The social media site Facebook seems to divide people into two very different and opposing groups. Those who don’t have a problem with it, and probably use it, and those others who have no time for the nonsense which pervades its pages. It is usually the case, that the latter group are very vocal in their distaste of the medium as a way of communicating. So, I have a simple question for you. Does Facebook do more harm than good?
There can be no doubt that Facebook is successful, with over 2 billion active users worldwide by Sep 2012, and used extensively by all ages. But that alone does not mean it is a good thing. I know generalising is not a good thing, but I find that regular internet users are normally on Facebook (ok, ok so not in all cases!) and those not on Facebook are a very vocal resistance group. Maybe there is good reason for this opposition, but what is it based on?
As a Facebook user, let me give you some annoying irritations:
* The posting of nonsense
* Sharing personal stuff that should stay private
* Expressing bad language or outrageous opinions
* Posting something publicly that you wouldn’t say in person
There are these benefits:
* Choosing my contacts (friends)
* Offensive people or posts can be ‘unfriended’ or ‘blocked’
* Finding and keeping in touch with old long lost friends
* Using ‘Groups’ to keep contacts together, for example a Church
For me, it comes down to a communication tool which I may, or may not choose to use. I have given you a start, so what do you think? Is Facebook a good thing, or do the negatives outweigh the positives such that we should pull out?
This question has been on my mind recently, because I read part of a magazine given to me by a member of another faith group which said about the second coming of Jesus Christ: ‘ the righteous dead and the righteous living would be taken to heaven, but the unrighteous will die’. It is the words ‘unrighteous will die’ that got me, so I did a bit of self reflection. Do I believe in hell, or more importantly does the Bible say there is a literal hell?
The group in question believe that the saved will get to heaven but the unsaved will be annihilated, and that from earthly death until the resurrection, everyone is in a ‘soul sleep’ without consciousness until the second coming, and then the righteous go to heaven, and the unrighteous ‘really die’. So, the bad and evil people of this world will not suffer in hell for their murder or abuses, but just fade away. Not only that, but after their earthly death, they would not be aware of their previous existence, never mind their evil deeds. The word that comes to mind is ‘convenient’, after all who wants to think about a place of torment, let alone believe in it? Personal story. Some time ago I met parents who turned from Roman Catholicism to Jehovah Witnesses because their daughter had taken her own life, and their church saw it as a mortal sin, but if their daughter did not go to hell, or heaven, that gave them comfort, hence the move to become Jehovah Witnesses. Seventh Day Adventists among others also hold similar views, but is this right according to Scripture?
The absence of hell from some doctrines does not mean it doesn’t exist, after all the vast majority of mainstream faiths do believe there is such a place, and it isn’t enough to naively say that a loving God would not send anyone there! Isn’t our God one of love, but also justice? Without both there is no balance, or reason for either. That’s what my Bible tells me anyway. So, it’s a sobering thought, but in case you are wondering, yes I do believe there is a place of punishment for willful sin after we die, and in my opinion, that would be a literal hell.
Here we are, into 2014. We made it in spite of the pitfalls of the past year. For many, 2013 will be remembered for bad health, bad news, bad decisions, and the list could go on, but here we are at the start of a new year. It’s like having a blank piece of paper and starting to write your own story. Last year, this year, they are just the same except time has moved on, right? Oh so wrong!
Looking back we can see the whole year as it was. We have the benefit of hindsight, but no one has the gift of foresight to see what we will write on our blank sheet of paper in 2014. So we must take it slowly and patiently. No use in wondering or worrying what we will be doing in September, when we don’t know what tomorrow holds. When I was (a lot) younger, I went to camp and loved the fun and games, especially at night. We didn’t have a torch as we looked for hedgehogs in the nearby woods, but we did have a hurricane lamp that hung on the centre pole of the bell tent. You know one of those useless lights that you held above your head to see as much as you could while stumbling in the darkness, trying to find the path (and the hedgehogs)?
It is no surprise then that we have this advice in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” There is good reason that we cannot see too far ahead of our lives. Who would really want to know what awaits us in the coming year? I don’t. Looking back gives me good reason to be thankful I didn’t always know what the next step was. So back to the verse. I am sure that God knows what is best for us, and only allows the light to shine on our feet, and that next step we take. Useless for finding hedgehogs, but great for living our life. What is this light? It is His Word. The Bible. So where better to set your year in motion than by reading the timeless light He has given. His Word. It is eternal, and can be trusted to get us through this day, and indeed every year we are given!
We stand at the door of another new year, and 2014 beckons encouragingly. Remember last year, when we did the same, and we decided to make resolutions to be a better person? Treat others patiently and with respect, go to church, read the bible and pray more, eat less or maybe more wisely, be an encourager, and give to good causes? These are all good resolutions, but I wonder how many we kept?
