Meaningful Living in the Hashtag Age

Posts tagged ‘The Mount Magazine’

DISCONNECT

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Click LIKE to show your approval of me.

SCROLL DOWN to learn about my passions, joys and pains.

Become my FOLLOWER, INFLUENCER, SUBSCRIBER OR FRIEND.

Peek into my SCRIPTED LIFE.

Illustrate your acceptance with FUNNY EMOJIS and EDITED GIFS.

Let’s fellowship through WORDS and PICTURES and VALIDATE each other with half-moons that turn into smiling faces.

Let’s solidify our bond with the perfect selfie and SHARE with the world the beauty of our online FRIENDSHIP.

This is what relationship building looks like in the 21st century – this is the online community we live in.

In full disclosure, I am not a critic of social media. I use social platforms daily to connect with friends and family. I click LIKE often. I watch the silly videos and search, like many people do, for the right emoji to illustrate the joy I feel at connecting with people I care about. But as a social media user and a Christian, I often wonder about the spiritual and moral realities of living in a world that expects me to build strong relationships with people by simply clicking LIKE. I also wonder if the desire to be liked on social media is indicative of our fear that God will not accept nor validate what we choose to reveal about ourselves in cyberspace that we try to hide from him during our quiet time?

Social media has changed how we build relationships and, in many ways, how we see ourselves. It is an effective tool with the capability to bring us together in a positive way, although many people misuse its power. God blessed us with the technology to share our lives with the global community, but when we do so, we should check our like-seeking motives at the door and avoid opening ourselves to pride’s destructive influence.

Satan has waged a vicious war against believers. This war is propelled by our need to be accepted and celebrated by man. Satan has tapped into our propensity to be prideful. Social media plays a role in that, but it is not the culprit. As Christians, our desire for approval should be satisfied by our belief in a living God. God expresses his love for us daily. We do not need the approval of man because man will never save us.

To be liked on social media is not the same as being liked, loved or revered by God. It is a symbol of our admiration for one another that carries no power over who we are or what truly makes us great. It is a small pebble tossed in a giant pond.

The need to be accepted is Satan’s way of forcing Christians to move further from the cross. We see it every day, on the news, in our schools and even in our homes. Children are following the misguided directions of their peers and Youtubers, who are eating Tide pods and drinking boiling hot water. Adults are turning away from the church and biblical teachings and turning towards the latest trends. Politicians are using social platforms to garner support for policies that will hurt the poor while the church struggles to maintain its influence over parishioners and to spread the Gospel without fault or distraction. Garnering the strength to move away from temptation has become harder. We are exposed, more now than at any period in my lifetime, to belief systems that contradict what the bible teaches us. We struggle to do and to say what is right, even when the word of God has not changed or ceased to exist in any way.

God teaches us in 1 John 2:16 (ESV) that the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions is not from the Father but is from the world. He also reminds us in Romans 12:2 (ESV): Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

As mature Christians, it is important to be careful about what we are exposed to. We have a responsibility to the younger generation. We should work to protect them from Satan’s tricks and to help them navigate the world of social media, so they can reap the benefits of these tools without falling prey to Satan’s will.

In this new age of constant connectivity, it is important that we disconnect from the world and reconnect with God.

When I disconnect, I am at my best. Consumed with the love of my family and surrounded by my most powerful ally – Christ Jesus. Being liked and popular has its place, but who we are in the quiet moments that we spend with God is essential to the discovery of his true purpose for our lives.

Michelle D. Jackson is the author of the inspirational novel, The Heart of a Man. Follow her on Facebook @AuthorMichelleDJackson.

This article was featured in the March 2018 publication of The Mount Magazine. To order a copy visit, https://www.mt-ararat.org/buy-the-mount.

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Finding Your Way Out of the Boat

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I’ve always wanted to be an accomplished writer. From the moment I read Alice Walker’s book Meridian at the age of 13, I wanted to be an author. I love the way words exemplify the human condition so concretely. The way a good story can transport a reader from a mundane existence to another world. I love that when expended into the pages of a good book I could be anyone I chose to be and that writing allows me to dream out-loud and share that dream with readers from every walk of life.

