Friday, November 26, 2010

Media Influence

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NAS)

Media InfluenceMedia influence and its effects have long been a topic of extensive discussion. While it may be true that much of the information we know today could not have been communicated without the media, many people believe the media can still have negative influence in shaping how we think about certain matters.

According to cultural and media studies expert Colin Mercer, the way people in a society live their lives are shaped by how we as media audiences subject ourselves to governance and meanings constructed within discourses, created through the occasions of reading media texts.1 This means when we discuss about what we see, hear or read from the media through spoken, print, graphic or electronic communications, we are in effect exposing ourselves to media influence.

Media texts from advertisements, for example, give advertisers the ability to target consumers through text, image, video, animations and other forms of media representations. By repeated showings of such texts, consumers can grow to accept propagandas of what is portrayed as good, acceptable or better than others.

Discourse on crime is another example. Statements such as 'punishment', 'theft' or 'penalty' produce the knowledge of criminals as subjects of deviancy, and we as citizens may see ourselves as different from them because we behave 'normally'. Being 'normal' however is a constructed regime of truth that has been naturalized into habituation and assimilated into social norms. Such differentiations although may seem to be a good way of knowing what is right or wrong, it can also construct what is unacceptable in certain cultures to become acceptable in another.

If a government chooses to regulate the brothels, casinos, clubs and other unhealthy forms of entertainment as legally acceptable, do they automatically become right? If we gamble and drink, is it right or wrong? At which point of addiction are we considered wrong? Is it only when we become violent as a result of these addictions that we are deemed as deviant? Who defines the standard anyway, and who benefits most from such set of rules? Is it the rulers or the citizens? Is it the saints or the sinners?

In the Law of Moses there are many rules, and some of these rules are considered unacceptable today or even quite impossible to adhere, given the freedom we have. Freedom however is a choice, and it can be a bad choice or a good choice. The fact remains unchanged that what may be considered good or bad is relative and subjective, differing in the eyes of men and in the eyes of God.

As believers, we know we have been saved by God’s grace. Does that then mean we should continue in sin that grace may increase (Romans 6:1-2)? Certainly not! Rather, we ought not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds that we may prove what the will of God is, which is good, acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).

When we read, hear or view media texts, therefore, let us diligently decipher what is being represented, rather than accept it without consideration. We should not be influenced by the media, but should measure what is good or bad according to the standard of God, not men. Only when we are guided by the Holy Spirit and the word of God can we know what is truly right or wrong (Psalm 1:1-2; Proverbs 29:18).

Dear Lord, help us not to be easily taken in to believe whatever is constructed by the media is the truth. Do not let us be influenced by what we see or read to normalize what is unholy as acceptable social norms. Open our eyes Lord that we may not unwittingly classify people by the way we have been taught through the media to differentiate ourselves from them and leave them to die without You as their Lord and Savior. Keep our minds clear Lord and guide us by Your word and Spirit to know what is right and what is not. Renew our minds and transform us that we may prove what Your will is, which is good, acceptable and perfect.

1 Mercer, C. (1992), 'Regular Imaginings: The Newspaper and the Nation’ in Celebrating the Nation: A Critical Study of Australia's Bicentenary, Bennett, T. et al (eds), Sydney: Allen & Unwin.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

in everything give thanks;
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18 NAS)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cyber Evangelism

The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. (Mark 13:10 NAS)

Cyber EvangelismChristian Today reported on January 12, 2009 that dozens of churches around the world were planning to participate in a special missions trip. This missions trip involves bringing Christ and His message to a huge community where the gospel is not the most popular subject. Nearly 2,000 teens signed up for the 'online missions trip' to bombard popular social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter with stories about God. Participants would upload videos and photos, post links, and use status updates to share what God is doing in their lives. They would also write notes, send messages, post blogs, create invitations to their youth group, and do other things that help bring God up in conversations online. Whether the outreach campaign turned out to be a success, few people know, because there was no news reported about it since. One thing is however certain—more cyber evangelism outreach efforts are being seen on the Net today than before.

