6 Things I Learned by Taking Two Months Off Social Media

socialmediamarketing

It is hard to believe that taking time away from social media would be so anathema to Christians today. Some have the best of intentions of using it of course. Because for most, seeing posts and pictures are a source of social connection and encouragement. Even family and friends may tease and push back on you, as if you are leaving this earth! You would think you are walking away from the faith or something by the way some folks act online. And God forbid you should shut down your social media for good (may it never be!). I always feel sorry for the martyr that even would suggest such a thing publicly!

In any case, my wife and I, at the beginning of November in 2018, decided to take a break from social media together. We both noticed some areas that social media was interfering in our lives, and wanted to cut ties in order to prioritize relationships. At first, it was easy and exciting. After about the third week though, we began to see some of the large gaps that social media wedged itself into. With that being said, here are six things that I learned.

  1. I had more time to spend with my wife. This was one of our biggest reasons for getting off. I often felt justified with my use of time because I was commenting and answering inboxes from friends and strangers, meanwhile calling it “ministry.” But I still was neglecting time, and attention (very important), with my wife. Sure, forms of Christian ministry can be accomplished online. No harm there. But when you find yourself and your spouse bickering more, being irritated at each other, or even angry at one another over trivial things, meanwhile giving more attention to your phone rather than a meaningful and intimate conversation at the table with your family (or even friends), it’s time for a break.
  2. My attention span was improved. There are plenty of resources online, even from social media engineers themselves, that can prove what I’m about to say. Social media affects your attention span. I experienced this first hand. It also affects your cognitive thinking skills and how you process information. From trying to finish books and complete projects, to having a simple conversation with my wife and friends, I caught myself often thinking about something else, and even becoming bored with the task or conversation at hand too quickly. (Side thought: Perhaps this may be a contributing factor to why we often feel bored during our pastor’s sermons. Hmmm…) What we don’t realize is that social media does have a psychological (and spiritual) impact on us all. We may deny it, but if you take a long break, you’ll immediately understand what I’m talking about. My hope is that you don’t have to take a break to notice.
  3. I was able to see who my important relationships were. This one is a tough pill to swallow. There are many on our friends list who we enjoy and perhaps have had long time relationships with. But social media has changed the way we interact and stay in contact with them, has it not? Instead of picking up a phone or writing to one another, we just simply scroll through a feed, click like on the post, maybe comment once in a while, and move on to the next thing. This isn’t evil. A short post might provoke a deeper conversation online or on the phone. But more often than not, we’ve depended on social media to gauge and judge what is going on in one another’s lives rather than purposefully taking the time to meet over lunch, at a dinner table, or even going out together on some random outing. More than this though, we may quickly discover who really is interested in a reciprocal and abiding friendship. Because with no social media to keep track of your life, the meaningful relationships begin to surface. And the results may be panful.
  4. I was free from false obligation. Some call it FOMO (fear of missing out). Others call this “just keeping up with the times.” But I’m not surprised so many suffer from so much anxiety these days. The feeling that I should know something because someone I follow posted it, or needing to keep up with the latest controversy because a ministry I support and love is caught up in it, or having to constantly be ready to answer a comment because I or someone else I know is involved in an important discussion, all dissipated like smoke once I was off. I know longer felt obligated to know any of that stuff, or any other unnecessary drama, that didn’t directly pertain to my life and ministry. I don’t think we realize how many things we entangle ourselves with on social media that truly doesn’t require our involvement, nor will impact us in any meaningful way. There’s nothing wrong with stating your position on something online, researching the latest updates on important topics, or using social media to further the gospel of Christ and sound doctrine. But how much emotional investment are you wasting simply because you subtly feel “obligated” to do so? And how much of it is essentially just reading gossip?
    • Part B of this feeling of obligation is something I like to call pseudo accountability. There is this false idea that somehow you are spiritually accountable to all those on your friends list (if you even personally know some of them). Depending on how many you have, you may have developed a subtle need for approval, unbeknownst to you. Of course, many on my friends list would say that they care about honoring the LORD more than man. But what we all don’t realize is that we, as social beings, enjoy approval from others within the circles we most identify with. That is what the like button is for. That’s why Facebook won’t introduce a dislike button, but instead has chosen other emoticons to display how you may feel about a particular post. This isn’t some psychological bibble-babble that cannot be substantiated. The kind of approval we receive from those on our friends list (or particular persons on our friends list) triggers the dopamine in our brains, which is typically the chemical released when we have that feeling of reward. That’s one of the reasons why social media is addicting. And whether we realize it or not, what begins to happen is that we engage social media in such a way that causes us to want that approval. The result is that we begin to feel accountable to people that have no real impact on our lives.
  5. I had plenty of time for more important things. This one is like number 1, but a little more specific. Honey-do-lists, job responsibilities, family time, reading, writing, discipleship, evangelism, other ministry opportunities, going out to lunch with friends, particular church functions, and long, attentive, and meaningful conversations, are all some of the many things I discovered I was truly neglecting. I can remember what life was like before social media was popular. And I can remember all the time I spent reading copious amounts of Scripture, or my favorite books, doing ministry, going out with friends, working on special projects at work, etc., without feeling rushed, out of time, or mentally drained. I almost forgot what it was like to partake of all these things in a meaningful and attentive way, without mental distraction! And guess what, it isn’t just me. And it isn’t simply an issue of will-power, intellectual strength, or time management. Even former Facebook executive, Chamath Palihapitiya, mentions some of the dangers with social media. Because of this, he doesn’t even allow his own children to have it.
  6. Finally, though not exhaustively, although most importantly, my intimate time with God improved. I have kind of touched on this already in an indirect way, but this most definitely deserves its own category. With all the things we could be serving God in, one thing that should never be replaced, neglected, or diminished is our own personal time with our Lord Jesus. Whether it is reading His word or personal time in prayer, meditating and communicating with God will be, and often is, pushed aside when we are heavily engaged in social media. Why? Well, because all the other responsibilities that we must accomplish have been neglected already. And because those things must be done, and we now have little time to accomplish them, things like reading Scripture and prayer require too much time and mental strength we don’t have. It’s no wonder why we are tired in prayer, and can’t pay attention when we read Scripture. It’s no wonder why we feel pseudo-accountability, are often anxious, depressed, irritable, and feel all kinds of emotional distress. Not to say that humans have never felt these things before social media. But when we consider the unprofitable amount of time we spend on it these days rather than with the LORD, let us not be surprised when the feeling of being distant from God is exacerbated. I pray that this distant feeling and conviction would grip us more and more than any other feeling so as to return to our first love, and restore the biblical priorities in our lives.

