Loving Your Social Media Neighbor

We’ve all had those opportunities: someone has posted a controversial photo, a seemingly racist/hateful status update, or attached a right-or-leftwing extremist “article” or propaganda-like video that clearly lacked credibility.

You ask yourself, “Do I comment and start another Facebook-Feud (Twitter-Tango or Instagram-Instafight)?

Or do I technologically bight my lip and move on?

A Samaritan and a Jew

In Luke’s account of the life of Jesus, the author describes a time when Jesus addressed a similar scenario. Once again, Jesus was being hounded by religious leaders searching for bait that would be Tweet-worthy or even make Buzzfeed’s Trending category.

Luke narrates that the religious law expert sought to “test Jesus” asking Him, “Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?”

Jesus knows his antics. This isn’t the first smart-Alac he’s encountered nor will it be the last. He defers to the Old Testament writings, questioning, “What does the law of Moses say?”

The religious expert correctly responds by essentially saying love God and love your neighbor better than you love yourself.

After Jesus affirms his answer, the religious leader goes down swinging, questioning Jesus one last time, “But who really is my neighbor?”

Jesus goes on to tell a story about a man who is now known as the Good Samaritan, a man that portrays who Jesus ultimately would be to humanity: a lover of His enemies, those who were dead-set against Him and everything He stood for. This Good Samaritan placed his enemies before Himself in His finances, time, reputation, and personal reservations among others. Picture an African-American man helping an injured leader of the KKK during the ’60’s. This man disregarded the cultural norms of His day and the potential anger he had towards this person for the sake of his enemy’s well-being as a human being.

So what does this have to do with social media?

Loving the Tweeter Next Door

Loving our neighbor better than we love ourselves is difficult. After working fifty hour work weeks or going more than full-time to school while juggling family or dating relationships, taxes, groceries, bills, insurances and car maintenance, it’s easy to forget to pay a bill let alone to love our neighbors.

Even more so, I think social media poses an imaginary divide between us and our neighbors. For some reason, we seem to see the people we engage with on Twitter or Facebook not as the human beings on their phones or computers. Instead, there is a digital barrier between the people we interact with on social media, between our screens and theirs.

Sometimes I wonder: if Jesus would’ve came to earth in the 21st century instead of the 1st century, how would He have answered that same religious leader’s question (assuming that religious leader was born alive in the 21st century as well)? How would He say the great commandments, loving God and loving our neighbors, should affect the way we engage with other people on social media?

While I’m still thinking through what this looks like on a practical level, here are some tips to better love your social media neighbor:

Tips

  1. Weigh. Consider whether it’s even worthy of a response. In a month, six months, a year, is the content of this post going to matter? Is the post or person I’m considering confronting going to have a lot of negative impact on those who are viewing it? If so, do I respond in a public post to them that everyone may see? Or do I write them a loving message or text? Or do I call and/or set up a time to talk in person with them?
  2. Wait. If I find myself doubting whether or not I should respond to a post or even write something myself, I type up a potential draft, save it, and walk away for awhile. Whether it be an hour or a day, I know I need to be sure about what I’m about to post.
  3. Ask. Find someone that you trust to be honest with you (not your gossip girls but someone more like your spiritual correctional officer) and ask them to look over what you’re considering posting. Ask if they think it’s wise and beneficial? More often than not, I ask my wife to look over a potentially controversial blog post or comment, not because I simply don’t want to offend someone—sometimes people need that—but because I want to ensure that what I’m saying is wise, beneficial for the person/s I’m engaging with, and has God’s kingdom in mind.
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Why I Never Sleep On the Sofa

These past few months, I’ve been delivering pizzas as a second job. Aside from myself, every delivery driver is a high school or college-aged, single guy.

Every now-and-then, a couple college guys will ask me questions about my wife, our relationship, and what it’s like to be married.

A topic in particular, although posed in a humorous manner, seemed to stand out during our conversation. We were discussing what it was like to fight with your spouse. One had inquired whether my wife and I ever got to the point where we would yell at each other. I answered honestly. He followed up by asking if I ever had to sleep on the sofa.

