Where is Jesus in all this new social web technology? part 1


The other day I was present at a men’s breakfast meeting of one of our local churches.

The topic of this breakfast meeting:

 We’ll have plenty to eat and all your questions regarding Facebook, Twitter, the internet etc, etc will be answered!!

The questions were addressed at a panel of experts all involved in IT and internet in daily life. There were a lot of questions from a very basic level as to what are these social networking sites, how do I protect my children from them, to where is Jesus in Facebook, Twitter, Google+? ( I could not help wondering at times that not being “in the know”, distrust and a call for protection went hand in hand).

Christians and the social web: bipolarity appears to reign

The questions came a midst a seeming division of camps in the Christian world. Last year the Pope called out to Christians to embrace these networks as a way to proclaim the truth.

If technologies are used with wisdom, he explained, “they can contribute to the satisfaction of the desire for meaning, truth and unity which remain the most profound aspirations of each human being.”

The “Christian way” of being present in the digital world means being “honest and open, responsible and respectful of others,” he explained. It is a way of communicating that is consistent with the Gospel, supported by actions worthy of the same witness in one’s daily life.

“New and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons (and) new forms of shared awareness” are opened up by new technologies and Christians are also called to proclaim their faith in God in these spaces, the Pope said.

“Believers who bear witness to their most profound convictions greatly help prevent the internet from becoming an instrument which depersonalizes people, attempts to manipulate them emotionally or allows those who are powerful to monopolize the opinions of others,” he said.

Christ’s truth is not a question of online popularity, the Pope added, rather, it is “the full and authentic response to that human desire for relationship, communion and meaning which is reflected in the immense popularity of social networks.”

While noting that “direct human relations” are always essential to sharing the faith, he invited Christians to”confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible.”

Having a Christian presence online is based not only on a desire to be there, but “because this network is an integral part of human life”
Source: Catholic News Agency 

At the same time however

Chicago parish advises churchgoers to keep kids away from social media 365 days a year, the Chicago Tribune reports:

“[Facebook] is exactly the opposite of the Christian culture where people go into the secrecy and sacredness of the confessional to blot out their sins forever,” St. John Cantius parish leaders wrote in the church bulletin.

The warning was directed at families trying to raise their children in a wholesome environment. It indicted social networking sites for encouraging vanity and dishonesty by providing an outlet for children to create their own electronic version of reality. It also pointed out, for example, that acronyms such as PIR (parent in room), POS (parent over shoulder) and GYPO (get your pants off) can lead children far astray.

“God entrusted parents with the care of their children for one particular purpose, and that is to teach them the way ‘to know, love, and serve God in this life and save their souls hereafter.’ Everything leads us to think that Facebook fits poorly into this plan and was devised for a very different goal.”

In an interview with NPR,Presbyterian pastor Bruce Reyes-Chow suggested worshipers not give up Facebook or Twitter for Lent or any other reason:

If social media is addictive and it’s holding you back from connecting to God and your understanding of spirituality, then, yes, by all means, pull back. But I think that oftentimes social media is allowing people to be church in a way that is unprecedented in our culture today. In fact, we should figure out, how do folks use social media even more effectively to be church during this time is another way to look at it.

There appears to be a bi-polar perspective so typical almost of the Christian world at large. The very relevant question “WHERE IS JESUS IN ALL THIS NEW TECHNOLOGY”  remained rather unconvincingly answered during that particular breakfast meeting. Hence an urge to expand on this a bit more in this series of posts.

Without  a doubt I can agree with the panel of experts that the internet is a great resource, makes it possible to be uplifted listening to worship music while doing other things. I can relate to that, I thoroughly enjoy listening to worship music myself, but in all fairness that is no valid argument to be online, I can go ad buy an album or listen to a Christian radio station for that. I do believe that as a resource the internet has opened everyone up to incredibly good teachers, from a church organisation and preacher/teacher’s perspective it is fantastic that your teachings may be available well beyond the wall of your church. From a personal perspective, I have had tremendous benefits from some of the sites out there with amazing speakers and sermons available to watch, listen, read, to name a few:

And there are of course hundreds more. All great resources all great places to hang out. But that does not answer the question Where is Jesus in all this new social web technology? 

The Great Commission

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 18-20 NIV

Now the great commission applies to ALL followers of Christ, I think we can agree on that. I think we can also agree that as Christians we are “in Christ.” With that said, you could answer the question “Where is Jesus in all this new social web stuff” with the simple reality that it is in the participation of you and other followers of Christ.

Our participation, the sharing of our lives and thoughts, either publicly or using more private parts of the technology may well be part of that great commission. Sure enough I like facebook to stay in touch with friends, family and my home church Harmony, but over the past years, I have found it an invaluable tool to support others, ask questions, answer questions.

