On This Thanksgiving Day

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Do you ever use Facebook’s “On This Day” feature? I used to think it was annoying, but now I like it, maybe because I’ve just gotten old and more nostalgic. I’m thankful that I deleted and recreated my Facebook account right before my freshman year in college. Otherwise, I’d have to be reminded about my nerdy  years in high school. Okay, maybe those years are not over…

Regardless, this is a great tool for refreshing your memory with good (or awkward) times. But it’s also a great tool for this time of year.

It’s cool to be able to look back and see all God did on that very same day a year ago, two years ago, or four years ago. I highly recommend that you spend some time on “On This Day” this week, not to laugh at how weird you used to be, but to jog your memory about how good God has been to you this year.

For instance, I can look back and see that today last year, I got to post about our Giving Tree project for needy kids at Christmas. I think back to how each year, that opportunity proved to be a test of my faith and a testament to God’s goodness.

Three years ago, I became friends on Facebook with two of my professors. Both of them had a great impact on my life, stopping me to tell me they were praying for me or donating to my missions trip. I’m thankful for them and so many other professors who influenced me with truth.

Four years ago, during my freshman year, my group leader in the dorm posted how thankful he was for us in his group. Many years have passed, and of that group, I am the only one still at the university. Most are scattered around the world. But I am thankful for their influence during that formative year. Good memories of God’s goodness…

Let me close with this one – three years ago, I reposted a Thanksgiving poem I wrote about six years ago. It was the first Thanksgiving poem I wrote, and I have written one every year since (still working on this year’s!). Lots has changed since I wrote it, but the God I’m thankful for hasn’t:

Dear Lord, I can thank You for much,
For houses and parents and teachers and such.
I could spend all eternity just praising you for
My country, my freedom, my school, and much more.
And though I am thankful for these above measure,
There is Someone worth praising that’s my greatest Treasure.
He saved me and bought me and healed me within
Even though I forsake Him and frequently sin.
He gave up Heaven just so I could be
Spotless and righteous, by His death on a tree.
So, Lord, though my blessings are certainly not few,
The thing I’m most thankful for would have to be You.

On this Thanksgiving Day, use “On This Day” as a tool for your thankfulness. After all, “On This Day” could have – for every day – a statement that says, “On this day, God was good.”

You, Me, Trump, and Twitter

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This election has been crazy.

That’s an understatement. I, like most (if not all) Americans, am just ready for it all to be over. I have a feeling Wednesday will be a pretty depressing – albeit relieving – day.

But one interesting trend from this election is the power of social media – particularly the little thing known as Twitter.

I’m a big fan of Twitter. Though it is mainly used by politicians and celebrities, it can also be good for the average Joe who wants to keep up with the news. I appreciate the conciseness of the tweet limit, which encourages wit and proverbial thoughts.

But sometimes, it can get discouraging – and even downright dangerous. At least psychologically.

David French of National Review writes a stunning piece about the price he paid for opposing Trump. While I don’t want to get in to a discussion of the election (since I vowed in an earlier post to not mention it until Election Day), I do want to draw attention to this article.

Because it speaks to the power of Twitter this election cycle – for good occasionally. But most often for very, very bad.

We laughed when Nikki Haley retweeted at Trump’s denigrating tweet by saying, “Bless your heart.” We smiled at the banter between Hillary’s “Delete your account” and Reince Priebus’s “You would know about deleting, Hillary.” And we probably had a good joke with friends about Trump’s late night tweet firestorm at the “chockers” and “leightweights” of Cruz and Rubio.

But what about the tweets back to David French with a picture of his African-American adopted daughter in a gas chamber with a Nazi-like Trump pushing the red button? Or tweets claiming they had sex with his wife while he was serving our country in Iraq? What do we do about those?

Especially those that are tweeted from people on “our side.”

Don’t get me wrong – both sides contributed to this madness. But one side in particular has contributed an immense amount of vileness. They are called the alt-right.

Make no mistake: however you vote this election, you must stand against these people. It is not pro-life to tweet for Ben Shapiro to be made into a lampshade. Or tweets calling Democrats or media figures vile or sexist or racist names. Or even tweets saying we should “Lock her up.”

Brothers and sisters, we must not contribute one tweet to this horrid conversation.

As Paul said, we must walk (and tweet and retweet) wisely (Eph. 5:15).

This Wednesday may be a day of great temptation for Christians to tweet against our first woman president. Resist that urge. Submit to our new president, whoever she is.

And remember 1 Peter 3:16: “Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”

Happy voting (or not voting)!

I’m an Extension Cord

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This post adapted from a workshop I gave as part of BJU’s Global Opportunities Week on Thursday, October 6, 2016.


I’m an extension cord.

