From the monthly archives: September 2012

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Two Years Sober: Why I Left Facebook and Haven’t Gone Back

 

There was once a time that Facebook was simple, and so (to be honest) was my life. I went to classes and came home, seeing all the people I really knew in the dorms, catching up with them at dinner, and enjoying late night chats in the lounges. The few people I didn't see regularly, I began to keep up with on "the Face," which gave me a little bit of insight to their lives when I gave them a phone call and got caught up that way.

Life became a little more complex, however, as did my Facebook habit until I “quit.” What got absurdly out of control was my need to know every tidbit about every person that I both did and did not hang out with on a daily basis. It wouldn't be so bad if I actually took the time to seek out each individual to see how he or she was doing, but the fact that it was so readily supplied and I didn’t need to initiate any type of communication (or relationship), is ridiculous. No wonder I felt cut off from people.

I’ve gotten quite a bit of flack over the past two years for not being on Facebook, especially as someone who studied social media academically. Perhaps because of my studies, I see acutely the possible benefits and effects of using any form of media. For me, the decision to remove myself was something I prayed about for several months. Would it be worth it? Would it affect my ability to connect with others for ministry purposes?

In the end, though, my heart kept coming back to this:

 

Do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. (1 Samuel 12:21)

 

Those that cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. (Jonah 2:8)

 

When we put it plainly like this – as a direct choice between God and our stuff – most of us hope we would choose God. But we need to realize that how we spend our time, what our money goes toward, and where we will invest our energy is equivalent to choosing God or rejecting Him. How could we think for even a second that something on this puny little earth compares to the Creator and Sustainer and Savior of it all? (Francis Chan, Crazy Love)


I was at a place in my life where I was very aware of my "worthless idols" – those things that are empty, that do not "profit or deliver" me to the foot of the cross. I wanted to choose my Creator over the created things that He has so graciously given me. I wanted to know again the desire to sit at His feet and be fully known by Him. I wanted to boldly come before the throne of grace – and, at that time, I didn’t remember what that looked like.

Now, I don't want to say that Facebook is entirely empty or without value. Facebook can be a great communication tool. It can be a great way to keep in touch with old friends at various distances, but it can also be a great source of discouragement, heartache, and even bitterness. The news feed highlights our fallen nature like few other places can, and I’ve been known to break down over what I see in my husband’s news feed when simply logging in to post something on our teen ministry page. 

Two years later, I periodically re-visit the topic. Should I go back? Is my heart yet in a place where I can handle the brokenness? Do I have a vision for using it that will glorify God rather than promote myself (let’s be honest – Facebook is about the individual)? 

And my answer continues to be “No.” 

Maybe you’re battling with some of the same questions, or maybe you’re not. Regardless of where you stand with any form of social media, I encourage you to look at it from the standpoint that Facebook, Twitter, and the “blogosphere” are not “God-free” zones. Pray about God’s role in how you use and make decisions about social media – that what you do in online spaces will reflect your desire to choose the Creator rather than what He has enabled men to create.

Because two years “sober,” I am extremely grateful that I took the time to examine my own heart and choose. You won’t regret it, either.

Living the Faith-Filled Life


 

Praise God for being gracious to answer a lot of prayers last weekend at the Rock Retreat! I have heard from a lot of people who were impacted by the time up in Estes Park. And I know personally how God spoke to my own heart in a big way.


Three main sessions into the retreat, there was going to be an extended time for us to get away and spend some one-on-one time with God, walking with Him, talking with Him, listening to Him and chewing on what He had been showing us over the weekend.

A good friend and brother, Collin Tewalt, asked me if I felt as if God was showing me any common themes between all the different messages. I said, no, not really. God had definitely given me a lot to think about, some good things to follow through on when I got home, but in terms of a common, overarching theme, not so much.  

The question did cause me to look over my notes in a different light, though. In doing so, it really seemed as if God was weaving a common thread between the different speakers.

Pat Sokoll told us the first night that an amazing life will not be a comfortable life; an amazing life requires faith and stepping out of your comfort zone. Do I want amazing?

The next morning, Rich Thatcher gave us with a big question to ponder: What is the next faith step God wants you to take?

Then John Meyer encouraged us with a video of several young men and women who believed God’s promises, sought His Kingdom and righteousness first, and said, “God, I will let You do whatever You want to do.” God used these young people to start Summitview Community Church that has since impacted thousands of lives for His eternal glory.

This theme of faith solidified even more the next day when I grabbed lunch with Dennis and Thelma Clark. They shared their own stories of faith, trusting God for the impossible and seeing Him come through in miraculous ways.

 

And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:18-20)

 

I am still working on the exact applications for my life from the retreat. I don’t know what the next faith step looks like, but here’s what I do know: I want it!

I want an amazing life! I want the faith filled life. I want to step out into scary situations where I am at the end of my own strength and have to rely on God’s.  

I don’t want to settle. I don’t want to get comfortable. I don’t want the average American Christian life where I figure out how to “step out in faith” after I have enough in my savings account to fall back on just in case God doesn’t quite show up in ways I expect.

The men and women who really experienced God in the Bible were those who put their whole lives on the line and were in a position if God didn’t come through, they were (often literally) dead. There was no backup plan, no “just in case God isn’t faithful” fund. All the chips were out on the table. Jackpot or bust. 

Of course I’m tempted to run away tomorrow, go to some crazy persecuted country, and preach Christ till I’m arrested or killed. Now that’s the faith-filled life, isn’t it? I think it can be. Or it can be me being discontent and believing the lie that the exciting life is always “out there” somewhere. Sometimes it takes more faith to stay.

The tricky thing about faith is that two people can be doing the exact same thing, going to the same 9-5 job, taking the same class, or going through the same morning routines with the kids. One person can be in faith while the other may not be. The faith-filled person is pleasing God. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. The scary situation at work may be speaking up for Christ when no one else will. It may be sitting next to that kid in class that isn’t as popular and so your own reputation is at stake if you choose to love like Christ. It would be easier to let the kids just have their own way this once, but in faith, one steps out to apply Biblical principles to raising children despite how the kids will react.

I want to please God. I don’t know the specifics, but even that in itself is a chance to bring faith, trusting God’s leading into what can be an unknown future. Will I, every moment, live like God really exists and that He really rewards those who earnestly seek Him?

I am thankful for those who trusted God for the impossible, holding onto His promises in faith and saw Him come through in miraculous ways. I have considered the outcome of their way of life and I want it. Lord, help me imitate their faith.

The Coefficients of Gospel-Sharing Friction

 

Have you ever tried to move a refrigerator, and become frustrated when it didn't budge an inch?

As it turns out, it is much easier to move a fridge (or anything, for that matter) once it begins moving. This is due to the fact that there are two different coefficients of friction (mu) for any given object: static and sliding. If you are trying to move an object from rest, the resistance is greater than when it is already sliding.

A couple weeks ago, I noticed the same phenomenon in the spiritual realms.

I spent the week of September 10-14 watching Tom Short, a campus preacher/evangelist from our movement of churches, share the Word and engage in debates on CSU’s campus. It was intriguing to watch the variety of responses to the gospel being preaching. There was yelling, cursing, and some born-again believers singing “Amazing Grace” at the top of their lungs.

I thought it was very insightful when one of our sisters in the Rock, Stacey Clear, mentioned how, once a conversation was started, many people were interested in talking about the topic of God. After getting past the uphill battle and asking about what someone thought about God, or Jesus or the Bible, a free-flowing conversation would start. Surprisingly, most people I conversed with didn't have a good answer for the deep questions of life.

One guy in particular told me he had never talked about these deep topics. Though he went to mass a couple times growing up, this public preaching was the closest thing to church in his life he had experienced. He was excited to chat about life, purpose, love, truth, Jesus and the afterlife because he never talked about these issues that deeply with his friends.

My personal take away from last week was this: I need to be bolder in starting conversations about Jesus. Sure, there is always that fear of how someone will respond, but once the topic is breached, there is a decent chance for long and hearty conversation.

The apostle Paul said it this way:

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:19-20 NIV)

I love how Paul added "as I should" after talking about declaring the gospel fearlessly. As followers of Jesus, it is only fitting for us to usher in conversation about our unmatched King and his great news.  

This week, when you see your fridge at home, be reminded: God has called us to fearlessly make his gospel known.

And don't forget static mu and sliding mu as you start the conversation.

 

 

There's Treasure Everywhere (Even in Politics)

 

In my government classes at Mead High School, we are currently covering the ideas of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacque Rousseau. Hobbes, the namesake of Calvin’s best friend and tiger in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, got me thinking about the fact that there is treasure everywhere—even in the world of governmental philosophy, teaching, and Aristotle.

When we see the world around us, in this case the world of ideas and philosophy, are we willing to dig and make sense of what we find with the faith and joy of a child? Are we looking for treasure? 

A good friend recently sent me a blog post that had many good thoughts that related to the current political environment (in this case civil marriage) and the “state of nature.” Here is an excerpt with emphasis and abridgment added:

 

In the beginning of his Politics, Aristotle asserts that “he who thus considers things in their first growth and origin, whether a state or anything else, will obtain the clearest view of them.” …This manifested in modern form by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, each of whom constructed versions of a hypothetical “state of nature” that would have existed before the formation of political societies and governments.

 

…If someone, for example, were to encounter a hammer for the first time and see it simply lying around, he might be able to form a plausible conjecture regarding the purpose for which it was made and is best suited. How much clearer would his understanding become, however, if he were granted a vision of the first hammer-maker sitting perplexedly in a room full of nails? In a similar way, by imagining a hypothetical situation . . . we may hope to discover [a practice’s] logical source and essential purpose . . . What are the nails for which this particular sort of hammer would be fashioned?

 

The treasure here is in the analogy and the idea of returning to first things. For Hobbes, in particular, the state of nature helped him understand why people would give up the right to do whatever they wanted and instead install governments that seemed to be worse than this unrestrained freedom. The nail – which the hammer of government was created to drive home – was the problem of security. In the state of nature, the law is “kill or be killed,” and people live in constant fear.

By returning to first things and looking at the nails for which the hammer was created, we can see the necessity of things. God makes the hammers, but he is not perplexed by the room full of nails before him—he is powerful to deliver. We are perplexed, however, when we forget those nails. Why is there evil in the world? Why did Jesus have to die? How could God send people to hell?

The danger in not remembering the “state of nature” – one without God’s intervention and where we follow all of our natural instincts – is that we become ungrateful, prideful commentators. Forgetting our own tendency to kill or be killed, or to hurt and steal from others for our own personal gain, we forget that the hammer that God created to correct this state of nature was the death, burial, and resurrection of his own Son. This is the answer to eternity apart from him, so that he could be near to us. Jesus became our sin so that the Father could look upon us (2 Cor 5:21). With the hammer of the gospel he destroyed sin and saved us from ourselves.

Calvin and Hobbes remind us that there is treasure everywhere. In seeing the reality of the grubs and rocks, we can see the greatness of God and the powerful hammer of his intervention in this world. We just have to dig in.

Truth with Handles: Practically Applying Biblical Wisdom in Our Lives and Marriages

 

In the last few years, my wife Cindy and I have experienced an ever-deepening passion for helping people marry well and for helping them cultivate a heart- and soul-satisfying marital joy; a oneness that lasts all the way to “death do us part.” 

For many years our counseling pattern had been to offer advice and encouragement using a biblical "truth-and-principle"-based approach to the marriage relationship. Asking and seeking biblical answers to primary identity and purpose questions like, “Who am I,” “Why am I here,” and “What exactly is God looking for from me/us/our marriage?”

Personally, these questions have formed the backbone of our family’s mission statement and have given clarity to our life focus and direction, at both the macro and micro levels. There are a myriad of very specific decisions we have made in regard to our relationship and every part of our life using this truth grid. My personality and gifting have been a good fit for this kind of big idea, 10,000-foot level, truth-and-principle framework, on which we have hung our lives and family.  Because of my imbalanced “truth alone” frame of mind, I have strongly resisted the idea that people should need structured, “how-to” application steps. 

For many years we have experienced mixed result as we have sought to equip couples and parents with the right “questions” to seek the Lord on His specific answers. The reality of our ministry was that the governing truth was not providing enough practical structure and application for people to walk in success.

A few years ago, mostly through conversation with Aaron Ritter, I became convinced that people really did need specific practical application. They are truly served and blessed by systems and defined action steps to experience the truth in their lives. I came to realize that a very needed and legitimate job of leadership – whether in family, church or business – is to contextualize the goals and values of an organization into pragmatic practices that help the members live out the values successfully.

Often in our western Christian worldview, we elevate the raw truth and minimize the vital leadership function of providing workable structures and systems to lead our flock to success. “Just preach the word”, is an oft-heard refrain. Without question, preaching the word is the foundation of our understanding of everything related to life and godliness. But it does not lead us specifically into many of the vital specific details needed to actually walk out our faith with a deep love from the heart.

The truth is not magic. It comes alive when we obey it and apply it. And the reality is that there are a host of practical life and ministry questions that are not answered directly by Scripture:

  • What does it look like to spend time with Jesus?
  • How do you develop leaders?
  • What is an appropriate budget process?
  • How does plurality work?
  • How do you conduct a wedding? Or a funeral? Or a small group? Or a weekly church gathering? How long should they last?
  • What does “faith expressing itself in love” look like in our context?

So many things require us to know the truth of Scripture, and to seek to apply it appropriately in our culture. God leaves us with the job of skillfully applying His revealed truth:

“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” (Proverbs 25:2)

 

Truth must have some handles. I have come to believe that the essence of these handles is biblical wisdom: Taking the truth and skillfully applying it so our lives reflect Scriptural principles in observable and experiential ways.

This concept has now become the cornerstone of our marriage ministry. We are working on developing real tools that will help couples (and anyone, really) skillfully express biblical love in their relationships.

People need practical handles. Wisdom takes sacrifice and work to develop them. May God grant you that kind of wisdom in your life to embrace “handles” for the truth.

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