William Ramsey – The Secret of the Smiley Face Serial Killer
Gary Wayne and David Carrico – The Mysterious Essene- From Ancient Times to Present Day
Richard Phillips – Biblical Parenting 3: Parenting for Middle Childhood
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, Yahweh, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps. 19:14)
I have been contemplating quite a bit of late this thing called social media, in particular the hold it has on society and on my own family in particular. The sheer amount of time vested in checking Facebook, updating blogs, looking at Pinterest, Tweeting, posting pictures on Instagram, watching YouTube videos is absolutely staggering. Add to that the mobility and access provided to the aforementioned social media outlets (and many, many more I might add), and we have a society every more connected and focused on what transpires digitally.
It seems to me social media can be described as a member of the good, the bad, and the ugly club. I am not one who views the idea of social media as entirely bad. Social media is a helpful medium for information and for staying connected with friends and family. Furthermore, the use of social media can be a great tool to share the truth of Scripture with a worldwide audience. I will also submit I often get a good and much needed chuckle from videos and pictures shared on social media. Those bits of humor can be a needed respite from the daily grind.
With that said, all is not puppy dogs and roses with social media. As with anything that can be used for good, social media can and does fall into the bad category. Let’s face it….social media is addictive and it was purposefully created to be that way. In an April 2017 American Marketing Association article, Hal Conick noted,
“Addictive qualities aside, social media could not thrive if it wasn’t so uniquely—for lack of a better word—social. Humans are social animals who ache for connection with others. Mauricio Delgado, associate professor of psychology at Rutgers University, explained to Marketing News in 2014 that social media activity—likes, retweets, comments—activates the brain’s reward center in the same way as a hug, smile or compliment. Social media interactions are positive reinforcement, he says, bringing favorable effects and drawing users back again and again.”
In fact, the development of the FB like button and follow-in post emoji and Twitter’s heart, were purposeful creations by social media designers. Julian Morgans, in a fascinating article on this subject reveals all social media platforms “use something called intermittent variable rewards.
The easiest way to understand this term is by imagining a slot machine. You pull the lever to win a prize, which is an intermittent action linked to a variable reward. Variable meaning you might win, or you might not. In the same way, you refresh your Facebook updates to see if you’ve won. Or you swipe right on Tinder to see if you’ve won.
This is the most obvious way social feedback drives platform engagement, but others are harder to spot.
You know when you open Instagram or Twitter and it takes a few moments to load updates? That’s no accident. Again, the expectation is part of what makes intermittent variable rewards so addictive. This is because, without that three-second delay, Instagram wouldn’t feel variable. There’s no sense of will I win? because you’d know instantly. So the delay isn’t the app loading. It’s the cogs spinning on the slot machine.
Another piece of psychology hijacked by social platforms is that of social reciprocity; if someone pats your back, you’ll feel pressure to pat his or hers. Facebook exploits this by alerting you when someone has read your message, which encourages the receivers to respond—because they know you know they’ve read it. And at the same time, it encourages you to check back to read the inevitable response.
The same bits of your brain get a rush on Facebook as a set of wavy dots appear as someone writes a message. You might not exit if you think you’re getting a message, or at the very least you’re more likely to come back.”
So the very design of social media platforms is to elicit an emotional and brain response meant to draw the user to the point where they are in essence addicted. It is no wonder that a quick scan of the local restaurant reveals a plethora of people with heads bowed, not in prayer over their meal, but rather over their choice of technology, posting and scrolling away vice having a conversation with those at the table.
The ugly side of social media rears its ugly head in a number of ways, starting with the addictive nature of social media. It becomes all-consuming with the basis for how one feels about themselves and others rooted in likes, re-tweets, hearts, and selfies.
Moreover, the very ugly side of social media can be found in how people interact with their fellow man. I recently wrote an article on avoiding lashon hara (evil tongue). The truths spoken of in that article feed into this issue as well. Based on my experience and observation with social media over the years, lashon hara takes place on social media largely due to the lack of personal interaction one has with the recipient of the conversation.
Prior to the submersion of society with all things technology and social media, if you wanted to speak with someone you wrote them a letter, called them, or visited them in person. This at least helped foster a more thoughtful conversation. This is not to say someone cannot be heated and engage in evil tongue through a letter, phone call, or in person. With that said, it is far easier to fire off a nasty tweet or FB post than perhaps it was to sit down and write a letter. There was something to be said for the effort of writing a letter or having that one on one conversation to include the potential for cooler heads to prevail in the process.
