I’ve been asked to share my testimony, and at first I approached this like I would my resume. I would just pull out a former example and tweak it into an updated version, highlighting the sort of things that would be most relevant in the current matter of hand. I wrote a version several years ago, even shared it on my website. It was the gold standard and would require the least amount of updating.
Of course, that version is nowhere to be found. Maybe it’s in the innards of my website and I just need to contact the hosting company to see if it’s tucked away somewhere in there. As I was pondering this, I became convicted of a few things.
I’m approaching a spiritual exercise in a carnal manner.
The details of my testimony have always been the same. It’s been my understanding of the events that has changed.
Every testimony I’ve ever written has been way too much about me.
The request is still out there, and it’s one that I will honor. But how do you approach your testimony in a God-centered manner? It’s usually a story about how you behaved prior to your conversion to Christianity, how you came to Christianity, and how your behavior has improved from your conversion until now. Based on my understanding of Ephesians 2:8-9, I have decided to craft something a little different. I’ll still be writing from my own perspective, but my aim is to be more mindful of the story from God’s point of view. I hope that comes through.
AKA: The endless search for the one ring to rule them all
I’ve been blogging for a dozen plus years. But not always on my blog. The mediums have changed. The acceptable content lengths, structures and cadences have changed. But I have been sharing my thoughts, for better or worse, for a dozen years.
And as I look back on it, it’s all been done with the same intention, no matter the vehicle. Creating community through the public written word has been the name of the game, and using my written thoughts toward personal growth. Whenever one goal or the other becomes over-emphasized, the writing has suffered.
A dozen years ago, when I started, there was no Facebook to my knowledge. MySpace wasn’t taken seriously by anyone over 16. Forums and usergroups were narrowly focused. The blogosphere was social media as far as I was concerned. Comments, trackbacks, links and blogrolls were how people interacted.
Discussions were longer than they are now. People put more thought into what they had to say before sharing it publicly. Our attention spans weren’t as long as they had been a generation prior, but they were much longer than they are now. Of course, smart phones weren’t everywhere. There were distractions, but nothing like it is today. And each side of a dialogue would be longer than 140 characters.
In time I tried Facebook out and it was OK. Nothing to take seriously as far as I could tell, and even now I don’t take Facebook seriously. The only reason I’m even on it is because everybody’s on it. And I bet a comfortable percentage of people out there would say the same. I tried to blog on there, but it ended up as a pure social site. Which is OK. But meaningful interaction is the exception on Facebook, not the norm. Facebook is meant for emoting.
I have a real love/hate relationship with Twitter. You post links to the real content or tweets with as much tact as a drive by shooting.
The above paragraph was just under 140 characters. You can tweet it if you like. They say that Twitter will need to expand beyond the current 140 character limit to remain relevant. Um, guys, your key selling point is your limitation. What will differentiate you from your competition if you remove your key limitation? Won’t you just be Facebook minus the game invites? On the other hand…
Honestly, the best form of social media that combines thoughtful discussion with passionate interaction among people with common interests continues to be Google+. The reason Google+ hasn’t caught on to a Facebook world is because users are looking for the next Facebook, which is something Google+ never tried to be. And to those who will be defending Facebook I will ask, why were you expecting Google+ to be an alternative to Facebook? Are you looking for an alternative to Facebook? If Facebook is so awesome at meeting your needs, why would you be looking for the next big thing? I use both, but the style of interaction is different on each medium. I also have more than one tool in the toolbox in my garage. Crazy, I know.
I have a Snapchat. I use it only to do face swaps. And my dog won’t sit still long enough to do a face swap with me. If/when she does, you will know it immediately. Snapchat is a growing network and is based on self-destructing images. Permanent images of Instagram is too thought provoking so now we need pictures that will destroy their own evidence?
So back to the original thought. There are some among us who are looking for a way to interact online with others in a more thoughtful format. Every medium made publicly available either isn’t conducive to a thoughtful conversation or doesn’t already have a population of every one in your graduating high school class. It’s a different game now, and in order to get the best of both worlds I really think that a personal online presence is necessary to have a long form discussion. I have a self-hosted blog, but there are services out there that will host a free or inexpensive blog for you. If you use one, back it up regularly. It’s your content, your history.
