Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Moto X: Changing How Android Is Done


The Moto X may just be the most useful smartphone on the market. Casting aside the endless quest for yet greater specks, Motorola, under the ownership of Google, sought to combine powerful, low energy hardware with innovative and optimised software. The results are impressive!

Design


First, we can't neglect to discuss the design. The fact that you can design your own through the Moto Maker site, which is now available for all major US carriers. You can choose from a multitude of color combinations and then have your custom phone assembled and shipped to your home. This is an industry first, but it surely won't be the last. Having the ability to order your own custom designed device is quite an experience.

I ordered the GSM Developer Edition, which only comes with the black front and white back, but it is still a beautiful phone none the less. The size is the perfect combination of 4.7" screen and comfortable in the hand and pocket body. The build quality is solid, without gaps, overlaps, or "creaky" loose pieces.

Hardware


While all the world is going crazy over the insanely powerful Snapdragon 800 processor found in the likes of the Galaxy Note 3 and the LG G2, Motorola decided to put together their own system for the Moto X. 
The Motorola X8 Mobile Computing System is comprised of a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4Pro family processor (1.7GHz Dual-Core Krait CPU, Quad-Core Adreno 320 GPU), a natural language processor and a contextual computing processor. (source)
Unfortunately, when the X was announced, most people only heard "dual core" when everyone else was saying "quad." Don't fall into this trap. The X is a solid, speedy performer. In everything I've thrown at it, it has proven to be quite snappy and responsive.

So why did Motorola build the X8 computing system, sending spec heads into confusion? To go along with their new concept of software.

Software


This is my favorite part of the Moto X. Motorola chose to stick with an almost vanilla version of Andriod 4.2.2 (now most carrier models are on 4.4.2). This in itself is awesome. While Samsung and LG are cramming every unnecessary feature they can fit in their phones, Motorola started with the proven design of stock Android and then added features that we really need.

Active Display


This feature is so useful, you will wonder how no one thought of it before. How many times a day do you pull your phone out of your pocket and press the power button, waking the phone and turning on the screen, just to check the time or if you have any messages? Be honest, the number is higher than any of us like to admit. We can't stand the thought of missing out on something!

Motorola noticed this trend and decided to do something about it, Active Display. Utilizing one of those low power cores, notifications are displayed on the screen periodically (breathing) while the phone is sitting out or when pulled out of the pocket. From here, one can choose to open or dismiss.

The first thought most would have, is how does this affect battery life? Well the combination of low power core and an AMOLED display that only powers the active pixels, is a huge energy saver over the conventional power on the phone, check, and then power off method.

This is my favorite feature. I love being able to simply pull the phone about half way out of my pocket, see the time and any notifications, and then slip it back in, without touching any buttons. Amazingly convenient.

Touchless Control


The X is always listening! Sounds creepier than it really is. Leave the phone laying on the desk beside you, screen off, and say "OK, Google Now" and it springs to life. Send a text, make a call, set an alarm, it's all possible without a single touch. This is great for setting timers so the kids can take turns on whatever game or device they are currently fighting over. (Yes, this happens often)

Motorola Asssist


Here is another handy feature. Hop in the car and start driving. Moto X knows your driving. Okay, again it sounds kind of creepy, but it's very useful. Recieve a text and the X announces who it's from. Want to reply, it gives you the option. I have had whole conversations while driving, eyes still on the road, hands on the wheel, safe and convenient. It also works the same with phone calls.

Driving mode is the one I use most, but there is also one for meetings where you can mute interruptions and one for sleeping so that you can, well, sleep.

Motorola Connect


Ever wish you could receive and respond to text messages from your computer browser? Now you can, with the Motorola Connect Chrome browser extension. Works much like the Mighty Text app and extension I have used previously. Comes in handy.

Updates


When it comes to software, the one question we all have is, "Will this thing get updated?!" Thankfully, Motorola has made a point to quickly administer updates to the X. Originally shipping with 4.2.2 Jelly bean, mine is already equipped with the latest 4.4.2 KitKat. This is something I wish all manufactures would strive for.

