Isolated Together

Photo Cred: “Isolated Together” in Sheffield, England (2012) by Phlegm.

Believe it or not, there once was a time when people had to talk in person. Face-to-face, breathing the same air, in the same space, and hold eye contact. Crazy right? It was a time not to long ago where people did this crazy thing called personal communication. A blissful span of time where when one person wanted to interact socially with another person, they would actually interact with that person socially. But that all changed with one simple, yet immensely influential tool: social media.

Social Media. It is the connective tissue of the 21st century. The webbing of the social spider that travels back and forth across the internet. In today’s world, it is not too hard to go about your day without being confronted by the ripple effect of social media. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Kikme, Pinterest, or whatever the latest app is on the market, their presence is well known to almost everyone. Yet have we ever stepped back and asked “Just as there are good side effects to social media use, can there be bad ones as well?”

Unequivocally, the answer is yes. While social media has paved the way for great advancements in society, such as the expansion of globalization, introducing us to the peak of the information age, a more-informed public, and instant communication, it has also brought with it negative side effects with short and long lasting impressions on modern mankind. For the sake of time, I will focus on three briefly in this blog-post: the physical effects, the sociological effects, and the spiritual effects. First let’s start with the physical effects.

The Physical Effects

If it was not apparent already, social media has over time altered human anatomy and the way we move about in life. This can be seen in how some people have severe curves in the vertebrae due to slouching over a computer desk (or a mobile device)  interacting online, whether in their back or neck to the rise in the population diagnosed with some form of nearsightedness. Various studies on this issue have concluded that “Between 1970 and 2000, myopia — nearsightedness — prevalence in the U.S. rose from 25 percent to nearly 42 percent among people ages 12 to 54” (1) and with the spike of online interaction via social media, the numbers have continued to climb.

Other common symptoms include, but are not limited to obesity, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and even more serious addictions that are directly caused by the abuse of social media. These more serious addictions that stem from the gateway drug of the digital world range from substance abuse to an increase in sexual activity in adolescents due to such variables as the amount of information available online through hyper-networking, the brain seeking different stimulations to hit high dopamine levels, and the addictive nature of social media leading to misconstrued fantasies to feed our own narcissism, yet at the same time appealing to the favor of our precious followers.

The Sociological Effects

Allen and co. in the Australian Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology 31 [(1):1-14 · July 2014] conducted an experiment exploring the effects of social media on adolescents and concluded that

Mixed findings are reported regarding the role that social media plays in fostering social connectedness, which suggests that young people may experience both positive and negative psychological outcomes. As a result, this article argues that online tools create a paradox for social connectedness. On one hand, they elevate the ease in which individuals may form and create online groups and communities, but on the other, they can create a source of alienation and ostracism. (2)

This ostracised generation has formed a socio-conscious isolated togetherness where we are together, but isolated in attention and activity. Similar to how people disengage on an airplane flight. We are all heading to the same destination with the same people for a specified duration of time, but we are completely removed from social interaction whatsoever with our fellow neighbors. Why?

Hard to say, but it is something all of us do in certain situations like riding your local city bus or waiting in line at the DMV, except we do it to our friends and family. Not total strangers, but those closest to us both in culture and community. Doesn’t that seem a bit odd that we would rather stare at blue lit phones, than enjoy the company of our loved ones?

Regardless, social media plays off of this “us vs. them” mentality innate in all of us by giving us an outlet to feed our egos in moments of complete social isolation. We can pretend we are together with someone we know virtually, when in reality we are alone with strangers or even with no one around. Odd how instead of expanding our social circles when introduced to new personalities in our world, we keep our small circles squares and inevitably block ourselves into our own tiny bubble castles with those we would rather talk to, instead of talking to those people.

Gee, and we wonder why evangelism is dead in the West. We chose to preach to the church, instead of the community. We would rather exchange cute quotes with those who believe what we believe, than share worldviews with those whose beliefs delineate from our own ideas regarding what is really true.

The Spiritual Effects

This is the most important effect and I see it a lot. Less praying and more posting. Although social disconnectedness is bad, along with physical deterioration from electronic overuse, nothing is worse than spiritual separation. As we spend more and more of our time online, we spend less and less with God. We prefer tweeting, rather than hermeneutics and serious study of God’s Word. We would rather check Instagram for hearts, then check our hearts for sin.

This spiritual separation is our ultimate devolution and is yet another blockade from connecting with our great God. With all of our attention on ourselves, we blur the line between who we are and who we say we are to the world. As we jump into the matrix of the digital world, we place our masks on and dance along with the masquerade of happiness that so many of us lie about. A lot of us pretend to be content and happy, yet our “good vibes” cannot rebuild this spiritual separation.