Now that I’m back on social media as of the New Year, my interactions haven’t been the same. I am posting and engaging, but it is different. I am able to break away if I need to. Put the phone away a lot easier when it is time to converse with someone. I’m not as distracted.  I scroll less. Desire to converse more with friends more. And it has been edifying. This isn’t my first time taking a break from social media, but it was nice taking a two month break with a purposeful goal in mind to restore the disciplines and relationships in my life where they should be. If I need another break, I’ll be ready to take it. But I pray others will read this and will emboldened to do the same.

– Until we go home.

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No Children (Part 2) – The Bad News & Good News

Infertility-featured

In my last blog post I desired to encourage the men out there who may be a co-struggler in the burden for childlessness. At that point in my life, it seemed like all the treatments weren’t getting any where. Well, last week our medical providers advised that we stop treatments, and that we try something different. Before I get to that part, I think it is pertinent to share how the news impacted me.

The Bad News

At first, I didn’t think anything of it. At some point, you just get numb to disappointment and you sort of expect it. But then, as my day progressed, there were moments where I was deeply saddened. At work, my expression of grief was limited. Also, when I got home, it just seemed like my wife and I were a bit too busy to express our feelings about the whole thing. Privately though, I cried out to God. And my wife and I eventually talked, but I wondered if this is it? Was this the end of the road? Thankfully, it still isn’t. But it didn’t take away from the sting that there is a possibility that we won’t have biological children. But here is some good news.

A Baby Girl

Since I last wrote my article, we have been blessed with a beautiful foster child. She has been a delight to have in our home, and she is a stark reminder that we should expect God to bless us often, but not in a way we would often expect. She came right on the heels of a season of discouragement. And the funny thing is, we were actually praying that God would give us a baby girl! Since this little one has been delivered into our care, she has allowed us to express love and nurturing that we desire to express for our own biological children. So that’s one praiseworthy providence of God.

