The Rescue – Part Two

We are looking at the lack of personal time and space in today’s world of constant demand and connectedness. In a world where your soul just can’t do life at the speed of smartphones. And how that leaves our souls feeling exhausted and out of touch with who we really are. So, let’s add God into the issue we looked at yesterday and see if that might help.

I’m a Christian and so I believe that if we had more of God, that would really help. We could draw upon His love and strength, His wisdom and resilience. After all, God is the fountain of life (Psalm 36:9). If we had more of His lavish life bubbling up in us, it would be a rescue on this soul-scorching hour. 

But this frantic, volatile world constantly wilts the soul, dries it out like a raisin, making it almost impossible to receive the life God is pouring forth. How true.

I have tried to find more of God, knowing that if I only had a greater measure of His life in me, I’d be able to navigate this rough terrain. I was practicing the usual stuff — prayer, worship, Scripture, sacrament. But still I felt shallow. Sipping God with teaspoons, not drinking great gulps; wading not swimming. My soul felt like a shallow rain puddle (it’s raining today as I write this). But I know the soul isn’t a shallow puddle at all; it’s deep and vast, capable of symphonies and heroic courage. I wanted to be living from those deep places, but I was trapped in the shallows.

Because of the internet and television we are losing our ability to focus and pay attention longer than a few moments. We live at the depth of the text, the swipe, the “like.” This isn’t just an intellectual problem; it’s a spiritual crisis. It pretty hard to hear “deep calling unto deep” (Psalm 42:7) when we’re forced into the shallows of our own hearts and souls by this frenetic world. 

So, this past summer (June to August) I unplugged and stopped the frantic pace at which my life was being lived. I removed all my schedules and just let life happen. I took my calendar that I use to plan each day to make the most of it and removed all the preset events and activities. I simply stepped out of the “Christian rat race” and worked at doing life differently. I wanted above all else to “experience the ‘more’ of Him. And, in the process I began to get my life back.

God wants to come to us and restore our lives. He really does. But if our soul is not well, it’s almost impossible to receive Him. Dry, scorched ground can’t absorb the very rain it needs.

As C.S. Lewis explained, “The soul is but a hollow which God fills.” In place of hollow I let the word vessel, something beautiful and artistic. Our souls are exquisite vessels created by God for Him to saturate. You can picture the round, curved basin at the top of an elegant fountain, with water spilling down all sides, running over with unceasing life. Isn’t that the promise? “As Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38).

And so it follows that if we can receive help for restoring and renewing our weary, besieged souls, we’ll enjoy the fruits (which are many and wonderful) of happy souls and also be able to receive more of God (which is even more wonderful). We’ll find the vibrancy and resiliency we crave as human beings, living waters welling up from deep within. And then — we’ll get ur lives back!

But the process needs to be something the Lord leads you into. There are no preset packages or prepackaged programs that you can buy into that will guarantee success and a deeper spiritual life resulting in a more meaningful life lived to the fullest. We have all tried exercise, diets, Bible study programs that began with vim and verve but over time got shoved to the side, lost in the chaos. So, don’t look to a pre-packaged regiment or process or program. You are a unique individual and God will meet you in a way that is specifically designed for who you are and where you are at in life.

All you need to do to get started is to recognize that you are living on the surface and that your life lacks meaning – real meaning and true depth. It has lots of activity and important things to do. But, meaning and true life does not come from the “do” in life. It comes from the “be” in life… and so you need to be … be who you really are; be in His presence; be still and know that He is God; be comfortable with who you are right now and where you are at …. Simply come to Him as you are and let Him guide and direct you on this new and renewing part of your journey.

God wants to strength you and renew your soul; Jesus longs to give you more of Himself. Come, you who are weary and heavy laden. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life … and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message). You can get your life back; you can live freely and lightly. The world may be harsh, but God is gentle; He knows what your life is like. What we need to do is put ourselves in places that allow us to receive His help. 

So simply come to Him. Ask Him to help you; lead and guide you. Tell Him that you want to know Him more. That you want to experience Him in fresh and new ways. You will be amazed at what He will do.  

The Rescue – Part One

There’s a madness to our moment, and we need to name it for the lunacy it is. Because it’s taking our lives hostage.

