Seeing the Love of God Through our Labor

Labor Day falls every year on the first Monday in September.

This day was originally created to pay “national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of [the United States of America].”

Though this is an admirable goal and one that should be undertaken, there’s actually much more to Labor Day than labor itself.

Through our labor we can tangibly see the love of God. Through our labor, our vocation, our calling from God, God is at work through us expressing his love, care, and devotion for us.

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Check out this excellent synopsis from Gene Edward Veith in The Doctrine of Vocation: How God Hides Himself in Human Work from the Modern Reformation:

All of the vocations are thus channels of God’s love. Gustaf Wingren, the Swedish theologian whose Luther on Vocation is probably the best book on the subject, summarizes the point:

In his vocation man does works which effect the well-being of others; for so God has made all offices. Through this work in man’s offices, God’s creative work goes forward, and that creative work is love, a profusion of good gifts. With persons as his “hands” or “coworkers,” God gives his gifts through the earthly vocations, toward man’s life on earth (food through farmers, fishermen and hunters; external peace through princes, judges, and orderly powers; knowledge and education through teachers and parents, etc., etc.). Through the preacher’s vocation, God gives the forgiveness of sins. Thus love comes from God, flowing down to human beings on earth through all vocations, through both spiritual and earthly governments.

Thus, God is graciously at work, caring for the human race through the work of other human beings. Behind the care we have received from our parents, the education we received from our teachers, the benefits we receive from our spouse, our employers, and our government stands God himself, bestowing his blessings.

The picture is of a vast, complex society of human beings with different talents and abilities. Each serves the other; each is served by others. We Americans have an ideal of self-sufficiency and often dream of being able to grow our own food, build our own homes, and live independently of other people. But our proper human condition is dependence. Because of the centrality of love, we are to depend on other human beings and, ultimately and through them, on God. Conversely, other people are to depend on us. In God’s earthly kingdom, we are to receive his blessings from other people in their vocations.

The purpose of one’s vocation, whatever it might be, is serving others. It has to do with fulfilling Christ’s injunction to love one’s neighbor. Though justification has nothing to do with good works, vocation does involve good works. The Christian’s relationship to God is based on sheer grace and forgiveness on God’s part; the Christian’s relationship to other people, however, is to be based on love. As Wingren puts it, “God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.”

Be sure to read Dr. Veith’s entire article or his excellent book God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life.

Answering a Call Made by God: The Holy Spirit’s Work Towards Us

There I was, minding my own business.

It was December of 2002 and the Christmas season was in full swing. I was a senior at Marshall University and most students at school, including my roommates, were home for the holidays, but not me. I decided to stay at school and make some extra cash. Turned out this would be the best decision I ever made.

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At the time I wasn’t involved with a church, nor did I have anyone in my life telling me about Jesus. I was simply minding my own business and doing my own thing when something I was totally not expecting happened—I had an interest in reading the Bible.

From my random collection of books, I decided to dust off the Bible I had and started reading the Gospel of Matthew since it was the first book in the New Testament. Being a first-time reader of the Bible, I found the writing to be archaic, clunky, and difficult to understand. But thankfully I had an unusual desire to keep reading a book that was apparently above my reading level.

God didn’t use a specific passage to cut open my heart like a skillful surgeon, but it was sometime around the passion narrative of Jesus when I was convicted of my sins, kneeled down beside my unmade bed, and committed my life to Jesus.

Changed From the Inside Out

At this point in my life I had no desire to know God.

I had no interest in learning about God.

I had no interest in living for God.

And I sure didn’t have any interest in surrendering my life to God.

Unlike my previous experience pretending to be a Christian, this time was different. Something changed inside of me. God changed my life and gave me desires to find my purpose and satisfaction in him. Living for God wasn’t something I had to fake; it was something I actually longed and loved to do.

I was changed from the inside out.

This change was not brought about by my personal effort, praying a magical prayer, or a recent move to the Bible Belt. This change and my new life was brought about solely by God the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is at work in the world. He is actively involved in calling people to Jesus and giving them a new life in him. These two actions of the Holy Spirit are what theologians call effectual calling and regeneration for theological shorthand.

A Call Made by God

God pursues us before we ever think about pursuing him.

God the Holy Spirit graciously invites us into a dynamic and vibrant relationship with the eternal Triune God of the universe through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit initiates and calls us out of our spiritual darkness and malaise to repentance and faith in Jesus (1 Cor. 1:26; Eph. 1:18). Don’t mistake the Holy Spirit for a telephone operator working at a call center making outbound calls and sales pitches. His call isn’t the type we receive on a phone. His call is one that is internal in nature. It is a call made in our souls, by which we answer and receive without question (Rom. 11:29; Eph. 4:1).