I shared with them my personal sofa-sleeping philosophy:

I never sleep on the sofa when my wife and I are in the middle of fight. No, it’s not because I want her to sleep on the sofa instead of me.

I choose not sleep on the sofa when my wife and I are fighting because I want to communicate to her and remind myself that, regardless of how I may feel, what words may have been said, or what may have been done by either one of us, we are committed to each for life.

Sometimes, I may have to sit in the living room or go on a walk to cool down before I go to sleep. However, I never let a temporary fight come in between our lifelong commitment to one another.

I also choose to do this because I think it is a tiny shadow of how Jesus loves His people. I am in no way saying that I am always or ever Jesus in this equation.

Rather, I simply see how Jesus chose to love unloveable people and in response to this inconceivable love, I choose to show love to my wife even when it kills me.

As for husbands, love your wives just like Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. He did this to make her holy by washing her in a bath of water with the word.

Ephesians 5:25 & 26, CEB

Christians and Their Phones

My wife and I are avid Chipotle enthusiasts (aka we eat there multiple times a week).

Recently, as my wife and I were in the midst of enduring the restaurant’s seemingly unconquerable line, I couldn’t help but notice how many people were on their phones. Regardless of whether they were with loved ones or braving the line solo, an overwhelming majority of people defaulted their attention to their phones rather than the people standing right next to them. Even when many people approached the front of the line to place their order, their attention was often still diverted between their phones and the people crafting their delicious burritos.

It drives me absolutely crazy when I observe this: people attempting to order food and coffee or purchase groceries while looking at or are even in the middle of a phone call. As someone who has worked in customer service for seven years, I can testify that there are not many ways to make someone in customer service feel less-than human than being on your phone while they’re trying to help you.

Unfortunately, as I’ve spent time with Christian friends, I’ve found that we as a whole don’t treat people in customer service any differently.

Observing this frustrating trend becoming more of a standard everywhere I go, I can’t help but wonder how Jesus would handle these situations.

Jesus at a Coffee Shop

I can just picture it.

Jesus rolls into a café one morning with his disciples. The baker’s dozen get in line behind a handful of people. A couple of the disciples are checking their iPhones for the tenth time in the last ten minutes to see if anyone new has liked their status update on Facebook—perhaps Facescroll. Of course James and John are going back-and-forth about whose Instagram picture of Jesus walking on water is better.

As the group approaches the front of the line, the barista greets Jesus, “Hi, how are you?” Before Jesus can answer, His phone begins to ring.

Let’s press pause.

What do you think He does? Does He ignore the ringing call or the barista standing three feet in front of Him? What if the call is important? What if Jairus is calling about His ill daughter?

Sure, the scenario may be humorous and exaggerated  but the principles behind the questions are similar: would Jesus ignore the very people standing momentarily in front of Him to attend to whatever alert or notification He received on His phone?

What Love Looks Like

The question boils down to how can we best love those around us?

In a letter of John’s, a disciple of Jesus, He stated: “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

According to John, to really love someone means to give up your life for other people, placing their needs and well-being above your own. Real love disregards that text message or SnapChat because there are other people standing in front of you with real names, real stories, and real souls worthy of real love.

I can’t help but think that, without losing eye contact with the barista, Jesus would click off His ring tone, and reply, “I’m good. How are you?”

Encouragement From Ephesians

These past few weeks, I’ve questioned myself a lot.

Up until recently, I’ve served and been a leader in ministry for nearly seven years, often in a vocational manner. Suddenly, I find myself serving coffee and delivering pizzas for a living (these are two different jobs for the record). In my limited view—perhaps my prideful soul may be indicted in this as well—my finite scope of life can sometimes prohibit me from viewing seasons similar to this as anything short of a step backward.

Questions like “who am I?” and “what the heck am I even doing with my life?” began flooding my thoughts. Have you ever felt or thought this way?