Untraditional IVF*

Another good thing is that our doctor revealed to us some alternate means that might suit our convictions to have children. He first asked if we were willing to do traditional IVF?* We expressed our disagreement to fertilizing eggs with left over embryos possibly being killed. Thankfully, he understood. I don’t know if he was a believer, but he was very accommodating. Hard to find these days. Nevertheless, he told us about a newer method of IVF that would basically freeze a certain amount of unfertilized eggs, and when we are ready, we can get them fertilized in a lab and implanted that day. We don’t have all the details yet, but I remember the doctor letting us know that this could be a cheaper option than traditional IVF. And we don’t have to compromise our convictions! We’re still looking at thousands to spend, but we know that if this is a possibility, God’s providence will make a way. If not, we will remain content with His will for us.

Embryo Adoption

But there is one more option I’d like to share that perhaps not many know about. This one can be a little different from what people are used to, but embryo adoption is an alternative that has been catching attention. Basically, it is adopting a fertilized egg(s) and having them implanted in the womb. In essence, as you would adopt a born child, you are doing so for a little one that you can carry in the womb. I know, it sounds strange. When I first heard about this, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Nevertheless, a child is possibly rescued from being destroyed in a lab. This is indeed a testimony of how far we have come in our scientific endeavors that this is even a possibility. But if your conscience is not at all clear or informed about this, or any other alternative, I would not suggest embracing it until you have solidified your convictions on it.

Why Me?

As we continue to plod along after 14 years of waiting to birth our own children, it makes me wonder how many other Christian men are finding it hard to trust the LORD in this kind of trial. It is expected for women to experience grief and sorrow over fertility, but I won’t make the mistake to think that men don’t process this issue in any way. Whether it is the sorrow we feel vicariously through our spouse, or how we ourselves feel (or both), it is my prayer that we men will hunt down contentment in Christ. I know what it is like sitting in a church pew, on your couch, or wherever you may be to yourself and your thoughts, thinking about why *I* have to be the one? Why my wife? Why me? And this is not an easy question. But if we have given eternal life, and we know Christ, we have been given the greatest gift we will ever receive.

The Good News

Christ is a great comforter and High Priest who sympathizes with our weakness and human frailty (Hebrews 4:26). He knows we are burdened and saddened by this. He has been there in every doctor’s appointment, in every miscarriage, in every negative pregnancy test, and has been extremely gracious and faithful to provide encouragement and blessings that we needed (not wanted) whenever the time came. So while I understand the discouragement, disappointment, frustration, and sometimes anger, we can feel inside as men about all of this. Remember that God has been infinitely gracious and loving toward you through His gospel, and your salvation. He has been gracious, and will continue to be gracious by giving you more than you can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20), and giving you far less than what your iniquity deserves (Psalm 103:10). This is our hope – Jesus Christ. He is the anchor to our soul (Hebrews 6:9), and the captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10). Trust him even when you’re disillusioned. Through the pain of childlessness do not let any root of bitterness take hold upon your soul (Hebrews 12:15). God has promised to fulfill His will and glorify Himself using you. Yes, even in this. And as men, we don’t have to necessarily “man up” by sucking it up or pretending it to be numb to it. But by embracing God’s will and leading our wives, and perhaps other brothers and sisters, in prayer and faith to trust God’s sovereignty.

Grieve if you need to. Call out in bewilderment to God, and truly express your grief through your own heart’s psalm. But while you do it, remember God’s goodness toward you. Don’t ever forget it. While the lashing whip of childlessness cracks against your soul, I pray the truth of the gospel and the healing balm of the Spirit will forever be your great and marvelous consolation.

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

– Until we go home

 

*(In Vitro Fertilization – this is where number of eggs are fertilized,  and then a certain amount are implanted in the womb. Meanwhile, the rest are frozen or eliminated later on).

** For more information on embryo adoption, you can go here.

Why Getting Caught Watching Porn Is The Best Thing That Can Happen.

Secret document

Let’s face it. Pornography is a shameful thing. Most men know it (and women too). But no matter how many times you ask God for forgiveness, and vow never to do it again, you fail again. And one of the reasons why it perpetuates itself in your life is because it is a secret struggle. That’s right. Secret. Most people in your church, at your job, and even in your home don’t know this is sinful problem in your life. And, it is hard for you to talk about it because, well, it’s shameful. You know its wrong. You hate it when you watch it. You feel guilty often for watching it. But guess what? Since no one knows about it, you continue the battle on your own, thinking you can defeat this monumental beast by yourself! And when you do talk about it with others, it is usually spoken about in cryptic form where you kind of mention lust at a glance, without specifics, and without any real plan to confess the poisonous fruit that it is producing in your life. It is because of this, I highly recommend one of two things that should happen if you want to begin the path to liberty. These two are not the end-all-be-all to end pornographic desire, but I guarantee you’ll be moving in the right direction. 1) Get Caught 2) Confess (to your spouse, or a godly and mature saint).