Books are magical. Inspiring. Influential. From the heartfelt stories of a Christian novel to the powerful pages of the Holy Bible, books change lives and good writers are invaluable. At a young age, God showed me that writing was my true calling but to step into the life He pre-destined for me I had to activate my faith.

In preparation to walk into my destiny, I spent many years honing my writing skills. Even though when I look back at that time in my life, I realize I didn’t always trust my talent.  Therefore, I did other things. I worked various jobs, started businesses and wrote for other people. It was safer to do those things then to go after my dreams head-on. I was afraid to be the writer God wanted me to be until 2005, the year I turned 31-years-old and the same year I lost my mother to cancer. Her death changed my life. It brought forth a strong desire within me to live a life of purpose in dedication to her because she loved me unconditionally. To be the writer I wanted to be I needed faith in God’s promises for my life as well as the support of people who inspired me to move towards my dreams.

Many people have the same story. We are passionate about dancing, but we never become a dancer. We are skilled carpenters, but we take jobs sitting behind a desk. We love to sing, but we never join the choir or share that gift with the world. We hear God’s calling on our lives but refuse to accept it because of our fears. We become what I call boat-people, afraid to take a step out of the boat – our comfort zone –  because of our fleeting sense of security and a flawed belief that our God-given talents aren’t good enough to be accepted by the world.

The boat symbolizes the limitations of living in the flesh – an act that’s rocky and unstable yet conventional. Most of us are raised to be boat-people. We are expected to conform to this world and the expectations of man. Stepping away from the boat represents our growing faith in God and finding our true purpose in life. The importance of finding our true purpose is to honor God by fulfilling His Great Commission to spread his teachings to all the nations. When we fail to live a purposeful life and to use our gifts to glorify God’s Kingdom we hinder the spiritual growth within our homes, our communities and the world.

The boat carries many people who believe it’s safer to stay in it than to venture out. But when God has placed in your heart a belief that life has more to offer than sitting in the boat, you experience a powerful pull towards your calling.

In Matthew 14, the Bible illustrates the power of stepping away from the boat and subsequently, fear-stricken boat-people. In these verses, Jesus sends the disciples in a boat to cross a lake and wait for him on the other side. As time progress, Peter and the other disciples find themselves in the boat far from land. The boat had sailed a considerable distance from where Jesus was, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Jesus, who had gone up a mountainside alone to pray, was not with his disciples when the wind and darkness cast fear upon them.

The Bible states in Matthew 14:25-29 (NIV): Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Over the years, I’ve cherished the teachings of these verses. Jesus walks on water and Peter, a commoner, joins him on the water until his lack of faith causes him to sink. Every time I hear this story, I am drawn to understand better the symbolism of the boat itself and how this story is an example of what happens when God is calling for us to walk in our destiny, but we fail to move closer to him. In my opinion, Peter’s failure didn’t come from his lack of faith once he got on the water, but his lack of faith before he stepped out of the boat. In the boat were the other disciples who I imagined were debating what to do. Should they turn back? Should they cry out? Should they drop the anchor and stop moving? They were afraid. Afraid to go forward, move backward or to leave the boat. They were boat-people struggling to save themselves and convinced the situation before them was too dire to be resolved, even by God.

Peter, engulfed in his own fears and those of the other disciples, had to decide what to do. Peter called out to Jesus in Matthew 14:28, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water. Instead of believing that only Jesus would have the power to walk on water, Peter, a loyal disciple, questioned if it was Jesus at all. He was doubtful before he stepped out of the boat.

When I think about my faith to go after my dreams, I realize that I often operate like a boat-person. Rocking from wave to wave during the most turbulent times of my life, I ignore God as He calls to me to take a step out of my comfort zone and away from people who are stuck believing that life has nothing more to offer than their current situation. God has shown me that hidden in each of our DNA is a strain of greatness that we can only tap into with unwavering faith as minuscule as a mustard seed.  We should step out of the boat even if we periodically find ourselves sinking because we must perfect our faith walk before reaching the pinnacle of our Christian experience.

My desire to be a writer is God’s way of calling me to get out of the boat. He is telling me to trust Him and to have faith. To fight against the challenges and limitations before me and to go after my dreams. What I’ve learned over the years is that getting out of the boat is one thing, but getting out of the boat in faith is something altogether different.

Stepping out of the boat means stepping away from boat-people

Whenever I hear a sermon on Matthew 14, I always wonder why God called Peter out of the boat but left the other disciples behind? I liken this story to so many of us who are listening to God with one ear and listening to earthy influences – or boat-people – with the other ear. God tells us to come and to have faith that he will direct our path. Boat-people, often comprised of our friends and family who harbor doubt and fear, are whispering words of defeat that often overshadow God’s voice. The other disciples did not ask to step out of the boat. They were satisfied waiting for Jesus to come to them, to show himself and prove that he was capable of walking on water. Peter chose to meet him on the water, while the other disciples chose to remain in the storm.

Was Peter stepping out of the boat to get away from people who doubted Jesus more than he doubted Jesus? Was the doubt in his mind the results of being around other negative people who lacked vision? Moving towards God is a faith walk we often do alone. The men Peter left behind in the boat could not see or understand the destiny God had for his life. But to reach that destiny, Peter needed the faith and fortitude to step away from the norm.

This story is a reminder that what God has for you is for you. Our destiny was determined before we came into this world. Our responsibility is to decide whether to remain in the boat and doubt God or to take steps to fulfill our purpose. The people sitting in the storm with you are often there because they don’t trust that God can bring them out.

Peter stepped out of the boat doubting Jesus’ power. He did not complete the journey, but he did show Jesus and the other disciples that he was willing to take the necessary steps to reach his destiny.

Sometimes we all find ourselves sinking. But God will not let us drown. In Matthew 14; 31-33 the story concludes:  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him [Peter]. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

I encourage you to get out of the boat. Leave the boat-people behind and pursue the life God has prepared before you. Jesus is standing on the water in the middle of the lake with his hands stretched out, waiting for you to come.

Michelle D. Jackson is the author of the inspirational novel, The Heart of a Man. Follow her on Facebook @AuthorMichelleDJackson.

The original article was published in the January 2018 issue of The Mount Christian Magazine. To order an copy visit The Mount website.

 

THE GREATEST

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Groans from the crowd permeate the arena as the undefeated boxing champion is caught off-guard by a hard right hook. Stumbling towards the rope, he struggles to keep his balance while the referee follows his every move in preparation to start the dreaded countdown to his defeat. Nonetheless, in an unexpected show of courage, he recovers his balance, shuffles his feet into a stance readily known as the marker for a true comeback, then starts to jab without fear or remorse.

The crowd goes wild.

His opponent, who just seconds before was convinced the fight had come to an end, and he was the victor, responded to the champion’s roaring fans with a grimace look. It wasn’t over. And now, in spite of his well-executed strategy to defeat his opponent and take his title, he would need the strength to go yet another round.

God takes the fight to our enemies whenever we find ourselves stumbling towards defeat.  In his fighter’s persona, he is the most powerful counterpuncher who couples his strength with fierce footwork, an on-target uppercut, and a strong jab which stuns the opposition every time. He is a fighter on a mission to save us from our enemy, so we can live a victorious life.

When we enter the boxing ring without God leading and protecting us, we often find ourselves limited to bobbing, weaving, blocking and parrying instead of punching back. We preserve our bodies from the hard blows and quick defeat, but we cannot win without the strength and courage to knock out the enemy who threatens to take our joy and leave us battered and bruised.

The enemy takes on many disguises. Whether it is drug addiction, an attack on our marriage or the dismantling of our relationship with God, when the enemy enters the ring, he is prepared to fight to the end. We need God to keep us strong, to protect us and to see us through.

God is the master of the rope-a-dope. He takes our punches for us then fall back on the ropes, letting it absorb the power of each blow and preserve our strength for another round. This is all in His plan to cause the enemy to “punch himself out” and make mistakes.  The biggest mistake our enemies make is believing that our faith is weak and defeatable. However, when God comes to defend us He always has a winning strategy. His counterattack will leave us protected and secured.

