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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Are Social Media Good? Four Ways to Make Sure They Are

I am okay with or without social media. I mean, when I go on vacation, I leave my computer at home. I don’t even own a smart phone. It’s a true vacation. I don’t need to answer anyone, and I don’t email or post anything. I lose touch with the world for a little while. I schedule some necessary posts ahead of time, and then I go away. I enjoy being with my husband and seeing new places with him. We have fun conversations, or we just slouch around watching the TV news at the end of a long walking day.

As you know, we live overseas. One of the ways I keep in touch with family, friends, and online friends with similar interests is through social media. It helps me reach out from my own living room. I can ask questions, get answers, check on the kids and grandkids, and send pictures almost in the blink of an eye.

I live a full life and am rarely lonely, but when I am, I reach out to others. “How are you?” is the question I ask most often. Then, we have a chat. It’s a wonderful thing!

But, social media can also produce nasty reactions, if you let them. Your online friendships can erode your contentment, eat away at your self-confidence, and make you feel like dirt. Just compare your collapsed cake with the Frozen-themed princess birthday party you saw on Pinterest. You don’t add up. Your kids will never forgive you for such a ratty party. This is what you think as you sit down in a funk.

Mr. and Mrs. So and So* must have a perfect marriage. After all, they get professional photos taken about every two months, and they’re playing together, hugging each other, and seem to be so in love. Your husband does not think you need to spend $150 for a photo session even once a year! So you start griping to yourself about Hubby, and you think what you’d like to do to him instead of loving him as he is—pictures or no pictures.

Letitia is always taking selfies. She is gorgeous, and you can’t blame her! Who wouldn’t take selfies, looking like that? You walk by the mirror and just about pass out from the shock. Your hair looks like a rooster walked across the top, and your make-up consists of … oh, that’s right, you didn’t put any on today. You begin to wonder if Letitia wakes up looking like her selfies or how many hours it takes to be that pretty. You become dissatisfied with your own looks. The extra pounds from your last baby, your crooked teeth—which you’re positive everyone is staring at—and your hair, which kind of has a mind of its own…. Oh, if you could only be like Letitia!

Sandra post-boasts about her latest purchase, a really cute purse. It was on sale for only $250—a real bargain! That would be your grocery money for the whole month. You start to grump about what Hubby brings home and how much isn’t left over after the necessary expenses are taken care of. Why can’t you rejoice about a $250 on-sale purse?

Mrs. Figbert shares photos of her home just about every week. White surfaces, no clutter, beautiful decorations, priceless art and antiques. It looks like no one ever cooks or sits down. You think of your five kids and two dogs and how long a white couch would stay white. You think of red spaghetti sauce and the gray and white rug under Mrs. Figbert’s dining room table. You compare your life—and your house—to hers, and you’re convinced you come up short. It’s another reason to grouse.

Lillie is at a specific restaurant with her girlfriends one night. Two days later, she posts photos of her husband with her and two other couples at a glamorous steak place. The next week, she’s out for fancy hamburgers at lunch with a co-worker. But, Lillie is nothing compared to Pam! Pam and her husband are always traveling. You count at least three exotic places in the past four months: Italy, the Bahamas for Christmas, and now, they’re in Tokyo, enjoying sushi.

You sit in your favorite chair, nurse your cup of cooling tea, and feel sorry for yourself. Social media has made you mad at your friends, husband—and kids, since they'd never keep a sofa white—and the dogs. You can't forget those lousy mutts! You’re disgusted with your face, hair, house, friends (or lack thereof), and financial status. You’re discontented, and you feel yucky.

How can social media be used for your good? Let me propose a few ideas:
  1. Don’t believe everything you see. A photo is only a photo. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).
  2. Join a social media group of fellow Christians with similar values to yours. You can encourage them, and they will encourage you. Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel. Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend (Proverbs 27:9, 17).
  3. Use social media like a prayer list—and actually pause and pray. Pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16b).
  4. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others, and find contentment in your own circumstances and in the Lord. Other moms with five kids and two dogs don’t live in pristine white houses, either. Most children are quite okay with a collapsed cake, a few gifts, and lots of love on their birthdays. Moms with a bunch of kids usually don’t take a lot of selfies: they are busy investing in their family. Many other people live on budgets and do just fine. Be real. You don’t need to be someone else. You are you. Let your conversation (lifestyle) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5).

* All of my illustrations are completely fictitious, though typical of situations found in social media.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The New "Christian" Alcohol

Fermented cranberry sauce
Ginger “ale”
Lacto-fermented ketchup, fruit, etc.

