Please understand this is not a formula for success. I don’t believe those exist in any relationship and God is certainly not defined by my prayers. This is, however, based on Hezekiah’s actions in response to receiving a letter that threatened his entire kingdom. (2 Kings 19:14-19). I have tried this numerous times and God always responds.
I was visiting a church recently and decided to jump over to the church’s Facebook page during the service. Leadership Network helps churches with their digital presence and so I am always curious how a church is doing with their online ministry. As I was on their Facebook Live feed, I saw a church member (self-identified as so) criticizing the pastor for something unrelated to the message he was preaching. It was right there for me (and the world) to see on the live feed comment section.
I was disappointed, but not surprised. Social media has become an easy place to offer criticism these days – even of pastors and churches.
It led me to think how I would advise a church member to use social media. As a pastor, I spoke about this subject frequently. I was continually encouraging those who loved the church about their online presence – mostly because, after over 20 years of online ministry experience, I understand the power of the medium.
Perhaps I can write some things now without seeming as self-serving as when I was pastoring full-time. I’m not serving in a local church as a pastor. I am a church member, so this is a good reminder to me as well. Even more, I still love the local church, so it led to this post where I want to encourage (perhaps the word is challenge) church members – those who say they love the church – on some of their use of social media.
Here are 3 tips for using social media for a good church member:
Don’t complain about the church or pastor via Facebook.
Or any other form of social media, but the ones I see most are on Facebook.
It makes no sense to me why someone who claims to love their church would post negative reviews about the church or something the pastor has said or done on such a public platform (and there are biblical teachings which would encourage us not to do so). The whole world can see those posts. Why not send the pastor an email? This seems like it would be common sense, but apparently it is not.
I should say that most times it is better to keep the complaint to yourself if it’s only personal to you. If they didn’t play your style of music maybe they will next time, but maybe the style of music reaches someone who doesn’t yet have a relationship with Christ or the church.
Everything we think and feel doesn’t have to be communicated, “but only what is helpful for building others up.” (Eph 4:29). When you feel your complaint is merited handle it personally long before you handle it publicly.
Jesus prayed for unity in the church and that’s accomplished as we strive together as a Body to create it.
Think before you post.
For this one, I’m not talking about just the posts, which mention the church. I’m talking about EVERY POST on social media. With every post a church member makes they should realize they are representing the church – whether they intend to or not. We are part of a family. And just like what we do reflects our immediate family, what we do as members of the church reflects our church family. The potential for bad reflection (and good) is exaggerated on social media.
This should be seen as a privilege more than it is pressure. The bottom line is about a protection of our witness.
During political campaign season I always tried to remind our church of this point. For example, I don’t know of any instances where someone from another political party changed their point of view because of a social media post. I do know many examples of people who have been turned off from Christianity because of the bad witness of someone in a local church on behalf of one.
Think before you post.
Leverage influence for good.
There can be a power in social media unlike few others. Posts can go “viral” quickly. Friends of friends see the posts we place on social media. (I once saw a series of posts on Instapot recipes get dozens of interactions from people I know.)
Imagine the impact the church can have if members use their online influence for the good of the church and Kingdom. Thankfully, I have dozens of stories from my own social media where something I posted was at the right time for someone who needed a word of encouragement.
Here are a few ways you can use social media for good:
- Check into church on Sunday.
- Let people know about the events of your church.
- Give your church a “5 Star Review”.
- Brag on your pastor online.
- Share your church’s social media statuses.
Based on what you’ve posted previously about your church or pastor, would people you know want to attend the church?
Encourage people with your social media influence. May God be glorified – even through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the likes.
It’s outside of my line of work, but some of these (maybe all) might apply to your workplace as well.
I was talking with a pastor who had been betrayed by someone in his church. He told him a secret in confidence and soon learned the friend had shared it with another, who, of course, shared it with another – who shared it with another – and you know the rest of this story.
I was empathetic, but thought to myself, “Welcome to the world of leadership”. And it can be true even in Christian leadership.
If you’ve been in leadership very long you know what it feels like to be betrayed. It can come at the hand of one you barely know or someone you trusted.
I love that God provides us real life examples from the Bible of men and women who faced the same struggles we face today. I once wrote 4 Ways to Process Betrayal about Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.
Then consider these thoughts from the life of David.
Psalm 41:7, “All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me.”