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Just as in daily life, the way we live our lives and the way in which we live out our relationship with God will make a difference and the visibility thereof may well be a better way to  “make disciples of all nations”  may well be a better way to teach than trying to be the next ‘sermonizer’ on the net.

From a personal perspective, I think every life is worth sharing; it is not ours in the first place, and social networking sites like facebook are a great way to exemplify and or illustrate what it means to be “in the world but not off the world” (John17:14-15).  Does that mean I NEED TO BE ON FACEBOOK, GOOGLE+, TWITTER, HAVE A BLOG ETC? Not at all, but if I want to be the world than that is part of it, a part I choose to participate in, and I have found it to be the way to get to know others well beyond the boundaries of my own community.

As a father I will add, it is pretty simply the world our kids grow up in and understanding what is happening around them I see as part of my responsibility as a parent and teacher and last but not least I think it is fun, so why not?  And please be clear I do not see it as a replacement for real face to face relationships but as a complement to those relationships and a door to a wider network of interpersonal relationships.

Does this mean that as Christians we have to be on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, that we have to have a blog: I think the answer to that can be a short and sweet NO, but we can, and I did.

In summary

I think the question as to why participate in all this social media stuff: because you can, because your children and their friends will. As a parent I see it as my responsibility to keep up (as good as I can) so I can guide my children. Besides that because it is one way to be a light in the world and love God and others. It may not be your way but that is between you and God.  I agree with pastor Chow

But I think that oftentimes social media is allowing people to be church in a way that is unprecedented in our culture today.

Where Jesus is in all this social media? In the participation of each and every follower of Christ in this new technological stuff.

More in part 2, about the fear and perceived dangers expressed during the meeting.

 

Book Review: Destined to Reign


Destined to Reign: The Secret to Effortless Success, Wholeness, and Victorious LivingDestined to Reign: The Secret to Effortless Success, Wholeness, and Victorious Living by Joseph Prince

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I became a follower of Christ it was after a long journey of exploration and discovery. In that time but more importantly after that time I could not help but reading the Bible and it seemed like the same book that I had been reading (the Bible that is) several times was completely new. Especially the New Testament, Paul’s letters were speaking to me in a way like never before. I saw this image of Christians being completely set free by the blood of Christ, a new covenant of grace similar as in the times prior to the time when Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai.

Yet as a fresh Christian there were still many questions to be answered and looking around me, what I understood to be great Christians, were seemingly not liberated at all. Arched backs walking under a heavy weight of judgment of self and others. But why? Did Jess not say on the cross “it is finished”? While it easy to understand that as the last thing one says before he or she dies, I understood it as the completion of the deal (covenant) between the Father and the Son. The latter would die for our sake so that we could be justified “for and and for all” and be reconciled with God the Father again.

It is pretty tough if, on the basis of what some may want us to believe, have lost your salvation, before you had a decent chance to enjoy it, so as to work your booty off to come under His grace again. It kept going through my mind over and over again? If Jesus came to set the captives free, what have we actually been set free off. Sure I knew in my mind that I understood it differently than let’s say may traditional religious Christian people I was speaking to and had been speaking in the past. But who was I to think that I knew better.

Joseph Prince, in destined to reign, outlines what it means to live under grace, very much the way I understood it initially. I remember so well how I once asked: if Christianity is really all about these works; what is the meaning of Christ death on the cross? Christ said “it is finished” and “”my yoke is light”, is this whole creeds and deeds mentality not a bit arrogant? Is it not implying or in effect saying that Christ’s death on the cross was insufficient, and therefore we need to add some of our own goodies to the mix, so as to really finish it? I remember the look of my conversation partner and we moved on to a different subject. I went back into the Bible to find out what I had misunderstood so much. And I could not find it no matter what I tried.

Joseph Prince’s book has been an incredible encouragement in getting an even better understanding of what it means to live under grace, to live in Christ, and along the way it has helped me strengthen my faith, my hope and much more. It restored so much of the initial joy I felt when becoming a follower of Christ. Moreover, I have so enjoyed the fresh perspectives on reading and understanding our Bible, New AND Old Testament. Thank you so much Joseph for producing a book that does not just affects the mind but changes the heart along in a lasting way by leading us straight back to and in Christ. And I see His unmerited favor showing up in my life again and again and again.

View all my reviews

Photo Journal: A Radical Change of Perspective is Sometimes Needed


We learn to focus on the things that are in front of us and this common human wisdom makes an awful lot of sense. Yet only when we are actually looking and going in the right direction. When our perspective looks beautiful, when what lies ahead of us looks beautiful, it does (as I learnt) that we are looking , walking, in the right direction. Sometimes we need to stand still and reevaluate our focus, our perspective. Are we indeed looking in the right direction, are we going the right way. I was carefully reminded of just that the other day. 

