Discernment vs. Cancel Culture

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During a Zoom Meeting, discussing current events, we dipped our toes into the topic of Cancel Culture.   In the broadest definition it means cancelling anything that you disagree with.  It can encompass cancelling out someone’s voice or opinion by unfriending them (in real life, or online) to a more extreme of banding together as a community to shut down a business, organization, brand.

As a whole, I’m not a fan of Cancel Culture because I believe it is incredibly important to have your fingers on the pulse of the thought life (and thought leaders) who do not share the same views as you.  Sometimes it is a matter of knowing thy enemy, and other times it is a teachable spirit that is willing to learn & change should the person present the right argument or data.

At the same time, I’m also a huge fan of Discernment.   Discernment helps me to determine if this is a person with a teachable spirit (teachable =/= agreeable) or someone who is not.  I love people with a teachable spirit, because we can have conversations about any number of subjects.  We won’t always agree with each other, but we can maintain our friendship out of mutual respect for one another.  Those who do not have a teachable spirit, are approaching subjects with blinders & earmuffs on.  They really have no intention of learning anything & only enter the discussion to win people to their side & sometimes by any means necessary.

Teachable spirits will accept correction & be thankful for it, should you provide information they were unaware of.    Teachable spirits don’t assume that those who disagree with them are less intelligent, and don’t resort to calling names and speaking in condescending tones. Their education level, life experiences, etc. really don’t matter because they are genuinely dedicated to learning more and growing.

Those who are not enter the discussion to elevate their own superiority, devalue anyone who doesn’t think like them, and create division.  They are pot stirrers.  Now, sometimes they are highly educated people who just value their education, resources, and experiences more than others.  Other times, they are people who lack the wherewithal to look beyond face value.  Perhaps they are more like an ostrich with their heads in the ground unaware of what has happened in the world present and past.   They may also be choosing to believe a narrative that fits within their on presumptions about a given topic.

This is where discernment is crucial.   We need to be able to tell the difference between someone who simply disagrees with us, but is a teachable spirit, and those who are not.  Discernment is the place that lies between Blind Acceptance and Cancel Culture.

When it’s Personal:

Here are a few tips I use in my own interactions to determine if I am going to “unfriend” someone within the realm of Social Media….

  • Do I know this person in real life?  What does their daily walk look like?  Is this is an otherwise good person, kind, generous, helpful, etc.?
  • If not, this is someone who has followed me for my platform, do we have any mutual friends?  Who are the people that they are following?  In other words, who are they surrounding themselves with?  It may also help me understand how I came to be friends with them.  Maybe we met once at an event or we were introduced by someone?
  • What does their Social Media account tell me about who they are, and what they believe?

If I know the person in real life, I have to ask questions about our relationship.  Is this one that I value, and want to keep?  Then, I can’t just “unfriend” them because of what they are currently posting online.  However, I can determine based on our friendship what is the best way to proceed.  If experience has taught me that they are teachable spirits, then I can choose to have a personal conversation with them about my concerns.  Or, I can choose to “snooze” or “unfollow” while remaining friends so that I don’t see their posts and I preserve our relationship.  Sometimes the long game of being a voice in their life is worth the short game confrontation.

If I know the person in real life, and don’t really consider them a friend… or I’ve noticed a pattern of behaviors that make me question the value of the friendship… I may choose to let the whole thing go.  If they are not a teachable spirit, and unwilling to be self reflective or discuss things in a safe manner… this may not be the right friendship for me.  I need to pray for discernment as to whether or not this is a relationship that God wants me to continue with or if these revelations are a way of the Lord showing me who the person is and to protect myself from them.  (Remember the tongue will deceive the heart, God could be showing me that this person is not who I thought they were… saving me heartache in the long run).

If we only know each other through platform, looking at our mutual friends can help me learn a bit more about the person.  I can see if they are maybe in a space where they are trying to learn, step out of their comfort zone, etc. … even if they are not necessarily doing a great job of it.  If I see that they can share friendships with people who think along the same lines as me… even if they seemingly disagree… I will use this as a moment to examine myself.  Am I being too sensitive or expecting too much?  Am I being teachable in this moment or judgemental? 

Just the same, if I find I have no mutual friends and I am the only one who who challenges their preconceptions / misconceptions… should I stick around & be that solo voice?  It’s possible that God could use me in that conversation to challenge one or more people involved.  If they are respectful, even if disagreeing with me, I’m happy to stay in the conversation and maintain the relationship.  However, if I’m the solo voice and find that when ever I contribute to conversations I am met with condescension … there is no reason for me to remain.  I must pray for discernment about what my purpose is there & if it is a safe place for me to be apart of.

If we have mutual friends, I may reach out to those people to learn more about the person.  Recently, someone did this with me.  A mutual friend was posting some things that offended her.  She reached out to me to talk about it.  For her, this was a person that she met through online connections & could potentially partner with.  For me, this was a person I’ve known for the better part of twenty years.  Please understand this was not a gossip session.  She was seeking advice with how to proceed.  Because she reached out to me, I was able to salvage the relationship. 

Finally, I will deep dive into their social media.  Is this a one off instance, where they expressed something offensive or concerning?  Or, is this consistent behavior?  If this is a person who made a one time error (even if they are unteachable about this particular issue) and it doesn’t represent them as a whole… I will happily continue the relationship.  We all deserve grace at times.

However, if this is a consistent pattern… I’m going to pray for discernment on how to proceed.  If the person only ever posts conspiracy theories and talks of people who disagree with them in obnoxious terms… I will opt to “unfriend”.  If this is the third time I’ve attempted to correct their misinformation and I’m met with hostility… I will opt to “unfriend”.  I am also praying that the Lord would reveal to me their intentions.  If their social media posts are intentionally combative, provocative, and controversial… if they seem to get an emotional buzz off of people arguing with them… if they are trying to feed their ego or promote an agenda that is not in alignment with the Word… etc.; then I will “unfriend”. 

Some people might suggest that you should stay in these “relationships” because you might be the only person who is providing sound “reason”.  You can’t reason with people who are unreasonable.  (Also, reasonable = agreeable).  You do have the right to protect your emotional state, your mental health.  Just to be the “voice of reason” is not enough to justify keeping yourself in a toxic pool.

This is why Cancel Culture is not the answer, but Discernment is.   Cancel Culture says to abandon anyone who doesn’t agree with you.  Discernment helps us tell the difference between a good person who disagrees with you vs. a toxic person who is out to harm & destroy.

 

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Taking a short break, from the Scripture Notebook

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My eyes are cast on new things, perhaps after being thrust into a season with so much uncertainty and change… with little notice, time for preparation.  I’ve decided to take a short interlude in my adventuring through my Great Uncle’s Scripture notes, and share what has been also rolling through my heart and mind.

Matthew 25:1-13 –

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Right now churches, ministries, schools, and businesses were over all unprepared for what the Covid19 pandemic would bring to our doorsteps.  With many staying home in order to practice social distancing & flatten the curve, everything we had depended on for our “normal” day to day lives went out the window.  In quick order we had to take our work into the digital world, having to make decisions on which software and platforms to use with neck-breaking speed, then learn to use it and manage to keep business as usual.  In addition, we also took over the responsibility of overseeing our children complete the school year, and our churches asked us to be a part of their digital presence.  It’s been a lot.

Several times now, I have shared in conversation that the world we are in right now feels like a mess.  We were thrust into it, like a child being thrown into a pool with the hopes he’ll figure out how to swim.  However, in the long run, what we work through today will better prepare us for what is to come.  Whether that is another pandemic, war, or even the persecution of the church as the day of our Lord’s return draws nearer.  We are getting creative, we are learning and adapting quickly, and we are prioritizing our lives in a way we never have before.  My calendar looks so empty because all of those things that “I had to do” … apparently… didn’t have to be done.  They were non essential.

They didn’t become non essential, they always were.  It was my perception of those things that changed.

In Matthew 25, the Parable of the 10 Virgins, we can see what happens when you are prepared and unprepared.  We don’t know the day or the hour the Lord will return, so Matthew 25 reminds us that we must be prepared for it to happen at any moment.

We also do not know the day or the hour another crisis will land on our doorsteps, but we are learning now that we do need to be prepared for it non the less.  Churches or ministry leaders that have been opposition to live streaming services, or using social media as a connection for the church have been thrown into the deep end and seeking grace for the learning curve.

Just today, I helped to coordinate a very last minute online conference.  There was something that was overlooked and now we know to be mindful of it next time.  Even those of us who had a idea of what we were doing in some areas were not fully prepared to extend that knowledge into other areas of our work and ministry.  But, here we are.

My main focus today, and what I really want to share is this… right now, we are all being thrust into our great commission calling. It’s no longer up to the collective building called the “church” to bear the weight of sharing Jesus, reaching the lost, serving others, coordinating events, etc.  It’s time for the people to be the church.  We should, if we as leaders have done our job right, have prepared those under our leadership to be able to share the gospel effectively, to read & study the Word for themselves, how to pray, and put within them a spirit of service to the community they live in.  We should have prepared them to be the hands and feet of Christ, and how to continue to grow in the Word even when we are unable to meet.

