Will you be my Facebook friend – Part II

A while back I posted a link to a couple of articles Tim Chester has written on the good and bad of Facebook.  Tim has been busy – you can now find his third and fourth articles on the subject here and here.

The third article addresses the concern that the medium of Facebook (and indeed online social networking in general) is inclined towards projecting positivity.  Tim asks,

Is your Facebook self more attractive than your real world self?

The real question is: Am I trying to do self-identity or am I finding identity in Christ? Or, Am I looking for approval from others through my words or approval from God through his gospel word?

More visual theology

Tim Challies has been busy again producing  more helpful charts, this time to aid us think more clearly about Our Triune God, and The Tabernacle.

The Tabernacle graphic should be useful as a reference when reading Exodus and Leviticus, but it’s the graphic on the Trinity that’s perhaps most helpful.

Many Christians find the Bible’s teaching on God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit hard to grasp and it’s easy to think that as long as we hold God to be three in some way and one in another way, we can’t go far wrong.  That’s a dangerous path that will get us into all sorts of trouble.

The one true God has revealed himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – one God, three persons, and we must relate to our God according to who he is.  Far from being a theological riddle or a teaching for advanced Christian only, the Trinity underpins everything else  God has revealed about himself and his salvation purposes.

The In a clear way this chart shows us some of the false ideas we can have of God and it should help clarify our thinking of the God whom we worship as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Positive and negative pride

“I truly am the best thing this church has ever seen.”

“I really am good for nothing, this church would be better off without me.”

Two statements that seem miles apart but which in fact are both likely to come from sinful pride. Doug Wilson has a good article on pride here.  In particular he highlights the danger of what he refers to as negative pride – the pride of those who have a low opinion of themselves and seek to be the centre of attention because of it.

But someone who has a low opinion of himself can be every bit as self-centered. “Look at everyone watch me. See them stare at me when I tell jokes. Why are they laughing at my clothes?” This person has a low opinion of himself and also seeks to be the center of his known universe.

In my experience this form of pride is just as common and every bit as dangerous as the pride of those who have a high opinion of themselves.

Wilson goes on to highlight the danger of much of modern counselling, and sadly much of what masquerades as Christian counselling, in which someone with low esteem is told to learn to love and value their own self worth.   That kind of counsel is deadly to those seeking to live on and be shaped by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

To focus your eyes on anything except the Lord Jesus is spiritually suicidal. If your attention is centered on yourself (whether you see a worm or a superstar is utterly beside the point) you are a priest in the cult of self-worship. A holy life will be God-centered, not self-centered. The antithesis of such holiness is the egocentric demand to be the Main Attraction.

Our shop window

Many of us now do our shopping online and even for those who don’t like to actually buy things over the Internet, almost all of us spend time researching the items we are going to invest in, in front of our screens.

It’s the same with church.

Unless they have been personally invited by a Christian friend, virtually every new person we welcome into our church services today will have found out about us on the web via the church website.  For every person who walks through the doors on a Sunday morning for the first time, how many more have looked at the church website only to invest their time elsewhere?

There’s a good article here from Trevin Wax on what a church website should accomplish.

Rather than just a series of links to news stories and announcements about upcoming events, the website should be a means of revealing your church.

He then lists the following 5 ways how a good website can effectively reveal a church to those who are looking for a place to worship.

1. A clear, easy to find “Statement of Beliefs”

2. Basic boring information – contacts / what’s on / directions

3. Staff and leadership page

4. Podcasts and/or sermon videos

5. Social media buttons

Increasingly the church website is our shop window.

Children in gathered worship

There’s a lot of wisdom in this article by Jason Helopoulos on why children should worship with the rest of the church, a practice which the biblical authors seem to assume will be the case.

However, if anything I’d want to say I don’t think Jason goes far enough.  We shouldn’t just be content to get our children into and out of gathered worship without any loss of limbs and surely we’d want our children to be more than mere observers.  With some imagination and preparation we should be able to encourage even the youngest of children to interact and participate rather than resorting to mints and offering envelopes.

It may seem like mission impossible, but help is on hand.  A book we are currently reading through and that so far we’ve found to be full of great ideas on how parents can better nurture their children in this way is ‘Parenting in the Pew: Guiding your children into the joy of worship,’ by Robbie Castleman.

The Jesus Line

Here’s the next one of Tim Challies’ excellent Visual Theology creations – a visual genealogy from Adam through to Jesus.  You can find others here and here.

While printing this one out in a way that’s manageable might prove challenging, it is a great way of accessing (and even memorising?!?) this information.

What I particularly like about it is the way it’s been designed to look like an underground map.  The Jesus Line perhaps?

The inescapable logic of abortion – infanticide

Many Christians have been saying for a long time that there is no ethical difference between the killing of a child prior to or after birth and that both should be considered for what they in fact are, a violation against the 6th commandment – “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13)

Now a paper published by two ethicisits in the British Medical Journal and highlighted online here and here, entitled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” has called for the killing of newly born children to be made legal, on the basis that there is no ethical difference between this and abortion.  The abstract states,

 “After-birth abortion (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”

The proposal is hideous, but the logic is inescapable. 

Helping the poor – feeling or doing good?

Christianity Today addresses the issue of effective ways to fight poverty in it’s latest issue.  It highlights the problem that so often we give to feel good rather than to do good.  In the article, “Cost Effective Compassion: The 10 Most Popular Strategies for Helping the Poor,” economists specialising in analysing development programs were asked to rate from 0-10 some of the most common poverty interventions in terms of their impact and cost-effectiveness.

It’s an interesting list and worth at least a few minutes reflection as you sip your Fairtrade coffee – or perhaps not.

1. Get clean water to rural villages (Rating: 8.3)
2. Fund de-worming treatments for children (Rating: 7.8)
3. Provide mosquito nets (Rating: 7.3)
4. Sponsor a child (Rating: 6.9)
5. Give wood-burning stoves (Rating: 6.0)
6. Give a micro-finance loan (Rating 4.2)
7. Fund reparative surgeries (Rating: 3.9)
8. Donate a farm animal (Rating 3.8)
9. Drink fair-trade coffee (Rating. 1.9)
10. Give a kid a laptop (1.8)