I am glad we have a God of the second chance, and how we need it. We mess up so easily and so often, it seems we never can get it right from one year to the next. So does it do any good to try? Of course it does, and we should never stop, as long as we realise that there are some things we cannot do on our own. Many of the things we resolve to do, come from the heart, and there is only one place we can make progress. That’s when we trust it with God, and don’t go back to do it by ourselves. Remember the failures from last year? Well how about trying a new approach this year by including Jesus in our plans for the coming year?
My guess is that if we are spared to stand at the gateway of 2015, we will be able to look back with a sense that we did the right thing by involving the great Creator in our plans. I think he would approve, so starting now, determine to have a Happy New Year 2015!!
There are times when our head spins and we don’t know if we are coming or going. That happens a lot, and to many people, so if you experience this birling sensation, you are not alone. Don’t worry, there is no cure, so don’t stress yourself by looking for one. The disease of ‘coming or going’ is incurable, at least for now.
We are in this state during the year, but never so much as at New Year time, and it’s the same every year. You know exactly what I mean, right? It seems that everything we decide to do has two sides. the good or bad, the better or best, the ‘what ifs’ of life hit us when we don’t go looking for them. It’s that time again. It’s getting closer to Hogmanay, and here we are doing it again, as if we didn’t learn from last year.
All those chances we had to do something better, or right, or just different than we muddled through last year, are here to haunt us again it seems. We go into another year with the same questions. Will we make a better fist of it this time? Can we succeed where we failed, or achieve that reconciliation that has eluded for so long, or maybe find that special prince(ss) among the low life that seem to live in the pond we inhabit? These are no small things, and we are right to want them put right, but are we willing to put in the time and effort to get the healing process started?
So, as we stand on the threshold of 2014, not knowing if we are comin’ or goin’, don’t just make a resolution in your head to make things better, have a change of heart instead, and without looking over your shoulder at what has happened last year, determine to make that wrong right, make the call of reconciliation, and find that Godly friend who might also be looking for you. Who knows where that might lead? Then we will know where we are going in 2014! Happy New Year!!
That’s it! All over for another year. The wrapping paper torn from the gifts is in the bin. The turkey is half eaten, and all the time you took to arrange and buy those special gifts for the important people in your life, is in the past. So long to get here, and over in a day. I suppose the real question becomes, is it all worth the effort?
Christmas, with all its rush and bustle is not for the faint hearted, but it is good to see the look on a child’s face when they get their gifts. Today’s special present that caused so much happiness will soon become tomorrow’s old dated game or toy. Christmas is great, and I love it, but it seems to be gone so quickly, and all you are left with, is the fond memory, and the still to be finished turkey which will become a curry, or sandwiches.
So, it’s over. Or is it? Take a step back and think what Christmas really is all about. It’s not the gifts or the food, good as they are, the clue is in the word Christmas, and the verse which says Jesus came into the world as “Immanuel, God WITH us”, so it’s not just for a day. It’s a lifetime thing, and beyond that into eternity. As Christians we do our Lord, and our faith a disservice by thinking Christmas is a day on the calendar. It’s more than that. It’s a lifestyle choice. It’s a mindset, and a change of heart. Yes, our Christmas should last all year, until the next time we celebrate His birthday again. You don’t ignore your children between birthdays, so why should we do that with Jesus?
It just leaves me to say, Happy All Year Christmas my friends.
I love Christmas, with the glitter, tinsel, artificial trees all lit up, santa in the mall, the smell of cinnamon candles, and the laughter of children, wide eyed at the wonder and magic of gifts received for no other reason than the love of parents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters and loved ones. Then there is the best part for me. The gathering around the family table to enjoy the traditional dinner of turkey and all the trimmings. That’s my Christmas, but sadly, it is not the Christmas of many. But above and before all of this festive fun, is the realisation that the reason for the season is the virgin birth of the Saviour of the World into a lowly stable manger in Bethlehem, as prophesied.
Then there is the other side of Christmas, mainly peddled by businesses who want your money, and for those 30 pieces of silver, promise a good time, in fact the best time you ever had by maxing out your credit card. Christmas has become something else. The media in the UK, and in our other ‘civilised’ western cultures, warn against hedonism. Of course they don’t call it that, so they give out other more PC warnings which are for your own benefit.
Police having to increase their patrols, on the lookout for drivers who take a chance and drink to excess before getting behind the wheel, putting their own lives at risk but also those younger innocents. The medical profession warning about the risks of spiked drinks, especially putting young party women, out for a good time ‘at risk’, and all that entails. Domestic violence hits a high, due to increased alcohol intake. Young drunken men and girls, out for a ‘good time’ at all and any cost, without a thought for the consequences to them or any others.
What have we, the civilised societies, done to the season of Christmas? It goes deeper than just being an expensive time of year. It goes to the heart of our humanity, by trading the baby in the manger for a lifestyle which is as far away from the meaning of Christmas as you can get. We have changed the definition of the word ‘party’ to a drunken orgy, instead of a celebration of goodness, based on the life and example of the Son of God. I ask again, what have we done with Christmas, and is it for our good?
It would be a very strange football stadium that was very quiet during a game. It would be odd for a party to be silent. What would we think of a karaoke club where no one joined in the singing? Can the church learn from this simple lesson? In each of these cases, the people attending are expressing themselves appropriate to their event.
Expressions give us away, whether we know it or not. It is hard to ignore an infectious laugh or grin, in fact these make us want to laugh or smile too. Our faces tell a story which we cannot hide or deny, and so it is with the places we go to. If we enjoy being at the football game, party, or karaoke it will show somewhere on us. Maybe on our faces, or by cheering or singing.
There are churches where you will hear ‘Amen’ or ‘Hallelujah’ or ‘Praise God’. You may even see hands raised in worship. These are expressions of joy at being in the presence of God. There are singing churches, where the singing is rousing, loud and praiseworthy to the King of Kings. Some singing churches have volume, some melody, and on occasion some have both! But one thing is sure, growing and thriving churches are not silent and expressionless. Sure, not everyone has a singing voice, but those would be in the minority and even these can sing when among those who can carry a tune, so what does a silent congregation mean? Maybe I should let you answer that one.
The first half of the average church service is usually given to praise and worship, and that is where we get to express ourselves. The music and songs can be old and traditional, or modern and contemporary, but the common goal is that we get to express our worship in an appropriate way. Music and song are universal. We all relate, and enjoy taking part when we can. So let me go back and ask the question again. What would you think of a silent church that didn’t express itself? Just asking.
Christmas is that time when old and young are faced with the question, do we believe in Santa Claus? This is an important question, especially when adults are in the company of small children. There is a magic to the season, mainly brought about by the commercial side that sees this as the best time of the year to make a profit. In fact, some small businesses rely on their takings in December to stay solvent! Christmas is important!
I wonder what Christmas means to you this year, and in years ahead what will stick in your mind? We have seen the death and burial of a great human of recent years, Nelson Mandela. There has been another shooting at a school in the USA with death and injury. Syria dominates the daily headlines with images of displaced citizens who need basics like warm clothing and food. These things are attention grabbing, and you may look back in years to come, and associate 2013 with some of these stories. But is that all there is to it?
The clue is in the name. CHRISTmas was, and still is the celebration of the simple birth of a baby in an animal feeding trough, who came from heaven to bridge the gap between God and man. Jesus was not just a ‘good man’ or a prophet as some think, but the embodiment of God in our own human form. He laughed, cried, was tempted, betrayed, hurt, bled, and felt just like us. How good was God’s plan to give us Jesus as a baby to grow up in a small town, as part of a poor family who would know the troubles of life? Some of His own brothers didn’t accept His claims and teachings as He went about doing good. He was not accepted in His own town, or with the church leaders. But knowing this, God still sent Him at Christmas time. On the face of it, it doesn’t seem like a good plan, but we know the end of the story and it didn’t end at Christmas, or when He was tempted, beaten and crucified for doing good. The story continued to His resurrection and ascension back to heaven, His earthly work completed.
So the question remains. Do you believe? Not in Santa, but in the reason for the season being Jesus Christ, who is the whole of CHRISTmas, wrapped up in a cold manger, in a draughty stable, surrounded by poverty, but announced and serenaded by angels? I mean believe it enough to see beyond the commercialised side of the month with its trappings of temporary happiness? If you can do that, you will have a very Happy and Blessed Christmas, with all the joy that the Christchild brings.
It’s a job I really don’t like, and my heart isn’t in it, but my head (you know that reasonable and logical part if you) knows the dreaded suitcase packing has to be done. So, it becomes a chore, and especially when you find that the suitcase isn’t big enough, plus the weight limit is too small for all the stuff you NEED to take with you. The airlines are all too eager to let you take extra weight, as long as you pay heavily for the privilege. Being a canny Scot, I don’t like paying for these so called ‘extras’, and I don’t think you do either!
Why is it easier to pack when you are going on holiday, but not so much when you leave? Don’t say anything. I already know the answer, even if I don’t want to admit it. Here’s a thought to throw out there. My suitcase is weighed down to the ounce by the airline, but I am not. In fact I will go a stage further and ask, why are really BIG people (who always seem to be sat next to me on those little airline seats) not weighed at check in? Or even sat altogether, so that they can experience the challenges of eating those in flight meals while your elbows are tucked uncomfortably in your pockets? Am I being mean? Maybe, but it’s one of those realities of economy flight travel. That was a diversion, but back to packing.
I am thinking this is a bit like life and day to day living. We come into this world with only the essentials. Life, love and freedom, but during our time here, we gather all kinds of stuff. The older we get, the more we gather, but the truth is, at best we leave this life the way we came in, with no worldly goods. As a person of faith, the end of the journey is not one to be feared. We don’t have to pack for it, but we do get to take love right into the courts of heaven, and the freedom granted us in Jesus to walk those celestial streets. So, the message is clear. Don’t go through life thinking that the material things in life are important when your chariot is about to leave for Glory. In the meantime, be glad for the life, love and freedom!