We have a responsibility to be those who prepare.

It’s Okay to Say No, Not Right Now.

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We are in unprecedented times.  Every single one of us is navigating a new reality that we didn’t sign up for and were not prepared for.  You may have always dreamed of working from home, and now when tossed into the reality of it… maybe it’s less than you dreamed of.  Your kids may have begged you to homeschool them, and if you are like me… your kids are dying to back among their fellow students. I think the complexity of this is compounded because it’s not just working or schooling from home… but the inability to break from the home that makes it so much harder.  We didn’t get what we were dreaming of, instead we got a haphazard version of it.

Additionally it is all being hurled at us all at once.  We didn’t get a slow transition into working from home, homeschooling, etc.  It was left on our doorstep, for us to tend to, without any idea or experience of how we would get off the ground running.  For those of us who also serve in our churches or ministry, we are also being asked to add to that already daunting load to lead our Small Groups online, to find ways to connect with members of the church, to run our ministry virtually.  We are learning new software, new programs, new ways to communicate, and it can seem to much.

I am a go with the flow kind of gal.  I love learning new things.  I enjoy challenges and don’t mind putting in the work.  I embrace change as new opportunity.  But, as much as I do love it… I also can become very overwhelmed with too much, too fast, at one time.  This led to a full on break down just a few days ago.  I sat on my bed, eating my gluten free oatmeal, crying.  I wasn’t afraid.  I was overwhelmed by expectations.  I was overwhelmed by the lack of an end in sight.  For how long would this continue?  I was overwhelmed by the lack of clear strategy and planning for so many different things at once.  The idea of just winging it and hoping for the best doesn’t work in my mind.  I can go with the flow, but I still like to have an idea of where we are going, how we are getting there, and what the general timeline is.

Maybe I’m not as go with the flow as I thought.

Here is what I learned that day, when I sat crying over my oatmeal.  It is okay to say no.  It is okay to say not now.  I realized that it was important to me to keep my commitments, but it was also okay for me to say “not right now” to anything new.  Just as it was important for me to share that with the people whom I work with in ministry.  My life is adjusting just as much as anyone else, and my life has a new set of needs to meet just like everyone else.

So, for right now, I know what I can do… and what I can’t do.  What is most important for me in this moment is ensuring my kids online/virtual school gets up and running and in to routine.  It is okay for me to wait on adding any new tasks or responsibilities until the dust settles from this change.  During this time of wait, I can begin to familiarize myself with different virtual resources for my ministry without the pressure of needing to perform right NOW.  Then once I feel ready and equipped, I can reach out to those I serve with and let them know that I’m ready to tackle something new.

It is okay to say no.

It is okay to say not now.

It is okay to ask for extra time.

It is okay to let the dust settled.

It is okay to adjust to your new home life first.

The rest of it, will happen, as it needs to & when it needs to.  And if in the end, before you are ready to go virtual … life resumes to the way it once was.  No big deal.  You are ready to pick up where you left off.  That is okay, too.

What we have learned from this experience will be valuable to our future.  It will change how we respond and react when some other crisis comes knocking.  We will be prepared for then, because of now.  So, once life goes back to normal… I’m going to put into practice learning and using some of these virtual resources so that when crisis comes knocking in the future… I’m not feeling so overwhelmed by it.   Next go around our businesses, schools, churches, and ministry will already have a basic response to refer to.  Next time, it will go easier, faster, smoother.  This is just the season of bumpy roads.

He is my Shelter

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Empty seats.  In classrooms.  In churches.  In offices.  In Arenas.

We have been asked to NOT go into the public unless we must.  We have been asked to TRUST our government recommendations.  We have FAITH that God will still move among our people even when we are social distancing.

That REVIVAL could come as a result of recommended or forced exile into ones own home would be astounding.

Imagine that.  Coming on the other side of “shelter in” we saw that more people turned to God? That our desire for connection was cut off to the world but OPENED UP, DIRECT TO THE FATHER?

Imagine that.  People who had created walls and distanced themselves from society end up craving human touch and connection after being cut off for so long.  That we long to see each others faces, that those annoying phone calls become welcomed reprieves, the sound of someone else’s voice is a balm to our souls.  Greeting your neighbor is the high light of your day, you’ve gotten to know that same grocery clerk who serves you every Friday morning at 10am.

Imagine that.

Exile birthing community.

In times of uncertainty, we just don’t know what God will do… but we have faith in what He CAN do.  He is not limited, He is not exiled, He is not Sheltering In… because HE IS OUR SHELTER.  In this time, we can rest in Him.  In this chaos, there is blessing as He has given us an opportunity to Sabbath.  His creation, His people, His earth … RESTS.  And in rest finds HEALING.