All are considered good for your health.  The idea is to ingest live, good bacteria, which “boost your gut microbiome”1 and make you feel marvellous. Do they really help? Studies show an improvement in digestion. Studies also caution against using these for people with immune system deficiencies and children.

Just so we understand exactly what we’re talking about:
  • Kombucha is fermented tea.
  • Kefir is fermented milk (dairy or otherwise).
  • Kimchi and sourkraut are different ways to ferment cabbage.

Fermented food and drinks are all the rage. “Fermentation is the process by which yeast or bacteria convert sugar to alcohol, and it occurs when bread leavens or beer and wine are made.”2

And, Christian women everywhere are brewing in their kitchens.

I was curious to know if there’s a significant alcohol content in them. According to my research, this is what I found:
  • Kombucha’s alcohol content can be from .5% to 2.5%.1
  • Kefir’s alcohol content after 24-hours’ fermentation is from .08% to .1%.
  • Of course, fermented cabbage is much less.
If you compare kombucha to beer, it has about half the alcohol content or less. Kefir’s is less than half of kombucha’s.

So, is this problematic?

I really don’t know, although they say that drinking enough kombucha can give people a buzz. My sources didn’t specify an amount, but I would guess one would have to drink a lot.

The question for Christians is about consistency. If a Christian refuses to drink anything alcoholic, is brewing and drinking kombucha or ginger ale consistent with a non-alcohol stance? Could it possibly lead to developing a taste for beer and other alcoholic drinks?

I have no idea. I'm only asking questions.

Here are a couple of the Bible’s warnings:
  • Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise (Proverbs 20:1).
  • Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright (Proverbs 23:31).

One of the qualifications for pastors, deacons, and Christian women leaders is:
  • Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous (1 Timothy 3:3).
  • Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre (1 Timothy 3:8).
  • For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre (Titus 1:7)
  • The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things (Titus 2:3).

Here’s permission to use alcohol medicinally:
  • Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts (Proverbs 31:6).
  • Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities (1 Timothy 5:23).

We know that biblical wines were “home brews” and not processed the same way beer, wines, and liquors are made today. Would leading Christians in Bible times have used naturally fermented drinks and foods? Would they have made kombucha, kefir, or ginger ale? (I think they would probably have enjoyed kimchi, if they lived in Korea, or sourkraut in Germany.)

I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject of fermented foods and drinks. What do you think? Are they okay for Christians? I would love to have your input.

(Please keep the discussion kind. I respect your opinion, either way. Thank you.)



Saturday, January 13, 2018

You Aren't "God" to Anyone (and Eight Things You Can Be)

I know what they mean by “Be God to someone today.” But, you can’t. You aren’t. You can’t even dream what that means.

There’s only one Person who’s ever been God to anyone, and that’s Jesus, because He actually is God. Do you remember this Bible conversation? And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God (Luke 18:18-19).

How about the phrase, “Be God’s hands”? Can we be God’s hands to someone? When we reach out to help someone, are we God’s hands? Not exactly, and here’s why: God’s hands are infinite.
  • God hands created everything. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land (Psalm 95:5).
  • God’s hands are connected with truth and judgment. The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure (Psalm 111:7).
  • God’s hands are so big that He measures the skies with a handbreadth. Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? (Isaiah 40:12)
  • God’s hands heal. And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people (Matthew 4:23).
  • God’s hands hold His own people tightly, forever. Jesus said, And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand (John 10:28).

It's true that God uses people in His work. It’s also true that when we do something kind for another person, it's just like we're doing it for Jesus Himself. But this talks about Christian service, not “being God” to anyone. It’s about doing good for the Lord’s sake.

I love this passage. Jesus used this story to teach his disciples. For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25:35-40).

When Jesus gave his parting commands, He didn’t say, “Be my hands” or “Be God to others.” He said, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (Matthew 28:18b-20). Because of Jesus’ power and presence, we are enabled to go, teach, spread the gospel, baptize, and disciple. It’s all because of God’s power. We’re nothing without Him! All the energy--the Greek word for "power" is the root for dynamite--comes from God.

I know it’s about word choice, but when people say “Be God” they’re actually misrepresenting our role as Christians. We are absolutely nothing without salvation through Christ. We can’t do anything without His empowerment. All our best works are nasty when compared with His holiness. We dare not even think of ourselves in God's terms. No human can presume to be God or be His hands. It’s impossible!

