I’m on the verge of leaving Facebook, again. Every time, it seems to be something similar. The drama, the imagined slights, the mob mentality. There are times when Facebook is good. It is there to share pictures, keep me in touch with my family; when they are 3 time zones away.
And then there’s now. Posts that accuse others, shame others. The spirit of the accuser, or Ha-Satan in Hebrew. I usually stay out of most of these conversations. They begin to depress me.
It’s hard to write about these things. I try to be general in talking about what is going on, and to speak into the matter. Yet, I feel useless to do so. I’m not one to take a side, or rather I’m not one to go off on one side or another. There may be someone who is wrong, and who is right, but on Facebook, you are either with me or against me. So I stay out, further sliding into the despair. I want people restored!
Unfortunately, most want retribution. I see spirit of the accuser, running amok. Whipping up the mob, so that there is a cyber lynching. There must not be bullying, but what if the mob that was being bullied, turns into the bully? Most would say that turn about is fair play. But in the Christian realm, we are to forgive, restore, and love, even those we do not want to love, restore or forgive.
What would I do if I left? probably remain on Instagram and YouTube, and continue taking pictures and video. Keep my blogs open.
But I know I won’t.
I’ve been trying to attend our men’s bible study at noon, when my schedule allows it. Today, we were in Daniel 5 about the hand writing on the wall. The principles to live by were good diving into some of Paul’s teaching, which is when I got this revelation…that part of the Christian community that gets offend at Christmas about things not Christian, are trying their on version of behavior modification. This is something that I’ve had to fight in youth ministry for a long time.
Parents want their teens to be good, and if their good kid meets up with a kid that they think is disruptive, or disrespectful, then I’ve had parents wanting to kick that kid out of youth group. What they are looking for is behavior modification, and not the transformational love that God has us give. Part of this comes from Pastor Bernie Bloukamp’s message at our church this past Sunday.
So when I see something in the news calling for some boycott, I realize that they want the change to come through cultural modification, and not through the transformative love, that God commands us Christians to do. Do it through coercion and not loving your enemy.
Here’s a company that is using red cups with nothing on them for the holidays (or holy days if you like), and people think they aren’t christian enough. Newsflash. It is a corporation with a board of directors whose goal is only to make money. If they decide that they can make more money by being generic, then that’s their prerogative. You only feed them more money, but complaining and giving them free advertising.
The better thing to do is show the people in the corporation love, and maybe they will come to know Christ, and in turn influence the corporation that it should show more selfless love. Maybe they will always keep their red cups, and then again, maybe not.
Recently, I’ve been pondering the way society is going. We have always had the previous generation complain about the current generation. That seems like that has always happened, and will continue. However, if you look at it biblically, it makes sense. Each time there had been a major move of God with miracles, and very well seen evidence of Him being, as the years go by, people slowly lose perspective, and they fall away. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun.” With the youth group, I always have to say, that Solomon isn’t talking about the things we build, but rather peoples emotions and attitudes. It’s a good read, a little cynical, until the end when Solomon’s meditation of everything is futile, or vanity, or fleeting depending on your translation, brings forth the remark of
13″Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.”
That’s what no one wants to own up to. As it says in Judges, “…People did whatever they felt like doing.” (Judges 21:25, Msg) and I see this within the Christian faith. As Pastor James was preaching this last Sunday, we don’t heed what God is telling us.
Some would ask me, then why doesn’t God do anything about it? I think he has been. I’m a strong believer in the idea, that God purposely limits himself to work through people. So if in your brain you get this feeling that some things are not right, and there is something you can do, then I purport that is the Holy Spirit, trying to work through you. If you say no, then he moves on to someone else, and I’m starting to think there are fewer people willing to listen.
I was driving around recently, as I was looking for some shots of Boyne City, and was listening to the podcast from Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, MO. They have been doing a series on some of the prophets in the Old Testament. Which got me to thinking about a few of them, when I felt like we were being given the sign of Jonah (Matt 12:38-42, and Luke 11:29-32), when Jesus was talking to the pharisees. It felt like we are missing the point on the sign of Jonah, if you stop reading a verse too short.
