Three Commitments For Election Day

pray-election

Finally!  America heads to the polls today.  One way or another, this will be all be over by tomorrow morning.  And maybe, just maybe, the wounds of division and fear in our nation will start to heal.  I certainly hope so.

It’s in that spirit that I want to ask you to join me in making three commitments for election day:

VOTE

Apathy isn’t cool.  You may not like the candidates, the parties or the platforms but nothing is going to get better because you stayed at home.  It’s a beautiful thing to live in a country where we get to pick our leaders.  Please, don’t take for granted what others can only imagine.

POST LIKE YOU’RE GOING TO PRAY

If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, you already know what you need to do tomorrow morning.  “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.“(1 Tim. 2:1-2)  And not some snarky, “God, have mercy on us and our idiot President” kind of prayer.  A genuine prayer for the leader of the free world, for our well being as a nation and for the flourishing of the church.  If you won’t pray that way tomorrow, it’s not because of disappointment.  It’s because of disobedience.

So, why not post on social media today like you’re going to be praying tomorrow?  We don’t need any more divisive rhetoric.  It’s time to move on, to repair what’s been broken and recover civility both online and in person.

PUT YOUR CONFIDENCE IN CHRIST, NOT A CANDIDATE

Whatever’s going to happen today has been planned long ago by One who is wiser and greater than all of us.  “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.“(Romans 13:1)  He already knows who will win and He knows exactly how it all fits together in a plan more glorious and marvelous than anything we could comprehend.  He’s our hope.  He’s our confidence.  Don’t make Him look small by putting more hope in a candidate than in your Creator.

This election matters.  But what really matters is knowing that Jesus is in control no matter what happens.  He’s “upholding the universe by the word of His power.” (Hebrews 1:3)  I’m going to sleep just fine tonight.  And then I’m going to wake up and pray tomorrow morning.

Social Media Rules

Social Media.jpg

Last week a friend asked a really honest question in response to a blog post I had written.  She wanted to know whether I thought social media has had an overall positive or negative impact on Christians and the church.  Most days, it seems hard to tell.  There’s so much good, inspiring content and there’s so much bad theology and narcissism.  There are posts that make us want God’s best for our lives and then there are online catfights between celebrity pastors.  There are bloggers trying to inspire and there are blogs that exist to criticize, tear down and divide.  It all feels like a real mixed bag.

As much as I understand where the question is coming from, I think we need to shift it a bit.  Asking whether or not social media has been good for Christianity is a lot like asking whether the printing press has been good or bad.  After all, the printing press made both the Bible and Mein Kampf available to the masses.  There are great books and worthless books, great tweets and worthless tweets.  Neither Facebook or magazines are inherently good or bad.  The real point is that social media is here to stay.  Sure, there will be specific platforms that come and go (remember mySpace and that one day everyone cared about Google circles?).  But humanity has found a new way to communicate and I don’t think we’re going to put it back in the box.

The real question is how to use social media well.  It’s in that spirit that I want to share the four verses that have shaped how I think about social media in my life.  Three of them apply to how I consume social media and one applies to how I contribute to social media:

Consume

  • “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil. 4:8)  This one just about says it all – I don’t waste time on junk that doesn’t add value to my life.  Political rants, cat videos and photos of your family vacation (if I don’t know you) are all out.  So is anything that stimulates comparison in my heart, whether it shows up in the form of pride (oh look, I really am better than you) or envy (I would just be happy if I had that).
  • “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;” (Ps. 101:3)  Yes, this is the theme verse for anyone fighting pornography.  But it also eliminates a lot of the silly chatter on our NewsFeed…not inherently evil, just worthless.
  • “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16)  It’s possible to waste a lot of time online…guessing you already knew that.  I often set a timer to pull me out of Facebook land after 5 minutes.

Contribute

  • “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thess. 5:11)  As a pastor and leader, I try to post with others in mind, not with a desire to show off, glorify myself or waste your time.  I don’t mind posting things that encourage us by shaking us out of our complacency but even that is done with the intent of building one another up.

I’m not perfect in following these rules (especially the one about not wasting time), so if you see me slip up, call me out!  But the more I try to follow these verses, the freer I feel.  I’m guessing they’d do the same thing for you.