David, the man after God’s own heart, had men who talked behind his back. They spread rumors about him. They maligned his reputation and character. He was the subject of gossip. People said things about him that weren’t true; probably some that were partially true, but stretched out of proportion to reality.
Have you ever been there?
Then consider what David says in verse 9, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”
David had been betrayed by someone he trusted completely.
Most likely you have also. Chances are good, if we are honest, we have been the the betrayer and the betrayed. It could have been in a business deal, with a family member, or even in a marriage. It might have been a misunderstanding or an intentional act of betrayal, but either way, it still hurt. You were tempted to get even, perhaps you held a grudge. Maybe you quit speaking to the person.
How should you respond in betrayal?
Here are 4 reminders for times of betrayal:
Be confident in who you are, and who you are not – You are not a super human. You are a man or woman. You have real feelings. You have emotions. You can be hurt. Don’t be surprised by your emotional response to betrayal. You will have to trust again, but you may be hurt again. That’s part of living among sinners like you and me.
Be confident who others are and who others are not – Don’t hold others to a standard they can’t live up to, but don’t allow them to control your reactions either. Others will let you down. Even the most well-meaning people will disappoint you at times. There may need to be consequences for other’s actions, but if you open yourself to betrayal by trusting others, which you will often have to do in leadership, life and love, you will be hurt at times. Just as you are not perfect, others are not either. Part of relationships is the vulnerability, which allows betrayal. They only way to avoid it completely is to avoid relationships.
Be confident in who God is and who He isn’t – God is able to protect you. He doesn’t always protect you from betrayal. Sometimes He even allows those closest to you to be the betrayer. He will, however, always use it for an ultimate good. We shouldn’t expect God to do as He hasn’t promised to do. We can expect God to never leave us nor forsake us and to be our strength when we are weak and to lift us up in due time when we humble ourselves before Him.
Be confident in what God has called you to do and what He hasn’t – God has not called you to please everyone. He has called you to be obedient to your call; regardless of the sacrifice. Even in the midst of betrayal, we are called to love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8) He has also called you to forgive. He has not called you to enable bad behavior.
You can’t control the world from betraying you, but you can control your reaction to betrayal. That begins by living out of the confidence God has given you through your relationship with Him.
Have you ever been betrayed? How did you handle it?
Whether or not you do New Year resolutions, we could all stand to improve some things in our life. And, if we do, I’m confident we could also improve the life of others.
In fact, with a whole lot of improving – it might become contagious – and we might just change the world.
Here are 7 new year resolutions which could change the world:
Let’s resolve to begin everyday with a prayer, a smile, and a humility check.
A 3 part checklist. What if we woke up every morning and began by talking to God – recognizing His power and asking Him to direct our steps, make sure our smile is our attitude, and humbly enter the world not expecting anything other than to be a blessing? It will require discipline – but how we begin a day almost always determines how we end one.
Let’s resolve to return evil with good.
It won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. A grudge or sarcastic remark seems so much more fulfilling – in the moment. But, over time, it causes more harm than good – mostly to us – often even more than “them”. Imagine your world when you influence others by how you don’t respond when they “push your buttons” the wrong way.
Let’s resolve to never let the sun go down on anger.
Anger emotions grow overnight. They blossom into more intense anger emotions. We may not be able to resolve all disagreements, but we can drop the right to get even and resolve to be at peace as much as it depends on us. We will awake with level ground to build better, healthier relationships with others. Oh, what a world it would be if we had less anger.
Let’s resolve not use social media as a forum to bash others.
Or even as a forum period. It divides people rather than bringing them together. Let’s resolve for a kinder, gentler Facebook – rant-free even – where we simply stalk – I mean check in on old friends. Let’s act like people – real people -may actually see what we write. And care. And, let’s post in a way which encourages and builds each other up – almost like that’s in the Bible somewhere. (It might even be somewhere around 1 Thessalonians 5:11 – check me on this one.)
Let’s resolve to develop our patience muscle.
Wow! I put this one in the middle so maybe you (or my wife) would skip over it quickly. Just kidding. This is one I need – we all need. I’m not sure we can completely master it this year, but, with intentionality – and Christ’s strength – we can keep getting better. What if we thought about the most common things which test our patience – such as the traffic on the drive home at night – and we asked God to help us deal with it before we experience it – each time? Just a thought.
Let’s resolve to remember it’s not about us.