As I began thinking through this season of life, the Spirit made it evident that my joy in life was dependent on myself. My purpose in life was being defined by what I do rather than by what God already did through Jesus.

I decided to read through and meditate on Paul’s letter to the church in the city of Ephesus. While reading it, I sought to write down every single truth that God declares through Paul about who we are as Christians. I wrote the truths 1) in present tense to remind me that they are not foreign existential concepts but present-day realities and 2) in plural first-person to remind me that these truths are not solely about me but more importantly about we, God’s people.

Three pages of notes later, the letter was incredibly life-giving, holding over forty fantastic truths about who we are in Jesus.

If you’ve recently been confronted by a similar foe, I encourage you to read through these truths. Ask the Spirit to give you a richer understanding of what this means and a profound joy in God Who made it possible:

• We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms (1:3)

• We belong to Jesus (1:3, 6, 13, 2:13, 6:1)

• We are loved by God before He made the universe (1:4)

• We are chosen by God before the universe was made to be made holy in His eyes (1:4, 11)

• We are adopted into God’s very own family through Jesus (1:5 & 5:1)

• We are a great pleasure to God in our adoption (1:5)

• We are recipients of God’s kindness (1:6 & 2:7), most notably through what He did for us in Jesus

• We are spiritually free from the power and penalty of sin through the blood of Jesus (1:7)

• We are forgiven of all our failures because of the sin-atoning blood of Jesus (1:7)

• We are recipients of all wisdom and understanding (1:8), namely God’s emptive plan through Jesus (1:9 & 10)

• We are under the rule and authority of Jesus (1:10)

• We are recipients of an inheritance from God because of Jesus (1:11 & 18)

• We are hearers of the truth (1:13)

• We are saved by God (1:13 & 2:8)

• We are bearers of the actual Spirit of God (1:13), the guarantee that God will fulfill His promises

• We are God’s own people (1:14)

• We are given a future (1:18)

• We are the body of Jesus, filling everything everywhere with His presence (1:23, 2:16, & 4:6)

• We are made alive because of God’s great mercy in raising Jesus from the dead (2:4), giving us newness of life

• We are raised to life along with Jesus (2:6)

• We are seated with Jesus in the heavenly realms (2:6)

• We are one with Jesus (2:6)

• We are God’s masterpiece (2:10)

• We are recreated in Jesus (2:10)

• We are brought near to God because of the blood of Jesus (2:13)

• We are inhabitants and bearers of God’s peace (2:14-19) spiritually, racially, socially, etc (3:6 & 10)

• We are at peace with one another of all ethnic, racial, and class backgrounds (2:14-16)

• We are citizens of God’s holy community (2:19)

• We are God’s house (2:20)

• We are joined together, carefully becoming a temple for the Lord (2:21)

• We are a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit (2:22)

• We are free to enter God’s presence without fear because of Jesus (3:12)

• We are called to be holy (4:1)

• We are one body (4:4)

• We are filled with one Spirit (4:4)

• We are all called to a glorious future (4:4)

• We are each given specific gifts to bless and build up the local church (4:7, 12)

• We are becoming more and more like Jesus (4:15)

• We are each a unique and valuable part of God’s body (4:16)

• We are a new people (4:24)

• We are given a new nature (4:24)

• We are made in God’s likeness (4:24)

• We are full of light from the Lord (5:8)

• We are being cared for by Jesus (5:29 & 30)

Music Spotlight: Hillsong United // Empires

Hillsong • 5Early Monday evening, Hillsong United dropped their highly-anticipated, heavily-promoted, and widely-acclaimed record Empires. In the past couple of months, the Australian worship band had released snapshots of their fourth studio album’s landscape and yet still managed to maintain a degree of secrecy. Teasing the world’s ears, Touch the Sky, Prince of Peace, and Heart Like Heaven were each released weeks apart from each other leading up to this week’s release.