First, there is the blistering pace of life. It seems that we are busier than ever. People send you an important text message where they are expressing what is happening in their life and we respond with thumbs-up emojis. I experience this personally on a daily basis as I send out a group text to everyone in my local house church. Worse than an emoji is simply total silence. People no longer interact with texts. At one time emails felt so efficient when it replaced the letter. Texting seemed like rocket fuel when it came along. But it didn’t give us more space to live life. It didn’t make our lives more spacious. We simply had more to keep up with, respond to.

Even as I write this I just had an email from a pastor I don’t know who visited my web site. He lives in Africa… then a phone call followed by a text. He is looking for immediate attention. He is impatience. He is expecting me to jump and respond. I didn’t. I deleted. This is a daily event in my life. And, I admit that I struggle to keep up with all the messages that come in daily via numerous apps. So, I delete the ones with whom I have no relationship and have not initiated the conversation. I currently don’t need more contacts, more relationships, more open doors to minister.

It seems that we are living at the speed of the swipe and the “like,” moving so fast through our days that typing a single sentence feels cumbersome. I feel busier than I have ever felt before. And, time for what is important seems to be lacking. For example, reading a book, writing in my journal, spending time reflecting, praying and reading Scripture. Coffee with a friend.

It seems that we have been sucked into a pace of life that nobody is enjoying.

Second, there is the deluge of media coming at us. We are spending three hours a day using apps on our phones, ten hours viewing media, consuming enough informations each week to crash a laptop. As someone recently wrote: “We talk about unplugging, but we’re enchanted — by the endless social media circus of love and hatred, the vapid, alarming, sensational, and unforgivable. We’re snagged by every new notification. And while we’ve always had our individual struggles and heartbreaks to deal with, now we have the tragedies of the entire world delivered to us hourly on our mobile devices.”

This is very hard on our soul.

Traumatizing, in fact. Exposure to traumatic events can traumatize us, and we’re getting lots of it in our feed. It’s like we’ve been swept into the gravitational field of a digital black hole that is sucking our lives from us. 

So, I get this text from the pastor in Africa and then an email and then a phone call on an app. And, I find myself totally ignoring every attempt to communicate with me. There are simply too many people wanting a piece of my time to add another demand to an already busy day. A day that has me feeling somewhat overwhelmed with just the basic demands and needs. 

I find myself flinching when a friend texted and asked for some time. I didn’t want to open email for fear of the demands I’d find there. I have a shorter and shorted fuse in traffic. I feel numb to tragic news reports. It makes me wonder — am I becoming a less loving person? I have little capacity for relationships and the things that bring me life —- a walk in the park, a quiet coffee with a friend, a day to paddle board and enjoy the water. And when I do steal a few minutes for something life-giving (like reading by an open fire by my fire pit), I feel so overwhelmed, so distracted, so exhausted that I can’t enjoy the time. I can’t focus.

It isn’t a failure of love or compassion. These are all symptoms of a soul pushed too hard, strung out, haggard, fried. My soul just can’t do life at the speed of smartphones. But I am asking it to; everybody’s asking theirs to do so as well.

I’m guessing that you have experienced something similar. I am not alone. I am not unique. And, like me, your soul its looking for something. Are you aware of what it is?

How would you score your soul these days:

      • Are you happy most of the time?
      • How often do you feel lighthearted?
      • Are you excited about your future?
      • Do you feel deeply loved?
      • When was the last time you felt carefree?

Our souls are bleary, seared, smeared. Still able to love, yes; still able to hope and dream. But at the end of any given day most people come home in a stay of exhaustion. Numb on our good days, fried more often than we admit. We feel stretched and living life on the surface. Stretched so badly that we can’t give our full attention to anything or any one. “Like butter that has been scraped over too much bread” as one author states it. 

The world has gone completely mad, and it’s trying to take our souls with it.

More next time…

A Slower Walk

We are well into the fall season and stores are beginning to put out Christmas decorations and signage … fighting for space with the large Halloween displays that are up in most stores. Interesting to see them side-by-side in some of the larger stores. Not an ideal time to mention slowing life down and living life at a slower pace. 

We are so use to living life in the fast lane that we fail to read the Gospel stories of Jesus, His life and ministry, in the context of the first century. We fail to see all the in-between times when Jesus and His followers were walking from one town to another. When the record states, “The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee (John 1:43), we project our own pace upon it, not realizing that it took the disciples three days by foot to get there. 

