What is the message of the New Testament?

Remember Kevin Rudd? He was once the Prime Minister of Australia, and he said some things about the New Testament that weren’t true.

One of the things I used to do when I worked in public relations once upon a time – a bit for the laughs, but also because it’s a useful tool – was run my media releases through Wordle. Word clouds don’t necessarily prioritise words – they simply show what ideas are repeated and linked. They’re imperfect. But always interesting.

Kevin Rudd said the New Testament is all about universal love.

Interestingly, other people occasionally suggest Paul, not Jesus, invented Christianity as we know it.

Just for fun I got a little bit “red letter” – I wordled the words of The Word as recorded in the Word (I wordled what Jesus said in each Gospel). And then in the ‘synoptic’ Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – which are quite similar. And then I wordled Jesus’ words from all the Gospels.

I’ll put a little bit of analysis here – because it gets a bit image heavy.

Jesus seems to focus on arriving as the person who is bringing in God’s kingdom. He talked about God, his father, very often. And commonly referred to himself as the “son of Man” which gets split up in the word clouds. From Jesus’ words the emphasis is clearly on what God is doing in his arrival. His message is that the kingdom of God has come. In him. Love is surely a part of that, but it doesn’t pop up as often in Jesus’ words as one might think if one believed Kevin Rudd.

Paul, understandably, talks a lot about Jesus.

I’m keen to look at Peter, James, and John in a future batch.

The Message of Jesus (wordled)

Matthew
Matthew's Gospel

Mark
Mark's Gospel

Luke
Luke's Gospel

John
John's Gospel

The Synoptics

The Synoptics

The Gospels
The Gospels

 

The Message of Paul (Wordled)

Then I did the same with the Pauline corpus – from Romans to Philemon.

Romans
Romans

1 and 2 Corinthians
1 and 2 Corinthians
Ephesians
Ephesians

Philippians
Philippians

Colossians

Colossians

1 and 2 Thessalonians
1 and 2 Thessalonians

1 and 2 Timothy
1 and 2 Timothy

Titus
Titus

Philemon
Philemon

Pauline Corpus
Pauline Corpus

An aggregated and definitive top ten list of writing tips

Tips for writing good circulate the Internet like La Niña weather systems, or the flu. There’s a batch around the place now, most of these lists have been collated at The Guardian and at BigHow.com.

Writing Tips Wordle

Image Credit: Wordle of the lists linked above

I’ve had a little look through the advice given, and these, by frequency, are the top ten tips from famous, and usually good, writers. Writers who often contradict each other. Which says something about the quality of such advice. Most of the advice is ridiculously obvious, but there’s nothing wrong with stating the obvious.

I do think there’s something in some of the tips being held in tension – like “just write” and “write to a meticulous plan” – one is more about honing your voice, the other is more about producing something with it. I also think there’s something in most of these for any communicator who uses words.

I tried to capture the essence of most of the advice given when I was collating these. And I’ve ordered this list by frequency, rather than in logical, or chronological, order. The numbers in brackets represent the number of times something came up.

  1. Be Clear. Don’t overwrite.

    Practice clarity of expression and thinking. Short words. The right words. Make adverbs, adjectives, and description functional, not ornamental, but mostly avoid them. Leave out bits people don’t want to read.  Punctuate well. Carry dialogue with said. No frills. Clear sentences. Concrete thought. Edit harshly to achieve this. Make every sentence do something to a character, or for your plot. Write till the sentence/paragraph/page/book is its best, but it’ll never feel good enough. Good ideas often do away with bad. Be prepared to change things. Finish. (46)

  2. Plan and be disciplined.

    Avoid distractions like TV and the Internet. Schedule writing time. Writing is work. Keep going. Try to love it. Know we’re your work is going, go there. Nowhere else. Only include what is necessary. Know your structure and cover it with apt words and phrases. (42)

  3. Edit Hard.

    Write. Pause. Edit. Rewrite. Often. If it sounds like writing, rewrite it. Improve. Pull the trigger on the bad stuff (and cop it when someone else does). Edit at the end, or as you go, but edit well. Be self-critical, trust and care about your reader, don’t waste their time.  (36)

