I wrote a post a couple of days ago about how annoying Social Media has been lately. If you haven’t read it, you ought to. As a follow up to that post, I have a question to ask you: Have you noticed how easily offended we have become?
Why do you think that is? Why is it that, no matter what you say, there is a good chance you’re going to offend someone? I have offended people by talking about tupperware sippy cups. Seriously. Why have we become offended about everything.
Let’s try it out. I’m not going to say anything offensive in this paragraph, but tell me if you do. It’s offensive to be a Christian, and people are offended by Christians. It’s offensive to be American and americans are offended by people being american. It’s offensive to eat meat. It’s offensive to drink cow’s milk. Those are some of the easy ones to talk about. I don’t even want to mention the others because I don’t want people to be distracted by them.
Why? Why are we so easily offended? It didn’t used to be this way. People have always been offended by things, but not like this. In the past, people would get offended if you said something that they took personally. We would get offended if someone called us fat or ugly, rich or poor, stupid or smart.
Why are we offended by silly things like milk and meat now? I think it boils down to this one thing: truth.
Truth, morality and reality used to be something that was defined outside of ourselves. Definitions to reality existed outside of who we are. Honesty was defined. Integrity too. Our humanity was defined by biology.
That has all changed. Now we define truth, morality and reality within ourselves. We decide who we are and who we are want to be. When we make a stand on something, we are doing so because we are that thing. Whatever the issue is, it’s not just a battle of ideas, it’s personal.
That’s why we are so easily offended. Because when you disagree with someone who has defined their own truth, morality and reality, you aren’t just disagreeing with an idea. You’re actually insulting that person.
It’s the same as calling someone fat, ugly or stupid. (All names I’ve been called, by the way.) You may thing you’re discussing an idea, but you’re not. You’re discussing a person.
This is one reason why absolute truth is so important. Without it, we are at the mercy of the most popular idea of the time. Without it, we are at war with each other.
With absolute truth, we are at the mercy of truth and the God who created it. And He is a God who loved us enough to send his Son to walk in Grace and Truth. He is a God who sent His son to die to pay the ransom for my sins and to restore me into the likeness His son.
Without absolute truth, there is no right or wrong. There is no way to decide who gets to decide. There is no way to determine if I am right and you are wrong. With absolute truth, there is a right and wrong. And, even though you may not think so, that’s a good thing.
Why is it good? Because, let’s say someone breaks into your house, steals your stuff and harms your family. You go to the trial, only to hear the defendant say that he was only doing what he thought was his right. And it just so happens that the jury and judge agree with him. He was doing what he thought was his right. It doesn’t matter how it affected you, because it is what was right for him.
It may seem ridiculous, but it’s not that far off. “But we have laws that protect us against that!?” I know! That’s what I think. But, those laws are continuously being changed to match our new moral relativism. It is not too far fetched to imagine that most, if not all laws will be done away with over time.
And, how do we decide what should be laws if we don’t have any absolute truth to base them on. You may feel that all life is precious and valuable, but that doesn’t mean I do, or that the judge does. If we all disagree, how do we decide what is right and wrong? We are left to do what’s right for us. And if that affects you negatively, that’s just your too bad.
That’s why we’re easily offended. Because we have become the be all end all for everything. We are the source of our own truth. And when something conflicts with that truth, the person doing the offending is in the wrong. I can’t possibly be wrong because I decided it was right in the first place.
If you find yourself being offended about an issue, try to dig into it a little bit. Try to discover if this belief is based on absolute truth or something you have created. If it isn’t, try to discover what the truth is. If you don’t know how to figure it out, ask someone. Ask me, and let’s see if we can’t find the truth together.
As long as you’re interested in the truth. The whole truth. And nothing but the truth.
I wasn’t one of the first people to jump on Facebook. It took me a while. But, it didn’t take me long to discover there was tremendous potential in this tool.
As a pastor, I do my best to keep up on what’s going on in people’s lives. Prior to Facebook, this was quite a challenge. It took a lot of time, a lot of phone calls and coffee, etc.
Once I learned how to use Facebook, I could be in the know with a lot more people. It wasn’t necessarily the deepest knowledge, but I at least knew what was going on. I could make a list of people and scroll through their updates in about an hour.
