Six Ways to Get Unfollowed on Twitter


    People follow one another on Twitter (and unfollow) for a lot of reasons, but in my book, these six things will get you unfollowed pretty quickly.

1)      Post too many times a day –  My general rule of thumb is that most people can post five times a day.  Even ten is acceptable if you have something really good to say, or if there is some special event that you are live tweeting.  But once you start crowding my feed, you are a target.
2)      Post too many times in a row – Some people post five or ten tweets in a row.  Sometimes it is a bunch of separate things all sent at once, and other times someone strings a long post into five or ten tweets.  If you want to blog, write a blog.  Either way, if you do it very often, I’m probably not going to follow you.
3)      Post too many pictures – I know everyone says that pictures attract attention, but if all you do is post a bunch of pictures, posters or memes on my feed, I’m probably not going to follow you.
4)      Post Off topic – I generally follow people because I am interested in what they post.  I completely understand that we are all human and a little “human interest” is fine.  The occasional post about your kids, or your nice dinner is okay, but if you say that your posts are about science, religion, business or whatever, and spend most of your time posting about something else, your days on my list might be numbered.
5)      Post ads – I understand that many of us are on social media to promote our place of business, books, or even ourselves.  But if all I ever see are ads instead of useful content, I’m probably not going to follow you.
6)      Post “click-bait” – We all have a variety of interests and occasionally we find interesting things that we want to share, but if the majority of your posts are links to “click-bait” advertising that looks like “Wow! Look at this Crazy Stuff!”  I’m probably not going to follow you.

    
I’m sure that  missed a few.

What have people done that made you unfollow them?



I tweet primarily about church, faith and religion, but also science, technology, the space program and the human condition.  And of course, a few about my kids.  Follow me @PastorPartridge

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Trust is a Big Deal


    Have you ever had one of those “Duh!” moments when things start to make sense for the first time? But there are also moments when we read scripture and we completely miss important things because we assume that the people in the Bible were just like us.  In our scripture lesson this week, we read the story of Moses leading the people of Israel through the dry path God had created in the depths of the Red Sea.  But after the chariots, horsemen and soldiers of Egypt’s army are drowned, we read these verses in Exodus 14:30-31:
That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore.  And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
    Most of us read this and think, “So what? They trusted God. God is trustworthy. Duh.”  And, because we assume that the people of Israel were just like us, we completely miss what a big deal this really was.
    We have lived our lives in possession of the entire Old Testament as well as the New Testament.  For many of us, there has never really been much doubt that God was trustworthy, even when we weren’t sure that God was real.  But the people of the Exodus did not know what we know.  The world that they lived in, and the gods that they knew, were very different.
    In the story of the Exodus, despite coming from the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Israelites had lived in the land of Egypt for 400 years.  At that time, they did not have a formal system of worship, or priesthood, they had stories.  The stories of their forefathers had been passed down to them from generation to generation, and even though the stories were magnificent, they lived in a world with very different stories.
    The Egyptians, like the Romans and the Greeks of the New Testament, were polytheists.  They believed, not in the one God of Israel, but in a collection of gods that were far from trustworthy.  The gods warred with one another through human agents and tens of thousands died for their amusement.  The gods of the Egyptians were capricious; they did what they wanted, when they wanted, often without any guiding morality.  To the gods, humans were little more than playthings and to humans, the gods were to be feared and not trusted.
    And so when the people of Israel saw that the God of Abraham had used his great power, not only to provide a means for them to escape their slavery, but to destroy those who sought to kill them, they saw, many for the first time, that their God was different.  Finally, the stories began to make sense.  They realized that the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph was different than the gods of the Egyptians. 
They realized that the God of Israel could be trusted.
And trust really is a big deal.

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Who Watches the Supplies? – A Football Meditation


