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Are You Using Social Media or Being Used By It?
Cal Newport: “Let me make a suggestion that the social media industrial complex fears far more: change your relationship with these services to shift from compulsive to controlled use.”

The Holiness of Small Things
God has called His people to a myriad of different roles and responsibilities, places and positions: mothers in the suburbs, teachers in the inner city, employees in the factory, daughters making dinner, singles serving the church, wives writing books, and so on. And yet despite this great diversity of labors and locations, we are all called to one common life work, and that is the work of holiness.

What If Prayer Makes Anxiety Worse?
“This is why I still pray…or try to pray…in the midst of darkness. Because eventually the gospel wins out and God breaks through. It happened with Bunyan and it happens with me.”

11 Ways Engaged Couples Should Deal with Finances Now
“Marriage gurus name the three big areas of conflict as sex, parenting, and finances. How can you prevent future fights over money? Here are 11 recommendations.”

Are You “Struggling” With Sin?
“I’ve noticed that way too often “I’m struggling with…” language seems to really mean “I don’t like the fact that I like doing this sin that I’m going to keep doing, no matter what.”"

Help for the Beat-Up Pastor
“If you are feeling beat up, take in these two views, look back and look ahead. Here you will find help and even refreshment for your weary soul.”

50 Reasons We Appreciate Our Pastors
“A couple weeks ago, we invited our readers to enter to win a free resource library for their pastors. To enter the drawing, we asked respondents to finish the following sentence: “In the last year, I have appreciated my pastor because he . . .” In total, we received nearly 900 responses detailing the many reasons people appreciate, love, and respect their spiritual leaders. We were so encouraged by what we read that we wanted to share 50 of our favorite responses below.”

7 Spurgeon Quotes for Stressed Leaders
Despite Spurgeon’s encouragements in the minisry, “he battled anxiety, depression, and significant suffering. He knew the pressures of leadership and ministry like few others. Here are seven encouragements from one tired, stressed, faithful leader to you”

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World by Michael Horton $2.99.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxes $2.99.

Preaching and Preachers by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones $3.99.

Redemption Accomplished & Applied by John Murray $2.99. This was the first Christian book I read and I’m still learning from it.

To Really Connect, Show Some Dirt

Revealing our human weaknesses initiates deep connection with our hearers if done in the right way and with the right motives.

“David, the more you show the clay, the more they will see the treasure.”

That’s the advice a wise old pastor gave to me one day after I expressed some fear that I had spoken too much about myself in a sermon.

Pointing to 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us,” he said that when people see that the pastor is just a clay pot like them, and not some shiny trophy of perfection, they will connect with us on a deeper level, giving us a better opportunity to introduce them to gospel treasures.

Of course, he wasn’t advocating the kind of over-sharing that draws attention to ourselves at the expense of Christ, or that causes our hearers to squirm with embarrassment, but he was encouraging some measure of honest disclosure of our frail humanity.

I know of one pastor who goes in for quite a lot of self-disclosure, but it almost always reflects well on him. It’s painfully awkward for his congregation.

Another preacher friend never said anything about himself—ever. His sermons were fine on paper but they never seemed to connect with or move people. His congregation thought he was a kind of semi-angelic being who floated above ordinary life. However, when he started putting in a line or two or personal illustration in his sermons, most of them revealing his humanness, if not his weakness, his sermons began to connect in life-changing ways.

Showing personal vulnerability is the second connection strategy recommended in TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking  (the first was eye-contact). But it comes with a warning against misusing it in such a way that it destroys our credibility:

Willing to be vulnerable is one of the most powerful tools a speaker can wield. But as with anything powerful, it should be handled with care….Formulaic or contrived personal sharing leaves audiences feeling manipulated and often hostile toward you and your message. Vulnerability is not oversharing. There’s a simple equation: vulnerability minus boundaries is not vulnerability….The best way I’ve found to get clear on this is to really examine our intentions.

I remember hearing a preacher weep for a number of minutes in the course of one sermon in which he was extolling the beauty of Christ. It was powerful and deeply moving. However, I had a chance to hear him another half dozen times and discovered he wept at about the same point in every single sermon! I felt manipulated, if not deceived.

One last beacon is the preacher who, in the middle of a sermon against adultery, confessed to a serious problem with lust. The men appreciated his honesty and many felt a new connection with their pastor. But he never recovered his credibility with the women in his congregation. Some dirt is best kept for confessing to God alone.

The clay that best shows off the power of the Gospel is not so much our sins but our weaknesses and frailties.

Revealing our human weaknesses initiates deep connection with our hearers if done in the right way and with the right motives.

More articles in the Preaching Lessons from TED Talks series.

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God Is with You in Your Panic Attack
“Panic attacks have been a source of both grief and grace. Grief, because they are terrifying and painful and disorienting and exhausting. Grace, because through them, God has humbled my proud heart and taught me to trust less in myself and more in Him. When Asaph says, “My flesh and my heart may fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever,” boy, do I get it.”

In the U.S., 110 Million S.T.D. Infections
This is almost beyond belief:

The incidence of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis is increasing, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At any given time, there are an estimated 110 million sexually transmitted infections in the United States.

Given these stats, America’s STD Epidemic Should Be Much Bigger News

During the same week Hugh Hefner died, the Centers for Disease Control revealed that the number of new sexually transmitted disease cases in America had hit a record high. This unfurls a strange symmetry to the way history unfolds: a founding father of the sexual revolution dies at the same time that his legacy fully blossoms.

Bringing Our Children to the Table
Nick Batzig argues against paedo-communion and for the role of elders and parents in determining whether a child has the credible faith required to sit at the Lord’s table:

In recent years, some have suggested that the Covenant Lord wants us to bring our infants to the table, since they are members of the covenant family of God. The problem with paedocommunion is that, de facto, it changes the nature of the sacrament and lays aside the clear teaching of 1 Corinthians 11:27-32.

