Facebook Object Lessons

I have suffered from a particular problem as I’ve limped along the cracked path of my spiritual walk for a long time. It’s something that has hindered me from progressing and getting closer to God. I speak of my habit of comparing myself to other Christians. I do this a lot. I’m a self-depreciating person; in most things I do, whether in regards to my writing, or singing or just overall “personality”, I can’t see the good in them. I’m well aware that there are better people than me and a lot of the time I wonder if I’m good enough to even bother pursuing the these things that I enjoy. When it comes to Christianity, where my salvation is at stake, this habit of mine is multiplied. It’s just so easy to look at someone and say “yes, she’s made it. She’ll definitely be in Heaven”, and then look at my life and feel completely wretched.

I didn’t realise how bad I was at this until I went to a prayer and fasting day at the Barnett church with some people from my church a few years ago. My prayer ministries leader gave a testimony and in this testimony she told everyone that every morning at 4 a.m. she gets up and prays for hours. I looked around the room and everyone just seemed to be of one accord, as if they all did similar things at home. I didn’t stay for the rest of the testimony; I went into a back room and started to cry (I was also in a very bad place mentally and such a testimony was the last thing I wanted to hear).

I prayed about this problem and asked others to pray for me as well. Funnily enough, the medium that has assuaged some of my hard feelings has been Facebook. It wasn’t this way at first, but after a nice discussion with two of my friends on Twitter (for shame; I’m on almost every social network), I realised something about Christians, especially young Christians.

I wrote a blog post ages ago about Facebook Preachers, but this was manly in regards to men who use Facebook as a way to draw in Christian women. But now, as I befriend more and more Christians on Facebook, I see this mentality of “preaching” on a wider scale. I’ve started to realise how superficial we all are, how we as Christians wear a mask of piety to show other Christians how well we’re doing. Facebook has become the biggest channel to do such a thing. A person could be listening to Lady Gaga all throughout the week and still post Youtube videos of Give me Jesus, giving everyone the impression that hymns are all they listen to. Shock photos of animal mutilation and corrupt abattoir footage is a way some Adventists “preach” to their church mates whilst simultaneously showing everyone what a great vegan they are and statuses broadcast how many prayers/devotions one gets through in a 24 hour period.

I know people who mainly use their Facebook for religious and witnessing purposes, so it’s understandable if their main output is religious material, but the majority of people don’t do this, yet they will throw religious matter at everyone and claim that it’s for religious purposes, even though all their Facebook friends are in the church anyway.

So who are these activities prepared for? Who are they trying to impress?

I’ve learned to be discerning. It’s actually quite easy to separate the statues/videos/messages that are there for encouragement and those whose sole purpose is to perpetuate an image of Godliness (even if the person responsible is unaware of what their inner motives are. The subconscious is a terrifying thing).  For example, this:

GUYS I’VE JUST HAD AN AMAZING DEVOTION THIS MORNING. 2 HOURS YES! MERCY! THIS DEVOTION TOPS THE ONE I HAD YESTERDAY WHICH WAS ONLY 1 HOUR!!!!!!!!!!

Compared to this:

Wow! In my devotion this morning, I was able to see Proverbs chapter 31 in a whole new light. Have any of you ever considered that this chapter is also speaking about a church? The woman of virtue is also a church that obeys God’s commandments, as we’ve seen that a “woman” in prophecy usually refers to churches. Thoughts?

There’s just a difference. The first one isn’t encouraging at all! What was this fictitious person hoping that others would say to their caps-lock? What more is there for anyone to add or discuss? It may help some people, but to me such things add nothing to my life and I just scroll past them.

I’ve started to understand now, that I really can’t pay too much attention to the outward displays of piety that others project. It’s just too easy to be spiritual online, when no one knows what you’re doing when you log off (or switch windows); I’m beginning to realise now that I’m not the only worrier; I’ve decided to take the above displays of Christendom as a sign of insecurity: the longing to show the truly spiritual ones that they can reserve another seat on the glory train for someone else.

It took my dad years to shake me out of this negative mindset, but it was something as trivial as Facebook that helped me make the first steps towards the door.

