RSS feeds enable you to check new news, weather, “verse of the day” and various blogs or websites, all in one location rather than visiting each site to check for updates. Do a search for feed readers to find one that works best for you.
These can help to eliminate the distractions and defiling images you find on news sites.
Note: I would mention that you can also put RSS feed modules on an iGoogle homepage, but iGoogle is reportedly going to be phased out in 2013.
Google calendar can be used to publicize meetings and events to the world or to the rest of your assembly (not to mention keeping track of your busy schedule). It can be embedded in your assembly website.
Yahoo and Microsoft Outlook have similar calendars, though they are harder to embed in websites.
Social networking services like Facebook and Google+ can be both beneficial and detrimental, depending on how they are used. The writer has found Facebook to be useful in sharing the gospel with people who will not come to meetings but are willing to read a post containing seeds of the gospel. Social networking also gives you the potential to meet Christians from other countries, to maintain contact with people you meet at conferences, and to keep up with the development of the Lord’s work in distant places. Also, the spiritual needs of individuals can be revealed by their Facebook activity, enabling you to prayerfully seek to steer them in the right direction.
If you have a thought you have enjoyed from the Scriptures, why not share it? Use friends lists (Facebook) or circles (Google+) to share with a select group. This is a non-obtrusive way to meaningfully enjoy God’s word together with other brothers and sisters in Christ.
A word of caution: the effect of your testimony, whether good or bad, can be multiplied exponentially through social networking. Think before you type. Also, sites like these are time traps: manage your time wisely as a good steward of Jesus Christ!
Pro’s and Cons to Social Media
The most popular is likely Facebook, so for simplicity we’ll talk about that.
Many Christians post meditations and thoughts on the Scriptures that are helpful and encouraging.
Some missionaries use Facebook to post updates on the work.
Facebook enables communication with people you don’t generally have the opportunity to communicate with. If you have a question about something or a prayer request, you can easily let it be known. For instance, the writer may not have known about the death of two missionaries in Zambia had it not been for Facebook, and many more prayers may have gone up to God as a result of its presence there. It is also a good way to tell people you don’t know very well but have some contact with about gospel meetings. If you post a verse or gospel thought, your friends and family will likely read it and be reminded of eternity. This is perhaps one benefit of the not-so-personal aspect of Facebook.
A common reason for using Facebook is the ease of sharing photos with friends and family.
Facebook can be used to help others. Let’s take the example of a mother whose child spilled hot coffee all over the carpet. She can post on Facebook to see if anyone has a carpet shampooing machine she can use. People interested in helping can post to her status, and only those who respond get a reply when she determines what she wants to do. If she were to email everyone in her address book, she could be contacting businesses and people 500 miles away who really don’t care about her problem, and if someone “replied to all” she would be clogging up a lot of people’s emails. Finally, it is much more time effective to post a note on Facebook than to search through 500 email contacts or phone numbers and call each person to see if they have a carpet cleaner you can use.
You can easily waste time without realizing it.
Depending on your friends, some material posted on Facebook can be defiling. If you’re seeing bad information from someone, you can unsubscribe from their news or unfriend them.
Some ads may be inappropriate. You can hide them by clicking on the x that appears on the upper right of the ad, and Facebook will get better at showing you more appropriate ads. In general, I have seen improvement in Facebook ad quality so this may no longer be an issue for most people.
Facebook can take some of the meaning out of conversations and relationships. God gave us our senses for a reason. It’s harder to connect with someone if you can’t make eye contact, hear their voice, or sense their feelings. You can’t give them a real hug over wi-fi. If you know what is going on in someone’s life already through Facebook, you may be less likely to call them and talk to them in person. But let Facebook be a springboard to more meaningful communication! Nothing says you can’t ask about a trip after seeing some photos on Facebook.
Communication in writing is so much more likely to be misunderstood than communication in person. Try to think about how what you write could be taken before submitting it. Writing, when done thoughtfully, can be an advantage in some cases to orderly express your thoughts to someone else in the way you want them explained.
It is possible for other people to attempt to ruin your testimony through Facebook. For instance, someone once didn’t log out of their account, which enabled someone else to secretly post derogatory “likes” in their personal information. It wasn’t until some time later that they realized their information had been compromised.
Security and Privacy: Don’t think that just because you have tight security settings that others won’t be able to view your photos and information. Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want the extended Facebook community to see. Note that anytime someone “likes” something of yours, all of their friends (regardless of whether those people are your friends or not) can then see what you posted.
If your information is read by someone with bad intentions, a thief could easily find out when you’re going on vacation.