Once God takes the ring and we are moved to the corner stool to sit and watch Him work, we should be reminded of Exodus 14:14 which says, The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. When He lands the first punch, and the enemy falls to his knees, we must remember 2 Chronicles 20:17: You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you. And finally, once our enemy is defeated, we must keep God’s promise in our heart by remembering Isaiah 41:10: Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

As Christians, we are in a never-ending battle against the enemy. Our boxing gloves are torn and tattered; our shoes are filled with holes, and our boxing robes are stained with remnants of our defeat. But when we call on God to meet us in the ring, to protect us from our enemy, and to defend us at our weakest moments, we are, in essence, asking him to preserve and restore us, so we can continue to spread the word about a living God who loves us enough to fight for our heart, mind and soul.

God is the greatest. He doesn’t give up. He doesn’t fail. He doesn’t surrender. He will fight for you even when you cannot fight for yourself. No enemy shall defeat you as long as God is in your corner, and your faith is intact.

When the boxing bell sounds, and you are standing nose-to-nose with the enemy, fight your hardest and activate your faith. But when you need Him most, take your stance, remember your role as a servant of God, and let Him fight your battles for you. He has the strength, power, grace, and mercy to protect you to the very end.

Deuteronomy 3:22
“Do not fear them, for the LORD your God is the one fighting for you.”

Nehemiah 4:20
“At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

Luke 10:19

“Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

This article is in the November Issue of The Mount Christian Magazine. To view the publication go here.

Michelle D. Jackson is author of the inspirational novel, The Heart of a Man. Follow her on Facebook @AuthorMichelleDJackson.

I’m Satisfied

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I was baptized at 12 years old but I wasn’t spiritually awakened until 23. Young and ambitious, my approach to living was to seek gratification first instead of placing God at the head of my life. I, like many people at that age, struggled to discern what was good for my soul verses what was bad for my salvation.

My experience in building a relationship with God can best be described as finding water in the middle of dry and deserted land. For years, I’d walked through the hot sands weak, dehydrated, and in desperate need of nourishment but God found and restored me. He protected me from my own depraved decisions, He prevented me from walking in the shadows of immorality, and He shielded me from the influence of bad company. It is because of His love that I can testify to the power of His salvation.

While I stumbled through the desert looking for water, God was building wells all around me. One-by-one He filled them with an everlasting flow of His love and strategically placed them in my path. But my fears and worldliness often caused me to overlook the table that he had prepared before me. And as my faith grew, my vision improved and eventually God’s destiny for my life became clearer. I knew, in time, my thirst would finally be satisfied.

What I learned over the years is that there is no well deeper, wider, or more sustaining than one filled with God’s love. He can pour out oceans of his kindness and patience and still have oceans more to give. That’s what makes Him a wonderful Father – His children are incapable of being thirsty in His presence.

The salvation that I needed was greater than the salvation that I sought. God knew this, and He allowed me to experience the faultiness of my small ambitions by forcing me to feel the weariness of a thirsty soul. I was walking in the desert looking for a cup filled with tap water when God had prepared before me a cool and life-sustaining stream.

God is the only one that can satisfy our needs. Scripture teaches us in Matthew 5:6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” In Psalms 61:1, it reads: “My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, in a dry and weary land where there is not water.” And in Psalm 36:7-9, it states: “How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house: you give drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”

By drinking from God’s fountain of life we find peace sustained by His strength and wisdom. We are rejuvenated each time we swallow a morsel of His word and drink a thimble of His grace. It is in God’s everlasting waters that we are exposed to His light and provided a clearer understanding of His destiny for our life.

As we struggle to find satisfaction in an insatiable world, we should never forget that God is always at work building wells in dry and weary places. Through faithfulness we will find our way to His sustaining stream and learn to drink daily from His living waters.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for thee, O God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1-2)

“Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture said, streams of living water will flow from him.’” (John 7:37)

This original article was published in the May 2016 issue of The Mount Christian Magazine

Michelle D. Jackson is author of The Heart of a Man, a Christian novel and Founder of The Charity Supper Club, a program designed to raise money to benefit local charities and families in need.

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