Get Off Facebook, Dad!

This is reprinted from the Axis Culture Translator

the-culture-translatorMiddle-aged Americans (35- to 49-year-olds) are now spending more time on social media (seven hours a week) than their children, with the fastest growing demographic on Facebook being Baby Boomers. I recently asked my daughter’s best friend what she was doing that evening and she responded, “nothing, just going home to watch my parents stare at their phones all night.” Ouch.

There’s nothing inherently good or bad about social media, it just is. Yet, how we use it matters. Is documenting your life online keeping you from actually living it? Maybe the greatest gift we can give our children is presence. Here are five practical ways to model healthy social media habits in your home so you can be fully present and engaged with your family.

1. Practice Faithful Presence: Root your life in the real. Anchoring yourself in the here and now reduces the impulsive need to broadcast your life, which can lead to envy, depression, and FOMO. Instead, embrace JOMO!

2. Resist the Urge to Share: Instead of posting that picture of you and your husband at the beach, keep that moment just between the two of you. Cherish it, and it will become an intimate memory binding you to one another, instead of cheapening the moment by sharing it with the world.

3. Unplug: Our devices tell us there is something more important going on “out there” than what’s going on right here, but that’s not true. Establish tech-free times during the day or tech-free places (dinner table) to encourage deliberate, face-to-face interaction with your family. Or, try giving up social media for Lent this year.

4. Slow Down: Your life’s pace matters. Our friends Matt and Julie Canlis encourage parents to live at “Godspeed”, which means living life intentionally, mindfully, and slowly. Practice it by reading a novel aloud together as a family at night, or play a board game instead of watching a movie. Start small, take 15-minutes every morning just to be with your kids before heading off to work and school. Build a liturgy to your day that encourages you to slow down and subvert the digital culture.

5. Pay Attention: The best way to capture moments isn’t to post them to SnapChat, it’s to simply pay attention. Cultivating an awareness of the world around us is a big part of being fully human. Henry David Thoreau said “Only that day dawns to which we are awake.” Ask yourself from time to time, “Am I paying attention to my life right now?” Otherwise, whole days, even our very life could pass by unnoticed.

Our kids need healthy boundaries around screen time and social media, what better way to provide those boundaries than by modeling them with our own actions and habits.

Parents, please sign up for the weekly email from Axis. You can do so by clicking here.

The Bad Habits Of Jesus (book review)

the-bad-habits-of-jesusMy wife asked me what book I was reading, and I told her, “The Bad Habits Of Jesus by Leonard Sweet.” Her quick reply was, “Oh, He didn’t have any!” Her gut reaction to this book’s title is probably the gut reaction of most Christians. But to think of Jesus that way is to completely misconstrue how much of a revolutionary Jesus was!

Sweet gives us 15 bad habits Jesus demonstrated while He lived and ministered in first-century Israel. They were “bad habits” because they went against the grain of all that polite, religious society had ingrained in the culture.

To give you an idea, let me list just one of Jesus Christ’s bad habits: He enjoyed the company of women. I know today many people would say, “Yeah, so what’s the big deal.”

The big deal is that women were called “misbegotten” by Aristotle. They were persona non grata if they weren’t in the company of their fathers or husbands. They could be mistreated or divorced solely because their husbands wanted to. And women could never—ever!—be a student of a rabbi.

And yet Jesus not only taught women, but He treated them with a dignity and respect that was unheard of in His culture. He allowed them to have key roles in supporting His ministry, and He elevated their value in society. Leonard Sweet points out, “Jesus is the first Person in recorded history, in fact, to critique the ‘male gaze,’ saying that ‘Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’ Jesus took the proverb ‘As he thinks in his heart, so is he’ seriously but went beyond ‘Don’t do it’ to ‘Don’t even think about it!’” Jesus protected women like they had never been protected before.

This is truly an innovative, paradigm-busting, eye-opening book, and in the process, my understanding of what Jesus taught and demonstrated in the Gospels was expanded as well. The Bad Habits Of Jesus is written in such an engaging style that you will have a hard time putting it down.

I am a Tyndale book reviewer.

5 More Quotes + 2 Graphics From “The Beauty Of Intolerance”

This is the fourth set of quotes I’ve shared from Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell’s book The Beauty Of Intolerance. You can check out the other quotes here, here, and here; and if you missed my review of this book, please click here to read that.

“Respecting the boundaries of sexual morality and prohibitions for extramarital and premarital sex does bring protection and provision. Here are just a few ways it does this:

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“Although sin has separated us from God, His original intent for us and the reality that we were created in His image have not changed. What we do or don’t do may distort that image, but our worth to God as human beings never changes.”