The only cure to this disconnect with God is to disconnect from social media and all other distractions that draw us away from God. We then are able to reconnect with God when we are at a distraction-less state and ready to commune with our Maker. For the sake of our spiritual channel of relation to God, we may need to cut down on our consumption of social media and our desire to satisfy ourselves.

Conclusion

By this point, you may think I am some sort of Amish, “technology is Satanic” types of people that completely abstain from anything post-1600 A.D. Well, that could not be farther from the truth. In fact, I use social media all the time! Just ask people that know me. Not only for social reasons, but also for business and marketing reasons as well to further establish my brand I am in the process of developing. The only reason I would be against social media use is when it affects me or others either physically, socially (ironically), or spiritually. If one or all of those factors are hindered, then it is time to unplug and fix those because your body, your social circles, and our God matter more than viral videos.

Is social media bad? No, but it does have both good and bad connotations when using it excessively on a daily basis. Sort of like fitness. The pursuit of being physically healthy and in shape is not bad at all. Indeed, it is really good for you and has lots of benefits. But when someone decides to workout every single day for hours on end they hit a point where their conventional habit turns into an addiction with negative effects. As Dr. Holly Parker, a Harvard University psychologist and certified personal trainer, once said in an article for Fox News, “The benefits you want from working out—getting leaner, stronger, healthier—reverse when you don’t take breaks” (3). Put plainly, too much good can be bad.

In short, it really is a balancing act as you use social media to touch base with loved ones and meet new people, while in the same respect getting instant news and entertainment. With that, there has to be a point where you must decide when you have had enough for one day. Take a break and do something else. There is no need to be online 24/7. Go outside. Read a book (like my Aunt Cortney’s new “The Naked Confidence Cookbook” only on Amazon). Play fetch with dogs. Dogs like to play fetch. You could even talk to real people in real time, which is real fun.

It’s not healthy to stay wired all the time. For once, take a break for not only your own sake, but for the sake of others. Learn to understand the value of life and time by taking moments throughout your day-to-day routine to appreciate the simply astounding things no app could ever capture. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. http://www.thegazette.com/subject/life/health-social-media-affects-the-teens-tweens-physical-and-mental-health-20150226
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260289323_Social_Media_Use_and_Social_Connectedness_in_Adolescents_The_Positives_and_the_Potential_Pitfalls. Also, see both this link http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/social-networks-and-health-communicable-but-not-infectious and this link http://www.med.upenn.edu/chbr/documents/AmyGonzales-PublicHealthandSocialMediaTalk.pdf for more information regarding the effects of social media on our sociological state of being.
  3. http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/09/27/how-much-working-out-is-too-much.html
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The Value of Time

Updated: 11/12/2018 | Photo Cred: (1)

Time. It is the most valuable resource in the universe and in life. As Charles Darwin put it, “A man who dare waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” Time is a mysterious thing.

What Is Time?

It is not quite like other resources, such as water or oxygen because it is not limited by the boundaries of space. In fact, it does not actually inhabit any space or  physical matter like water or oxygen. Time is simply here, but is hard to comprehend sometimes why it is here. Some argue that time is its own dimension or reality.

Why is the universe limited by an ever increasing range of numbers that eventually will stop when God decides that it is time for a new earth and a new heaven (2)? Why even place this limit upon the universe? Why didn’t God just create an eternal universe, instead of a transient universe? Why is time so valuable you might add?

Unlike water or oxygen, time can never be stored or saved for later. Time is ever ending. It’s like a bowl of sand being poured out slowly, but surely until the bowl is completely empty. Once the bowl is empty, that’s it. Time has run out. As scary as that sounds, that is the reality of time.

Another way of understanding time is that it is like throwing a stone or firing a gun at a specific target. Both the bullet and the stone will travel for awhile at various rates of speed before colliding with the target, thus ending their course. Time is like the distance the bullet and the stone travel. The “trigger-man” so to speak is God and He caused everything into being, which includes the starting point of time and the endpoint.

Then again, is time even linear to begin with in the first place? Some say time is linear, while others propose it is cyclic like a cone (i.e. the Big Bang Model), along with a few that say it may even be an ever expanding sphere of sorts (i.e. a balloon being blown up). Now I’m no scientist, so I cannot determine which view is correct. What I can do is present each theory briefly to help us better understand time.

For the traditional view of time, that camp argues that there was a first cause. Since that first cause, there has been a sequential series of events moving on a horizontal plane to an unknown end. Think like a ruler or a simple line with two end points.

