Ask anyone today, “What is truth?” and you’re sure to start an interesting conversation. Try it on a university campus and you’re likely to receive laughter, scorn, and derision. The concept of truth has clearly fallen on hard times, and the consequences of rejecting it are ravaging human society. So let’s go back to the starting point and answer the question: What is truth?
One of the most profound and eternally significant questions in the Bible was posed by an unbeliever. Pilate turned to Jesus in His final hour and asked, “What is truth?” It was a rhetorical question, a cynical response to what Jesus had just revealed: “I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.”
Two thousand years later, the whole world breathes Pilate’s cynicism. Some say truth is a power play, a metanarrative constructed by the elite for the purpose of controlling the ignorant masses. To some, truth is subjective, the individual world of preference and opinion. Others believe truth is a collective judgment, the product of cultural consensus, and still others flatly deny the concept of truth altogether.
So, what is truth?
Here’s a simple definition drawn from what the Bible teaches: Truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God. Even more to the point: Truth is the self-expression of God. That is the biblical meaning of truth. Because the definition of truth flows from God, truth is theological.
Pastors, shepherds and church leaders, The Master’s College is eager to help foster spiritual growth in your congregation through an education in biblical Truth. At TMC, Truth is never an object of scorn or derision; it is the foundation for everything we do. Our president, John MacArthur, and our biblical studies professors—some of the best in the world—love the Bible and are passionate about helping students understand it. In fact, this is true of every professor, from English to Biology to Business.
Now, the same trusted biblical education that defines The Master’s College is available to everyone online. Whether you are pursuing a full Bible degree or just taking a few classes for personal edification, sitting under the instruction of trusted TMC professors is the best way to pursue that education.
TMC Online has options to fit any church’s needs. Individuals can apply for our fully accredited B.A. in Biblical Studies, B.A. in Biblical Counseling*, M.A. in Biblical Studies* or other degree programs. Classes are offered in 8-week sessions, with the next session scheduled to begin on March 7. Also popular is our Biblical Equipping Collection, which includes nine complete college classes, prepackaged with DVD lectures and study materials that are perfect for a Bible study or Sunday school class.
And don’t forget to sign up for our Partner Church Program to get a 10% tuition discount for any active member of your congregation.
This sponsored post was prepared by Ryan Freeman on behalf of Strider.
It’s January 4th, which means that if you’re a reader of many blogs, or active on social media, you’ve already been inundated with a flood of new year lists, and last year recaps. Yes, this is one more post in the theme of new year-inspired posts, but I’m hopeful that you will find some value here. (And let’s be honest—these new year posts are going to keep coming for another three weeks anyway, right? Might as well settle in and enjoy.)
As you are making plans for improvements and growth in the new year, let me encourage you to consider a few ways that you could improve your website — whether you are the company owner, an employee, or someone operating a personal website. Based on my 22 years of work in online marketing, here are some items worthy of your new year’s review.
1) SEO Considerations
Search engine optimization began about 15 minutes after the first search engines launched in the mid-90s, and instead of just being a trend that phased out, it has grown and matured into an industry that is bigger and more prevalent than ever. Simply put, SEO is the practice of making sure that search engines like Google have the most accurate understanding possible of what your website contains, and what/who is it relevant to. (Of course, with the goal of a #1 ranking!) Or, as I like to say, it’s about: “giving Google what they need to know, the best format for them to understand it.”
SEO plays a major role in businesses both large and small, so it’s important that each web page is optimized for search. This includes landing pages, text, code, images, social media integration, and more. The design must be structured so that Google can easily “crawl” the pages and pick up on their relevance. It’s not enough to have “done SEO” once upon a time — search has changed dramatically, and it is important for websites to keep up with the latest guidelines.
2) Page Speed
The optimum time that it should take for a website to load is two seconds, and if a website takes any longer than three seconds, you run the risk of visitors abandoning the site. However, the average page loading time is more like five or six seconds (and don’t even get me started on the speed of ecommerce sites at Christmas time!). WordPress and other CMS platforms are generally extra slow because of all their plugins. The best way to increase speed here is to eliminate anything that might be unnecessary. Look for any unused plugins — even disabled ones — and remove them from the site to improve speed.