Three days just strolling along, talking, or sharing the silent beauty; the pauses for lunch or a drink from the well; the campfires in the evenings. Even as I write this, it sounds luxurious. Christ does not move immediately from one dramatic story to another; there was down time, transition time between these demands. Time to process what had happened (these are the moments you see the disciples asking questions; “what did you mean by…?”). Time to catch their breath before the next encounter.

That was the pace Jesus felt was reasonable for people engaged in important things and wanting a life with God. Time we would categorize almost as vacation time, for those are the only periods we allow ourselves a stroll, a lingering lunch, a campfire conversation. We highly progressive moderns try to keep up without any of these intervals and transitions. 

The things that we require of ourselves — we go from a tender conversation with our eight-year-old anxious about going to school to an angry phone call with our insurance company as we drive to work, followed by a quick chat with our sister ending a decision about our aging parents’ “memory care unit.” Then it’s straight into a series of business meetings (during which we multitask by trying to bang out some email), firing an employee, interviewing another, making dinner reservations for our spouse’s birthday, fitting in a conversation with our boss because we can’t say no, and showing up late and haggard for dinner.

And we wonder why we have a hard time finding God, receiving more of Him, feeling like we’re overflowing with life.

The EMS technician, who leaves the scene of a terrible accident, races to get to his Bible study group, but wonders afterward why he couldn’t find God there. The school teacher, who come home exhausted from a day herding a riotous classroom, tries to be present to her own child, but can’t seem to find the right gear to do so. The modern pastor, who needs to be a real estate expert on one meeting, a brilliant trauma counsellor in the next, and a caring friend over lunch, only to shift gears into the role of savvy corporate CEO for the meeting that follows.

We are forcing our souls through multiple gear-changes each day, each hour, and after years of this we wonder why we aren’t even sure what to say when a friend genuinely inquires, “How are you?” We don’t really know; we aren’t sure what we feel anymore. We live at one speed: go. All the subtleties of human experience have been forced into one state of being.

Mercy. No soul was meant to live like this. 

What sort of madness have we come to accept as normal when just taking a minute to reflect and rest feels like a luxury? We need time to process as we move from one event to another, one demand to the next. We need time to transition between what we are doing now and what is next being demanded of us. Not a long time – just a brief moment or two. A few minutes to process what you have just been involved in and to prepare for what you are about to focus on. A brief pause that you take to process and reflect; to sense and to learn. And, no one is going to offer this “pause.” It is up to each of us to learn how to slow things down a bit allowing us the needed time to pause and ponder and to sense God in al that we are involved in. To walk at a slower pace allowing us to live life as God intended. 

Ten Suggestions When Using Social Media – Part Six

We have been looking at how, as believers, we can interact with social media and use this amazing technology in such a way as to glorify God. We have looked at 8 of the 10 commandments. Let’s finish up today…

The ones we have looked at….

1> Put God first in all you say and post.

2> Love others as you want to be loved.

3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.

4> Use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol.

5> Turn your virtual other cheek to posts that offend you.

6> Do not post out of emotion.

7> Always reflect Jesus, loving God whether online or off.

8> Do not use social media to fuel temptation.

9> FORM YOUR OWN OPINIONS; DO NOT FOLLOW THE CROWD.

When you follow other people online, you can learn a lot of wisdom from those who are wise. Unfortunately, not only are some people not wise, they can be downright foolish. Proverbs 15:2 says, “The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” I love the way the New Living Translation translates the last part of this verse. It says, “the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.” Chances are you’ve seen this type pf person let loose online.

Jesus instructs us to stay on the narrow road, warning that the broad or wide road leads to destruction (see Matthew 7:13-14). Sometimes it seems as if everyone is going the same way, but that doesn’t mean they are going the right way. Often on social media, many people jump on the bandwagons of opinions about God, politics, or the latest celebrity scandal. But just because a lot of people believe something doesn’t make it true. Especially when it comes to what people post online. 

It may be tempting to follow the crowd, but doing so can be dangerous. Exodus 23:2 says, “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.” God gave you a brain to think for yourself. He gave you His Word to seek His will. He gave you His Spirit to guide you into all truth (see John 16:13). Instead of believing everything you see or hear, think for yourself.

Paul explain the importance of resisting the lure of the crowd when he says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2). Don’t be like everyone else. The Message loosely translates this same verse: “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” Instead of doing what most everyone else does or believing what many say is true, we should have our minds renewed by God’s truth.

Resist the urge to blend in.

Don’t be a sheep and follow the herd.