 “So how has Christ loved you? He values all people for their inherent worth and offers grace freely to all people without exception. Cultural tolerance, on the other hand, claims to accept everyone’s differing beliefs, values, and lifestyles, yet it qualifies that acceptance. …  What distinguishes God’s unconditional acceptance from that of our culture is authentic love. His love is intended to make the security, happiness, and welfare of another as important as His own. It is other-focused, not performance-focused. … Real valuing of another’s personhood expressed in the context of authentic love separates doing from being and sees the acts of sin distinct from the sinner (which, by the way, is all of us).”

“The beauty of intolerance is its opposition to wrong and evil in the world—in alignment with God’s righteous and perfect standard of justice, equality, human rights, and caring for others. Intolerance of evil is not mean-spirited and condemnatory; it is actually the only way to be loving and caring. Far from being judgmental, it advances God’s righteous kingdom.”

“Most people in America subscribe to a view of morality called ‘cultural ethics.’ In other words, they believe that whatever is acceptable in that culture is moral; if the majority of people say a thing is right, then it is right. … But there’s a problem with that. If that is true, then how can we say the ‘aborting’ of six million Jews in the Holocaust was wrong? In fact, the Nazis offered that very argument as a defense at the Nuremberg Trials. They argued, ‘How can you come from another culture and condemn what we did when we acted according to what our culture said was acceptable?’ In condemning them, the tribunal said that there is something beyond culture, above culture, that determines right and wrong.”

“We are all entitled to our own beliefs, but this doesn’t mean each of us has our own truths. Our beliefs describe the way we think the world is. Truth describes the objective state of the world regardless of how we take it to be. Beliefs can be relative, but truth cannot. … Moral truth was never meant to be spoken or understood outside of a loving relationship. Being like Christ and speaking the truth in love are synonymous.”

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Book Reviews From 2016

What Child Is This Anyway?!

christ-the-kingA couple of years ago as we were setting up for our Living Nativity, I was wrapping a towel around the doll we were going to use for the infant Jesus. A young boy from the community was carefully watching me and he asked, “Is that baby Santa?”

“No, it’s not Santa,” I said. “See this manger? We’re getting things setup to tell the story about the very first Christmas, long before St. Nick came on the scene. Maybe you’ve heard about Mary and Joseph?”

The young lad’s eyes lit up as he seem to get the answer. “Oh! Is that baby Moses?!”

Clearly, people don’t know all the facts surrounding the first Advent of Jesus. Sometimes things in culture and church get jumbled—what belongs to which? Is Christmas a pagan holiday? Where do Christmas trees come in? Was the birth of Jesus actually on December 25? What does it all matter anyway?

Instead of running from these questions, Christians should use them to point people in the right direction. 

Have you heard the tune called Greensleeves? It’s been around longer than anyone knows. William Shakespeare referenced it in two of his plays and didn’t feel the need to explain it to his audience. The tune has been set to some pretty bawdy words about New Year’s Eve parties, and even as a mocking song to some folks about to go to the gallows. And then in the mid-1800s William Chatterton Dix used this tune to write words about Christ’s birth in What Child Is This?

What an excellent question! Who exactly is this Child? Is Jesus merely a line on the pages of history? Or is His birth something more? Oswald Chambers noted, “The tremendous revelation of Christianity is not the Fatherhood of God, but the Babyhood of God—God became the weakest thing in His own creation, and in flesh and blood He levered it back to where it was intended to be. No one helped Him; it was done absolutely by God manifest in human flesh.”

The first-century historian Luke simply records that Mary is pregnant with “a child.” That is, until Jesus is taken to the temple in Jerusalem eight days later, and we see that a man named Simeon didn’t just see this Child as any baby, but as a fulfillment of prophesy (see Luke 2:25-32; Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6).

This Child is much more than just a historic person. He not only split history into BC and AD, but He has changed my life, and countless others’ lives as well! That’s why the chorus of this Christmas carol joyfully announces, “This, THIS is Christ the King!”

People may be confused about what tradition belongs to culture or Christendom. You may even be confused about what belongs to which. But none of that should stop us from knowing the Child we celebrate this Christmas. None of that should stop us from helping seekers to find Jesus as their own Savior. None of that should stop us from enthroning Jesus Christ as King and giving Him the highest praise He deserves!

Jesus used common, everyday things—farmers, fish, trees, weather, children’s songs—to tell people about a Heaven that was prepared for them. Paul used the cultural idols and poets to point his community to Jesus. Philip used the Scripture a governmental official was reading to point him to Jesus.

So we, too, can use whatever is around us to point people to Jesus this Christmas! What Child is this? This, THIS is Christ MY King! Merry Christmas!!

Is The Bible Outdated?

A.W. Tozer“Today’s world was entirely unimaginable to the people of those times [those living in Christ’s day]. Have these changes forced God to modify His plans for His church and for mankind? Here is where we have fallen by the wayside. Here is where we need a reformation, a purgation, a removal of the faults, and the restoration again of the faith of Christians to believe in the truth. … ‘Do you think God has been forced to change His mind?’ I do not think anybody would quite have the courage to say yes. Nevertheless, they do say it little by little until they have brainwashed their people. In effect, they say that the Bible must be interpreted in the light of new developments. A Book that was written in the day when people rode donkeys must be reinterpreted to mesh with contemporary society. They say that the prophets and apostles mistook what God intended to do. The Bible is outdated and largely irrelevant. … I challenge the idea that we are any further advanced than they were in the days of Jesus. If we are so advanced, then I want to ask some questions. Why do we kill thousands of human beings each year with automobiles? Because we ride automobiles instead of donkeys, we are advanced? If we are so advanced in our day, why are the penitentiaries packed full and the mental hospitals crowded? If we are so advanced, why is the whole world a powder keg? If we are so advanced, how is it that we have weapons that can annihilate the world? If we are so advanced, why is it that people cannot walk alone in the parks anymore? Why is it that workers who get out at midnight never walk home alone anymore? Why is it in this advanced age that drugs, violence, abortion, and divorce are soaring?

“We have been brainwashed to believe that we cannot read the Bible as we used to. We must now read it through glasses colored by change. We have been hypnotized by the serpent, the devil, into believing that we no longer have a trustworthy Bible.

“Has God changed? Are we going to accept it? Is there a change in the purpose of God? Have the changes in human society startled or shocked God? … We believe that God Almighty has not changed and that Jesus Christ is the same. He is victorious, and we do not have to apologize for Him. We do not have to modify, adjust, edit, or amend. He stands as the glorious Lord, and nobody needs to apologize for Him.” —A.W. Tozer

5 Quotes On Love, Sex & Marriage From “The Beauty Of Intolerance”

Beauty Of IntoleranceIn any modern-day discussion on the topic of “tolerance” the conversation is sure to come around to sexual dos and don’ts. Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell speak to this subject so well in their book The Beauty Of Intolerance.

“The reason we think there are such concepts as ‘fair’ and ‘unfair’ is because our Maker is a just God and we have been made in His image (Genesis 1:27). The reason love is a virtue and hatred a vice is because the God of relationships who formed us is a God of love. The reason honesty is right and deceit is wrong is because God is true. The reason fidelity in marriage is honorable and infidelity is not is because God is faithful. The reason chastity is moral and promiscuity is immoral is because God is pure. … All truth claims cannot be equal because Jesus didn’t claim to be ‘a’ truth—one among viable others. His claim was exclusive.”

“True love commits wholeheartedly. … When two lovers marry, they are making a public vow committing to provide for and protect each other through thick or thin. That kind of committed love compels a couple to wait to engage in sex until after marriage—which is the context in which love makes it right.”

“Purity is God’s boundary that provides for a maximum sex life and protects us from the negative consequences of sexual immorality.”

“What your children hear about the ‘gay versus Christian’ morality debate is often centered on how Christians allegedly discriminate against same-sex marriages and wrongfully label the gay community as sinful. We need to help them refocus the argument. It needs to shift away from who is accusing whom of judging or whether it’s right to legislate morality. We must focus our young peoples’ discussion on who has the right to define morality in the first place. … Be a student of God’s Word. Know why you believe sexual immorality is wrong—know the positive provision and protection that comes by following God’s instructions on morality. And then seek to speak the truth in love. Capture God’s heart, knowing that He wants only what is best for us. Share how your own obedience to God’s Word has brought you protection and provision.”

First, marriage is two human beings becoming one in every way possible. . . In marriage, two become one, united in mind and body and purpose. 

“Second, marriage is oriented toward procreation. The act of two becoming one flesh makes God’s intent, that humans should ‘fill’ and ‘form’ His world, possible. … Scripture sees marriage as being closely tied to procreation. . . . 

“Third, marriage comes with an expectation of permanence. The Genesis account implies marriage is a permanent relationship, [but] Jesus’ words are explicit: ‘What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate’ (Matthew 19:6). . . . 

“Therefore we shouldn’t think of marriage as a political institution that belongs to the state. It is a pre-political institution. The state doesn’t create marriage; it can only recognize it. The state, despite all its efforts, will never be able to redefine marriage. Marriage will always be what marriage was created to be, no matter what activist judges, runaway legislatures or majority of voters decide.” —John Stonestreet & Sean McDowell 

If you haven’t read my review of The Beauty Of Intolerance, you can read it here. I have also shared some other quotes from this book here and here.

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