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February 4, 2017, 12:41 PM

Unity vs. Uniformity

Our passage this week deals with the issue of Unity. But to be honest, I think it gets it all wrong. It doesn't seem to use the right words leading up to unity. At least, it doesn't use words that I'm comfortable with. Let me explain.

I grew up with the idea that being “Christ like” and following God meant that I looked, acted, and thought a certain way. There is basically only one way to be a Christian. Well, that is actually true. You can only be a Christian by accepting Christ as Lord and Savior. But, I really mean that after salvation, we all should begin to act, look, dress, like, date, read, and other stuff in a set pattern. Being a Christian meant that you fit into a cookie cutter culture. Anything different was simply “unspiritual.”

That isn't unity, it is uniformity. Uniformity is a counterfeit substitute for real unity. Uniformity is the result of human control, human influence, and human manipulation. Unity is the result of being indwelt, controlled, and influenced by the Holy Spirit. 

We see uniformity at work in our country today. When is the last time that you met a Republican who said they were for refugees? Instead, they will all bring up all the homeless veterans. A worthy cause for sure, but it is also a long standing issue that was never a rallying cry until the party needed a rebuttal to accepting refugees. Or, when was the last time that you heard a Democrat that was for holding Planned Parenthood accountable for their less than ethical practices brought to light in the last couple of years. Instead, somehow we are lead to believe that questioning Planned Parenthood means that we oppressively hate women?

How is it that everyone on both sides has the exact same stance and responses on every issue? Can someone good at math calculate the odds of that for me?

Uniformity uses fear and manipulation to cause followers to tow the line. In the church world we call that legalism. Unity is the result of the Holy Spirit working to heal and bring peace. Truthfully uniformity is a lot easier than unity. Unity causes me to allow the Holy Spirit to do spiritual surgery on me first. It also requires me to be patient and trust that He is doing the same on you too.  And if I've learned anything it is that trusting the Holy Spirit is scary.  

January 25, 2017, 6:39 PM

Dear Diary.....

I have been writing the last few weeks about different things we should avoid posting on social media, and I believe that I have saved the best for last. Many people keep a personal journal or diary as a way to express all of their personal or secret thoughts. It is a way to keep up with life, vent frustrations, and mark victories. I have always struggled with keeping a consistent journal, but I have found them to be very useful at different times of life. Unfortunately, many people have turned to social media as their outlet for things that should be kept in their private and personal journal. 

Really, this is a question of: “With what kind of etiquette should we approach social media?”  In the actual social world, the context of the situation will dictate the etiquette of the situation. A sit down dinner with fancy china and perfectly aligned silverware demands a different type of etiquette than a buffet style family dinner at grandma's house. A first date requires a different etiquette than a 15th date. So, with what kind of etiquette should we approach social media?

My dad gave me some great advice when I was probably 8 or 9 years old. I had asked him a question about something (I really don't remember what) where there was not a clear right or wrong to either choice. What I clearly remember is that he stopped shaving, turned to me and said: “Son, the best advice I can give you is: If in doubt, leave it out.” That advice works in a lot of situations. It would work well in a lot of social media posts as well. 

Many people approach social media with the same etiquette that they would approach a private conversation with their mom. They are going to complain about a problem that is not as big as they think it is, and they really are just looking for people to be on their side. They don't expect anyone to find out about it that they don't want to find out. And if they do, it is somehow not their fault. 

I have seen people take to social media with this attitude in every situation in life: their work, their marriage, their kids, their in-laws, their outlaws, people they just don't like, their taste in music, their taste in food, their ex's, their political opinions, their lack of political opinions, other people's political opinions or lack thereof, their pet peeves, the fact that they have a job they don't want, the fact that they can't get a job that they do want, officiating, coaching, schools, super markets, working out, other people working out too much, other people not working out enough, and weather.......

As Christians, our approach to social media should be more business professional and with the attitude of glorifying Christ. Does our post build up or tear down our witness? Does our post help a situation get better or make it worse? Does our post love our neighbor as ourselves, or is it just looking for others to join you against someone else?

Our social media posts should follow the mandates in 1 Cor. 10:31 & 1 Thes. 5:18. And as always, If in doubt, leave it out

January 21, 2017, 2:42 PM

Oh Be Careful Little Fingers

I remember singing as a little kid: Oh be careful little hands what you do... be careful little feet where you go... be careful little eyes what you see. I remember thinking as a little kid that we should be careful where our feet go, because it really hurts when you step in a hole. But now that I'm older, I better understand what that song meant. Maybe it shouldn't be a kid's song because there are a lot of adults that could benefit from singing that song on a regular basis. And while we are at it, let's add another verse: Oh be careful little fingers what you click.

Social media has taken all checks, balances, and consequences out of social interaction. All that it has added to social interaction is further reach. So it has created an environment where there are more people interacting with more people, but with less civility and common sense. 

At one point in human history, in order for me to be rude or hateful, I had to work up the courage to track down someone and then say what I was feeling to them. Of course, by the time I found them I had some time to cool off and think about what I was about to say or do. Or I could write a letter, but took time and having to see those words also acted as a filter. Or, you could call them. Hearing their voice acted as a filter. Knowing that they could hear your voice also acted as a filter. But social media has none of that. I can quickly type out any response I want and click a button and instantly share my unfiltered mess with the world. Usually with little fear of consequences. Usually with little thought to how it will impact the people on the other side of the computer screen. So here are some filters to help us out:

How will this post be read by others?