Normally the Holy Spirit’s internal call is coincided with the external call of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Preaching of the gospel with words—not actions—is the primary means God has provided by which God the Holy Spirit effectually calls people to Jesus Christ. In other words, people will not normally respond to Jesus without hearing the gospel (Rom. 1:16; 10:14; Matt. 22:14; 2 Thess. 2:15). My experience and others is the exception, not the rule.

The Holy Spirit’s call isn’t a prank call, either. His call in our life is made to connect us with Jesus Christ. A call to believe in the life he lived and the death he died upon our behalf (Rom. 8:27-29). It’s a call made by God to connect us with himself.

Responding to God’s Call

Following God’s call upon our life is regeneration.

Regeneration “is a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us” (Titus 3:4-7). This is the moment we receive a new spiritual life, a heart to love God, and the ability to see and enter the Kingdom of God by faith through Jesus Christ. This experience is described elsewhere in the Bible as being “born again” (John 3:3-15; cf. Ezek. 36:25-27).

This act of regeneration is brought about solely by the Holy Spirit. Regeneration is something the Holy Spirit does for us, not something we do for ourselves. This is what John was getting at when he said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

When the Holy Spirit gives us a new spiritual life, we are made alive to God (Rom. 6:11) and an “active faith in Christ is its immediate fruit…” This work of the Holy Spirit is not preceded by an expression of faith in Jesus, but rather precedes faith. In other words, regeneration is a precondition of faith, not a result of it. We’re only capable of responding to God’s internal call and the proclamation of the gospel because the Holy Spirit regenerates us by giving us a new life.

The Work of the Holy Spirit Towards Us

The work of the Holy Spirit towards us is a sovereign work in our lives, both calling and regenerating us. As a result of his work towards us we are able to respond to the external call of the gospel of Jesus Christ in repentance from our sins and faith in his finished work upon our behalf.

Build an Effective Content Strategy by Amplifying Your Content Curation

It’s staggering what happens every minute online:

Email users send 204,000,000 messages
People share, send over 277,000 tweets on Twitter
Apple users download 48,000 apps
Over 2,460,000 pieces of content are shared on Facebook

When online, we’re reading.

Regardless if we’re scanning our social media accounts, staying up-to-date with Hollywood’s gossip with Perez Hilton, or digesting the Harvard Business Review, we’re reading.

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I understand we’re primarily scanning material and becoming superficial readers, but that’s not my point. My point is this: For better or worse people are reading when they’re online.

When wading through this flood of information, many—if not most—of us will share what we’re reading online with our network. (Even if we don’t actually read the entire article.) We do this by sharing what we think about a product or service, cute and funny videos, content we found helpful, and on and on and on.

I don’t think some people really care about what they share online. At least that’s the impression I get when scrolling past their social media vomit.

But many of us care about what we share with our network.

If this isn’t you, well, I think it should be.

If this is you, how do we know what’s worth sharing with others?

This is where Jerod Morris and Demian Farnworth come into play.

Previously on The Lede, Jerod and Demian were discussing The 5 W’s of Link Curation and Jerod provided the following acronym when answering this question: “What content should we share with others?”

R – Read it

O – Original

A – Applicable

R – Reputable Source

Content curation is an important facet to creating an effective content strategy and I believe it’s worth your time to listen to this entire podcast episode The 5 W’s of Link Curation.

12 Ways Your Church Can Use Facebook Today

Facebook intimidates many churches leveraging the social network, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

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Assuming you have created a Facebook Page for your church, here are 11 practical ways you and your church can use Facebook today.

1. Be Social

Look to engage people through your Facebook account.

It may be hard to do this, but think about Facebook like a physical water cooler people gather around to talk. To put this another way, being on Facebook is not about being on social media, it’s about being social. It’s about showing up to the water cooler and hanging out with people.

It’s best to have an individual or team of people responsible for overseeing your social media accounts. Most churches cannot afford to pay a staff member to do this, but I would argue that every local church has someone within it who would be willing to volunteer a few hours a week to oversee the account.

If you’re considering handing this over to a volunteer, look to establish clear boundaries, requirements, and expectations.

To help you get started, read this helpful post from my friend Phil Bowdle How to Build a Volunteer Social Media Dream Team.

In the meantime, don’t let this slow you down. Get started today.

2. Share Helpful Content

Share good content that is helpful and encouraging.