Get Caught

When David desired Bathsheba, he did so in secret. No doubt, David probably thought he was never going to get caught. Sin is just deceitful like that (Ephesians 4:22). And after he had her husband Uriah killed in battle, he probably thought the trouble he got himself into by impregnating Bathsheba was officially buried (pun intended). The Scripture says that God was displeased, and he sent Nathan the prophet to expose his sin (2 Samuel 12:1). It was necessary after exposing David’s sin that the consequences would be listed against him. Then, Nathan says “For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun” (2 Sam. 12:12). David was busted! And it was a good thing too. Get was being merciful to him by doing so. And David’s reaction to this was perfect. He says, “I have sinned against the LORD.” He later pens Psalm 51 in what is probably the best, written example of genuine confession and godly sorrow that leads to repentance in all of the Psalms.

All that to say this. I pray that God will have mercy on you, and you get caught! Not trying to sound mean or harsh, but it’s the best thing for you. Really! If you think for one second that keeping this porn addiction a secret and taking it on by yourself is something you can handle, you’re deceived. And sin, no matter what it is, loves to hide. It likes to keep things secret. That’s where it draws its strength. In the nuturing environment of darkness. John 3:20 states that those that do evil don’t come to light so that their deeds aren’t exposed. Proverbs 9:17 has the adulterous women telling us that bread eaten in secret is pleasurable. Paul cries out to us in Ephesians 5:11-14 to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them with light because shameful to even mention some of those things done in darkness. The point being, while God can and does use shame to cause you repent, shame is often a dungeon that sin uses to keep people from confession and true repentance. Someone walking in on you while watching porn, discovering your internet history, asking you directly if you watch pornography, or whatever the circumstances that causes you to be exposed is the BEST thing that can happen to you! And I say this with as much love and earnestness I can muster. If you don’t get busted now, your cries for freedom when you’re lying in the pool of your own tears, after once again failing to avoid the one thing that has this immense grip on your life, will grow weaker. In other words, while your desire to turn away from this sin may be genuine, the fact that you are attempting conquer this sin in the very same, secretive environment where it thrives spells certain shipwreck of your faith. You will eventually give in. You will lose.

But if getting caught is not something you want God to do to you, you don’t have to wait to expose this sin. There is another option. But before I dive into that, I want to quickly say something that is of the utmost importance.

The Gospel

The bible says that when we are born again, we will hate our sin (Romans 7:15). Do you hate this sin? I mean, truly? 1 John 2:29 states that one of the ways we know if we are truly born again is that we love to practice righteousness in our life because we are born again. Do you desire to love God and live holy before Him? One of the promises that we are given as Christians is that Jesus’ victory in taking the punishment for our sin is that He destroyed the power that sin has over our lives, and that He that started a good work in you will finish it (Philippians 1:6). Do you believe that? Do you truly believe that Jesus took God’s wrath and satisfied the demands of justice that are against us by enduring a painful and agonizing death so that we can be free from sin? And be given a new nature that loves Him and hates pornography? And that only through the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit who causes you to repent and trust Jesus for salvation that you are granted the gift of everlasting life? The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16)! For our sake, Christ became sin, who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)!  If you don’t truly believe this, this battle is lost even before it has begun. Getting caught and confessing your sins to someone else in the hopes of modifying your behavior is a dead gospel. It is in the life-changing work of the gospel of Jesus Christ where true freedom is found. I pray that if you have never experienced the reality of knowing Christ, and the power of His resurrection to justify you and change your sinful nature, that you would go before Him today broken and contrite, so that you might confess and repent of your sins to Him alone who has the power to forgive sins and reconcile you to Himself.

Confess

If you’re married, I wouldn’t wait another second to tell your spouse about this sin in your life. Be open and honest with her/him. Don’t criticize them if they get angry, frustrated, or disappointed. Accept the failure. Admit the defeat. That’s what David did when he was confronted about his sin. And if this isn’t the first time you’ve told them, tell them again. Ask them to periodically check in on you. Give them every password. Don’t be alone with any electronic device. Maybe take a long break away from the internet, television, and radio. Pray together. Read together. Seek godly counsel together. And most importantly, communicate! There are a multitude of gates and parameters you both can place in your lives to fortify yourselves against this horrendous sin. But the central and most important key is to not keep this a secret! Even when it is a known issue. Keep bringing it up! Not naggingly, but out of genuine desire to extinguish this idolatrous fire. And if you’re honest with yourself, God sees you every time you watch it. The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, watching the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3). And “no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). So while I am exhorting you to abstain from secrecy, remember that if you’re not worried about God and how he feels about pornography, you’re probably not going to give much care to being ashamed and open about it to your spouse.