    In the books of first and second Samuel we read the story of King David.  Many of us have heard stories about David, but there is at least one that we don’t often remember.  In 1 Samuel 30, we find David and 600 men who had just returned from fighting alongside Achish the king of the Philistines.  As they return home they discover that the Amalekites had raided their town, captured their wives (including two of David’s wives), their children, their livestock, as well as anything of value.  After consulting with their priest to find the will of God, David pursues the Amalekite raiding party.
    As they hurry to catch up to the raiders however, David finds that two hundred of his men are too exhausted to continue and so he leaves them behind with all their gear, supplies and what is left of their town.  David and the four hundred remaining men pursue the Amalekite raiding party and find them celebrating over all the loot that they had plundered.  David and his men attack and fight with the Amalekites from dusk that day, until the end of the following day, defeat them, and recapture every single animal, personal belonging, wife and family member.
    But when they return to their camp, the troublemakers began to stir things up.  They argued with David that the two hundred men who were left behind should not receive any of the plunder because they didn’t fight to get it.  They argued that these men should get their families back, but receive no share of the loot and plunder that they had taken from the Amalekites.
    David fights back.  David makes an argument that is important to every single one of us and one that is important to each of you on the football field.  David said:
“No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us. 24 Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” 25 David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this.
    It is important to remember that when you win, it isn’t just the superstars and the heroes that win the game.  Every member of your team had a part, Every coach, every water boy, every trainer, every teacher you ever had who helped you to earn the grades you needed to play ball, it took the guy on the sidelines who sprained his ankle before the season started, every football booster, every friend who gave you a ride home from practice, every relative, every parent, and every brother or sister that comes to watch you play.  As David said, these are the people who “watch the supplies” for you. 
    When you win, it isn’t just because of the guy who threw the touchdown pass, or who caught the interception, or who made the big tackle.  Your victory didn’t come because of the superstars; it took every single one of you. 
And that includes the people who just watch the supplies.

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What is Faith?


I have a faith problem.
    Don’t worry, I haven’t lost my faith.  Sure, I have occasional doubts, but wrestling with doubt is normal and even healthy.  No, the problem that I have with faith is with how believers and unbelievers misuse, misunderstand, misappropriate, and even abuse the word (and the definition of) faith.
    More than once, I have listened as atheists or others have mocked the followers of God claiming that having faith is belief in the absence of evidence.  Defined this way, faith becomes the opposite of rational thinking.  Believing with the utter absence of evidence is nothing more than wishful thinking.  If this were the definition of faith, then Christians (and other people of faith) would be held up as fools. 
Thankfully, it isn’t.
    Likewise, I have heard well-intentioned believers misuse, and even abuse, the word “faith.”  Far too often, when spiritual conversations get sticky and honest questions get difficult, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, and even pastors have been heard to say, “Well, you just have to have faith.”  In some cases, this might be reassuring, but if a student or seeker has asked a thoughtful, although difficult, question this sort of answer is nothing short of spiritual malpractice. 
    Faith does not believe, “because I said so” or because God doesn’t allow difficult questions.  Our beliefs are both rational and explainable.  For a teacher to dismiss difficult questions by telling a student that “you just have to have faith” instead of finding a real answer is just lazy. 
    I admit that there are difficult questions that connect us to the great mysteries of Scripture.  But even in the mystery it is a disservice to put off those with honest questions by saying “you just have to have faith.”  An honest answer in these cases often means admitting that we just don’t know. 
So what isfaith?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it this way-
: strong belief or trust in someone or something
: belief in the existence of God: strong religious feelings or beliefs
: a system of religious beliefs
    While two of these are specific to the followers of God, I think that the first definition is entirely sufficient.  We shouldn’t think that faith is belief without evidence, but know that faith is the trust that one has in the unknown because of the knowledge and experience that one has in the known.
Here’s what I mean. 
    I trust (have faith) that my brother will pick me up at the airport even though he is over an hour late, not because of something mindless, but because he has never failed to do what he said that he would do.  In all the years that I have known, and lived with, my brother, in all the times that I have trusted him with money, with my most private secrets, with picking me up from the airport, or anything else, he has never (okay, rarely) failed to do what he said that he would do or to be where he said he would be.  If he is an hour late picking me up at the airport, I am far more likely to be worried that something has happened to him than to worry that he is not coming.
    Our faith in God is (or should be) like that.  We aren’t hoping that there will be pie in the sky by and by just because the preacher told us so.  Our faith in God comes from the relationship that we have built over time.  We met God, we spoke with God, we read stories that told us about his nature and his character, and we began to trust him.  As we began to trust God we began to witness and experience his grace, mercy, and love for us, and as we did, we began to trust him more.  Over time, many of us have seen some amazing things, we shared those experiences with others and our faith grew stronger.  I have seen God do things that medical doctors thought was impossible, I have spoken with those who have seen other impossible things, and I have also seen God open doors and change hearts so that we could adopt each of our children. 
    Those of us who believe, do so because we have, over time, developed a lasting relationship built on trust.  We trust God because he has proven himself to be trustworthy.  Because of the trust that we have built through the things that we have seen, we can trust God in the things that we have not yet seen.
This trust is what we call faith.  

Pain: Now or Later?


    A number of years ago there was a television commercial that encouraged regular oil changes.  In it, a mechanic pointed to a car behind him that was having the engine overhauled and noted that failing to get regular oil changes can cause serious engine damage.  At the end of the commercial the mechanic said, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.”

    With the Administration and Congress once again at odds over raising our nation’s debt ceiling I keep wondering why no one in Washington seems to understand why doing so only makes the problem worse.  I understand that we can’t just suddenly stop doing everything that we’re doing.  Calling an abrupt halt to projects that are already in progress would do great damage to the economy.  I understand that.  But Congress isn’t just continuing projects they’ve already started; they are creating new ones and expanding others so that our debt problem gets worse instead of better.
    Whenever anyone suggests making cuts to existing spending, particularly to welfare, Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security, there is an outcry because it is easy to see how people will be hurt when cuts are made to these programs.  A similar claim is made whenever cuts are suggested to our spending on national defense.  No matter what cuts are suggested, we are told that those cuts will cause someone pain. 
    The problem with pain, as it relates to our spending, is that it is very much like that oil change commercial.  A little pain now will almost certainly save us from much greater pain later.  Why?  Because right now our nation spends about $3.5 trillion per year but takes in only $2.5 trillion in taxes.  Obviously, you can’t, in the long-term, spend more than you earn, everyone who has ever balanced a checkbook knows that, but Washington has been doing it (more or less continuously) for more than sixty years.   So far we’ve accumulated a national debt of $17 trillion dollars… and, as bad as that sounds, that’s the good news.
    We hear that our national debt is $17 trillion dollars but we are not told that this does not include the money that we “borrowed” from Social Security and Medicaid.  Every one of us has paid into Social Security for our retirement.  While all of the Baby Boomers were working, the surpluses from these deposits were immense… but they were never saved in any kind of “savings account” or “lockbox.”  Instead, to cover the growing deficits our elected representatives… spent them.  Because we borrowed the money from ourselves, this spending isn’t really considered part of the national debt, but when the Baby Boomers retire they will, naturally, expect to collect from the system they paid into.  How much do we owe them?  At present, our borrowing from Social Security and Medicare amounts to an additional $85 to 95 trillion and our expected payments for the national prescription drug benefit add another $20 trillion.  All together that comes to an astounding $125 trillion in debt.  (That works out to over a million dollars in debt for every U.S. household!)
    Here is where things get ugly.  If we assume that over the next forty years, everyone who is currently working will retire, then we will have to repay most, if not all, of that debt over that same forty year period.  I know the math is more complicated than that, but this oversimplification will get us close enough to see the problem.  If we think of this as paying down a mortgage, we have forty years to pay back $125 trillion in debt with an annual “income” of $3 trillion. 
Do you see the problem?
In order to repay $125 trillion in 40 years, our annual payments will exceed our current income.
    If we start right now, and we could somehow stretch those payments out for a hundred years, we would still have to repay $1.25 trillion per year.  That would seem reasonable, but if we first balance the budget (so as to stop borrowing even more money while we were paying off our debt), we would still have to cut our current spending by fifty percent!
    Worse, none of this is theoretical.  This is money that we have already spent and which must be repaid.  Because we borrowed most of it from retirement plan, failing to pay it back will mean that Social Security checks don’t go out and retirees’ medical bills don’t get paid.  We complain that making small cuts causes pain, but how much pain will there be if we default and those checks don’t go out at all?
As the man said in the commercial, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” 
Either way, there will be pain.  The longer we put it off, the worse it will be.
Our only choice is whether we want to experience pain now or worse pain later.

