Converge https://convergemagazine.com Fri, 15 Dec 2017 22:41:44 +0000 en-CA hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 https://convergemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/converge-logo-round-150x150.png Converge https://convergemagazine.com 32 32 24527642 Three Ways The Devil Uses Social Media https://convergemagazine.com/three-ways-devil-uses-social-media-20264/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=three-ways-devil-uses-social-media https://convergemagazine.com/three-ways-devil-uses-social-media-20264/#respond Fri, 08 Dec 2017 19:43:00 +0000 https://convergemagazine.com/?p=20264 Three Ways The Devil Uses Social Media by Touray Kungkagam

The instantaneous nature of social media platforms gives us the dual power of bringing both blessing and curses on people. Consequently we must learn to walk in wisdom on a daily basis. No other generation in human history has been given the ability to reach so many people for both good and bad purposes.

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Three Ways The Devil Uses Social Media by Touray Kungkagam

Social media is an amazing opportunity to connect with other people. Sadly it is also a new tool used by the devil to ensnare unsuspecting believers into temptation, jealousy, and discord. Early in the morning as I sit on the commuter train going to work I notice the vast majority of people browsing social media on their phones. No one is talking, no one is looking around. Ear phones plugged in with eyes fixated on mostly phones. For the first time in human history we are able to spread ideas and connect with others around the globe with lightning speed. The instantaneous nature of social media platforms gives us the dual power of bringing both blessing and curses on people. Consequently we must learn to walk in wisdom on a daily basis. No other generation in human history has been given the ability to reach so many people for both good and bad purposes.

 

In 2 Corinthians 2:11 the Apostle Paul warns us not to be ignorant of Satan’s schemes and devices. In other words the enemy has certain strategies he uses in order to divide and conquer believers. If the Apostles walked among us today, they would warn the church of the following spiritual dangers faced posed by social media

 

 

Comparison

Humans have always struggled with comparison and jealousy. However platforms such as facebook,  and instagram have taken comparison to an entire new level of jealousy. Recent studies have confirmed that over use of social media leads to unhealthy comparison with others.God created us with the desire for deep meaningful relationships. The use of social media is not inherently bad; however when we lack authentic healthy relationship in our own life we tend to create an idealized version of what life looks like for others. The enemy will fool us to believe that our lives are less romantic, boring, and uninteresting compared to our peers. He will constantly remind us of how unaccomplished, and less appreciated we are if we allow him. If we begin to find ourselves feeling this way, it is time to take a step back and realize that instagram and facebook is not real life. Our online profiles create a false image of a perfect life free of trials and tribulations.When we find ourselves overly engaged with the online world,  perhaps it is time to take a break and do something healthy outside preferably with people.

 

The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:12 “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” When God is our primary standard we can begin to let go of the false expectations that we place on ourselves. Comparing ourselves with others is not wise, and will ultimately lead down a road of unhappiness, regret, and disillusionment with others.

 

 

Inferiority

In past generations people took photos of their children, loved ones, and other events and tucked them away in photo albums and scrapbooks. As a young child I remember looking at old photo albums with my parents. Sparingly we would bring out these photos to share our most treasured memories with family and friends. In the digital media age the importance of photographs have taken on a whole new meaning. People now go on vacations, and do certain types of events simply to get a viral  photograph posted on social media. Our personal lives are no longer part of a personal photo album. We are a generation that has lived our lives publicly through our online persona. I can’t count how many times I have felt inferior to someone else simply because I did not achieve the desired likes on my pictures. If one is not careful they can begin to believe the lies of the enemy that somehow people are not liking their pictures because they don’t like you as a person. This leads to a constant feeling of inferiority and low self worth. On the other extreme comes the temptations of narcissism and selfish behavior.

 

We must remember that we do not know the true thoughts and intentions of others. In order to keep our heart pure we must always assume the best, and take anything posted online with a grain of salt. Furthermore we can guard against feelings of inferiority by checking our own motivations in posting certain types of photos and comments on social media.

 


Division

Social media is a great place to discuss ideas, and at times even challenge systems that oppress others. The online community has given a voice to millions of people worldwide who would otherwise been kept silent in past generations. However it is also a place where unintentionally and sometimes intentionally division between people is encouraged and celebrated. The Apostle James warns us that the tongue is a fire that pollutes the whole person. In our day and age, not only is the tongue a fire, but the things we type on twitter, facebook, and instagram can have the same impact not only on others but on our own soul.

 

We only need to browse the comment section on most news articles to see the division that is being fostered between various factions, and political groups in our society. Unfortunately even well meaning Christians who wish to defend our worldview and faith get caught  in silly controversies that has no positive value on our spiritual health, nor the health of the reader. Sometimes the best way to approach a controversial topic is not through the online community, but in a personal settings. We must come to recognize that oftentimes inflammatory articles, and even news events can be used as bait by Satan to discredit our witness among non those outside the church. Always ask yourself whether you really need to post that article, or comment on that controversial thread. This is why the Apostle Peter warns us in 1 Peter 5:8  to be self controlled, lest we be devoured by our adversary. Getting our point of view, even if it is correct is not worth the damage done to our ability to be a witness in the life of someone who needs to know the love of Christ.


We don’t have to do this alone.

Multiple studies have shown that people are increasingly feeling isolated and alone. The people of God must continue to buck this trend by regularly gathering together, and building authentic community with other people. Through the Body of Christ we are able to build one another up in encouragement, and serve one another as God intended. Although social media has its place, God ultimately created us for real relationships with other people.

 

Finally the scripture tells us in Ephesians 6:11 “put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”. As we navigate the minefield of social media we can be sure that God will give us the ability to overcome the tricks of the enemy. More importantly he will give us victory in a world that seeks to cause division, jealousy, and discord. When can be confident that he is our priceless treasure worth far more than any amount of likes or validation from the world.

 

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Digging My Own Holes https://convergemagazine.com/digging-my-own-holes-20249/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=digging-my-own-holes https://convergemagazine.com/digging-my-own-holes-20249/#respond Sat, 02 Dec 2017 01:39:25 +0000 https://convergemagazine.com/?p=20249 Digging My Own Holes by Craig D. Lounsbrough

My life is spent in holes more times than its not.  Some are deep and some are not so deep.  I have this maniacal tendency to go from one hole to another, rarely staying above ground long enough to understand what above ground looks like.  Instead, I’m repeatedly looking up from the bottom of some hole that I don’t necessarily remember falling into.  But…here I am again.

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Digging My Own Holes by Craig D. Lounsbrough

My life is spent in holes more times than its not.  Some are deep and some are not so deep.  I have this maniacal tendency to go from one hole to another, rarely staying above ground long enough to understand what above ground looks like.  Instead, I’m repeatedly looking up from the bottom of some hole that I don’t necessarily remember falling into.  But…here I am again.

Some of the holes are familiar as I’ve been in them a million times before.  Some are new.  Some are similar to one’s I’ve been in before.  Some remind me of others that I’d forgotten about.  But they’re all holes, and when you’re standing at the bottom looking up, they all look a lot alike.

 

Our Shovels

The thing about these holes of ours is that we’ve dug most of them.  And if in those rare cases we didn’t dig them, we probably contributed in some way.  Standing at the bottom, all we have to do is look and we’ll probably find a shovel in our hands.  The shovels are varied, but they all dig some really deep holes.

Greed

Greed will dig a deep hole, every time.  The hole of greed is one within which we will find ourselves entirely alone.  And it is likewise a hole where there will be no one around to assist us in the climb that we’re going to have to take to get out of it.  It is a desperate sort of hole that alienates and isolates, and that makes for a deep hole.

Desire to Please

We want to be liked.  We want to be validated, approved of, embraced and accepted. Our decisions are not determined by ethics, the need of the moment, the needs of others, wisdom or anything other than how to make the decision pleasing to others.  If pleasing others drives the decision, the hole will be deep.

Fear

Fear causes us to be blindly reactive, functioning out of a protective motive.  Self-preservation dictates our agendas and drives our choices.  It becomes the singular focus that renders us blind to any other choice.  Larger issues are ignored or missed altogether.  And once we’re in the hole we’ve dug, we too fearful to get out of it.

Mediocrity

We just don’t care.  We’re not motivated, we’ve lost our passion somewhere in some place we can’t find, or don’t care to find.  We’ve become passive and we’ve decided to figure out how little we can do to just get by.  A work ethic becomes irritating.  A vision perturbing.  And so we compromise our lives to an early death.  Such holes are deep.

Impulsivity

We’re rash.  We’re reactionary.  We respond on impulse which lacks thought, wisdom and acumen.  We’re flying by the seat of our emotional pants.  And with such a sporadic approach, we’re rampantly digging holes that shouldn’t have been dug in the first place.  And these holes leave us in places we shouldn’t be, wondering where these places are.

 

What holes have you dug?  And what holes do you plan on digging.  You’ve got a shovel in your hand.  You might want to determine exactly what it is.

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The Out of Place Signs https://convergemagazine.com/the-out-of-place-signs-20225/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-out-of-place-signs https://convergemagazine.com/the-out-of-place-signs-20225/#respond Sun, 26 Nov 2017 00:06:57 +0000 https://convergemagazine.com/?p=20225 The Out of Place Signs by Kelly Christian

When we encounter someone else’s story and our focus is on our response, then we’re just awkwardly going to botch the brush with rawness by either trying to escape connection to it or by feeling to obligated to be a part of the rescue.

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The Out of Place Signs by Kelly Christian

My family and I went on a hike in one of my favorite parks ever. Seattle is gorgeous in an unfair sort of way (unless you’re from there) and there is one park in particular that will convince you you’re three hours away from a bustling city. Discovery Park begins up on the cliffs of the Puget Sound with tall grassy rolling fields coming right up to the edge of the vistas and then provides trails taking you a couple hundred feet down to a gorgeous beach front with a lighthouse.

As we began our hike through the hilltop prairies, touching the brown grass with our finger tips as we walked the skinny dusted trails, we began to see the edge of the cliffs ahead of us and the gorgeous Puget Sound far below. We all carried pieces of our picnic. I chose a spot next to the cliffs that didn’t terrify me but still had the best view possible. I made a couple of motherly comments about how I couldn’t believe how steep the drop off was and how dangerously unsafe it was and in between laughter and stories, I spent the next hour barking gasp-filled warnings at anyone who moved an inch from where their buns had been planted on our picnic blanket.

We got up to go on down to the lighthouse. And that’s when I saw them.

Lain perfectly in front of the next opening to a vista was a flattened bouquet of white roses. They were not thrown. Or dropped. They were lain perfectly. And flattened. Or perhaps they had been sitting there a day already and the life had come out of the blooms so that they began to sink back into the earth, no more vibrance filling the petals to make them full any longer.

I was completely taken. What was this sight. What had happened here.