Follow the Shepherd.

10> DO NOT BASE YOUR IDENTITY ON WHAT PEOPLE THINK

Anyone who spends time on social media will be tempted to compare, thinking, “How many followers do they have? Wow! That’s way more than I have.” We may also be tempted to think the opposite when we see that someone gets fewer Likes or mentions than we do — that they aren’t as important as we are. An unhealthy view of social media can cause us to feel either an ungodly pride or an unhealthy sense of inadequacy.

Not only can we be tempted to base our identity on who follows us (or by who doesn’t), but we can also allow ourselves to be consumed by what others say. If they Like our new shirt in our latest selfie, we feel great. If they don’t say anything, we might assume they don’t like it. And if they say, “What were u thinking when u bought that UGLY thang?” We might never shop at the same store again.

As Christians, we must constantly remind ourselves not to base our identity — our view of ourselves and our worth — on what other people say or think about us. Who we are and our value is determined by what Christ says about us. Others may criticize us, ignore us, or unfollow us, but that doesn’t affect who we really are. We are who Christ says we are.

In case you’e wondering what He says about you, here’s a short list.

      • You are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
      • You are forgiven, and your sins are washed away (Ephesians 1:7)
      • You are more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)
      • You are God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)
      • You are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)
      • You are filled with the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11)
      • You are a joint heir with Christ (Romans 8:17)
      • You are Christ’s divine representative to this world (2 Corinthians 5:20)
      • You are the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21)
      • You are greatly loved by God (John 14:20-23)

No matter what anyone says or implies, you do not need to be moved by their words. You are secure in Christ and Christ alone. Thou shalt not base your identity on what people think.

So there you have the ten commandments for using social media. It can be tempting to view these like we often view the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses — as burdens that limit what we can and can’t do. But in truth, God’s commandments are supreme blessings that free us to serve Him faithfully and to live joyfully. In the same way, I pray these ten commandments of social media will provide live-giving and life-protecting boundaries that enable you to enjoy relating to others online without losing focus on what matters most.

So post, tweet, click, snap, text, chat, comment, and enjoy it all. But do it all out of the overflow of your love for God and love for people. Use technology, but don’t let it overtake your life. Enjoy the benefits of technology, but don’t let it define you.

Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 

Ten Suggestions When Using Social Media – Part Five

So far we have looked at the first seven of ten commandments to help us use social media in a gracious, kind, loving, and thus Christian manner.

1> Put God first in all you say and post.

2> Love others as you want to be loved.

3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.

4> Use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol.

5> Turn your virtual other cheek to posts that offend you.

6> Do not post out of emotion.

7> Always reflect Jesus, loving God whether online or off.

8> DO NOT USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO FUEL TEMPTATIONS

It’s no secret that technology and social media can open the door to temptations with simple clicks and keystrokes. Instead of having to go through numerous steps, actions, or behaviours to come face to face with a fierce temptation, we can now encounter it on our monitors in nanoseconds.

I don’t just mean sexual temptations. A shopping app for some is more temptation to click and buy than they can handle on a weak evening with nothing to do. Or an open door to gambling is the worse possible temptation for someone who feels lucky — again. For others, online gossip quietly whispers their name: “Come get in on the know.” Some are tempted to compare, to overshare, or to look and lust. It’s important to be honest about where you’re vulnerable, and plan to avoid the traps that can hurt you.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, doesn’t pull any punches when he describes the deception and dangers of temptation. After explaining clearly that God never tempts, James adds, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). The Greek word James uses that is translated enticed is actually a fishing term that illustrates how temptation baits us and then hooks us. What starts out as something small and seemingly harmless can quickly become something big and dangerous, even deadly. 

However, as a believer in Jesus, you never have to battle temptation alone. The author of Hebrews reminds us that “because [Jesus] himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:18). If you are being tempted, you are not on your own. Jesus is able to help you. So if you spot an open door to online temptation, ask Jesus to help you close it.

When you pray for wisdom, God will give it to you (see James 1:5). When He shows you how to shut the door to online temptation, slam that door, lock it, and throw away the encryption key. Delete the app if you have to. Or if you need to, give someone else a password to keep yourself from having access to download apps. You might need to download a filtered browser or block certain websites. Or you might share passwords or have joint accounts with your spouse. Whatever it takes, thou shalt not use technology to fuel temptation.

Ten Suggestions When Using Social Media – Part Four

So far we have looked at the first five of ten commandments to help us use social media in a gracious, kind, loving, and thus Christian manner.

1> Put God first in all you say and post.

2> Love others as you want to be loved.

3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.

4> Use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol.

5> Turn your virtual other cheek to posts that offend you.

Let’s look as several more today…

6> DO NOT POST OUT OF EMOTION

When you think about it, the ability to say whatever you’re thinking to a large group of semi-interested people is pretty scary, which is a good reason never to post when you’re feeling angry, upset, rejected, or offended or are feeling any other unsettling emotion. If you’re wondering whether you are responding out of emotion, remember this: when in doubt, wait it out.

As a rule, I never, ever post when I’m overly emotional. Never,. I also have the discipline not to defend myself or get into unnecessary online controversy. For years, I’ve avoided responding to critics or posting out of emotion. Many years ago the Lord told me to let Him fight my battles. So, even when I am being spoken against or misunderstood – I remain quite on social media. What I might say can come back to bite me so it is better to say nothing. And, remember, people can read whatever emotion in to the words you write that they want to. So, you can quickly add to the misunderstanding without meaning to. Take a deep breath. Relax. The Kingdom is doing just fine. And, let the Lord defend you. He better at it than you are.

Without a doubt, you will be tempted to post when you’re agitated or hurt. But when in doubt, wait it out. Post only out of love.

7> ALWAYS REFLECT JESUS, LOVING GOD WHETHER ONLINE OR OFF

After Jesus had silenced the attacking Sadducees the Pharisees conspired to trap Him. One of the experts baited Jesus by asking Him which commandment was the greatest. “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38 ESV). Above all else, the most important command we have is to love God with every part of our being. Therefore, we should always love and reflect Jesus online and off.

I encourage you to go through everything you’ve posted or said online in the past month. Pretend like you don’t know anything about yourself. Look at everything objectively and determine what conclusions someone would draw about you based on what you’ve posted. Do you like what you see? What does your online footprint reveal about you? Does what you show accurately reflect what you believe? Would people say you love God above all? Or would they think you love something else more – maybe even yourself?

This doesn’t mean the only thing we ever post should be Bible verses or quotes from your pastor’s sermon. But over a month’s time, certainly people should be able to see evidence that we love God and follow Jesus. If this evidence is not in your posts, ask yourself why not. Are you afraid of what people will think? Or worse yet, are you revealing that you aren’t really loving God above all else?

If you are falling more and more in love with God each day, your love will show in the things you post. You won’t have to force it or fake it. If you realize you are forcing or faking it, instead of trying to show something that’s not real or genuine, acknowledge the you aren’t loving God with all your heart and all you are. Ask Him to help you, to guide you, and to draw you. When you seek Him, you will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13). He will reveal Himself to you. When you experience Him and taste His goodness, so will your online and offline witness for Him.

Thou shalt always reflect Jesus.

Love God online and off. 

Ten Suggestions When Using Social Media – Part Three

So far we have looked at the first three of ten commandments to help us use social media in a gracious, kind, loving, and thus Christian manner.

1> Put God first in all you say and post.

2> Love others as you want to be loved.

3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.

4> USE SOCIAL MEDIA INSTEAD OF BEING CONTROLLED BY IT AS AN IDOL

As followers of Jesus, we need to make sure a good thing never becomes a supreme thing. Unquestionably, leveraging technology to share about Jesus and connect with people is a good thing. But if left unchecked, using technology can become obsessive and idolatrous.

We all know people who are obsessed with how many followers they have, how many have started following them, and who has unfollowed them. Most of us have found ourselves hitting refresh a few too many times in the hope of finding new Likes and comments. Some people get lost in a world of creeping on others, constantly obsessing over what they post or say, sometimes with people they don’t even know! Some can’t control the urge to look at just one more thing on Pinterest, knowing that one final click (which is never just one) might hold that special something that will finally make their life complete. Still others play just one more game, hoping this time they’ll finally break their high score or reach a new level.

It’s hard to see it in the moment, but when we stand back, we realize that we might as well have bowed down before some giant smart phone in the sky. The Bible couldn’t be clearer about idolatry. In addition to the commandment to “have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3), we’re also told: “Dear children, keep yourself from idols” (1 John 5:21). The moment you realize you’re starting to put something above God, tear that idol down. As soon as you realize that you don’t have control, that you click and click again without knowing how to stop, acknowledge the problem. Don’t rationalize it. Don’t explain it away. And don’t put off dealing with it.

