God spoke

I was at the Harding Lectures last week. Besides the class on reaching out to our Hispanic neighbors (which I mentioned before), I also gave 3 lectures on the Ten Commandments.

In preparing for these lectures, I spent a lot of time reading articles written by Jewish writers. One thing that really stood out to me was how much emphasis they put on God speaking to His people. In fact, when I googled “God spoke at Sinai,” all of the top hits were Jewish sites.

Maybe we’re too influenced by having seen Charlton Heston on the mountain; we forget the importance of two million people hearing God’s voice, all at the same time! It wasn’t just God giving the law to Moses; it was God leaving an indelible imprint on His people by the sound of His voice.

There are lots of traditions around what happened that day. One interesting one says that when God spoke, there was no echo. I laughed at that until I read the explanation. An echo occurs when a sound encounters something it can’t penetrate; an echo results from the ensuing bounce.

God’s voice penetrates anything and everything. There would be no echo.

God spoke. Millions heard. God still speaks. I want to hear.

Links to Go (October 8, 2018)

Only One in Three Americans Could Pass the U.S. Citizenship Test

The survey results don’t contain much to be optimistic about, with respondents 65 years and older scoring the best (74 percent passed) and those under 45 scoring the worst (81 percent failed). Some parts of the country are taking action to ensure this knowledge is just as important to U.S.-born citizens as it is to naturalized ones: Last year, Texas passed a bill requiring all high school students to pass the civics portion of the citizenship test to graduate.

After 17 years of war in Afghanistan, more say U.S. has failed than succeeded in achieving its goals

Republicans are now more optimistic than Democrats that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan has succeeded in achieving its goals, according to the new survey, conducted Sept. 18-24 among 1,754 adults. About half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (48%) say the U.S. has succeeded, compared with about three-in-ten Democrats and Democratic leaning independents (28%).
Three years ago, during the presidency of Barack Obama, partisan opinions were nearly the reverse: 42% of Democrats said the U.S. had succeeded, compared with 29% of Republicans.

Conservatism After Christianity

But in general, churchgoing Republicans look more like the party many elite conservatives wanted to believe existed before Trump came along — more racially-tolerant, more accepting of multiculturalism and globalization, and also more consistently libertarian on economics. Secularized Trump voters look more like the party as Trump has tried to remake it, blending an inchoate economic populism with strong racial resentments.

Four roads we call customer service

Road 1: I can learn from you and make things better
Road 2: You’re an important customer and I can bring empathy and care to this moment to strengthen our relationship
Road 3: I can teach you something and make things better
Road 4: Go away

Seven Reasons Why Writing Handwritten Notes Will Revolutionize Your Ministry

The seven reasons we discuss are:

  1. It moves you to a spirit of gratitude.
  2. It reminds you of the blessings God has given you.
  3. It takes the focus off negativity in the church
  4. It is incredibly rewarding to the recipients.
  5. It changes the ethos and culture of the church.
  6. It improves personal relationships.
  7. It happens 365 times a year.

A Life With No Side Effects

Paul acknowledges that life comes with side effects, but he also acknowledges that there is a bigger picture. In the midst of personal suffering, Paul was able to discern that all of it was temporary and all of it had a purpose. This world is wasting away, but it’s giving birth to something new and improved; something far better. We groan, but in our groaning we hope and we wait. In the meantime, we persevere; knowing that the side effects will one day subside and we will be made well for all eternity.

Oblivious man had $1M lottery ticket for four months

Redding resident Charles Dudley told Connecticut Lottery officials he bought a Powerball ticket for the May 2 drawing on a whim.
“I had stopped for ice cream at the [Georgetown] Shell station that day,” Dudley said. “While I was there, I got a Powerball Quick Pick, put it in my wallet, and then forgot about it.”
He said it wasn’t until he was cleaning out his wallet this week that he found the ticket, which was only 23 days away from expiring, sandwiched between some old receipts.