Were the flowers given here? Was love rejected here? Was someone remembered here? Did someone lose their life here? Was something enjoyed but then left for someone to come find it?

The way the flowers lay, the way they were still gathered, the purity in their whiteness, the spot where they were left, high up on the cliff above a far reaching depth below. All of it meant something. And I wished I knew the story.

But I won’t know this story. And the evidences of it came and went.

We come across these stories all the time. The stories that may not be told. But they are right there, if we just look to see the signs of them. The out of place signs.

A straight face when there should have been a smile. A shrinking away when there should have been participation. A murmur instead of an audible response. A looking away instead of a looking forward. A hesitation instead of a step. An absence instead of a presence.

White Cliff Bouquets

We all carry our white cliff bouquets. Our out of place signs. Our indications of ways that we are out of place because of some heartache, some event, some sadness, some dilemma, some befalling, some secret, some affection, some confusion. And it might not be obvious what they mean and it might remain a mystery and sometimes we’re more obvious about it than others. But regardless, when it’s really a white cliff bouquet moment, with a real story churning behind it, it’s hard to conceal because the story is so obvious in our greater narrative.

I think I felt a little out of place myself, finding the story laying there. I thought, am I supposed to be here? Am I interrupting something? Is something wrong? What am I supposed to do with this? But that was just me inserting myself awkwardly into someone else’s bigger true life happenings and that’s a mistake. When we encounter someone else’s story and our focus is on our response, then we’re just awkwardly going to botch the brush with rawness by either trying to escape connection to it or by feeling to obligated to be a part of the rescue.

It’s not our story and our role is minute. Though we often think so highly of ourselves.

I won’t know the whole story of those roses. I’ll never really understand and it will remain a mystery beyond my own life. But still I did find them and encounter their out of place-ness. Just as I will encounter the enigmatic bouts of mankind, sensing the struggle on a face or in a moment, and without an invitation further, they will be gone.

These white cliff bouquets deserve our curiosity in a kind, respectful way, as one notices a hurt with nurture and with human dignity, even if we can do nothing and we’re not asked to do something.

We’re not superheroes and we’re not here to save anyone. We’re not gods and we’re not saviors.

Sometimes we see the smallest glint of a story and the best thing we may have to offer is to stand, to wonder them with tenderness and a compassion for what one must be living out in there real life narrative, and then all we can do is to continue on.

Hopefully with a deepened concern for humanity. A willingness to know the story should it be offered. And an acknowledgement that this realm of humanity is bursting with suffering, struggle, confusion and we must keep our hearts soft for one another because no one knows anyone else’s white cliff bouquets.

Even if we have an idea, we really have no idea.

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Tony Stark, Spiderman Doesn’t Need You https://convergemagazine.com/tony-stark-spiderman-doesnt-need-20178/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tony-stark-spiderman-doesnt-need https://convergemagazine.com/tony-stark-spiderman-doesnt-need-20178/#respond Fri, 17 Nov 2017 21:17:32 +0000 https://convergemagazine.com/?p=20178 Tony Stark, Spiderman Doesn’t Need You by Erik deLange

Its self-awareness is an asset. At one point it makes direct homage to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; Donald Glover is given a medium sized cameo role in response to a massive internet campaign to make him the new Spiderman; and Michael Keaton, with previous superhero affiliations to both Batman and Birdman, makes an excellent and nuanced supervillain. But self-awareness is also its downfall. In the laborious attempt to introduce Spiderman into the MCU, Spiderman’s richer themes and potential get lost amidst its frequent reference to self.

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Tony Stark, Spiderman Doesn’t Need You by Erik deLange

The latest Spiderman reboot places Spidey squarely in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It employs an actual young person for the hero and is part coming of age story, part highschool comedy, and also attempts to be a proper superhero movie in its own right.

Its self-awareness is an asset. At one point it makes direct homage to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; Donald Glover is given a medium sized cameo role in response to a massive internet campaign to make him the new Spiderman; and Michael Keaton, with previous superhero affiliations to both Batman and Birdman, makes an excellent and nuanced supervillain. But self-awareness is also its downfall. In the laborious attempt to introduce Spiderman into the MCU, Spiderman’s richer themes and potential get lost amidst its frequent reference to self.

Throughout the film, though, the main thing driving Peter Parker’s character is his desire to live up to Tony Stark. In this modernized Spiderman, his first official suit is given to him by Tony Stark, and has many features and different types of web fluid far beyond what Parker himself is capable of. At the end of the film, Peter, given the opportunity for a suit and fame, turns it down for the opportunity to be a “Friendly, neighbourhood Spiderman,” and “look out for the little guy.” Though it becomes a comedic moment, it is also a moment of maturity which also serves as a helpful critique of the film itself.

Marvel’s Inward Turn

Let’s recall 2002. Marvel was not yet owned by Disney and the only major blockbuster superhero films known to our consciousness were X-men and Daredevil starring Ben Affleck! It was a simpler time. And yes the movie was poorly acted in parts, a little melodramatic, and a big risk from horror filmmaker Sam Rami. The Marvel Cinematic Universe wasn’t even really a conception yet, the film was placed squarely in contemporary New York City. Peter Parker didn’t have the rest of the Marvel characters to live up to, he had real family drama and was driven by romance, not a desire for grandeur.

This new contemporary Spiderman is wrestling with his newfound role as a superhero in light of his awkwardly placed cameo is Captain America. It’s as if Superhero films in the age of the MCU have nothing to do except comment on themselves. While there’s certainly potential and interesting in the latest Spiderman, the episode is too narrowly focused on its continuity with other MCU films and sequel potential that the juicy bits of learning and conversion of heart get lost amidst the flurry of self-referential pulp.