Today’s Teens Are Always in the Hallway
“Whether you’re a parent of a teen, a boss of a teen, or a pastor of a teen, please be aware of the sad fact that teens today feel as though they are always performing—perhaps they’re even performing for you. Be a person in the lives of the teens you know who doesn’t require them to perform. Be a person teens can approach with their real selves.”

Obeying the Great Commission Just Shrunk Our Church
“This past Sunday our church membership dropped significantly as we had a Launch Sunday service commissioning our members in Madison County, KY as an autonomous church, to be known now as Ashland Church. Some of our best and most passionate Christ-followers are now members of Ashland Church and no longer members of our congregation. Losing them was a triumph of the Great Commission that we enthusiastically celebrated. Yes, the Great Commission is causing our church to shrink and maybe it should yours as well.”

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption by Matt Chandler $2.99.

James For You: Showing you how real faith looks in real life by Sam Alberry $2.99.

Can TED Talks teach us how to preach?

Here are the links to the articles I’ve been writing based upon TED Head Chris Anderson’s book  TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking.

Can TED talks teach us how to preach?

The New Superpower of Presentation Literacy

The biggest difference between good speakers and great speakers

Four Preaching and Writing Styles to Avoid

So Pastor, What’s Your Point?

How to Shorten and Sharpen Your Sermons

The Most Important Advice TED gives to Speakers

To Really Connect, Show Some Dirt

Serious preaching in a comedy culture

How to tell a story

TED Talk Exegesis

The Most Important Advice TED gives to Speakers

The key to connecting with an audience is early and frequent eye-contact (plus a warm smile from time to time).

According to TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking there are five core tools that speakers use:

  • Connection
  • Narration
  • Explanation
  • Persuasion
  • Revelation

Regarding connection, TED Head Chris Anderson insists that the most effective way to connect is to make eye-contact right from the start. That’s because humans have developed a sophisticated ability to read other people by looking at their eyes. “We can subconsciously detect the tiniest movement of eye muscles in someone’s face and use it to judge not just how they are feeling, but whether we can trust them.” Many of these judgments are made in the first few seconds of meeting or hearing someone.

Scientists have also found that due to mirror neuron activity, we tend to copy what expressions and feelings we see in other people. When we look at each other—especially at our eyes and our mouths—our minds and emotions sync. Anderson says:

Eye contact, backed by an occasional warm smile, is an amazing technology that can transform how a talk is received. At TED, our number-one advice to speakers on the day of their talk is to make regular eye contact with members of the audience. Be warm. Be real. Be you. It opens the door to them trusting you, liking you, and beginning to share your passion.

Now, we’re not wanting to create a bunch of Joel Osteen clones. But, if there’s one area that most preachers could improve upon, it’s increasing the amount of eye-contact they make throughout their sermons, and especially in the first few minutes of introduction. Maybe the reason we’re not connecting with our hearers is because they’re only seeing our hair (or lack thereof).

The key to connecting with an audience is early and frequent eye-contact (plus a warm smile from time to time).

More articles in the Preaching Lessons from TED Talks series.

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Some articles on the Las Vegas massacre:

Hatred in Las Vegas by Kyle Borg

3 Ways to Pray for Las Vegas: It’s a Powerful (Not Political) Act for Christians by Ed Stetzer

An Act of Pure Evil: Searching for Meaning in Las Vegas by Al Mohler

May Heaven Fall on Las Vegas by Marshall Segal

Where is God in a mass shooing? by Russell Moore

In other news…

Flee from the Darkness
“Many women think that adultery happens when the passion for their husband is at war with their passion for someone else. But adultery really happens when your passion for the power and presence of God in your life is at war with the passions of lust and self-indulgence.”

Mental Illness, Prayer, and Extravagant Grace
“Here are some prayer principles I now hold onto firmly as I pray through the challenges of our loved one’s battle with mental illness. First, because mental illnesses are brain disorders, I pray as I would for any other physical sickness.

  • Because God can and does heal bodies, I always pray for healing.
  • Because that healing often comes through medical and therapeutic means, I pray for doctors, counselors, and chemists.
  • Because healing is enhanced by intentional body-care, I pray for good rest, nutrition, and exercise.
  • Because in His providence, God doesn’t always cure everyone, I pray for patience, wisdom, and enduring faith.

Prayer, I have learned, is an act of open-handed expectation.”

On Daughters and Dating: How to Intimidate Suitors
“Instead of intimidating all your daughter’s potential suitors, raise a daughter who intimidates them just fine on her own. Because you know what’s intimidating? Strength and dignity. Deep faith. Self-assuredness. Wisdom. Kindness. Humility. Industriousness. Those are the bricks that build the wall that withstands the advances of Slouchy-Pants, whether you ever show up with your Winchester locked and loaded or not. The unsuitable suitor finds nothing more terrifying than a woman who knows her worth to God and to her family.”

Tinder’s Problems Go Far Beyond Recording Your Deepest Secrets
Am I glad I’m 51 and happily married!

“Tinder has hundreds of pages of data on its users because they gave it away in the first place. The customized experience exists because the users keep coming back to tell Tinder what they want. In 2014, The New York Times reported that Tinder users were logging on an average of 11 times a day. Men were spending about 7.2 minutes per login swiping; women were swiping about 8.5 minutes each time. That’s about 90 minutes a day spent on Tinder trying to find a match. Just think about how desperate that sounds.”

New Books

Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community by Brett McCracken.

Preparing Children for Marriage: How to Teach God’s Good Design for Marriage, Sex, Purity, and Dating by Josh Mulvihill.