Relationships: When it comes to male/female relationships, I will leave that subject to the more qualified, except for the following: Such relationships are not to be treated lightly. I have attended the funeral of a young man who took his own life after a terminated relationship. Knowing my own emotions, I can see how this could happen. Be careful to not get into something you didn’t want to start in the first place.
So: Don’t let Facebook control you and your time. Let it assist in communication but do not let it be your only communication. Build meaningful relationships by connecting with others through means God has gifted us with outside of the realm of technology.
Tips for managing Facebook time:
Try toggl.com to see how much time you are actually spending on Facebook or the Internet. Simply press the start / stop button to track your time. You might be surprised how much of your day this takes up.
At the upper-right of a news entry, there is a selection option to show all updates from that person, important ones, or no updates. Use this to hide people you don’t know well or those who post questionable material.
Choose what kinds of email notifications you receive. Less emails means less interruptions and time better spent.
Video technology like Skype is beneficial to families (including missionaries) that are separated by many miles, enabling them to connect more meaningfully with their loved ones. Also, the writer has friends who use the video chat feature of Google+ to conduct live Bible studies, since they live too far away from each other to have them in person. They use Google docs to collaboratively work on and discuss the study outlines.
You might consider adding a favorite verse or website to your emails using a custom signature.
Problem with hacked accounts:
Since email hacking is such a common problem and becomes a headache for many, to prevent spreading computer disease, make sure your email account has a password that is not easily calculated, or you could be a target of hackers who send spam through you! A common sign of someone getting access to your account is if people tell you they got an email from you with a weird link in it that you didn’t send. This has happened to at least eight people in the writer’s contacts. The best practice is to use a password that is at least eight characters long, is not a dictionary word, and contains a mixture of upper/lower case letters or numbers.
Newer vehicles support Mp3 CD playback. Burn a data CD with Mp3 files instead of an audio CD and you will fit a lot more on one CD.
Do you want to listen to messages or music in your vehicle, but you don’t have a CD player? Satechi sells a $35 FM transmitter (available at Amazon.com) that works well. Simply save your audio to a flash drive, SD card, or mobile device and play the audio through your radio. It comes with a remote and saves your place in the middle of an Mp3 file if you bookmark it. Tip: Choose an unused frequency to minimize static– in other words, find a frequency where all you hear is static, and set the transmitter to that station. Set your radio to the same frequency, and you will should the audio loud and clear.
Visit the music page for music resources and links.
No matter where we go, we will run into things that are defiling to us. Yet we should do what we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones from those things we CAN prevent.
K9 Web Protection is a good, free tool to protect the content you and your family come into contact with on the web. Add time restrictions, make exceptions, force safe search and monitor user activity. It also has an app option. This is only one program of many. Be aware! There is no perfect solution. Programs can’t look at pictures and tell you if they are bad or not. They can only filter out sites that are known to contain bad material. This includes sites like YouTube that could be used legitimately (although we believe no young child should be allowed to use YouTube unsupervised, especially for long periods of time). The program enables the parent to give temporary access to sites (for instance, 15 minutes) that may contain objectionable material.
YouTube allows you to turn on safety mode at the bottom of the screen. Check the box to lock safety mode for this browser and repeat for all of your computer’s browsers.
Chrome and Firefox browsers have a plugin/extension called Adblock Plus which filters out many advertisements, some of which I would rather not see.
Though I’m not a proponent of movies, if you choose to watch them, pluggedinonline.com gives detailed video reviews that give the type of inappropriate content, how much is present, and how intense it is.
I do not recommend the use of chat rooms. Chatting with strangers over the computer is not a safe practice.
There are lots of possibilities out there for public or private file sharing and syncing.
Why use it?
File sharing enables you to share files, photos, and mp3 messages with others. For instance, you can upload recordings of assembly meetings to one of these services and then share the files with specific people from your assembly.
File syncing enables you to back up (!) the files on your computer automatically to an online server. If you change a file on your computer that is in a synced folder, the file will automatically be updated at the online server as well.
Then if you lose your computer, you still have your files! If you are away from home and don’t have your computer, you can access the same files online. If you modify them online, they will be updated on your computer when you get home.
Google has its own suite of online programs that function similar to Microsoft Office. They are not a replacement for Office (a bit buggy at times, and all the functionality isn’t there), but they do make online collaboration easy. Google drive is the location where these documents are stored, along with your synced documents.
Box has a slick way of displaying and playing mp3 files on your own website.
Warning! If you share your files with someone else, they may be able to delete them accidentally. Settings for giving people permission to do certain things vary between services. It is possible to retrieve deleted files, but Dropbox users (at least) must do this one file at a time (last I knew).