  4. Write from your heart.

    Write about what you know and believe. What you have lived. What you imagine (probe the unknown). Think well. Write powerfully. Write truth. With compassion. Tell a story you care about. Write to engage (yourself first). Then persuade and transform. If it’s fiction – live your story. (33)

  5. Just write.

    Every day.  Anywhere. Write lots. Don’t worry too much about plot or structure. Practice. Start anywhere. Get something down. As it happens. Keep writing. Stop mid sentence/idea and resume the next day knowing where you were going. Finish when you want to continue. (32)

  6. Read widely.

    Read good writing, including poetry. Immerse yourself. Observe structure, figure out how writing works and what works. Borrow good turns of phrase, vocab, etc. From anywhere. But make them yours and avoid cliché and jargon (and most similes and metaphors), bad writing is contagious. (31)

  7. Figure out your style.

    Read your work aloud. Think about rhythm and pace. Care about style. But use it to suit. Ignore rules if need be. Style is about getting you out of the way. Know and be aware of grammar but be prepared to break the rules. Think about your voice, be authentic. (30)

  8. Capture inspiration.

    Ideas and inspiration come from everywhere. Including your feelings. Go to places. Think with your senses. Life is a story. Carry a notebook. Keep a diary. (21)

  9. Know your audience, and yourself.

    Listen to people/readers you respect, but don’t care too much what other people think. The reader is your friend. But don’t write for them or for the “market.” (21)

  10. Characterise well.

    Characters should be necessary, and their necessity obvious. Introduce characters early. Think about psychology and motives. Make characters relatable, and appropriately likeable or unlikeable. Present them consistently so actions and words match character. Make them confront stuff. (17)

What Lance Armstrong, Mike Tyson, Tiger Woods, and Jesus, teach us about redemption…

Public figures fall hardest. Possibly because they fail more spectacularly, or at least in front of more people. Possibly because tall poppy syndrome means we’re waiting for the fall to happen, and ready to throw stones when it does… It’s always disappointing when someone you’ve pinned some sort of hopes on, or affiliated with your dreams, does wrong – but it’s oh so inevitable. Call it the selfish gene, call it original sin, call it human nature – we’re all wired to do the wrong thing, especially when we think we can get away with it, or the benefits outweigh the risks, and celebrities get more opportunities to do the wrong thing.

Armstrong Wordle
Image Credit: Wordle.net – a tag cloud featuring every article I link to in this post, minus “Lance” and “Armstrong”

Sometimes doing the wrong thing is even written off as the cost of success. Our sporting contests have penalties built in, and for people playing at a high level, half the battle is making snap decisions about whether or not fouling your opponent is a better decision than letting them past. Degrees of misbehaviour carry greater penalties. Diving in football is an example of people trying to game the system in the other direction. It too gets punished. It’s part of the economics of sport. So much that a Formula One team was able to tax deduct its 40 million euro fine for spying on an opposing team.

Enter Lance Armstrong. Sport’s current whipping boy. His story represents the human, and now economic, cost of cheating, and the price of a win at all cost pursuit of sporting success. He’s been abandoned by sponsors. Abandoned by his sport. Abandoned by some fans. He’s lost his titles. He’s lost the respect of most cycling fans. It looks likely he’ll lose his prize money, endorsement money, and interest. Part of the problem with Armstrong is that he’s, by the power of his self-proclaimed narrative, set himself up as a symbol of hope. And worse a role model. A position most athletes shouldn’t occupy. This means he’s falling from a greater height than most.


Credit: ABC

His brazen cheating – conducted by an incredibly complex operation, and carried out with horrifically narcissistic and vindictive attacks on anybody who dared speak out – was one thing, and arguably, according to this Grantland piece, relatively easy to cop, given that most people don’t really care about cycling:

Lance Armstrong became one of the two or three most transcendent American sports stars of his generation despite the fact that hardly anyone in America cares at all about his particular sport. The ratio of passionate Lance Armstrong fans to people who have ever actually watched Lance Armstrong race except for maybe a few minutes during this one Tour de France is just crazily out of whack.