This one alone would surely change the world. What if we placed into our schema – into our immediate thought process – a simple understanding – OTHER PEOPLE MATTER – just as much as we do? Does it make a difference when you think someone values you? Of course it does. What if we valued others and demonstrated to them by how we treat them, what we say to them, our facial expressions, or even our thoughts toward them? Think it might change a few of our relational encounters this year? I think it might. Certainly seems worth trying.
Let’s resolve to listen more than we speak.
Ouch – if needed! It’s hard to value others when we are doing all the talking. (It’s also hard to hear from God.) It requires an act of humility when we remain silent at times we want to speak. Many times disagreements, arguments, even serious issues like prejudism or racism, have more to do with misunderstanding or miscommunication than anything. When we listen we demonstrate value – but, it also guards the tongue, protects relationships, and we might actually learn something.
Of course, ultimately the change the world needs is the Gospel, but who knows? Maybe if we change the way we treat others – including other believers – others might actually want to hear our Gospel.
I realize I’m simple-minded – but I do, henceforth, resolve.
Who’s with me?
I can imagine the “wonder” going on in Bethlehem shortly after the birth of Christ. There was great wonder in the naming of this baby. Jesus, which means “salvation of God”, was not something someone like Joseph and Mary typically would have named their son. Talk about high hopes for your children!
But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. Luke 2:10-11
As I read the Scriptures, the ability to have joy is a gift. We may not always be “happy” with our circumstances, but we can have joy. Joy is a condition of our heart beyond the situations life may bring. It was “good news of great joy” the angels announced at the birth of Christ.
For many, however, living in the reality of joy at Christmas is harder than other times of the year. Memories of loved ones, financial struggles, health issues, and relationship woes often make for a very difficult celebration. And, have you spent much time watching the news recently? It’s enough to depress anyone.
Do you ever wonder why everyone else seems to find it, but you’ve been “left out” when it comes to “good news of great joy”?
How do we find the joy of Christmas? (You may want to read my previous post 10 Ways to Overcome a Sense of Christmas Loss. This post comes from another angle.
Here are five suggestions to greater joy at Christmas:
Lower expectations of others
We falsely expect others to respond as we want them to respond – or think we would. We expect them to react to our gift as we felt when we bought it for them. We thought they’d remember us and they didn’t. We sent a card – they didn’t. We tried to be nice – and they weren’t so nice. We shouldn’t hold others to an expectation we set for them.
People, even the best of people, will disappoint us. And, people are different from us. We aren’t responsible for the reactions of others. We are only responsible for our actions. We’ve been called to love others – and, that call doesn’t come with a list of stipulations for others to meet before we love them.
Increase your investment in others
If we aren’t careful, Christmas can become so commercialized, even within our own families, we unintentionally become selfish towards others.
Something supernatural happens when we share with people. Giving has an intrinsic value, which can’t be duplicated in any other way.
By the way, I believe this includes extending grace, as it was given to us – this includes granting forgiveness to those who disappointed us.
Giving frees our heart of selfishness and self-centered tendencies we all have at times. And, Jesus said we give with one hand without the other hand knowing we gave. (paraphrase). So, we give expecting nothing in return. We give simply to be a blesser – and in turn we receive the blessing.
Examine your life and address known sin
You can’t experience complete joy with a holy God if you are living contrary to His desires for your life. Where does your life need a realignment with God’s purposes and plan for you? Chances are good you already know. Is it an unforgiving spirit? Are you holding on to anger? Do you have continued, repetitive sin in your life?
Christmas is a great time to make new commitments, and re-dedicate your life to Christ. Then you have a whole year to strive in this area of personal growth. Could a revival of soul be what’s missing for you to have a merrier Christmas?
Change your perspective
Choosing to be joyful is not based on circumstances, but often comes by perspective. Where we stand always determines what we see. Stand in pity or resentment and we will see the world in bitterness and disappointment. Stand in faith and we will see the world from a more positive viewpoint. We will see hope and possibilities.
The Apostle Paul wrote one of his most joy-filled letters – Philippians- while chained in a jail cell. (Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8)
The fact is – joy is a gift. It’s not based on what we have done or could do, but on God’s amazing grace towards us. It’s based on the hope of the righteous, not the reality of the moment.
Because of who God is and our relationship with Him we can choose joy, even in the midst of life’s struggles. And, then choose joy again. And again. And again.
