Sitting area at the intersection of MoSt’s auditorium and annex. A place for conversation.
Sitting area at the intersection of MoSt’s auditorium and annex. A place for conversation.
1. Before Somebody Gets Hurt [essential reading]
“What we hold in our thoughts, we soon hold in our hearts. What we hold in our hearts, we soon do in our lives. So, my friends, hold Christ so that we live Christ. The world needs to see a viable alternative to violence.”
“One more reason to put in the effort to find the good.”
… we must face the greatest challenge as leaders with respect to our use of time: we must be prepared to disappoint others.”
“Can it be that in this day and age, when everyone seems angry, that Bob Dylan, once again countering the culture, is one of the few people who is purposefully not angry?”
Why is anyone on Facebook?
This is the question that I hear often, from all ages and sorts. Some ask that question as if to say, “I would’ve hoped that Facebook had died by now.” Others ask it meaning, “How I wish everyone was on Facebook!” These are only two, of course; no doubt the answers are Legion.
Why are you on Facebook?
Such is the question that is sometimes asked of me, and asked for a variety of reasons.
Why am I on Facebook?
I know this is the question I ask myself daily. Actually, with every single Facebook post. Literally.
So let me field those questions, particularly the latter two, right here. And why? Because I see myself as utilizing Facebook in a way different from most, and I do not want to be misunderstood.
I perceive a great many Facebook users as making use of it for the sake of (1) distraction, (2) delight, (3) the “different,” and/or (4) debate. Add to that list, (5) “the news.”
I make very little use of Facebook for distraction (e.g. – random, stream of consciousness posting, etc.). More so for delight (e.g. – pics of the grandkids, nature photography, etc.). Similarly in regard to “the different” (e.g. – a song that’s busted into my head and won’t leave, pics of odd things going out thru the church pantry, etc.). And add to that, some scrolling for “the news” (e.g. – prayer requests, matters of great joy or grief, etc.).
Now perhaps you noticed no reference to the word “debate” in that preceding paragraph. That was, significantly, quite deliberate; as in with a will. For I generally loathe debating matters in front of nearly eight hundred different people (my friends list) of all ages, backgrounds, beliefs, bias, burdens, etc. And why is that? Because I have found nearly no constructive good, and only a great deal of harm, typically coming from such activity, and so I like to sidestep such whenever possible.
The words of Ephesians 4 come to my mind often:
When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need — words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you. (Eph. 4.29 NCV)
Which leads me to a word that describes my intent behind the lion’s share of my Facebook posts: direction. That is the word that I keep in mind as I operate on Facebook.
As in I seek to steer my friends towards resources they might have otherwise have missed or merely scanned that could be helpful to them (e.g. – articles that can sharpen our thinking, links to discoveries related to Bible places, etc.). I try to raise awareness and the level of conversation (e.g. – good things happening at church, world events through another’s eyes, etc.). I try to guide us in talking with God (e.g. – a prayer for the day) and to walk with words of insight or thoughtfulness (e.g. – quote for the day). And I want to direct folks toward good things they can do (e.g. – memorizing Scripture, an exercise for the day). Etc.
Direction. This is why I remain on Facebook – in an often confusing, chaotic, and crushing world, I deliberately seek to give some direction toward strength, structure, and sanity. To maneuver people away from pollution and the putrid toward higher purpose and purity. To channel our thoughts and energy toward healthy, productive ways and away from ways that, to be honest, do little more than fritter away time. Direction.
Now I certainly make no claim of perfection toward direction. But, I do claim real and sincere effort in that work. And, I do know the Author of all good guidance.
So, I seek to conduct myself so every day on Facebook. To the end that at least my wee portion of the Facebook world does not merely exist as a place of frivolity, for fight club, or feverish futility. With an eye on the One above and all those around us.
That is why I am Facebook, still. And why I still prefer private conversations, not the social media stage, for discussions of differences, etc. I see social media as a great place for starting thought and conversations; I see face-to-face as the place for having those two-way conversations. For the sake of understanding and development, accountability and civility, and just generally measured, non-knee-jerk response.
Let me speak plainly. Someone wants to talk with me face-to-face, hey, I’ve got time for them. Someone who wants to make a dustup and solve the world’s problems through a few texted words on my Facebook page, not so much. Discussion and debate isn’t the problem, but the general, abysmal lack of civility and respect that I find across the online experience. And so, I try to avoid enabling such behavior.