This weekend we spent some time in Le Bons Bay, a small settlement of holiday homes on Banks Peninsula. On the Friday evening walking along the beach there with my oldest son, we looked out over the sea while the sun was going down. As human logic almost naturally indicates our eyes were fixed on the water from the beach to the horizon. And there was plenty of reason to do just that.


However the real visual spectacle was there not in front of us but behind us. It took this 180 degree turn to understand that we were looking in the wrong direction. Looking back from the water to where the sun was going down behind the hilltops, were were treated with this view.

 

 

The whole experience reminded me of the New Testament stories of Jesus and the apostles, how they changed radically the perspective on religion, on what the Law meant, on faith, on what it means to be a believer, to live as a disciple.
On many occasions, that requires a radical change in perspective so that His Glory may be revealed through us.

That brought me back to mind the fantastic weekend at Harmony Church the weekend before with a conference lead by Chris Gore and Chuck Parry who were in essence teaching us something similar: a radical change in our perspective of what our identity in Christ means.

Curious now? I suggest you watch this part one and following parts of “Living Unbalanced” and see what it would mean for your perspective.

I guess for all of us it is good to stand still and reevaluate our perspective every now and then.

Journal: thoughts on John 16


Last night I had the pleasure and honor to be present at the baptism of one of my star students. A joyful occasion indeed, bringing good memories of my own baptism (see above) at Harmony Church

Prior to the baptism the pastor spoke about what baptism meant and words such as giving your life to God, living for His purpose, according to His plan, guided by the Holy Spirit.

It is in these times amazing in itself to see young people make such commitments. Beautiful. I know I have been there and still am there, so I was also reminded as to how that sometimes poses serious challenges and it reminded me of the story found in John 16.

Jesus tells his disciples that he’ll be going back to his Father and all of them are said at his words, not because they did not allow him the joy of being reunited but because their own interests stood in the way… or so they thought.

Jesus however saw the bigger plan and understood not only that he would be going away but also that it was necessary even, so that “the Comforter, the Holy Spirit could come. Jesus understood that we would actually be better off with His departure.

It is so easy, despite the fact that you made a commitment to live your life His plan, for His purpose, to be blinded for the bigger picture, the picture that you may not be seeing (yet).  I guess the story teaches us that quick relief is not always the best option in the larger scheme of things and that we may sometimes not be fully aware of what the true value or blessing is that comes with certain less pleasurable events situations in our lives. But He knows! Perhaps it helps to ask before being grief stricken straight away.   Nowhere in the Bible does it say that a life in Christ is a guarantee for a challenge and trouble free existence. There may be a meaning of things that needs to be clarified before we put our own, worldly agenda first. All I can add is that I fail regularly, get better at it every day and that He has not let, me down so far.

Photo Journal: His Eye is on the Sparrow (Again) and Psalm 84


Last year I wrote a post in relation to this beautiful hymn after a sparrow was kind enough to make it possible for me to take a relatively close up pic. On or most recent walk in Hagley Park, I noticed, while feeding both ducks and eels that there was this little tree along the waterfront of the Avon River that seemed to almost be like a gathering place for the sparrow. Overhanging branches made it possible to hide under there, yet at the same time they could warm up in the sun on the top of the little tree sheltered from the wind by the surrounding higher trees.

What a chirpy group of birds they were and again I started to sing because I became happy just seeing this seemingly happy bunch of birds.

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Psalm 84:3

In this Psalm we read how David almost envies these little birds.

3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
LORD Almighty, my King and my God.

Almost as by nature sparrows provide for themselves habitats in houses and buildings similarly to other birds in the woods or open country.  And David, uses the fact that the Temple was no exception to express how much he really loves God. While these little insignificant little birds live right there in the presence of God, he is living in a palace away from there, and it almost seems like he’d give it up just like that just so he could be there in the place where God lives.

And in seeing them again that day I realize how much of an example they are to us: seemingly happy, not waiting for God to offer them a place in His house but just doing it AS BY NATURE, living life day by day. We can learn a lot from this little sparrow.

His eye is on the sparrow

The lyrics to this beautiful song again:

Why should I feel discouraged / Why should the shadows come / Why should my heart feel lonely / And long for heaven and home / When Jesus is my portion / A constant friend is He / His eye is on the sparrow / And I know He watches over me / His eye is on the sparrow / And I know He watches me /

I sing because I’m happy / I sing because I’m free / His eye is on the sparrow / And I know He watches me (He watches me) / His eye is on the sparrow / And I know He watches / I know He watches / I know He watches me/

Do you get it, the song starts of with a lot of “why should I’s” . It is so amazing to get to the key point of the matter: by faith we are saved and more, when you realize that when Jesus died for our sins, he left with the promise of the Holy Spirit, and with Him living in us, we do no longer need to worry. We will never be worthy but Jesus paid the ransom so that we can be reconciled with our Creator, n0t because we deserve it (as we never will) but because of His will and His grace. It was never about us , it was all about Him. Not about what we can do so He may look after us, how we can deserve to be His children, it was already taken care off.

Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home is good actions or faith in Christ. I have no right really to speak on such a difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary. A serious moral effort is the only thing that will bring you to the point where you throw up the sponge. Faith in Christ is the only thing to save you from despair at that point: and out of that Faith in Him good actions must inevitably come. (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity).

The Law, and adherence thereto cannot be our ticket, it is the promise, the fruit, that will come from the God’s Spirit  living in us and we listening to it, our comforter, our guidance so we may be lead from glory to glory, as chirpy as those sparrows.

Thoughts on Hebrews 4:12


Art by Gerda Keurentjes http://www.gekk-art.nl

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

All of a sudden it hit me. We may be sitting there studying the Bible and then (at least in my case) I will end up pondering what I think of a certain passage or verse. But the way I ‘judge’ the Word is actually not what it is all about: it is all about the Word judging me, it shows me what my intentions are, where my own heart is.

And woth that in mind, the Bible is indeed “the living word” that is at the basis of the transformation that comes through living a life in Christ, a Spirit lead life. Here we have a Father, God, who speaks to us through the Bible, that shows us where we are in our relationship with Him, who we really are, and as a result transforms us. So, hmm…, what does it really tell me if I find particular passages dull or not of any particular interest?

The words of God are given not for us to have our opinion on but to penetrate our souls. All of a sudden I need to re-evaluate the way I am reading the Bible. The right question seems no longer “what are my thoughts on this or that passage?”, but “what’s happening in my heart when I read this passage?”

What a great start of the year.

The Power of Prayer and Accepting Responsibility for an Answered Prayer


I ran into this  story online:

Texas beer joint sues church…

2009-10-29 / Editorial
Laugh A Little

In a small Texas town, ( Mt. Vernon ) Drummond’s bar began construction on a new building to increase their business.. The local Baptist church started a campaign to block the bar from opening with petitions and prayers. Work progressed right up till the week before opening when lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground.
The church folks were rather smug in their outlook after that, until the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means.
The church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection to the building’s demise in its reply to the court.
As the case made its way into court, the judge looked over the paperwork. At the hearing he commented, “I don’t know how I’m going to decide this, but as it appears from the paperwork, we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that does not.”

An e-mail sent bya former Grove Hill resident

Source: Clark Country Democrat

Comment

What an illustrative story. Here we have a congregation that sees their prayers answered, and perhaps also their own smugness. In any even it reminded me of the story of Peter, and how he denied the name of Christ.

We pray for certain things and we expect our prayers to be answered. And how miraculous: the prayers of this congregation were answered. At that point our human fallen nature hits in again. They get smug about the works of God.  What a lesson is in there:

In faith we ask God for certain matters and expect (as promised) that our prayers will be answered. The trap we should not fall for however is to be proud for the wrong reasons (and the use of the word smug indicates they were). If your prayers are answered so directly and you feel a need to boast, than at least acknowledge the source of your success: God, the one you have been praying to. The Bible is clear on the subject matter. In John 5:19 we read:

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

But of course there is the temptation to be proud about not God’s work but our own amazing prayer skills. And that’s where we go wrong. Paul understood and explained this to the Corinthians in his first letter (1 Corinthians 1:31):

31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”[a]

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Corinthians 1:31 Jer. 9:24
Having said all that what was really striking is the denial when the risk of being sued became apparent. Again what a lesson is in here. If we see our prayers answered are we willing to take the associated consequences of that. Personally I would say all of a sudden it becomes a faith question: IN FAITH YOU PRAY RESULT, and by the looks of it that got answered, DOES IT NOT MAKE SENSE TO EXTEND THAT FAITH TO A POSITIVE OUTCOME OF THE COURT CASE? If it was God’s will that was done here, how likely would it be that the court case would lead to an adverse outcome for the church?
And even if they would have been found on the receiving end of a successful court case for the bar owner; what is more important, God’s will or your wallet? It reminds me a bit of the story of the young rich man that wants to follow Jesus in Matthew 19
The Rich and the Kingdom of God

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[c] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[e] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

I guess the church in the US showed us again an example of how we may be claiming to be following Jesus, to live a Christian life yet when it threatens our earthly existence, even just the financial side of it, how ready and willing are we for real. There are many out there that end up facing severe consequences, even death, as a result of their faith. Look at the early Christians look at those areas where Christians are persecuted. What would you do if you were convinced that your prayers were answered and find yourself faced with a POTENTIAL liability? WOULD YOU DENY HIM, HIS NAME, OR WOULD YOU FACE UP TO THE CONSEQUENCES EVEN IF THE MAY BE FINANCIALLY SEVERE?

What do you say?