From passages of the Bible, quotes from books, to snippets from a recent sermon, aim to provide a steady stream of content throughout the week.

3. Ask for Prayer Requests

Designate a time you are going to pray and ask for people to share their requests on your Facebook page or to send you a direct message. If people leave a request on your page, either like their comment or let them know you received their request. This is a simple way of letting people know you received their request.

4. Share Stories

Share stories about the life of the members of your church.

If possible, take a picture of them, ask them some questions, and then share this in the form of a short story.

5. Recognize Volunteers

With their permission, take pictures of volunteers and share a little about them.

This is an excellent way of affirming the individuals within the church and even raise awareness of ministries and events.

6. Schedule Events

You can schedule events and even worship services through your Facebook Page. (Be careful with scheduling worship services as events through Facebook. They may become spammy.)

This is a great way to engage people, encourage people to share the event with their network, and even gauge how well the event is being received.

7. Link to Your Website

If you have a website for your church, be sure to link to the homepage.

8. Create a Welcome Tab

Create a welcome tab on your Facebook Page.

You don’t want to provide a ton of info here, but just enough to let people know more about your church. If possible and available, link back to a page on your church’s website that provides additional information.

9. Encourage People to Tag the Church

Encourage staff, visitors, and members to “tag” the church during their social media conversations.

Also consider adding your church as a “nearby place” on Facebook. This will give people the opportunity to add the church to their status updates when they are visiting, volunteering, or attending a worship service.

10. Advertise on Facebook

You can create awareness of your church in your geographic location by taking out targeted ads on Facebook. This is the most technical piece of advice on here, but it can be well worth the investment—especially for an event or holiday service like Christmas and Easter.

11. Be Human

Share the life of the church through behind the scene pictures, Q&A’s with staff members, volunteers getting ready, and on and on and on.

These simple acts will “humanize” your Facebook account.

Another thing to consider is when the administrator for the page responds to comments, he or she can place their abbreviations at the end of the comment. This is another touch that allows people to know that a person made the comment and not some random robot.

12. Share Photos 

Share photos. Lots and lots of photos.

You can share before, during, and after photos of your worship services. (May need to place a sign letting people know that their images may be used.)

It’s also a great idea to share photos of the regular day-to-day life of the church. For instance, share photos of events, baptisms, community groups, Sunday school, etc.

As an important FYI, do not post pictures of children unless you have their parents or guardians permission.

Question: What are some strategies you would add to this list?

Arguably One of the Greatest Opportunities for Businesses Today

“The Times They Are a-Changin.”

This is the title of one of folksinger Bob Dylan’s most famous songs. In penning these words, Dylan identified with the social turmoil that existed at that time in the United States. This song has enjoyed a lasting legacy by capturing one of the constant realities of our life and world: change.

Change is exactly what’s taking place among consumers and businesses.

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Though change amongst consumer behavior does present a myriad of challenges to businesses and non-profits, changes within consumer behavior also provide a plethora of opportunities for businesses like never before.

Arguably one of the greatest opportunities for businesses today is creating direct relationships with consumers.

Listen to this advice from Mitch Joel in Ctrl Alt Delete: Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends On It:

Your business needs to not only sense this urgency, but also realize this seismic shift in the battle for direct relationships. While some businesses are beginning to capitalize on this by recognizing the value that comes from these relationships, most are still using these channels as a form of broadcast advertising. It’s almost as if businesses have become anesthetize because of their reliance in the past on using media channels as a gateway to the consumer.

In the pre-Internet media world, your business could not have a direct relationship with the consumer. If you wanted to let people in your city know about your products or services, you had to take out advertising (few were great at direct marketing). The value of traditional media was not in the high quality of content that they produced, but rather in the direct relationship they had with an audience because of the perceived value of the content to the consumer. Now, in this world where consumers are liking, friending, tweeting, and +1-ing brands, not only have the tables turned, but the game has completely changed…

The new consumers are not linear. They are scattered. They are squiggly. They are connected—not only to one another, but also to the world—and their connectivity and engagement are highly untethered. I’m often critical of brands that try to make digital media bend to their will instead of spending the time, making the effort, and having the patience to build valuable credibility (which leads to loyalty and true direct relationships with the consumer).

Consumers are social…much more social than they have ever been before. If you think your consumers are (still) not social, that’s going to change as well (quickly). These are not linear relationships, and you’re not going to be able to make them bend to your will either. The brands that build a better direct relationship with their consumers will be able to transcend [current]…challenges…The opportunity is in recognizing that—finally—your business can reboot its relationship with your consumers like never before.

There is a sliver lining to the rapid changes brought on by rapid changes in technology. Though this change will be painful for many, it is a change taking place and one that presents a great opportunity for businesses and non-profits to directly connect with their target audience.

 

The Holy Spirit is Not Cousin It (or Who is the Holy Spirit?)

Cousin It is arguably one of the strangest people—ever.

His body is covered by longhair, he always wears a pair sunglasses and a black bowler hat, and speaks in some sort of British gibberish that is only understood by his family.

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The Holy Spirit is treated by many like their own Cousin It. He’s considered weird, distant, and hard to understand. Many of us tend to treat him like a disgraced politician.

It’s easy for us to think about the Holy Spirit this way. Shoot, he’s a spirit—right?

That sounds strange enough and if you watch a lot of paranormal television programs, it’s hard to say what you actually think about the Holy Spirit.

While there is a degree of mystery surrounding the Holy Spirit, he’s not an it, impersonal, or strange. You just have to get to actually know him.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

There has been little disagreement about the person and work of the Holy Spirit throughout the history of the church. From the Old Testament, New Testament, and church creeds and liturgy, there has been widespread agreement on who the Holy Spirit is and the work he does.

The Bible menaces no words when it comes to telling us about the Holy Spirit:

  • He’s called God (Acts 5:3-4)
  • He’s called the Spirit of God (Gen. 1:2; Judg. 3:10)
  • He’s considered God (Acts 28:25-27; 2 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 3:7-9)
  • He’s treated as equal to God the Father and Son (Matt. 3:16; 28:19; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 2:18; 4:4-6; 1 Pet. 1:2)
  • He’s eternal (Heb. 9:14)
  • He’s self-existent (Rom. 8:2)
  • He’s omnipresent (Psa. 139:7-8)
  • He’s omniscient (1 Cor. 2:10-11; John 14:26; 16:13)
  • He’s sovereign (Zech. 12:10)

Make no mistake, the Holy Spirit is so much more than an it—he’s God.

God—as revealed in the Bible—is one and eternally exists in three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. From what we can briefly see above, this means that each person within the Trinity shares the same divine attributes. In other words, one person within the Trinity is not more of a god than the other.

And the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal, vague, or distant god either. He’s up close and personal.

Up Close and Personal

Far from being an impersonal force, as the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is a person and personal. We see this clearly in a few distinct ways.

First, throughout the New Testament the Holy Spirit is referred to as a person (John 6:63; 14:26; Rom. 8:11, 16, 26; 1 John 5:6).

What is more, before ascending to heaven, Jesus said he was going to send the Holy Spirit to be a counselor like him (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit is also capable of teaching (Luke 12:12). Unlike gravity that can neither counsel or teach people, the Holy Spirit can and does both.

As a person, the Holy Spirit has personal characteristics:

  • He speaks (2 Sam. 23:2; Acts 1:16; 8:29; 10:19; 11:12; 13:2; 21:11; 28:25-26; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 3:7-8; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 14:13; 22:17)
  • He witnesses (John 15:26)
  • He searches (1 Cor. 2:11)
  • He can be grieved (Isa. 63:10; Eph. 4:30)
  • He loves (Rom. 15:30)
  • He has a mind (Rom. 8:27)
  • He has intelligence (1 Cor. 2:10-11)
  • He can be tested (Acts 5:9)
  • He can be resisted (Acts 7:5)
  • He has a will (1 Cor. 2:11; 12:7-11)

Impersonal forces cannot speak, be grieved, or express love, yet the Holy Spirit does express these abilities and emotions.

The Holy Spirit’s Presence and Power

The Holy Spirit is God and he is a person who personally pursues us.

He reveals to us Jesus Christ, convicts us of sin, and gives us new life. He helps us to understand the Bible, pray, and empower us to live and love like Jesus.

Knowing who the Holy Spirit is more than a rote exercise of Biblical theology. Living a life that aims to glorify and enjoy God forever is impossible without the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

The Worst Advice Ever on Love and Marriage from a Dancing Outlaw

Jesco White is known as the “Dancing Outlaw.”

For better or worse, he’s considered a cultural icon in my home state of West Virginia. (I once named a basset hound after him when I was a teenager.)

He’s known for his rhythmic tap and clogging dance moves, his Appalachian manners, and a string of documentaries, such as the Dancing Outlaw and The Wild Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.

What he’s not known for are his thoughts on love and marriage—and rightfully so.

Watch this video to see for yourself.

