The Seductive Secret of Social Media

Why do you use FaceBook?

If you don't want to answer that for yourself, thinking that your answer might be self-incriminating, ask your friend.  You could even ask one of your 2,000 friends on FaceBook that you don't really know, but you call them friends anyway. Why?  I'm not getting ready to bash FaceBook and tell everyone that Mark Z. Is the anti-Christ and Facebook is the app that somehow is how the demon hordes of hell will ride into your mind, so relax.  Relax and answer the question.

The reason I'm asking you is because when I've asked others why they are on FaceBook the answers I get back are pretty lame.  I've heard everything from, "I use it to share photos with family." To, "I just like keeping up with what everybody is doing." (Ironically this last one is what we used to call stalking which is a punishable crime in 50 states).  I think if we are honest with ourselves, the reason we are on FaceBook and other social media platforms are not substantial, but rather minor.  If your reason to be on FaceBook is to, "be social," great!  But is your socialization online the best way to socialize?  Does it produce and sustain deep heartfelt relationships that last a life time or are those relationships formed in face to face meetings.

FaceBook and other social media platforms have their place in our lives and in our culture, but I think we have elevated a 'minor-help' to a 'major-help' level.  By allowing the seductive social media world to creep into all the gaps of events in life, we have lost the ability to be bored.  If someone says they're bored, or possibly even think they are bored, God help us all!  This is closely akin to the cardinal sin!  Bored? You must never be bored! 

  • If no one is ever bored then when do our minds have the time to create? 
  • When do we think deeply about something? 
  • When do we pause to ponder and meditate on the greatness of God? 

You can see this played out time and time again in people's lives.  The moment there is 30 seconds of down time, out comes the phone.

The other day I walked in and saw my son Noah playing video games on the TV.  Normal I know.  But what caught my eye was that he had an iPad on his lap with another game going on that screen.  When I asked him what in the world he was doing, he told me that he plays the game on the iPad during the few seconds that the game on the TV is loading.  Seriously?  God forbid we have to wait!  Waiting gives birth to boredom.  The only sedative that quells the dullness of boredom is another shot of social media.

Again, I'm not saying social media is bad.  But what I am putting forth is the idea that we should have well defined boundaries of when and how to use social media and not let it out of that playing field.  Even if we somehow become bored and are possibly forced to do the unthinkable: Think.

Quick Boundaries For Social Media Health

  • Limit the number of social platforms (2. 3 at the most.)
  • On your phone delete the apps and force yourself to access it through the web. 
  • Turn off all alerts and banners for pesky non-stop notices.
  • Set up specific times during the day to check the social media, and under no circumstances should you vary from the schedule.
  • Have a predetermined time that you allow yourself to spend on the social media platforms.

I'm sure you can come up with more boundaries to help you navigate the time sucking apps.  Imagine what you could do and accomplish if you regained 50 minutes every single day?  That's the average time a person spends just on FaceBook.  Tid-bit of advice: It's not a sin to be bored.  Think.

Influence Now & Beyond

Eric Metaxas, in his book, Martin Luther, relays an historical tale about a Pastor named Michael King who, in 1934 journeyed from Georgia to the Holy Land.  On his way back he stopped by Berlin, Germany for a conference.  While there he learned a lot of information about the great reformer Martin Luther.  It was such a profound experience that this Georgia Pastor decided to do something extreme.  To honor the great reformer, this Pastor changed his name from Michael King to Martin Luther King.  His son was only 5 years old at the time and went by the affectionate name Michael King Jr.  The dad wanted his dramatic change to not only affect him, but the next generation as well.  So, he changed his son's name to Martin Luther King Jr.

A reformer from the 1500's in Germany lived a life that not only transformed the Christian landscape of his time, but influenced the civil rights landscape on a completely different continent, hundreds of years later.  His life was a life of grand influence.

Too often we live our lives day after day never really taking in to account the influence that we have on others.  You might even laugh at that and decided that you are not in any position to influence anybody, but you would be wrong.  Each of us lives a life that covers and influences roughly 200 years.  You influenced your grandparents.  Your life impacted them and changed them in some way, and then our lives will reach forward into influencing our kids and grandkids.  Our lives carry influence, it's just a matter whether we are using it or not.

Who are you influencing?  You might think no one, but pause for a moment and give it a moment to marinate in your mind.  There are people in your life that you are influencing, guaranteed.  Once you discover who they are then you need to ask yourself the next scary question: "What are you influencing them to do?"  Is your influence positive or is it negative?  Don't let the revelation that you influence people scare you or even shake you.  Lean in to it.  Recognize that this is what God has destined you to do.  To influence not only your generation but those to come as well.

Discovering God's Will For Your Life

One of the questions I get asked more than anything else is, "How do I discover God's will for my life?"  If I've been asked that once, I've been asked that a thousand times.  The age of the person doesn't matter.  Even people in their twilight years ask the same question.  It's almost as if everyone wants to do God's will but they think it's some deep dark secret locked up somewhere in Area 51.

Discovering God's will for your life is not difficult.  Why would it be?  If God, the creator of everything has a will and desire for you to be doing a specific thing, and he gifted you, and equipped you to do it, why would he ever hide it from you?  Why would he go to the trouble to equip you and then not tell you what you were equipped to do?

The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a church in Philippi and they must have been asking the same question, because Paul told them in the second chapter, 

"God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him."

Part of what God does in each one of us is wire us with certain desires.  There are certain things that we naturally like to do, and are good at as well.  Those desires are not evil or self-indulgent they are a God given catalyst to help us step into what he has for us.

King David said the same thing in a song he wrote, 

"Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

As we lean into God, and get closer to him, he leans into us and changes us.  He removes the desires of our hearts that are self-serving and replaces them with desires that are Godly and kingdom advancing.  As you walk with the Lord, the desires that surface in your heart are the desires that God has for you.

I can still hear you shouting at your computer screen, "But how do you know if the desires are the left over fleshly desires, or Godly desires?"  Okay, let me give you a quick little check list to help you in your discovery process.

Does it Line up with Bible?

If you have any desire, dream, or destiny that is not in line with the Bible then it is not of God.  It is a fleshly endeavor that is not the direction that God has for you.  

Will it make me more like Christ?

Look at the long game.  If you follow this path for a year will it lead you closer to Christ or further away?  I know people who are just sure that they are stepping into an open door that God has blessed them with, but the door doesn't lead them closer to God, in fact, it leads them further away.  They take the new job because it's a huge blessing, but they can't ever attend church again because they are working 7 days a week.  They can't hang out in small groups because their work hours are too many and too difficult.  Whatever it is, if it leads you away from Christ then it is not God.

Do those in spiritual authority confirm it?

We hate this one because nobody likes to be told "no."  Spiritual authority is not to be lorded over people or to control people.  If your spiritual authority is ruthless and controlling, you need to find a new one.  A spiritual leader in your life is not a task master but a loving sage who wants to guide you on your journey, but the journey is still yours to take.  Seek their counsel and advice before you jump all in.  Who knows they might have been there before and can give you the real guidance you need.  I would rather hear a "no" in the beginning and save myself years of heartache and pain.  Don't go to your spiritual authority and "tell them" what you're doing.  If you have already made the choice then just do it.  Don't waste their time or yours. The best way is to go to them with an open heart and a teachable heart and seek honest guidance.

Is it focused on others?

Does your dream, destiny, or desire only satisfy you?  Does it scratch your itch but does nothing for anybody else?  Then that's not God.  Yes, God wants us to enjoy life and live in abundance, but when it comes to dreams and destiny it must help somebody.  The clarion call for people working in the Kingdom of God is serving others.  Serving them with everything we do and say.  It's always about the other.

The Dark-Side of History

I hated history class all through high school.  I studied just enough to pass.  It was the teacher's fault.  Of course, it's always easier to blame other people for our lack of effort, but I think in this case I'm right, it was the teacher's fault.  In my completely biased opinion, I say it was their fault because when I got into college my history class was amazing!  The professor presented the stories of history, not in a flat, no calorie way, but their teaching brought history to life.  Suddenly, stories that I thought were meaningless recaps of things that no longer matter, became living images jumping off the pages.  I learned that by reading and diving into historical events, I could learn from them.  I could live a better, more effective life by seeing other people's mistakes and then simply not doing those things.

My history professor would say at least once a week, "Pay attention!  History repeats itself."  I think that statement has more validity than we would care to admit.  In fact, it's easier to pretend that it doesn't matter.  When we see something from history that makes us uncomfortable or even offended, it's easier to vilify it and remove it, than embrace it and learn from it.  Have we really gotten to the point where we only think we can learn from warm and fuzzy things?  I think we have just gotten to the point where learning is not on the agenda, but rather a desire to merely surround ourselves with people who have opinions just like ours.  We find comfort in our homo-opinionated newsfeed. 

All history has pieces that are dark and moments that are difficult to look at, but if we don't look at them and discuss them then how can the next generation ever learn not to repeat them?  Lately, there seems to be more and more situations where people want to remove memory markers of historical moments.  Statues, plaques, and sculptures have all been put on an opinionated hit list. I know, you might say, "Yea but that statue of that guy from way back in the day did horrible things!"  I'm sure he did, but instead of destroying it or having it removed from the public's eye, how about we use it as a conversation piece to teach the next generation what happened so that we don't have that part of history repeat itself?  What if we use it to teach the truth rather than simply regurgitating an opinionated one sided tirade?

If we constantly remove all the "bad stuff" from in front of our kids then how will they ever have educated discussions and debates?  If they never see or learn the dark side of history then they are far more likely to repeat it.  After all, history repeats itself.  What do you think?

The Great Exchange

Have you ever heard a young child learn a new word, and then try and use it in a sentence, but they do it incorrectly?  My daughter Phoebe is the queen of the mis-talk.  When she was in elementary school I picked her up from school one day and she got in the car all excited. "Dad! I talked to a girl about church today!"

"Phoebe, that's awesome what did your friend ask?" I questioned.

Through a huge smile she said, "She had all different kinds of questions about being Catholic and stuff. But I didn't really know anything about being Catholic, so she asked me if I wasn't Catholic then what was I?"

"Well, how did you respond?"

Phoebe replied, "I told her, no. I'm not Catholic I'm a prostitute."

I paused for a second to try and let that process in my brain. To be honest, I really wasn't expecting my 8 year old to confess that she was a prostitute. After I got my brain on track I replied, "So what did your friend do?"

"She just looked disgusted and walked off."

I said, "Well Pheebs, could it be that you meant to say your not a Catholic but that you're a Protestant?"

To which Phoebe replied, "Prostitute. Protestant, Same thing."

To which I replied, "No dear. No they're not!"

Words and their meaning are paramount to truly understanding the power that they possess. One such word is found in Isaiah 61. The Hebrew word that is translated as instead is Tachath. 

It's like when we exchange a gift that we received that we don't want. We can't exchange just part of it and keep some of it. Nope. It's all or nothing, which is really good news for us when we look at what Isaiah says we get to exchange it for.

In Isaiah 61 verse 3 he tells us what we exchange:

  • a crown of beauty instead ashes

In ancient cultures ashes were thrown on the head when there was some form of catastrophic disaster. The ashes symbolized what was happening on the inside. Inside there was this charred ruin of dreams, hopes, and plans. Everything that you had hoped in has been ruined, destroyed, or lost. Maybe one or two marriages that crashed and burned. Maybe it was a long time dream that you finally realize is just not going to take off.  Ashes.

But instead of those ashes, there is this great exchange where you get a crown of beauty! Instead of Ashes on your head, it is exchanged for a crown or garland of life. In ancient times these were crowns that were woven out of flowers and green leaves to represent joyful victory. They were placed on people that had won an athletic event. The colorful flowers, and the vibrant life of the greenery, symbolized this jubilant, "I WON!" feeling. [Not a participation trophy.  I hate participation trophies] The hopelessness of ashes is replaced with the new life of hope. We get to exchange burned up hopes and dreams, new dreams found in Him.  He has dreams for us that he wants us to step in to.

  • Oil of joy instead of mourning

When my dad died a few years ago I cried. I cried a lot. In fact, I cried so much that my face became chapped.  My eyelids, and under my eyes were chapped.  It was a mild external discomfort that was incredibly symbolic of the dry chapped dessert like condition of my heart.  I could have stayed right there in that dry place.  I could have lived for years in a state of mourning. Anybody that tried to cheer me up I could have declared from my pit of self-pity, "you just don't understand!" And went right on being like I was. But, thankfully there is this great instead that is available.  Instead of wallowing in my state of self-pity I found an oil of joy that replenished the lost moisture.  It repaired the broken places. 

Isaiah is not saying that we will never suffer loss or pain.  Just that when we do, there is a way through it. There is joy that is possible.  It really does come as we walk forward, exchanging the the feelings and emotions that we naturally have for those that Jesus supernaturally gives us.   

  • Garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair

Hebrew is a pictorial language. One word paints a picture rather than a definition. This word for despair has the visual image of a candle almost going out. Just barely down to that point where one little wind, one little movement or shift in the air would cause it to go out. 

Have you ever been there? It's like the culmination of the last two. You have the burnt ash of lost dreams, you've cried and mourned until you don't know what else to do, and now, if one more thing happens you might lose it. Now you find yourself not really doing anything except going through the motions of life. When you can stay in this state for too long the memories of the things that God has done for you seem to erode. You used to be able to list numerous things that God has done for you but now...your memory is darkened by this spirit of despair. 

And then tachath...

The triple use of instead emphatically declares that exchange really is possible!

So if all this is possible then what do you need to exchange? If you could take one nasty place from your soul and exchange it for something in God's arsenal what would it be? He's ready to do it, but you have to take it to him and be willing to drop it off and leave. Trust Him.