The Politics of Falsehood


    I try to guard my personal opinions from the members of my church because their knowledge of my opinion may interfere with my ability to communicate a far more important message.  I hope that no one in the congregation of our church ever feels that they cannot objectively hear what I am teaching about the Bible because of some perceived political disagreement.  Even so, I have grave misgivings about our upcoming election and it isn’t just about the candidates.  My problem is that, perhaps now more than ever, the truth is taking a beating.
    In the television series “House,” Dr. Gregory House is fond of reminding his staff that “Everybody lies.”  Never has this been truer than during this election.  Each candidate has been caught stretching the truth, or worse.  It seems that after every speech or public appearance the fact-checkers are out in full force pointing out what was incorrect or misrepresented.  Even the media have been caught being “inventive.”  Sadly in the decades since the Watergate scandal, we’ve grown accustomed to “media bias” and understand that each news outlet allows their particular worldview to color their reporting, but now we’re seeing media outlets create their own news or creatively editing audio and video without revealing what they’ve done.  Heck, even the fact-checkers can’t be trusted.  After a recent speech by Paul Ryan, one set of fact checkers went wild pointing out his apparent “lies,” followed by another that pointed out the flaws in the “facts” presented by the first set of fact-checkers, and so on… for nearly a week.  
(Sigh)
    The television show, The X-Files” told us that we should “trust no one.”  This election certainly seems to make us think that this is true, but if we take a look at scripture we might regain a better perspective.  Our problem is that we expect our leaders to tell the truth, and our anger and disillusionment grow out of their failure to live up to our expectations.  We often think of the Bible as being full of love and grace, but in this regard scripture cautions us to be far more cautious, perhaps even downright cynical.  Psalm 20:7 reminds us that while “Some trust in chariots and some in horses… we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”  Whenever we think that the government or the military or any human authority is our salvation, we are in deep trouble.  Isaiah goes farther saying, “Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem? (Isaiah 2:22)  Particularly when we expect government to be trustworthy, our trust in is misplaced.  Psalm 118:8 teaches that “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans.”
    The clear theme here is that whenever we put our trust in human beings, we are sure to be disappointed but there is one upon whom we can safely place our trust.  Psalm 119:138 declares that “The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy.”And Proverbs 3:5 says that we should “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
    So does that mean that we as Christians should give our elected representatives and our media pass?  Should we simply overlook their self-serving dance with the truth?  Clearly, no.  Proverbs 12:22 says that “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.” What’s more, Paul declares that “…it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (Romans 12:21)  We should not overlook what our elected officials and the candidates for office are doing to the truth, but we should do all that we can to hold them accountable.
    As we move ever closer to our next presidential election, the followers of Jesus Christ need to hold fast to the truth that we have been given.  We cannot be content to choose the “lesser of two evils” but instead remember our calling to be agents of truth and good in the world around us.  The apostle Paul put it this way, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  (Romans 12:9)
    Instead of giving anyone a pass for playing fast and loose with the truth, or making excuses because “everybody does it,” let us instead recommit ourselves to love, hope, and goodness.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  (1 Corinthians 4:2) 

Are You Afraid?

Are you afraid?   
    Every day we open the newspaper or we turn on the radio or the television and we hear bad news.  Our economy is not in great shape.  Our government is spending more than it can afford.  Unemployment is at near historic levels and showing no sign of getting better soon.  We hear reports of doom and gloom almost constantly. 
How has this constant barrage of bad news affected you?
    As I have been reading reports from churches and other charities across the country the reports seem to share a common thread.  Fear.  After listening to the constant cries of disaster and doom people begin to grow afraid for their future.  When people are afraid, they begin to act in ways that reflect their fear.  When we are afraid, we become far more conservative financially, our worries for the future cause us to spend less, pay down credit cards and even save a little more in the bank.  When we are afraid, sometimes without even being consciously aware of it, we pull back and prepare for a rainy day; we are, as a society, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  This mentality is widespread.  The stock markets react violently to even the tiniest piece of bad news and only hesitantly move forward when there is good news.  Retail sales and other measures of consumer spending are not especially good at least partially because people are not confident of how things will be next month, or next year.  People are afraid.
The funny thing is that most of us have no real reason to be afraid.  
    Most of us have the same jobs that we had last year and the year before that.  Many of us have continued to get the same sorts of raises that we have always gotten.  Except for what we seem to be spending on gasoline, our expenses are not significantly changed from what we have been accustomed to for a long time.  Obviously there are exceptions.  One of my brothers has been out of work for more than two years and he is not alone.  Many folks are hurting.  The rest of us however, are living pretty much the same lives that we were living before the recession began several years ago.  For us, our fear has little or no basis in reality.  We are afraid, only because the evening news seems to tell us that we should be and something about that is not right.  

Why should we act as if we are afraid if we have no real reason to actually be afraid?

    As Christians we have another, even better, reason to resist this kind of fear.  Our fear seems to come from our worries about what the President or the Congress will or will not do.  Our fear seems to come from our worries about the economy and other things far outside out control or understanding.  Instead of allowing these worrisome times to make us afraid, we should remember who is in control.  Psalm 20:7 reminds us that “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”  And if we even momentarily considered putting our trust in our bank accounts or in our government, Job is there to remind us that “What they trust in is fragile what they rely on is a spider’s web.  They lean on the web, but it gives way; they cling to it, but it does not hold.”  Nahum 1:7 tells us that “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”  Just because we are people of faith, does not mean that we are immune to fear, but the when fear springs up inside of us we remember this: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust and am not afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4)
    As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to put our trust in him and not in the fluctuations of economies and governments that we cannot control.  All of these things are under his command and it is our job to trust in him.  Daniel was literally thrown to the lions but we should remember that “when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” (Daniel 6:23) 
    We hear bad news every day and honestly, I have begun to listen to the news less often because of it.  I am not hiding from the truth, but I don’t need to be constantly beaten with it either.  I hope that you will remember that we have no need to fear.  Whenever we are tempted to be afraid, we need to ask ourselves a single important question…
Who do you trust?