How to Assess Your Potential (And Others): The CliffsNotes Version

Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, Senior Advisor at Egon Zehnder and author of It’s Not the How or the What but the Who: Succeed by Surrounding Yourself with the Best, recently sat down with Linda Hill and the host of the HBR Ideacast to discuss the importance of identifying, managing, and measuring the potential of others.

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Here are the five indicators Claudio provided in assessing potential:

1. Humility

Paradoxical blend of fierce commitment and deep personal humility. This is highly correlated with what Jim Collins calls a Level 5 Leader.

2. Curiosity

If you have little children, why do they grow and learn so much in the early years? Because they’re curious. They observe and experiment with everything. They ask all sorts of questions and get all sorts of feedback.

3. Insight

Ability to connect the dots in this complex world. Very related with what you would consider a holistic thinker.

4. Engagement

People who—after connecting the dots—can separate the signal from the noise, can come up with a creative decision, can engage the hearts and minds of others.

5. Determination

People who will not crack under pressure and will continue to strive towards challenging objectives under good and bad times

Be sure to checkout the entire segment at the HBR Ideacast.

The One Surefire Way to Write a Book Your Audience Will Actually Read

There’s one surefire way to write a book your audience will actually read.

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From Ryan Holliday’s Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising:

Much of the marketing I do is with authors and books. I’ve worked with dozens of bestsellers in the last five years— and, of course, many that weren’t successful. In my experience, the books that tend to flop upon release are those where the author goes into a cave for a year to write it, then hands it off to the publisher for release. They hope for a hit that rarely comes.

On the other hand, I have clients who blog extensively before publishing. They develop their book ideas based on the themes that they naturally gravitate toward but that also get the greatest response from readers (one client sold a book proposal using a screenshot of Google queries to his site). They test the ideas they’re writing about in the book on their blog and when they speak in front of groups. They ask readers what they’d like to see in the book. They judge topic ideas by how many comments a given post generates, by how many Facebook “shares” an article gets. They put potential title and cover ideas up online to test and receive feedback. They look to see what hot topics other influential bloggers are riding and find ways of addressing them in their book.

Seth Godin provided similar advice for authors roughly eight years ago:

The best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out. Three years to build a reputation, build a permission asset, build a blog, build a following, build credibility and build the connections you’ll need later.

Though writing is a private endeavor, share it publicly with your audience.

Rather it’s through blogging, social media, or speaking, engage your audience early and often with your content. You will discover who your audience is and what they’re interested in reading from you.

Engaging your audience with your content will help you write a book they will actually want to read.

Rescuing the Holy Spirit From the Fate of a Disgraced Politician

The Holy Spirit gets either a bad rap or a cold shoulder.

Some often refer to the Holy Spirit as an it, mistake him for the force from Star Wars, or liken him to a strange mystical presence who causes people to convulse wildly out-of-control. If this is you, I can totally see how you think this is the case, but in all honesty, we need to sit down and talk.

Others may know him by name, but have no idea who he is, how he is at work in the their life, and whether or not they should even care. Many times he’s just given a tip-of-the-hat during a sermon, prayer, or confession. Apart from knowing him by name and that people are to baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, many Christians don’t know him at all.

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Instead of being revered as the third Person of the Trinity—which is a technical way of describing the God of the Bible who eternally exists in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—many of us often times treat the Holy Spirit like a politician who has fallen from grace. We either speak bad about him or don’t want anything to do with him. When it comes to the Holy Spirit, he shouldn’t be treated like a disgraced politician.

The Quick and Dirty Guide to the Holy Spirit

As the third Person of the Trinity,  the Spirit was involved with creation (Gen 1:1-2), inspired the writing of the Bible (2 Pet 1:21), and is the empowering presence of God, filling all believers with his presence.

The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to recognize the glory of God (2 Cor 4:4) and call upon Jesus as Lord (1 Cor 12:3). Without his work in our life, we would never have a desire to follow Jesus Christ and place our trust in him (John 3:5-8).

Through his work in our life, we are given a new mind and desires that are set on pleasing God (Rom 8:5-8). From the inside out, he enables us to live a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).

The Holy Spirit also provides us with spiritual gifts. These gifts are often times reduced to a mystical, personal experience, but they are given by the Spirit for the common of good and mission of the church (1 Cor. 12:7).

The Holy Spirit is alive and at work in the church and world today.

He is calling people to worship Jesus, transforming people into the image of Jesus, and empowering the church to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Instead of downplaying his Personhood and work, I encourage you to seek to be filled with his presence (Eph. 5:18) and come under a greater influence of his work in your life to be like Jesus.