Motorola Skip


No one likes to use lock screen passwords, pins, or patterns. We want security but, it can be such a hassle to enter one every time you want to unlock your phone. Motorola has alleviated some of this with Active Display and the ability to see time and notifications without unlocking. For those times you need to get through, we have Motorola Skip. It is a wearable magnetic NFC device that wakes and unlocks the phone with only a tap on the back. Personally I have found it to be a bit touchy, but useful. I use the Skip Dots more. Three Skip Dot stickers come with the Skip that are capable of unlocking the phone once it is awake. I placed one of these on an old rewards card that I found in my wallet. Placing this in my pocket or in the back of my wallet it allows me to unlock with just a tap.

Camera


The 10 megapixel camera has been the one sore spot of the X, though it has improved greatly from the initial release. Every phone manufacturer claims that their latest flagship phone takes the best pictures, and Motorola is no different. While results seem to vary, I personally find the camera to be adequate. No one is going to mistake you for a professional photographer, but the pictures are fine for sharing to all of your social media sites.

The one feature I do love about the camera, is how you can activate it from any state by two flicks of the wrist. Kids move fast. No matter what I'm doing with my phone, I can quickly activate and operate the camera. Now if there was only a way to get all three kids to stand straight and smile at the same time.

Battery


This is always the big question on everyone's mind. "Hows the battery life?" Motorola claims all day (24hr?) battery life with mixed use. While mileage will vary according to individual use, I have found that I can easily make it from morning to bedtime without issue.

Conclusion


If it's not apparent already, I couldn't be happier with my Moto X. Motorola hit the sweet spot with their combination of hardware and software. Active Display, Touchless Control, and Motorola Assist, have changed the way I interact with my smartphone. I love the vanilla Android with the addition of only a few useful touches. Performance and battery life more than meet my needs. All in all, I recommend this phone to everyone who may be sitting on the fence, trying to make the life altering decision of which new phone to get.



Monday, February 17, 2014

Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical and Balanced Perspective



Among Christians, there are many different views concerning spiritual warfare. Some unfortunately, look more like witchcraft than Christianity. So what is it, and is it something I should concern myself with?

The first thing Brian S. Borgam and Rob Ventura do in their book, Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical and Balanced Perspective, is to remind Christians that they are in fact standing in the middle of a war. Make no mistake, the battle is raging around us, even though many us remain unaware of the dangers we daily face.

All too often people fall into one of two groups; those who ignore the reality of Satan, or those who see a devil around every corner. Both extremes are dangerous. One closes their eyes to the devil, while the other becomes obsessed with him. The authors continually reiterate that our focus must always be on Christ and his finished work on the cross. It is when we take our eyes off of Jesus that we fall into error.

The authors derive their teaching on spiritual warfare off of the spiritual armor passage found in Ephesians 6:10-20. Most of us have read these verses enough times to fear that, yet another exposition might quickly lead to boredom. Thankfully, I didn't find it so. The depth and insight included on each piece, as well as the practical application, held my attention and offered much instruction.

This by far is the best treaty on spiritual warfare that I have read. It is Biblically grounded and theologically sound, never minimizing the battle around us, yet ensuring us of the hope and victory we have in Christ.

I'd like to thank Cross Focused Reviews for providing this free copy for review.




Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Forever: Why You Can't Live Without It



When was the last time you stopped and thought about eternity?

We all get so busy just trying to finish out the day, who has the time and energy to think beyond that? Our lives become nothing more than a short-sighted rut. Running to and fro, we don't even see the damage this blindness causes in our lives, relationships, and worship.

Paul David Tripp, reminds us of the oft forgotten truth, that we were created for forever. In, Forever: Why You Can't Live Without It, he examines this truth and the impact it should have on our lives and the harm we suffer when we forget it, what he calls, eternity amnesia.

"If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied."
1 Corinthians 15:19

We spend all our energy searching for joy in a world that can't provide it. We expect people and things to make us happy, but of course they will always fail. The realization of our joy and fulfillment is destined to happen in the next world, not in the here and now. This world isn't an end, but a preparation. Paul shows how we can change our focus and trust God to bring us through to eternity, where we will experience the fruit of our faith.