So, what can we do?
  1. Be saved. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12).
  2. Be a witness in all the world, starting at home. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).
  3. Be separate from the world's system. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:1-2).
  4. Be glorifying to God in everything. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
  5. Be a servant to others. For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another (Galatians 5:13).
  6. Be a servant to the Lord. Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:24).
  7. Be thankful. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
  8. Be holy. But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (lifestyle); Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Let God be God. We need to recognize our total dependence on Him, and serve Him with all our might. And, let’s be more careful that our Christian terminology lines up with biblical theology.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Does God Lead People Differently?

Does God actually lead one person one way and another to a different task? Does He have varying methods? Does He use people individually, taking into consideration their personalities, innate natures, and talents? Or does God have one method that He uses all the time? Is there no changing from His perfect plan?

Yes, and yes. 

Let me explain.

God is God. He never changes who He is.
  • For I am the LORD, I change not (Malachi 3:6a).
  • Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
  • Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17).

God always has the same attributes: love, holiness, mercy, knowing all, being everywhere at once, having all power, etc. He is always God. He never changes His own essence.

But, God can change His mind—in response to prayer. For example, when God was planning to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of sin, Abraham pleaded with God. He asked God to spare the cities if there were at least fifty righteous people there. Abraham kept adjusting his figures in his prayers until he got down to ten righteous people. God said He would spare the cities if He found only ten. God changed His mind about Sodom and Gomorrah—as a direct result of Abraham’s intercession—a total of six times (Genesis 18:20-33). Sadly, there were not even ten righteous people in the cities, and only Lot and his two daughters escaped fiery judgment.

The Bible directs people to pray for the sick and to ask forgiveness from sin. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:14-16).

We can request anything according to God’s will in prayer. Jesus said, And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive (Matthew 21:22).

We can also help God’s servants by praying for them. The Apostle Paul wrote, Ye also helping together by prayer for us (1 Corinthians 1:11a).

There are many other examples of God changing His mind as a result of prayer. Of course, everything He does is according to His perfect will.

Does He use people in different ways? Yes. We only need to look at the Bible for examples. Some believers were nomads (Abraham and Moses), some suffered horribly but came out on top (Joseph, Esther, Job, David, Asaph, Jeremiah, Paul, John). Some were used as preachers and teachers (Peter, Paul, Apollos, Timothy), and some were encouragers (Barnabas, Dorcas, Lydia, Aquila and Priscilla). Many served as “technical support” for the preachers and teachers (Phoebe, Epaphroditus, Tychicus, Timothy). There were scribes, like Tychicus and Onesimus, who helped Paul. There were women who opened their homes, like John Mark’s mother and Lydia. There were shy people and outgoing people, men and women, young and old actively serving in the early church.

And, so it is today. Anyone who is a believer has been given a special gift to use in His church.

Does God direct leaders differently? Again, we go to the Bible. Consider Paul and Barnabas. They were both preachers of the gospel. Both were missionaries. But their gifts and functions were different. We see Paul starting churches and encouraging the saints and mentoring and correcting problems in young churches. We see Barnabas working with young men, bringing them along in one-on-one mentoring. He’s the first one to trust Paul, when he was a new Christian. He took John Mark with him and gave him a second chance after John Mark failed somehow. We see Barnabas working with people from several diverse ethnic groups. His work wasn’t as flashy as Paul’s but it was as important.

I’ve witnessed the way God uses people in our own home church. We’ve had several senior pastors. One was young, visionary, and innovative. Then, we had an older counseling pastor. After him, we had an experienced Bible teacher. All three were used of the Lord in different ways.

I’ve seen it on the mission field. One missionary has a vibrant ministry to university students. Another ministers in a multi-ethnic congregation. Yet another has started a church out of baseball teams! One missionary has a doctorate and is a tent-making missionary, teaching in a local university. Another recruits from his country. Some missionaries are quiet men and women. Others are Type A. All have the same mission: to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It’s so easy for Christians to think narrowly. “It’s my way or the highway.” But, God uses all kinds of people in His work. He wants each person to use his gifts to further God’s kingdom. The Bible says: For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). I think this is one of the most encouraging passages in Scripture! God can use anyone. It’s through Him that anything gets done for God. We can’t do anything ourselves, but God chooses to use simple, sometimes very weak people for His glory.

I am thankful that He can use little talent and great talent. Indeed, sometimes, He chooses those who are sick, handicapped, and not exceptionally talented to do great things for Him! What a blessing!

So, the next time you see someone else doing things maybe not the way you feel led, be less judgmental. You do your work the way you know God wants you to. Let the other person be responsible to the Lord, also. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14:12).

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast,
unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,
forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
(1 Corinthians 15:58).