In a world inundated with social media, as children of God, we must always keep in mind scriptures such as Psalm 19:14. The words of our mouth, regardless of how our words are “spoken”, need to be found as acceptable in the eyes of the Father. If they are not and if you are finding your interaction and involvement with social media is not acceptable in the eyes of God, then a cease and desist order might need to be enacted. It might be time to step away from social media for a season if you find your priorities in this area of life are askew. If you find yourself constantly checking whether someone liked your FB post or gave a heart to your Tweet to the neglect of weightier matters of life, it is time, make that past time, for an honest evaluation of where your focus is in life.
I am finding on a personal note the need to step away from social media. This may seem like an odd statement given what I am sharing will be posted on a number of social media platforms. I would label an article such as this as being in the good category of social media provided I do not constantly find myself trying to check how many views, likes, and re-tweets it has garnered.
Social media can be good, bad, and ugly. I encourage you to assess where your social media participation lies. If changes need to be made, then make them soonest. Be mindful of the addictive nature of social media and the impact that addiction can have in your relationships. Most importantly, may all we do and say bring honor to God, to include our social media habits.
 Hal Conick, “Marketing’s Ethical Line Between Social Media Habit and Addiction,” American Marketing Association, April 6, 2017, accessed July 18, 2017, https://www.ama.org/publications/marketingnews/pages/marketings-ethical-line-between-social-media-habit-addiction.aspx.
 Julian Morgans, “Your Addiction to Social Media Is No Accident,” Vice, May 19, 2017, accessed July 18, 2017, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/vv5jkb/the-secret-ways-social-media-is-built-for-addiction.
Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Luke 13:3
First of all, what is repentance? Let us see that we set down our feet firmly on this point. The importance of the inquiry cannot be overrated.
Repentance is one of the foundation stones of Christianity. Sixty times, at least, we find repentance spoken of in the New Testament. What was the first doctrine our Lord Jesus Christ reached? We are told that He said, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mar 1:15). What did the apostles proclaim when the Lord sent them forth the first time? They “preached that men should repent” (Mar 6:12). What was the charge that Jesus gave His disciples when He left the world? That “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations” (Luk 24:47). What was the concluding appeal of the first sermons that Peter preached? “Repent, and be baptized…Repent ye, and be converted” (Act 2:38; 3:19). What was the summary of doctrine that Paul gave to the Ephesian elders, when he parted from them? He told them that he had taught them publicly, and from house to house, “testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Act 20:21). What was the description that Paul gave of his own ministry, when he made his defense before Festus and Agrippa? He told them that he had showed all men that they should “repent, and do works meet for repentance” (Act 26:20). What was the account given by the believers at Jerusalem of the conversion of the Gentiles? When they heard of it, they said, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Act 11:18)…Surely, we must all agree that these are serious considerations. They ought to show the importance of the inquiry I am now making. A mistake about repentance is a most dangerous mistake. An error about repentance is an error that lies at the very roots of our religion. What, then, is repentance? When can it be said of any man that he repents?
Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. Luke 23:34
First, my friends, it appears from the text that there are unknown depths in human iniquity: “They know not what they do.” You will tell me, perhaps, that Christ applied this remark to His murderers, who did not know that He was the Son of God; for, if they had known Him to be the Messiah, “They would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1Co 2:8); and it might have been said to them, “Ye did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1Ti 1:13). I grant you that this was the immediate meaning of Christ’s words; but, I think…this saying is true of the entire human family. Whenever any of us sin, we know not what we do.
Do not misunderstand me. There is no man in the world who has not enough perception left to teach him the difference between right and wrong…Yet I must admit at the outset that it is possible for the conscience to become so blind through prevailing customs, so seared through lengthened habit, and so perverted through absolute ignorance that men may sin and yet know not what they do…Let me show you, as briefly and forcibly as I can, how this is the fact.
Sin truly is, and God’s people apprehend it to be, the greatest evil in the world…If you compare the evil of sin with other evils, you shall see how short all other kinds of evils are to this evil of sin.
1. Most of all, other evils are only outward. They are only such as are on the body, the estate, the name; but sin is an inward evil, an evil upon the soul, which is the greatest of evils.
2. All other evils are only of a temporal nature. They have an end. Poverty, sickness, disgrace — all these are great evils; but these and all others have an end. Death puts a conclusion to them all. But this evil of sin is of an eternal nature that shall never have an end. Eternity itself shall have no period to this.