Grantland points out that Armstrong’s charity work, and the cancer-triumphing narrative, were what made him a hero:

“…it was his story that made him a superstar: his comeback from near-fatal cancer, the hope he offered other cancer patients, his charitable work through the Livestrong Foundation, the yellow bracelets, the sense of larger purpose. Cycling wasn’t the cause here so much as the arbitrary venue in which the cause could prove itself noteworthy…

…That’s what’s so tragic about what turned out to be Armstrong’s charlatanism. He had to cheat to win. But he had to win primarily to validate the narrative, not because the consumers of the narrative liked watching him do it. One of the reasons he could be so inspiring, in other words, was that for all practical purposes he barely existed at all.”

It seems unlikely that this narrative and charity work will save his image, though someone appears to be advising him that it might (and some utilitarians seem to suggest the ends of fighting cancer justify any means). Armstrong appears willing to ride out the storm – pointing to his good deeds. But it’s not likely to work. Interestingly, you could make the case that an interview Armstrong gave seven years ago was paving the way for a guilty verdict and his current plea to leave his charity out of the muck. In doublespeak, the interview given by a guy who is, more than likely, guilty, is a pre-emptive damage-controlling non-disclosure.

He said his sponsors and charity would disappear if he was caught.

“All of them. And the faith of all the cancer survivors around the world … And don’t think for a second I don’t understand that. It’s not about money for me. Everything. It’s also about the faith that people have put in me over the years. So all of that would be erased.”

And his sponsors have. The impact on his charity is yet to be determined. Some people, the people he has helped over the years, are still in his corner.

But I also can’t stop noticing that many of the people still defending him — not denying that he cheated, just knowingly rooting for him anyway — are cancer survivors or the family members of cancer patients. Robert Lipsyte wrote about this for The New Republic, how the thought of Armstrong helped get him through chemotherapy. And once you start thinking along those lines, that he meant that much to people, that it’s not a trivial thing to be a hero of feeling, this becomes one of those problems you can’t think your way outside.

This has been true in my observations of discussions of Armstrong amongst my friends and contacts on social media.

Grantland has an interesting reminder for those of us who follow Jesus… it should change how we think about stories like this.

Or maybe not; but it’s always hard to remember that there were victims in cases like this, and what you do remember — hypocrisy and rule-breaking — doesn’t always look so bad a few years down the line. How you feel about that probably depends on what you think heroism means in America, and whether you picture Halloween or Jesus when you hear that the dead are rising from their graves.

This is profoundly true – knowing that all people do the wrong thing, and that this is part of being human – and the foundation of our need for redemption through Jesus – means it’s pretty hard to throw stones at Lance, because, there but for the grace of God, and the cycling ability, go we.

But if there’s one thing we seem to like more than a public scandal, it’s a public story of redemption. People are already making interesting links between the narrative arcs of Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods (and here), and Lance Armstrong and Mike Tyson, especially because Tyson is in the news because he’s coming to Australia on a charity tour.

Mike Tyson has had a complete rebrand – he doesn’t eat meat, or ears, any more. He’s apologised for stuff (but apparently still denies he committed the crime he was jailed for). He appears in movies. And now he’s raising money for indigenous communities in Australia – which some people, as they do in Armstrong’s case, suggest covers over a multitude of sins. I don’t think charity work as PR penance works. Unless it’s built on an acknowledgment of wrongdoing after the fact. And even then. You can’t rely on the charitable stuff you were doing while you were cheating to excuse your cheating. That Armstrong could only have the profile he has, and the charitable impact he has, because of the drugs he took, doesn’t really justify the taking of drugs, or the empire of deception built up around it. Tyson “redeemed” his brand, in the eyes of many, through an apology.

Tiger Woods apologised, and now seems to be working pretty hard to win back public affections by doing what he does best, golf, it is hard to go past a compelling “redemption narrative.” Story after story about sports people who’ve behaved badly use this r-word. In many cases they focus on on-field performance, and express a desire for unparalleled talent to have the opportunity to shine once more – almost as if the tragedy is the furore, not the act. This isn’t really possible in Armstrong’s case – because his talent is forever tainted – which may even make his redemption impossible in some eyes.

But we want an apology.

Most of us are realistic about the human condition, and aware that celebrity doesn’t do away with humanity. So we’re prepared to cut people a fair bit of slack. If only they’d apologise. A bit of hard work atoning for your wrongdoing is nice, but apparently redemption requires contrition, not just sporting excellence.

