When God Moves

God is always moving, but sometimes he moves BIG and FAST! That’s been the case for my wife and me over the last 3+ months. Here’s is Debi’s writeup on it.

Sojourner Between Worlds

The last few months have been an amazing journey of watching God work and move in my husband and my lives. At the end of September 2018, we had no idea that our entire lives were about to be changed and turned upside down. In early October, my parents and sister, who live in Pennsylvania, had an urgent need that led to my coming to help them for a week. While with them and dealing with that particular crisis, both my parents and my sister asked us to consider moving near them to continue to help as other needs arose. At first thought, my husband and I were a bit taken aback as we were heavily involved in ministries at our church and in our jobs in Michigan. But as we prayed about it and looked at Scripture, we came to 1 Timothy 5:8 “But if anyone does not provide…

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Is Your Puzzler Sore? – A Quote

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?

It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.

And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

Dr. Seuss

Contentment in the Midst of Chaos

by Debi Martin of the Sojourner Between Worlds blog.

This is my life right now.

boxes

Boxes, boxes, everywhere! Due to some family needs, we are moving from our home in Michigan to live near family in Pennsylvania. We are in the process of selling our condo, which is stressful, as anyone who has ever bought or sold a home can attest to. At the same time we are also packing up in preparation for movers to come at the end of December and put most of our stuff in storage. We will live with family temporarily while looking for a new place in Pennsylvania. So there are decisions as to what to put in storage, what do we think we’ll need in the meantime, not knowing how long it will take to find and buy a new home.

It’s easy (and probably natural) at times like these to look ahead and think, “Oh, I can’t wait until we have our new place and can be moved in and settled again, with life back to somewhat normal.” Until then life is chaotic and uncertain, living half out of boxes and suitcases. It’s hard to feel relaxed and content in the midst of all that is going on. But we are not meant to live our lives in the “Oh, when such and such happens, then I can relax and all will be well.” We aren’t meant to live in the future “someday”. We are called to live in the here and now, the everyday chaos, the half packed boxes around us. What better picture of this life being temporary? This is not our final destination. A new heaven and earth await us, where there will be no more chaos, no more stress, no more sin. Even when things settle down and there is a new normal, this is still not our final home. We are to hold this life loosely, ever realizing that this is temporary. We are sojourning between worlds, as this blog is called. So as I live in the midst of chaos, God can use this to remind me not to be looking for a future settled home here on this earth, but a future home in the new heaven and earth that awaits me when Christ returns. Until then I must live each day to glorify God and proclaim Jesus Christ.

Why I Left Social Media (and maybe why you should, too)

PhineasGage

Ever since I was very young I have dealt with a level of social anxiety. It has never been easy for me to engage freely in casual social situations like birthday parties, school dances, backyard barbeques, and the like. Even today I have to take a moment to calm the panic I feel in my heart before heading into events where there will be lots of people, especially if it will include a lot of people that I don’t know. I have no rational explanation for this. It’s not like I expect anything dangerous or terrifying to happen at my neighbor’s Christmas party. It’s not like I am expecting someone to suddenly ask me a question or make a comment that would completely upend my worldview or anything. Then again, there is a real possibility that people may try to engage in small talk. What if someone mentions all the rain we’ve had lately? What if someone wants to talk about how poorly the Tigers did this season? How will I respond to such things? If I am at such an event and I have something specific that I’m doing there (checking coats, singing, washing dishes, anything that allows me to not engage in small talk), then I’m OK. I’m also OK if I can find my way into a conversation that goes deeper than talking about how good the cabbage rolls are.

“What’s your take on the lapsarian issue?” while a somewhat useless topic, is at least something that has the potential to lead to good theological conversation.

“Did you hear that the Denny’s on Novi Rd. is closing?” leaves me wanting to run screaming for the bathroom.

“I think Christians sometimes use too much Christianese when talking to unbelievers. What do you think?” is the opening to a conversation I would joyfully spend the rest of the party engaged in!

Parties have never been my thing. I appreciate being invited to them, and I do usually want to support a friend or a cause by going, but I’ve learned that it takes a certain amount of mental preparation for me and I will usually see about leaving at the earliest polite moment.

So, when social media really started to make it big, I was emotionally all for it. It meant that I could engage in social situations without having to actually be face to face with people. It was an introvert’s dream! I could get into conversations that had substance and ignore the others without appearing rude. I could take the necessary time to think through my answers, researching if necessary, before replying in a comment or a post. I could post about things that I felt were really important and, hopefully, find others with the same passions without having to have meaningless exchanges with countless people to get there.

So, why now have I made the decision to leave social media behind? Well, allow me to say first that this is not a decision I made at the spur of the moment without thought. I have been thinking about my use of social media and about social media overall and I slowly came to several conclusions. I am not asking—or even expecting—you to agree with these reasons, but I would ask that you take the time to consider them before dismissing them.

(By the way… when I’m talking about social media, I am mostly talking about Facebook and Twitter because those are the only major social media sites I really used. I realize that there are a ton of other social media sites and I believe that most of them could also fit into this blog post. And while YouTube can be considered a social media site, I don’t participate in the social aspects of it [I am not even sure how to]; it’s simply a source of information for me.)

So, there are some personal reasons and some societal reasons for my decision to leave social media.

Personal Reasons

When I examined why I used social media, I discovered that it was mostly used as an escape. There were other times and other reasons I’d use it (promoting truth, posting ministry updates, etc.), but ranking those uses in terms of time spent and how often I’d turn to it, escapism was at the top of the list.

