Thursday, March 26, 2009

Afghanistan on the way to Eternity

The internet is probably not big enough to include all that one could say about Brett Hershey, who died 4 years ago today by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. One awesome site is a good start. After 4 years one of the more difficult, or strange, things to come to grips with is the fact that Brett hasn’t aged with us these last 4 years. We have now experienced the time equivalent of college since he died, and Hersh has been somewhere else. I worry that it will be harder to remember him as we get older because our memories with him will be longer ago, and at a time before we had experienced much of life. There will be less to relate with him, it seems.

But then, I retreat from that line of thinking as God flips my worry on its side and reminds me that the life Brett exemplified is the life we will never leave behind. In his loyalty, love, commitment, and passion he demonstrated not only what we should be like as we interact with friends in college, but also what we should be like as we experience marriage, and a family of our own. In his energy and humor and joy he demonstrated not only the way we should have fun as kids, but also the way we should trust Jesus above worry even in the midst of serious circumstances, and be prepared to do it with a giggle. In his boldness and consistent friendship, we see not only how we should witness to fraternity brothers who prioritize sex and alcohol over relationships with people and with God, but also how we should live and share our faith among our co-workers, family, and friends into our old age who prioritize the American dream over everything.

In his craziness, we see the unpredictable but wonderful sovereignty of God; in his consistency, we see the unchanging character and love of our Lord and Savior; in his death, we see one who would lay down his life for his friends. We will always see Jesus, and that will always be more than enough to relate with, no matter how old we are or how different our experiences become. So somehow, miraculously, Brett will always be the same age and place as us, and his example will transcend circumstance and become simply a relevant, biblical, profound representation of Jesus Christ. That’s pretty cool.


I tried to articulate to his parents the impact he had on me in the following letter written a month or so after his death:

“I am a fraternity brother of Brett, graduated in 2003, and good friends with a lot of the people, I’m sure, whom you’ve met and from whom heard so much about what an example and friend Brett was in the Sigma Chi house at IU. When I became a Christian, as a junior, Brett was an instrumental person who encouraged me in my early struggles of balancing new life in Christ with the fraternity world. I never could believe how lucky I was to have, as a young Christian, the solid and unbreakable fellowship of four other guys right down the hall in my fraternity: Bob and Dave Ravensberg, Matt Jackson, and Brett. Brett challenged me in my faith, listened to me, laughed with me, and talked with me about eternal things at a time and place that so many college students would consider unthinkable.

My senior year, Brett’s sophomore year, we would alternate leading bible studies in the house. I didn’t tell him enough, but it is plainly true that so many guys would come to the study simply because Brett asked them. He just asked them! I would internally be disappointed when not many guys came but never considered what might happen if I’d ask, if I’d invest the time and potential awkwardness. Brett was as cool as the other side of the pillow when he’d speak the Gospel, and he would back it up with Godly living and solid friendship. Brett simplified but also magnified Christ-centered evangelism in the fraternity. He knew that our brothers are incurably spiritual, he invested in them, and they responded because he showed them the person of Jesus Christ, and the person of Jesus Christ is irresistibly desirable. Brett’s example and friendship is so powerfully convicting for me because I see how strong his faith was that God would bless his time, and his efforts in reaching out to the guys. And He did, and many now know, and many still will know, Jesus through Brett’s example.

I can’t imagine how hard it still must be to think about, and to experience, life without Brett. The night I heard that Brett was called home, I was alone at my parents’ house, and the first two hours after the news was very hard, but also an unbelievably significant point in my Christian walk. And I hope it can be to you, as encouraging as it was for me, that God clearly and plainly led me to a specific passage of Scripture that is now both my personal charge and my most apparent articulation of Brett’s example in my life. I love you guys, even though we’ve never met, and I pray that God will continue to comfort you and bring you joy in the gigantic impact that He has brought through Brett for His glory and His kingdom. And He has so much more to do.”


This passage I refer to is amazing, and I will never forget the comfort, shock, and Holy Spirit power I experienced when God specifically revealed it to me through tears hours after I learned of Brett’s passing. The first part of it is the most apparent articulation of Brett’s example in my life:

“Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

For Brett, he gained. He gained! What a miracle. For us, and specifically for me, a personal charge then jumps off the page in the verses that follow, especially in light of Brett’s example:

“If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I do? I do not know! I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ will overflow on account of me.”