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

― C.S. Lewis

I realized quickly, that this was I book I needed to read. For me, forever, is one of the first thoughts to be pushed from my mind in the overwhelming, busyness of life. Reading this, I came to see just how much not having a view of eternity, affects so many areas of life. Everything from marriage, parenting, and even work, cannot be performed properly while suffering from eternity amnesia.


We were made for forever. I recommend, Forever: Why You Can't Live Without It to all who like myself, need to be reminded.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Strange Fire - Another Voice in the Ramble




If you have an internet connection, then it is safe to say you have seen, read, and heard much about the Strange Fire conference hosted by John MacArthur. It has ignited the blog-o-sphere. When it comes to the topic of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, it seems everyone has an opinion and is willing to share it.

As far as I can tell, Strange Fire was to be John MacArthur's event to proclaim the cessationist position, that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit ended in the first century with the death of the apostles. At the other end of the spectrum are the continuationists who believe they are still in operation today.

Most people fit somewhere between these two bookends, holding to some sort of combination of both. I won't dwell too long on the vocabulary. Since this conference began, there have been numerous sites that have taken up the challenge of defining the many differing names and positions that can be held in regards to the gifts of the Spirit.

So where do I fit it?

At the moment, I would consider myself a soft cessationist. That is to say, while I don't believe that the miraculous sign gifts can not and will not be used by God in the spread of the Gospel today, I do not believe them to be normative in the everyday operation of the church. I view any instances of these to be truly miraculous in nature. They are miracles, not normals. They are what God can do, not what he is always going to do.

Strange Fire - Was it good or bad?

Some have accused MacArthur of being needlessly and harmfully divisive in this endeavor of his. Why draw distinctions between fellow believers?

This argument doesn't hold water to me. By bringing attention to an important issue within the body of Christ, he is simply forcing us all to examine our beliefs more closely. This is never a bad thing.

What Now?

I would like to see more dialog between the adherents of both positions. I have learned so much from the ministries of John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, and other cessationists. I have likewise learned much from continuationists such as John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and Sam Storms. These are all great preachers and teachers of the Word of God.

What I feel really needs to happen, is that continuationists need to become more vocal on their condemnation of those scoundrels who misuse and abuse the Word of God and their so called manifestations of the Spirit. You know who I'm talking about. The snake oil salesmen on TV always preaching health, wealth, and prosperity. I want the respectable continuationists to openly confront the likes of Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, and the rest of the circus performers, with their "word of faith" theology.

Peaceful Muslims - an illustration

I've always been disturbed by those who try to proclaim Islam as a religion of peace, yet are noticeably silent in their condemnation of the actions of their more "radical" brethren. How can I believe you, when you won't confront one of your own? Where are all of the "Peaceful Muslims Against Radical Terrorist" demonstrations?

If continuationists would openly and consistently confront the abuse that lies within their own camp, then the rest of us might find ourselves more comfortable with their position.

Well there you have it. One more opinion post about all of this Strange Fire. If you have read this far, then you have graciously suffered through my thoughts and rants. I'll extend the same courtesy to you if you'd like to sound off in the comments below.

God Bless,
Brandon

Thursday, September 19, 2013

When You Were Dead


"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins." Ephesians 2:1

Christian, can you argue against this? Would you say this is not your experience?

About those years you lived, before you came to know of the saving love of our Lord Jesus Christ, how do you remember them? Do you agree with Paul's diagnosis, that there was in fact no life in you at all, that being drowned in your sins, you were dead? That what the world calls living, is really no life at all?

If this is your experience, then you may rejoice that those days of death are once for all buried, that our Savior has raised you from the dead, that you may know life eternal. Oh how glorious a salvation he has wrought!

But what of you who have never remembered those days of old as being all that bad? Sure there are times that you may not have been proud of, but oh the fun you had. In fact, you begin to realize, that there never really has been a noticeable change between then and now. Much has continued on today just as it was yesterday.