Who is going to be reading this post?

Will this post build up or tear down?

Would I want someone posting this about me, to me, or about my family?

As an example: I have seen and been guilty myself of posting sarcasm and hyperbole. Those things don't really work well online because both the reader and the writer are separated from the interaction. Overly dramatic language, especially with a negative bend, will come off serious and threatening. At the very least, they will make the poster seem demeaning and purposefully rude.  Those things don't build up and they don't have the desired impact on the people who read the post. 

You might be able to justify in your mind how such posts are ok, but you cannot justify how they are wise.  The author of Proverbs ranks wisdom as the most important asset one can have. That goes for social media as well. 

January 13, 2017, 6:20 PM

Can a Christian have Facebook - WWJP

I'm not sure how long the term WWJD has been around, but I remember it being the church popular thing to wear and say about the time I got into Jr. High School. It may have been around long before that, but I wasn't aware of it until that stage of my life. For me, WWJD was an awesome way to think about life in Jr. High. The whole concept was, when you are making a decision you were supposed to ask yourself “What Would Jesus Do?” and then act accordingly. The biggest problem for me (and probably most smart-mouthed Jr. High boys) was that I forgot to ask myself WWJD until after I had made the decision. And once your actions or words are out there, they can never truly be taken back. 

The same principle should be true with Social Media. When we use social media, we should always ask ourselves: “What Would Jesus Post?” and then post accordingly. As we study Ephesians, we are going to develop the idea of living in light of our relationship with Jesus. That has an impact on the way we use social media and what types of social media we use. If we are a Christian is real life, our virtual life should reflect that as well. I think that plays out in a few ways:

1. Fake News and Other Garbage Posts: Fake News has been a hot topic in the elections and news media these days. But, I haven't really been able to determine from them what Fake News really is or isn't. But, I'll define it this way: Anything that is so opinion biased that it leaves the realm of fact based writing. Posting these types of things hurt your credibility, which hurts your testimony. Fake News happens on both sides of the political spectrum, but it also happens in the religious realm. Often with a story so perfectly timed that it can't be true, and it is followed up by a repost this or you don't love Jesus tag. 

2. Having Different Standards Online than in Real Life: The truth is, Christians have had a hard time with this issue long before the internet came about. Whither it is buying your daughter a one-piece swimsuit for church events and a bikini for regular lake outings (because if the preacher sees her in a bikini then he will tell God on us?), or having a list of words that are necessary to say at work to get the job done but you can't say at church or in front of the preacher (because that preacher sure is a tattle tale), we Christians have always had the habit of having two sets of standards for life. 

When it comes to social media; I have witnessed nice, kind, and well reasoned Christians lose their minds and identities online. People will repost vulgar stuff that they would never approve of in real life. I've seen people who are nice and reasonable become internet bullies who pick fights and stop at nothing to win debates and prove a point online. I've seen honest people dive into gossip, slander, and name calling online. All of which is a departure from our identity in Christ. The worst case that I have seen was a Mega-Church Pastor who was fired a few years ago. There were many contributing factors, part of which was that it was found out that he had engaged in Internet Bullying and really mean online activity with some of his church members under an assumed name. 

What you post in the virtual world has an impact on life in the real world, and that is where we will pick up next week. 

January 7, 2017, 7:45 PM

Can a Christian have Social Media?

Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and many many others, are a brand new phenomenon. They have been touted as both great and evil. They have been used for both good and bad. They may be both the future and downfall of civilized society. In my lifetime, and especially in my time as a minister, I have witnessed social media move from the fringes of society to the center of daily life. When anything becomes the popular norm, I think that it is good to ask the question of: “How do I navigate this as a Christian?”

In my time in ministry I have had to address many situations involving social media.  Pictures that shouldn't be taken, much less seen by the whole world wide web. Statements that shouldn't be made. People harassing, hounding, and all together being a stalker. Feelings hurt and relationships broken by things people post. In many ways I've grown to loath Facebook and the like. But, I have also found myself defending social media to many. Touting its convince and usefulness. Highlighting the way it has connected the world and given a voice to the common man. There is no doubt in my mind that the Apostle Paul would have loved Twitter and Facebook. 

With one stroke of the key board you can get your message out to the entire world, but is that good or bad?  I would say that perhaps it depends on what your message is. The world has not seen an invention this powerful and revolutionary since the printing press. Social media has become the public square of our day and the future. So, is that good or bad? And, how do I navigate the land mine of social media as a Christian? The next few weeks, we will search hard for those answers. 

There are a couple of scripture passages that come to mind when I think about social media. One is 1 Corinthians 10:23-24, and the other is Philippians 4:8-9. 

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 is dealing with a complex social issue that Christians are not sure how to handle. In reference to that issue, Paul writes: “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. This is good advice for any situation in life, but is especially helpful when it comes to complex social issues unique to our day and time. I heard a preacher say it this way, “Don't ask if it is ok, rather ask if it is wise.” If we ask “Is it ok for a Christian to be on Social Media?” then we ask the wrong question. Instead, we should seek out how to wisely navigate life in a complex and dangerous world where everyone now has a voice. Then we should seek to use our voice to be helpful, build up, and seek the good of our neighbor. 

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