There is a CS Lewis quote that can be adapted slightly to explain the negative effects of this current trend of Marvel navel-gazing. I will substitute here substitute the word “truth” for “God.” The meaning is the same. He writes,

Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from the love of the thing he tells, to the love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in [the Truth] at all but only in what they say about [it.] – C.S. Lewis

This trend of turning inward via self-references and cameos is an easy way to get laughs and to please fans, but here’s hoping Marvel will bend back outwards again, returning to what they do best, that is, dealing with the universal themes of Good, evil, and the desire for transcendence.


Photo by DAVID HOLT

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Jim Carrey Does Not Exist https://convergemagazine.com/jim-carrey-not-exist-20156/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=jim-carrey-not-exist https://convergemagazine.com/jim-carrey-not-exist-20156/#respond Sat, 11 Nov 2017 18:17:01 +0000 https://convergemagazine.com/?p=20156 Jim Carrey Does Not Exist by Erik deLange

With his latest Netflix special “The Great Beyond” coming to Netflix on November 17, Jim Carrey attributes the experience reprising the character of Andy Kaufman as a transcendent experience that helped his realize that “Jim Carrey” doesn’t exist. According to him, “Jim Carrey” is a character he’s been playing for many years, “But,” he explains on Jimmy Kimmel “I don’t think of that as me anymore.”

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Jim Carrey Does Not Exist by Erik deLange

Jim Carrey’s latest special “The Great Beyond” is coming to Netflix on November 17. In the documentary, Carrey attributes the experience reprising the character of Andy Kaufman to helping him realize that “Jim Carrey” doesn’t exist. According to him, “Jim Carrey” is a character he’s been playing for many years, “But,” he explains on Jimmy Kimmel “I don’t think of that as me anymore.”

In a Tiff interview this year he unpacked his position further, saying “There is no me. Jim Carrey is gone, [he] actually never existed, and I know that now so I am able to take gigantic chances with this ‘thing’ that people know as ‘Jim Carrey.’”

It’s a fascinating position that causes your brain to do backflips in order to understand it. But he puts it in quite simple terms. On his interview with Jimmy Kimmel linked above, he says “I used to feel like a guy who was experiencing the world, and now I feel like the world and the universe experiencing a guy.” @CounterMoobat, who is responsible for much buzz about this topic in twitterverse, summed up his experience of hearing these ideas, writing, “I haven’t decided if Jim Carrey has gone completely crazy or if he’s profoundly wise.”

When asked on the Norm Macdonald show who his mentors and teachers have been on his path to enlightenment Carrey names some usual suspects, some of whom he knows personally; Eckhart Tolle, as well as the thinker Jeff Foster who argues that being “depressed” is caused by needing “deep rest” from the character that you’ve been playing in the world. For Carrey, who throughout his career has had a well documented struggle with bipolar disorder and recently lost his girlfriend to suicide these must have been comforting words.

Mysticism and Christianity

The Christian reaction to these type of insights is often one of fear or disengagement. Carrey’s newfound mysticism will be brushed off as “Crazy” “New Age” or even “Pure Nihilism” and all of these accusations are perhaps true in part. But Jim Carrey is also in a long line of Christian mystics who “deny themselves” (Matthew 16) and “seek the things above” (Colossians 3) but with one notable difference.

As Christiansit behooves us, like Jim Carrey, to turn away from our egos, laying down our false selves, our identity, our fame, and even our very lives, recognizing them as pale and false imitations of true existence (ie. eternal life.) But for the Christian, we lay down our fraudulent egos, not to become one with the universe, but with the security and knowledge that our lives are hidden with God in Christ (Colossians 3:1-3).

Yet Christians can—and according to some Christian philosophers, must—despair at our false existence. As Christian Existentialist Søren Kierkegaard so excellently put it, “the self is healthy and free from despair only when, precisely by having despaired, it rests transparently in God” (Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death).


Photo from Lonnie on Flickr.

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A Conversation Between a Christian and a Muslim in Yemen https://convergemagazine.com/conversation-christian-muslim-yemen-19973/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conversation-christian-muslim-yemen Thu, 26 Oct 2017 23:51:13 +0000 https://convergemagazine.com/?p=19973 A Conversation Between a Christian and a Muslim in Yemen by Alan Lensink

Dear Alan, I hope you are well. The situation here in Yemen is still catastrophic – the government is unwilling or unable to give salaries to employees. Teachers are striking. Many people don’t have anything to eat; people are collapsing in the streets, at the mosque or at work.

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A Conversation Between a Christian and a Muslim in Yemen by Alan Lensink

If I described for you a Middle Eastern country where a civil war has caused unthinkable suffering and loss of life, you are likely to think of Syria. For several years now Canadian individuals and churches have welcomed thousands of Syrian refugees. But while the crisis in Syria was unfolding, another country in the Middle East also plunged into a bloody civil war, a situation that has received far less global attention. I’m talking about Yemen, a poor country in Southern Arabia of twenty-seven million people.

In 2014 a civil war broke out between the government and an insurgent group known as the Houthis, part of the minority Shia sect. In 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies began bombing the Houthis. There have been terrible casualties on both sides; and the UN estimates that 10,000 civilians have been killed. Meanwhile, airports and seaports have been destroyed or blockaded, preventing food, fuel, and medicine from freely entering the country. As sanitation systems broke down, an epidemic of cholera began sweeping Yemen, quickly becoming the worst outbreak in modern history. As of mid-October, almost a million Yemenis had been infected.

