Answering The Call is an international missions organization dedicated to reaching people in difficult to reach places.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Keeping it Real

As a student of current events and with the offering of facebook IPO, I’ve been thinking a lot about our culture in the day-and-age of facebook world.  My musings in this post are not to be critical.  It is an honest attempt to look at the impact the virtual world has on all of us, myself included, and our response as believers in a world filled with vanity.

Several years ago my oldest son and I were on our way home from Costa Rica where we had spent a good portion of our summer.  The cover of Newsweek magazine caught my eye in the airport so I picked it up to read on the flight home.  The cover was a picture of a face that was divided straight down the middle.  One half of the face was a real human and the other half was a perfectly computer generated picture of a human face.  The article was about the rise of virtual reality in our culture.  I must say it was quite daunting.

Basically the article went into detail about how, through the internet, people could create whatever life they wanted.  Using certain computer software one could create his perfect life.  He could construct the flawless family, the spotless spouse, the perfect profession, a six-figure salary, an impressive investment portfolio, and albeit virtual, he would proceed to live in his created world by interacting via the internet with others who had also created their perfect world.

This may sound extreme and some may say, “it’s just a game” but we must ask ourselves what kind of impact does the imaginary “virtual world” have on our culture.  In the face of a virtual reality how can what is truly real even begin to compete?  A virtual reality exists solely in the mind of an individual and is in fact, not reality at all.  Social media is an awesome tool for marketing, informing and keeping in touch with friends, not to mention that it can be quite fun.  And also dangerous.

For instance, on facebook you can create any image of yourself that you desire.  If you want to appear sexy, glamorous and rich then you crop and post your photos that depict this image.  If you want to appear generous and caring then you post captions and perhaps a photo of your latest benevolent mission.  If you want to look like you can keep up with the Jones’s then post away on your own little corner of virtual reality called facebook, a place where one can become bigger on the outside than they are on the inside.   A course that will inevitably lead to internal implosion.  The tragedy is when you begin to believe your own press you no longer live in reality. 

What about face-to-face friends rather than 3,000 virtual ones?  What about actually having conversations and getting involved in peoples lives rather than merely “commenting” or “liking” a million different posts on a zillion different pages.  What about the temptation to snoop around on other peoples pages which then leads to the temptation to compete with “their facebook life”. 

Where are the real people?

I am not anti-facebook. Well, I kind of am right now.  The self promotion and sometimes, quite frankly, lies that people post on facebook to make themselves look good, or prop up some kind of agenda, has led me to some serious thinking regarding this virtual realty our culture seems obsessed with. 

Virtual reality extends beyond the keys on our computers. This phenomenon impacts what we see and take into our minds on a regular basis.  No woman can compete with the airbrushed and manipulated photography seen on the cover of popular magazines at the grocery store check out line.  This leaves any woman extremely disadvantaged if she believes what is virtual is actually real.  Perhaps, there is not enough room in this blog to discuss the problems created by a husband who has subjected his mind to the virtual reality of pornography causing him to forsake his real wife, in one way or another, for something virtual.  It is reminiscent of Paul’s writings when he wrote, “...we know that an idol has no real existence and that there is no God but one.”

I wonder how it is the church can survive and thrive without prostituting herself in the age of self promotion; or buying into the idea that she must market herself in order to compete in this ever-so-self-indulgent-age.  How does she remain pure and genuine in a culture obsessed with image?

I am not opposed to marketing.  Marketing and informing your audience is good and sometimes a necessary and useful tool.  However, there is a fine line between informing and fluffing up in order to create a desirable image that is perhaps not real.  I guess it goes to the heart and motive, and only God knows that.   One thing I do know is that we need to stop trying to impress the world by looking like the world and begin impressing the world by looking like the One in whose image we were created.

Someone once wrote, “Whatever is genuine, whatever is sincere, whatever is pure, whatever is wholesome, let these things proceed from your life.” (paraphrased) Someone also once said, “What is created by the flesh must be maintained by the flesh.  What is created by the Spirit will be maintained by the Spirit.”  I want spirit.  Flesh is exhausting. 

Just some musings from someone who desires to live in the real.

Joy Fuller

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Victorious Journey

About a month before we were scheduled to leave on a trip to the Middle East, the Lord put 2 Corinthians 2:14 “Thanks be to God, who in Christ, always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere” on my heart.  At first, I was really struck by the idea of spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.  It hit me that maybe the fragrance that I was spreading while trying to share my knowledge of our Lord probably was not always the best.  Even while saying the correct words, are the sweet fragrances of our Lord being emitted, or maybe the stench of pride or arrogance.  And the scripture says He spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.  Wow.  Where ever I go, or where ever I am, I am emitting a fragrance.  I wonder what my presence smells like?

So it was in this frame of mind that I left for the Middle East with three other men.  As I was sharing these thoughts on the trip over, I actually could not remember if the verse included the word “always”.  After all, sometime in following Christ, it does not feel victorious in my American mind.  As a matter of fact, I am starting to wonder if there is a direct, but inverse correlation between my relationship with the Lord and my personal financial statement…But God’s promise is to always lead us in victory.  Which really leaves two questions – am I following His leading, and is my definition of triumph the same as His?

In His grace, it was an incredible joy and privilege to join His triumphal procession through Jordan and Lebanon in April.  Our team saw the Lord establish a ministry in an evangelical church in Amman Jordan to aid Syrian refugees through an Islamic charity.  We met a convicted murderer transformed by the love of Christ through a relationship with Him.  We had the opportunity to discuss the Source of tolerance to Palestinian and Iraqi representatives to a Middle Eastern conference on tolerance Conference, have lunch (and pray for the food in the name of Jesus) with Muslim street racers in the heart of Sidon, and meet a young man of Muslim background in the Bekaa valley, who has recently given his life to Christ and who has led 26 other young men of similar background into a relationship with our Lord. 

We also had the opportunity to share the Word of God with congregations in Beirut, Mie y Mie, and Zahle.  But maybe the most important and rewarding thing the Lord enabled us to do was simply to spend time in fellowship and prayer with those warriors who are standing firm in the midst of rising pressure.  Please continue to pray for pastors Jihad, Aymen, Munther, Ibrahim, Chady, and Effat and all of those workers who are sharing the “fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere”.

Courtney Mauzy