A lot of people stop at the verse that says (from Matt 12:38-42, The Message), “Like Jonah, three days and nights in the fish’s belly, the Son of Man will be gone three days and nights in a deep grave.” And while this is true, there is more to this section, like the next verse: “On Judgment Day, the Ninevites will stand up and give evidence that will condemn this generation, because when Jonah preached to them they changed their lives. A far greater preacher than Jonah is here, and you squabble about ‘proofs.'” Other translations are very similar with the next verse in Matthew about the Ninevites condemning this generation. I think as Stephen Grabill says in a recent Seedbed video, that the church is struggling with not being the dominate force in the culture. So we have become like Jonah. The church currently comes across as loveless, like Jonah, and would rather see our “enemies” destroyed, than repent and be saved.
So many times in my Facebook feed, I see angry Christians with their conservative bent, sharing articles that seem more like they would prefer their enemies smited, than loved in to the kingdom. If you look at Jesus who says, “take up your cross and follow me,” but little do we realize, that if we follow him, we may have to die, literally, to do his will. This may mean to challenge the status quo. However, the church isn’t into challenging it, but rather would put out anyone that doesn’t hold together with the health and wealth gospel (notice that is with a little g) afraid someone is coming for them, when they rarely step out and look at the systemic sins of our society. You know the systemic sins of society, slavery, lack of justice, or when there is justice, lack of mercy. Fear of the foreigner, etc.
I also have liberal friends that would rather that the conservatives be smited, than loved into the kingdom as well. So many times the P.C. bullies talking about microaggressions, while they use just as hurtful and words and tactics on conservatives.
Part of the problem is they all listen and put their faith into the fear mongering stations of the cable news system (and I mean all of them, from MSNBC to Fox News) which constantly spout half true, superficial stories meant to make you cower under your blanket with your guns, if you are conservative, or your drug du jour to numb you if you are liberal. They say they are there to inform you, but they are all accountable to large corporations, bent on making money and if they threaten to pull their money, then stories are whitewashed.
But what do I know…
Hopefully, some will see this and read it. This has been an eventful last few days. It started off last week. Mary and I had a wonderful vacation in Phoenix with my parents and my sister’s family. Relaxing, fun, good family time. Then a few hours after my sister and her family had departed, my Uncle Dave called my dad, and told him that my eldest cousin’s daughter had passed away in her sleep at 27.
While the Lutz family is pretty big, we have all managed to stay in touch over the years. We have been watching each others kids grow up and I have gotten to know a few of them. Meredith was one. I can remember her a youngster with her brother and sister at the UM Church that served as our Thanksgiving Day meet up for most of the Lutzes. The one thing I really remember was talking to her when she was in high school, I believe it was at her grandmother’s funeral, my Aunt Tillie, most of the cousins where there then too. We had a conversation about what her youth group was doing, and I about how I was helping to lead one here in Gaylord. So when I heard she had joined Mission Year after graduating, and she had a blog for her year, I followed and commented. Her mom appreciated that I had gotten in touch with her to show support while she was there.
Since then we have kept in touch via Facebook. I was hoping that we could meet up with her during our ill-fated cruise, since it was ported out of NOLA, where she lived. However, with the cruise being cancelled and not having the money to stay in NOLA, it wasn’t going to work. So I apologized to her, and we went home. That was January, and here we are in March.
Then, this week as I prepared my lesson for youth group, my mind kept going back to a video about Ed Dobson that I saw a couple weeks ago. It is entitled “Grateful.” The series itself is about Ed Dobson’s life as a pastor, and now retired, living with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). The people at the web site turned this into a Lenten Meditation. That’s what I used tonight. However, as I discovered, this was being grateful through suffering. So we watched the video, and talked about it. Then I shared about Meredith. Meredith was always grateful and graceful to those around her. That is probably why she has as big a family, from her church and friends in NOLA, as she does in the several states that our clan has spread out. I was able to express my grief to the youth group and show them that Jesus is with us in the suffering.
Before this last week, I wasn’t sure that I would be around for another year in youth ministry. However, after tonight God said yes you will and I am with you even in the suffering. Why such a big turn around? Because, my message hit on something that one of our seniors got home to, a grandparent passing. She called Mary and I, and said how much she appreciated the message, it ministered to her without her knowing about it until the news dropped on her.
