Is Your Social Media a Light?

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:14-16‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Jesus says he’s putting us on a light stand. He’s making us into light bearers. He’s urging us to be generous with our lives (just as He is with his.)

There’s two ways that this can play out in social media that are at opposite ends of the spectrum but have similar end results. Let’s look at them briefly…..

If you are on social media and you let your light shine in the way that someone uses a flashlight to point out all of the mouse droppings and the big scary spiders and the other “stuff” that shows up in a garage that never gets used, then you are letting your light shine – but it is shining to show the faults in other people. It’s shining to expose the skeletons in someone else’s closet. Do you think that’s what God wants us to do?

On the other side, if the social media profile that you share with the public or even with your friends is exactly the opposite, that’s a problem too. If all you show and share is the good things, then you don’t have to keep up with the proverbial Mr. & Mrs. Jones, you are them. You send a picture of them (of you) as someone who has everything right, has no problems, no doubts and their kids all get straight A’s and are the star of their respective athletic team.

You and I both know that is often the way people are portraying themselves and their family on social media. Do you think that’s the light that Jesus wants us to be? Do you think he wants us to send a message that says, “I’m a believer and everything is going great for me?” (With the unspoken message that you can have everything go right too, if only you believe as well as I do).

I don’t think so.

Actually, I know that if Jesus were to be your or my social media advisor, he would probably include a couple of “guidelines:”

1. Stand up for what is right, stand up against what is wrong, but don’t do it in a way that makes it appear you are attacking the person.
2. Share the good things in life – it’s good to know when your cousin who lives in Hong Kong got a promotion. It’s good to know when your Uncle in Florida had a good vacation. It’s good to know when your niece’s graduation went well.
3. But also share the tough parts of life. Be vulnerable. Be transparent. Don’t always answer the “How are you?” With a “doing well” comment if you aren’t.

It does others so much good to see that you are hurting, that your kid is struggling, that work is tough.  Why?  Because they are too.   I can guarantee it.   They have struggles, it’s an imperfect world so we are all struggling with something. 

It’s good to know when good people are not having good times. It’s good to know when your friend in Scotland who used to work in Manchester can tell you that while it hit hard, none of her friends were wounded or killed.

It’s not good that it happens, but it’s good to be able to share our struggles with people who can support us in our struggles.

If Jesus and Mark Zuckerberg had sat down and talked before Facebook came to be, I believe that Jesus would have said, “Mark, if you are going to build Facebook, build it in a way that allows people to connect, to show their good things that happening in life but also to share challenges and be a witness to others about the love that I bring.”

Now that would be a Facebook that would do some real good.

Tom Vanderwell

Don’t Yell At Your Neighbor

It’s times like these that make social media really uncomfortable.

There’s no escaping it.   Whether it’s what someone said years ago or what happened somewhere last week, there’s no escaping it.

Whether it’s the weather in St. Augustine or the storm surge in Jeremie, there’s no escaping it.

Whether you think someone is “the right man for the job” or the “wrong man for anything,” there’s no escaping it.

Whether it’s bombings in Aleppo or wind gusts in Les Cayes, or blowhards in Washington, there’s no escaping it.

Whether it’s shootings in Baton Rouge or random acts of kindness by police officers in New York, there is no escaping it.

This all reminds me of two famous quotes:

Margaret Meade – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Bob Goff, author of Love Does and skateboarding attorney, said,  “Most people need love and acceptance a lot more than they need advice.

As you read the news, scan your Facebook feed, look at what’s happening on Twitter, remember that – a small group of people can change the world.

And most of those voices that are screaming for attention on the social media front don’t need advice, they just need love and acceptance.

I might disagree with you – but love me anyway.

I might get mad about this – but love me anyway.

Don’t unfriend me just because I don’t like your opinion – because I still like you.

The world is very small but very big.   That means your neighbor isn’t only the guy across the fence – your neighbor is also the black man who is marching in a protest, the Haitian mother who is watching her children die of cholera because they can’t get clean water.   The list could go on and on.

There is way too much giving of advice, way too much yelling advice.   God calls us to do differently…….

Because Love Does,


“Who Are My Neighbors?”

Matthew 22:37-39 “Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38This is the first and greatest commandment.39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

This raises two questions – we’re going to look at the 2nd question now and the first question later in the month.

The 2nd question – Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself.    Who is my neighbor?

Well, for me, it’s obviously Randy and Angela to the west and Renault and Tedra to the east.    But that’s the easiest answer.    And I don’t believe that even scratches the surface of what Jesus means.