Set your eyes on the prize
If you’re struggling to find joy in life, set your eyes on Jesus – the author and perfecter of your faith. (If indeed He is your Savior – if not choose His grace by faith now.) Set your sight on the glory to be revealed through your trials and circumstances. (Hebrews 12:2, Romans 8:18)
God will write the final chapter of your story – and He’s not finished yet! You can trust Him. Look again at the manger – Jesus, the One who existed before time began, set the stars in place, lowered Himself in the form of a baby and was placed on a feeding trough, so He may give us access (through the Cross and resurrection) to a Holy God! I can find joy in this fact! Can you?
What suggestions do you have for finding more joy at Christmas?
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. As the song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year“.
But, for some people, Christmas can be a miserable time.
Many have lost a loved one, suffered the end of a significant relationship, or even had a severe personal loss of income or health. For them Christmas can be just another reminder of what they no longer have. If we aren’t careful, the joy of Christmas is covered over with the emotions of loss, and rather than appreciating what we have or looking forward to what’s to come, we find ourselves in Christmas misery.
Several years ago, to prepare for a Christmas message, I consulted with two professional Christian counselors in our church Jennifer Degler and Elizabeth Ellis. With their advice and my own counseling background, I offer some practical ways to overcome a sense of Christmas loss.
Ideally, Christ is the answer. Apart from Christ there is no Christmas and there is no peace. These suggestions are not designed to take the place of that truth, but rather to give some practical tips to help you deal with loss at Christmas.
Here are 10 ways to process the emotions of Christmas loss:
List your losses – Death, divorce, injury, finances, children moved out this year – whatever they are – write them down. I’ve personally found journaling to be helpful. Admit the pain – write them down.
Share them – Certainly you should share them with God, but maybe with a close friend or with people who have experience dealing with your specific loss. Don’t be ashamed to see a professional counselor. Find support in a Bible study group or prayer group. We were designed for community, especially for times like this.
Grieve the loss – Every loss must be grieved. The intensity of the grief may be determined by the intensity of the loss. Some form of depression is a normal response to grief. We’ve almost created a culture where we think suffering is abnormal. Don’t be afraid to grieve – even publicly at times. It’s okay to be human.
Resist falling into despair – That’s where you live in a false reality that all hope is gone. It’s not. By the way, you don’t do that by ignoring them.
Take care of your physical body– Eat well, exercise, and get adequate rest. It’s more important during a sense of loss.
Be aware of negative thinking – Catch negative thoughts and replace them with thoughts that are positive and true. See Philippians 4:8.
Do something for someone else – There are many opportunities during the holidays to help people. Helping other people reminds us loss is universal and other people are struggling with you. Plus, something about giving fuels positive emotions.
Force yourself to participate in social activities – You won’t feel like it, but social support is critical in recovering from loss. No one benefits by becoming a recluse. In fact, you actually increase the likelihood you will become clinically depressed.
Avoid the comparison game – Don’t compare your losses to other people’s losses. Significant loss naturally makes us focus inward, but that never works. And, it’s dangerous.
Honor you losses with new traditions – Begin some new family rituals that will help you reflect on the good things you experienced with the person you have lost or will help you remember happier days to come.
In my Christmas message, I shared one more suggestion – one I believe is the most powerful of all. It’s this:
We have to learn to worship in tears. You have to learn to worship even in pain. When you realize God is good – even when it doesn’t seem life is good – you are better equipped to face the storms of life, which are sure to come.
Obviously, Christ is the peace of Christmas, and He can fill your brokenness. You can trust Him. This Christmas, let the Christ of Christmas fill the void and loss you have in your heart and life.
Want a guaranteed better Thanksgiving? Perhaps even the best Thanksgiving ever?
I actually believe Thanksgiving may be one of the most “Christian” holidays we can celebrate. As followers of Christ, we are to give thanks always – and in every situation. We have reason to be thankful continually. This world, as it is today, is not our permanent home. We are going to live forever – in a perfect place – with our perfect God.
Even today, in the midst of all that is in our world, our God is on His throne – JESUS IS ALIVE – and we are loved with an everlasting love. We have access to peace, which surpasses understanding.
All that is enough, right?
But, let’s face it, Thanksgiving is hard for some people. They’ve lost loved ones. They are lonely. Another day-off watching everyone celebrate how wonderful their life is online only makes it harder.
This has been an especially hard year for some. We’ve been more divided as a people than any year I remember. Some people simply don’t feel as “blessed” this year – perhaps even as thankful.