In the cyclic (cone) group of thinkers, they presume that time is a lot like the way people understand the universe in that both are expanding in the shape of a cone. There was a starting point where the first cause occurred, but since then it has been expanding. These thinkers use the phenomena of red-shift stretching across space as proof of this theory.

The third camp does likewise in that they use red-shift as evidence for their view, but to a different extent. They argue that time is a lot like a big ball that is slowly growing in size until it finally pops. An easy example would be to refer to the way oxygen fills up a balloon until it explodes. In a way, they believe time is a swirling twirl of cause and effect colliding in an incomprehensible pattern that is interwoven like a ball of yarn. A chaotic masterpiece.

Why do I bring up these various ideas of time? Because I want you to know how much we do not understand about time. How much we barely know. How much we as human beings under-appreciate time and undervalue it. Life’s most valuable resource.

What Does The Bible Say About Time?

The Bible, God’s inspired Word, has a lot to say concerning the concept of time. The actual word “time” appears in the NASB translation of the Bible 626 times. To say that time is important to God is an extreme understatement. Some passages of Scripture that come to mind would be Ecclesiastes chapter 3 where King Solomon reflects on the concept of time and seasons. In the chapter, he asserts that “there is an appointed time for everything.” Essentially, every single moment in time matters. There are no coincidences, but only opportunities. With this in mind, nothing can be random because something caused those “random” moments.

Time is a lot like the wind. We cannot actually see it, but we can observe its effects on our environment. Time is an effect-full, yet invisible force of nature that guides everything within the universe, including the universe itself.

Time is also like a loan from God. When God first created the universe, a countdown was started. From that point onward, time has been counting down to the moment when the universe ends. With this in mind, everything within the universe also has a beginning, a middle, and an end. We are born, live our lives hopefully to the fullest, and then die. It is the cycle of everything in the universe.

Because we are limited by time, we are also on a countdown to our own inevitable end. Eventually, our time here in the material realm will be done as we transition into the spiritual realms of either Heaven or Hell. If you adhere to the Naturalist worldview, then this is it and you have nothing to look forward to after death. Those who hold to a theistic worldview can look forward to a better or worse eternity. For the Naturalist, nothing. Even in this life there is nothing. From the Naturalist’s worldview, you have no meaning, purpose, or value.

Now let’s observe the other position. That there is meaning, purpose, and value because there is something beyond the material as the theistic worldview asserts. Where does this meaning, purpose, and value come from? Just as the meaning, purpose, and value of a work of art comes from the artist giving their artwork these qualities, we too find these same things in God.

Since we derive our meaning, purpose, and value from God it would only make sense that those must be fulfilled in this life. I mean why would God instill these desires in our hearts, if not to see us follow His plans for our lives and satisfy these desires within our lifetimes? C.S. Lewis once spoke of this predicament when he said “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists” (3).

The question remains: how do we fulfill these desires and how does this tie back into the value of time? Well, let’s go back to what the Bible has to say on the topic of time in a bit more detail. This will clue us in on how to appropriately answer this question in a way that is both emotionally and logically reasonable. If time is a variable in which we are contingent on, then how do we use it to our benefit to satisfy our ultimate desires? In the book of Exodus, reflection and remembrance is a key theme that carries throughout this book in the Old Testament of the Bible.

Specifically, Exodus 13:10-14 where the LORD instructs the Hebrews on how they are to reflect and remember how God delivered them from the land of Egypt by taking them to the Promised Land. This aspect of reflecting and remembering time is also of note in Exodus chapter 34 where an entire chapter is dedicated to this idea of remembrance, particularly Exodus 34:21 where the Hebrews are commanded by God to rest. The key lesson here is that there is a time and a place for everything. God formulated this philosophy when He created the universe by spending six days working and one day resting. Thus, fulfilling what we would call the work week.

Next, we jump to Nehemiah 2:6 where we can use time as a measurement to map out our lives or God can for that matter (4). Yet at the same instant, be men and women of our word. Nehemiah did this when he gave King Artaxerxes, accompanied by the Queen, a definite time of when he would return. A promise was proclaimed.

There are “God-Moments” when God enters time and accomplishes His will for His glory by allowing us free agents to bring about these so-called “God Moments” (5). Time can peel away inner heartache that can unveil who we are or what we have become (6). Time is a witness of the past (7) and is always brimming with opportunity (8) for us to fulfill our God-given desires.

Final Thoughts

How do I spend my time? Good question. How should I spend my time? Better question. If time is a loan from God, then how much time has God given me? No one knows. I don’t know and you don’t know. That is what makes this life so interesting and so risky. Our time is set, yet we are not informed of how much time is set.