What about the interaction? My comment area on my blog is pretty barren. By my site stats, I know my blog is read by others, but comments are few and far between, at least on the blog. The feedback comes on the social sites that my blog automatically shares to. The blog itself is the one ring to rule them all. I haven’t yet discovered a way for my entire blog content to go to the social sites, but that’s OK also. People don’t engage with long content on social sites. They just don’t.
I think Tim Challies is on to something over at his blog. He removed all comments from the blog itself, largely because moderating the comments was a task with diminishing returns. He updates social networking sites whenever a new blog post hits and he closely monitors his social media presence, both in quality and in quantity. And every so often he responds to the best of the feedback he has received on his posts in another blog post. I really think this is a brilliant idea! It gives his blog more of a magazine feel and allows for a pre-moderated interaction with the content. His blog is his one ring to rule them all. And in an ever-busy social media world, finding that one ring is becoming all the more necessary.
Here are my favorite resources for those who want to originate on their blog and seamlessly share to social networks. There are others, but these are what I prefer.
WordPress can be configured to automatically update your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Path and Eventbrite accounts whenever you post to your blog
IFTTT is a Swiss army knife for just about any major service on the Internet. You can configure it to perform a specified task whenever a specified trigger action is performed. The possibilities are YUGE! and continually growing.
For the remainder of the book of Genesis, I am altering the passages to be read each day from the original plan. The story of Joseph is contrasted with similar situations that Judah experiences, and I wanted to highlight this. The change is minor. I invite you to look for differences in how each man responds as the story unfolds.
This understanding comes from one of the best books in my library, linked here for you. Yes, you.
You know what really cracks me up? Hearing people imply that the Powerball jackpot is/isn’t up to an amount that is worth their time. Everybody seems to have their own threshold amount that prompts them to buy a ticket. The jackpot is “only” $10 million? No thanks. But when it gets up to $100 million? Let me run to the nearest retailer and get in line!
Your odds of winning are the same in either instance. The only difference is that when the jackpot rises enough for even more people to decide it’s worth their time, your odds of sharing the jackpot increase. With unchanging odds, why is a paltry $10 million not worth one’s effort but a larger amount will have them running to the nearest convenience store?
Let me tip my hand a little bit here. As a Christian, I believe every jackpot amount is in the category of “not enough” money to participate in the lottery. Mark 8:36 makes it quite clear, in red letters to boot, that gaining the world only to lose your soul is not a good transaction. How much less profitable is it to gain a measly billion or so?
I’ve made a pretty bold statement here, haven’t I? Am I saying that by playing the numbers you have forfeited your eternal soul? I certainly hope it doesn’t come across that harshly. I could list off many reasons why placing your hope in gambling is contrary to the mindset/worldview laid before us in scripture. I could explain that state-sponsored gambling is a tax upon the financially weakest among us, and thus a horrible way to love your neighbor as yourself. I could point to the fact that the lottery is NOT A RANDOM DRAWING and can be rigged. I’m not saying it always is rigged. I am saying that it can, and that it has been, rigged.
I’m not here to say any of these things. I’m just saying that each person who plays the lottery does so based upon his or her own motivations. Have you bought a ticket? Not yet? Check your motivations.
Do you want to quit your job? Go on a permanent vacation? Have a taste of the good life? Live in security and stability so you don’t have to rely on anyone else? Be careful of the desire for complete autonomy. Nobody is the master of their own domain. You were bought with a price. You are not your own.
Do you want to bless others? Hasn’t God provided you all you need to be a blessing? Does God need the riches of the world in order for you to accomplish His task that He has laid before you? Hint: check out Ephesians 2:10 before answering.
Do you want to give a mighty tithe to the church? I asked my pastor a few years ago, hypothetically, about this exact question and he told me that if he became aware that a generous offering was the result of lottery winnings, he would decline to accept it on behalf of the church. You might want to inquire with an elder at your church if that’s your motivation.