It is more necessary for you.

It is for others, that we remain. Not for ourselves. Our gain is to come.

That is what Brett left with me, and I will labor not to forget it. No Natalie Grant song, though sung perfectly by his sister at his memorial service and still a comfort today, nor this tribute blog post, though hopefully a blessing to some, could ever do justice to the example he left or the Christ he gained. Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

For my part, I will continue to rejoice.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Decade without Big John

I have no idea where to start this post. The subject is incredible and tragic and mind-boggling. But it is true, that 10 years ago today I, with hundreds of others of my classmates from Lawrence North High School, witnessed in shocking fashion the collapse and death of our friend, Big John Stewart. We witnessed it at an emotional high for well-meaning high school students in the state of Indiana: the beginning of a run to a likely basketball state championship. We witnessed it as fragile, sensitive, young, inexperienced kids. We witnessed it as fans. We witnessed it as teammates, classmates, and friends. And we have never been the same.

Personally, my spiritual growth since then has been monumental and already adequately covered on this blog if you have been a part. I don’t know that I would do justice to the experience of March 1999 with the in depth theological, psychological, or emotional explanation that I could attempt to offer here of my perspective of this tragedy. That it was a pivotal (even arguably the pivotal) event in my testimony of conversion to Christianity is an understatement.

What I thought I would do instead in remembrance on this, the 10th anniversary, is list some of the most memorable parts of the experience for me, which hopefully many of you reading can specifically identify with. I remember some of the details so well. And then also, share with you the youth sermon I gave at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church sometime late spring 1999. I was 18 years old, and although this may sound strange to some, not a converted believer and follower of Jesus Christ. Looking back, if I were to give the same sermon today, I would maybe change some things, and maybe go more in depth with the theological implications of some of my points, but in general, the clarity, faithfulness, and consistency to Scripture in it blows my mind to this day. The words were not entirely my own.


- Sunday, March 14, 1999 deciding and leading through tears and confusion how to handle coverage of the tragedy in The North Star, our weekly high school newspaper.

- Nathan Proud, our mascot, leading prayer with the student section at the game while John was still on the court, unconscious.

- Finding out from a journalist outside the arena after the game that he had died (we had no idea), and the individual (and very different) reactions of the friends I was with at the time: Scott Shadiow, Bryan Sirbu, and Alaina Williams.

- Big John laughing at me before the game because an underclassman was in my seat, and wondering what I was going to do about it.

- 22 points and 13 rebounds in less than 3 quarters.

- Talking to my parents, while they were in bed, late that night after all the events at the school, after the game, had ended, and being at an utter loss for words.

- Hugging my friends and John’s teammates at the school after the game, and feeling a very unique bond that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. There seemed to be a shared, equal emotion among those who knew John very well, very little, or not at all.

- Hanging out at the school the next day also, because nobody wanted to do anything else except talk, remember, laugh, and grieve with our friends.

- Seeing some of the most popular, athletic, and masculine boys on the team and in the school, cry uncontrollably.

- The face of my good friend Pam Bender, a year older than me, at my door some days after, who had experienced the joys and struggles of Lawrence North basketball and a connection to John and the team in the years prior, at a level to which few can compare.

- Hearing the high school fight song at his funeral as his body was carried out of the gym by his teammates


God, grant me the wisdom to think, speak, and act each day as You want me to. May I never question Your wisdom or teachings. Amen.

On March 12, 1999 I experienced two simultaneous, indescribable tragedies. In a matter of a couple minutes not only did the high school basketball season that was responsible for my ideal senior year come to an end, but so did the life of a young, incredibly friendly and remarkably talented man named John Stewart. I never thought I could go from a period of being so happy to being so sad in such a short time. The emotions I felt those next couple of days were difficult to describe; mostly because they were difficult to diagnose. I honestly had NO idea how to react. As I look back on that depressing week, I think that I can probably consider it the low point of my life. But, I also think I can consider it the turning point of my life, because of the wisdom it instilled in me concerning the importance of faith.