3) Security and Encryption
Security is already a hot topic for 2016, and for good reason. According to security statistics report from 2015, 86 percent of websites had at least one serious vulnerability, and some websites were considered to be 56 percent vulnerable to hacking attempts.
The best way to protect your website is to boost security measures. Include encryption on any page that sends sensitive data, download security release updates if you use a website hosting service, and perform vulnerability testing regularly to catch and repair glitches.
4) Relevant Content
How relevant is your blog content? Does it include current news-related stories, timeless information, useful how-to articles, interesting guides, fun videos, high quality images, and consistent posts? If you didn’t answer yes to at least some of these questions, it’s time to make some changes. After you’ve updated your content to make it more relevant, make sure you perform some simple tests to see if your target audience is responding.
5) Five-Second Test (aka The Grandma Test)
One way that you can make sure your website is relevant is by using the five-second test. Open your website on a laptop or mobile device and take it to a public place. Ask a few people to glance at it for just five seconds. Then, hide the screen and ask them to tell you what they saw. Their answers will let you know if your website design is putting attention on the right details. (Tip: This test also works well with your Grandma!)
6) Fresh Style
How does your design hold up when compared to current web trends and contemporary designs? Right now, simplicity is king, with modern designs and layouts ruling the web. The fewer distractions there are and the clearer the site’s purpose, the better. In addition, the site should employ Responsive Design, which is Google’s recommended method to meet mobile standards and avoid frustration on smaller screens.
7) User-Friendly Administration
The back end of your website consists of the server, application, and database of your website. It’s what makes the user side exist (and likely what makes most people’s eyes glaze over). For that reason, the interface should be easy to access and manipulate. This interface makes it possible to make changes to your site, and if it’s well designed, it won’t be a hassle to continue making changes throughout the year. If you would rather slog through the latest Joel Osteen book than add content to your website, it’s probably time to update your Content Management System (CMS).
8) User Experience
Where most sites — even the pretty ones — fail is by not focusing on the end user. How’s your navigation? Does the design appeal to your target audience? Are there definitive calls to action? Do your images inspire action? If applicable, do you have product reviews that encourage visitors to buy? Is there security assurance on your site? These are just a few of the many questions you should be asking yourself in order to improve the overall user experience. Tip: Most companies fail by writing as if they were their own audience. Avoid technical industry jargon and self-praise; instead, focus on how you solve the customer’s problems.
9) Lead Generation Plugins
Too many websites are taking on the role of online brochure and leaving out the ability to generate leads. Plugins that ask for email addresses without being too pushy or intrusive can be a great way to give users relevant information while enticing them to take action on your site.
Do you have a way to gather data and harness it for website improvement? Analytics plugins can seamlessly connect your website with Google Analytics, making it possible to gather data in real time. The new year is also a good time to review not just the data from the past year, but also the metrics that are most important to you. How do you know if your website is successful? How are you trying to identify roadblocks?
11) Mobile Friendly
According to reports from Smart Insights, the time spent on mobile devices is greater than the time spent on desktops and other devices. Google has reported that they receive more searches from mobile devices than from desktop computers! Last year Google began to boost the ranking of websites it deemed to be mobile friendly. There’s no getting around it any longer. If your website isn’t designed for mobile, make a Responsive Design overhaul the most important New Year’s resolution for your website.
12) Interesting Content
Your content may be relevant and consistent, but is it interesting? Do your consumers have a desire to read it multiple times and share it across the web? If not, brainstorm with your content creation team to find the problem. It’s important for users to read your content if you want to increase website views.
13) Miscellaneous Crud
That’s the highly technical term for “small problems that build up on older websites over the years”. If you have broken links, navigation that’s difficult to operate, a website hosting account with glitches, poor security, or a number of other problems, your website needs some work. Perform User Experience (UX) testing to find the biggest glitches, and make some changes. If this means you need to start paying for website hosting instead of using the free service, so be it.