Now, I admit – that’s not a terribly flattering thing to be compared to. I guess it depends on the extension cord, but most of the ones I know are some hideously ugly color (bright orange – really?) and are notoriously stubborn to untangle and finagle where you want them.

But I really do long to be an extension cord. In fact, it’s my life mission!

Extension cords are all about connection.

They connect something that needs power – say a lamp – to something that has all the power it needs – the electrical socket.

When you plug an extension cord into a lamp across the room and turn on the light, are you shocked that it works (pun intended)? Do you marvel at the power of the extension cord to transport all that power? Do you pat it on the back and congratulate it for being so awesome?

Not likely. Now, you may marvel at the beautiful Christmas lights that blink on when the extension cord is plugged in. But you never step back and marvel at that ugly orange cord running from the lights to the socket.

I am that ugly orange extension cord.

Christ is the electricity in the socket. He has all the power this world ever needs. He is the Sovereign Maker of the Universe – He is Omnipotent – He is God (oh and I’m not). What this world needs is more God and less me.

And so I want to be one way in which the world gets more of my awesome God.

There are many dark lamps in the world who cannot shine. They have no power and no way to get it. I want to come along and connect them to the power source that can transform them from “darkness to marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Just like the extension cord, no credit will go to me because none of the power comes from me. I’m simply connected to the power. And I simply want to share it.

My life mission is to be so connected to Christ that all who connect with me are connected to Christ.

This includes what I do on digital media – the point of this blog. When people add me on Facebook, I want to be so connected to Christ that in a sense, they’ve just added Him to their news feed. I want to be so deep in His power that when people meet me, they immediately sense the power of Christ flowing from me.

All I want to be a connector. I may be an ugly color and a bit hard to work with at times. But by God’s grace, I want to connect as many dark lamps to Him as I can – and watch His power light them up in marvelous transformation!

Three Apps for Evangelism

In Taylor’s and Carrey’s and Livingstone’s and Judson’s day, it was the map that was the missionary’s best tool.

Today, it’s the iPhone.

That’s a bold statement, but I believe a true one.

An iPhone (or any other less-sanctified smart phone) can open more doors to evangelistic conversations than even a tract!

How? Allow me to suggest three ways and three apps that can help you with your evangelistic efforts.

  1. dp-2WhatsApp. Every Christian interested in overseas work needs to have this one. It is an international staple. Oversees, for one reason or another, texting can be expensive, and so many people use WhatsApp as a free messaging tool to keep up with each other. It also works well for starting group conversations. A believer can harness it to connect with unbelievers on a short-term trip and then be able to keep up with them for free from back in America. I found it to be a great tool to maintain connections. I have used it to share the Gospel from my home in America to countries to which I could probably never get access as a cross-cultural worker. The Gospel is going forth unstoppable. One of those ways is through pixels and emojis on WhatsApp.
  2. iphoneThe StoryThis app is a must-have for plane trips. Stumbling over your words trying to explain the Gospel to your seat-mate? Bring up this well-designed app and let its simple Gospel message guide you through the process. Another cool feature of this one is that you can put a smart phone barcode on a tract or church invite. Then, you can see who around the world has scanned and viewed the story from that tract. It’s pretty awesome to see how the Gospel has spread through your efforts!
  3. 13567188_1130178680372202_7901429322323480464_nThe ExchangeRelated to the Story is the Exchange – a brand-new app in development by my friends at the Exchange, who produce literature and helps for discipleship with unsaved people. The app is an online version of it. Right now, it is just a well-designed website that walks you through the Gospel and basics of Christianity. Soon, it’ll be an app that any iPhone or Droid can download. You can choose to use “Presenter view” if you are showing it to someone and explaining it on a plane or in a large group. Or, you can share it on social media, email, or text with a customized link that includes the person’s first name when they bring it up. I’m really excited about this one – definitely one to keep your eyes on and start using as it gets up and going!

Really, although I highlighted these three, ALL APPS can be a tool for evangelism. Simple texting or calling can be used to connect or reconnect to an unsaved person. The Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even Snapchat apps can be used to show Christ to unbelievers with every status and picture. I’ve heard of Facebook messaging and Instagram profiles being tools God’s used to draw people into Gospel conversations.

The key is to remember that these apps are SUPPLEMENTARY. They do not replace face-to-face sharing the Gospel. Rather, they can be used to pour the Gospel deeper into a person you have already met in person. Perhaps someone from a far-away land or someone who’s moved away.

Whatever the circumstance may be, one circumstance will never change for us – we have been put where we are in order to share Christ with those around us.

So let’s go! First to the App store, then to our neighbor’s house or the local coffee shop or the cubicle beside you, and then – to the world!