So as people and things pass, we do suffer, but Jesus is there with us in the suffering. On of my favorite verses in the Bible is John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” It’s the shortest verse in the Bible and speaks volumes when put into the context of the death of his friend Lazarus. So during this Holy Week, when Jesus dies on Good Friday, remember that he is with us in our suffering and promises Resurrection. Or as another pastor put it, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.”
Since becoming the youth ministry leader with Mary, I have felt that I need to teach about the Old Testament stories, with the emphasis on love. Now, I’m feeling the need to stress more out of Jesus’s teaching on the “Sermon on the Mount,” (Matt. 5-7 or Luke 6). However, it can be frustrating when you don’t have instant changes. It is a slow process, that depends on relationship building with the youth, and for that matter, adults too. After 15 years in youth ministry, I still stumble with this. Just as it seems you are getting somewhere, one of the kids does something that is disappointing.
I realized, while Mary and I were on our vacation, that everything is a journey. That we all carry God’s image. That we all need each other to help raise each other up. However, the observations that God made in Genesis 3 (yeah, it was translated as curses, but that makes it sound like God put them on us. ) shows us how self-centered we are when we reject God’s image in us, and His ways. The internet has brought this out even more, as I read the comment sections on news websites. I read of some tragedy, and then I read the compassionless comments. The ones that are judgmental, like they know the best way to resolve the tragedy and deliver the punishment. Some call it justice, but most often it is revenge filled spite for with no mercy or grace.
I recently read the book of Jonah to the youth group, only I put in local places, and changed things up a bit. Since then, I have read over Jesus saying that the only sign of Jonah (Matt 12:38-41) will be shown to this generation. After reading Jonah, I wonder if we aren’t seeing this. The church in general sometimes gets so into the rules that get legalistic. So when someone preaches about love and grace and mercy, they are shouted down, or even asked if there is a sign that God has given them. The sign of Jonah that Jesus was talking about was about him dying and rising again, but I wonder if we can’t learn something about our generation here.
Jonah was told by God to go to Nineveh and prophesy to them, because of the wickedness they were doing. He didn’t want to go, so he ran somewhere else. When he finally went where was supposed to go, he did so angry, and even when the Ninevites listened to him, and repented, he still wanted them destroyed. I wonder if this is the sign of Jonah to our generation. God is so full of love that when we reluctantly witness, we have no grace or mercy to really want them to change. Of course, if they do change then we pile all sorts of rules and stuff on them as Jesus says in Matt 23:15, and make them “twice as much the child of hell that we are” (Paraphrased).
So as I went on my rant…my point is that transformation is not instant. There needs to be love, grace, and mercy involved. The justice that is meted out should not be in vengeance, but a justice that corrects in love. This is the tension that I live in…
I was out running around tonight, doing some errands for Mary, when it occurred to me that I’m more positive about this Christmas than I have in a few years. One thing that I do with the youth group is stress the Shema, or as we say in the New Testament of the Bible the Great Commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul and all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.”(Matthew 22:37-40). I also stress the things from the beatitudes, like love your enemy. Of course, I get some push back. The kids have been conditioned by the culture that says you do unto others, and then split, or get revenge on them.
However, this has had an effect on me as well. I think about a verse out of one of my favorite books of the Bible, the book of James 2:18, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” So my deeds are always trying to show love and compassion.
As I said, I’m more positive about Christmas. The last few years, Mary has been on my case about being a Scrooge. This year has been different as I realize that while I want more than gifts, I have to love people where they are. I would prefer to do something along the lines of the Advent Conspiracy. Spend less on ourselves, do something as a family, and give the rest to those who need it. I’ve always pushed back at the culture, the commercialization of Christmas. The thing I realized that I can’t win against people who think that Christmas is about Santa, and not about Christ. I have to do as the bumper sticker says, “Act locally, Think globally.”
So my attitude has been just that, love the family where they’re at. Be content with what I have, and keep my attitude to be depressed about the culture in check.
That’s all I want…well, that and a Canon EOS 700D (Rebel T5i) and a lens. 🙂