Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Christians and social media

On the whole, I am more "old fashion" than my generation. My generation loves any and all forms of social media. They cannot get enough of it. They must try out whatever new form comes on the scene.

Obviously, I do not abstain from social media. I blog. I am on Facebook, but I rarely post or like anything. I am on Instagram, but mainly to keep up with the growth of family and friends and post the occasional picture. I am on Twitter primarily as my source of news and sports. I tweet mainly about sports or to share links.

By the standards of my generation I am probably on the fringes of social media. I use it as minimally as possible (though, sadly, I flirt with addiction when it comes to Twitter). I have adopted the "one foot in, one foot out" approach to social media for good or for ill.

Recently, I have grown more and more cautious about social media. In addition to the obvious issues regarding explicit content made easily available, I think social media poses a considerable danger to Christians. It is an easy place to grumble, complain, and, simply, spew all sorts of evil.

I have been tempted as such just over the past week. Horrible atrocities rage against unborn children in the name of science and individual freedom. Hunted lions and deflated footballs are treated as unforgivable offenses. People (many of them Christian) turn a blinds eye to ongoing issue of racism and oppression in America. Politicians are corrupt. God's laws are completely disregarded by our culture and many of our churches. And the list goes on.

I have felt a strong urge to treat each and every one of these issues in separate posts. I was ready to come out swinging. And thankfully, God's Spirit steered me against it. He consistently brought 1 Peter 3:15-16 to mind,

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame (emphasis mine).

I am not encouraging Christians to keep their mouths shut. We should speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. The hundreds of thousands of abortions taking place in this country are heart breaking and enraging. The ongoing plight of those in poverty and those enslaved cannot be ignored. Even "lighter" examples of man's failure to promote justice in life (which includes sports and hunting) should be addressed. We have an obligation as God's people to love what He loves. We are called to speak the truth.

However, instead of (or at least before) jumping onto what form of social media we enjoy most what if we prayed? What if we asked God for His mercy to pour out even on these individuals and groups? What if we pleaded with Him to change the hearts of these people? We should be quick to pray like Jesus when He hung on the cross naked, bloody, and spit upon; "Father, forgive them."

What is gentle and respectful about name-calling? Where does our hope come through when we run to sarcasm and cynicism (of which I myself am frequently guilty)? How can we have a good conscience when we have slandered and verbally abused those who disagree with us?

Our culture does not need our words of bitterness and cursing. It does not need us to join in the "conversations" that always end in personal accusations and ridicule. It must know the grave and eternal consequences of its ongoing disregard for God and His law. It desperately needs the hope found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is the One who covers all our sin and removes our shame. He alone can bring the transformation our culture longs for, but has no idea how to secure.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

one month out

Tomorrow marks four weeks (roughly one month) since my time at seminary came to an end. It still feels somewhat surreal to be finished with academia and formal study. The full magnitude might not hit until the fall when I will not have to adjust my schedule for classes, readings, and papers.

I am still processing the past four years, which certainly proved the most difficult, but sanctifying years to date. Never has my sin seemed more apparent than in those moments of study, stress, and exhaustion. And yet, never has the presence of God's transforming and comforting grace met me more timely than in those same moments. He is good and does good (Psalm 119:68).

The time away from school is already paying dividends. My wife and I have more free time together. We've gone for bike rides and walks. We started exercising more regularly. Our evenings are less rushed (most of the time) with more time for relaxation. We are learning to enjoy life moment by moment. It is also very likely I have spent more time with friends over the last month than I did over the past year. Friendship is a great blessing so easily taken for granted. Despite the future remaining cloudy and uncertain, life seems simple for the first time in a while. I relish this season of simplicity. It is a breath of fresh air for a weary body, mind, and soul.

And speaking of soul, God has graciously rejuvenated me. As seminary came to a close, it felt like the desire for personal study vanished. Seminary (not by anyone's fault) transformed study into an exercise void of joy and passion. I wanted nothing to do with it. What a scary thought for someone pursuing ministry where study is not only necessary, but incredibly vital! However, over the past month I have embraced and joyfully anticipated times of formal study. His Word has once again proved revitalizing, a much-needed source of nourishment.

I have no doubt rough patches and dry seasons lie ahead. In the meantime, I rejoice in this summer season, a Father's timely gift for His weary son.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Graduation Day!

Praise the LORD, all the nations!
Extol him, all peoples! 
For great is his steadfast love toward us, 
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. 
Praise the LORD!
~Psalm 117

And many thanks to the countless people who have prayed, supported, and encouraged me over the last four years! 

Special thanks to my parents who had to live with me for the first three when I was far from the most delightful person to be around. 

