Tag Archives: Lent

Culling Twitter: Quality vs. Quantity

When I made the decision to give up Facebook for Lent this year, I never imagined that it would lead to a flurry of activity on my Twitter account. Therein lies the problem.

There is much about Twitter that I enjoy. I enjoy the opportunity to interact with very bright individuals whom I would likely never meet outside of Twitter. Many Twitter users dedicate their accounts to offering inspirational quotes or passages of Scripture; I’ve been blessed from time to time by several such posts. I once had a brief Twitter conversation with former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner – that was cool!

Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said on ESPN Radio yesterday morning, “The Internet is where losers go to try and feel important.” I know of many very smart and influential people who actively use social media quite constructively, so I disagree to some extent. However, I think I understand what he was getting at. The context of his comment was a discussion about the backlash celebrities receive when they opine online on current events, such as the recent Freedom of Religion Act passed in Indiana.  In discussing the backlash, Sir Charles said that this is why he is not a user of social media. As outspoken as he tends to be at times, I’m a bit surprised by that, but I get it. My Twitter feed has exploded with bigoted comments, expletives, and a host of misinformation just on Indiana’s new law alone. Commenting on such things can be risky, for offering a comment with which an aggressive user disagrees often leads to name-calling and, at times, personal attacks. As these uber-aggressive superusers spew their poison, complete misunderstanding and tarnished reputations often result. Multiply that by political spin from users of all political spectrums on every topic imaginable, most of it twisted to disparage the opposing point of view, and Twitter becomes in large part a cesspool of aggressively communicated and potentially harmful misinformation, much of which is posted by individuals who would hardly be considered experts on the topic about which they are commenting. So while Charles Barkley may not be an expert on social media, his assessment has some degree of validity and his avoidance of it in this context seems to be a rather wise decision.

I picked up almost 300 new followers on Twitter during Lent. One doesn’t gain followers by being silent; one must engage Twitter to gain a following. Admittedly, the thrill of surpassing 400, then 500, and now almost 600 followers led to my using any means necessary to further increase my numbers, including choosing to follow almost any user that first followed me, thus contributing to what has become at times a very ugly Twitter feed. Much of my feed is filled with tweets from users advertising products, forwarding bits of misinformation, or exchanging barbs with one another; none of which I am interested in reading. As a result, items of true interest to me often are buried beneath the rubbish of the cesspool, and sometimes I am drawn into the cesspool myself. I try to be very careful about what I post, but on a few occasions I have gone back and deleted tweets that, in retrospect, helped filled the cesspool rather than contributing to a positive dialogue. Of course, engaging Twitter and building a following was not my intention when I made the decision to give up Facebook. Even as I type this, I’m rather uncomfortable with the notion of having people “follow” me. There is only One worthy of following – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Succinctly stated, Twitter has become a distraction for me. I sit here, over lunch at my desk on Maundy Thursday, bearing a burden of guilt for not having prepared for Easter as I intended. When I first began composing this post, my intent was to remedy this problem by exiting Twitter altogether. Then I scrolled through my feed. I saw Scripture. I saw prayer requests. I saw news items of interest. I saw personal friends. And, yes, I saw garbage. I realized that I was about to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Twitter, and social media in general, is just like anything else. It has it’s positive aspects, but too much is simply too much. Hence, rather than making a complete exit, I am embarking on what I have dubbed “The Big Cull”. I will shave my list of users I follow to include only those who post quality items that will contribute to what will become a very beneficial Twitter feed. I’ll lose some followers, for sure; I don’t care. The high has passed. It’s not about how many people I interact with; it’s about who I interact with and what each of them brings to the table. What I really want to do is keep the baby and dispose of the bathwater.

Although my giving up Facebook for Lent didn’t work out quite as I had planned, my eyes have been opened. My use of social media will continue, but on a much more measured basis.

And, now, let “The Big Cull” commence. May God will richly bless you this Easter season and beyond.

Complaining Or Celebrating?

When we grumble and complain about our circumstances – whatever those may be – against whom are we really grumbling and complaining?

