Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Pros and Cons of Social Media

By Jonah Simmons and Pastor David Holt

We (Jonah and David) have been talking lately about the positives and negatives of social media. Therefore, we decided to write a joint blog about this.  We would love your thoughts on this, so feel free to comment about this on Facebook.  If you are reading this on Pastor David’s blog, please go to Jonah or David’s Facebook post to make your comments.  Thanks.  Here we go:

Social media is an incredible new phenomenon.  So much can be sent out so quickly.  You can share anything you want about yourself or others for the world to see.  This can be good, and this can also be dangerous. Let’s begin with the potential positives, especially for a Christ-follower:

Potential positives of social media:
1.     It can be a vehicle to share Christ with others.  There are currently over 1.2 billion monthly active users on Facebook. There is no other outlet available for us to reach as many people at one time as what is available through social media. Jesus said to go into all the world and make disciples (Mt. 28:18).
2.     Social media allows us to stay up to date with situations all over the world as they unfold, so that we can start praying immediately.
3.     When someone shares a concern or struggle, we can offer encouragement and support.  Gal. 6 says to “bear one another’s burdens” (v. 1).  We need to be careful not to give “pat answers”, but giving someone scripture or just informing them that we are praying for them, can be a source of encouragement.
4.     We can use social media to inform people about events, articles, etc. that will spiritually benefit them.  Ephesians 5 says to make the most of our time for the days are evil (v. 16). 
5.     The Bible says to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Rom. 12:15).  When someone shares a joy (i.e. engagement, answer to prayer, etc.) we can rejoice with them.
6.     Through social media we can keep in contact with friends and relatives in other areas of the world in real time. It reminds us that we are not alone.

Now for the potential negatives.  Beware that social media can:
1.     Lead to an unfair comparison with others and possible depression. We forget that most people only post the most positive things in their life, and it can appear that their whole life is this positive.  We can easily compare our situation to theirs, and unfairly conclude that everyone has it better than we do.
2.     Cause one to covet what others have.  When our friends post positive things in their life (i.e. “in a relationship”, new car, new house, big buck they shot, happy family outing, etc.), we can easily become jealous or covet what they have.  If we are not walking in the Spirit and being grateful for what we have, our flesh can start comparing and forget that we are only seeing a very small portion of their life.
3.     Lure one into unfruitful arguments.  This is a biggie and we see it a lot with Christians who have strong opinions about certain things.  We have both been guilty of this.  2 Tim. 2:23 says, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.”  The NIV says “stupid arguments.”  Ouch.
4.     Tempt one to become involved in a relationship that could result in an emotional or physical affair.  We have all heard of this happening.  When one is not doing well in his/her marriage, and begins to reconnect with someone from the past, Satan is right there tempting us to go farther than we should.  Interacting on social media will always look more positive than “real life.”
5.     Cause one to be judgmental towards another. Often times in social media we see others posting about their circumstances or whatever situation they may be going through. It is very easy to look at this and pass judgment by thinking that we would have handled the situation differently, or even blaming the person for the situation they are in. Jesus says in Matthew 7:1-5, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”
6.     Cause one to become numb to things that we should be compassionate about. It can be hard to keep a tender heart towards needs, when we are bombarded with so much information every day.  For example, in one day we can hear about a plane crashing and killing 162 people, a suicide bomber killing 50, and a fire destroying a home in our town.  At the same time we learn about these events on social media, we continue scrolling down and become more interested in a humorous viral video or advertisement for a sale. 
7.     Become a hindrance to existing relationships in simply the time it can occupy.  Recently I (David) walked into a restaurant and observed that at every table but one, at least one person was on their phone, probably looking at some form of social media.  Instead of talking to the person across the table, they were preoccupied with their phone. Americans spend more time on social media than any other online activity, including email, and 60% of that time is spent on our smartphones! Put the phone in your pocket. Look up and look at what is going on around you. It is fruitful to take the time and “unplug”.
8.     Cause an obsession with self.  It seems a bit narcissistic when people find it necessary to post what they eat at every meal, when they get their latest manicure, and all the details of their vacation.  “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Rom. 12:13).
9.     Cause people to waste a tremendous amount of time. Reports estimate that 18–34 year-olds spend as much as 3.8 hours a day on social media, and 35-49 year olds are now spending as much as 3 hours a day. Imagine what it would look like if we took a fraction of that time and redirected our attention to our job, our kids, our spouse, or even our relationship with God.

So, like so many things in life, this tool of social media can go positive or negative, depending on whether or not we stay sensitive to the Holy Spirit and walk close with the Lord.  Always be mindful of how you interact with others on social media.  As Christ followers, we may be the only Jesus some people see.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

What are your thoughts?

(Statistics are from Business Insider, NY Times)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Review of "Exodus" movie

I went with my son to see the “Exodus” movie the other night.  It was very interesting.  Immediately I saw all kinds of comments on Facebook, so I figured I would contribute my two cents to the discussion.  Here are my positives and negatives of the movie.

Positives of the movie:
1.     My biggest positive is that I think it will cause many people to read the book of Exodus from the Bible to find the true account.  Anything to get people into God’s Word is a good outcome.
2.     Hollywood is making more movies based on biblical events, and this certainly shows that they know there is a large audience for such movies.
3.     The movie was obviously done with a very large budget:  sets, costumes, number of people, locations (e.g., Spain, Canary Islands, and Egypt), etc.
4.     There was nothing sexual or overly violent in the movie.  I would advise almost any age to go see it.
5.     It definitely shows the humanness of Moses and some of what it could have been like for him to be raised in Pharaoh’s household.
6.     The brutality of the slavery the Israelites had to endure was definitely done well.
7.     It made it clear the enormous number of people involved in the Exodus.
8.     Plagues were depicted well, although I have a concern about them under the negatives.  Stay tuned for that.
9.     I loved the “Passover” scene and how that was done.
10. Parting of the Red Sea was very dramatic.
11. God definitely wins in the end, even though God’s true presence and activity was quite obscure.
12. I liked the way the 10 Commandments were given at the end (i.e., as a way to guide the people after Moses would depart as their leader).

Negatives of the movie:
1.     Moses is not shown to have much of a relationship with God.  Though his humanness was definitely shown, it missed the strong relationship with God he did have.
2.     The plagues just “happened” and not as the Scripture says (i.e. with God proving His superiority and Moses directly appealing to Pharaoh to “let My people go” …. or “else”).
3.     The many ways the movie went away from Scripture was not necessary and did not add to the drama of the story in any way.  They should have stayed with the biblical story and it would have been much more interesting and dramatic.  God’s Word is pretty interesting and dramatic.  Hopefully Hollywood will eventually realize this.  They don’t need to divert from Scripture to have an amazing movie.
4.     Having the little boy as God’s spokesman took away from the power and greatness of God. Some may see that as “out of the mouths of babes and infants” (Ps. 8:2), but I did not like this.
5.     The Bible clearly shows God being deeply concerned for the plight of His people, and delivering them as a powerful and caring God (Exodus 3:7-12). The movie did not bring this out.
6.     The Bible says the Egyptians let the Israelites have what they asked for, and that the Israelites plundered the Egyptians when they left Egypt, and thus took much provision with them (Ex. 12:36-37). This was not in the movie at all.
7.     The scene where Moses is swept into the sea but survives is pretty weird. Not sure why they did that.
8.     The crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14) took place with God proving His greatness (14:17-18) and Moses demonstrating strong faith in God (14:13).  The movie was weak on these fronts as well.
9.     The bottom line is that the movie did not depict God as the loving, caring, sovereign, all-powerful God He is. But for secular Hollywood, it wasn’t terrible.

As you can see, I think the positives outweigh the negatives, and I would recommend everyone see the movie …. And then read the book of Exodus!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sports Just Might Be An Idol If ...

Recently I was convicted that sports had begun to take a bigger place in my heart and life than it should.  This became especially apparent when I noticed it affecting my emotions, not only too strongly, but also for too much of the day. 

The first commandment is to have no other gods before Him (Ex. 20:3).  If we allow anything to take the place that God deserves in our life, then that person or thing becomes a “god” … or an idol.  For many, sports is that idol.

You have probably heard some of the Jeff Foxworthy comments about, “you just might be a redneck if …. (you have more cars in the yard than in the driveway”, etc.).  Well, sports just might be an idol in your life if…..
1.     You exert more emotion for your favorite team than you do for God.  Jesus said the most important commandment of all is that we “love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength” (Mk. 12:30).
2.     You spend more time reading articles and researching statistics than you spend in God’s Word or reading articles that help your relationship with God.  “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
3.     You know more about your favorite team than you do about God. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).
4.     You spend more money on a big screen television or monthly cable service than you give to missions.  “Go and make disciples of all the nations” (Mt. 28:19).
5.     You would never be late for a game, but you are frequently late for church.  “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Ps. 122:1).
6.    You say such things as, “I love the Georgia Bulldogs or …. (your favorite team),” but you can’t remember the last time you said to God, “I love You, Lord.”  “I love you, O Lord, my strength” (Ps. 18:1).
7.     You enjoy being with friends watching the game more than you enjoy being with other believers to grow in Christ.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebr. 10:24-25).
8.     You have no problem declaring to the world your allegiance to your team, but you are fearful to witness for Christ.  “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

If you recognize some (or many) of these qualities in your life, confess your idolatry to God and ask Him to change your heart.  Then begin to invest less in sports and more in God.  Allow your emotions and words to reveal your true heart (“from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” – Lu. 6:45), and when you see things in your heart that are not right, continually give them to the Lord and ask Him to change you from the inside out.  He can and will do that!  “Work our your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13).

As a final challenge, I encourage you watch this 6 minute video by David Platt from a sermon he gave on “The Cross and Sports.”