Also, social media is set up to ensure the most pleasant experience possible for each user. This means that social media wants to show you the things that you want to see and it groups people together based on common likes. If I share some biblical truth on there, mostly the only people who will see it are those who already agree with it. So, that reason becomes almost moot.

Today, social media is so crowded that posting something there is like shouting a message at a football game right after the home team scores big to take the lead. Almost no one can hear it because everyone is shouting something and they are usually thinking that their own message is the one being heard more than the others. And since everyone is shouting messages, no one is listening to anything others may have to say. This is greatly generalized, of course, but I have come to believe that it is not so far off the mark.

By not using social media anymore, I hope to refocus my time on things that are truly valuable for the Kingdom and for my own growth. My hope is that productivity will increase as I spend less time escaping and more time at the grindstone when it comes to unpleasant tasks at work and at home.

Finally, as someone who struggles with social anxiety, I think removing myself from social media will force me to engage more with people on an individual level rather than shouting into a crowd.

Societal Reasons

I have come to believe that social media sites are truly problematic to society overall as well as to the individuals who use them habitually. I believe there are real physical, mental, and social dangers with social media.

Due to the anonymity granted by the computer screen, when real conversations do occur on social media sites (a rare event, to be sure), people tend to be much less cordial than they would be face to face. Kids who grow up on social media easily learn this pattern of communication and internalize it as the norm. This has serious consequences in terms of their development in real society.

There are physical problems as well. Social media is designed to give the user small bits of reward by way of dopamine hits. Dopamine is the chemical in your brain that makes you feel good after some discovery or event. God’s design for it is to enable you to reenact a pattern of behavior that is beneficial. With social media, “likes,” “comments,” “shares,” etc., cause little dopamine hits that promise more the more you scroll. Social media causes these little dopamine spikes with every “like” you get from one of your posts. Worse than that, the dopamine goes up with just the anticipation of something good on social media, forcing more scrolling and more frequent checking of your social media feed just in case you have new “likes,” “comments,” “shares,” etc. All of this causes dopamine receptors in the brain to expect that constant feel-good experience. That is the basis of physical addiction. As the dopamine receptors in your brain get used to the constant dopamine hits, the baseline gets raised and then what’s normal gets skewed. It’s the reason addicts cannot feel normal when they are not using their drug of choice.

I feel that by continuing on social media, even with these things in check for myself, I’m perpetuating the problem for others by providing one more thing for them to scroll to. And, oddly enough, posting things that are really good makes this problem worse because it encourages people to keep scrolling to find the next really good thing. There is no end to that pattern for the addict.

Here are a couple of videos that further explain what I mean. Though the first one uses the more general term “Internet,” the most extreme forms of what the author is talking about are social media sites. I hope you’ll take a bit of time to watch these.

EDIT (05Nov18): The lax security of Facebook may be another reason you’d want to delete your Facebook account.
New leakage of Facebook user data, including private messages

By the way… Do you know what John 3:16 really means?

Jn316WhatLet’s look at a very familiar verse for a moment. It’s probably the most familiar verse in the Bible, but have you really thought about what it means?

John 3:16 – God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

  • What God did (gave his only Son), he did out of love.
  • He gave his Son to die the death that we all deserve.
  • Those who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Who does this include?

Well, it includes everyone! Those who believe will not perish. By necessary contrast, those who do not believe will perish. Easy enough, right?

Easy, but a bit terrifying. Let’s take a look at what is says just 2 verses later:

John 3:18 – Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

  • Anyone who believes in Jesus avoids condemnation.
  • Anyone who does not believe faces condemnation.

Is belief all it takes?

So, to avoid condemnation all you have to do is believe! That’s pretty easy for most. But what does it mean to believe in this context? Same passage, but a few verses later:

John 3:36 – Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

  • Again, whoever believes has eternal life.
  • Whoever does not obey suffers the wrath of God.

The biblical term used here for “believe” is synonymous with “obey.” So, it’s not just an intellectual assent to the fact that Jesus exists, or even that Jesus died for sins; it’s belief with a view to obedience; it’s belief that results in obedience. Now we have a much more difficult proposition, don’t we?

This is where most people fall short, get tripped up, or simply choose to ignore what is very plain in Scripture.

How do we avoid this problem?

Jesus said that whoever would follow him (another way of saying “believe in him” or “obey him”) must leave everything else behind and follow him (i.e., seek to become like him, turning away from everything else).

Luke 9:23–26 – Jesus said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father.”

These are very strict conditions, it seems to me. Only followers of Jesus, as defined here, will have the eternal life promised in John 3:16. It’s a lot different than just believing (assenting to a fact) that Jesus died for sins. If you are trusting your eternal destiny to the type of easy-believism that says all you have to do is say a prayer or ask Jesus into your heart, you are still under the wrath of the Father. And if you are under the wrath of the Father, you have no hope of being saved from it unless you turn your life over to Christ, forsaking all other beliefs and lifestyles.

You cannot continue in your own chosen way of life and expect that God is going to approve of you. God does not weigh your good deeds with your bad. He does not wink at your decisions to crusade for those things that are a violation of his Word and of his character. He does not grade on a scale. He does not yield to the demands of the current culture.

Are you a follower of Jesus?

So, what about you? Are you a follower of Jesus? I submit that this question is the most important question you will ever answer. Answer it honestly. Are you a follower of Jesus? If you answered “yes,” are you sure? If not, I implore you to be decisive today on this issue. You have no guarantee of having until tomorrow to make this decision.

“God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

— Jesus of Nazareth (John 3:16-21)