Others are so caught up in having the perfect meal and the perfect table setting – the house decorated just right – they get distracted with busyness and end up disappointed rather than enjoying some of the greatest blessings around them.
And, then there are those of us who simply take things for granted and fail to stop and truly be thankful.
Here’s a checklist of activities, which will make your world look brighter and your holiday grander. I’m convinced so much I’d almost guarantee you. You may not be able to do all of them. I would encourage you to complete the ones you can.
Here are 7 ways to having the best Thanksgiving ever:
Read Psalm 136.
Slowly. Maybe even aloud. Maybe a couple times. Let the words dwell in you a while. Make the words a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Trust me on this.
Make a thankful list.
We used to do this as a family tradition when our boys were at home. I wrote about this in a previous POST, but one of the best ways to fill your heart with gratitude is to make a list of things for which you are thankful. When you reflect on the things you do have – rather than the things you don’t have – your heart grows in appreciation.
Spend time with family and friends.
You may not be able to be with them in person – and this is one of the harder parts of holidays for some, but even exchanging a text with someone you love can brighten your day. Reach out to some you haven’t heard from in a while. And, if you are mourning over someone special this year – spend some time remembering why they are special to you. (Even write some of the things you remember and loved about the person. It can be a healthy grieving process.)
And, if I may be so bold, some reading this are grieving so hard for someone they lost they fail to enjoy people they still have around them. I suspect the one you lost would want you to still enjoy life.
Sometimes we have to build new relationships even while we are mourning old relationships. Maybe you need to volunteer somewhere, or open your heart to some new relationships. Be a friend so you can feel the love of a friend again. We are made for relationships. That almost always takes a risk of heart and an intentionality on our part.
Smiling does something inside of you and always makes an impact on people around you. The ability to smile or not is almost always a reaction to a perspective. How’s your perspective this year? Sometimes a perspective check can change your attitude – the way you feel – everything.
Remember, as I wrote previously, Jesus is alive. The Gospel is good news! For the believer, our future is secure – and wonderful. Paul wrote these were “light and momentary troubles” and they were “achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) Think on that thought and you’ll have to at least grin.
(If you’re reading this and there has never been a time in your life where you surrendered your heart to Christ – I pray you will today. You don’t have to understand everything, it’s a faith decision, but the reality is we are all sinners, God is a holy God, and He loves us enough He sent His son to die for our sins. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9))
Make it your ambition today to be someone’s best smile! The world needs more smiles. A lot more smiles.
Give to others.
Not only can you do shopping online – you can give online to most churches, charities, and non-profits. There are lots of places you can serve others over the holidays. Salvation Army is usually a good place to start and most communities have numerous other helping ministries.
Giving is a catalyst for an internal smile. Giving releases hidden joy inside you which you can’t understand until you do. Paul credits Jesus with saying, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” The happiest, most content people I know are generous people.
If this one grabs your attention for more, listen to a message I did on this subject HERE.
Exercise, take a nap and drink some water.
This one may seem out of place in a list like this, but I’ve learned whenever I don’t feel well many times it is because I’m partially dehydrated. And, we all run at a fast pace of life. Taking some time to relax and catch up on your sleep may be the best gift you can give yourself for a better Thanksgiving. A
And, you know you need to exercise, right? Even the smallest activity can make you feel so much better. Take a brisk walk around the neighborhood or where people might be. It might be where you have the best chance to smile, be kind to someone, and perhaps even make a friend.
Think others first.
This may be the most important. For example, if you wear your feelings on your shoulders or you’re easily offended by what others did or didn’t do for you – you’ll have a miserable holiday. On the other hand, if you clothe yourself with an attitude of humility and consider others even before your own needs – the rest of this list will take care of itself. And, here’s the strange thing, you’ll be blessed as you do!
Don’t hold people to your expectations of performance. People almost NEVER perform as you expect them to do. Do you know why? Because they’re your expectations. Yours – not theirs. The less you set up the prescriptive way people will perform, what they will say, or how things will go, the more you can enjoy the way things actually happen. Because, you already know this, no matter how much you prepare, no matter how much you hope things turn out just as you imagined them, life has a way of throwing us surprises. Enter into Thanksgiving with that understanding and you’ll have the possibility of remaining thankful – regardless of what happens or doesn’t happen.
There are my suggestions for the best Thanksgiving ever. You may not be able to do all of them this weekend. The key is to complete as many as you can.
Any you would add to my list?