Website hosting systems (see: Blogger, WordPress.com) are great for building a website when you have very little knowledge about design, but this comes with a major drawback: Many of the themes look very similar. It’s challenging for your website to stand if you’re using the same theme as everyone else. If you’re in a financial position to do so, you could look into a customized web design. Further, it’s critical to build your most valuable content on space you own — not space you rent. The danger of free platforms is that you have no control over what happens to your site down the road if the company folds, is acquired, or does the dreaded “pivot” when business plan #1 #2 #3 doesn’t work out.
If custom design is not an option, look into extra plugins, themes, and designs that can be integrated into your hosted website in order to make it look more like your brand. Designing and displaying a unique logo is also an important aspect of setting your website apart from others.
Give us a Call
Ryan Freeman is a husband, father, Deacon at Grace Fellowship Church, unrepentant marketing geek, and President of Strider Online Marketing. Ryan has been building and promoting websites since 1994.
“Clarifying The Bible goes to war with that intimidation [a big Bible!] and equips and frees men and women to engage the Scriptures with a passion and freedom. I’ve personally seen people move from Biblical apathy to passionate students of God’s Word after engaging Mitch and Clarifying The Bible. Exciting stuff!” John Bryson
Lead Pastor, Fellowship Memphis
Executive Board Member, Acts 29
Church Consultant, Fellowship Associates, Little Rock, AR
Just last month John Piper tweeted, “Begin now praying about how God wants you to read your Bible next year. Being ready to launch January 1 is a thrilling thing.” To help you get ready to launch purchase a copy of Mitch Maher’s Clarifying The Bible. Clarifying The Bible is a two-hour video presentation and workbook that gives viewers the basic framework and storyline of the Bible. The material is presented in a passionate, compelling fashion, and in the end delivers on its promise to help people see the Bible with more clarity than ever before.
Get a feel for this resource by watching some or all of this 29-minute clip of Mitch teaching on Paul’s letters—it’s generally everybody’s favorite section.
Here’s what others are saying:
“You don’t need a seminary education to have strong biblical muscles. One of the best places to start is with a good over-view that familiarizes you with the Scriptures as a whole. Mitch Maher can get you there quickly and effectively. His media experience Clarifying the Bible will turn God’s Word into a good friend that you’ll look forward to spending time with every day… for the rest of your life.” Dr. Tim Kimmel
Author of Grace Based Parenting and Grace Filled Marriage
“We are all aware of the growing phenomenon of biblical illiteracy, and I sometimes hear pastors complain that the mammoth proportions of the problem make it difficult to teach and preach because it is necessary to keep things at such a basic level. Mitch Maher has set out to address this problem. His overview, Clarifying The Bible, indeed clarifies the whole Bible. He is a clear and likable communicator, and he knows his stuff. May the Lord use Mitch and this project to turn the tide of biblical illiteracy!” Dr. James “Jim” Hamilton
Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Clarifying The Bible is an AMAZING resource! I’ve seen personally, from a small group setting to one-on-one, how this resource can open up your understanding of God’s Word in a way that drives you to want more of Jesus. My wife and I love it!” TEDASHII
Hip Hop Artist, Reach Records; Radio Host, #SERIUM
“… no resource has so concisely framed the narrative of Scripture as Mitch’s work in Clarifying The Bible. I watch it regularly. I teach it often. I have given this to many leaders and friends. It should be in the hands of every follower of Jesus that they might know, teach, and embody the Gospel more and more.” Will Rambo
Teaching Pastor, The Orchard, Tupelo, MS
“Clarifying The Bible… is simple yet robust, theologically deep yet re-teachable, and its progression and flow build the confidence of the learner. It is no wonder this tool is being taught by pastoral and lay leaders all over the world. I’ve rarely made it six months with a young protégé without equipping them with Clarifying The Bible.” Danny Hinton Executive Director of Downline Ministries, Little Rock, AR
Mitch Maher is the Lead Pastor at Redeemer Community Church in Katy, TX. In addition to his Clarifying The Bible presentations around the country, Mitch is a regular teacher for the Kanakuk Institute and Downline Ministries. He’s been married to his wife Tara for 15 years, and they have three daughters.