Waters clearing up, and life returning to those springs.  Pollution disappearing from air and skies are seen with fresh eyes.  Bodies are rested, forced from the daily hustle and bustle to rest.  There is nothing to do, no where to go.  This is not just extra time off to run errands, vacation, or explore.  It is a time to BE STILL.

HE IS MY SHELTER.

I WILL REST IN HIM.

JOY COMES IN THE MORNING.

Deity of Jesus, Page 3, Part 1

As we continue to explore my Great Uncle’s little black book of Scripture, I’m going  to take a second to catch new readers up on what I’ve been writing about these past few weeks.  Several years ago, my Great Uncle passed away.  Recently, some items that belonged to him were gifted to me.  One particular item was a small black binder containing pages and pages of categorized Scripture notes.  I have no context for this binder.  Was this part of his personal study, notes he was taking during services, etc… ?  Due to ink color changes, I know that pages were not compiled all at one time, but added to over a course of time.  Additionally, in most entries it’s just the book, chapter, verse without any notations.  It is my hope to have an idea of what he was doing with this book by the time I get to the end.  At minimum, I have an opportunity to see into the development of this man’s faith.

Today, we are moving into the third page, categorized “Deity of Jesus”.  We will begin with the first four entries..

Hebrews 11:17

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son,

It appears that my Great Uncle included this Scripture as it parallels to the sacrifice of God’s one and only Son.  Verses 18 & 19, should have been included to better support the deity category.  It supports that God could raise from the dead… which Jesus does with Lazarus.  Thus supporting the argument of the deity of Jesus, the Son having the same power as the Father.

John 1: 1-3, 14, 15, 18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and w have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me'”)

No one has ever seen God; only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

These select verses from John chapter 1 outline the deity of Christ.  First, placing Jesus with God at the very beginning and establishing him as part of the Creation story.  Also, by verse 18, by calling him God “at the Father’s side”.  Establishing Jesus role as Son in the trinity.  Pretty straightforward support for the deity of Christ.

Micah 5:2

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from old, from ancient days.

Old Testament prophecy that continues into verse 3-5a:  Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel.  And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.    And they shall dwell secure for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.

My study Bible addresses these verses:  “Bethlehem, a tiny, insignificant city, was not too small for God’s purposes.  Bethlehem was the birthplace of Jacob’s son Benjamin, the burial place of Rachel, the town of Boaz, and the birthplace of King David.  But what Bethlehem would be know for throughout the ages was being the birthplace of the Messiah, Jesus. ”

Micah prophesied the birth of Jesus 700 years before it would happen, where it would happen.  Verse 5a, and he shall be their peace, is what we learn about Jesus in Luke 2:14 that he would bring peace to earth and goodwill towards me.  A reconciliation between God and man.

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Another Old Testament prophecy fulfilled in Jesus, but this verse not only confirms that birth of Jesus as Messiah but also his deity as God.

The Trinity, Page 2, Part 4

We are going to wrap up the page categorized “The Trinity” in my Great Uncle’s little black binder of Scripture notes.  What is interesting to me is that the next page it categorized as Deity of Jesus.  I would have probably put those scriptures with the Trinity, so I am eager to see what he references and figure out why he decided it needed it’s own category.

For now, let’s close out the Trinity.

As we finish out the list, we pick up at Matthew 28… The Great Commission:

Matthew 28:19

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

This is a direct reference to the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The following two Scriptures both reference there is no other God, one God:

2 Samuel 7:22

Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

1 Corinthians 8:4

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence” and that “there is no God but one.”

So, if there is no other God… if there is but one God… but Jesus command in the Great Commission is to baptize in the name of all 3 … this supports the oneness of the Trinity.  These are not 3 separate God figures like we see in polytheism, but three parts of the whole.  If they were 3 separate entities this scripture would be a contradiction to the Old Testament, jealous God.  Instead, we are confirming the oneness of these parts of God.

The last notation, is in Joel:

Joel 2:23 & 28

Be glad O children of Zion, and rejoice in he Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for your abundant rain, the early and the latter rains, as before.

And it shall come to pass afterward , that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your young men will see visions.  Even on the male and female servants In those days I will pour out my Spirit.

In verse 25, God is identified and as the Word continues into verse 28 God references HIS Spirit again.  Another direct reference to part of the Trinity.  As we move into the next page, page 3, on the Deity of Jesus… I suspect we are going to be really adding more scripture to support the Trinity.  As these pieces of Scripture will identify Christ’s power and authority in Heaven, and separate Him from any mere man or prophet.