In some forms of online life, one can turn off comments (e.g. – as I have done with my blog). This forces people to talk with me in some more private means … where the odds of true understanding and productive interaction go way up. Facebook doesn’t offer such so … I need to be realistic about what can/will occur there. My blog is a billboard; my Facebook page is a coffee table … that I wish I could make more into like a billboard. Ha!
And now the words of an old song are busting my brain …
“Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.”
You shower or bathe daily, right? For this we’re all even more grateful, right? And yet, what about your ways with others? When was the last time you carefully washed away any filth and scrubbed off all of the stink that’s a part of the way you treat others? Has it been awhile?
You use toothpaste and/or mouthwash, right? For this, we’re all very thankful. But, do you do a brain and heart wash? Have you even done that this week?
To be sure – we all need it. And we dare not think we can “skip a day” or that we’re “good enough” for we all know that there are plenty of times that we think we pass “the sniff test,” but others would tell us, if prodded for honesty and they were true friend, that … parts of us, well, just plain stink or that there’s dirt in places we can’t see. For just as a person will never see 30% of their own body without the aid of a mirror, so there is no small percentage of our ways to which we will always remain blind, nose blind even, without the help of others.
And so, we all need others – especially the others we don’t think we need!
Remember: honest to God Christian faith is not about you and God. It is about God and your relationship with him and all others. Think “one another,” not merely “me and him.”
All of which leads me to note: there are several dozen instances of the phrase “one another” in the New Testament and a significant number of them – quite a cluster, really – appear in the latter part of Romans (ch.12-16). And while we’re reading through Romans right now, I’d encourage all of us to keep our eyes open for these passages.
And why is that? Because they speak clearly and directly to the heart of a very important matter – to use our common and terribly watered-down way of speaking today – how church members treat other church members. All of them. Take the time to seriously ponder what it would look like for you to carefully live these things out in your life, and deeply so. To the point that you became a walking, talking embodiment of each one of them in your ways with others, all others, beginning with your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Each of these nine statements are exceedingly brief, so brief in fact that you could easily memorize one in the morning and turn it over and over again in your mind throughout the course of a day.
Be devoted to one another in love. (Romans 12.10a)
Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12.10b)
Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. (Romans 12.16; cf. 15.5)
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13.8)
… let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. (Romans 14.13)
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus … (Romans 15.5; cf. 12.16)
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15.7)
… instruct one another. (Romans 15.14)
Greet one another with a holy kiss. (Romans 16.16)
Think of these matters as floss for your heart and body wash for your behavior. And then imagine a church full of people practicing the same every day.
Courteous, to say the very least, no? Respectful, to be sure. In truth – beautiful.
Father God, thank you for my friend who is especially dear to me, but who is far removed from me in terms of place. And that you know their name and care for them even far, far more than do I, I am very thankful.
Though we rarely speak, when we do so, we pick up the conversation as though we have been together every day all along. I know this is a great and precious gift from you, Father. Thank you.
It has been many years since we have been able to simply be in each other’s presence, but Father, I sense that we are ever present with each other in ways that far transcend geography. This is your work, Father, not mine, and I thank you.
Though we were made of very different material, long ago you wove our lives together. In that apparent weakness, somehow you made great strength. Thank you for gifting us so.
Decades distant you bonded us to each other, closer than brothers. And decades later the bond remains, undiminished, yes, even stronger than ever. Such kinship is rare and so, I know you have given us a special grace.
You have spared their life all this time, given them all of the time they have enjoyed, and so I pray, Father, for them, and I confess for myself, give them still yet much more time here on this earth. Thank you for every drop of time, every ounce of time we know that we are not alone, Father, and remind so with such friendship as this.
You still powerfully speak to me through the memory of their ways that were good, even though I remain ignorant of many of their good ways are today. That you continue to use them to carve indelible marks into my mind through the instrument of yesteryears, well Father, I am deeply indebted to you.
And so, in the name of your Son, Jesus, I would ask. May you give them every good thing that you would give them in your love, Father; lavish your goodness on them. May they always seek you and grow to know you better each day; may their gratitude for you swell with the years. May we never leave each other, Father, and may we ever be grateful, together, Father, for what you have done, and are doing, and will do. Give us this grace and mercy, Father, to spend forever together in your presence.
Amen. And amen.
Here are links to five articles I’ve found to be interesting and helpful.
Ancient people, diet, food & the Roman Empire: Ancient Romans Ate Meals Most Americans Would Recognize [plug this info into your head as you read some of the NT texts that deal with meals such as 1 Cor. 8-11, etc.]