In all honesty, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this record. 2013’s Zion, their previous album which boasts the smash hit Oceans (Where Feet May Fail), was incredibly disappointing in totality. With the last record’s taste still lingering in my mind, my expectations for Empires weren’t great.

Since Monday night, I’ve listened to the album from beginning-to-end at least fifteen times. Initially, I wasn’t entirely sure what to think nor to feel. After a couple listens thru, I’ve grown to enjoy the record.

On their website, Hillsong describes Empires:

EMPIRES is the story of two worlds. Our prayer and desire has been to simply create the most honest project we could. Songs that seek to listen first, and then with God’s breath speak the good news reality of Jesus and His grace into the dichotomy, tension and hopeful-collision of this broken and fragile world we see here and now, and the unshakeable and mysterious reality of the Kingdom we can’t see, but no-less know is here – and NOW.

The twelve-track album spans just over seventy minutes with a majority of the songs being either medium or slow-tempo and nearly half of the songs being led by Taya Smith, the nine-member band’s sole lady musician.

Lyrically, I found that United achieved their desire to create their most honest project.

While some have critiqued the lyrics for being “too poetic” and “foreign to the common Christian,” I think their words are brave, bold, raw, and real. Reminiscent of King David’s fervent Psalms, tracks such as Even When It Hurts (Praise Song) are courageous in acknowledging the darkness of life while also firm in proclaiming that, regardless of circumstance, God is worthy of our praise.

Though the band has received some criticism for the song due to the allegedly crude line “even when it hurts like hell,” I believe the song is both comforting and affirming for those who are dealing with doubts and difficult periods in their life. This track along with a bulk of the record are narrated by similarly honest and engaging words.

The only lyrics I find to be odd are Prince of Peace‘s “my eyes met yours.” For some reason, these words sound more like a love ballad than a worship song. That may just be me though.

Stylistically, the album is leaps and bounds ahead of Zion. The sound is more similar to Aftermath, my favorite album by United, than it is Zion. Though the sound is much of an improvement, I do think that the technicality of the tracks will hinder the ability for most churches to play many, if any, of these songs. While the tracks don’t necessarily possess many technically difficult parts to fill individually, they do have numerous layers of pads and loops that many volunteer-led bands will have a difficult time incorporating into their Sunday morning sets.

This isn’t an indictment on the band for producing too progressive music. Rather, I think it reveals the seemingly insurmountable valley between one cliff that is the sound of contemporary culture and another cliff that is contemporary Christian worship music. With the efforts of bands like United, Kings Kaleidoscope, Citizens & Saints, and Rend Collective each expressing their worship through music that both allows them be creatively expressive and culturally engaging, hopefully this valley will be filled over time.

Lastly, Empires does’t have that song like From the Inside Out, With Everything, Take Heart, or Oceans that local churches will take and play until it’s nearly dead. Instead, the album is well-rounded and I believe best enjoyed and appreciated when listened to in its entirety.

My favorite tracks are Here Now (Madness), Even When It Hurts (Praise Song), and Empires.

Check out Hillsong United on iTunes, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, like them on Facebook, and be sure to give them some love on their website.

Ten Ways Christians Can Be Too Patriotic

I love our country.

I love the uniqueness of its cities and the their cultural variances. I love that countless languages are spoken and just as many varieties of delicious foods are prepared within our borders. I love the passion for social development and scientific discoveries. I also have enjoyed visiting other nations and experiencing snapshots of their communities and cultures as well.

As Christians, we’re called to love our cities and countries that we live in. Regardless of our potential differences in faith, morality, philosophy and politics, we like the exiled Israelites are to “…seek the welfare of the city…” (Jeremiah 29:7, ESV) or “…work for the peace and prosperity of the city…” (NLT). From Adam and Abraham to Jesus and Paul, we see throughout scripture God calling and leading His people to cultivate, develop, and bless the communities and nations that they live in as well as those abroad.