Just tell the truth.

You are addicted.

And it is idolatry.

Once you acknowledge your problem before God, you can ask for His forgiveness and His help. God always hears the prayer of the repentant heart. Not only will He forgive you, but He will also give you the strength to put away the things that keep you from Him.

Use social media. Enjoy it. But don’t let it overtake you. If you see an iDol in your life, smash it!

5> TURN YOUR VIRTUAL OTHER CHEEK TO POSTS THAT OFFEND YOU

Follow enough people, and it won’t take long: someone will say or show something inappropriate or offensive. If you’re like most people, you find it easy to get up in arms and take offense. As Christians, though, we can rise above the temptation to get down in the dirt. Solomon says, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11, emphasis added). 

In our culture, many people are quick to judge, quick to call a foul, and quick to be offended. But even though they may be quick to get upset, they’re slow to show grace by overlooking offences. God’s Word teaches us to be different from the world. It’s to our glory to overlook an offense.

To be clear, overlooking an offense isn’t the same as pretending it didn’t happen or encouraging injustice. No, to overlook something is a decision to let it go. It’s a form of forgiveness. The Hebrew word translated overlook also means “to pass over.” You can look at what can hurt you and spiritually soar right on by it.

If people say something harsh or sharp, instead of puffing up and striking back, allow God’s Spirit to help you give them the benefit of the doubt. Chances are their bad mood isn’t about you, and their critical spirit probably isn’t against you as much as it’s a reflection of something they’re dealing with, That someone is constantly angry or harsh is often a sign they’re hurting. Why? Because hurting people hurt people,. Rather than taking an offense, you should take them to prayer and ask God to help them.

If a post starts to grieve your heart or make you unrighteously angry, remember that you don’t have to follow the poster. You can to some degree control what you see and read. No matter what, remember that just as Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek when someone strikes us, so we can turn a virtual other cheek to posts that offend us. Life is too short to allow someone else’s bad attitude pollute our heart and relationships.

Ten Suggestions When Using Social Media – Part Two

The second social media commandment as we saw last time is…

2> LOVE OTHERS AS WANT TO BE LOVED

You’ve probably heard the Golden Rule before: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). Jesus summarized His instruction on how to treat other people with this rule when a group asked Him how they should respond to their enemies. Raising the bar higher than ever before, this rule applies when we interact with others in person as well as online.

When you think about how you like to be loved online, it’s easy to know how to treat others. For starters is the obvious. You can “Like” someone’s post. You can retweet what they say or reply with a kind word or two. You can offer a sincere and uplifting compliment. You can comment positively on something they said or posted.

You can refrain from saying something hurtful to others, being antagonistic, or always ignoring what they do or say. As a general rule, I try not to post things that are negative and critical. Enough people are doing that. I want what I say and show to be uplifting and encouraging, to build rather than to tear down. This doesn’t mean that we avoid tough issues but we can talk about them from a positive perspective, offering solutions rather than poking at people and making others look bad.

Besides saying nice things and avoiding ugly online interactions, you can find all kinds of ways to love people using technology and social media. You can take the relationship out of the virtual realm by replying in person. Instead of simply posting a comment, you can reply with a call, a handwritten note, or a personal visit. If someone asks for prayer, you can go to their home and pray with them instead of just praying from a distance. If someone loses a job, you can offer to pay a bill while they’re looking for work or help them network to find new job opportunities. And when they get a job, you can go out to dinner with them to celebrate the blessing. You know tons of things that people do for you that help you feel loved. So get creative online and off and love others in the same ways you want to be loved.

3> USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO FACILITATE, NOT REPLACE, REAL RELATIONSHIPS.

Ten years ago, most of us would have never imagined all the social benefits technology now offers. Even as I’m writing this, I can’t believe that I can FaceTime my friends who are on the other side of the planet or send a text to my best friend just across town. And, we are constantly seeing the development of more and more social media to help us stay connected with others.

We should maximize all that technology offers to help strengthen our friendships and relationships. But as the gravitational pull to live online continues to grow, we must remind ourselves that the best relationships are not those that are limited to looking at a screen but those that involve loving a person in person.

