Encouragement From The Word

Influencing

This week, we heard news about a group of individual investors, brought together through Reddit, a social news website with all manner of topics and subtopics available for mutual discussion.  They undertook a risky and interesting social-financial experiment:  they bought up a bunch of shares in low-stock-value companies, raising their value.

The hope, initially, was to cash in and make a quick buck.

But what has happened as a result of this is that the Wall Street and Bay Street establishments have been put on notice:  social media can have a powerful influence on the way things have always been done.

This isn’t really new at all, of course; it’s just new in its application.

Social media have been influencing societal trends for years, and the huge organizations that largely own social media – Facebook (which owns Instagram), Google (which owns YouTube), Twitter, and even upstarts like TikTok – know this all too well, and they use their power over these platforms to influence people toward the views that their owners hold.

Analogously, they have replaced the church in western society in terms of their influential role.

It used to be that if people wanted to know what to believe about any number of issues, they turned to their local church pastor, their parish priest, or their denominational policies.  

But even within the church, that doesn’t much happen anymore.

People are most influenced by that with which they spend the most time.  And for most people, that’s social media.

A couple of thoughts come to mind as I ponder this heavy, stinging reality.

First, we don’t want to isolate ourselves from the world around us, so we don’t want to tell people to avoid social media.  (In reality, it’s pretty hard for most of us to avoid anyway.)  We’re not seeking to create monastic communities of our churches.

But what if we sought to be influencers ourselves, as followers of Jesus, by sharing biblical perspectives on social media?

I have to admit that I find this hard to do, because the feedback that comes is often pretty harsh, and I just don’t want to deal with the drama.  But at the same time, if we have a wide circle of social media connections, we can speak into the lives of others and be influencers in our own right when we stand up for what the Scripture says is true.  Even if other people choose not to believe it with us, at least we have given them another perspective to think about.

The other thought that comes to mind is that if we are going to share what our faith says about various issues, we do well to study what the Bible says about it.  And that means digging deeper in the Word to understand how Scripture applies to these life situations – beyond what the preacher says during worship.

The result is that you end up spending more time reading the Bible than you do reading your Instagram feed.  And I accept this as a word from the Lord to me, since if I’m honest I probably spend a lot of time on social that I could be spending in the study of God’s Word.

If that reversal happens, I’m pretty confident that my posts will be of greater depth and higher quality than they are now, and that my witness for the faith will be clearer.  Maybe the same will be true for you.

So equip yourself:  make sure you own a Bible that’s in a translation you find simple enough to read, and in a print size that makes it easy to read (don’t discount that last part!).  Perhaps acquire a study Bible that has notes in it, prepared with scholarship that seeks to help you apply the Word in helpful, contemporary ways.

But don’t leave it on the coffee table; pick it up and read it every day.  Or use an app on your phone, if that works better for you.  

Don’t bemoan the waning influence of the Christian faith in society; be that influence.

[I]f someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way” (1 Peter 3.15b-16a, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Hope and service

One of the things that our world’s current situation has shown us is that the church can still be the church, even when we cannot gather.

Chances are, we don’t like it – I know I would rather worship God with the people I love each Lord’s Day – but that doesn’t mean we cease to be the church through this time.

As I’ve heard and often repeated over the last couple of months, we may not be able to be the church gathered right now, but we can be the church scattered.

Each of us, individually and as households, can praise God together each Sunday (with whatever online connections we have with our church families) and every day (through personal and family devotional times).  And we can act on what we read and hear from God’s Word in the various ways for which the Lord may open doors, whether that be helping the needy; continuing to work in an essential service; praying for the sick, the lonely and the unemployed; getting groceries and needful things for vulnerable people who should not be going out in public right now; or keeping an eye on our neighbours.

We can also share our hope in Jesus with anyone with whom we might have the opportunity to converse.

Our witness is made even more strong when we couple some act of service with sharing our hope.

What can you do in these days that will bear witness to our hope in Jesus?

[I]f someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it” (1 Peter 3.15b, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

The gift of motherhood

This Sunday in the Christian calendar is called Christian Family Sunday.  It’s an effort to make Mother’s Day as inclusive as possible, since, it seems, Father’s Day doesn’t get much press (and some people struggle with the day, either because they did not have children or their mothers are deceased).  Whichever way you look at it, this is an opportunity to remember your mom, or to make your mom feel special.

Though it was written in a patriarchal period in human history, the Bible highlights many great mothers.  Two examples that come to mind are Hannah, the mother of Samuel, who prayed earnestly to bear a son (1 Samuel 1), and Mary, the mother of Jesus, who at a very young age agreed to fulfill the Lord’s will and give birth to the Son of God.

One greatly desired a child from the Lord, and the other had her maternity thrust upon her by the Lord.  What they have in common is that both of these women lived out of a deep relationship with God.

If you’re a mom, your relationship with God will be the greatest inheritance your children will receive.  Talk about it with them, and model it for them; they will see how you walk with the Lord, and no matter how far they may stray, they will remember it as they age. God may use that memory to draw them back to him.

If you’re not a mom, perhaps your mom planted a seed of faith in you; use this weekend as an opportunity to thank her, if she is living, or to thank God for her, if she is not.  If your mom is not a follower of Jesus, maybe this weekend will provide you with an opportunity to witness to God’s grace at work in her!

One way or another, this weekend can be a time of celebrating God’s goodness toward us all in Jesus Christ.  Whether or not your church makes a big deal out of Mother’s Day, you can praise God for the gift of motherhood.

You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (1 Peter 3.4, NLT).

 

Biblical Messages

Christ, our example in relationships

Some Bible passages are highly controversial, and can be difficult to preach. Because at least two of my series each year are Bible books preached lectio continua, that is, continually read (or through the book), certain difficult passages can’t be wiggled out of.  Thus it is as I come to 1 Peter 3.1-7.  This is not an easy passage to preach in a contemporary society.  But there is a word from the Lord for wives – and for husbands – in this passage.

Listen for yourself here: