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SPIRITUAL WARFARE

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every though captive to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:3-5).

Paul’s admonition to the follower of Christ in the conclusion of these verses is to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” It doesn’t take a man much effort to conclude that he can only entertain one individual thought at any given time. He may quickly rotate between a few different thoughts at a rapid pace, but only one thought can be on the “screen” of a man’s mind at any given time.

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Don’t Look Back

Jesus tells us “…..No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

This passage is commonly understood as referring to one who begins a work only to regret the decision, wishing to retreat from the work at hand. He who does not count the cost and desires to take his hand off the plough (i.e. the work of God), forfeits his assurance that he belongs to the King.

While this is a reasonable exegesis of the passage and holds true in its application, there is another understanding, rooted in the agricultural environment in which the writers of the gospel lived that also contains an additional weighty application.

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How Should the Believer Relate to Smart Phones and Social Media? (Part 3)

The attached is the concluding article of the 3 part series of the believer’s relationship to social media and smart phones. If you missed parts 1 and 2, click on the authors section within this website and click on Scott Bangert. It will take you to Part 1 and Part 2. At the end of this Part 3 are some questions for your thinking as you consider the ramifications of Scott’s challenge.

Part 3 of 3: The Mind and Heart Conquered

Comparison

2 Corinthians 4:17

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”

According to the Declaration of Independence, one of the most basic rights of human beings is “the pursuit of happiness.” It is therefore not surprising that the desire to be happy is highly valued in the United States. What is surprising, however, is that psychologists believe that the more likely a person is to value being happy, the less likely he is to attain it. When the desire to be happy becomes extreme and inflexible, it leads to disordered emotional regulation and depression. I believe that I ought to be happy all the time, but I find that reality does not meet my expectations. As I compare my desired emotional state to reality, the gap between the two produces emotional strain. Hence, an extreme pursuit of happiness has the tendency to produce the opposite effect.

Much attention has been focused on the link between smartphone use and depression, particularly among adolescents. This is probably multifactorial, and factors like sleep deprivation and addiction likely play a role. Cyber bullying and the glorification of self-mutilation on social media (teenage girls who post pictures of self-cutting behavior receive a lot of likes) are also probable factors.

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How Should the Believer Relate to Smart Phones and Social Media? (Part 2)

Part 2 of 3: The Mind and Heart Influenced

Delayed Gratification

James 5:7-8

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.”

James commends an unnatural habit to us: waiting for what we want. This is an example of what psychologists call delayed gratification. Delayed gratification is the ability to resist an impulse for immediate reward to receive a more favorable reward later. This is very difficult for most of us. This is the reason why my kids have a hard time waiting until Christmas morning to open their presents (ok, I have a hard time waiting too). Given a choice, we would rather have a reward now rather than later. Psychologists call this delay discounting. The farther away a reward is, the less value it has to us. Hence, the saying, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” It is better to take what you can get now than to risk trying for more in the uncertain future.

Psychologists almost universally agree that delayed gratification is a key characteristic of successful people. As the English proverb says, “good things come to those who wait.” Psychologists also believe that while there are some innate differences in our tendencies toward delayed gratification, our ability to practice delayed gratification can be heavily shaped by our environment. It is a skill that can and should be learned. What is concerning is that smart phones and social media seem to stunt that development by reducing impulse control and increasing delay discounting.

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How Should the Believer Relate to Smart Phones and Social Media? (Part 1)

Part 1 of 3: The Mind and Heart Ensnared

Solomon says, “There is nothing new under the sun.” While I believe he is correct, I have to admit to some wavering doubts when I think about how much life has changed since the first iPhone was released in 2007.

I have friends who frequently talk about throwing their phone in a lake, and while I can understand their perspective, I can’t say that I can personally relate. I love my phone. I would part from it only for an upgrade. I definitely did not associate phones with anxiety and fear. That completely changed when my children started asking for phones of their own.

When I was a kid, one of the biggest dangers I was warned about was guns, and my parents made me take a gun safety class before being allowed to handle one. Today, our kids face a different danger: we have to decide when to give our kids smart phones or allow them on social media. This certainly seems like a much less consequential decision, but despite their innocent appearance, I think smart phones are actually more dangerous than guns. Like guns, they have the power to take life (consider teen suicide and distracted driving if you think I am exaggerating), but unlike guns, smart phones have the added danger of luring a person’s soul to hell. As disciples of Christ, we do well to give careful thought to how to avoid these dangers, both for our kids and for ourselves.

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Truth In the Inward Parts

I was recently the recipient of an incredibly painful truth about myself. Specifically, God showed me with stark clarity how much I crave the approval of men rather than Him. The way He revealed it to me left no room for argument; I was guilty as charged. It was then, however, that I felt the desperation that comes with increased knowledge of ourselves.

How was I to do anything about this? It’s not as if I could simply will myself to be better – self reformation is always doomed to failure. This sort of sin in particular is difficult to overcome as it is a hidden sin of the heart rather than one of action.

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The Radical Conundrum Of Christmas

“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:20-23).

The Incarnation was one of God’s greatest miracles. It makes no sense except for the grace of our omnipotent and loving God. Jesus came at a terrible time. The Roman Empire, the greatest power on earth at the time, occupied Israel. Oppressed Israel was a small, insignificant nation without a military. Jesus came in weakness, not in power. He came alone as a baby, the most vulnerable and helpless. Jesus was born to poor, insignificant parents. Moreover, Jesus’s parents were betrothed but not yet married, ensuring that he and they would live under a cloud of gossip and social disapproval all His earthly life.

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THE HIGH PRICE OF GRACE

Matthew 9:6, “’But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—then He said to the paralytic, ‘Get up, pick up your bed and go home.’”

It has been said that Christ came to change the world. If this is so, then He paid a needlessly high price. And His followers, no price at all. This would almost certainly be true if grace and forgiveness were the same thing. To see this important difference consider another Gospel.

Suppose that, instead of being born into obscurity and poverty, Christ entered this world through a wealthy and influential Jewish family, having access to and credibility with the Jewish elite. At the right time He would go to them and demonstrate His miraculous powers, proclaiming Himself to be Messiah and enlisting their aid to bring His kingdom to Israel and the world.

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His Inheritance

We look forward with eagerness of our inheritance as believers in Jesus Christ. It is the ultimate hope that we will spend our eternity in heaven, out of this world and with the Savior. Any temporal inheritance, riches or reward pales in comparison.

We obtain this inheritance only by the gift of the perfect sacrifice by Jesus for our past and future sins as propitiation for God’s required justice. It is this promise that leads us to dependence on Him as none of us can obtain the inheritance by any self-effort or merit.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

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A Broken Heart

“Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:14-15).

As a cross-reference:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

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