I would like to share a short poem that was found in the pamphlet at the funeral of John H. Stewart III:

“The call was sudden, the shock was severe.
We never dreamed such grief was near.
Only those who have lost can tell,
The pain of parting, without a farewell.
We miss you now, our hearts are sore,
As time goes by, we’ll miss you more.
We cannot Lord, Your purpose see,
But all is well that is done by thee.”

As an 18 year old high school student I have experienced a lot in my life. But on March 12, 1999 I discovered that I have also not experienced a lot. On this day, not only did I experience the unexpected death of a friend for the first time, but also, I witnessed it first hand. Every night, before and since that day, I thank God for all my blessings; and the wisdom I gain each and every day is included as one of those blessings. I suppose the death of my classmate John Stewart made me a wiser man, as hard as that is for me to think about. And I suppose his death strengthened in me, the most important aspect of wisdom: my faith in God and the Lord our Savior Jesus Christ.

It seems mildly ironic that tragedy and the loss of life can strengthen faith in God in your own life. But, the way I look at it, this is the only rational reaction. As it is said, God works in mysterious ways. Faith did not promise to be easy, and completely free of sorrow. But faith does promise to bring eternal life. It seems to me that we have to feel glad for victims of tragedy because of their entrance into eternal life, and almost look forward to our chance to do the same, without, of course, forgetting to get the most out of every second we are here, and remembering not to take advantage of the blessings God has given us; most important of which, LIFE. Physical and mental existence in itsef should never be underrated.

When I think of the poor students from Littleton, Colorado, and the horrendous tragedy that they all experienced, I once again wonder and angry and confused, “why?” But I also, without taking any sorrow away from the situation, remember what I believe and have learned about God and the importance of faith.

The night of John Stewart’s death, my dad wrote the following selection:

“Maybe God fears that when we begin to feel immortal, we will lose faith in Him. And sometimes, He must make us realize how fragile we are; how truly mortal we are. It forces Him to cause us to grieve for a mortal life He has taken to join Him in eternal life. He reminds us that our earthly life is short, and that we must have faith in Him, through Jesus Christ, to share in His eternal life.”

A couple years ago Rev. Earl Whepley gave a sermon I will never forget. In his sermon he offered a refreshing explanation for tragedy and a comforting answer to the much-asked question “why?” He explained that in the after-life, those who believe in God and His Son Jesus Christ, are handsomely “paid-back”, if you will, for the lack of a joyful life on earth. Or, in simpler terms, he explained heaven as a luxury that all who believe in Him have the opportunity to experience, and that it is SO great, that it wipes away even the most horrendous tragedy experienced on earth.

In today’s reading from 1 Peter it says:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing in Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad, and shout for joy when His glory is revealed.”

I have no doubt in my mind that God has a detailed plan for all of our lives. And in my opinion, the death of John Stewart presented further evidence to support this conclusion. The father of a friend of mine from school noticed that John played for exactly 5 minutes and 35 seconds of the third quarter of the basketball game which he collapsed and never regained consciousness. He decided, out of divine intuition perhaps, to look up the Bible verse John 5:35. What he found was shocking. It says, “He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.” Further, the King James translation reads, “He was a burning and shining light, an ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.” The connection was unbelievable, to say the least.

Like I said before, I am young, and have not experienced death to the extent others have, and to the extent that I know I will have to one day. But, I will not let myself be afraid of death; whether it be death of a loved one or my own. Because faith provides the opportunity not to be afraid.

It is reasonable to say that faith can prove difficult in certain situations. But it is in these times when it is the most important. I’ve always believed that life is only as complex as a person is willing to make it. And Christianity offers a very simple promise: Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and have faith in God and you will receive eternal life. As the youth minister at my friend’s church would say, “How can you say no to that?”

God truly does work in mysterious ways. We, as mortal beings, cannot question those ways, but respect them, and most importantly, be thankful for them. Amen.


What I have learned since then, among other things, is that John Stewart, somewhat like John the Baptist, was a lamp, which burned and gave light for a time, in his own unique, comfortably awkward and uncompromisingly friendly way. But the next verses in John 5 is what really matters, and is what I leave you with today. You were, and are, my friend, larger than life, and we will remember you.

