Proverbs 15:31 is aimed like an arrow right to my heart. Receiving good advice is an important aspect of spiritual maturity.
King David was an amazing man – not perfect, but a man after the essence of God. He desired to serve the Lord and His people wisely and justly. According to Psalms, he recognized the need to be both skillful and heartfelt.
In 2 Samuel, David decides to take a census that angers the Lord. Theologians have long debated why the census was wrong:
David was numbering the men under the age of 20 for military service.
The census had no direct order from God.
David was going to use the census to tax the people.
David was not trusting God’s promise to Abraham to make the people innumerable.
Pride and power were possible motivations.
There is also the possibility that once the census was taken that King David neglected the portion of God’s command that required a ransom be given. This ransom was the requirement given by Israel’s meek leader, Moses.
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD when you number them so that there will be no plague among them when you number them.”
Before David took the census, he neglected to listen to the good advice he received from his trusted friend and mighty man Joab (2 Samuel 24:3).
Had the king listened to great trouble and dire consequences could have been avoided. The Lord’s punishment was severe. A plague fell over the land for three days. David suffered and those he served experienced devasting circumstances.
become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even
thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside
out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.
Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of
immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in
you.” Romans 12:2 (The Message)
“Oh, I need that!”
Advertising is ubiquitous! Indeed, it’s everywhere! The average American sees 3000-5000 ads per day. Think about it! That doesn’t mean just TV commercials… it counts every form, including signs as you are driving down the street, pop-up ads on the computer, brand names on clothing, notices on buses, upcoming event reminders in bathroom stalls, etc. Every day we’re bombarded with messages that intend to direct our buying, thinking, and actions.
And so are our children and
Our culture today is overrun with ever more invasive means of getting messages to us. In September of 2015, BBC reporter, Ben Frampton introduced the Changing Face of Journalism as clickbait from the outset of any news article. Technology is being utilized in new ways that impact our daily lives and attract our eyeballs to messages. Perhaps you have been a “victim” of clickbait.
“Clickbait consists of attention-grabbing
headlines used for Web content to lure readers into clicking on normally
uninteresting content. Many websites use clickbait as a mechanism to gain
popularity via higher click-through rates. Clickbait is characterized by a
highly enticing headline with a hyperlink that, when clicked, reveals a website
that has content that is not nearly as interesting as the headline. Clickbait
is therefore considered to be a strategy to increase the number of views to a
particular Web page.” (Techopedia.com)
read clickbait headlines such as,
20 pounds in 20 days! New miracle pill!”
Hollywood couple is giving away millions?”
“Seniors: stop paying property tax! Learn this easy strategy now!”
Sometimes these headlines immediately redirect a reader to a different domain. They are simply fishing hooks.
Buzzfeed alone regularly attracts more than 10 million
unique users in a single day.
Buzzfeed can bring strong returns for careful users, but it has also created expensive traps for the unsuspecting.
Bloggers often use clickbait to earn their influencer income through affiliate marketing. However, promoting affiliate products can easily distract not only a blogger’s readership, but also the hopeful content blogger from the central purpose of his or her blog.
Products are not the only thing being sold through clickbait.
Personal information is transferred through every click made to the collectors and analyzers of these products and services. This fact can be used positively when you are able to grow a base of contacts to use for legitimate business and kingdom purposes.
A darker morass of reasons others may use clickbait.
When a woman clicks on a piece of clothing or sleepwear, she may find herself next inundated with new ads for women of her age and size in sultry and lewd poses. When a boy or girl clicks on an ad, it is not unusual to discover advertisements for games, adventures, political ads, pornography, phishing sites to military operations, sign up sheets, edgy books and other age-monetized bait popping up on tomorrow’s online screens.
Because religious advertisements are considered a hate-speech liability to fan bases, it is not a Christian ad we can count on seeing unless the advertiser has taken pains to identify only easily recognized Christian buyers acceptable to the marketing host.
Our children need to be introduced to this marketing strategy so they are aware of the intentionality and purpose of these alluring headlines.
And then there’s location-based marketing.
Have you received a text message from a store just as you were driving near it?
marketing (LBM) typically takes advantage of the geolocation of a customer
(usually via a GPS-enabled device) and uses these techniques… to send
personalized and relevant messages at the right place, at the right time to the
Does this CEO’s statement bother you? “Augmenting location with data about user behavior patterns enables a brand to create more timely, customized user engagement.” (Laetitia Gazel Anthoine, CEO, Connecthings)
More technology, more knowledge about each person’s consumer habits
and personal preferences, more desire to sway your thinking, buying, and
actions, and lo and behold! GPS-based marketing!