I came to Christ with more bad habits than good, and the Lord’s sanctifying touch at first left me lonely and out of sorts. Frankensteinian. An amputee.
Despised by my girlfriend but beloved by my God.
As a postmodern professor, I had warred against the binary oppositions and metanarratives of a biblical worldview, but after reading the Bible in completion many times for myself, and discussing it in honesty with Christian neighbors and colleagues, something happened. The Bible got to be bigger inside me than I; it ignited the “expulsive power of a new affection” (to quote Thomas Chalmers). Here I was, a living epistle whose new life now teetered on the brink of those ideas that I had railed against for years. I had taught thousands of college students that sexuality and gender were social constructs, but the God I now met and loved made it clear in His word: Being born male or female comes with moral responsibilities and constraints.
The gospel remade me. It came in exchange for the life I had once loved, not in addition to it. Through it, I met the triune God who intervenes in history and supernaturally controls all things. But when I stumbled around trying to find Him in the rubble of my ruined career and my bankrupt body of friends, all I grasped was darkness and the wind.
God gave me a Bible-believing, Psalm-singing church to become the family that I lost in this gospel exchange. My new brothers and sisters in this church modeled for me two life practices that have been my daily companions since the early hours of my Christian rebirth: reading the Bible in big chunks and singing the Psalms. God daily uses these simple practices to restore and remake me through His grace.
As I stumbled around, awkward and uncomfortable in the new creation that I had become, longing for the old days, the old me, the old habits, the old friends, I at least could stumble forward with eyes of faith when I sang the Psalms. The Psalms are prayers, but often unlike my own, each psalm is a prayer to God through eyes and words of faith. Each psalm uses eyes of faith to see the agony, and not eyes of doubt. Singing through the affliction and danger with eyes of faith became one way that God tutored, taught, and modeled for me how to face my fear with God at my side.
God’s word is powerful—a double-edged sword—and singing the Psalms roots God’s word deep inside your memory. The Psalms have been God’s most severe and merciful crucible in my life, stirring the pot of what the Puritans called experiential godliness—a sanctifying path by which you daily enter to those mysteries of Christ’s kingdom. Singing the Psalms makes you lean hard into its biblical wisdom, experiential profit, and transforming beauty. It just might make you wonder if Colossians 3:16 actually means what it says: Sing Psalms and let the Word of Christ dwell in you.
Singing intertwines text with tune: It makes you dwell a little longer in the hard and vulnerable places as you hear your very own voice settle your wandering heart as you sing sentiments like this to God: “The Lord’s the portion of my cup, and my inheritance; You’ve given me the lot I have, kept in Your providence” (Psalm 16:5). Singing makes you imbibe, inherit, and own. The Psalms inhere in you. They express things you feel but were afraid to say: “My God, my God to You I cry, O why have You forsaken me? Why are you far from giving help and from my agonizing plea?” (Psalm 22:1). When you sing this to God, you know that while it is sinful to complain about God, it is sanctifying to complain to Him when in faith we model Jesus, singing what He did.
Singing the Psalms grants you the intimacy of a suffering daughter with the Father who has loved you from before the world’s foundations. This relationship comes through the Savior brother who is praying and singing as He intercedes for you right this very moment.
Singing psalms is real-time intimacy and give us the gospel grace that we daily need, because singing psalms uses your own body, your voice, the rising and falling of your own breath, to project forward all struggle and pain and loss and gain and profit and joy onto Christ. When you sing together as a family during family devotions after the evening meal, you watch your very small children and your special needs children singing from memory the Psalms before they are able to read them. You flash forward to what it would mean to someday have dementia but still, even in that compromised state, have the Psalms as your daily companions. And when you sing together in worship with your brothers and sisters in Christ, many voices lifting up many words of Christ, you experience a taste of the victory to come, even as you know the intense suffering of today. Psalms are—and have always been—the hymnbook of the church under persecution.
To learn more about Rosaria Butterfield, Crown and Covenant, and the Psalms visit crownandcovenant.com.