“… before and during the Roman Empire. Both the poor and the rich ate pig as the meat of choice, although the rich, like Piso, got better cuts, ate meat more often and likely in larger quantities. They had pork chops and a form of bacon. They even served sausages and prosciutto …
“Status in the upper class was declared with the presentation of the meal, the rare spices, the dinnerware … The wealthier you are the more you want to invest in display and advertising to your guests. Flash was perhaps more important than substance … Whole animals showed great wealth.”
Crusades, ISIS, medieval history, Obama, torture: Thank You Obama for Denouncing “Christian” Violence: It is Actually Far Worse Than ISIS
“… for followers of Jesus, the violence perpetrated by ‘Christians’ throughout history ought to be considered far worse than the violence perpetrated by ISIS or any other religious group throughout history, precisely because this violence was done in the name of Jesus.”
Faith, firearms, guns & self-defense: Should Christians Carry Guns?
“The Christians I know who consider Scripture and still make the argument for owning a gun typically lean on a notion of using a firearm as a means to resist wickedness, to protect innocent persons, and to maintain order in the face of evil and chaos. While these may be worthy ideals, I don’t see a lot of (any?) scriptural evidence for the use of violence, especially lethal violence, by those who strive to participate in God’s kingdom.
“My concern is that we too often equate God’s agenda with our own agenda and then we make decisions like owning a gun based on our personal values instead of a keen Christian ethic. If my value is to stay alive and protect what and whom I love, it’s not too difficult to project that value onto God and make weapon ownership a God-given right, if not command. The only problem is that these are not God’s values, at least not as I read Scripture.”
Information, priorities, relationships, stewardship & technology: If Jesus Had a Smartphone
“More than one-third of all adults (35%) and almost half of those under 40 (47%) admit their personal electronics sometimes separate them from other people. Still, three in 10 Millennials (30%) say they love their phone. … Every revolution offers promises. Every revolution makes demands. How does the hyperlinked life jibe with the abundant life Jesus promised?
“All revolutions are meant to change the world, and the knowledge revolution has done that. Now we must work hard to live faithfully in this new world. We must begin by enlarging our definition of stewardship. We talk about stewarding time, treasure, and talent. Let’s add technology to that list.”
Situational awareness: How to Develop the Situational Awareness of Jason Bourne
“Hone your observation skills by playing the A-Game. Mike plays a game with his kids called the ‘A-Game,’ or Awareness Game, to help them (and himself) strengthen their observational skills. To play, when you go into a business, make note of a few things about your environment: the number of workers behind the counter, the clothing and gender of the person sitting next to you, how many entry/exits there are, etc. When you leave and get into the car to head home, ask your kids questions like ‘How many workers were behind the counter?’ ‘Was the person sitting next to us a man or a woman?’ ‘What color was his/her shirt?’ ‘How many exits were there?’ It’s fun to play, but more importantly it’s training your kids (and you) to be more mindful of their surroundings.”
Art & happiness: Why You Need More Art in Your Life (and 5 Ways to Get It) [required reading]
“If you want to find more creativity, satisfaction, and happiness, the single best solution I know is adding more art to your life.”
Christian movies, end times, Left Behind, rapture & second coming: Why ‘Left Behind’ Should Be … Left Behind
“… while Left Behind may prove itself to be a mediocre box office success, it represents a severe misinterpretation of what the Bible actually says about the topic. To put it bluntly, and perhaps to the chagrin of some readers, the idea of a ‘rapture’ is simply not biblically based (and that’s where I’ve lost a third of you!) It represents, instead, a theology based on escapism and in the process does damage to what the Bible really does say about ‘the last days.'”
Death, euthanasia, hospice & quality of life: Doctors Wanted to Extend Life. Instead They Extended Death.
“If you look at people who want euthanasia it’s not who we think it is. It’s not people writhing in pain. It’s not people who can’t breathe because of emphysema. It’s people who are depressed and hopeless and don’t see meaning in life. I don’t think the right answer to that question is, ‘let’s give them some pills to knock them off.’ They need meaning back in their life. They need therapy or medication. Euthanasia, I think the research shows, is much more like suicide than it is like a medical treatment.”
Discernment, moral blindness & power: How Can It Happen? [essential reading]
“… ‘every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with’ moral blindness. That is, as power increases moral blindness increases. Without it the power could not increase; without it the moral blindness would not increase. Instead of acting, the morally blind person is filled with stupor and quiescence.”
Introverts, ministry, preaching & relationships: The Introvert Behind the Pulpit
“For these preachers, devotion to ministry requires balancing need for solitude with passion for sharing God’s word.”