Then I got on Twitter. I’m still not huge into it. I try. I’m not a big conversationalist. I can do better, I’m sure.
But, Facebook has changed. Twitter too. We’ve gone from sharing about our own personal lives to sharing news and politics. Social Media has become a platform for whatever propaganda we agree with.
You can’t get on Facebook right now without being bombarded with people’s politics and other opinions. Which, if you think about it, is kind of funny. We won’t talk about these issues with people face to face, but we’ll destroy our relationship with someone behind the security of the blue and white.
I loved being able to know what was happening in your life. I loved that I can connect with friends and family who are thousands of miles away and see what they’re doing today. I didn’t even mind the posts about food and coffee.
It’s fun to be able to celebrate when a new life is brought into this world. It’s fun to be able to celebrate a new job or a new house. Those are the things Facebook was meant for.
I don’t even mind you sharing when things are going bad in your life, and you need encouragement. That’s you. That’s your life. I don’t think our social media lives should be only the good parts. It’s good to share the raw parts too. The point is, I want to hear from you. I want to hear about your life. I know there’s a bunch of junk going on in the world. We all do. I don’t troll Facebook & Twitter to see the garbage. I do so because I want to know what’s happening in the lives of the people I care about.
But, for far too many, social media has become the prime landing strip for all the things we don’t like about the world, politics, religion, culture, society, etc. etc. etc.
I understand why we do it. Those things matter to us. They matter to me too. We want to have a voice in the discussion. We want to be heard. If we post something on Facebook, we can gauge if people have heard it. We see the metrics right before our eyes. These important things, that we’re probably too scared to share face to face with someone, have become the status quo for what’s in Social Media.
Right now, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of people arguing about Syrian Refugees. Last week it was full of people arguing about a red cup.
Considering this is the week leading up to Thanksgiving, could we all try to overwhelm our Facebook feeds with the things we love & the things we are thankful for. I know some of you are going through tremendous struggles right now, and I don’t discount them. But, the majority of us, if not all, have a mountain of blessings in our lives.
So, before you hit share on some political propaganda that will spread wide the divide, stop and think about something positive, encouraging, uplifting and inspiring you can share. Not a meme. Not the equivalent of an email forward. Something encouraging in your life. Something you are thankful for. Something good that is happening for you.
Will you join me in this joy revolution? I may not be able to start a revolution on my own. But I’m going to try. I could use your help. I’m not asking you to share this post, instead, all I’m asking is that you go share something about you on Social Media. Share something joyful and encouraging. Share something that has happened in your life. I have a feeling, that’s what we’re all wanting to hear.
Have you ever found yourself disappointed with God? You can’t believe He let you down, He didn’t do what you wanted Him to do or what you thought He would do. Maybe you feel like God has broken one of His promises, or that God doesn’t seem to be consistent – sometimes He gives us what we ask for and other times He seems silent.
I know I have felt those things. There have been plenty of times in my life when I have expected God to act one way, only to experience Him in a completely different way. Why does that happen?
I think there are two basic reasons for this that we all relate to. And when we understand them, I think it’s quite simple, and we can recognize it.
1. We are trying to define God from our humanity.
God is infinite. God is immutable. God is both transcendent and immanent. That’s just four characteristics of who God is, and we, in our humanity do not have the ability to really understand any of them. God is immortal, immovable, all powerful, all knowing, all seeing. God is huge.
God is infinite. He is not constrained by time. He has always been, will always be and always is. We have a birthday. We celebrate it each year. We go to funerals. We have a beginning. We have a start date.
God is immutable. God never changes. We change all the time. We are growing. We grow in our understanding of God’s word and ways. We adapt our lives to Him. Our lives were never perfect. We are fickle. We change our minds all the time.
At these two foundational aspects of God’s nature we discover that we cannot possibly come to a complete understanding of who God is. We are constrained by our humanity.
Problems arise when we critique God because we can’t understand his nature. Let me give you an example. Because we are constantly changing, we can’t understand how God could stay the same for all of time. Because we are confined by time, we can’t understand a God who isn’t.