Being a pastor is not easy. It often doesn’t pay all that well, it’s emotionally taxing, and many times we fail to appreciate or even thank our pastors for their tireless work on our behalf.
So, What SHOULD You Give Your Pastor?
Obviously the best and most helpful thing that you can do for your pastor is to pray for him, but in a more “earthly” sense, what should you give him, especially with Christmas being right around the corner? Know it or not, your pastor is constantly learning, and when you help him learn MORE in LESS time with this resource, you will be giving the gift of knowledge…which will in-turn help him in his ministry!
Here’s How this Gift of Knowledge Works
Books At a Glance is a Christian book summary service. They take the newest and most significant books that Christian publishers, such as Crossway, Zondervan, IVP, B&H, Baker, etc. publish, and then every week take one or two of those books and condense them into a 7-10-page, chapter-by-chapter summary, so that you can learn the entire essence of the book in just the time it either takes you (or your pastor!) to read 7 – 10 pages…OR…read the AUDIO version of the summary. It’s really a HUGE time-saver!
Imagine How Your Pastor’s Knowledge Will Increase Exponentially! Fill out this form with your pastor’s name & email address (or just use your info and change it to his on Christmas!) to start getting the weekly book summaries!
Most Books At a Glance users are pastors, teachers, students, or missionaries, and the consistent feedback we get from them is that this service does two things for you: 1) it helps you learnMORE in LESS time, and secondly, it really keeps you up to date with all the new books that keep coming out. As you know, it’s quite the undertaking to keep with all the new books that keep coming out! (Fill out this form to join, save time, and keep current with the newest in Christian publications!)
(This Article Explains the Difference Between a Book Summary and a Book Review)
Here’s What Your Pastor Will Experience:
As you’ll see, there are over a hundredbook summaries in the archive, and what we’ll do is send your pastor a new summary or two every week, so that he can continue learning and continue to keep current with all the newest and best books coming out…in just a handful of minutes per week!
In addition to writtenbook summaries, you’ll also get full access to the professionally recorded audio book summaries as well! These are a word-for-word reading of exactly what you’d read on the website. Most people love this, because you’ll be able to listen to the book summaries while you’re working out, jogging, commuting, or otherwise just on-the-go. What a great time-saver!
The Big Time-Saver
Go to http://booksataglance.com/register and register. If you think your pastor is frustrated that he can’t spend enough time reading and learning, then Books At a Glance will help him create the time he’s been missing. Keeping up with all the great new books being published is overwhelming, and Books At a Glance will help your pastor stay on top of things much better.
Reformed Baptist Seminary is a church-based ministerial academy that provides a full theological curriculum as either a Master or Bachelor of Divinity degree. It also offers a streamlined 34-credit program. Both programs can be completed via online learning as well as through our modular format live classes.
We’d like to invite you to join us for one of our upcoming theological seminars below. This is a great way to meet some of the men involved in this ministry and explore RBS as a potential way to do your seminary training. Click on each of the respective banners below for more information:
You can also contact us (email@example.com) or use the links to find out more about enrolling in one of our degree programs and to receive updates about module class offerings, seminary news, and free resources:
To mildly mangle Charles Dickens, December is the best of times, and the worst of times.
The best, because in the depths of winter we remember the heights from which the Word came. We marvel at his journey from the heavenly throne room to the Bethlehem manger. We wonder at the truth that the fingers that molded the planets curled round a mother’s finger.
And as we share time, food, and gifts with loved ones, we appreciate all that we have been given in this life by the One who pitched his tent among us all those centuries ago.
It is, truly, the best of times.
Yet Christmas is also the worst of times.
For every delight that Christmas brings, there is also disappointment. Too many families will have an empty chair at the table this Christmas. Too many people will be alone at their table this Christmas. While most cannot wait to get to Christmas, many simply cannot wait to get through Christmas.
But the worst thing about Christmas is how the One at the center of the first Christmas gets pushed to the sidelines. The worst thing about the season is that, so often and so easily, Christ gets missed at Christmas.
The world misses him out, of course—the miracle of the incarnation dismissed as a myth from an age long past. With typical prescience, C.S. Lewis foretold the transformation of the Christian festival of Christmas to the secular one of ‘Xmas’.