Is playing the lottery evil? I’m not prepared to say that. Buying a lottery ticket is not always a matter where church discipline needs to take place. Placing your hopes and trust in money is a gospel matter though, and an unhealthy obsession with a jackpot of any size betrays the treasure one is truly excited about.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
This is a new year and so many Christians have a goal to read through the Bible in that time frame. I’ve done it and believe it’s a noble effort. Heck, I first came to faith while doing it! But reading the Bible in one year is a time commitment that many people may find to be difficult. Also, it doesn’t allow for much flexibility if you want to pause in a section and marinate in the word.
I had pondered a do it yourself reading non-schedule where I would read a chapter a day, figuring that would take about 3 years to get through it all. While a one year plan is a real commitment, a three year plan seemed like a noncommittal action on my part. Splitting the difference, I decided to use a two year reading plan from Stephen Witmer. Stephen, if you see this, your PDF is off by two rows!
In case you’d like to follow, I’ll give each day’s reading in a post. I may or may not include my thoughts as we go along. If you read with me, the time commitment will be 5-10 minutes a day. You can check this blog for each day’s reading, you can also subscribe via RSS or email to my blog. The email signup is on the blog sidebar toward the bottom, mom, so you’ll be able to find it easily.
For the purpose of this post, I will be assuming the complementarian view. You are free to disagree with me on your own, but this post and any resulting comments are not intended to debate the relative merits of egalitarianism.
As I look at the Bible, I notice that marriages are found throughout. It begins with man and woman being brought together to form a union. God made woman out of man in order to complement his role in expanding the glory of God throughout all the world. They were to share the same goal, but each of them had unique strengths, and by utilizing these strengths together they could more accurately reflect the glory of God upon creation.
Marriage is celebrated throughout the Bible and is used as a picture of God and His people both in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. Israel is portrayed as His bride, the church is portrayed as His bride. God is not a polygamist. God is not an adulterer. There is not one bride for each person of the trinity. But these discussions are not the focus of today’s post either.
The Bible ends with the Marriage of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9) as the consummation of the marriage between God and His people. Marriage permeates the Bible as a picture of God and His people. Marriage between a man and a woman will continue in this life until it is concluded in the next life, for the fulfillment will be present and the types and shadows will no longer be necessary. (Matthew 22:30) God is the husband, the church is the bride. Because I presuppose complementarianism, I can assume that the following things must also be true.
It is intended that God and His people be working toward the same goal, namely to reveal His kingdom and glory across all of creation.
God is capable of meeting His goals apart from us, but lovingly includes us in His task.
It is better that God incorporate us into the plan than excuse us from any activity. The result are more glorifying to God with our roles being carried out.
There are roles that God will perform in the building of His kingdom and there are roles that we are to perform.
To pursue the role that the other party is responsible for is to demonstrate a distrust in the other’s ability to accomplish that role.
So what are these roles that the two parties are to play? Let’s look to the words of our Lord to decipher this.
Jesus will build His church
…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18 ESV)
That looks pretty straightforward to me. Jesus is the one who will gather His people all around the world, despite the resistance from the forces of darknes. It is the triune God who gathers the church together. The husband in our metaphor is gathering His people to Himself. That is His role. Our role is not the same as His role, but our role is meant to complement His role as we work toward our shared end goal. We do our part, we trust Him to do his part, which is the obedience of complimentarianism.
And what are we to be doing as we work toward this goal? Our husband has given His bride her instructions.
We are to make disciples
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
We are to make disciples, as we trust God to build His church. Making disciples is not the same thing as inviting your unsaved friends to your church gathering, though that can play a role in our task. But do not assume that making disciples equals building the church by inviting everyone lest you drift into the lane that our Husband is driving in. We are to do our part and allow Him to work with us in His part.
Therefore, I would say that any church growth movement or program designed to put butts in seats (and money in coffers), while well intended, is approaching the mutual goal between Christ and His bride from the wrong angle. We are trying to do God’s job instead of the job He has instructed us to perform. Why don’t we, instead, trust our God to accomplish His task with the complimentary assistance of His bride, who is making disciples by baptizing and teaching?
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42 ESV)
This sounds a lot like disciple making to me. The early believers devoted themselves to discipleship. And the Lord added to their number (the Church) daily those who were being saved.
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47 ESV)