When Jesus says love your neighbor as yourself, do you think he is only referring to the people who live right next to you?   I don’t.

Is He referring to the family down the street where he lost his job?

Is He referring to the guy in line behind you at Starbucks?

Is He referring to the homeless downtown Grand Rapids (insert the big city closest to you?)

Is He referring to the politicians who are littering the airways with baseless accusations against each other in a hopeless effort to get you to think they are the “right one for the job?”

Is He referring to the children at the local public school who, without the Friday afternoon back pack club, wouldn’t get enough to eat over the weekend?

Is He referring to the children in foster care?

Is He referring to the orphans in Haiti, Ethiopia, Uganda, Liberia and all over the world?

Is He referring to those with Ebola?    Those who are fighting Ebola?

Is He referring to the refugees in Iraq and Syria?   To the brutal militants who are murdering so many and making so many others in to refugees? 

Is He referring to the person sitting next to you at church – the one who might be feeling lost.    The one who had a really hard week and needs some encouragement?

The answer to all of those questions is a resounding


In this instant communications world, we can find out things almost real time.    There has been more than one time where I’ve found out things that are happening in Haiti before many people there have.

But that brings with it a couple of challenges for the church……

  • Obviously, one church can not solve the entire world’s problems, so a church needs wisdom to discern where they are going to use the resources that God has given them.
  • A church can’t use the “head in the sand” system of avoidance.    We can’t sit back and ignore emergency situations that happen around the world.    Even when a  church has chosen where to use their resources, they need to be open to emergency needs and respond to those above and beyond their planned assistance.    The earthquake in Haiti, the tsunamis, the Ebola outbreak, the crisis for Christians in Iraq, hurricane relief – all examples of the type of assistance where our neighbors around the world need help and they need it now.
  • Immunity – no, not an immunity idol that will help you survive, but we all need to work towards not being immune to the needs of others.    Don’t tune out the problems on the other side of the world.    Don’t tune out the problems on the other side of town.    Respond where you can, pray where you can not respond and impact the situation.  

The reality is that in today’s world, our neighbors are everywhere and anywhere.    That can be overwhelming and can lead a church to say, “It’s too big, there are too many problems, we can’t fix them all.”

God isn’t asking one church to solve all of the problems, but He is asking every church to look beyond themselves and to love their neighbors.

Wherever they are.

However they can.

It’s that cup of cold water thing.   Smile


Of Rubber Bands, Original Paintings, Jesus and Social Media

I’m currently reading the book, “Love Does” by Bob Goff.   For the record, I highly recommend it.  This post is about something I learned from the book.

Chapter 22 is called “The Puppeteer.”   What is the “Puppeteer?”   Apparently it’s a very expensive painting that Bob liked very much.   Once he saved up enough money, he bought it.   When he picked it up, the art gallery gave him two paintings.    The original and a very good “fake.”    The thinking is that the original is too valuable to display, so you hide that in the closest or the safe and put the “fake” on display.

Bob didn’t do that.   Anyone who has read his book would know that a skateboard riding, mountain climbing attorney known for his epic rubber band gun fights with his kids wouldn’t put the fake one up.   He put the original one up.

And it got hit by a rubber band – hit in a way that it left a mark.   Now I don’t know how much the painting cost, but if an attorney had to save up money to buy it.    Well…….

So, did Bob get upset?  Did he ban all rubber band gun fights with his kids?   Did he bemoan the “ruin” of his perfect painting?

No, he didn’t.   He actually liked the painting more with the rubber band mark on it. 

Let me repeat, HE LIKED THE RUBBER BAND IMPERFECTION on the valuable painting.

Why?   Because it is a symbol of how God views us.   So many of us try to be perfect, try to look perfect, try to make it look like we have all of our stuff together.    But in reality, we’re covered with rubber band gun welts from losing battles.

And that’s the way God wants to see us.   He welcomes us with our imperfects.   He uses cracked pots, He uses scratched paintings – but for us to be used by God, we need to admit that we are those cracked pots and scratched paintings.

So how does this apply to social media?   Besides for the countless untruths being passed around on social media, I think that one of the biggest problems with social media is that it encourages people to put on a “front.”   You see the pretty pictures of the kids at Disney World, you don’t hear the stories about the car breaking down or the job loss or the emotional struggles.  

We can’t help each other and build honest and heartfelt relationships with each other if we can’t be honest with each other.

And being honest means not putting the fake front on, but showing the world our rubber band welts and scrape marks.