That is why we must use our time wisely, in order to make the most of the time we are given from God. We must redeem the time (9) as we wait expectantly for the appointed time to be fulfilled and remain alert for that to pass (10). We use our time wisely when we set out to fulfill the God-given desires of our hearts by abiding in Christ, which will in turn satisfy our craving for ultimate meaning, purpose, and value.

Love your loved ones. Fellowship with friends. Work hard and do not become sluggish in what may end up being your final moments. The past grows as the future shrinks, so this is the time to seek God. This life that you and I live is an ever ending marathon. A journey one might say that is not over until we enter eternity.

This is just a brief summary of why I uphold the value of time and treasure it far above anything that this life can offer. How will we use this gift? What will we do with our time? Well, that’s up to you. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:1-5
  3. Mere Christianity (bk. 3, chap. 10)
  4. Exodus 9:5; Psalm 75:2; Daniel 2:16
  5. Judges 16:28
  6. Job 36:10, 15
  7. Isaiah 30:8
  8. John 7:6
  9. Ephesians 5:16
  10. Mark 1:15; 13:33

Why I Am An Avid Reader

Updated: 9/20/2017 | Photo Cred: (1)

With the new year having just begun, it’s interesting how so many hold onto the idea of starting fresh, even though it’s simply another day of life. How this change in years can cause people to make these pledges of how they will make changes in direction in their lives. Changes like losing weight, being a better spouse, paying off debt, etc. In the spirit of this season of making commitments for the new year, I would like to give my own commitment for the new year.

Along with that, I also want to address why I am an avid reader and why you should be too. But first let me share with you three different true stories revolving around the importance of books and reading. In Pastor Jon Courson’s daily devotional, A Pillar By Day, he writes of an interesting exchange between two men of immense power in the ancient world, in it he writes:

“A story is told in the Mishnah (a collection of Jewish teachings and writings) of a certain Persian king named Arteban who sent to Judah, the prince of Jerusalem, the largest diamond in existence. Upon receiving this gift, Judah sent back to Arteban a copy of the book of Deuteronomy with the accompanying note: What you sent me requires guards to protect it. What I have sent you will guard and protect you (P. 360).”

The night of May 10th, 1933 is a night few can forget. Adolf Hitler and his minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, held a nationwide book burning across 34 university towns in Germany. They burned 25,000 total books by fellow Nazi-influenced university students as they held the Nazi salute (2). Books included, but were not limited to works by Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, and even at the end of the ceremony, copies of the Bible were burned last. It was a night where the existence of free thought was challenged by those indoctrinated by the Nazi agenda. Individuals who were dependent on the thoughts of a tyrant that limited learning to what was deemed politically correct at the time.

John Lennox, a Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, grew up in Northern Ireland in a Christian upbringing by his parents during the 1940s and 1950s in Armagh. His father, a Christian man, taught him that one ought to know what they believe before they learned what others believed. So he read what he could on Christianity, which included the Bible as often as possible throughout his childhood. His father then taught him that in order to avoid being one sided and biased in his beliefs, he should read what others have to say coming from different belief systems to be a more rounded individual. So his father gave him a copy of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and told him to read it.

The reason I share these three stories is to show how important reading is in the life of anyone willing to learn. Why it’s so crucial to learn by listening and reading what others have to say on a matter, whatever that matter may be. With the first story showing the value of reading is worth more than the greatest diamond the world can offer, the second story showing the cost of reading the ideas of others that some might disagree with, and the right to know what you believe, as well as what others believe.

Is it any wonder why nearly every dictator or tyrant in history has removed books from the public? As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. It’s absolutely critical to be an avid reader because in reality, there might possibly be no better way to learn something than to simply read.

Various studies show that reading has immense benefits like the following:

  1. Improves Analytical, Memory, Writing, & Vocabulary Skills.
  2. Reduces Stress.
  3. Prevents Alzheimer‘s and Dementia.

Of course, these are not the only benefits, but are the most profound effects that reading can have on the human condition. It’s a little ridiculous as to how beneficial reading really is and how it helps make you a more rounded individual. For me, it aids me in comprehending and understanding the world I inhabit, while at the same time providing me with answers to life’s greatest questions. It’s easily one of the most useful skills that one can use on a day-to-day basis. But in an age of social networking, it has been left to die out with each new generation.