We all need to raise our awareness of “Peeping Tom” marketers and
interfering corporations. If you recently looked at e-bikes on Amazon
for a possible purchase, and then you were suddenly accosted by pop-up
ads for e-bikes on Facebook, websites, and online games… it wasn’t a
Advertising has come a long way, baby! No doubt there are more
intrusive techniques being created right now, with the ultimate goal of
saturating your life with appealing hard-to-ignore ads.
God has told us to be ever vigilant. We need to be dealing with life with “eyes wide open”.
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
Discussion is crucial. Talk with them about why advertising is part of our daily lives. Ask, “Where do you see ads?”
Discuss both the benefits and the downside of advertising. Ask, “Why do you think advertising works?”
Ask, “Is the accumulation of possessions enough as the purpose of a life?”
Ask, “What resources are available to create useful click ads for kingdom purposes? Do you have a service or a product for which you would like to design a click ad to help others?”
My recent novel, The Melody of the Mulberries, set in Appalachia in the late 1920s, includes a continued racial and legal dilemma from the first story in the Big Creek series. At that time, and until the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision of Loving v. Virginia, it was against the law for people of different skin colors to marry. The characters in my story are forced to make the difficult decision of obeying or disobeying the law.
I won’t give away what happens in The Melody of the Mulberries, but the situation addressed certainly gives food for thought, and it runs into another issue that is often difficult to obey.
I often have a bad attitude about income taxes. A couple of years ago, I prepared the information, sent it off to the accountant, and then received a coupon of sorts which I mailed to the I.R.S. with the additional taxes owed.
I then realized when reviewing the income tax return that I’d made a mistake.
To correct the mistake meant paying additional tax preparation fees and also additional money owed to the government.
In all honesty, I waffled back and forth for a couple days about correcting the information. I am not sure what that says about my character but since the amount was trivial it didn’t seem worth my effort, the efforts of our ministry bookkeeper, or the efforts of our already extremely busy accountant.
THEN, during my personal time with God, I read Romans 13.
“Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.” (Romans 13:7 NLT)
The passage begins by discussing the importance of submitting to governing authorities. Authority comes from God, and that those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.
Romans 13:2 goes a step further in saying that those who rebel against authority are rebelling against what God instituted. Romans 13:4 (NLT) states, “The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course, you should be afraid for they have the power to punish you.”
As I continued my study in Romans, the following verse gave clear direction about my tax dilemma, “Pay your taxes, too…” (Romans 13:6 NLT). I sent the corrected information to the accountant, and the return was amended, and additional money paid.
For the record, I don’t believe in blind obedience. I don’t believe in following an institution that doesn’t follow God, but I do believe God puts people in all types of authority (family, church, communities, politics), and, as a Christian, I am mandated by God to recognize authority, pray for those in authority and to be respectful and honoring of those in leadership.
As a gentle reminder, it is very important to file taxes on time!
Racism is a Belief in the Superiority of One Race Over Another
Modern variants of racism are often based in social perceptions of biological differences between peoples. . .
Racism is a difficult topic to address. I live in a country (South Africa) were racism is openly displayed. Discrimination is deeply rooted, and even encouraged. The encouragement, for the most part, however, comes from an unusual source. A corrupt government system that steals from people of all races controls the masses by pitting them against each other. When unfair government practices are exposed, false leaders deflect their corruptness by blaming different ethnicities. Wounds of the past aren’t healed because it benefits deceptive leaders to keep picking at the scab of racism.
Years ago, when I worked as a schoolteacher, I was troubled by a pre-teen boy who used the term “racism” repeatedly to justify bad grades, unwise choices, and naughty behavior. Racism exists all over the world, but to call something racism because it’s a convenient excuse diminishes the struggle and antagonism faced by so many.
Chris and I recently attended a dinner party. A young woman in attendance obviously had an agenda in mind for the evening. The topic of racism was brought to the table repeatedly. The woman had strong convictions about what racism looked like and shared several stories about how her friends had experienced injustices. When a disagreement about the subject came to light, she informed the group that people of a certain age couldn’t truly understand racism. The woman discounted that the small group present were seasoned Christians who had dedicated their lives to serving the poor in body, soul, or spirit without regard for race.
Again, racism is a difficult topic to address. Opinions about what racism looks like seem wide and varied.
Everyone needs to hear about God’s great love. The Bible tells us that whosoever calls upon the name of Jesus will be saved. Jesus’ ministry was not limited by someone’s color of skin, economic background, religious understanding, or anything else for that matter. According to Scripture, Jesus touched the lives of those who crossed His path and were interested in hearing His truth.
It isn’t racist to be curious and learn about other people. It also isn’t racist to create dialog and understanding among different ethnicities. Those type of encounters should endear us to one another and create a platform for reflecting the love of Christ.
Christmas time, and every season for that matter, should be about Jesus – living for Jesus, serving Jesus, and sharing His Good News for hope on earth and eternal salvation.