And this idea is Biblical (from Psalm 51)… and one of those times where I think what works for one’s relationship with God, transfers to how one relates to the public (a reverse of plundering gold from the Egyptians if you will).

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”

This is part of one of the biggest redemption narratives of all time – David writes the Psalm after being confronted by the prophet Nathan about his adultery. Arguably only Paul undergoes a bigger character rebrand in the Bible. It might sound like a contrite heart is some sort of meritorious act that immediately produces a desired result – but there’s nothing worse, when salvaging a brand, than inauthentic contrition – like a non-apology apology.

Calvin’s commentary on Psalms gives a similar take on these verses… which I like.

“The man of broken spirit is one who has been emptied of all vain-glorious confidence, and brought to acknowledge that he is nothing. The contrite heart abjures the idea of merit, and has no dealings with God upon the principle of exchange.”

Genuine contrition isn’t produced to secure a result – because it can’t. It’s about admitting that you’re no longer in control of the result – it’s about asking for mercy. And this only really works if you genuinely realise you’ve done the wrong thing. It’s not a lever you pull to secure an outcome… as much as brand managers and spinners want to manipulate public goodwill with carefully architectured apologies.

The big debate surrounding Armstrong, at the moment, is not whether his good deeds off the track are enough to cover the sins on it, but whether he’ll man up and admit he did wrong, and make the apology people seem to feel entitled to. PR expert after PR expert is trotting out this same advice (this one includes “six apology basics”), though some people think the moment has passed. One cycling company is assuming the inevitability of Armstrong’s redemption, and has circumvented the process by offering him a job, which is, in itself, a PR exercise for that company. The media agrees.

“Only one way out of this mess, Lance Armstrong. America can love a fallen hero, but only if he admits the fall — and apologizes for lying about it. Do those two things, Lance Armstrong, and we’ll love you again.

At the moment? We’re disgusted.

It’s not the cheating, because lots of world-class athletes cheat. We’ve come to grips with that generality, and particularly with the notion that cycling is the dirtiest sport of them all. That’s what we think, and even if we’re wrong, it doesn’t matter. What matters is, people truly believe cycling is dirty — as in, everyone is dirty. You can’t get to the top of that sport without cheating. History has shown us that.”

If Armstrong wants to recover his brand, or salvage anything from this situation, rather than relying on his past good works, or even future good works, it seems, from the punditry, that he needs to be personally convicted that he’s done the wrong thing – he needs to admit it, and he needs to ask for mercy. The principle is the same whether your’re trying to salvage your multi-million dollar personal brand, or, more importantly, turning to God for true redemption. The best news for Christians is that the hard work atoning for our wrongdoings has been done for us, by Jesus.

With every drug saga in cycling come the enlightened souls who suggest drugs should just be legalised, and drug companies should become sponsors. Or people who write off the cheating as the cost of doing business. Or moral failings as a human touch that we’re not in a position to judge. And in a sense, both responses are legitimate intellectual responses to the human condition. There are plenty who want to insist that Armstrong’s charity work means he’s a good guy, no matter how deep down.

The complexity of this moral situation is heightened by his refusal to confess. It leaves the situation ambiguous. It’s interesting that contrition and repentance – not working hard to atone for what you did wrong (though that comes after) is so universally seen as the precondition for redemption – because in one sense, that’s the Christian gospel being mirrored in the world. Lance isn’t a role model. He isn’t the messiah (there’s even some question about the value his charity actually produces for fighting cancer – it seems more focused on style than substance (ie research into a cure)). He’s also a very naughty boy. But he’s human. Like us. He does wrong. Like me. He cheats like me – just on a bigger stage with a bigger scale. He lies, like me – it’s just that more people listen to him. He needs redemption like me – not just for his career, but for himself. But I’m thankful that someone paid for my wrongdoings – of which there are many, though they’re seen by a much smaller number of people. Lance and I are the same though – because everything we do is seen by God, and real redemption, for both of us, doesn’t come from apologising and being contrite – though that’s a start – real redemption comes from turning to the guy who didn’t stuff up, the real role model, the guy who did the atoning for what we did wrong.

Lance Armstrong doesn’t need a superficial PR rebrand driven by false contrition and a long road to redemption. He doesn’t need a long record of doing good stuff for other people. He needs Jesus. Like all of us.

