Posts

Why Social Media Scares Me Sometimes

Written By Ashley Ashcraft, USA

I’m an old soul. I’d rather read an actual book than a device. I prefer hymns to contemporary worship. I was mercilessly made fun of once for saying that a glass of iced tea “hit the spot.” So it probably comes as no surprise for me to tell you that social media. . . scares me sometimes.

I’m not anti-social media or anti-Internet, I promise. There are undeniable benefits to social media, such as our ability to be instantly connected to those who are miles away. But I also see some subtle habits and mindsets that creep in as we become more and more familiar with and accustomed to our devices.

 

Social Media Feeds the Need for Instant Gratification

First off, social media feeds our need (or want, really) for instant gratification. Remember when the Internet took a minute to dial up? Or wait, remember when we didn’t have the Internet at all? When we would mail things off, and wait days for a response? Remember when we had to wait a week between each episode of our favorite TV show?

But today, we can find what we want to watch or know just as fast as our fingers can type. The world is literally at our fingertips! The idea of waiting feels preposterous now. And I think that we are losing our appreciation for waiting. The idea that there is any value in waiting feels ridiculous.

Luke records for us in the book of Acts that, right before Jesus ascended, He told His disciples to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the promise He had spoken to them about. I don’t know about you, but if Jesus had told me to go back and wait, I would have had a million questions. What am I waiting for? How long will I wait? How will I know when it’s here? And I probably would have been a passive “wait-er.” I would have let the time whittle away, doing nothing.

But not the disciples. If they had questions about Jesus’ instruction that day, Luke doesn’t record them. Instead, we are told that they go back to Jerusalem and pray and make use of the time by choosing a replacement  for Judas. They didn’t rush. They didn’t panic. They saw that waiting can be good, that sometimes when we wait instead of rushing ahead full steam, we are better experienced or better equipped for what comes next. Waiting comes from a posture of realizing that I don’t know everything and that time doesn’t own me.

When I think of periods of waiting in my own life, I think of when I was pregnant with my daughter. Those months of waiting and anticipation prepared me for what was ahead. There was no way I would have been mentally ready (or that she could be physically ready) any earlier than those nine months. There was value in the waiting. It prepared us; it slowed us. It showed us that we don’t know everything. In short, I think waiting humbles us.

 

Social Media Devalues Work and Effort

“Can’t I just google it?” Oh man, these words. As a teacher, I hear these words every day. And yes, a lot of the time, it may be faster to find the answers we’re looking for by just googling something or asking  someone on social media, but faster isn’t always better. I am concerned  that social media, and the Internet in general, has made us lazy: we just take the easy way out by looking up something someone else has already worked on. Less work for ourselves; a good thing, yes? I think not.

Work is a biblical value. God worked for six days to create the earth, and then on the seventh day He rested and enjoyed it. When we work, create, and produce, we are living into our purpose as His image-bearers. It can be dangerous for us as Christ-followers to lose an understanding of the significance of work. We are doing what we were made to do when we live in the pattern of “work, then enjoy.”

We work to make a delicious meal, and then we enjoy eating it together. We work to research and put together a paper for the novel in our English class, and then we enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done. We work and work to save for that vacation with our family, and then we revel in a week off with the people we love most.

So in my classroom, googling isn’t an option. When I ask my students to find a question, I don’t want them just reporting back to me what someone else has already said. I’m doing my best to encourage the generation  to think deeper, to wrestle with questions, to analyze and wonder, to ponder and create.

In my own world, I’m recently working on this: I am writing out the sayings of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew. I heard this suggested a long time ago as a way to focus in on Jesus’ teachings and instructions. Sure, I could just google this and get a list of things He has said, but by reading through Matthew and writing Christ’s words out in my own hand, I get a much deeper sense of communion with Him. By having to slow down to write out His instruction, I’m slowing down to think more deeply about what Jesus has said and the context in which He said it.

 

Social Media Makes The Truth Just That Much Harder to Find

Several years ago, I decided to take some time off from social media. I took an entire year away from Facebook. After my year-long hiatus, I noticed that a remarkable shift had occurred while I was away. Facebook used to be about friends keeping in touch with friends and wishing each other happy birthday, bragging about your vacation, things like that.

When I got back on, I saw so few people actually talking to one another. Instead what I saw was people “sharing” articles or posts. Facebook had become less a site for people to be “friends” digitally, and more a space for people to push their agendas. And with everyone pushing their agendas, from every angle, it has becoming difficult to know what’s what anymore. People can literally say whatever they want and publish it.

In our day and age there is already a fight for the idea of absolute truth—that there is only one Truth, and that His name is Jesus. Instead, what we see today is relativity: “You do you.” This is already a difficult fight, and so all this other stuff on social media is just muddying the water.

Social media gives each of us a podium and a platform. But just because someone has a podium, it doesn’t mean what they are saying is true or right or valuable. That might be a hard truth, and a very unpopular one in our day and age, but I stand by it. Just because the majority is behind someone or something, doesn’t make it truth.

 

So,  What Should We Do With Social Media?

How do we use social media in a way that is responsible, and that doesn’t set us up to fall prey to these subtle shifts in thinking?

Some things I have done are to delete the Facebook app on my phone. If I want to log on to Facebook, I go to an Internet browser, type in the web address, and log in. Having to do this every time I want to get on helps me to not be a casual browser; instead I have to get on very intentionally.

Very recently, I also limited my time on my phone in a couple ways: I heard someone say they fast from their phones from 8:00 p.m.–8:00 a.m. I think that’s a great idea. I also try very hard, and don’t always succeed, to resist the temptation to browse social media when I’m with my daughter. I don’t want her having to compete with my phone for my attention. I want to set a good example for her: I don’t want her to be addicted to her phone when she grows up, and that begins with me modeling that for her.

A concluding thought—C. S. Lewis writes on the origin of evil in his book Mere Christianity. He says that when God created humans, He gave them certain faculties and intelligences. And as much as humans had capacity to use that intelligence for good, they had the same capacity to use it for evil. Social media is the same. It has a great capacity for good, but also for evil. I think we would do well to be sober-minded about its power and influence in our lives and our world. We need to be a force for good with it. We need to represent Him well with it.

3 Things To Do When Life Feels Meaningless

Written by Julian Panga, India

Julian grew up in India and then lived in Australia for 12 years. While working in the banking and finance Industry in Melbourne, he also served as a church elder, missions trainer, and Bible teacher. In 2014, he returned to India in response to God’s calling and is currently involved in pastoral ministry and theological training. He is passionate about teaching and training as well as engaging the youth and those in the marketplace with the Gospel.

I felt like I was on top of the world. It was, after all, any young man’s dream come true. I was in my mid-20s with a high paying job, good career prospects, and all the comforts and luxuries that life could offer. What more could anyone wish for?

However, something deep inside me felt amiss. There was a growing dissatisfaction in my heart. It all boiled down to one pertinent question: What is it that would truly make my life meaningful?

I couldn’t answer that question straight up. As a believer who grew up grounded in biblical principles, I had been taught that I needed to please God with my life. So, in spite of all the temporary highs that life brought my way, the thought that came to my mind instinctively was whether I was doing what God wanted me to do.

One part of me persisted in that thought. Another part of me justified my actions—after all, I was successful in life and had achieved so much so quickly. Surely, God would not be against that? What’s more, I was also active in church and missions, and gave generously to Christian work, so that should keep God happy, shouldn’t it?

I had defined success the way I understood it and the way the world applauded it. However, I never paused to consider how God looked at success. My seemingly full and abundant life was empty and meaningless when seen from God’s perspective.

I began to realize that I had never sought the reason for true meaning and significance in my life. Rather, I set my mind on and pursued those things that would never satisfy. As a result, I had become a purposeless, directionless individual just cruising along life, not knowing what I was doing or where I was going.

That relentless still small voice of God became a persistent prompting in my mind, and there was nothing I could do to distract myself from it. I continued to be restless until I came to a point of confession and answered that question truthfully.

The truth was that I was busy building my own kingdom with my own goals, plans, and thoughts—and neglecting God’s Kingdom. Little did I know that these vain pursuits in life would never give me meaning, significance, and purpose in life.

When we give undue importance to secondary aspects of life, such as career, money, comforts, relationships, fame, etc., we end up dethroning God and placing ourselves and other things on the throne of our life. We buy into a lie that says that our ultimate purpose in life is to pursue the things of this world.

The Bible, however, tells us that our true purpose is to seek God and His Kingdom first, and all other things will be added to us (Matthew 6:33). Seeking after God and His glory is what will truly give life meaning and significance. We need to come to the realization that we don’t exist for ourselves. Rather, we exist to bring God glory, and when we do that in all we say and do, we become truly fulfilled.

The author of the book of Ecclesiastes had a similar sentiment thousands of years ago. He had also untiringly explored the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge, pleasure and satisfaction, toil and self-indulgence. He tried to find meaning and significance in his work, his pursuits, his goals and desires. However, he came to the stark realization that all these were vain pursuits, a mere chasing after the wind. There was nothing under the Sun by which man would be able to find true meaning and significance.

But he didn’t leave it there. Rather, he punctuated the book with precious nuggets of wisdom. There are three keys lessons that we can learn from the Teacher in Ecclesiastes, which help us live a life of meaning, significance and purpose. It is the kind of a life which would put a smile on God’s face when lived out authentically.

 

Fear God Alone

In Proverbs 9:10, we are told that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Those who practice the “fear of the Lord” will have good understanding, but the one who despises it remains a fool. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes picks up the same idea. He says that the fear of God comes by recognizing God’s authority and presence over our lives (Ecclesiastes 3:14). God is not appeased by our gifts or sacrifices. Rather, He is pleased when we are attentive and obedient to His Word (Ecclesiastes 5:1b). He urges us not to set our eyes on our own dreams and words, but to fear God because those who do so will flourish in life (Ecclesiastes 8:12-13).

How have I practiced the fear of God in my life? By recognizing who He truly is. Regular reading of the Bible helps me understand who God is, what He has done for me, and what He continues to do in and through me. God’s divine attributes—such as His immanence, holiness, sovereignty and mercy—remind me that although I am unworthy, He continues to be gracious. A fitting response to the Living God is that of reverent fear. And I choose to do that not out of compulsion, rather out of love.

 

Remember God Alone

The Teacher urges us to focus our mind and heart on remembering God, especially from our youth and before the dark seasons of life come our way (Ecclesiastes 12:1-2). Remembering God and doing so from a young age will set us on the right trajectory for the rest of our lives. When we remember His love, care, and grace, we come to a true realization of who we truly are and our complete dependence on Him. We understand that life is a precious gift of God, and not something we have achieved ourselves. This in turn fills our hearts with humility and gratitude. Remembering God always fills us with great joy, which can never be obtained from wealth, possessions or power (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20).

Remembering that I am God’s child, and that He knew my unformed substance and chose me before the foundations of the earth were laid (Psalm 139:13-17, Ephesians 1:4), humbles me to surrender my will to Him and be grateful for His saving grace. This realization moves my entire being to worship my Heavenly Father. I no longer am concerned about gaining people’s approval or drawing my identity from the world, but I choose to remember God’s goodness in my life and worship Him without any pretense.

 

Pursue God Alone

Rather than chasing the vain pursuits of life, we will find true meaning and significance in the relentless pursuit of God. The pursuit of wisdom and knowledge, wealth and happiness, purpose and meaning can be seen from the right perspective when we set our hearts on pursuing God (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10). All these things under the Sun, if brought under the Son, will bring purpose and significance to life. Our faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ and His completed work on the Cross, transforms our otherwise mundane and meaningless lives to be deeply satisfying and full of purpose. The free gift of salvation reminds us that we don’t need to strive for it through our works, but can rely on His Finished Work. We can rest in the fact that it is in Him and what He has done for us that we find our true identity as God’s children—forgiven, redeemed, reconciled and set free.

On a practical level, each time I make a decision—regarding my lifestyle, investments, relationships, or anything else—I evaluate whether this choice would align me with God’s purposes for my life. Only if I feel that this would help me further God’s Kingdom and become a better follower of Christ, then I would embrace it wholeheartedly. God has become my sole focus and priority, and all other things in my life are consciously allowed in only if they deepen and strengthen that relationship I have with Him.

 

Applying these principles in my life has turned it around. I learned that success is not in what I achieve for myself, but in how I grow closer to God in my walk of faith. True meaning and significance in life is not found in the pursuit of things or accumulation of stuff, but in understanding who God is and who I am in relation to Him. This revolutionized my thinking altogether. I was no longer chasing vain dreams, but chasing after God. My greatest satisfaction was found in seeking after God, knowing Him intimately, and pursuing Him passionately. When I turned over my life to Him, began to seek His face and walk in His ways, life became worth living. Life had an ultimate purpose, and there was joy in loving and serving God.

By being obedient to God’s voice and surrendering myself to His will, I am now truly on top of the world. God’s plans and purposes have come to fruition in my life, and I realize now that there is no greater calling than loving Him, serving Him and making Him known to others.

It’s so easy to believe a lie of the devil and finish life having achieved nothing. But if we fear God, remember and pursue Him, life can be full of joy and significance. It is through the intentional pursuit of God that one could unearth the real meaning and purpose of life.

What To Do When the Bible Is Confusing

Written By Carol Lerh, Singapore

When we ask questions about the Bible, we often learn more about God through those questions. But what do you do when you have a question, and the more you read about it, the less it makes sense?

For example, I was reading through all four Gospels when I came across Matthew 11:29, where Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” But in Mark 11, I found Jesus cursing fig trees for not bearing fruit and flipping tables in the temple. How do I reconcile these actions with His gentleness and humility?

As my doubts began to turn my confusion into disbelief, I wanted to stop reading the Bible. Even though it seems easier to do so whenever doubt arises, here are five things that have helped me deal with my confusion: 

 

1. Don’t stop reading the Bible or going to church

I’ve seen friends leave the church, and consequently leave Christianity altogether when they have unanswered questions. I remember reflecting on those same questions and being very certain that the Bible has all the answers to them. So even though my faith was shaken, I decided that I was going to stay in church, read the Bible, and question other Christians and Bible experts until I figure out for myself who God is.

It is easy to doubt that the Bible is trustworthy when you have questions about what’s written in it. But the Bible claims to be the Word of God (2 Peter 1:20-21). It claims to be entirely true (Psalm 119). And it claims to be sufficient for us (2 Timothy 3:15-17). These claims are either blasphemous or true. It can’t be both. If you believe in the God of the Bible, you must believe that the Bible is the Word of God.

Though the Bible was written by different authors in different parts of the ancient world over different time periods, they all talk about the same God and the same gospel. It is an incredibly cohesive work. Historians also agree about the existence of Jesus and His crucifixion. To me, that’s enough evidence of the reliability of the Bible.

Giving up on the Bible and the church, and looking for the truth about God in other places is a mistake. Since the rest of the world has rejected God, why would they tell you the truth about God?

 

2. Pray for understanding

James 1:5 says that if anyone lacks wisdom, they can ask God. Before He died, Jesus promised that He will send us the Holy Spirit to teach us all things and remind His people of everything He taught (John 14:26). We have that Holy Spirit as our Counselor today, so let the Spirit lead. Pray and ask for wisdom, understanding, and an open heart to receive the truth.

Maybe you doubt that God will give you a definite answer. I did. I asked God to explain why it’s okay for Him to overturn tables and curse fig trees but then we have to love our enemies and not repay evil with evil. But God didn’t explain Himself to me. Instead, I was reminded of God’s reply to Job, when Job questioned God about his suffering: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” (Job 38:4).

I told God it didn’t make sense.

As my questions multiplied, I began wondering why I should believe in a God who never did any of the miraculous things He did in the Bible for me. An encouraging word from someone who loves me, is that all He can do in reality?

But after praying, God showed me how He was working in this world and in my life. My mother met the same person twice on her way to the restroom after Sunday Service, and that person became my therapist. My best friend started telling me about the revelations she received from God and what God has been doing in her life. So even though I didn’t feel Him; He was working all around me. And now, looking back, I can see His footprints through my difficulties and stubbornness.

God will help you to make sense of your questions. Keep going to Him, knock on the door relentlessly, and don’t give up seeking Him with all your heart. If you wait patiently, you will see the bigger picture.

 

3. Go back to the basics

When you are faced with a confusing question, you need to have a firm foundation to stand on. What is the rock you are standing on? What do you know for sure? List the things you are certain about or that you should be certain about. Here is my list:

  • God created the world and everything was perfect. (Genesis 1)
  • Man disobeyed God and sin came into the world. (Genesis 3)
  • God came to earth as the man, Jesus, to die for our sins. (Matthew 1-2; Luke 2)
  • He died and resurrected three days later, defeating sin and death. (see any of the gospels)
  • Those who believe in him will be forgiven of their sins and have eternal life. (Matthew 26:28; John 3:16)
  • God wants us to live a holy and God-honoring life (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
  • He gives the Holy Spirit to believers to help them live that life. (John 14:16-18)

These statements might not be directly related to what you are confused about, but what begins in curiosity can quickly lead to doubting everything you thought you believed in. In these cases, I found that I need to go back to the foundation of my faith and check that it is still stable. I read about Jesus’ birth, His death and resurrection.

Knowing the essentials of your faith will help you discern truth from interpretation and opinion. This is helpful as you search for answers.

 

4. Talk to a mature Christian you trust

The Bible is the most-read book in the world, so your doubts and questions are probably not new. People who have found answers to their questions would be able to share with you what they have discovered. But it is important to look for a Christian you trust—someone you aren’t afraid to approach, and someone who knows the Bible well.

For me, that person is my father. Once, I read in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9 that God will judge all who inflict suffering. The question that came to my mind when I read this was: what if these people are also suffering themselves and didn’t mean to inflict suffering? I brought my question to my father, and we talked about God’s judgment and His mercy. He reminded me of 1 John 1:9, which says that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us of our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. That helped me make sense of the passage.

 

5. Use Internet sources wisely

If you don’t have a trustworthy Christian to turn to, you can search for answers through other reliable sources that are grounded in Scripture. My father’s answers don’t always clarify my doubts, so I use some of these resources as well.

The guideline to finding a reliable resource is to see whether the resource contradicts the basics discussed above. If it does, then it’s not reliable. If it doesn’t, then check how much Biblical content they have, and how much cross-referencing they use. For instance, if they talk about judgment in the Old Testament without making references to verses in the New Testament, then it’s probably not that reliable.

I use Constable’s Notes on Lumina at Bible.org to understand Bible passages that are confusing, as well as GotQuestions.org, which has answers to almost every question we can possibly ask about God and the Bible. I realized early on that reading blogs and opinion pieces written by random people make me even more confused, especially when they contradict what my father told me or what I find in my Study Bible. So I recommend sticking to trusted avenues with concrete statements of faith, like Desiring God or Our Daily Bread Ministries.

 

I did find an answer to my question after much prayer, reading and thinking. Jesus is God, and therefore He has an authority that we do not have. There are things that He can do that we have no right to do. After all, I did not help Him create the world, who am I to curse a fig tree when I’m also one of His creations?

I have come to the realization that there will be mysteries that we will forever be unable to comprehend, or know only partially; for we are like blind men touching different parts of an elephant. Some questions I simply have to put on a list of things to ask God when I get to heaven.

If you have any questions about God or the Bible, I’d like to encourage you to bring your doubts to God and pray about the answers you find. Don’t use your doubts as an excuse to stop reading the Bible. Read smaller chunks and give yourself more time to meditate, or use a commentary to guide you, but make sure you keep seeking Him. As long as we remain connected to God, He will work in our lives (John 15:5) and prove Himself to be true.

Seeking Heavenly Things

Title: Seeking Heavenly Things
Materials: Digital hand-drawn lettering
Artwork by: Beth Rufener (@creatifolio)
Description: Those who are redeemed by Jesus Christ are called to seek heavenly things, to make things that are good, pure, lovely, and virtuous our daily portion—just like a hearty, nourishing meal. Seeking and longing after heavenly things will never fail to bless us and fill our souls with contentment. When have we ever regretted helping someone in need, sharing our faith, worshipping with other believers, praising God, or using our talents to give glory to the Lord? Just as a healthy meal gives nourishment to our bodies, a daily portion of these heavenly things will nourish and satisfy our souls.

 

Hungering After Righteousness

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6 KJV)

 

Seek Things Above

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1 KJV)

 

The Lord is my Portion

The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. (Lamentations 3:24 KJV)