So, out of frustration we change God. Certainly God would change if He knew what I knew. Certainly, if God knew how long it was going to take to do this or to change this or to become this, he would circumvent the process.
We take our humanity and try to define God. And we fail. Miserably. When God’s nature isn’t measuring up to our standards, it is not God who is incorrect but our standards. We adapt to his nature, we can’t change his nature to adapt to ours.
2. We are trying to understand His ways in the context of our ways.
Because God is all of these things, He has a way of doing things. The way that God does things is in perfect keeping with His nature and character. God is not hindered by imperfections and flaws like we are. God is not tempted by sin like we are. God is not hindered by time, by a lack of knowledge, by a lack of wisdom or any kind of lack we can imagine. God lacks nothing. There is no part of God that is not perfect. God is perfectly complete and completely perfect.
So, when God doesn’t answer our prayer the way we think He should, He isn’t doing so to punish us or to keep us unhappy. God isn’t out to get us or to keep us miserable. God’s wisdom is perfect. So, when the timing isn’t right, He leads us in a different direction until the timing is right. If it ever will be.
We don’t critique God for not working as we think He should. He is God, we are not. If God doesn’t move like we think He should, it’s not because He doesn’t love us but because He does. If God doesn’t do what we want, it’s not because He doesn’t care, but because He does. He cares enough to lead us in the everlasting way. He cares enough to say no to something good because there is something great that He can see and knows is what we need. Not only does He see it, He has planned it.
Another example: Culture around us is constantly changing. Currently at a pace that is hard to keep up with. There is great pressure on believers to change their beliefs to adapt to culture. And it’s hard not to. It feels wrong to stay the same when everyone else is changing.
But, God never changes. His wisdom never changes. His understanding never changes. This system He created operates on the same foundation as it did when He created it. The promises God made to Abraham are still in keeping with what God’s nature is for us today. The value God placed on life at the beginning of creation is the same value He still places on life today. The way the whole system functions today is the same way God created it to function in the beginning.
When God’s ways do not measure up to our ways, it is not God who has failed but our understanding of His ways that has failed.
So, no matter where you find yourself this day, I hope you are encouraged. And if you are not encouraged, but discouraged because God isn’t measuring up, I hope you have found definition for your discouragement. Our frustration with God is because we can’t fully comprehend and understand, not because God has failed. God cannot fail, it isn’t in his nature. We fail all the time.
If the answer from God right now is no, it’s not because He doesn’t love you, it’s because He does and He exists outside of the confines of time we experience and He knows and sees better for you. If you are frustrated that God isn’t giving you something you want, He hasn’t given it to you because He knows what it will do to you right now to let you have it. That’s because He is God and can see things we can’t see. He is God and knows things we will never know.
God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. If your frustrated with the way your life is working out, could it be that you’ve been fighting God for your way and not following His?
It’s no secret that I love Christmas music. A couple of years ago I did a whole series of posts about Christmas. 25 days worth. I even made a playlist! I have loved Christmas music for as long as I can remember. It was a big part of our family growing up, as was music in general. Our church choir would start working on Christmas music in September or October. So, it wasn’t unusual to hear music before that. During my time as a worship pastor I would often start in June/July to find just the right music so we’d be ready to start rehearsals in September.
But that’s not the reason I listen to Christmas music in October.
One reason is, I just love it. I know I said it already. I don’t love the top 20 songs that get played on most radio stations and in most stores. That stuff is old and annoying, and if that’s the only Christmas music you hear, I’m not surprised to hear you say you don’t like it. But, there are thousands of albums by thousands of artists. There is some great stuff out there, and that’s what I listen to. There’s so much more, that if you waited until Christmas to listen to it, you’d never hear most of it.
Another reason is I just love Christmas. I love the weather at Christmas time. I love time with family. I love Christmas movies. I am actually glad to see decorations in the stores already. Christmas is wonderful.
But the real reason I listen to Christmas music in October is because it reminds me of the story of Christmas. Not the commercialized story. Not Santa. Not Christmas lists, be they children’s or grown up. Not Frosty. Those are fun, I don’t have a problem with them. But, the real story of the incarnation. God becoming a man. Redemption. It’s the beginning of everything we celebrate as followers of Christ.
I love Christmas because it celebrates that at the time Jesus came there was great despair. There were vast amounts of people who had lost hope that a savior would ever come. There was a great hopelessness in the world and a longing for emmanuel to come (I just listened to that song).
I love Christmas because Christ came to the lowliest of low people. His big grant introduction was to shepherds instead of kings.
I love Christmas because it reminds us that the one true God actually walked on this earth and knows what it is like to be a human being. The one true God was among the people He created. He breathed our air and walked our sod. Immanuel, God With Us.
Yes, I love Easter and Good Friday. In fact, I wish we had more resurrection songs. We have a lot of songs about the cross and a lot of songs about Jesus paying for our sins. Not enough about Jesus’ triumph over death, hell and the grave.
But, during these few months, we have Christmas music. It reminds us of Jesus’ coming. It reminds us of the beginning of the story. It gets me thinking about how to share this story with more people. It gets me thinking about being thankful for what Jesus did. You could could say it gets me in the Christmas mood.
And let’s be honest. The Christmas mood is a good thing. The world would be a lot better off if more people were in the Christmas mood more. I’m not talking about the bad memories you might have surrounding Christmas. I’m talking about the mood that comes when you know the truth of the real story of Christmas. The joy that comes when you have a personal relationship with the central character of the story.
That’s why I love Christmas. That’s why I love Christmas music. It was obviously a big deal to God. He disseminated details about Christmas for hundreds and hundreds of years before it happened. The first Christmas songs were written hundreds of years before Jesus came. People were hoping for the arrival of Immanuel long before. The anticipation lasted much more than a couple of weeks or a couple of months or even a couple of centuries.
So, whoever tells you that you’re crazy for listening to Christmas music, feel free to ignore their comments. You may be come kind of scrooge that thinks you can’t listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. I’m sorry you feel that way because you’re missing out on a lot. And don’t use that “I don’t want to downplay Thanksgiving” excuse. Thanksgiving is an American holiday. God created Christmas. Big difference. I’m thankful – thankful that Jesus came – thankful for Christmas.
Give it a try today. Let yourself listen to Christmas music before November 1st. See if you don’t find yourself experiencing more Joy. Let the lyrics of the songs of the real Christmas story remind you that God loved you so much that He sent His son to be born as a baby.
Don’t rebel against the commercialization of Christmas either. Yes, it can be disgusting. No we don’t need to focus so much on presents. But, nearly the entire, unbelieving world is focused around this one day. Think of that, more than Easter, people who don’t believe in Christ stop to celebrate his arrival on earth! Don’t be someone who showers condemnation on those who like to celebrate it in big fashion. Just let the way the true Christmas story has changed you shine the light of the star that points the way to the messiah.
It’s okay. Go ahead. Hit the play button. Don’t let yourself be swayed from listening by all the Christmas music haters out there. It’s your choice. Enjoy it. Let it lift your spirit.
Sing we now of Christmas? Yes, let’s sing now!
Facebook is filled with it. The world wants desperately for you to choose it. It’s a secret most don’t want you to know. Because if you find out, there’s a good chance it will have devastating consequences for the way of life that is derived from it.
What is “it”?
“It” is the way we define ourselves. “It” is about the source of our identity.
You see, the world wants you to find your definition in all of the things that keep the world’s profit margins up for the shareholders.
They want you to define yourself based on the compare and contrast model. You contrast yourself to someone else and see how you compare.
I’m not just talking about possessions. Yes it is one of the areas. You see that your friend has a new phone, so you want a new phone. Your ride in your friends new car so you want a new car. You start to define your level of success based on your ability to keep up with your friends. A big part of the danger is that you’re not just comparing yourself to one person, but to many. One friend has the means to buy a new phone, but not necessarily the means to buy a new car. While the one person you are trying to keep up with may make close to the same amount as you, that’s not true when you add them all up. You are trying to keep up with a multimillion dollar enterprise when you consider the incomes of all the different people. Possessions is an aspect, but it’s only one.
We see someone with a different body style and chemistry post a picture of themselves on Facebook or Twitter. We see, in one snapshot, the effects of a journey they have been on. They have been working on it for years, and we see the progress they have made. And we compare ourselves to that picture. We don’t compare ourselves to the journey, we compare ourselves to the results we see. And we don’t measure up.
We see someone who has a gift or talent that we don’t have and what they are able to do with it. And we compare. They have a natural ability that makes them so good at what they do. We aren’t even close. We wish we were.
We see the highlights of someone else’s life that they post and we compare ourselves to them. We see the snapshots of what they did today but didn’t see the work that went into that one snapshot. We see the picture of their kids, but we didn’t see the coercion that took place before the picture was snapped to get the kids to look at the camera. We don’t see any of that. We just see the one moment of perfection and compare it to our lifetime of imperfection.
We see someone all dressed up and going out for a fun night, but didn’t see them before they got into the shower.
I currently have 1,137 friends on Facebook. How many of you instantly compared yourself? How many of you instantly decided you were more or less successful based on whether you have more or less friends than I do?
I have 1,137 friends on Facebook. That’s 1,137 different lives. That’s 1,137 different highlight reels. That’s 1,137 different snapshots. It is impossible for me to keep up with what’s going on in that many lives. I can’t do it, let alone try to keep my life up with their lives. I can’t compare my life to that many lives and keep up. I may be able to keep up with one other person. Maybe two. But not 3, 300 or 3000. It’s impossible.
And that’s what we do every day. We look at the 50 people who post updates that morning and we compare ourselves to them. But for those 50 moments in time we see, there were also thousands of moments that led up to that one moment we saw.
For instance, my mom has been posting pictures of my dad’s progress in painting his barn. I see drastic differences in between the pictures. It’s amazing. But my dad has been hard at work scraping and pressure washing and painting a coat of primer and a coat of red paint. There has been a lot of work I haven’t seen. Hours and weeks of hours working to get to the point I saw.
Why do we define ourselves by comparison? Why do we contrast our lives with the lives of others and see how we measure up?
I think the answer is simple. It’s because we are still at the center of our universe. We are still responsible for our own identity. And when we are responsible for our identity the only way to know if we are making any progress is to look around us and see if we are ahead of or behind of the others around us.
But, what if we’re not supposed to be at the center of our own universe? What if we weren’t built for everything to revolve around us? How would that change things?
What if you weren’t defined by what you do? What if you weren’t defined by your successes or failures? What if you weren’t defined by your abilities and talents? What if you weren’t defined by your possessions? What if you weren’t defined by your highlights? What if you weren’t defined by polished moments you are willing to share with the world?
Wouldn’t that be freeing? Wouldn’t that change everything?
The truth of the matter is, that is the truth of the matter.
You aren’t defined by comparison. You aren’t defined by you.
You are defined by whose image you are made in. Your value does not change based on your ability to outperform people on Facebook. Your value does not change based on anything you can do or own. Your worth is not based on the amount in your account. You are made in God’s image. That means you have value no matter what. That means you are irreplaceable. There is only one you. God created you and designed you. You have worth just as you are. You have worth because you are made in God’s image.
You have so much worth that God sent his son to die for you. You have so much worth that the creator of the universe left behind his kingly throne, walked this earth, paid the ransom for yours and my sins. You have so much worth that God went through all that so that He could walk with you, know you, dwell in you.
That’s who you are. That’s your definition. It’s not your past. It’s not the mistakes you’ve made. It’s not your sexuality. It’s not your income. It’s not your family. It’s not your body type. It’s not your blood type or your skin type. It’s not the color of your hair, the size of your pants or your address. It’s not how up with culture you are. It’s not which political party you affiliate with. It’s not the causes you fight for. It’s not who you were. It’s not the others you wish you could be. It’s none of that.
See yourself, today as God sees you. Made in His Image. Worth the life of His son. Valuable. Priceless. Irreplaceable. Loved. Sons and Daughters of the Most High God.
I am sure I will be raked over the coals for my thoughts in this post. To be honest, I don’t care.
I’m not even going to try to make a strong biblical case. I probably could. That’s not my goal.
This week, in fantasy football, someone tried to trade me three players for Tom Brady. I’m not a fan of Tom Brady. I don’t like his off the field example. I don’t like the patriots. But, it’s fantasy football and he scores points. As you can imagine, I scoffed at the idea. “You’ve got to be kidding me?!” Ummm, decline trade.
For my whole life, I’ve been pro-death penalty. It’s in the Bible. If you commit a crime against another person created in the image of God that results in their death, there is a prescribed response. It’s even logical. If you kill a bunch of people, there’s a likelihood you will have to pay with your own life.
I’ve been in several arguments about the death penalty. I’ve argued for it. I’ll admit that. I’ll also admit that in the last several years, I’ve struggled with the concept. And I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one making that decision.
Since 1976 there have been 1,416 executions. 35 in 2014. 22 so far in 2015.
Now, let me take a turn for a moment. Lately, I’ve seen a lot of people “calling out” the hypocrisy of Christians for believing in the death penalty while at the same time being pro-life when it comes to the topic of abortion.
One thing to consider: This calling out is being presented as an exact apple to apple comparison. When in fact that is not the case. The person receiving the death penalty committed a crime that cause them to be put in that situation. Maybe some of them are innocent, but most who are there have made a choice that led them to be on death row.
This is not the case with the unborn. They did not commit a crime that led punishment by death. They have not been able to make mistakes. They have not made bad choices. They haven’t even been able to make someone mad at them. Someone who receives the death penalty has committed a crime that has led to that decision. An unborn child has committed no crime.
On another note, the death the unborn suffer is not nearly as humane as the murderer’s execution. The murderers and rapists get sedatives. Their death is quick by design. In seconds their life is over. Their bodies are not torn apart. Their body parts are not sold for profit afterwards. Some may donate their bodies to medical research, but they have that choice don’t they? (Correct me if I’m wrong.)
1,416 since 1976. 1,416 executions of people who committed a crime.
Since 1976, by my best calculation there have been 55,627,374. That’s not including 2015. So, 56 million. Almost 58 million since Roe V. Wade.
My aim in this post is simple. I would like to propose a trade.
If I give up the argument for the death penalty, will you give up abortion? Because I will gladly do so. I’ll fight for the life of those on death row if we can come to an agreement to end abortion. I’ll gladly share the love of Christ and the grace that covers every sin, no matter how severe with those who are waiting to die. Gladly. Just give me the opportunity. I’m more than willing.
The truth of the matter is, as long as we can point out the hypocrisy of others, we don’t have to worry as much about our own hypocrisy. If people can point out that I’m a hypocrite for being pro death penalty, they don’t feel as bad about their own hypocrisy. Regardless of whether or not I really am a hypocrite.
The truth of the matter is, the reason we’re not willing give up abortion is because of what it might require from us. It might require we be responsible adults. If we make a mistake that leads to pregnancy, we will have to be responsible for the life that results. It costs us something personally. Fighting for the life of someone on death row doesn’t cost much personally. Committing to being a parent for the rest of your life does.
Please don’t consider me unsympathetic. I have deep sympathy for those who suffer abuse and rape and other awful things that result in pregnancy. But, 97+ percent of abortions aren’t under those circumstances. I can’t imagine the struggle. But, I’ve also heard wonderful stories of redemption. How a mom decided to keep a baby in this situation, and that baby went on to be used by God for great things.
That’s because I believe in grace. And I know that grace can cover everything. Grace for the murderer. Grace for the unborn child. Grace for the parents who choose to follow through.
But, I suppose this is a trade that doesn’t have much of a chance of going through. Just like I wasn’t going to trade Tom Brady, we aren’t going to be able to make a death penalty for abortion trade.
But, can we come to an understanding? (Again, I understand the likelihood of this is also unlikely.) Would you mind not calling me a hypocrite for fighting for the life of the unborn? I’m willing to give up the death penalty and support life from womb to tomb.
I’m for life, not matter what the stage. I’m for life no matter how dinged up and damaged it may be. I have hope for those who don’t have hope for themselves.
I’m for life. I’m for the life of the mother. I’m for the life of the child. I’m for the life of the woman who’s been abused, raped and disrespected in unmentionable ways.
I’m for life.