So text away. Tweet what you’re doing. Post what you’re eating. But put more effort into your treasured relationships. Remember to call. Plan a visit. Eat with someone, and then sit and chat for two hours afterwards. Sit across from each other in a coffee shop and talk about everything that matters and a few things that don’t. Make a meal for someone and being it to their house. Take a long walk with a friend and just chat about whatever comes to mind. When someone you love is injured and in the hospital, don’t just text them; go visit them. Don’t just do life together from a distance. Do life up close. As Paul might have tweeted, “Be devoted to one another in love” (Romans 12:10).

Ten Suggestions When Using Social Media – Part One

In the Old Testament, when God saved His people out of bondage, He saved them for a purpose. God led Moses to the top of Mount Sinai for forty days. During this time, God not only gave Moses detailed instructions for the tabernacle; He also gave Moses two stone tablets inscribed with special instructions we know as the Ten Commandments. Out of His love for His people, God gave them these moral and spiritual laws to keep them safe as well as set them apart. 

In the same spirit, I want to suggest ten commandments for you to consider as you use social media. It’s pretty obvious these didn’t come directly from God. But the principles are definitely based on His Word. I borrowed these from a Christian author who I greatly appreciate and read all that he publishes. These are ten ways to protect your time, your heart, your body, and your soul, as well as deepen your faith through what you type, text, and tweet.

These are simply ten helpful suggestions for how you can use social media in ways that will show others your love for God while not allowing social media to define you or to take an unhealthy place in your life. Social media and technology are amazing tools, and with a little discipline and prayer, they can be a gift to connect with others and reflect your love for an amazing God. So just imagine they’re on virtual stone tablets. I will list the ten of them and then comment on them individually over the next few days.

1> Put God first in all you say and post.

2> Love others as you want to be loved.

3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.

4> Use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol. 

5> Turn your virtual other cheek to posts that offend you.

6> Do not post out of emotion.

7> Always reflect Jesus, loving God whether online or off.

8> Do not use social media to fuel temptations.

9> Form your own opinions; do not follow the crowd.

10> Do not base your identity on what people think.

Let’s dig into the first one…

1> PUT GOD FIRST IN ALL YOU SAY AND POST

Sounds easy enough, right? But if it really were that easy, you wouldn’t need me to remind you. So let’s think about ways you can remind yourself of what is fundamentally true.

We need to always remember who you are and whose you are. You don’t just represent yourself or your family; you represent Christ. Paul says it clearly: “And whatever you do whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17)

Too often we want to compartmentalize our lives. We’re tempted to think we’re okay because we do the church thing on Sundays. Then during the week, we do the work thing, and on the weekends we do our own thing. But in reality, because our lives belong to God, everything we do should be God’s things. 

Everything.

He should be first in all we do. If we’re watching television, going to the grocery store, studying for an exam, asking someone out on a date, updating our Facebook status, or tweeting about out latest business deal, whatever we do, we should do it for God. Notice the way Paul qualifies his instructions: “whether in word or deed.” Whether we are speaking or acting, shouting or singing, do it all for the glory of God. We could translate this into our social-media culture by saying, “Whatever you do, whether tweeting, commenting, posting, or uploading, do it all in the Name of the Lord Jesus.”

Before saying anything online (or in person), ask yourself whether you are truly representing and reflecting the love and goodness of God. If not, don’t say it. Ever. And don’t just think about the words you say; think about the pictures or videos you post. If in any way they don’t reflect God’s standards, don’t share them.

I love the way The Living Bible translates Proverbs 3:6. This should be our standard online: “In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success.”

In other words, “Thou shalt put God first in all you say or post.”

Faithful or Familiar?

We have been looking at problems and addictions. In particular, addiction to technology. And we saw recently in the story of the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15) that we are in need of answering Jesus’ question: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6).

Often we realize that we have a problem – an addiction, a relational issue with someone we care about, a situation at work. Or the one we have focused on a lot recently in these blogs – spending too much time and giving too much attention to technology – your cell phone, tablet, computer, laptop, or the multitude of channels you can watch on cable television and streaming services. And we saw that often we have become so comfortable with the problem that we simply don’t want to change. Or, ‘get well’.

But the question Jesus asks is still valid today: “Do you want to get well?”