And if you’re not married, then you must find a godly saint(s) that you trust will pray for you, check in on you, and will provoke you to holiness. Tell them about your failure to be holy. Let them know your desire to no longer fight this alone. Hopefully one of the person(s) you trust is an elder or mature counselor in the church that can provide godly wisdom and a course of action. But whoever you choose, also remember that they are not a suitable substitute for genuine conviction from the Holy Spirit. The idea of an “accountability partner” is not what I’m proposing here. This sin is a heart issue. Period! If someone wants to watch porn bad enough, they will find a way. This is only a means for you to expose this sin in the hopes that you can deprive it of the strength that it so powerfully gains in secret. Just like the most disgusting of creatures and fungus tend to thrive in the darkest and dampest areas, so does this sin fester and thrive. And it isn’t until the area is uncovered, exposed, and aired out do the creatures scatter and the fungus dies.

Conclusion

If you are a man, you know the internal battle we must fight daily against lust. But now this isn’t just a man thing. Women are not facing this issue to. And as I already stated, this is a heart issue. So if you want to gain an upper hand, don’t allow this secret sin to flourish any longer in the dark recesses of your heart and on your hard drive. And since we are dealing with the internet here (for the most part), the data is already collected somewhere when you are searching these sites. So nothing is exactly private no matter what the “private search” option says on your phone or desktop. But what we need to remember is that if it God is who we aim to please, then we must go before Him in confession, faith, and repentance in order to overcome this, with a strong follow up by making no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14). And that we must expose this sin through communion with Christ, gospel-centered fellowship, communicating with our spouses, and availing ourselves of the means of grace God has provided in the Scriptures. My wife and I resolved to take these steps to protect ourselves long ago. By the grace of God, I pray that you will do it in yours.

 

– Until we go home

Is Your Wife Your First Ministry?

I holistically support men who support their families. Men who make discipleship and love a priority for the home. The home is one of the central building blocks for a society, and the marriage is the sun by which everything in the home orbits. Having said this, there are many priorities that pastors, open air preachers, and everyday christian men have that may sometimes burden us. We can become anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed with the multiple obligations that we are to tend to. And yes, wives are included in this list of feelings. And the one thing that is not helpful are Christian cliches like, “Your wife is your first ministry.” It has a nice ring to it, and for the most part it is well meaning, but it does not properly convey the responsibilities and obligations a Christian may face on a day to day basis. It has also been abused by certain preachers that wish to exclude certain men from ministry.

I have attached a blogtalk episode that I and a pastor friend of mine recorded about this topic. My hope is that we would all take into consideration the biblical model of men not just in ministry, but just being men in general. Here is the narrative and link of the episode below.

“On this exciting episode of G220 radio, George will be joined by Pastor Tom Shuck from Pilgrim Bible Church. Pastor Shuck is a graduate of Master’s Seminary and Columbia Evangelical Seminary and was a missionary to India for 12 years. He holds both a Masters of Divinity (MDiv.) and a Doctorate of Ministry (DMin.). He has been a pastor of Pilgrim Bible Church for 4 years and helped start a seminary in India as well as planted a church there. He enjoys sports, music, family trips, and George’s personal favorite, linguistics. He has evangelized in cities like Oakland, Orlando, Mumbai, Pune training believers how to evangelize, preach the gospel, and make disciples. His wife is Lisa Shuck and two children.”

“This episode we’ll explore the cliche “Your wife is your first ministry.” Is it Scriptural? Are there other primary biblical responsibilities? Can you make ministry your idol or mistress? What should a man who is called to preach do with this kind of cliche? What about missionaries and evangelists of old that we look up to that sacrificed much, even their marriages, for the gospel? What about Matthew 22:35-40, 1 Corinthians 7:32-34, Ephesians 5:22-33, and 1 Timothy 3:5?”

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/g220radionetwork/2016/05/10/ep-157-is-your-wife-your-first-ministry

-Until we go home