Links To Go (October 2, 2018)

We’re Exiles, Not Expatriates

As American Christians, we must be diligent to remember three truths as we live on Jesus’ mission in a cultural turbulent society:

  1. Our primary citizenship is in Heaven, not America. Our eyes, like our fathers and mothers of our faith should be fixed towards the City of God.
  2. The primary document that shapes what we believe and how we live is God’s Word, the Bible, and not the Constitution. Our minds, like our fathers and mothers of the faith, should be renewed through the reading and studying of Scripture.
  3. The ruler and Commander-in-Chief that we bow to first is Jesus, not our president. Our hearts should chase after Him who guides our steps in righteousness.

Mobilizing People for Mission

Unless we see our workmates, friends, school-gate connections, and acquaintances through the lens of the gospel, then we simply won’t speak about Jesus. We won’t be willing to spend our social capital. We won’t be willing to take a risk with the connection we have made in the community. We must be captured by the glory of God, must grapple with the reality of the new creation and yearn for it, must be confronted by the reality of hell and judgement, and must see ourselves and the world through the lens of grace.

Intentional Friendliness: Making A Great First Impression In A Smaller Church

Pastors often ask me how to balance these two priorities: do we spend our time pastoring the people we have, or reaching out to people we don’t have?
The biblical answer is discipleship. We need to disciple the people we have to reach out with Christ’s love to the people we don’t have. When we do that, no one gets left out.

Context Matters: Your Body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit

Let’s just make sure to follow that line of thinking all the way into the station. If this verse prohibits alcohol, tobacco, or piercings, then how much more does it also prohibit caffeine, chocolate cake, bacon grease, late nights, failure to bathe, steel factory employment, vasectomies, and drivers’ licenses? Each of these things either 1) introduces harmful substances to the body, 2) puts the body at significant risk of harm, or 3) makes permanent bodily changes for reasons other than preserving health.

How to Stop Spreading Lies on the Internet

The truth matters. When we share lies and misinformation, especially when we do so to discredit and public figure, we defame someone made in the image of God and bring shame on the name of Christ. Because Christians live as ambassadors for Christ in this world, we can and must exercise more caution and discernment concerning what we share on the Internet.

An Ancient Solution to Digital Weariness

We will never be fully in the know. We will never say everything. We will never satisfy our deepest longings. Fasting reminds us of all these truths. You may not start with an extended, long-term fast. But start somewhere—for the sake of your soul.
Don’t be afraid of the emptiness, for it is there that you will find the Way to be filled.

Your Notifications Are Lying to You

The problem with notifications goes beyond interruptions, or the fact that they deliver randomized dopamine hits like a super-addictive slot machine. Notifications help apps skew your worldview. They make you think that your phone is important and essential.
How often do you truly need an interruption to your day, a thing that sets your pants buzzing and makes you drop what you’re doing, be it work or play, and rush to take a different action? Maybe once or twice a day, right? So why are notifications bugging you all the time?

This small town, devastated by floods, welcomed Syrian immigrants. They’re now paying it back.

The result of that vow came to fruition Saturday at Syriana, where he presented the city with a check for $10,000, which he had raised from Syrian Americans from all over the country who had seen the destruction and wanted to show their gratitude not just to Ellicott, but also to the United States for accepting them.

Don’t listen to those productivity gurus: why waking up at 6am won’t make you successful

My prime time happens to be in the morning, but yours might be at noon or 7 pm. And maybe you renew your energy with a coffee date or an afternoon yoga class.
Do whatever you can to seize that prime time and make the most of it.

Self-proclaimed ‘Old Coots’ offer life advice at farmers market. Their slogan: ‘It’s Probably Bad Advice, But It’s Free.’

Each Saturday since the summer, the “Old Coots” have taken on the issues of about 30 to 40 people who come by seeking their advice. It’s a way for a person to get an outside opinion from somebody who has nothing to gain, he said.
“It started as a joke, but it’s become a phenomenon,” Caputo said. “Somebody told us the other day that we’re the most popular attraction at the market. We always listen carefully and don’t give gratuitous advice.”

Links To Go (September 28, 2018)

The Not-So-Great Reason Divorce Rates Are Declining

So, looking at married couples alone doesn’t capture the true nature of American partnerships today. “If you were to include cohabiting relationships [in addition to marriages], the breakup rates for young adults have probably not been going down,” Cherlin says. In other words: Yes, divorce rates are declining. But that’s more a reflection of who’s getting married than of the stability of any given American couple.