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When God Just Isn’t Enough

I suppose a little catch-up is in order. Two weeks ago I went to ARME Bible Camp and it was an amazing experience. I hadn’t really prepared mentally or spiritually for it, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, or what I hoped to gain by going. I’m so glad went, despite it being exam season. Not only were the sermons convicting, but I was shown an interesting way to study my Bible. We were given practical tips for having effective morning devotions, how to engage in a spirit-filled Bible study and the Bible itself proved to be a very interesting book. It really strengthened my faith in it; I was able to see that from the very first chapter in Genesis to the last in Revelation, everything written is interconnected and was put there for a purpose.

I know a lot of people went to the camp to hear Ivor Myers, and whilst I found his sermons interesting, it was a sermon by Pastor Phillip Sizemore that got to me…

He told the story of his parents. Neither were Christians but they acted truly Christlike. They helped people, they housed a couple of homeless kids and brought them up as their own. And they disliked Christians with a passion. To them, Christians were bad people and all the Christians they came across were hypocritical. When Pastor Sizemore became a Christian, it disappointed his parents; they were worried he would turn out like “the rest”.

In the end, the hypocrisy of the Christians in their lives had devastating effects. It tore his family apart. It reminded me of my own family, and the impact a pair of hypocritical Christians has had on it.

My mum’s parents, Brother and Sister ‘B’, were well known in the Adventist church. They went to one of the founding churches in London, during the time when people from the Caribbean flocked to England for work. Brother and Sister B seemed like well-to-do Christians at church, but their home was a war zone. Adultery, child abuse and neglect were some of the things that took place in that house, and there was so much hatred that today, none of their children attend church, with two of them identifying as atheist. They gave my mum a distorted view of God, religion and the Adventist church in general. I’ll give you an example. When my older brother died, and my mum went to her parents for counsel, Sister B said to her:

See? This wouldn’t have happened if you had stayed in church.

Despite my own conversion to the Adventist church a few years ago, my sisters have little care for my beliefs, after all, the church didn’t help my mum in anyway, so what good could it do for anyone else?

When Pastor Sizemore spoke about his parents, the pain in his voice was so evident that I couldn’t help but think about just how much work I have to do. My family is dysfunctional, it’s not perfect and it has its problems. I would love it if we could all attend church together, be a spiritual support for one another, have family devotions (it would be nice if my parents could reconcile), but Brother and Sister B, my grandparents, left their mark. They’re both dead now, but I know my mum still hurts from how she was treated as a child. What can I do? How can I be a good enough witness to show her that the church isn’t like that anymore?

I spoke to her about it the other day. She told me that she made the decision that she would never belong to the same organisation as that of her parents. But she also said that maybe one day, before it’s not too late, she would come to the church. She hasn’t ruled it out completely.

And that gives me hope. The Spirit can soften any heart, after all.

xXx

Street Witnessing

Today I went street witnessing. There is series of flats on Wood Vale, Forest Hill, which makes a good start for doing that sort of thing. It’s close by to me, so it didn’t take long to go. I went with a group of people from my church: three of us youths, two adults (including my dad) and two little ‘uns.

I used to go door-knocking often with my dad back in the day. I hated it. I never knew what to say, and used to just stand there while he did all the work. I know the ice breakers that he’d use when greeting people off by heart: if he had a tract about the Health Message then he’d introduce himself as a quasi-nutritionist; if it was a book about happiness and well-being then he’d ask about their stress levels and overall mental health. At Christmas he’d start off by asking if they’d had a good Christmas, and if they believed in Christ.

We used the latter one today and I interacted with people for the first time. I mean, I actually spoke to strangers and smiled and everything. It wasn’t scary and I didn’t feel stupid; people were fairly receptive to the Word and even if they didn’t believe, they were still polite and accepted our materials. In this case we gave them Steps to Christ by E. G. White. The whole ‘Christmas’ ice-breaker worked wonders.

We’re planning to make a habit of this; try and go every month—or more, depending on our schedules.I’m actually looking forward to it. This certainly was a milestone in my ‘witnessing’ walk, if anything. So I suppose one of the positives a Christian can take from this more-or-less Pagan holiday, is the opportunity to witness for God. People are more friendly during this time.

‘Tis the season, and all that…

xXx