More special thanks to my wife who jumped on board the last half, and has been nothing short of spectacular! She encourages and daily displays God's grace to me!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Fountain

"There is a fountain filled with blood"

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Lies silent in the grave, lies silent in the grave;
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!
’Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

the favored one

About a month ago, my wife and I visited the Philadelphia Art Museum for a "day date" (which ended with a delicious Indian buffet!). Despite living relatively close, I had never trekked to the Art Museum, not even to run up the steps like Rocky!

I must say I was impressed by the different exhibits. There were definitely some weird pieces (namely everything in the modern period), but I thoroughly enjoyed much of what I saw. While Bethany took one million photos (give or take), I only shot the two below.

I forgot to include the label, but this piece depicts the announcement of Christ's birth. Mary is the girl in the corner. The bright light is the angel, Gabriel. In the name of art appreciation, I gazed at this piece for around ten minutes (my sister told me how she read that this is what you are supposed to do when you visit an art museum). After the ten minutes is when I decided to take the photos.


The birth announcement is a popular moment many artists have captured throughout the centuries. However, this one, to me, seems the most accurate.

"'Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!' But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.'" ~Luke 1:28-33

As I read the account in Luke 1, I envision something like this picture. Mary is a young girl, maybe sixteen years old. She does not have a hallow around her head. She does not have blonde hair and blue eyes, but looks something like an Israelite living in the Middle East around the first century. She is not living in a mansion or a glamorous room. Gabriel is not the focal point, in fact the artist is not even concerned with his physical form. The emphasis is on young Mary.

She appears meek and humble. Her face captures her fear, but her fear is not paralyzing. She is listening to Gabriel's wonderful news. She is processing what it means for her. The reality of bearing the Savior is slowly sinking in. And yet, Mary seems at peace. With everything likely raging within her, Mary sits quietly. She will eventually ask "how?" but not in a spirit of defiance or resistance. Her young mind is trying to come to grips with how Gabriel's announcement will come to be.

And probably, what I like most about this picture is how I can vividly picture this Mary confessing the actual words Mary record by Luke, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Saving, helping, keeping, loving

In addition to class, I must listen to lectures for my counseling class. And just we do in class, each lecture begins with a hymn, often times dealing with suffering, temptation, and the hardships of life. Today, I began a lecture on my drive home from work. The hymn they sang was Jesus, What a Friends for Sinners.

What a beautiful song about what Christ does graciously on behalf of His people!

Jesus! what a Friend for sinners!
Jesus! Lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Saviour, makes me whole.

Hallelujah! what a Saviour!

Hallelujah, what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

Jesus! what a strength in weakness!

Let me hide myself in him;
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing,
He, my strength, my vict'ry wins.

Jesus! what a help in sorrow!

While the billows o'er me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking,
He, my comfort, helps my soul.

Jesus! what a guide and keeper!

While the tempest still is high,
Storms about me, night o'ertakes me,
He, my pilot, hears my cry.

Jesus! I do now receive him,

More than all in him I find,
He hath granted me forgiveness,
I am his, and he is mine.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

the old or the new?

Over the past week, I have been pouring over Ecclesiastes 7:7-14. It is part of a class assignment, but not simply school oriented.

Surely oppression drives the wise into madness,
    and a bribe corrupts the heart.
Better is the end of a thing than its beginning,
    and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,
    for anger lodges in the heart of fools. 
 Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
    For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
Wisdom is good with an inheritance,
    an advantage to those who see the sun.
For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money,
    and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.  
Consider the work of God:
    who can make straight what he has made crooked? 
 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

With graduation coming in May (Lord willing), the end of this particular stage of life is at hand. According to Solomon, this is a good thing. However, it also brings the temptation to become envious, either of what came before or what lies ahead. I find myself sitting in this very position.

On the one hand, I am envious of the consistency of life as it currently stands. While I am ready to leave behind the life of a graduate student, the schedule has been my way of life. The looming change will certainly disrupt everything I am accustomed to.

On the flip side, I am tempted to be envious now of what might be come this time next year. I want to be in full-time ministry. I want to take the wealth of knowledge I have gained into the church context. I grow impatient of the ivory tower condition common in higher education. 

Either way, the temptation toward envy sounds attractive, but it leads to a lack of joy and gratitude. Such an scenario is exhausting for myself and those around me.

I "bunkered" down with this particular passage because the it is primarily concerned with wisdom. Wisdom works against envy. It views envy as the destructive force that it is. Wisdom seeks the mind of God, and rejoices in the work He is presently doing.

I also appreciate this passage because of it's call for joy and trust regardless of the circumstance. Instead of relishing the days prior or holding high hopes for those to come, there is joy to be found in the present where our God is actively working.