Friend, if this describes you, I tell you beware. For you are surely in a dangerous place. Christ is seen most glorious and necessary by those who are being crushed under the weight of their guilt and sin. It is in the crying out in repentance and the laying hold of the forgiveness that Jesus offers, in which one enters into the peace of Christ and an eternal hope.

I ask you, just what did you repent of? For which sins did you seek our Lord's forgiveness? Why would you come to Christ, if you had no need of him?

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. Romans 6:20-21

Are you ashamed of the sins of your past? Or are you still bearing that same fruit?

I beg of you this day, to give no rest to the matter. Seek to make your calling and election sure. Confess your doubt and fears to Jesus, he will hear. Go to him in prayer. Cry out as David did,

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24, ESV)

Today is the day of Salvation.

For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2, ESV)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Basic Christianity Free Audio Book


This month christianaudio is offering John Stott's Basic Christianity for free! I just finished listening to this one and have to say I now see why this book is a classic. Stott explains the Gospel with clarity and precision. This is an excellent resource for those who are new to the faith or inquiring for the first time. Perfect for a Bible study or Sunday School class.

Here is the link to the free audio book. If you're like me, whether or not you finish an audio book often depends upon who is narrating it. Never fear, Grover Gardner is the voice behind this selection. I find his voice pleasant to listen to and interesting enough to hold my attention.

If you prefer to read the book you can purchase it here at Amazon. Basic Christianity (IVP Classics)



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

God and the Nations - Review



While reading the Old Testament I am always struck by something. There is so much focus on Israel, but what about all of the other nations? What were they there for? What was their purpose? Had God just abandoned them without hope?

God and the Nations, by Henry Morris sets out to answer these and many more questions on the origins, purposes, and destinies of the many nations of yesterday and today.

Morris weaves his explanation into an enjoyable story from creation to the end of the world. He explains how the world developed originally without any form of government other than fathers as the head of their individual families. This changes as God gave authority to man through Noah after the flood for men to begin to enforce the law upon each other, in the command that those who murder should be killed themselves as punishment.

In an abuse of this authority to control the people, Nimrod rises to lead the rebellion against God and his mandate to fill and subdue the earth. From here things get interesting as the people are divided by languages and families and are separated out because of God's intervention at Babel. The result is an explosion of newly created nations.

Morris continues to follow the newly formed nations and their development. It is fascinating to see how we have arrived at the world we see today. He also shares how and by what standards God judges these nations, all the while upholding God's sovereignty in all things.

God and the Nations is an interesting read. As I stated before, it is so easy to look just at Adam and Eve, then Noah, then Israel, and finally ending up at the church. But there is so much else going on along the way that reveals God's mercy, grace, sovereignty, and judgment. This is truly the untold story of the world. We can all benefit by learning more about about our past and what it means for our future.

I would like to thank Master Books for sending me this free book for review.



Monday, July 22, 2013

Is God Anti-Gay?



Finally, a concise, honest, biblical, look at homosexuality and Christianity. Sam Allberry, has written as a pastor and as one who struggles with same sex attraction, a heartfelt and hope-filled book for those who either share in his struggle, or aim to love those who do.

This book is truly a joy to read and one I recommend to all. This issue of homosexuality is huge today. Both sides screaming to be heard, villainizing the other. At times it seems as though both are obsessed. One sees it as the greatest evil the world has ever known and the other the very definition of their life and purpose. The truth is that both sides are out of balance.

Sam Allberry, does a wonderful job placing this issue in its proper context. Yes, he affirms its sinfulness according to scripture, but he also recognizes that homosexuality is a sexual sin, a category of sin that heterosexuals struggle with greatly as well.

One important distinction he makes, is that none of us should be defined solely based on our sexuality. We are more than that. Same sex attraction is just one of the sinful impulses that may burden anyone of us. Some may struggle with addiction or with greed, but we would never seek to identify them only as such. This is why he dislikes using the term gay. Gay is an identity, while same sex attraction is the impulse.

There is much that this book has to offer for those struggling with same sex attraction or for those desiring to minister to those who do. As this issue continues to dominate our culture and influence our churches we need to be prepared to respond to and help in a Christ-like and loving way, seeking to direct all of the glory to God and our Savior Jesus Christ.

I would like to thank  Cross Focused Reviews for sending me this free review copy.





Saturday, July 13, 2013

What Every Christian Needs To Know About the Qur'an - Review




Islam
It's everywhere.
Just watch the news.
Muslim terrorists engaged in jihad, while Western Islamists proclaim that theirs is a religion of peace.

What do we know about them? About their book, the Qur'an?

When did the Muslim religion begin? Who was involved? Do their claims of truth hold up under scrutiny?

James White has written an excellent resource exploring and explaining these issues. What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur'an, is the book for every Christian who does indeed need to know about the Qur'an! Islam is one of the biggest challenges we face today in evangelism, culture, and politics. If we are to reach them for Christ we need to know them.

First of all, I am so glad to see a resource such as this written by James White. I have followed his ministry for years and have always been impressed with his relentless pursuit of truth, all while possessing a heart filled with love, overflowing in evangelism. He continually puts himself out there, whether it is in debates or ministry broadcasts, seeking to engage, challenge, and persuade others to the truth of Christ.

The Qur'an

Having read and studied much on the Bible and how it came to be in its present form, I was eager to learn of the Qur'an and its history. But this curiosity presents itself as problem right off the bat. Muslims believe that that the Qur'an is the eternal word of Allah, perfectly transmitted to the prophet Muhammad without error or need of question. Just our asking and seeking is seen as an insult, yet they are not hindered in the slightest when it comes to discussing the history and transmission of our Bible. Unfortunately, both sides most likely suffer from having a majority who have very little knowledge or understanding in how their sacred texts came to be.

James White sheds light on this essential topic, exposing the truth behind its creation. He looks at when it was initially written down. Under what conditions was the task completed. Who was in control of process and what motives may there have been in reaching its current form. All of which can be examined historically.

What I found interesting was the differences between texts such as the New testament and the Qur'an and their development. The New Testament was a very open model with no central control. Gospels and epistles were written, delivered, and copied continuously. We have fragments from all over the place at all times. Because of these many and varied sources, we can study them and discover by comparing them what the original text was.

The Qur'an on the other hand, is much different. Tradition claims the Muhammad received its message little by little over many years. The message itself was transmitted orally. This was how things remained till after the death of Muhammad. Interestingly enough the decision to begin writing the text down came after a battle in which many of the best reciters of the Qur'an were killed. After this a few began to write and distribute their versions. Later all the texts were ordered to be collected and an "official" version was to be written. Once this was completed all competing copies were to be destroyed. This presents a challenge to those wanting to determine the original text. With so little evidence to work with, what can be discovered? While this closed system has produced the appearance of textual accuracy without variation, it does raise the question of the ability of the text to be manipulated. The Islamic claim has always been that the books of the Christians and Jews have been corrupted, but as we can see it would be much easier to corrupt the confined and controlled source of the Qur'an.

This is just one area the book covers. I could go on and on retelling it, but you would benefit much more by simply reading it for yourself. The biggest point I took away, was that if the Qur'an is in fact the eternal word of Allah, then every claim or statement contained there within should be true. Makes sense doesn't it. White argues this and then points out time and again where the "writer" of the Qur'an was wrong. This is especially apparent when it comes to the subject of Christian beliefs, most notably in regards to the trinity. So often it is evident that the writer had no idea or was greatly confused on these matters. Not something you would expect to find in a text sent directly from Allah.

I can't recommend this book enough. As Christians desiring to present the Gospel to everyone, we must take the time to understand others and their beliefs.

One important note. White not only wrote with Christians in mind, he also addresses the Muslim reader who may be seeking to know more of us. He reaches out to them to consider the material presented and examine their truthfulness for themselves. So if you are currently witnessing to Muslims this may be a work to share with them.

I'd like to thank Bethany House Publishers for sending me this free copy for review