Choose a platform that does not add advertising to your site. Check out the terms for the design program before you use it. For instance, the free version of the popular WordPress.com adds advertising. WordPress.org, however, does not.
Before you begin a website, remember that a good website is a lot of work, and it takes time to keep them current and user-friendly. On the other hand, a simple site with meeting times and a few announcements does not require a lot of upkeep and can be created without too much time investment.
Have realistic expectations. Don’t expect to be able to create a world-class website on your own. Those take thousands of dollars and tons of time. If you want more than an informational or blogging site, web design can get very complicated. Start simple!
Where do you start? What tool should you use? Here are some suggestions:
Weebly: This is an easy-to-use online site creation solution that comes with lots of things for free. You don’t have to purchase site hosting with this option. You will have to purchase a domain name though (like mysite.com) if you want to take the weebly out of mySite.weebly.com.
Facebook page: This is one of the simplest methods I can think of for letting others know about your assembly. Facebook pages are accessible to the general public, but probably won’t appear as often in search results. A Facebook page isn’t the same as a Facebook user account—it’s meant for things like this and has an easy, user-friendly layout that can get you going in no time. Facebook makes it easy to interact with visitors and keep people informed with what is going on in your assembly.
Blogger: Perhaps you would like to share the gospel with an informal online commentary by writing an article now and then to share with friends and family. Google’s Blogger will help you do that.
Webnode.com: Another simple solution that offers some nice options for free
WordPress.org: This is often associated with blogging but is also used by professionals to create general websites, too. You need to purchase a separate hosting service to use wordpress.org. My suggestions for good hosting include Bluehost and HostGator. WordPress works best on fast servers. Check online forums for feedback about your prospective host. The tech-tips section of GospelRiver.com is created with the WordPress Weaver-ii theme, which has mobile device support built right into it. The theme you choose will make a difference on how much you can customize easily.
DotNetNuke: I don’t know much about this content management system, but the free version is used by some I know, and it has advanced capabilities. You need a host for this as well.
If at all possible, get someone who knows about web design to critique your work before publishing it the first time for the world to see.
Who is visiting?
A web administrator is able to view the number of visitors and which pages are visited most, so there is a way to see if the site is being used.
Do websites “work?”
The writer has found websites helpful and has made some lasting contacts through them. We know of an occasion where a site visitor happened to notice meetings announced on a site, attended the meetings, and as a result professed faith in Christ. As with other work for the Lord, you will not know the true results—but they are with God. Ask the Lord for direction and leave the results with Him.
Don’t post any old thing on your site.
You shouldn’t upload all of your assembly’s messages for the public. Make sure the messages are applicable for the world to hear. Set guidelines for which messages should be posted. Think about how those who speak will react to the choosing of those messages.
If you wish to make messages available for those who could not attend, try using Dropbox, SugarSync, SkyDrive, Google Drive, or Box.net instead for private access. See file sharing article.
Free Offline Bibles: KJV with Strong’s numbers & NT Greek morphology, ASV, ESV, Darby, NET, Textus Receptus, among others
Free Commentaries: Robertson’s Word Pictures, Scofield, Keil & Delitzsch on the O.T., Jamieson Fausset Brown, Darby translation notes, Adam Clark’s Commentary, Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, among others.
Update: John Gill’s commentary is now available!
Devotionals: Morning & Evening by C.H. Spurgeon
Dictionaries: Easton, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Nave’s topical Bible, Webster’s 1913
Note: It’s a little difficult to find how to install the resources and set your preferences with Pocket Sword. You’ll probably have to hit the refresh button when accessing the resources for the first time also as it specifies.
Bible reading plans help you set and achieve reading goals with reminders. Check off and view your progress, and if you get behind, the reading plan can be recalculated to evenly distribute the remaining passages. Share your plan with friends for group accountability.
An excellent resource that even pronounces Hebrew and Greek words for you. KJV, NET and a few other versions are available for download, but many others are available with an Internet connection. Online commentaries, dictionaries, Interlinear Bible, version comparison and more.
This isn’t actually a mobile app, but it’s worth including because it is optimized for mobile devices and a useful tool for memorizing Scripture. Check it out!
Installing without iTunes
If you have an iPod Touch and need a way to install apps without iTunes, you can check out this link.
Android Apps Compatibility
If you have an iPhone that doesn’t support Android, you may still be able to install Android apps with this link. I’ve never tried it though. However, to my knowledge, you cannot install Android apps on an iPod Touch.
Where you can get your app depends on what device you have. Android users often go to Google Play, Blackberry users to AppWorld, iOS users to iTunes. 1Mobile has Android apps for people who don’t have access to Google Play.