The conflict in Yemen has been called “Syria without the cameras,” because it has not received significant media attention in Western countries. But I haven’t been able to forget Yemen because I have a friend who lives in Sana’a, its ancient capital. For some time, I have been communicating with Atif,* an old friend I met during a study-abroad program. We began to chat on Facebook and WhatsApp, and have had wide-ranging conversations about war, peace, and faith.

The Conversation

Atif (In Yemen): Hi Alan, I hope that you and all your family members are very well. It seems to me from Facebook that you got married, so congratulations to both of you.

Alan (In Canada): Thank you, Atif! We are doing well in Canada. I still miss the good times we shared, when you were teaching me Arabic. I’m glad we can stay in touch…

Dear Atif, I am very sorry to hear about the terrible tragedy in Sana’a. [Two mosques were targeted in terrorist attacks and 142 people were killed.] I hope that you are safe and that you and your family have not suffered in this tragedy. Please let me know that you are okay, my dear friend. Also please let me know if I can pray for you.

Hello Alan, thank you very much asking. My family and I are safe, but my children are afraid, we hope that one day our country will become stable and peaceful like Canada. Thank you for your feelings towards me and my family dear friend…

Yemen needs peace, but it seems I can make no difference: there are strong feelings of hatred between people of different political and religious parties. We need a miracle, so would you ask the church to pray for peace in Yemen? Would they care? I would really like it, because my mosque is calling for war…

Dear Atif, I have been praying for peace in Yemen and sharing your request with some friends of mine. The church will be happy to pray for peace in Yemen. I will pray miracles in Yemen. I believe that God has compassion on us, and that he brings healing and peace. That is why I have hope even when it seems that the world is dark. So I will keep praying for us and our nations. Please give my regards to your wife.

…Dear Alan, I’m really happy that you’ve responded to my request. I’m really grateful for you, your good friends and the church. l appreciate your prayers, and do believe in them. Now I have hope that things in Yemen will be good and peace will prevail in Yemen. Any miracles in Yemen will be attributed to the church’s prayers and good people like yourself. Believe me that I will never forget your care and love for me and my country, while neighbours are attacking us with missiles. Maybe it’s God’s compassion to have men of peace in times of war…

 …Dear Alan, the war is changing my beliefs. If religious people can be so bad, then why do people need religion? Life is still difficult here, there is an aggressive war against Yemen, there’s no electricity and no salaries for months, and we must do our best to remain as a family… I’m against this war and have always thought of doing something to help, to let the world hear our voices. I don’t want to bother you with this, but l wonder if you can help. Ma salaama, ya sadiqi [Good-bye my friend.]

Dear Atif, let’s try to talk on WhatsApp soon. I would like to share with you about a petition I am sending to the Government of Canada to help bring about a peaceful resolution in Yemen. There’s no guarantee that it will help, but we need to try something.

Marhaba ya azizi Alan. (Hello, dear Alan) This is great news. How great it will be to have peace in Yemen after more than two years of war. God let peace prevail in Yemen and in the whole word… Thank you for all good feelings and prayers for me, my family and my country. Yesterday was really an amazing day, I noticed that my wife was unusually happy and in high spirits, talking about her future plans.  

Good morning Atif! I hope you have spent the night peacefully. It is so wonderful to hear from you and to hear that you have had a good day, and that your wife’s spirits have improved. As we discussed, I am sending you a passage from the Bible. It is from the Gospel According to Matthew. I hope the file is okay, and that the print is clear enough.

Salaam alaikum (peace to you) Alan. I am well, reading the Bible. l’m learning things I like very much, and I wonder why  it took me so long to realise that Christianity is such a great religion.  I’m struck by these words of Jesus: 

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for
they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they that mourn: for
they shall be comforted.
Blessed are peacemakers: for
they shall be 
called the children of God…

I find comfort in these words, and I imagine you do as well. Even this message is a kind of reward…

Dear Atif, I am so glad to hear that you are enjoying the Bible. I believe that God has shown kindness to humanity from the beginning until now. And we pray that we will see God’s faithfulness and peace in Yemen soon. I hope it is a quiet peaceful night… Enjoy the weekend and give my warmest regards to your whole family!

Dear Alan, I hope you are well. The situation here in Yemen is still catastrophic – the government is unwilling or unable to give salaries to employees. Teachers are striking. Many people don’t have anything to eat; people are collapsing in the streets, at the mosque or at work. Many have illness because of the poor standard of living. Yemenis have been forgotten by this world. Why is it like this? I hope that Jesus may help us here in Yemen. We feel so helpless in this conflict.


In August, Alan sent a petition to the Government of Canada to help bring about a peaceful resolution and an influx of humanitarian aid to Yemen. You can sign it here. You can learn more about the war in Yemen at his website YestoYemen.ca.

*not his real name.

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Sunday with Spurgeon: Accepted in the Beloved https://convergemagazine.com/sunday-spurgeon-accepted-beloved-19929/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sunday-spurgeon-accepted-beloved https://convergemagazine.com/sunday-spurgeon-accepted-beloved-19929/#respond Sun, 22 Oct 2017 00:51:57 +0000 https://convergemagazine.com/?p=19929 Sunday with Spurgeon: Accepted in the Beloved by Converge Admin

What a state of privilege! It includes our justification before God, but the term "acceptance" in the Greek means more than that. It signifies that we are the objects of divine satisfaction, nay, even of divine delight.

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Sunday with Spurgeon: Accepted in the Beloved by Converge Admin

Accepted in the beloved

Ephesians 1:6

What a state of privilege! It includes our justification before God, but the term “acceptance” in the Greek means more than that. It signifies that we are the objects of divine civility, no, even of divine delight. How marvellous that we, worms, mortals, sinners, should be the objects of divine love! But it is only “in the beloved.” Some Christians seem to be accepted in their own experience, at least, that is their apprehension. When their spirit is lively, and their hopes bright, they think God accepts them, for they feel so high, so heavenly-minded, so drawn above the earth! But when their souls cleave to the dust, they are the victims of the fear that they are no longer accepted. If they could but see that all their high joys do not exalt them, and all their low despondencies do not really depress them in their Father’s sight, but that they stand accepted in One who never alters, in One who is always the beloved of God, always perfect, always without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, how much happier they would be, and how much more they would honour the Saviour!

Rejoice then, believer, in this: you are accepted “in the beloved.” You look within, and you say, “There is nothing acceptable here!” But look at Christ, and see if there is not everything acceptable there. Your sins trouble you; but God has cast your sins behind his back, and you are accepted in the Righteous One. You have to fight with corruption, and to wrestle with temptation, but you are already accepted in him who has overcome the powers of evil. The devil tempts you; be of good cheer, he cannot destroy you, for you are accepted in him who has broken Satan’s head. Know by full assurance your glorious standing. Even glorified souls are not more accepted than you are. They are only accepted in heaven “in the beloved,” and you are even now accepted in Christ after the same manner.

 


Resourced from Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

Photo from Boston Public Library

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The Best Musical in New York City https://convergemagazine.com/best-musical-new-york-city-19947/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=best-musical-new-york-city https://convergemagazine.com/best-musical-new-york-city-19947/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 23:01:48 +0000 https://convergemagazine.com/?p=19947 The Best Musical in New York City by Erik deLange

The best musical in NYC didn’t cost hundreds of dollars and didn’t take place a few blocks off Broadway on a Thursday night. No, the best musical experience of my NYC trip happened at St. Nicholas Carpatho Orthodox Church on Sunday Morning on the Lower East side of Manhattan.

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The Best Musical in New York City by Erik deLange

I just came back from a very exciting and fulfilling week in New York City. I saw all my favourite musicals including Avenue Q, The Book of Mormon, and indeed, even Hamilton. But the best musical in town didn’t cost hundreds of dollars and didn’t take place a few blocks off Broadway on a Thursday night. No, the best musical experience of my NYC trip happened at St. Nicholas Carpatho Orthodox Church on Sunday Morning on the Lower East side of Manhattan.

Now I realize that calling an Orthodox Church service the best musical in town is liable to offend both churchgoers and musical theatre fans alike, but here are 3 reasons why I think this is true.

An Orthodox church service is a bonafied musical experience

Before attending an Orthodox church service I had heard that they sing a lot in their liturgy. Upon attending in the flesh, however, I learned that they sing nearly the entire thing. From the prayers for others, to invocation of the Eucharist, to the Gospel readings themselves; the entire liturgy (with the exception of the homily) was sung, quite excellently I might add, by the Priest, elders, deacons, and indeed by the entire congregation.

It is an egalitarian experience

Church, and the Greek Orthodox church in particular, often comes under a lot of scrutiny for its hierarchical structure. Many secular Musical Theatre attendees will reject outright the shame and feeling of being “less than” that came from their religious upbringings. Yet those same Theatre attenders will fawn over every little detail of the talent of their latest celebrity crush, sitting worshipfully in their seat hanging on Josh Gad, Idina Menzel, or Lin Manuel-Miranda’s every note. And how often do Protestant churches, who rejected Catholic/Orthodox hierarchy in the Reformation in favour of the “Priesthood of All Believers,” present the knowledgeable pastor on a pedestal (or even a stage) espousing his gospel fact without so much as a question period afterward?

Church at St. Nicholas Carpatho instead had magnificent paintings of Jesus up on the walls. The beauty of the paintings drew your attention up, not to a church leader, nor to a very expensive pipe organ (as my Reformed tradition too often would have it), nor even to an image of bread and wine. Instead, the priest, with his back toward us for 90% of the service, joined us all in staring worshipfully up at an image of Jesus Christ, not as an idol, but as leading us up to meditate on the real presence of Jesus himself among us, captured only in part by this tremendous artwork and iconography.

The only two times I recall the priest turning around to face us was (a) to humbly and joyfully proclaim the word from the lowest place in the sanctuary, and (b) to ask the congregation to forgive him for his sins.

Not escapism, Incarnation

Church in secular NYC can often fall to the criticism of being “so heavenly minded, they’re no earthly good.” This is an especially frequent critique of the Orthodox church. But it’s interesting that the tremendous lightshows and pyrotechnics of both our musical theatre experiences as well as our megachurches fall short of the beautiful simplicity of the sweet-smelling incense of the Orthodox mass. The glowing screen of time’s squares as well as the Hillsong NYC Jumbotron cannot hold a candle to the humble glowing candles in the sanctuary or the gorgeous oil paintings of Christ in standard definition found at St. Nicolas’ parish.

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Finding Your True Identity At College https://convergemagazine.com/finding-true-identity-college-19922/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=finding-true-identity-college https://convergemagazine.com/finding-true-identity-college-19922/#respond Wed, 04 Oct 2017 23:26:40 +0000 https://convergemagazine.com/?p=19922 Finding Your True Identity At College by Erik deLange

I discovered that in Jesus I don’t have to please everyone, navigating my relationships with perfectionism in order to belong. I discovered in Jesus that I don’t have to layer on pretentious identities in order to have an identity.