About 6 weeks ago I invited a number of believers to supper is my yard … an outdoor chilli and buns supper and coffee conversation. I noticed that one man spent the first 40 minutes staring at his cell phone. He did not engage in the conversation. He was not attentive to what was going on around him. He was not entering into the fellowship. And, throughout the evening he continued to reference his cell phone on a consistent basis. When he left he had literally engaged with only one person. And that person came to him and engaged him in a conversation. If that had not happened the man would have left without exchanging anything of significance with anyone else. It would have been like he was not there – because other than physically, he was not there. I have spoken to him many times about ‘engaging’ and ‘embracing’ but to no avail it seems. He apparently does not want to change.

Maybe you can sense the Spirit of God posing Jesus’ question to you. Do you want to change and get well?

Do you want to get well? Do you really? Do you want to enjoy the blessing of technology without being a slave to it? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to put God first in your life?

Someone once asked, “What do you thing is the greatest hindrance to faith?” Lots of possibilities come to mind. Worry is certainly a hindrance to faith, right? So is doubt. You could also argue that fear really undermines faith. And God has not given his a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7 NLT). But as I pondered all these contenders, another one came to mind that is less obvious, but just as dangerous. 

Perhaps the familiar is the greatest enemy to faith.

Instead of believing that God can do anything, many surrender to what they can see. They accept what is instead of what could be. Maybe you’ve become comfortable with your addiction to technology. You’ve learned to rationalize it, to explain it away. You tell yourself it’s really not that big a deal. Maybe everyone you know is a lot like you, so it couldn’t be that bad, could it?

Perhaps the familiar, what you know and accept, is the greatest obstacle to your faith. Faith in what could be. Faith in what God calls you to be.

The invalid at the Pool of Bethesda could have argued, “I’ve never been able to walk. I’ve always been dependent on others. No one will ever help me.” You might have your excuses: “I’ve got to be on my phone 24/7. If I’m not, how will they reach me? I have to stay in touch with what’s going on. I can’t do my job without my phone.”

If the familiar is the greatest obstacle to faith, then it takes faith to step away from the familiar.

Maybe that’s why Jesus asked the invalid, “Do you want to get well?” Maybe that’s why you can sense His Spirit asking you the same question. Do you want to enjoy the benefits of technology without being ensnared by the curses? Do you really want to change? Do you really want to be well?

Because you can’t help someone who needs help.

You can only help someone who wants help.

Do you want to be free?

You have to want it. Really want it.

The healing will not begin until your desire is greater than your disability.

When you finally realizer that you want to be well more than you want to be wired (or whatever your addiction is), then you’ve opened the door for God to work in your life. If you’re tired of surfing, trying to fill the hole in your heart that only Jesus can fill, then it’s time for healing. If you’re sick of being a slave to the latest operating system or to having a Wi-Fi connection at a restaurant, and you’re ready to do something about it, then you’ve taken the first step. 

Addictions are not easy to overcome. It is only when your desire for healing becomes greater than your disability that God can begin to set you free. 

Maybe you are addicted, hooked, and have been struggling to be free for some time. I don’t know how long you’ve been down, but with Christ you’re not out.

Like the man at the Pool of Bethesda it is time to stop making excuses and start getting well. When he looked at the crippled man, “Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked” (John 5:8-9 emphasis added). Jesus didn’t heal the man a month later; it happened immediately. In the same way, when you surrender your challenge (addiction) to Jesus, He can do more in that moment than you can ever imagine., You might not feel any different, and the change might not happen all at once, but Jesus’ power will be working in you.

Jesus told the invalid to get up and start walking, That’s a pretty hefty assignment for a guy who most likely had never walked in his life. Jesus told him to do what everyone else would have considered impossible.

Notice that the guy didn’t even ask Jesus to heal him. Jesus just did it because He’s Jesus. When you get close to Jesus, He will do things you don’t even ask Him to do. He’s just that good.

Jesus essentially said, “I don’t want to hear your excuses. I want to see your faith.”

And He is speaking to you right now telling you that you have to let go of the familiar (what you are comfortable with) as it is an enemy of faith and without faith you cannot please God.

So, this blog is longer than most. So let me close by saying…

When you occasionally (or often) unplug from technology, you will find true rest for your soul. When you make pleasant boundaries, you will be making wise choices to keep your eyes, mind, and heart pure. You will not put anything ahead of God. When others are tempted to tear people down, you will break from the crowd and follow God, who has called you to build others up.

As you remove the blanket of excuses and follow God’s leading, you will be healed and delivered; transformed into the image of Christ.

Do you want to get well?

Then let Jesus heal you.

He is more powerful than any struggles you will ever face.