3. All other evils do not make a man the subject of God’s wrath and hatred. A man may have all other evils and yet be in the love of God. You may be poor and yet precious in God’s esteem. You may be under all kinds of miseries and yet dear in God’s thoughts. But sin is an evil that makes the soul the subject of God’s wrath and hatred. The absence of all other goods, the presence of all created evils, will not make you hateful to God if sin is not there, so the presence of all other goods and the absence of all other evils will not render you lovely if sin is there.
Philippians 2:14 — “Do all things without grumbling or disputing…”
James 5:9 — “Do not complain, brethren, against one another…”
THE CORRUPTION OF COMPLAINING
Everyone does it. It’s all around us. In fact, it’s so normalized and pervasive that we hardly even recognize when it actually occurs. The sin of complaining is one of those “respectable sins.” That is, it’s one that’s hardly spoken about, seldom preached against, and still less frequent, a sin with which Christians persistently wage violent war. Complaining is ugly. Complaining is one of the most commonest and frequent sins that’s almost as easy to find and common as the air we breathe.
Complaining isn’t, however, the real issue. Complaining is the outward manifestation of other heart-sins taking place in that moment. Let’s diagnose complaining. When we complain, we manifest three heart-sins that are all taking place together.
First, complaining manifests an attitude of “deservedness.” It’s like saying: “I’m not getting what I feel like I deserve!” Or, to state the opposite: “I am getting what I don’t think I deserve.” And in that moment of a complaint, we soar to the realms of deservedness, specifically, that we deserve something good or better than what we’re actually experiencing.
Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. (Psalm 34:13)
There is a term used by Jewish rabbinic tradition called lashon hara. I submit most have not heard of this term in the Hebrew parlance; however, it is a concept firmly rooted in Scripture. Lashon hara means “evil tongue” and is derived from passages such as Leviticus 19:16 and Proverbs 10:18. With that said, perhaps the most notable verse that speaks to the issue of lashon hara is Psalm 34:13.
What exactly then is meant by “evil tongue?” There is no shortage in Scripture of passages that speak of the tongue or how to define godly and ungodly verbal interaction with not just our fellow man, but also regarding how we speak of God. Notably as it relates to the tongue and God, we can point to Exodus 20:7 which declares, “You shall not take the name of the God in vain.” In other words, evil tongue as it relates to God involves but is not limited to trying to make the name above all names common. For more insight into what it means to take the name of God in vain, check out my post on this subject.
As lashon hara relates to our fellow man, there are all types of examples. Evil tongue involves things such as gossip, lying, bearing false witness, slander, malice, anger, bitterness, perversion, and honestly the list can go on and on.
It is no wonder the Apostle James saliently noted,
“Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (James 3:4-12)
I humbly admit that lashon hara is something for which I continually struggle. It is far too easy to gossip, lie, and slander another person. At the moment in which lashon hara occurs, there is a certain sense of evil satisfaction, a belief that somehow you have stuck it to another person. They deserved it after all right? After all, nothing wrong with a little water cooler gossip about that co-worker and nothing wrong with setting someone straight on social media to include a few choice words to boot, right?
The answer to those questions is a resounding no. Lashon hara (evil tongue) should never be part of the daily walk of a child of God. For starters, He commands us to never treat Him that way and furthermore, we are to love God and love others. Love can be stern and corrective; however, love never involves lashon hara. Evil tongue is a hallmark of the wicked. Tearing down and destroying one another with our tongue is the complete opposite of how the body of Messiah is to operate.
Why then do we fall prey so often to lashon hara? I firmly believe it is like a gateway drug if you will. It seems alluring at the time and we make believe words do not matter when in reality they do. If what we say to one another did not matter, God would not repeatedly outline what godly speech looks like. Since He does all throughout Scripture, what we say and how we say it is of the utmost importance.
If you struggle with evil tongue, I encourage you to pray to God for forgiveness and to seek forgiveness from those you may have hurt by engaging in lashon hara. This will likely take a great deal of humility, but it is a necessary first step in resisting and purging yourself of this pernicious behavior.
I also encourage you to do a biblical study on the tongue. Note how Scripture outlines the manner in which we should treat one another with our speech. This will involve noting both good examples of proper speech as well as bad examples given in Scripture of speech. The good, the bad, and the ugly are provided in Scripture for a reason.
Finally, realize that more often than not, silence is golden. Lashon hara often stems from immaturity in this area of our life, a desire to fly off the handle to satisfy self. As the old saying goes, “If you do not having anything nice to say, do not say anything at all.” Or as my mother used to remind me, “Zip your lip.”