All of us know there are many modes of cyber communication we can use to reach others for Christ—emails, instant messaging, websites, blogs, social networking and more. As a writer for print and digital media, I, for one, have always been an advocator of online Christian outreach. It is my prayer that all of us as believers will seriously consider how we can use technological tools to reach others for the Lord, especially with the growing number of social networking communities and blogs. No doubt, there will be dangers lurking around on the Net waiting to pounce on us and draw us away from the Lord, yet it is not something we can avoid or should turn away from.

Building relationships on the Net is of course not always healthy, but even so we should still play our part in harvesting the netizens for the Lord. While there may be much truth about online communication and social networking being used by the devil, we ought also to remember that we can use the same tools to turn the tables around. Unless we are firm in the faith, however, such online ministry can also become a snare that pulls us away from our faith. When we deal with social networking or other online activities, therefore, let us be very careful because its draw is very real. We should be self-controlled and in sober spirit, always on the alert against our adversary who is constantly seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

If we are clear with our calling to such a ministry, we can then begin by first praying and building relationships in Christian online communities such as AllAboutGOD.net, BibleStudySpace.com, ChristiansUnite.com, FaithWriters.com, GodTube.com, YourChristianSpace.com and others. Once we are familiar with how cyber communication works, then by the strength of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, let us get ready to reach the world for Christ through evangelism online.

What better way for us to reach all the nations of the earth for the Lord besides cyber evangelism? For the gospel must first be preached to all the nations before the end will come (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10). Knowing what cyberspace can do to close the gap between distances and draw people together, therefore, let us not be afraid to use technological tools to reach the world for Christ. Let us not throw away something good just because the same thing can be used by the devil to do evil, for what is meant for harm, God can mean it for good to preserve many lives (Genesis 50:20).

Thank You dear Lord for the many tools You have given us to improve communication. We know Lord that although such tools can be used by our adversary to do evil, this same thing can also be tools You want us to use in turning the tables around. Help us Lord to stay strong in facing cyber woes as we go forth to reach the world for You online. Do not allow us to fall prey O Lord to the temptations on the Net, but strengthen us that we may in building relationships through social networking bring many to You. Bless our efforts Lord and cause the faith of those who hear the gospel through cyber evangelism grow, that they may eventually come to know You personally.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Grapevine of Rumors

Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. (Proverbs 26:20 NIV)

Gossip and RumorsIf we hear someone say, "I heard on the grapevine ..." about something, it means we are likely to be listening to a gossip or rumor. In organizational context, the term 'grapevine' refers to the informal transmission of information, gossip or rumor from person to person. Such information exchange on the grapevine often comes from unofficial or unrevealed sources.

According to survey estimates by several business journals, 75 percent of employees typically receive news from the grapevine before they hear about it through formal networks. Such news, nevertheless, are frequently distorted from the original information after passing through several people, and usually include deletion of fine details and exaggeration of key points from the full story. With the advancement of information technology, the grapevine today is able to create more havoc than ever before in spreading rumors faster and farther around the world—beyond traditional water cooler gossiping—via emailing, instant messaging and social networks.

Studies in organizational behavior believe that grapevine rumors and gossips are most active during times of uncertainty and when employees are anxious. Social interaction through the grapevine is therefore seen by some as acceptable response to relieve anxiety and fulfill the need for affiliation.

In a sense, it may be true that such response can serve as valuable signal for corporate leaders to take appropriate actions to resolve problems or communicate more fully through formal networks. However, such interaction can also escalate rather than alleviate anxieties. This is because distorted information from unqualified or uninformed sources can demoralize employees to think the worst of the management as lacking sincerity and concern by its slower response than the grapevine. Moreover, misleading information can also be intentionally planted by the management or colleagues, which if assumed as the whole truth, can distort the original information or create negative reaction to provoke expected action.

Just as organizational grapevine can create much damage, the Bible also teaches about the dangers of gossiping and spreading unqualified information. In the Book of Proverbs, the author wrote, “a gossip betrays confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” (Proverbs 11:13 NIV). This means unless we hold our tongues from carrying tales and put a stop to revealing secrets or leaking news from unqualified sources, we cannot be considered trustworthy or be entrusted to conceal any confidential matter. The only way to put an end to such contentment and squabbling is therefore to stamp out gossip, for without wood a fire goes out, and without gossip a quarrel dies down (Proverbs 26:20 NIV).