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Finding Your True Identity At College by Erik deLange

I will never forget my first day of university. “O-day,” as we called it. A friend of mine and I were the only two from my small Ontario Christian school to make the trip out to the west coast for University. We got lanyards and swag bags and met our orientation groups. There was a DJ on the lawn playing “Harder Better Faster Stronger” by Daft Punk. I was going to become a Theatre teacher in a high school. I was going to get a girlfriend and become a vegetarian. My mentality was something along the lines of the classic song from the hit musical Annie “I think I’m gonna like it here.”

It didn’t take long, however, for my starry-eyes to become disillusioned. It rains 179 of the 365 days of the year in the Fraser Valley, and most of those rain days happen during the school year. Things fell apart with my long-time high school friend. I didn’t feel like I fit in with the Theatre department. I had to withdraw from my first Education class for fear of failing. I got my first girlfriend, but then I got mono, and then I broke up with that girlfriend (not because of the mono)—all in one semester.

Second semester wasn’t much better. I was tossed on the waves of anxiety. I was lonely. I abandoned the Education program and soon after I was thinking of abandoning Theatre. I wanted everyone to like me but I didn’t really like myself. Only by looking back can I see what was truly happening in my life—I was grasping for an identity and a place of belonging. It was a painful journey with many detours along the way.

 

Detour #1: Making other people happy is not the same as loving them.

My first big mistake in search of a place to belong is that I spent a lot of time and made a lot of decisions based on the fear of people. I lived out of a constant desire for the approval of my Theatre professors and had a persistent need to be well-liked by all of my friends. I felt like if I wasn’t perfect I would be disqualified from relationship, so I spent a lot of time trying to be the perfect friend. Living life based on a desperate need to make other people happy felt a lot like the humble servitude of the Bible, but it was all an idol because I was serving humans rather than God. I often left feeling frustrated when my acts of “selfless love” were not being recognized.

I see now that I was doing all this in order to find a place of belonging, a community of people who loved me. But the ironic thing is, in my attempts at being the perfect friend or student, I wasn’t being honest about who I truly was. I was hiding parts of myself, and trying to project a false perfection instead. The problem with projecting perfection is that even when you finally succeed in achieving an outward “perfection” in your relationships, you still feel alone because you haven’t shown people the real you.

 

Detour #2: Being a vegetarian doesn’t automatically make you a good person

We live in a world of social causes and for the most part that’s a very good thing. People are waking up to the damaging effects of greenhouse gasses and pollution on the planet, the unethical treatment of animals, the danger of giving our privacy up to megacorporations and the government, and the systematic injustices with regard to race and gender. University provided the perfect environment to discuss hot button issues with friends, join clubs, and rally behind causes.

One of the best ways I found to protest all the evil in the world was to boycott. I boycotted meat, I boycotted sweatshops, and I switched from Microsoft to Linux. I felt awakened to the injustices in the world—they gave me a cause and a circle of likeminded people to protest with. Being a part of these activist communities brought me a sense of identity. No longer was I just another average guy, I was Erik deLange: Vegetarian, Eco-activist, and Social Justice Warrior.

But no matter what I did, the voices in my head that I am not doing enough, that I am not good enough, vegan enough, carbon neutral enough, green enough, tolerant enough, or just nice enough did not stop. In the same way that my pursuit of belonging turned people into my idol, my pursuit of social causes had the same result. It was a problem not unlike that of the Pharisees: paying attention to the outward works of doing right rather than my inner relationship to God. These identities were not truly transforming me, but instead they were “layered on” externally. This discovery led to some hard but rewarding self-knowledge.

 

Enter Jesus

My false identities began to disintegrate while simultaneously relationships fell apart due to my inability to keep up my perfect friend persona. I began to see that brokenness and corruption was not just in the institutions around me, but also in myself. My fierce need to fix the world’s problems actually stemmed from an inability to examine my own.  But here was the good news from Jesus’s own lips: “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick, I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners”.

I discovered that in Jesus I don’t have to please everyone, navigating my relationships with perfectionism in order to belong. I discovered in Jesus that I don’t have to layer on pretentious identities in order to have an identity.

I found Jesus to be the only one who can put and end to my sin and–not only mine–also the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Trusting in Christ and not my own efforts for this salvation not only freed me from sin and perfectionism but provided me with what I’ve been looking for this whole time: a true identity and place of belonging as a beloved child of God.

Of course once this Gospel began to ring true in my life I did not automatically give up pursuing false identities and trying to get people to like me. When I began to take my faith more seriously I found myself tempted to please my pastor or find identity in my particular denomination. Purging my life of these idols has been a slow and arduous journey. Here are some of the steps I’ve taken to navigate this journey toward an authentic self.

 

Path #1: Accept Who You Are

“A [person] is never so proud as when striking an attitude of humility” wrote C.S. Lewis. The same stands for any sin. The more we try to dig ourselves out of it in our own strength, the more entrenched we become. The first step in accepting our own brokenness is coming face to face with the one who loves us as we are, before we change. But that can be a really hard thing to accept. As psychologist Carl Jung noted, “The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.” University provides an opportunity to learn about the world and about God, but it is also a time when you will discover a lot about yourself. Some of the things that you’ll learn about yourself won’t feel very nice.

