Another 5 Tips for Christian WordPress Bloggers

I decided to write another one of these. You can find the first here, though that was shorter than this one.

 

6. Use a great title

Believe it or not, a good title is probably 51% of your blogging work.

As I mentioned before, you’re not just writing – you’re competing. With hundreds of posts in everyone’s WordPress Reader. For those users, your title is their only introduction to your work. You have to ensure that it’ll actually tempt people to click.

Let’s sample some titles currently showing in my Reader:

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The “Foolish” Cross

I used to scratch my head wondering why the world would call the gospel of Christ “foolish”.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18)

I could see the world hating God for requiring something of them morally (even though his yoke is easy and his burden is light).

I could see the world hating God for people undergoing eternal punishmentcross (even though he offers a way out, paid with his Son’s blood).

I could see the world hating God for allowing or seemingly ignoring, in the Bible, things that don’t match up with my 21st century Western worldview (like war or slavery).

I could see all that. I wouldn’t agree with it – he is beyond our accounting – but then again, I hardly expect the world to understand (yet) things that are only revealed by the Spirit they reject. From their limited standpoint, their hatred of God makes sense. I pray for their eyes to be opened.

But why would they think of God, or anything from God, as foolish, as 1 Corinthians 1:18 says? Judgmental, callous, unfair in their eyes, maybe, but foolish?

Then I started thinking, “Well, what does the world want from God?”

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This Could Really Be the Last Day You Fail

Stop struggling with your sin and kill it!We all have something dogging us.

And we’ve had so many go-arounds with this particular enemy – some weakness, some vice, some habit seemingly iron-wrought or seemingly genetically hard-coded – that it’s turned the idea of victory into distant foolishness…even though you know that victory is God’s will, and that with his commands comes the power to obey.

Perhaps victory seems attainable during moments when we’re in the clear, when temptation is at bay. Or at church, or after the prayer of repentance, when you’re bowled over by God’s grace and power.

But once the bell rings again, and you’re standing in front of the refrigerator or the computer or that person at work who needs your patience rather than your anger, the optimism fades fast. A deeper layer of doubt is revealed in your heart. I can’t do it. If we succeed for a little while, it switches to, I can’t possibly keep this up forever. Or the urgency fades after a week and our treacherous minds convince us that one surrender won’t hurt and…it ends up being more than one surrender.

Don’t you sometimes just wake up and want to be free of all that? For good?

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“God’s Only Excuse is Easter!”

flowersIn Disappointment with God, author Philip Yancey describes a series of conversations with a young friend named Richard, who has turned away from the faith.

One of Richard’s big beefs with the idea of God is the conundrum of suffering. This one gets us all. Why does a loving and powerful God allow suffering, and all that.

Over the last few years, I’ve felt a part of me becoming impatient with that question, as I’ve found too many skeptics to be merely hiding behind it rather than honestly seeking an answer. And there are answers. But I’ve tried to hold off my cynicism and remain understanding, for I know suffering weakens and disheartens. It’s especially true for the skeptic, as they have no hope of an “inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8) to sustain them.

After lambasting God for his treatment of Job, his apparent detachment from mankind, and every other angle he can, Richard eventually rounds it out with an interesting phrase:

“God’s only excuse is Easter!”

It was one of those phrases that sums up everything you’ve ever suspected but never quite has the eloquence or brevity to say.

I wouldn’t say Richard is theologically correct in saying that. God has, off the top of my head, at least one other great excuse for allowing suffering: the chance to demonstrate his ability to sustain and empower us in the middle of it. It’s quite Scriptural to say that this is sometimes the sole reason for our suffering: creating an opportunity for him to make our hearts ironclad, untouchable by despair and brimming with joy even in jail or on the sickbed.

But you have to admit: even if Easter were God’s only excuse, it’s a whopper of an excuse.

If the claims of Christianity are true, an afterlife is available whose gladness far outweighs any pain we experience on this earth (Romans 8:18) – and for those who reject it, a penalty whose horror far outweighs any peace, prosperity, or good we achieve on this earth.

Which means that judging God by what happens on this earth is…well, you can hardly call it a worthy verdict.

The ideas of heaven and hell may feel like cheap cop-out and motivation, respectively, for a church trying to boost its numbers. It may feel ridiculously out of touch with our modern era’s respect for what can be seen, felt, and proven. It may feel like the last thing you want to hear in the midst of today’s suffering.

But how it feels has no bearing on whether its claims are true.

That is why the claims of Christianity are too great to ignore, or dismiss as good-for-you experiential truth. They demand examination.

And if the story of the resurrection of Christ truly happened, if it bears examination then it’s all true – making the Gospel a message of enormous generosity, and enormous warning.

Though God is bringing all things together for his own glory first and foremost, he is hardly callous enough to leave our groaning hearts out of the equation. He has promised us rewards. He has prepared a great many things for those who will believe; he asks only that we receive him.

I pray fervently that the unbeliever might examine these claims.

I’m Going Back to the Czech Republic!

church2An update and a humble request.

It was Saturday afternoon, so there was nobody else around the small, square, gray Baptist church – so incongruous from the soaring double-spired cathedral down the street – in Vysoke Myto, Czech Republic. Its pastor, my friend Zdenek, and I had just finished loading our team’s luggage into the church (a relief after three days of travel). It was 2013; we were preparing for an English camp the upcoming week.

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Easter 365 Days a Year

Holidays are weird.

We say to ourselves, “Here’s a wondrous, momentous person or fact that has improved the lives of everyone around us, but…let’s only celebrate it once a year.”

Easter is a little different. We actually kinda celebrate it weekly, when we go to church. At least, that’s the hope. We hope our hearts are filled with reverence and joy as we sing all those songs acknowledging what God accomplished through the cross and the empty tomb.

But we all know once a week isn’t enough.

Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. His grace does.

And when we obey him, we don’t do it to earn his grace, anymore than our setting off fireworks is what turns the Fourth of July into a holiday. It’s a holiday because of what already happened; we’re simply commemorating.

Instead, we obey in order to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1).

Every time we obey, we celebrate the cross and the empty tomb. Easter is the one holiday we can and are commanded to celebrate 365 days a year, by surrendering our lives in obedience to God.

I pray Psalm 51:12 for us this week – “Restore unto me the joy of my salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

I’ve had to pray that for a long time just to get my apathetic heart to care. But the prayer worked. More each year, I find that much more joy in knowing that I have an entry in the Book of Life, that the gates are opened to me, far down the road it might be. Don’t just let life sap that joy.  Fight for it in prayer. Ask God to restore it.

Have a great Easter.

Love the Inconveniencers

lineI’m notorious at my church for car troubles.

In two separate cases over the years, I’ve experienced car troubles that forced me to drive markedly slower than the speed limit. One time, I had a engine trouble to where it would stay reasonably cool as long as I stayed under about 55 MPH. The other instance was a weird transmission problem – if I slowed down from fourth gear, there would be a noticeable bump, and then my car would refuse to get back up into fourth gear. Meaning I could not travel over about 55 MPH for fear of over-rpm’ing the engine. (I’m not a car person.)

No doubt this caused consternation for drivers behind me, especially on Montana’s many one-lane highways. Keep in mind that this is the state of “Reasonable and Prudent” fame. I can guess what was going through their minds as they stared endlessly at my tailpipe.

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