 

Using Social Media Well

I’m always a little amused when people take to social media to condemn the pervasiveness of social media in our world.  I’ll admit I find it really hard not to chuckle when I read tweets about the uselessness of Twitter!

By the way, I know I just gave away the fact that I check Twitter.  For the record, I also check my Facebook NewsFeed at least once a day.  I follow a couple of blogs and I love Instagram.  Yes, I set boundaries on how often I check social media but I’m not a hater at all.  Truth be told, I like it.

If I use it well, it increases my love for Jesus, His church and the gospel.  It’s a source of inspiration, learning and encouragement.  I get new ideas, see things from a different perspective and am reminded of the diversity within the body of Christ.

But if I use it poorly, it only increases jealousy, bitterness and dissatisfaction with my life.  It becomes a source for comparison, gossip, despair and pride.  All of the fuel I need for greed, materialism or lust is only a few clicks away at any given moment.

What if Philippians 4:8 became a guide for our online lives?  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  Follow the people on Twitter that deliver this kind of content.  Pay attention to the things in your NewsFeed that meet the Philippians 4:8 standard.

And get rid of everything else.  Every once in a while, I realize there are voices in my social media world that need to be muted.  Maybe what I love most about social media is just how easy it is to mute those voices – a simple unfollow on Twitter solves the problem.  A simple unfollow on Facebook does the same thing (and you get to avoid all of the drama associated with unfriending someone!).

What about you?  Are there voices in your online life that need to be muted?  Or maybe you need to add more Philippians 4:8 content into your life?  Either way, you won’t regret the decision to use your social media more profitably…plus, there are only so many photos of drunk friends on the verge of a mindless hookup you can take before it gets old!

Keeping It Real

Last Friday, I wrote about the plans Laura and I had for the weekend – we were getting away for 24 hours to build into our marriage.  Honestly, I hope a lot of married couples were inspired to do the same whether you have kids or not.  But I would also guess there were some people who read that post and felt discouraged.  If you were in that second group, this post is for you!

Maybe your marriage is in trouble and you were depressed to realize you really wouldn’t want 24 uninterrupted hours with your spouse.  Maybe you were frustrated that your spouse never suggests something like this.  Maybe it was an unpleasant reminder that you aren’t married yet and the whole idea just seemed like a cruel fantasy.  Maybe you read it on your phone at the end of a long day while making dinner and listening to the kids fight in the other room.

It’s amazing how quickly comparison kills our joy.

Social media puts the comparison trap in front of us on a daily basis.  There’s always somebody doing something awesome in my newsfeed.  Someone’s always in the Caribbean.  Someone is always getting promoted, buying a house or going on the “BEST first date EVER:)!!!!”  We compare all of that to our boring, ordinary lives and feel miserable.  My friend is surfing in Costa Rica and I’m doing an expense report…wow, I hate my life!

The problem is we’re comparing our real lives with an idealized version of someone else’s.  I’m writing all of this today because our little getaway wasn’t as ideal as you might think.

  • Our night away started with a quick trip to Urgent Care.  Laura has asthma and pregnancy can exacerbate it significantly.  When I left for work on Friday morning, she sounded fine.  By 1.30 in the afternoon, she sounded like an 85 year old smoker who couldn’t breathe.  One breathing treatment, a new prescription and a few hours later we finally got to the hotel much later than planned.  Not exactly the fairy tale beginning you might have imagined.
  • For the record, God didn’t bless us with an unexpected upgrade to the Presidential Suite.  We were in what is probably the smallest room in the hotel.  No big deal but don’t fall into the trap of believing God only shows His love in unexpected blessings.
  • We couldn’t agree on a good place for dessert so we ended up the only customers in some cupcake shop splitting a gluten free cupcake (it was all they had left).  For the record, I believe it was gluten free because it was baked before the discovery of wheat!
  • On Saturday morning, a simple conversation about schedules turned into a fairly significant and at times heated disagreement about some issues that had been building up for awhile.

Before you get too depressed, let me say our disagreement morphed into one of the best conversations we’ve ever had about our marriage.  By the end of that conversation, we both felt more united and excited about our marriage.  So, the weekend was not a bust – we had a good time and were super grateful to get away.

Steven Furtick makes this point so well, “We struggle with insecurity because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”  Don’t fall into that trap – enjoy the life God has put in front of you today.