“I (Jesus) have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.

I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”


Friday, March 6, 2009

The False Idol of Options

So I have a confession.

I watched the antics on The Bachelor this week. I had heard some hype, I had caught bits and pieces in the weeks prior, one of the girls (Molly) is a Pi Phi from IU and a sorority sister of some friends, and I had found myself inside the discussion of rumors about massive drama and spoiled endings. The amount of facebook status updates the night of the finale mentioning the outcome made it clear that the show is a relevant (or at least popular) part of our culture. As an amateur commentator on the culture, I felt obligated to partake. I like to be able to speak intelligently (sometimes, sarcastically) at the proverbial water cooler. So, what the heck? I still was able to watch my mighty Hoosiers give a valiant effort against a Top 10 team, so the extra time could be wasted watching a show that will at worst cause others to doubt my masculinity. Obviously I don’t care what others think. I care about Christ. And I hope He is glorified in this post.

First question I had after the finale shouldn’t surprise you: Is this show serious? Is it real? Honestly, stop me right now if it’s fake (which even if it is, the point of this post has some validity, and so I’ll risk being gullible. You can’t stop me anyway). I mean, c’mon. I laughed multiple times, which sounds cruel.

No one would allow this to happen on national television. They would make an exception. They wouldn’t specifically replace the “after the final rose” show that is supposed to be a celebration of love and commitment with a mockery and terrifying representation of all that is wrong with our culture’s understanding of marriage and love. They wouldn’t allow the sensitivity and delicateness and beauty of a woman’s heart be the casualty in the wake of the “reward” of dramatic television and national rankings. They wouldn’t so obviously present the exact opposite of the way that the Sovereign God of the Universe created us, and call it entertainment. That would be appalling and ridiculous, albeit dramatic, even for a secular television show. They wouldn’t do that. Reality television hasn’t sunk that low. Simon Cowell can tell emotional teenagers that they are horrible and hopeless, but not this. People can be humiliated for their weight every week, but not this. Late night talk shows and morning news programs wouldn’t casually laugh about the “bachelor bombshell”, ignoring the hurt experienced and hopeless statement that was being made about our culture. No, it couldn’t have been real.

Well, I guess it could have been worse. They could have already been married. Maybe that would have been the line. They wouldn’t have aired that interaction. Right? So then the damage control effort the night after the finale was respectable. The new happy couple seems well and good. All is not lost. But much still is.

Let’s be clear. I don’t know why I watched this show. I had other things to do and I take seriously my manhood. This is not great PR. Immediately after watching I grilled a T-bone steak outside in the cold with no shirt and a tallboy to make myself feel better. And even if I was somehow sucked in, I could have easily not told anyone and not felt guilty about being dishonest. I didn't have to post on it. But I guess I just don’t care what you think. I feel a deep conviction to be a voice in the wilderness and bring into this psychotic culture the most true, helpful, soul-satisfying reality in the universe: Jesus Christ. So in the strange and humiliating sovereignty of God, I watched. And I didn’t like what I saw, thought this needed to be said, I opted to tell someone, and I chose the World Wide Web. Hence you are now reading my first (perhaps only) post on dating and relationships. Yikes.

As a disclaimer, I am single. I hope that makes this a lot more personal and non-judgmental and blissfully ignorant. I live my own bachelor experience, and let me tell you: it is nothing like the show. Sometimes I think it is helpful to hear a wise perspective on singleness and dating from someone who, well, is single, because it seems like they would know something about the topic. So if you are single, I hope this can be that for you. If you’re married, the naïveté of this post is maybe laughable to you. That’s ok; you can let me figure it all out on my own. Laugh away.

Being outside of marriage, I can give an honest and pure declaration to every single (unmarried) girl in the world: I believe (and hope!) love is more than feelings, and if I ask you to marry me, I will honor and fight for that. I expect and hope for some pretty amazing feelings, but I will not base my commitment entirely on them, because I know some of them may fade, as emotions typically do.

