God's Unchanging Word in an Ever Changing World

My how fast things change – changing times and an unchanging message!

My thumbs are clumsy at typing on my phone's tiny keyboard, and the phone
constantly substitutes the wrong word for what I mean. I quickly realized that if I
wanted to “stay in touch” with our daughters, I would have to adapt my primary form of
communication from face to face and in person conversations and even phone calls to
texts, tweets and Facebook posts. I am a reluctant “texter”. But, I'm clearly in the
minority: A recent survey indicates that eighty percent of Americans prefer texting to
voice calls.

In a study conducted by psychologists from Binghamton University, participants were
found to be significantly more likely to view period-punctuated texts less genuine than
unpunctuated texts. So apparently, when texting, the more you punctuate, the less
real you are?

In this study undergraduate students were shown a series of text messages and
handwritten notes. Afterwards, they judged that sincerity increased as grammatical
correctness decreased. Written communication fails to reflect body language, but these
students reported that the grammatical mess-ups revealed the person's genuineness
often found in physical proximity and revealed through body language.

Grammatical errors may be common, but the errors point to the strength in our desire
to connect and communicate. The biblical narrative is filled with examples of prophetic
communicators speaking to those who didn't have ears to hear (i.e. Jeremiah, Isaiah).
Imagine having a message that resonated like fire in your bones (Jeremiah 20:9).
Amos would describe hearing a message from the Lord was like hearing a lion roar—it
demanded attention and response (Amos 3:8).

The Binghamton study reveals the changing dynamics within communication in the
21st century. Coupled with the lack of punctuation is the usage of “emojis” [ ;) :-) ],
and the impact on personal face to face communication that has evolved as a direct
effect from “textspeak”.

“Emojis “ ;-)
Last year the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year was the emoji. Specifically, it was
the digital symbol that connotes joy and is technically called 'face with tears of joy.' It
won the title due to its prevalence and the fact that it "best reflected the ethos, mood,
and preoccupations of 2015." A digital shorthand way to communicate thoughts,
feelings, and opinions, emojis are replacing words in text conversations. Though
believed to communicate more than words, emojis have the propensity to bring about a
multitude of words in the form of questions—specifically, "What did they mean?"

With the usage of emojis increasing, the number of misspellings and grammatical
errors has increased as well. Often called "textspeak," this way of communicating
substitutes grammatical correctness for succinctness.

Psychologist Celia Klin said - "Given that people are so adept at communicating
complex and nuanced information in conversations, it's not surprising that as texting
evolves, people are finding ways to convey the same types of information in their
texts." This is sometimes referred to as discourse particles. These words or symbols
communicate feelings to the person on the receiving end of the message. Texting is
replete with examples of such particles. The asterisk (*) has become the signal to
repair an error from the previous message. Instead of looking over the text before
sending, the person simply sends another text that properly spells the word. Or, to
assert your syntactical dominance, another person does this for you before you can,
thus repairing the conversation and passively aggressively showing their superiority.
But it is possible that the beloved enemy known as autocorrect changed the word
completely, thus it was necessary to send the asterisk.

Another example is the carat (^), which indicates that you concur with the previous
message. Your strong agreement needs no words, rather the carat functions as an
affirmative echo.

It is interesting to read posts on blogs, see face book posts or tweets from folks on a
wide range of issues. Have you ever wondered, if folks would “say” the same kinds of
things if they were face to face with another person? That presents a moral
conundrum of sorts - When people whose relationships are based on texting begin to
interact face-to-face, what they typed is not often what they meant to communicate.
When our words and our actions disagree, actions win.

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis describes the "popular idea of Christianity": "That
Jesus Christ was a great moral teacher and that if we only took His advice we might be
able to establish a better social order and avoid another war." Lewis believes that this
sentiment is "quite true." However, it doesn't go far enough. He notes that "we have
never followed the advice of the great teachers. Why are we likely to begin now?" 

Lewis concludes: "If Christianity only means one more bit of good advice, then
Christianity is of no importance. There has been no lack of good advice for the last four
thousand years. A bit more makes no difference."

Christianity is not about advice, but transformation. Jesus was clear: "If anyone would
come after me, let them deny self and take up their cross daily and follow me" (Luke
9:23). Christianity is not about following teachers or teachings, religious leaders or
organizations or even about a prescribed set of right ideas or patterns of behavior.
Jesus wants us to follow Jesus.

The most powerful communication about God’s Love is the power of God’s love in your
life. When skeptics confronted the man born blind but healed by Jesus, he responded
simply: "One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see" (John 9:25). They
could dispute his theology, but not his transformation.

We cannot expect a skeptical world to follow Christ, if Christians don't follow Christ! If
Jesus is only a Sunday Savior or devotional topic, he is not the Christ of the New
Testament. But when we experience personally the God who walked on water and
calmed storms, cleansed lepers and exorcised demons, healed the sick and raised the
dead, others will see his transforming power in us because we have experienced the
radical Love of Jesus, and we are free to share that Love with everyone!

Though the prophets of old had a message, their listeners did not understand or could
not understand. Where the prophets were ineffective, Jesus was masterful. For those
who chose not to understand, Jesus would utilize imagery or illustrations in order to
convey his points. The message never changed, but the way in which it was
communicated did.

Think about the Christians who have influenced your life. Was it their beliefs or the way
they lived their lives sharing God’s Amazing Love in Visible, Intentional, Tangible,
Authentic and Life changing ways? Was it their theological sophistication or their
passion for Jesus and compassion for you?

We live and move in a world in which the language is changing and the methods of
communication are ever evolving, but our desire to connect is not. Though we have
heard from the lion (Amos 3:8, 2 Peter 1:19), we must listen to his sheep (James 1:19).
Only when we listen can we best understand how to communicate the message that
even the angels yearn to hear (1 Peter 1:12). 

That’s what Jesus did and invites us to do as well – Make the Love of God real in
Visible, Intentional, Tangible, Authentic and Life changing ways! What Jesus did in the
Bible, he invites us to do every day. Ask the Spirit to make Christ real in your words
and visible in your actions. I wonder if there is an “emoji” for that?

Oh, and know this- Changed people change the world. I invite you to be a part of a
community of faith that seeks to share God’s Amazing Love in Visible, Intentional,
Tangible, Authentic and Life changing ways! Rome First is that place! We care and it
shows! Tweet, text, post on your Facebook page or simply tell someone else about
the goodness of God’s Love that you have experienced. I will see you in Worship and
Connect groups as we seek to live “out” and “in to” the message of God’s Love made
real through Jesus!

Robert ><>