A plea for the Australian Christian Lobby to get “on message”

In my time as a PR hack for a regional lobby group one of the golden rules I learned for lobbying via the media (or for trying to change opinion via the media) is to stay on message. Over and over again. Make sure you get your point across. Make sure the questions you get asked become opportunities to give the answers you want to give. Done well, this is brilliant. A good message (or platform) is important.

We all hate the way modern politicians seem to simply repackage the same sound bite over and over again in broadcast interviews. When they do it, and get caught out, they look dumb. But most of the time they don’t get caught out. Because journalists, in reality, are after an eight second sound bite. And you’re much better off making sure that eight seconds is going to cover the message you want them to cover, not the message they want to cover. Being mindlessly on message is better than talking about things without being on message.

The best way to be on message is to know how your message, or more correctly, your platform, relates to the issue at hand. For a politician that doesn’t mean banging on about “creating jobs” or “stopping boats” it means giving reasons that the policy decision has been reached in a way that is attractive to a voter. A good way to do this is to involve real people. People like stories about people. But integrating one’s party platform with one’s media statement in a way that is catchy and repeatable is one step towards using the media effectively.

It can be hard being on message in the middle of a broadcast interview, and especially hard if it’s in the form of a debate, which has been the case in many of Wendy Francis’ recent TV appearances. But it is incredibly easy to be on message in a media release, and if a media release isn’t on message it shouldn’t be released, because anything you say that is not on message is a distraction from your real message. Let me repeat that in bold.

If a media release isn’t on message it shouldn’t  be released, because anything you say that is not on message is a distraction from your real message.

Unless you have some sort of key performance indicator that involves distributing a certain number of releases per month, or some sort of contractual obligation,  you should only put out releases that have a point. If you do have such KPIs or obligations you should seriously consider changing them. Nothing is more damaging than a brand than irrelevant and confusing messaging. Because when you have something valuable to say you’re either less credible, or a story will make reference to your previous position on an unrelated issue, or people just won’t listen to you because you’ve become the proverbial boy crying wolf.

Which brings me to the Australian Christian Lobby. And my big problem with how they do PR and how they’re almost never “on message”. Well, they’re not on “gospel” message anyway. A simple yardstick for being on message for a Christian Lobby would be talking about Jesus, wouldn’t it? Given that Jesus puts the Christ in Christian and is the leader of our political party, and that all our interactions with culture should be framed by the relationship we have with him by grace, and his Lordship over the world… I’d say Jesus is pretty foundational to Christian belief, and thus, Christian lobbying.

But not according to the Australian Christian Lobby. Now. A lot of the releases they put out in the Month of May are about good stuff. Serious issues. Issues where a Christian voice is valuable and necessary. And they get copious media coverage. They are nominally the spokespeople for the Christian cause in Australia. They keep getting wheeled out in front of cameras and recorders and notepads. And they keep straying off message. It’s foundational stuff.

Here’s a wordle of their media releases from May. I’ve removed the names of spokespeople quoted because they were a dominant feature.*

Now. You may think it’s unfair to take a sample of media releases about issues where they are on message about a response to an issue which may over cloud mentions of Jesus, word cloud wise. Which would be fair enough. But none of these releases actually mentioned Jesus. There is no flavouring of the gospel involved. Defenders of the ACL in recent days have mentioned that we’re called to be salt and light. Fair enough. But this isn’t even salty stuff. And, lest you think that just picking the word “Jesus” isn’t fair, I conducted the same exercise with the words gospel, God, and Bible. And got no results. Search results on their website reveal that most mentions of Jesus come in mentions of the Jesus: All About Life campaign, which they support.

A media messaging strategy for a Christian organisation of any flavour, but particularly a public voice of Christianity claiming to speak for all of us (they’re not called the Politically conservative Christians from Australia Lobby are they…), should fundamentally involve the issue that Christians of all flavours agree on. The Lordship of Jesus. Further, they should be motivated to see other people acknowledge that Lordship. While addressing injustice is a fundamental Christian activity, doing it in a manner so removed from our motivation is an off message distraction. This is why I think Christians who are interested in moral issues should form some sort of family/morality lobby (maybe stop the charade that Family First is a political party and turn them into a lobby group) and the Christian Lobby should get on with being a Christian voice (a role they try to claim for themselves on their about us page without actually mentioning Jesus, or the gospel, again). They claim a Christian “worldview” and yet don’t articulate it. A Christian worldview must start at the foot of the cross and work outwards, not start with morality and work inwards. The cross makes morality make sense.