This doesn’t mean I think it is necessary to unwillingly love someone you don’t have feelings for. This doesn’t mean I think chemistry is unimportant (it is necessary!). This doesn't mean that I think romance ends at any point in a marriage. If you don’t have feelings, don’t commit. If there is bad chemistry, don’t commit. If you don't have the guts or the vulnerability or the desire (or whatever it takes) to romance your wife, don't commit. Once a commitment is made, though, feelings are a bonus, not the main deal. Once a commitment is made, and somewhere down the road chemistry is affected by a fight or a challenge or whatever, that doesn’t mean you bail. Once a commitment is made, realize that romance is not entirely spontanteous, and if it seems to be lacking, that is probably your fault, not hers. It is the same way with Jesus. If love were just about feelings, what a waste. Is that all Jesus’s relationship with His Church is about? Warm and fuzzy? He died because he felt butterflies when he saw us? That is not life-changing or heart-transforming or kingdom-building. That is blasphemy. That is not love. And it doesn’t make much sense anyway considering our sinfulness and inconsistency.

So the issue is not that “the bachelor” changed his mind. The issue is that he became so overwhelmed and confused with his “feelings” that he made a commitment that was false. That is a very bad example. We should be warned. Sure, the commitment of engagement is not quite as binding as the commitment of marriage, so it is admirable that he figured things out before that, but still it is very bad. Fortunately, in the real world, most do not (or could not) put themselves in the situation of falling for two women at the same time (and who both seem to fall for you also – how is this possible, by the way? How could you fall in love with someone who was also falling for someone else?). So maybe the culture is safe from this kind of debacle, and the show is just irrelevant entertainment. More likely though, the example on the show is a watered down version of the brokenness in our swinging / hooking up culture, and it is feeding an already unhealthy perspective of love. That is very bad.

This is not a post on the entire biblical teaching on marriage. Nor is this an exposition on the Song of Songs, and an explanation on whether that book is spiritual allegory or a literal celebration of romance and sex in the context of marriage (or both!) That I will wait to do if and when. This is also not so much a post about love, in the sense of loving our neighbor. I hope that much of that comes up in any other post. This is a plea to not let the reality of love between a man and a woman as taught in the Bible be thrown out with the filthy bath water of reality television. This is a plea to single men to begin to understand the loving part of Ephesians 5 as much if not more than the submitting part. This is a plea to single women to wait for someone who understands love, not just feelings.

I guess the premise of the show was bound to culminate in the disaster of this finale. Unfortunately, this time a person who seems to be a really nice girl with a big heart was the victim. Little did I know that this show has been going on for 13 seasons, and only one couple is still together. Seriously? Little good can happen when you present the concept of love and the pursuit of the holy union of marriage as a selection process. As Mark Dever says, having multiple options is an idol our culture worships to our own destruction. What this basically means is that if we are constantly preoccupied with what could be, from our own selfish, worldly perspective, we will miss what already is, and never experience the relational, loving, sacrificial reality of how God created us. Its not surprising that most of the bachelors or bachelorettes on the show so far have questioned their final decision; if you had 20+ perfect specimens to chose from, of course you are going to consider "what if" with the other options. Maybe the show wouldn't be so ridiculous if it was more about casual dating, and did not require a proposal at the end. That wouldn't be as good television I guess.

Obviously it is possible (though not advisable) to develop romantic feelings for more than one person at the same time. To intentionally orchestrate this is in the form of a TV show is absurd, however entertaining it may be. But you can only “love” one or neither, and I guess Jason was really confused about that concept six weeks ago. And that is a shame. Clearly what was different since his “proposal” with Melissa had nothing to do with Melissa and had everything to do with his remaining “feelings” for Molly. This is not wrong in and of itself, but considering his well-thought out decision to say goodbye to Molly and propose to, and profess his unending love for, Melissa, it represents everything that is wrong with the modern perspective of dating.

As a Christian man, I try to live the truth in the Bible that teaches when we “date”, we should be less concerned with finding the perfect fit for me, and more concerned with becoming the perfect fit for her. Because the “list” will never be completely fulfilled, and we will waste our lives thinking only about ourselves, never make up our mind, and miss the opportunity and eternal joy that comes from serving and loving her. But as I said, the premise of the show made the dramatic outcome almost inevitable, so it’s not Jason’s fault. Right? It’s what the producers have probably been planning all along anyway.