While patriotism is noble and can be motivated by godly intentions, there are however ways in which Christians can elevate their earthly citizenship above their citizenship in God’s eternal kingdom. Here are ten ways Christians can be too patriotic:

  1. Your country is more important to you than your local church; you’re committed more to the progression and power of your nation than the development and ministry of your local church.
  2. Your freedom in your nation is more significant to you than the freedom you now have in Jesus because of His life, death, and resurrection.
  3. You define yourself as an American (or *insert nationality*) before you define yourself as a Christian; who you are is defined by the blood your nation’s soldiers shed rather than the blood that Jesus shed on our behalf.
  4. Your temporary earthly rights and pleasures are more important to you than the wellbeing of your neighbor and God’s creation.
  5. You see your nation as God’s holy, chosen people and other nations as enemies of God deserving of punishment.
  6. The views of the political party you most associate with conflict with your call to love your neighbor as yourself.
  7. You fail to acknowledge and confess our sins as a generation as well as those before us for the sake of gospel change today and for the generations to come.
  8. You think that God’s end goal is to make your nation a perfect place rather than establish and advance His kingdom here in all the earth as it is in Heaven.
  9. You think that your nation has always been a Christian nation regardless of its deep roots in slavery, genocide, inequality, racism, classism, sexism, corruption, environmental damage, and the abusive dominance of other lesser powers for the sake of personal gain to name a few.
  10. Your hope for change and transformation in this world is rooted more likely in the laws and legislation of your land rather than in God’s chosen people who have the Spirit of God actively working in and through them.

For content similar to this topic as well as suggestions for change and growth in these areas, check out Gregory A. Boyd’s “The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church” and Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon “Paul’s Letter to the American Christians.”

Why Christians Should Care About the Earth

It’s ironic, isn’t it?

We often boast that our God made the entire universe. Every single square inch of it is His. And yet, we are also the ones who are least likely to care about it. We mock hybrid-driving, Whole Foods-shopping, recycling vegans as if they’re inferior humans.

 But why?

Hold On to This for Me

Growing up, I used to cherish when my dad would give me something from his childhood or let me borrow something of His. No matter what it was, I would take extra care of it simply because it was my father’s, not mine. I was blown away that he would let me, a young kid, hold on to and take care something that was his.

In the early chapters of Genesis, we see God do a very similar thing with humanity, don’t we. God intricately crafts the entire universe and all of its ingredients from scratch. From matter to the mountains, atoms to apples, God makes everything. And we see that it is good.

Then, we see God form humanity to be like Him in and to all of the earth (created in His image). In other words, God desires for humans to display His character and creativity in all of the earth. He gives humanity a few instructions about how to do this:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.”

Genesis 1:28, CEB

First, He tells them to make a lot of babies.

Check! We’re currently at about 7.1 billion people. Job well-done if I do say so myself.

Second, God instructs them to subdue the earth and have dominion over every living thing.

Often, we view these two words, take charge (some translations say have dominion), from the wrong perspective. These words are meant to communicate a language of nurture like governtake care ofhelp, prosper, etc.

Instead, we view these words from a worldview that has been contaminated by an endless history of corrupt leaders. We view governing not so much as nurturing but as controlling, domineering, and at times abusive.

 This is not the ruling over the earth that God intended for humanity. Rather, God intended for us to govern as He does over us and His kingdom: in a loving, sacrificial manner.

Like Father, Like Son

When my dad gave me things from his childhood to hold on to for him, he expected me to take care of them. If I would’ve taken them from him and broke or damaged them, my dad would’ve been heartbroken. Him allowing me to take care of something that belonged to him was a shadow of his love for me. In response, I would take care of them with every power I had because of my love and appreciation for him.

Similarly, the intent of the dominion that God has given to us was not to trash the earth like an irresponsible teenager would trash their parents’ house when they’re out of town for the weekend. On the contrary, this dominion was granted to us with the intention that we would preserve and nurture the earth in manner that would benefit all of creation now and for future generations.

Taking charge or having dominion over the earth means being responsible stewards of all God’s creation, loving sacrificially like God has loved us through Jesus.