Here’s what I think a Christian media strategy should look like, from 1 Peter 3:

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

At the moment the ACL is failing on most counts, but still copping the slander. Why not do the first bit well, at least then you’re being slandered for a reason. And you’re not distracting people from the work of the gospel.

Interestingly, one of the few pages on the ACL site that mentions Jesus (that’s not a daily summary of news from around the traps) is an article they’ve posted from Sydney Anglicans where Michael Jensen talks about Jesus and the gospel alongside gay marriage. He integrates his key message with a response to an issue.

Deviations from the message of Jesus are a distraction from the gospel. But the message of Jesus has relevance to all areas and issues of society. The ACL, at this stage, aren’t doing a great job of integrating these two concepts.

*Data Source: Australian Christian Lobby National Media Releases from the Month of May:

 

BibleCloud

This is cool. While doing a little googling for that last post I came across this. It’s called 66 Clouds.

You can buy posters for each book of the Bible – or a coffee table book. It’s exactly what it looks/sounds like. Word clouds of each book of the Bible, get it on Amazon.

Obviously you can make your own with wordle.net. Where you can even tweak the colours. But ’tis nice.

A comparitive analysis of Kindle’s KJV and ESV users

I love our kindle. I’m playing with some of its features as I use it to study today. I’ve set up a new Twitter account for the passages I highlight in the books I’m reading. You can keep tabs on it in the sidebar (on my actual blog for you feed readers). One of Amazon’s nifty features (which I’ve mentioned before somewhere) is displaying paragraphs other people have highlighted on their devices. I thought it might be fun to look at the different interests of people who have self selected as ESV readers and KJV readers of the Bible. The ESV is the fifth most highlighted book on the Kindle, the most popular KJV version comes in at 109.

Here are the popular ESV passages.

“…and we [3] rejoice [4] in hope of the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly – Highlighted by 100 Kindle users

“…because [6] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, [7] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son… – Highlighted by 97 Kindle users

“37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. God’s Sovereign Choice ROMANS 9 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying… – Highlighted by 113 Kindle users

“12Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. – Highlighted by 73 Kindle users

“19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness [2] were through the law… – Highlighted by 92 Kindle users

“…as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. – Highlighted by 112 Kindle users

“in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. One in Christ 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh…” – Highlighted by 126 Kindle users

“…again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8†Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable… – Highlighted by 178 Kindle users

In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 14 Yet it was kind of you to share [3] my trouble. – Highlighted by 122 Kindle users

…which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God [2] may be competent, equipped for every good work. Preach the Word 2 TIMOTHY 4 ‡†I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus… – Highlighted by 69 Kindle users

Here are the KJV mob’s favourites:

“…and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this. 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 23:2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 23:3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 23:5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil…
Highlighted by 46 Kindle users

…3:4 So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 3:6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 3:7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. 3…
Highlighted by 37 Kindle users

…for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 6:10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread. 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 6… Highlighted by 37 Kindle users

…lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 7:8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 7:9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? – Highlighted by 29 Kindle users

…24:53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen… – Highlighted by 36 Kindle users

…3:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world… – Highlighted by 77 Kindle users

…because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son… – Highlighted by 33 Kindle users

…wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 4:12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 4:14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. 4:15 Now ye Philippians know also… – Highlighted by 11 Kindle users

And here they are as wordles.

The ESV one.

And the KJV one.

Farbeit from me to make judgments about people’s theology based on which translation they choose. There are a few similarities there, that cancel each other out for the purposes of comparison – what’s really interesting is the outliers. The KJV texts have a bias to quotes from Jesus, and seem to be predominantly about prayer. Intecessory prayer in fact. The ESV texts are predominantly Pauline, and if you had to pick a few themes they’d be the Spirit, suffering, and God’s grace.

Let the reader understand.

On the Lord’s Prayer

I preached on the Lord’s Prayer today.

Here’s my sermon as a word cloud thanks to wordle

Here are my points in list form (mostly from Matthew 6)…

  1. Jesus says “this then is how you should pray”… not “this then is what you should pray”… The Lord’s Prayer is not a script for a prayer.
  2. One of the great ironies in Christian culture is that we have taken the Lord’s prayer and done with it exactly what Jesus was telling people not to do. Before teaching people how to pray he teaches them how not to – he warns against babbling like the pagans. The Lord’s Prayer is not a mantra to pray over and over again, but a guideline…
  3. The Lord’s Prayer is short.
  4. Prayer is for Christians – we’re to pray for God as “our father”…
  5. “Hallowed be your name” is primarily a request, not a statement. I got this idea from John Piper. I’d always read that line as a statement about how great God’s name is. ..

    Sanctify can mean make holy or treat as holy. When God sanctifies us, it means that he makes us holy. But when we sanctify God, it means that we treat him as holy.

  6. Prayer shouldn’t be contrary to our actions. We shouldn’t pray for God’s will to be done and not be trying to do it, we shouldn’t pray for forgiveness without forgiving others…
  7. God, as our loving father, wants to provide for our material needs as well as our spiritual needs (which he provides through Jesus). We’re so scared of the prosperity doctrine that we kind of dismiss the idea that God has promised to look after our physical needs. I found Soph’s post on the fountainside pretty helpful on this point.
  8. The idea that our forgiveness depends on us first forgiving others is pretty confronting. It’s in the verses just after the Lord’s Prayer and comes up again in Matthew 18. This is probably a point that is underdone in our evangelical “faith alone” circles… here’s the bit at the end of the Lord’s Prayer.

    14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Preach, when necessary use wordle

I’ve been a little bit lax in my blogging this weekend. I spent yesteday being a husband, a spectator and a friend. I went shopping with my wife, went to the NQ Fury’s A-League debut, and then hung out with a friend as part of his bucks day.

I also did a bit of sermon tweaking. Here’s the resulting wordle from today’s sermon effort. I did use a few seconds of the binocular soccer video in my talk.

I think I was better this time than last time, though perhaps not as good as my best time. I was repetitive but with a little more creativity in my repetition…

Here’s how the video tied in (for the curious)…

The Pharisees are just like these Japanese soccer players – they’re running around trying to keep everything in equal focus. The big things and the small things. They’ve got no perspective. They’re swinging, and they’re missing. They’re keeping all the rules – but they can’t get the bigger part of the game right. They can’t hit the ball. They aren’t scoring any goals. They’re losing.

But they’re worse than the Japanese soccer players in that video. These guys are running the game. They’re the coaches and they’re strapping binoculars on everyone else. It ruins the game for everybody.

The heading, despite being an obvious reference to the graphical content of this post, refers to what I think is one of the great fallacies of modern evangelism. The idea of preaching solely by actions is nice, but fundamentally wrong.

Wordle 2.0

The previously mentioned Wordle has got some great new functionality. Like adding an RSS feed for immediate analysis. Saves copying and pasting every post of your blog like I did last time. Although my feed is limited to just the last ten posts or something.

Here it is:
Wordle: Nathan's Blog - February
This story here about speeches from Springboard and Blight are an interesting example of the tag cloud as an assessment of being “on message”.

Speaking of which – here’s a wordle of my sermon from Sunday. Which did, as Simone and dad both pointed out, go for a bit too long. 30 minutes. I cut a bit out though. That’s the longest I’ve ever preached and I’m sorry for boring people and going past the 22 minute attention span of the average television watcher.

sermon-wordle

And here’s the passage itself.
passage-wordle

On Message

I’m planning a more comprehensive resurrection of this blog in coming weeks. But for now – two pieces of multimedia of particular relevance to me today.

Firstly, the boys in blue pulled me over and fined me $225 for “pausing” at a stop sign rather than stopping. Since when is a pause not a stop? It reminded me of this TISM song. Which I have tried to embed – not sure if it will work.

Secondly, wordle.net is a cool web tool for creating funky tag cloud things – I used it to analyse how good I’ve been at staying on message in every media release I’ve sent out in my 2.5 years in my job.

Check it out.

Then, just for fun, I used it to analyse this blog…