I think it’s time for our culture to stop worrying about who is at fault, and start worrying about what is happening to the most wise, true, and helpful explanation of the universe. Why do we have to ignore the Bible so blatantly when the alternative is a mess? We laugh about in movies like Wedding Crashers the friendly wager about which bible verse will be read at a wedding, and ignore the same verse that could show us the reality that would avoid the pain, confusion, and heartache of broken commitments.

If Jason ever reads this, I hope you find Jesus and someday truly understand His love for you. It is unchanging and unconditional. If Molly ever reads this, I hope you can find the same, and can forgive and encourage Jason daily in the midst of that reality. If Melissa ever reads this, I hope you know and soon realize (or at least begin to anticipate) the riches and blessings that await those whose hearts are fully committed to Him (Jesus). It will all be worth it.

At the end of the day, I don’t think the tragedy is that Jason is in love with Molly instead of Melissa, though for some reason we sympathize much easier with Melissa. The tragedy is that Jason let feelings talk him into a commitment he was not ready for, and we consider this relatively normal. Deeper than that, the tragedy is that a show exists on the premise of falling in love with multiple people and then choosing based on feelings and emotions (which are sometimes hard to discern), where not only are broken commitments a very likely possibility, but they are broadcast for the world to see. And deeper yet, the tragedy is that girls actually submit themselves to this, because they feel they don’t have any other choice, and feel like it is worth it. Maybe because of that, I should be less concerned with their broken hearts and more concerned with the broken culture, and with the men who have chosen women to date and marry based on statistics and feelings, rather than love and commitment; who have in turn given girls the impression that the former is the only option; and who have been the source of countless broken relationships, which have scattered families and crippled our society.

I’m confident Melissa will be ok, especially considering her perspective. Jason and Molly can now pursue a normal, real-life relationship, where there are no divided feelings, and where hopefully they can model what love is supposed to be. The corruption the show entered into their life and relationship is now over. Thank God. But thousands of unnamed single women have been subconsciously deceived about the nature of love, and thousands of lazy men have been further encouraged in their laziness, all in the name of entertainment. That’s just great.

Or it was all an act. Probably. (Hopefully!) But the damage could be the same.

Either way, I will live and love only through the example, and only by the grace, and only because of the Cross, of Jesus Christ. From that, I don’t think the “feelings” that are experienced will disappoint.

But what do I know. (I'm glad this post is over).

Monday, March 2, 2009

My Face

I know. I’m so creative and witty that I just blew your mind. Alas, I can’t take credit for this affectionate identification of social networking as “my face”. It was my dear friend, Debbie Peters, the wife of the man who actually also coincidentally can take credit for one of the slogans mentioned in the random list below (hint: it also mentions face). I surround myself with creative, funny people. It’s just what I do. Not that the combination of MySpace and Facebook into a single phrase was an insurmountable connection to make. Still it is brilliant.

I plunged into facebook, probably 50% unwillingly, in May 2008. Despite my hesitation and reluctance, it has been mostly a good experience. Perhaps you are reading this blog because you linked to it from my face, er, I mean my profile. That is reason alone that I am thankful for it. Yet, I acknowledge in my sinfulness that I have not been immune to its time-wasting power. So I have been very interested and encouraged to come across helpful words about how to use facebook, and social networking in general, biblically, and for the glory of God. It could take you up to 30 minutes to read through this post and these links. I bet that is less time than you’ll spend on facebook today. And there will be a surprise at the end if you do. What do you say? These first two lists come from Justin Buzzard.


1. Don’t use status updates to complain. For many, complaining has become a trend on Facebook. With their status updates, many people broadcast consistent grumbles, like: “Joe is bored,” “Joe can’t wait to leave his stupid job,” or “Joe is exhausted.” By all means, be real, be honest and authentic, but beware of the culture of complaint.

2. Don’t measure your worth/identity by the number of your Facebook friends and interactions. Facebook measurements are the opposite of gospel measurements. Facebook tells you that the more Facebook friends and interactions you have, the more important, loved, and accepted you are. The gospel tells sinners an opposite message: no matter how lonely, unpopular, or unnoticed you might feel, in Jesus you are more loved, accepted, and noticed than you can imagine.

