the strategic wisdom to be fire-bearers in ways that are restorative and life-giving, and not merely reactionary. (35)

Most of the book’s stories first appeared either as a WORLD or Breakpoint story and fall under the following categories:

  1. Caring for the poor
  2. Capitalism for the common good
  3. Compassionate Alternatives to Abortion
  4. Fighting prostitution and human trafficking
  5. Christians championing education and education Reform
  6. Restoring former prisoners to society
  7. Racial reconciliation
  8. Christian faith in scholarship
  9. Sexual identity struggles
  10. Suffering and disability
  11. Marriage as a healing institution
  12. Orphan care
  13. Christian creative arts

Each chapter has a handful of stories that range from a page to four pages which alert readers to many real life victories Christians have had in engaging with culture and displaying the Kingdom here on earth. Stories range from the reach of Christian rappers Lecrae and KB—to feminist/lesbian professor Rosaria Butterfield’s conversion to Christianity—to how one ministry converted an old prison into housing that helps low-income families out of poverty—to share how one ministry helped transform a former stripper’s life. At the end of each chapter, Smith and Stonestreet include a “To Do List” with recommended reading on the subject and suggested action steps that encourage readers to engage in the issue themselves.

Reading Restoring All Things stretched my imagination and stirred a passion in me to think outside the box to impact the world for Christ. If you’re interested in some of the topics the book covers, I recommend this book to you, and hope it does for you what it did for me. I also recommend this book for pastors who desire to cast a vision in their hearts and the hearts of those in their congregation of how to be salt and light in our needy world. There is so much more to engaging culture as a Christian than merely being reactionary.

As an undergrad business major at a Christian university, my mind and heart were stretched hearing Christian businessmen and women share about how their businesses were vehicles toward social justice for the spread of the gospel. In a short stint in the Dominican Republic with HOPE International, I saw first hand how Christian ingenuity, professional skills, and hard work can do amazing things to help people escape poverty and restore dignity for the sake of Christ. And now with Leadership Resources International, I see first hand how training a pastor in the Scriptures can set him ablaze for a ministry that can transform his whole community.

Reading this book renewed my hope for the world just like the experiences mentioned above. I hope many readers catch a vision of doing small—and great things—for the kingdom as they read the stories on these pages.

Title: Restoring All Things: God’s Audacious Plan to Change the World Through Everyday People
Authors: Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestret
Year: 2015
Publisher: Baker Books

15 of the Funniest Christian Parody Twitter Accounts to Follow

140 characters is a terrible place for theological arguments—but an amazing place for humor. I often find myself laughing out loud (or trying to hide it) on Twitter when reading jokes, looking at memes, or seeing a chart that can vividly describe reality without words.

Below is a list of my 15 favorite funny Christian accounts to follow on Twitter and some of their best tweets. Chances are you’ve seen a few retweets from these accounts. If you have any to add, share a link and a sample tweet in the comments section.

Enjoy!

1. Church Curmudgeon (@ChrchCurmudgeon)

2. Legalist Lloyd (@LloydLegalist)

3. Fake John Piper (@FakeJohnPiper)

Note: This account doesn’t appear to be as active as it once was.

(I’ll unmask the mastermind behind FJP: Jared Wilson. In case these three sample tweets don’t scratch your FJP itch, you might enjoy this.)

4. Hip Hop Augustine (@HipHopAugustine)

5. Bitter Blue Betty (@BitterBlueBetty)

6. Fake J.D. Greear (@FakeJDGreear)

7. Christian Hipster (@ChristnHipster)

8. Celebrity Pastor (@CelebrityPastor)

9. Relevant Church Guy (@MrChurchGuy)

10. Hood Spurgeon (@HoodSpurgeon)

11. Back Row Believer (@BackRowOnline)

12. Anonymous Baptist (@AnonBaptist)

13. Rev. No Respect (@RevNoRespect)

14. St. AugOsteen (@StAugOsteen)

15. Coolvinism (@Coolvinism)

Honorable Mention and the New Comer Award: @PastorBill15

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I’ve mentioned on the blog before how I appreciate the Ask Pastor John Podcast. The format is simple: a listener sends John Piper a question and he answers it, pulling from the immense wisdom he has accumulated from his decades of preaching and pastoring. (If you’re looking for more podcast recommendations, check out my friend Clay’s recent post.)

A recent episode of APJ was called “Why Not to Check Your Phone in the Morning“, in which John Piper shares six reasons we are prone to go to our phone first thing in the morning. Each of the six reasons are drawn from motives that can quickly become sinful and hinder desire to serve others and obey God:

3 “Candy” Motives

1. We love to take a bite of candy from our phones for our novelty hunger.

“We love to hear what’s new in the world or among our friends. What has happened since we last glanced at the world? Most of us like to be the first one to know something…”

2. We love to take a bite of candy for ego hunger.

“What have people said about us since we last checked? Who has taken note of us? Who has retweeted us, or mentioned us, or liked us, or followed us?”

3. We love to take a bite out of candy for entertainment hunger.

“There is on the internet an endless stream of fascinating, weird, strange, wonderful, shocking, spellbinding, cute pictures and quotes and videos and stories and links…many of us have gotten to the point where we’re almost addicted to the need of something striking, bizarre, extraordinary, or amazing.”

3 Avoidance Motives

1. The boredom avoidance.

“If there’s nothing significant and positive and hopeful in front of us to fill the hope-shaped place in our souls, then we will use our phones to fill that hole.”

2. The responsibility avoidance.

“Many decisions have to be made about our children, the house, the car, the finances…life is full of weighty responsibilities, and we feel inadequate…we are not attracted to this day at all, and we would like to avoid it.”

3. Hardship avoidance.

“You may be in a season of life where what you meet when you get out of bed is not just boredom or responsibility, but mega-relational conflict, or issues of disease or disability in the home, or friends who are against you, or pain in your joints…it’s just easier to lie there in bed with the phone.”

In my experience, these six motives (among others) apply across the board to our use of technology at all times of the day, whether you’re checking email during the day or surfing the web in the evening.

While checking your phone first thing may not seem like a big deal, it can quickly hinder our abilities to renew our minds in the Word and prayer. Even if you go to the Lord after the phone, keeping your mind focused on the Lord may be like loading a kid up with sugar and telling him to sit still and read. It’s doable, but it’s hard! As Piper said, “We have to remind ourselves about reality in the morning in order to love God and love people the way we ought.”

Instead of being drawn to the immediate (but short-lived) gratification your phone provides, warm your heart up to seek the Lord in prayer and through the Scriptures. Make your soul happy in Him first thing. He is the Bread of Life and supply of Living Water that will make our candy cravings seem unsatisfying and childish. He is the One who equips us to face the responsibilities and hardships of life. And He certainly isn’t boring!


You can listen to the full Ask Pastor John episode below: