Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thoughts From a Grieving Pastor Part 2

In my last blog, I began sharing some thoughts regarding the use of social media from a Christian perspective. If you haven't read that blog, I encourage you to take a moment and check that one out as well here: Thoughts From a Grieving Pastor Part 1

I would also like to reiterate, as I did in my first blog, that I am not making an attempt to point fingers or be the "judgmental guy." I am only sharing, from my heart, what have been issues in the church, as it relates to our witness to those in the social media community. Does what we post on social media affect others opinions of individuals? Of Churches? Of Christianity itself? Above ALL of that, does what we post affect the way others view God Himself? I would submit that it absolutely does. I'm not saying this as an educated guess, but in response to situations that I have personally had to address in my life, in our church and situations I have observed in the life of other christians and other churches. My desire is that, in reading this, we would all be challenged to prayerfully consider whether our use of social media is an accurate reflection of who Christ wants us all to be. Maybe, in the end, there is an even bigger desire that I have. We'll get to that in a bit.  B Blessed, Tom

Thoughts From a Grieving Pastor Part 2
Several years back I was a guest speaker at a really amazing church. After I finished speaking, I gave an invitation for anyone who wanted prayer to come up to the front so we could pray together. I was met by a very bubbly young lady who  came up to the front and asked for prayer. My wife and I prayed for her and after we finished we talked for a short period of time. This young lady was excited about everything. She was new to the church and she loved it. She loved the pastor and was appreciative of everything he was doing in the church and for her and her family. She was excited to learn and to understand what God was going to do in her life.  It was great to see someone so "on fire" for God. That night happened to be my last night speaking and so we made plans with the young lady to stay in contact after my wife and I headed home.

A few days later, there was a friend request on my facebook page from the young lady we had prayed for. I accepted and went about my business. Not long after, I found my facebook news feed blown up with the most incredibly angry posts. Posts about family, money, jobs and, honestly, just about everything. I thought to myself, "Is this the same person that we were praying with, or did I confuse her with someone else?" I checked and sure enough, it was the same person. I was, to say the least, suprised! It truly did not seem to be the same person. As I continued to scroll, I saw a post of a beautiful scripture from The Bible, from the same young lady. When anyone would look at her Facebook page, they would see these incredibly angry rants about everything and the kitchen sink followed by a scripture on the beauty of God in the Christians life. To say the least, it was a mixed message being sent.

I don't share this story to point a finger at the young lady. She was young in the faith and has grown a great deal since that time. I only share the story to relate that, at the time, it got me to thinking, WHAT'S WITH ALL THE ANGER? As I sometimes scroll through the news feed, the twitter time line and the instagram page, I still wonder the same thing, not about the young lady, but about Christians in general.

As a pastor.....or maybe I should say, as a human being, I get it. Trust Me, I really do! I know what it's like to be frustrated or irritated about something and you're just looking for an outlet. Twitter or Facebook are the perfect platforms for that right? I sit at my computer or on my super cool smart phone with the most perectly worded verbal beatdown ever typed. I sit with irritated self satisfaction about how I'm about to "be real." I mean that's what it's all about right? Being "Real." It seems to be a badge of honor in our culture today for an individual to "just tells it it like it really is." No need to think about the affect of what I'm saying. It's only important that it's said. At the time I couldn't agree more. So, there I sit with my finger on the post button ready to launch my poisonous missiles of anger at the world. However, it always seems to be, also in that moment, a still small voice whispers, Is this what God wants? Is this how the scripture tells you to react? Is this really what you want to represent to the world about who you are and what you believe? Immediately, almost miraculously, the delete button always seems to begin to shine like a star in the heavens. deleted..disaster averted.

As believers, we must ask ourselves some questions. Which is more important in the big scheme of things.  Should we "tell it like it is" or should we tell it like it should be? Should we respond to how we FEEL in the moment or should we respond to what is REAL eternally? Should we respond with angry words from a broke, hurting or angry heart or respond with life-giving words of hope, healing and reconciliation? Should we respond with our words or with THE Word?

For a believer in Christ, there must come a time when we each realize that what we put out there for the world to see in the social media universe will never go away. A momentary act from a place of anger or hurt will be seed planted in the hearts of many that will take shape into opinions of the individual, the church and as mentioned before God Himself. It is not enough to say, if they don't like it they can ignore it. The truth is, it will not be ignored. Words are powerful and they affect lives. Don't take my word for it, look at what scripture tells us:

Those who love to talk will experience the consequences, for the tongue can kill or nourish life.--Proverbs 18:21(NLT)

And see what scripture says here:
And I tell you this, that you must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak. 37 The words you say now reflect your fate then; either you will be justified by them or you will be condemned." --  Matthew 12:36(NLT)

You may have noticed that last one was in those pesky red letters. Those are the words of Jesus Himself. Hmm, the thought occurs to me. I wonder if the "If you don't like it don't read it" argument will work when standing in front of God? But I digress.

Words are incredibly powerful and we need to be careful which words we communicate. Words of life can inspire and help to motivate and inspire others forward in their relationship with Christ. It could be that the words of life that you post can help someone who doesn't even have a relationship with Christ to find one. On the other hand, the same social media platforms that can be used to give motivation, inspiration and life can be used to tear down and destroy because of the angry and hurtful things that are posted. It truly is something that we should all think about very seriously.

I spoke in my earlier blog about the sensuality that so often invades the social media accounts of Christians. I also spoke about the need for more mature and "seasoned" believers to mentor and teach the younger in the faith. Today, I'm trying to address the anger that is so often present in the social media of many Christians. I could continue and address issues like, why are so man Christians so enamored with drinking alcohol and sharing it on social media. Why do some anoint themselves to be the ones to tell everyone how holy they are personally and how evil and hell bound everyone else is? Why is their an increased acceptance and participation in activities that scripture tells us to avoid. Why is that all over facebook? How about this one, Why are we wasting so much time on social media anyway?

You may ask why I'm choosing to focus all of this on social media. Aren't issues like sensuality, discipleship, anger, sinful activities and all the rest much bigger than just a post on a page? Aahhhh.. now we're getting somewhere. In the end, this is my point and the bigger desire I mentioned earlier. This is all way bigger than a social media account.

A young lady, or man for that matter, may be lacking in an understanding of their true identity. All they know is that they get attention for showing off their body.  What better place than on facebook?

An individual may not even know what it means to truly live a holy and Godly life because they are not being taught. I'm not just talking about Sunday sermons either. I'm talking about when someone meets with them in a small group or one on one and shows them the scripture.

Many are hurt, broken and angry and they feel they have no outlet for those feelings. They don't know how to deal with them other than lashing out. Why not on twitter?

My point is that, oftentimes, social media can be a more accurate reflection of where someone's heart really is. In the verses previous to the one I posted earlier in the red letters, Jesus said, Out of the abuncance of the heart, the mouth speaks. In our modern era it may be said like this, Out of the abundance of the heart, the tweet is sent.

This is the source of my grief. It's not really a social media problem at all. It's a heart issue. The sensuality, the anger, the hurtful words, the things that we think are funny or entertaining all reveal a little bit about what's going on down inside of us. It's easy to put on a mask and pretend we are great when we're around each other. It's equally easy to unleash when we sit behind the perceived anonymity of a computer screen or a phone app. How's your heart? If you're not sure, you might be able to find out a little by looking at your social media pages. I realize this is not for everyone, but it is is for some.

My final questions are for everyone who may ever read this. Does something in the last couple of blogs relate to you? If the answer is yes, then you need to ask God for forgiveness and allow Him to come in and heal your heart. He wants to. You need Him to. God's intention is not for His sons and daughters to find their identity or their outlet through a computer screen or through an app. His intention is to bring wholeness through relationship with Him and through the direction of The Holy Spirit and The Word of God. Ask Him right now. He's waiting for your reply.

If what I'm talking about doesn't really apply to you, then it totally applies to you. God wants to take those who have already been healed and use them to help others to that same place. Can God use you? Are you willing to let Him do it in any way that He wants too? Are you ready to really make a difference in the lives of the hurting, broken and confused? Some of them may be closer than you think. If you're answer is yes then ask Him right now. He's waiting for your reply as well.

Maybe this year can be a brand new beginning for many in the church. Maybe, in some sense, it can be a new beginning for our churches as well. A new maturity, a complete healing, a step toward a new level of relationship with God and each other. What if?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Thoughts From A Grieving Pastor Part 1

Over the last month or so I have, unfortunately, found myself stuck in bed with the flu, strep throat and who knows what else. I hate being sick. There is nothing worse than laying around not really feeling able to do anything productive. So what is a guy to do? Check on Social Media Right?!......Well Anyway.

I have found myself grieved more and more over something that has bothered me for a long time. Why is it that for so many Christians, the "Christian" part seems to be irrelevant when it comes to social media? Now before everyone decides they want to mob my house and kill the judgmental preacher, just hear me out. I'm not writing this out of judgment, but out of a real sense of sadness and brokenness. I am truly grieved about what I'm about to say in the next couple of blogs.

I've never been one to automatically not be friends on facebook, twitter or whatever with people who aren't Christians like some feel the need to do. I like dialogue. I'm not afraid of the "arena of ideas." I'm not shaken that someone who doesn't believe in God would say things or post things that reflect their unbelief. I've never even unfriended someone because they would use language I don't like or post things that I don't care for. If I don't like it I can just scroll right on by. Some may ask why I would do that. Truthfully, I feel like, if I am going to see what others post, then they are going to see what I post as well. If I truly believe in what I'm saying and posting, then maybe, just maybe, I can have a positive affect on someone else's life for Christ. I see social media as an outlet FOR my faith, not an outlet FROM my faith.

I would also like to say, I'm not trying to say that everything we post has to be a scripture or a deep quote that we googled 30 seconds before we posted it. I've been known to post about the stuff that isn't necessarily theologically earthshaking. I love telling the world that the Oregon Ducks just scored another touchdown. As if they didn't already know by the other 500 people that posted the same thing. I love to share about the great batch of snickerdoodles that my wife just made or the cool new pair of shoes I just got. Thats part of the social media fun. Being Social.

What bothers me though is how little it seems that so many folks that I know to be Christian. Folks from baptist churches, pentecostal churches, catholic churches, methodist, episcopal, get the point, post so much stuff that is not only borderline, but downright contrary to what is taught in scripture. I love the church! I love Christians, but come on people it's time we get it together!

And so, I have a few questions I'd like to ask. This will be way too long for one post, so I'm going to take a couple of blogs and just ask some questions for our consideration. I pray that The Holy Spirit will shine a light on us and draw us all closer to The Father.


1. Why do so many Christian young ladies find it so compelling to post pictures that are so sexualized? I will not take the time to describe, I think most know what I mean. (Before you ladies kill me, just wait, I'll get to the men in a moment) If I'm not mistaken, the scripture teaches that the young ladies need to be modest in their dress. This doesn't mean you have to wear a body length burlap sack either. Please hear me. You don't have to buy into the myth that style is determined by how little material is involved. Our culture has sold the lie that unless your shirts are cut low and your skirts are cut high that you cannot be "in style." This is garbage! All of you young ladies need to know that your beauty is from within because God created you beautiful. This is not religious rhetoric, it is Biblical truth. Beauty is not determined by how much skin you can show. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Many of the comments about how "beautiful" or "amazing" you look are not innocent observations. They are reactions to how much you are showing. I wish this was not true, but I've been in the ministry too long to know better. This is not what your beauty is about!

As I type this, I can hear some of the elder ladies in the church saying Amen preacher, preach it! To the Elder ladies of the church whom I love and respect with all of my heart, WHERE ARE YOU? Scripture teaches that the elder ladies of the church are to take the younger ladies of the church and teach them how to be good wives and mothers. The mandate continues that the young ladies are to be taught how to be "discreet, chaste and good." It's easy for all of us to point a finger and say, "why is it like this?" We cannot point a finger unless we are willing to take up the challenge to mentor and guide ourselves. "It's hard" is a refrain often heard. However, scripture didn't say do it if it's easy. Scripture says just do it.

To all of you young ladies, you are worth more than your body. PLEASE don't sell yourself short.

2. Why do so many Christian men take so much interest in the sexualized pictures being posted by the Christian woman? I've counseled and sat in men's studies with a lot of guys over 20 plus years of ministry. I've been to many a men's conference and men's retreat and in all of that I've learned one thing. Men battle with lust. It is not uncommon for me to see one of the aforementioned pictures a young lady posts followed by a string of comments from the men, as earlier stated, on how "beautiful" or "amazing" they look. Some of you ladies may say, "what's wrong with that?" I'll tell you. I have had many conversations over the years with men who say how difficult it is for them to not think inappropriately when they see a picture or see a lady dressed or looking provocatively. This is not just on social media but at church. What a shame that this is happening in the midst of a time that is supposed to be set aside for worshipping The Almighty God. As it relates to social media, on many occasions, the same guys who are commenting are the same guys talking to me. Does that mean all guys and all comments? Absolutely not! Some are absolutely innocent comments on nice pictures, but i've got to speak the truth when it's not.

Men, it is not ok to shift the blame and say "it's their fault." Lust is your problem. We have to understand something very important. The ladies in our churches are the daughters of The Living God. The way that we think about and treat them is of the utmost importance to their Father. I will say, as the father of a teenage daughter, if a  young man steps out of line with her, I will have no issue responding to that young man. She is to be treated with the utmost respect, honor and protection at all times. How much more do you suppose Father God expects regarding his daughters?

To the elder men of the church. I say to you as I said to the elder ladies. WHERE ARE YOU? As much as the elder ladies are to mentor the young ladies, we older men are charged to mentor the younger men. Scripture says to us, "Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you." I want to note this is not an exhortation to the pastors, leaders, sunday school teachers, youth leaders or children's church teachers. It is an exhortation to the elder men of the church.

We live in a culture that is increasingly sexualized in every area. We know this is true, and we are quick to point the finger at the world and tell them they need to get it together. Maybe we should start in the church.

I want to comment on a few more things, but for now, Church, let's think and pray on this one
To Be Continued...................