Admittedly, I’m not one to talk because I too neglect the power of reading. Yet because it’s a new year I have made a promise to myself and to others to read at the very least 10 books. Not just any ten books though, but specifically these 10 books:

  1. The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas
  2. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  3. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
  4. My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers
  5. The Real Kosher Jesus by Michael L. Brown
  6. Rise by Trip Lee
  7. Why Suffering by Ravi Zacharias & Vince Vitale
  8. Against the Flow by John C. Lennox
  9. Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga
  10. Rebel With A Cause by Franklin Graham

Now I have already finished reading The Sacred Search, which was great and have started Mere Christianity, which is also great. So at this point I’m at a great pace. Of course to some this may seem like a lot, but if you think about it, it’s basically a book a month. Actually closer to a month and a week per book.

That’s 5 weeks to read one book. That is very doable. In fact I challenge those of you who do not usually read books to make a list of 10 books and try to read them in a year. Or you could make a list of 12 books and read a book a month to challenge yourself. All I’m saying is that you should something to test your mind and keep it fit by simply reading books. Whether that’s just one book a year or 365 books a year, it’s up to you. Nevertheless, my challenge to you is to read 10 books.

To all of my avid readers out there, I know what you’re thinking: “Chris, why is your list so short?” Well, in reality, I was never just going to just read 10 books this year. This was merely the starting point of my 2016 reading list and these were just the first 10 books that I wanted to read.

Since I have made my list, it has grown to about 25 books for the year, which amounts to basically a book every 2 weeks. Not exactly lightning fast, but a good amount that’s manageable for me. And again, everyone has their own speed that they can read a book.

I know for some a book a month is a struggle, while I know others that can read a book in a day. For instance, growing up Dr. Ben Carson and his brother would read 2 books a week because his mother wanted them to get out of their poverty stricken lives in Detroit, Michigan by educating themselves. Needless to say, they are both very successful individuals, whether or not you agree with everything they believe.

The bottom line is, what are you waiting for? Get out there and learn for crying out loud! Educate yourself or entertain yourself with some truly amazing books waiting to be read. Whether they be historical, fictional, or comedic, any book will due.

The point is that I am an avid reader and you should be too because every benefit outweighs every detriment to reading books. So why not start this year with a positive change that will greatly impact you by taking time to crack open a book and learning something new? The choice is up to you. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/goebbels/peopleevents/e_book.html
  3. Disclaimer

Waiting

Updated: 8/28/2017 | Photo Cred: http://www.pexels.com

This season of my life has been an interesting one. It has not been like previous seasons such as the time of intense spiritual warfare that lasted the duration of my first two years of high school. That was when I led a Christian club called “First Priority” at Eaglecrest High School.

On the other hand, it is also different than the season filled with teaching opportunities where God gave me the ability to lecture on why the Bible can be trusted, as well as teach in my church’s high school youth group on Titus 2:11-15. There was also the occasional spiritual small talk at work or school last year which was amazing to take part in with those who wrestled with certain concepts. Things like the Ontological Argument, “Is Catholicism Christian and can Christians be Catholic?”, and the small discussions concerning the existence of God.

But this season is different. It is different because in my life there is usually something huge I have to overcome and can only do so with the help of God. But this season does not have a mountain to conquer. It has no valley to explore or dark cavern of tribulation to go through, but is simply a time of waiting.

This season is significant because I have not had this much time to breath and look back at what I have gone through in my life. I do not like it that much either because I love to do things and accomplish great things that have purpose, but instead I am sitting on the sidelines as everyone else gets a turn at bat. I have friends who are getting married, having children, moving out, traveling the world, going on missions trips, and so much more. Then here I am just waiting for the next unexpected journey that God has for me.

Probably the funniest part of this season is that I do not know what I am waiting for or what lies ahead in my life! Is it marriage? No, God has told me to wait. Is it a missions trip? No, God has told me that that is neither my calling nor my purpose in life for now. Is it a career? No, God has told me that I am not ready and must first go to college to receive my education.

So what is it that I am so desperate to start? I have no idea. All I can do for now is wait. As I wait on the LORD, this passage comes to mind as I wait for my turn to hit a home run for the LORD:

Luke 16:10 (NKJV)

“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is also unjust in much.”

Some other passages of scripture that come to mind are Acts 2:42 (NKJV), 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NASB), and Isaiah 40:29-31 (NKJV) during this season of preparing for my next adventure with the LORD my God. In the meantime, I have been keeping my mind, body, and most importantly, my spiritual state active. I have been studying and reading about the history of Christianity, working out to maintain my body which God has given me, and staying up to date on current events as the world gets closer to its dying day.

I have also spent a lot more time focused on the five basics of Christian living: reading the Bible, studying the Bible, memorizing portions of the Bible, praying, and sharing the gospel. So as I wait on the LORD during this time in my life, maybe this little blog-post can encourage you to stand strong and press on in your faith as maybe some of you wait on the LORD as well. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. Disclaimer