He then “convinced” the Nazis (i.e. bribed them) to let him select Jews that would leave the concentration camp and work for him for no pay as slave labor. Unbeknown to the Nazi authorities Schindler had specifically told his factory foreman that he would be highly disappointed if a single working bombshell was ever produced in this factory. His intention was never to assist the Nazis in their sinister genocidal efforts, but rather to subvert their cause and save the Jews.
When I visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, I found the tree which the Jews had planted as a memorial to Oskar Schindler in the “Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles.”
But were Schindler’s deeds righteous or not?
He illegally bribed government officials.
He purposefully lied to the authorities.
He willfully undermined his government.
So, did he do the right thing or not? Good question. Let’s see if we can learn any lessons from Exodus 1.
I shall show what a heinous and execrable thing sin is. It is the complication of all evil; it is the spirits of mischief distilled. The Scripture calls it the “accursed thing” (Joshua 7:13); it is compared to the venom of serpents, the stench of sepulchers. The apostle useth this expression of sin, “Out of measure sinful” (Rom 7:13), or, as it is in the Greek, “Hyperbolically sinful.” The devil would paint over sin with the vermillion color of pleasure and profit that he may make it look fair; but I shall pull off the paint from sin that you may see the ugly face of it. We are apt to have slight thoughts of sin and say to it, as Lot of Zoar, “Is it not a little one?” (Gen 19:20). But that you may see how great an evil sin is, consider these four things:
1. The origin of sin from whence it comes: It fetcheth its pedigree from hell. Sin is of the devil: “He that committeth sin is of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Satan was the first actor of sin and the first tempter to sin: sin is the devil’s firstborn.
2. Sin is evil in the nature of it. (1) It is a defiling thing. Sin is not only a defection, but a pollution. It is to the soul as rust is to gold, as a stain is to beauty. It makes the soul red with guilt and black with filth. Sin in Scripture is compared to a “menstruous cloth” (Isaiah 30:22), to a plague-sore (1 Kings 8:38). Joshua’s filthy garments, in which he stood before the angel (Zec 3:3), were nothing but a type and hieroglyphic of sin. Sin hath blotted God’s image and stained the orient brightness of the soul. Sin makes God loathe a sinner (Zech 11:8); and when a sinner sees his sin, he loathes himself (Ezek 20:43). Sin drops poison on our holy things: it infects our prayers. The high priest was to make atonement for sin on the altar (Ex 29:36) to typify that our holiest services need Christ to make an atonement for them. Duties of religion in themselves are good, but sin corrupts them, as the purest water is polluted running through muddy ground. Under the law, if the leper had touched the altar, the altar had not cleansed him; but he had defiled the altar. The apostle calls sin, “Filthiness of the flesh and spirit” (2 Cor 7:1). Sin stamps the devil’s image on a man…It turns a man into a devil: “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70).
The problem of evil is an issue that has continually perplexed humanity. Philosophers such as David Hume, John Hume, J. L. Mackie, and Alvin Plantinga, along with theologians such as Augustine have developed theodices in an effort to provide an answer to not only the existence of evil, but also why an omnipotent God allows the existence of evil. Many, when attempting to postulate a solution to the problem of evil still ponder the ancient philosopher Epicurus’ age old question: “Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”
How one engages this complex issue greatly influences their perception of God as well as His interaction with humanity. One must broach the problem of evil through the lens of scriptural exposition. Given finite man is incapable of holistically understanding the actions of an omnipotent God, any theodicy will encounter difficulties explaining the existence and purpose of evil. This paper will outline four respected theodices arguing for a combination of the ideas presented by Augustine and Alvin Plantinga as the basis for both a biblically sound approach to an ultimate solution for the problem of evil based on the concomitant ideas of God’s goodness and man’s sinfulness.
THE NEED FOR A THEODICY
John Stott rightly commented, “the fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith.” In a world fraught with suffering, it is necessary for the believer to develop a cogent theodicy. The multifarious solutions presented by philosophers and theologians have only served to obfuscate the underlying issue that must be addressed, namely how an omnipotent God allows evil to exist. C. S. Lewis saliently explains the prospect of answering [the problem] depends on showing that the terms “good” and “almighty,” and perhaps also the term “happy” are equivocal: for it must be admitted from the outset that if the popular meanings attached to these words are the best, or the only possibly meanings, then the argument is unanswerable. But wait, there’s more!