Five Apps for Devotions

 

 

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In today’s digital age, we really don’t have an excuse for not reading the Bible regularly.

Maybe that sentence strikes you as odd. Isn’t it because our age is so digital with so much to do and so many distractions that we have an excuse for not finding time for devotions?

Nope. Because the Lord has given the church a blessing buried in the midst of the technological busyness.

Apps that can aid our time with Him.

You can either let technology drive you away from the Bible or you can let it drive you toward the Bible.

Here are five suggested apps to help in your regular Bible meditation:

  1. unnamed-1ECHO. Do you feel like you tell people you’ll pray for their heavy need and then promptly forget it? Use your iPhone that you’re carrying around anyway to make sure you don’t forget your brother’s burden. Simply pull up this app and plug the name of the person and their request. Then set up notifications on your phone to have the app remind you to pray at certain times. During your devotions, pull up the app and press “Pray Now.” Requests will come randomized that you can pray through.
  2. yv-logoYouVersion. Perhaps the first app you should download when you get a new phone – it even looks like a Bible! Besides being a great app to use to read the Bible wherever you are, it can also be a great resource for short devotionals, accountability (you can add friends just like Facebook!), and highlighting verses you want to reference later. But my favorite function of this app is at the bottom center – the “Play” button. It’s only available for some versions (like KJV and ESV), but it’s extremely helpful as a supplement to your devotions. On your way to work or on a run, after a good time in the Word, you can pull up that chapter you read and listen to it once more. Repetition aids learning, especially if you’re an auditory learner.
  3. unnamedSpotify. Maybe this one comes as a shock to you. But godly music can be a great part of devotions. Spotify is great because it allows you to find any song and listen to it, along with a shuffled collection of similar songs. For instance, I often hear a song we sang together in Sunday worship, and I’ll look it up on Spotify. If I like it enough, I’ll buy it. No matter which, I find that listening to good, godly music uplifts my soul – especially if the lyrics are rooted in Scriptural truth.
  4. bhcoverBible Hub. This is an oft-neglected but great resource in both app and browser form. Reading a passage you don’t understand? Pull up this app, punch the passage in, and read it in a host of different versions. Then scroll down to consult some classic commentaries. Still confused? Look at the passage in Greek! Best of all, it’s completely free!
  5. downloadPower Off. Okay, this isn’t an app. Rather, it’s the absence of apps. Simply hold down the lock button and slide to turn it off. It’s really quite easy – but it’s very hard to do. Text messages, emails, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, the world beyond – they call to us from that small little screen. But if you’re really serious about devotions and getting quiet time with God, you will prioritize undistracted fellowship with your Creator. And getting texts every second won’t be as important to you as getting messages from the Almighty God. So turn that phone off, get an old-fashioned paper copy of the Word, grab some coffee if needed, and dive deep.

Make devotions a priority. So much so that it dictates what apps are on your phones…or when your phone is on at all.

Lessons from Long-Distance Love

View More: http://photosbyhailey.pass.us/matt-and-carissa

I’m not going to lie – dating long-distance really stinks.

But huzzah! As of a few hours ago, I have now been freed from the shackles of long-distance love as my bride-to-be rode in on her mighty Volkswagen Passat to save me, the man in distress.

Now, she’s sitting behind me – and how good it feels to have feet, not hundreds of miles, in between us. Actually quite literally feet. For some reason she thinks I’m a footstool.

Fifteen Months on the Phone

We’ve learned a lot from these fifteen months of long-distance. We’ve learned to appreciate the moments we have together, to find our satisfaction in God and not the other person, and to cherish each little moment.

Most of those little moments happened on our daily phone conversations.

I feel very blessed to live in the Age of Technology where my fiance was only a phone call away at any moment (if she’d actually pick up!). We prioritized setting aside time each day for a twenty to forty minute conversation.

We had busy lives. She ruled the kingdom of K5 with an iron fist while I dwelled in the land of sorrowful studying (actually, I’m still there!). But we knew the importance of communication in relationships. And looking back, I can count on one hand the number of days we didn’t talk – besides the times I was out of the country.

I cannot stress enough the importance of this for a relationship. And the wonderful technology of an iPhone (or her dumb Droid) made all this possible. And for that I am truly grateful, Mr. Jobs.

A Blessing – Not the Best

Technology, however, can never replace face-to-face interaction.

I’m not a big fan of phone conversations. And actually, I’m not even that much of a texter. But I am a people-lover – most especially a Carissa-lover (I’m president of her fan club!). I like to be able to see the person I’m talking to.

And no matter how much it advances, technology can never replace that feeling.

Virtual hugs are just not the same. And even Skype can’t take the place of the joy I feel looking at her – in person.

So by all means, if you have to be long-distance, use technology to keep in contact. Relationships are built on communication, and media has made that easy. You have no excuse not to talk. It must be a priority – no matter how busy.

But don’t ever think that a text conversation can replace a coffee shop conversation. A phone call is not the same as taking a walk together.

You can survive long-distance – we did. And we are stronger for it! But we survived it by cherishing the time we spent face-to-face. And the time when that wasn’t possible, we cherished the phone conversations. Even when we didn’t feel like it. Even when we were tired and the day was long.

I picked up my iPhone and hit “Carijo” with the red heart each day not to replace seeing her in person. But to give me the little bit of Carissa I needed until that was possible.

Technology is a great supplement. But it makes a poor replacement.

-M@

The Age of Technology

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(Note: this post is adapted from a sermon I preached at Calvary Baptist Sunday night on 8/7/16. You can listen to it here.)

This is the Age of Technology. It’s everywhere. You can’t escape it – so don’t bother trying. Even in Amish country, there is technology – trust me, I talked to an Amish boy on the cell phone once (long story involving my crazy Nana, a bus full of senior saints, and the blaring ringtone of “Oh when the saints go marching in”).

The God of Technology

Even as technology has changed much here on earth, nothing much has actually changed in Heaven. We may say technology is everywhere, but in actuality, God is everywhere. He is not outflanked by the latest app. He is not caught off-guard by a breakthrough virtual reality headset.

He is God. End of story.

And that means He has the right to say what we do with all these new-fangled tech toys.

There is not a single thing in this world that His reign doesn’t extend over. He wants control of every area of our life. We can’t put Him in the Sunday box. Or even the morning devotions box. He wants all our days and all our gadgets. So we better to listen to Him when He speaks about technology!

But does He have anything to say? A search on your Bible app for “Facebook” will yield no results. But that means nothing – Biblical principles apply to everything. And here’s a very important one from 1 Peter 2:9:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

The Bible’s To-Do List

This verse gives both our identity and our purpose. We are a different people who are called to proclaim a different God – an excellent, unimaginable God. That’s our life mission.

Throughout this incredible book, Peter goes on to describe just what it looks like to proclaim God. A couple verses later, he will call us to keep our conduct “honorable” in front of the unsaved so they will be drawn to the Savior by our “good works” (vs. 12). Let’s call this evangelization. A few verses down, he calls us to “love the brotherhood” (vs. 17). Let’s call that edification. Lastly, he calls us to “abstain from fleshly lusts” (vs. 11). This is the process of sanctification.

This is our to-do list – every day we wake up to accomplish these three things. What believer can I build up today? What unbeliever can I tell Jesus to? How can I engage in the process of sanctification in my own personal life?

These three things provide the framework for our entire lives – our work, our family time, our politics, and yes, even our technology.

So let’s put our tech gadgets into this framework – how will my digital technology help or hurt evangelization, edification, and sanctification in my life? Because it will always do both – there will always be a plus and a minus for every device.

Make a Chart

I encourage you to set this up like a chart. Put your tech devices or digital media – iPhone, Facebook, Instagram, video games, movies, etc. – down the left side. Put your categories on top – evangelization, edification, and sanctification. Then for each box, write the negatives and positives for accomplishing that mission with that piece of technology.

Let me demonstrate with my chart:

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So examine the plus and minus for each tech in each category and think: “Do the negatives outweigh the positives?”

For example, I determined the negatives overcame the positives with my use of Instagram – at least my personal account. It was too easy to get access to sin. So I deleted it – completely. With no plans to ever return!

But with Snapchat, I determined the positives were great enough, but it was too much of a waste of time at the moment. So I temporarily deleted the app (sorry to those who snap me!). Eventually, I’ll return.

Facebook has so many positives for me as I build relationships internationally for the Gospel and locally for edification. So I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of that. And it doesn’t really draw me to sin.

But maybe it does for you! That’s the thing – this is a person-by-person thing. My sin struggle is not yours. You decide for yourself – make your own chart.

Open Hands

The key is to hold everything – all technology – with an open hand. At one point, Instagram was fine for me. But down the road, it became a stumbling spot for me. I tried to rationalize it. Tried to make excuses. But I knew my heart and saw what I did with it. So eventually I had to release my grip on it – and let God pluck it out of my open hand.

Release your grip on your iPhone or controller or social media profile. Give it to God.

He’s God. He called us out of darkness – where we had no hope – to His jaw-dropping amazing light. Remember that. The God who did that deserves your life. The God who saved you out of darkness doesn’t want you to return to it. Especially through technology.

Perhaps a good thing to put on the background of all our devices is a little Latin phrase from the Reformation – and from 1 Peter 2:9.

Ex tenebras lux. 

Out of darkness, light.

-M@