As you begin the process of letting God and others see you and love you in your imperfections, you’ll begin to love others in theirs as well. This process leads to real and honest relationships. Slowly, a sense of true belonging rooted in the knowledge of God and of each other emerges. In Christian communities, you can leave behind your false identities and people pleasing and instead enter into connections with other human beings—with fellow students whose identity is first and foremost as children of belonging, made for relationship with God.

 

Path #2: Accept Who God Is

I remember Christmas break in my fifth year of university. Because of my Christmas plans I remained on campus long after all of my classes were done and my friends had left for home. With no assignments to do and no friends around to impress, I felt like my hands were outstretched grasping in vain for some kind of identity and belonging. It was at that moment, when I felt most lost and alone, that God spoke to me. I realized that all my attempts at grasping for identity and a sense of belonging were worth absolutely nothing compared to this reality: that I was grasped by God.

Realizing this truth is not going to happen immediately. At this very moment you might feel bogged down by the weight of the world, your unknown future, and your own personal shortcomings. But we must be reminded often that we are accepted, loved, and held by God just as we are right now. And God promises us that he will see us through the valleys of deep darkness—He who began a work will bring it to completion (Phil 1:6). You can count on God to bring you to where you belong in order to be who you truly are. This is because it is his work from start to finish.

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EXCERPT: If Church Worship Makes You Uncomfortable, Maybe That’s a Good Thing https://convergemagazine.com/excerpt-church-worship-makes-uncomfortable-maybe-thats-good-thing-19890/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=excerpt-church-worship-makes-uncomfortable-maybe-thats-good-thing https://convergemagazine.com/excerpt-church-worship-makes-uncomfortable-maybe-thats-good-thing-19890/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 05:13:05 +0000 https://convergemagazine.com/?p=19890 EXCERPT: If Church Worship Makes You Uncomfortable, Maybe That’s a Good Thing by Brett McCracken

The bodily motions of worship—singing, raising your hands, kneeling, closing your eyes—shape us significantly, even when we don’t feel like they are.

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EXCERPT: If Church Worship Makes You Uncomfortable, Maybe That’s a Good Thing by Brett McCracken

Anyone who has spent time as part of a local church community has likely struggled with some aspects of the worship. But in this discomfort there is also opportunity.

There is the opportunity to exercise humility in the context of community, for one. When it comes to worship styles and preferences we can go to battle and draw lines in the sand (traditional vs. contemporary, liturgical vs. charismatic), or we can look for ways to listen to and prioritize one other. We may not prefer a certain style of music or way of doing communion, but if others in the community do, this can be an area where we practice sacrificial, deferential love. Knowing the older congregants in the church love hymns and classical styles, a young worship leader who prefers contemporary songs might opt to feature an old hymn and non-electric piano periodically. And vice versa.

This is something Tyler Braun, a pastor and worship leader in Salem, Oregon tries to emphasize:

“I want worship to be unifying and that means valuing various perspectives on congregational worship, trying to incorporate them in ways that fit our team and our church, and teaching the church that part of worship is about serving those around you, not just hearing your favorite song.”

Instead of lamenting that something is not our preference and folding our arms in protest over that, perhaps we can humble our- selves and participate anyway. Perhaps we can be open-minded to the diverse ways God’s people worship him, and not just tolerate but participate in this diversity, learning to love it.

My friend Andrew is a worship leader and told me, “There is nothing like stepping into a room of people, 4 or 40 or 400, knowing that no matter what songs you sing in what keys or what arrangements, they will sing their hearts out.”

What would happen if we put aside our pickiness and just sang our hearts out? This is a definite area of growth for me.

Three years ago when Kira and I started attending Southlands, I complained a lot about the worship. I could hardly bring myself to clap or raise my hands, as everyone else seemed so eager to do. It stressed me out. Sometimes I wanted to just retreat to some quiet corner of the sanctuary and pray alone. Yet I committed to the church and committed to having a better attitude about the worship. I began to see how beautiful it is to set aside one’s “ideal” for the sake of building unity with others, and soon I began to warm up to the worship style. While it’s still a challenge at times, I now find myself looking forward to and being refreshed by the Southlands worship experience, rather than always being exhausted by it. I even raise my hands in worship now, which (as a born-and-raised Baptist) is a big step for me!

The way uncomfortable worship has grown me hints at another of the key opportunities of worship in community: spiritual formation. Worship shapes us profoundly. It isn’t just an atmospheric adornment to the preaching of theology. It is the preaching of theology. The old Latin phrase, Lex orandi, lex credendi, is true. Worship is derived from what we believe and is a poetic catechesis for teaching us what we believe, shaping our habits and loves and longings in the direction of the kingdom of God. Bodily rhythms of worship have profound shaping potential, and a folded-arms posture forecloses that growth possibility.

Often we approach church worship from a posture of cynicism or apathy. Our heart just isn’t in it. And for Millennials, for whom authenticity is a supreme value, nothing is worse that forcing yourself to “go through the motions.” But if Christians only ever worshiped when their hearts were “in it” fully, worship would rarely happen. Sometimes “going through the motions” is precisely what we must do.

The bodily motions of worship—singing, raising your hands, kneeling, closing your eyes—shape us significantly, even when we don’t feel like they are. Committing to showing up and being present and open-hearted in worship is the important thing. It’s OK that we don’t always have the best attitude about it. By God’s grace, the Holy Spirit can work with the weariest, most jaded and passionless souls.


Content taken from Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community by Brett McCracken, ©2017. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.

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