But it’s not just those ‘out there’ who leave Christ out. For one, how easy it is for children in Christian homes to leave him out, too. You don’t need to teach kids to focus on what they’ll get this year, rather than on what they have already been given, 2,000 years ago. They focus on themselves by their nature, and they are reinforced in that by our culture.
And then there’s each of us, too. I know I tend to reach January and think: But I never really focused on Christ this Christmas. December is just so busy, and before we know it Christmas is over and once more the message of the angels has been drowned out by the noise of Xmas.
Christmas can be the best of times, and it should be the best of times, but we need intentionality if we’re to make sure it is the best of times.
How to do that? It sounds so simple, but it is by proclaiming Christ: to ourselves, to our children, to our community.
The right question to ask in November, in order to make December the best it can be, is:
How will I intentionally proclaim Christ this Christmas?
If you have young children, one answer to that question is The Christmas Promise, which fuses biblical faithfulness with fantastic illustrations. I read it to my two-year-old son last year—and he still remembers that Jesus is ‘the new king, the forever king, the rescuing king’.
And if you have friends and family and colleagues and neighbors who don’t know Jesus—which is all of us—here’s another answer to that question: a short, warm, humorous, and gospel-centered book that presents the gospel in a way that’s perfect for those who think they’ve heard it all before, as well as with those who know they haven’t. That’s A Very Different Christmas, written by internationally renowned evangelist Rico Tice along with Nate Morgan Locke. It proclaims Christ by inviting readers into the Trinity’s heavenly ‘living room’ to exchange presents with him.
The best way to appreciate the Christmas gospel this year is to share it—to give it to others as well as to receive it yourself. Whatever else you do this December, don’t let Christmas pass without intentionally proclaiming Christ—to yourself, to your children, to your community.
Carl Laferton is Senior Editor at The Good Book Company. He is co-author, with Rico Tice, of Honest Evangelism, and is married to Lizzie with two children, Benjamin and Abigail. He loves pretty much everything about Christmas apart from the pressure of finding a good present for his wife.
This sponsored post was prepared by Books at a Glance.
Books At a Glance is a Christian book summary service. We take the newest and most significant books that Christian publishers, such as Crossway, Zondervan, IVP, B&H, Baker, etc. publish, and then every week we take one or two of those books and condense them into a 7-10-page, chapter-by-chapter summary, so that you can learn the entire essence of the book in just the time it either takes you to read 7-10 pages…OR…listen to the AUDIO version of the summary. It’s really a HUGE time-saver!
The consistent feedback that we get from our hundreds of members is that this service does two things for you: 1) it helps you learnMORE in LESS time, and 2) it really keeps you up-to-date with all the new books that keep coming out. As you know, it’s quite the undertaking to keep up with all the new books that keep coming out! (Fill out this form to join, save time, and keep current with the newest in Christian publications!)
Here’s What You’ll Experience:
As you’ll see, there are over a hundredbook summaries in the archive, and what we’ll do is send you a new summary or two every week, so that you can continue your learning and continue to keep current with all the newest and best books coming out…in just a handful of minutes per week!
Do You Like Audio Books?
In addition to writtenbook summaries, you’ll also get full access to the professionally-recorded audio book summaries as well! These are a word-for-word reading of exactly what you’d read on the website. Most people love this, because you’ll be able to listen to the book summaries while you’re working out, jogging, commuting, or otherwise just on-the-go. What a great time-saver!
Get Started Learning and Growing TODAY!
Go to http://booksataglance.com/register and register to receive your FREE book summary! If you’re frustrated that you can’t spend enough time reading and learning, then Books At a Glance will help you create the time you’ve been missing. If you’re struggling to keep up with all great new books being published, then Books At a Glance will help you stay on top of things much better. Lastly, if you’re serious about your spiritual growth through reading quality Christian books, then Books At a Glance just might be the tool or resource that you’ve been looking for!
I am a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to Aileen and a father to three young children. I worship and serve as a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, and am a co-founder of Cruciform Press.