Being Cordial Even When We Think Differently

In a conflicted, embattled, and embittered time, it is a perfect moment for Christians to lead the way in showing our communities and the world that it is possible to disagree strongly and still be kind, compassionate, and loving.

Understanding Who God Is, and Who We Are, Makes Pride Unthinkable

The way to be humble is to take a good look at God and then a good look at yourself, and notice the difference. When you see Him as He is and yourself as you are, the very thought of being proud or arrogant should be absolutely laughable.

The Unintended Impact of The Church Planting Industry on Our Evangelistic Impact

But, either way, there is truth to the fact that:

The Gospel came to the Greeks, and the Greeks turned it into a philosophy.
The Gospel came to the Romans, and the Romans turned it into a system.
The Gospel came to the Europeans, and the Europeans turned it into a culture.
The Gospel came to America, and the Americans turned it into a business.
(unknown source)

Facebook Is Giving Advertisers Access to Your Shadow Contact Information

When I asked the company last year about whether it used shadow contact information for ads, it gave me inaccurate information, and it hadn’t made the practice clear in its extensive messaging to users about ads. It took academic researchers performing tests for months to unearth the truth. People are increasingly paranoid about the creepy accuracy of the ads they see online and don’t understand where the information is coming from that leads to that accuracy. It seems that, when it came to this particular practice, Facebook wanted to keep its users in the dark.

How Texas Rebuilt Its Home Field Advantage From Scratch

Del Conte and Martin have reconfigured the seating to give Texas students a contiguous bloc of seats with the Texas band blasting from the middle. They have made that student seating first-come, first-serve to get those students in the stadium and yelling. They have cut down on ads on the video boards and forbidden on-field, thanks-for-writing-that-big-check presentations if those presentations bring down the energy level in the stadium. The newcomers are trying to remind Texas fans that football games are supposed to be fun. And it just so happens that for the past two Saturdays, the team has given fans a reason to keep partying in the stands.

McDonald’s customers who hung fake poster in restaurant for 51 days get $25G checks from fast-food chain

The pair concocted a scheme that involved buying McDonald’s uniforms from goodwill and creating fake badges to have their sign placed in the store.
Though the friends were worried about “getting in trouble,” the sign remained in the store unnoticed for 51 days – until the pair posted about their prank on Twitter, where it went viral.

Leading people to reach out

Building off of yesterday’s post, we need to think about how we get people to start talking to others. Let me throw out some ideas:

  1. Convince our members that evangelism matters. I mentioned a few weeks ago that we (Herald of Truth) have noticed that when churches begin talking about evangelism, they start seeing an increase in activity. We need to:
    • Tell our people that outreach is important.
    • Celebrate those that are reaching out.
    • Emphasize that our church doesn’t plan to sit back and wait for outsiders to come to us.
  2. Train people. That’s one of the big things we do at Herald of Truth. I don’t say that as a commercial, but as a reality. Steve Ridgell’s seminar Sharing Our Story has helped many congregations increase their level of outreach (The Can I Tell You A Story? book shares some of the ideas, but there’s nothing like hearing the material in person). I believe that if churches will work through the material in Church Inside Out (preferably using book and workbook), they’ll see new ways they can touch their community. I also present that material in person, though I’ll admit that I think it’s better to study it in a 13-week format.
    We’re not the only ones training for evangelism; I just know our material best.
  3. Cut down on distractions. It’s hard, but we somehow have to get our people to see that we often spend our time talking about things that don’t matter. Because we aren’t united in outreach efforts, we divide over so many other things. As a church, we need to avoid:
    • Being seen as a negative voice in the community.
    • Being seen as a group that is aligned with one political philosophy or another.
    • Being perceived as a church that is focused on minor points of doctrine.
    • Being seen as Christians who merely follow the winds of change of culture.

OK, I didn’t say they were easy things. But if we can work on these ideas, we’ll see a change in our churches. I’m convinced of it.

What else would you suggest?