We ought therefore not try to justify ourselves to think it is fine for us to gossip and spread rumors as a natural response to relieve anxiety or feelings of uncertainty. Instead, we should put a stop to rumors if we hear any, and be the one to exterminate further spreading. If we wish to discuss with others about how we feel, we will do fine by first getting our information right—only from qualified sources. In this way, we will then not demoralize others by untruth or discuss matters that come from unreliable sources or are distorted from the original information.

Forgive us dear Lord for the times we spread news of what we may believe is true, but is not. We pray Lord that You will keep our hearts strong that we may not listen to rumors, but always verify the information from its original source. Help us Lord to control our tongues and our inner urge to want to gossip and spread untruth. Calm our hearts Lord in times of uncertainty and anxiety, and restore to us the confidence and trust we have in You. Strengthen us Lord that we may strengthen others instead of demoralize them. Thank You Lord for granting us the many avenues to communicate Your truth to the world beyond the grapevine and social networks. Lead us in our words Lord that through our speech and other modes of communication, we may glorify Your name in all we do and speak.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Letters to Missionaries

For it is superfluous for me to write to you about this ministry to the saints; for I know your readiness, (2 Corinthians 9:1-2a)

Writing a LetterI used to write at least a snail mail once every fortnight to a group of missionaries. Even when I did not receive regular reply from them, I continued to write because I knew it was quite impossible to expect missionaries in the fields to write back frequently. That was many years ago, before the keyboard took over the pen to become the main instrument for letter writing.

More than one of the missionaries I wrote to had expressed how such handwritten letters meant to them in bringing comfort while they were away from their relatives and friends. One particular missionary told me she was able to observe how I had improved in my writing over the years and grown in faith in the way I encouraged them. When I visited the mission site later, this same missionary conversed with me as though we had never been very far apart from each other over the years. This is what letter writing is all about—closing the gap between distances while building rapport and relationship even when physically absent.

In an article on 'Ten Ways to Encourage a Missionary' at TheGospelCoalition.org, a question was asked as to how missionaries would most like to be served and encouraged. In response, a missionary wrote to describe how he felt about receiving handwritten mails:

"Real mail is always special. Really, the thing with real mail is more than just getting some nice stuff from home (which is nice), but it seems a more tangible reminder that the people I love and miss love and miss me too and are thinking of me."

As Christians, we have a common faith that draws us together even when we are far away, and letter writing is one good way we can show and express our care for those serving abroad. Although e-mail can serve the same purpose in writing to people vast distance apart and providing faster delivery, it can never replace handwritten letters when bridging the gap between hearts. This is because e-mail lacks the personal touch expressed in handwriting.

The Bible in 2 Corinthians 9:1-15 describes what it means by ministry to the saints. It is not just about supplying the needs of the saints, but also about the proof of our obedience in confessing the gospel of Christ and the liberality of our contribution to the saints serving abroad (2 Corinthians 9:1, 9, 12-13). We should therefore not wane in our ministry to the saints, for the administration of such service glorifies God. We ought also not to neglect encouraging one another to build each other up, but should appreciate and esteem highly those who diligently labor among us in love because of their work (1 Thessalonians 5:11-13).

Let us therefore—besides writing emails—not stop writing snail or real mails to those serving abroad, for it is a tangible way of expressing our care in reminding them they are loved and missed. We should instead encourage and show them love with a personal touch by penning down letters in our own handwriting. We need not wait for a reply before sending our next mail because it is more difficult for them than for us to have the time to do so. Rather than feel dejected because of the lack of responses, let us be assured and know without a doubt that every word we write to encourage them is edifying and appreciated. Only in this way can we then close the gap between distances and continue to build rapport and relationship even when absent.

Thank You dear Lord for the gift of letter writing and for providing us a communication mode that offers real personal touch to the ones serving You abroad. Grant us Lord the willingness to be Your instrument in closing the gap between distances to build rapport and relationship with them as one body in Christ. Put in us Lord the desire to encourage and minister to the saints in love and appreciation for their diligent labor and work in You.


NOTE: Not all mission sites are reachable by snail mail. Wherever possible and safe to do so, let us therefore do our part to minister to the saints and missionaries out of love.

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