3. Don’t value forming Facebook (virtual) friendships more than real world friendships.

4. Don’t diminish your face-to-face time with people to check what’s going on in your Facebook world. If you’ve ever been out to dinner with friends and found yourself anxious to pull away and check out what’s happening on Facebook, you know what I’m talking about.

5. Don’t be someone online you’d never be in person. Let Facebook reflect the real you, not some pseudo-personality that emerges when you’re alone with your computer.

6. Don’t hurt and exclude others (intentionally or unintentionally) through use of applications such as “Top Friends.” Likewise, don’t become jealous of others having conversations without you. Be patient and gracious with potential misunderstandings that inevitably happen in cyberspace. When you spot something on Facebook that causes feelings of hurt or jealousy, assume the best.

7. Don’t allow Facebook and online life in general to make you a more distracted person. If you’ve noticed that use of Facebook and online life—constant change, updates, movement, and hyperlinks—has made it more difficult for you to sit down and read a book for one hour, you’d benefit from stepping back and evaluating how this technology is affecting you.

8. Don’t allow Facebook to tempt you away from your calling and work. Don’t let Facebook’s little status updates (“Lisa is chewing gum”) and Wall writings take your focus off the great and big things that your heart should be engaged in, namely the work that God has put you on earth to do.

9. Don’t let Facebook cause you to think about yourself more than you already do. You were created to look outside yourself toward God, other people, and the wonder-filled world he has made for you to enjoy and cultivate.


1. Use Facebook to get back in touch with far-away friends, showing them how Jesus has changed you. As Facebook has reconnected me with friends from my past, a number have been struck by how much I’ve changed. High school friends from Sacramento regularly express shock at learning that I’m a pastor.

2. Use Facebook as an extension of face-to-face relationships and to enhance time with people. Get to know people and love and care for them better when you’re with them because, through Facebook, you know more about who they are and what’s going on in their lives.

3. Use Facebook to take the focus off of yourself. Facebook can actually help you get outside of yourself and your problems. Next time you login, use the time to focus on creatively listening to, loving, and encouraging others. Approach Facebook thinking about what you can give.

4. Use Facebook to sharpen and discipline what you do with your time. Facebook status updates can serve as a form of built-in accountability. Just knowing that my Facebook community can read my updates provides additional motivation to stay on task and actually do what I say I’m doing.

5. Use Facebook to quickly announce and facilitate great face-to-face gatherings. Instead of taking 45 minutes to call 10 people to come over for a spontaneous evening, use Facebook.

6. Use Facebook to influence other people for Jesus. Create a new culture with your status updates. Use them to love, encourage, teach, and challenge people.

Also, check out this series of posts by John Younts that cover topics entitled: Facebook and You, Post Only What is Helpful, It's Just Facebook, Facebook and Friends, and Facebook and Your Time. Very interesting and helpful stuff. Finally, don't ignore the perspective from one of the most steady guides in our culture today, Albert Mohler: Facebook Turns Five.

Now you can never complain again about not enough stuff to read. And just to reward your efforts, allow me to plunge into the chain that has become almost as widespread as the internet itself, and which everybody who is anybody on facebook has done:


1. I took piano lessons for 7 years when I was a kid and received a hand-me-down upright from my aunt for my living room, and it turns out the 7 years didn’t really pay off.

2. I am a macaroni-and-cheese connoisseur. Recently, I was greeted upon arriving late for dinner with a plate of lobster mac and cheese. I was so taken aback I almost passed up on the plate. Now, I expect and hope to be greeted that way whenever I am late to dinner.

3. My mood in the winter is almost directly related to the success of Indiana basketball and the amount of snow on the ground. The latter is manageable and the former is not. In other words, I’ll be more fun when this winter is over.

4. My sense of humor and comedic timing is all thanks to Jerry Seinfeld. Take it or leave it.

5. My biggest passion is seeing the Gospel of Jesus Christ become the most relevant message in our culture. If it doesn’t become this, I will still proclaim and demonstrate it anyway. I believe it already is the most true.