When I read about the history of Israel in the Old Testament, I am always struck by their grumbling and complaining. They complain they have no food. They complain that they are thirsty. They complain that Moses was on the mountain for too long. Each time they complain, Moses goes to God and He addresses their complaint. What they seem to forget, however, is where they came from. They came from bondage in Egypt where they were forced to labor in hard conditions. Through the power and intervention of Almighty God, Israel was freed from their bondage with the promise of a new land reserved by God just for them – a land flowing with milk and honey. But in the heat of the moment, all perspective is lost as the immediate circumstance takes center stage in their lives.

It’s easy for us modern day Christians to look down our noses at Israel’s lack of faith and perseverance. But, on closer examination, are we really much different from them? Of course, few of us come from a life of enslaved bondage. But think about this: God has delivered us from a different sort of bondage; a more sinister and evil bondage called sin. God tells us in His Word that all have sinned and have fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23). Our sin separates us from God, and a life of sin condemns us to an eternity of torment.

Just as God rescued Israel from their enslavement to Egypt, so He also rescues us from our bondage to sin – not because we are deserving; not because we are worthy – but because He loves us: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). What amazing news!

So what does this have with Israel’s grumbling and complaining, or mine for that matter? Here is where the rubber meets the road: I grumble and complain often; don’t you? I complain about traffic rather than thanking God for my air-conditioned vehicle and the nice roads that take me to and from work each day. I complain about ownership changes to my employer rather than thanking God for a fulfilling career that enables me to provide for my family. I complain that my steak isn’t prepared exactly as I like it rather than thanking God for a full stomach. I complain about my shortcomings rather than thanking God for my strengths. Even knowing the reality of eternal life by my faith in Jesus, I find reasons to complain – just like the Israelites. My complaining is evidence of misplaced trust, just as theirs was. May God forgive me for my lack of faith.

This is Holy Week. This week we Christians remember and celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection that delivers us from the bondage of sin into His eternal presence. This week especially, let us not allow life’s circumstances to derail our worship and replace it with grumbling and complaining. Instead, let us pray that every time we are tempted to gripe or complain, God will remind us of the rich blessing we have through His Son, Jesus Christ as we celebrate the Good News of eternal life through Him.

Help my Unbelief

Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” ~ Mark 9:24

Have you ever felt this way? You know God is real, you know the only way to salvation is through His Son, Jesus Christ, you know anything is possible through Him – but that nagging doubt rears its ugly head at the most inopportune time. You doubt your belief even as you believe it. I have; I’m sure we all have.

This encounter with Jesus really struck me as I read it the other day. A man brings his son, who suffers from seizures, to Jesus and asks Him to drive out the demon that causes the seizures. The man explains that Jesus’ disciples could not drive out the demon and says to the Lord, “If you can do anything [there’s that nagging doubt at the inopportune time], take pity on us and help us!” (Mark 9:22) Jesus seems rightfully indignant as He repeats the man’s words back to him, “IF you can?” and tells the man that all things are possible for those who believe in Him. The man then pleads his case, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

What does Jesus do in response? After all, the man’s weak faith was bared for all to see; Jesus could simply let him wallow in his doubt. But, notice what the man did. He confessed his weakness and asked the Source of faith to strengthen his faith, to help his unbelief. Jesus honored the man’s prayer for help and drove out the demon, thus healing the boy.

This, my friends, is our Savior – the One who loves us so much that He sacrificed Himself on the cross to bear all of our sins; even the sin of doubtful faith. Jesus knows our imperfections and our shortcomings, yet He promises to love us in spite of those things. He demonstrated His love on the cross of Calvary.

The Lenten season is upon us. Let us use this time to reflect on our sins and lay them at the feet of our Savior. Let us boldly approach Him and ask Him to help us with those nagging sins that we just can’t seem to shake on our own. And, once we’ve done so, let us trust Him to keep His promise; after all, He already has.

Here is the complete passage from the Gospel according to Mark:

14 When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15 Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. 16 And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” 17 And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” 19 And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” 20 They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21 And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 “It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 23 And Jesus said to him, ” ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” 26 After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. 28 When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately , “Why could we not drive it out?” 29 And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” ~ Mark 9:14-29 [NAS]

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