6. My second biggest passion is cutting foam. Not manufacturing, just cutting.

7. If I could quote myself (which is an awesome thing to do, especially as the opener to a speech or sermon – “I once said….) it would be this, in response to a vendor’s question to why I chose the foam industry: “My life is not characterized by what I do for a living.” I went on to explain that this means I could have done anything – but I just happened to like business and just happened to have a solid, unique family connection to cutting (not manufacturing, just cutting) foam. I love foam, but it is not what characterizes my life.

8. I love when my friends make a big deal (even sarcastically) about the fact that my family business is cutting (not manufacturing, just cutting) foam. I welcome slogan ideas. So far my favorites are: “You’re sitting on our face" and “The competition just doesn’t cut it.”

9. I have a lot of trouble deciding what to have for lunch everyday. It’s a big problem. Just make the decision for me. And make sure it’s something I like and more specifically, something I’m in the mood for that day. Subway is a bad guess.

10. I arrange much of my life around having the smallest amount of change as possible. I hate it. If my meal at Panera is $9.10 and I don’t have a dime, it’s not a pretty sight. Every resturant and store needs a ‘Feed the Hungry’ dish.

11. I really want to see a moose in the wild.

12. In my opinion, the best reality TV show is, without question, So You Think You Can Dance. I’m serious. Incidentally, my answer if that were a question is no.

13. I’m terrible at leaving phone messages. It would almost make you think I was scared of you. I'm not, for the record. Don’t be offended if I don’t leave one.

14. When I was less self-controlled with alcohol, I was known to fall asleep sitting up (with good posture), slur my speech, and overall be a “cute drunk”. From this, among other things, I’ve learned to lay down when I sleep (but still sit with good posture), enunciate and be articulate, and not be ashamed to be described as cute. And drink less. College was educational.

15. The ShamWow is the biggest scam in the history of consumer products. It has to be.

16. I’ve developed a very unexpected fascination with sun-dried tomatoes.

17. Ribeirao Preto, Brazil is the farthest south I’ve been, and Edinburgh, Scotland is the farthest north. I wish I could say I’ve been everywhere in between. My favorite places to consistently go are, in no particular order: Southern Florida, Northwestern Michigan, Atlanta, and Chicago. Bloomington is precious. I would go to New York again, all over California, and back to Brazil anytime you're free. Colorado, New Zealand, Africa, elsewhere in South America, and Western Europe are hopefully in my future. India and China are not out of the conversation. Norway I hear is underestimated. Every American should go to Alaska and Hawaii. Canada and Russia are not trips I would plan, but you let me know. I'll be in Indianapolis.

18. I believe the Bible is inerrant and authoritative, and that this truth is not just important, but very helpful.

19. I hate being interrupted in either business, church, or other moderately serious contexts. My contributions to these types of conversations are usually very thought-out and have a purpose, and sometimes require patience, some buildup, and maybe a punch line.

20. I ran the 800m in 2:38 in 7th grade. That’s pretty good. Since then, I choose not to run.

21. My wardrobe may or may not be the subject of much debate and some sarcasm. I did, however, recently purchase a pair of blue jeans from a fashionable department store that will remain nameless.

22. I have not come to grips at all with the fact that many of my best friends have children, though I act like I have.

23. I can not, and probably will not, play euchre. I’ve held out this long. In general, I dislike non-sport games and prefer conversation. There is nothing better than going out to eat with friends or family, in my book.

24. Things I was dragged kicking and screaming (figuratively) into: facebook, blu-ray discs, digital cable (almost), and Christianity. In hindsight, all of these things are pretty cool.

25. I’ve been to almost as many funerals for people younger than me as I have for those older. And while this is deeply tragic, the grace, superiority, and truth of Jesus Christ has not been absent from these situations, these people’s lives, or my growth throughout.

26. I think the four most important things in the world to know and respond to are the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, the preeminence of the Bible, and the centrality of Calvary. I am prepared to die on the hill of the Bible being true and Jesus being everything. I do not know a more loving way to approach life and relationships than this.

27. I have been told I look like Reggie Miller and Tony Dungy. I’m not sure what to make of this, but it can’t be all bad. Also, whats his name from Toy Story. Whatever.

Twenty seven is the new twenty five. See you on myface.