When the Fake News is About You.

“She said what about me?!”

Lately I’ve been learning a whole new level of relying on God for patience when it comes to those who talk poorly of others. I’ve also discovered that there’s a big difference between someone criticizing you directly and someone gossiping about you or slandering you behind your back. There is a time and place to speak of others, either negatively or positively. Sometimes things happen that cause a person to need to vent or speak about their issues with someone they can trust. However, far too often, stories are relayed simply because it is more-or-less exciting news, or because someone is trying to make themselves look good by talking down about someone else.

When I say gossiper, I mean someone that spreads around information–true or enlarged–that they have no business spreading. When I say slanderer, I mean someone that spreads around false information and lies – fake news.

It Begins

Imagine you’ve just discovered that someone is talking about you or your family behind your back. Maybe they’ve exaggerated a true situation in your life or they’ve completely created a fictional scenario for their own entertainment.

What do you do when you face gossip and slander? Here are some tips that might help you handle the situation.

Breathe
This one is important. Not only does breathing help your brain work better, but it also keeps you from passing out in shock over some of the ridiculous things that some people say. Seriously, after hearing all about the drama, take a moment to breathe before attempting to process it. Your mind will thank you.


Don’t Answer In Kind
Humans are inherently flawed. When I hear that someone was talking trash about me, my first inclination is almost always to think of something bad I’ve observed about them. It’s easy to say, “Well, she has no place to talk because she has problems here, here, and here!

This is not a godly reaction; it is retaliatory. There is a place for thinking of the nature of the gossiper and why s/he might have said what they did, but snapping back with criticism of another is not a wise course of action. It only sucks you into the messy gossip circle. You may think your response is smart, but most of the time it is merely impulsive. Regret usually follows soon after. Often the end-result of retaliation is that the original slanderer repositions themselves as the victim of the retaliation rather than the originator of the hurtful drama. I’ve been there. Most of us have been there.


Consider the Source
Where the bad news comes from is a big deal. Did you hear the gossip or slander with your own ears? Or did a tale-bearer tell you about it?

It is especially important to consider the source when dealing with those who constantly have a tale to tell. I usually mentally mark those as people who can’t be trusted with a secret. They may be well-meaning, but oftentimes they blurt out half-truths and don’t realize the damage it can cause.

While they may be trying to create an emotional bond with you by sharing a secret – even if it’s a lie, they will often create that same emotional bond with others by slandering you.

As the adage says, those who gossip to you will gossip about you.

Pray
This isn’t just one step: prayer is vitally important throughout every step of dealing with gossip and slander.  It’s easy to get angry, self-righteous, and prideful. Make sure to pray for your own heart as well as the hearts of everyone involved in the gossip circle. Growing bitter will not make the pain hurt less. Try your best to forgive and turn the other cheek. This may be a process that takes a while, which is yet another reason to bathe the situation in prayer.

Call Off the Pity Party
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” –Matthew 5:11-12 NKJV

God does not desire for His people to be victims: we are more than conquerors. Even though gossip and slander can be depressing, you don’t have to let circumstances make a helpless martyr out of you. Draw on the Holy Spirit and be strong in Him. Even if the gossipers are telling semi-truths about your struggles or your past, you are a new creation in the Lord. Trust Him and His love for you. He will never leave you or forsake you, no matter what you’ve done. He is more than able to redeem you and this situation for His glory and your good.

Let Go
Unfortunately, there is no controlling gossip and slander. If it is so very difficult to bridle our tongue, what makes us think we might be able to tame someone else’s tongue? No matter what you do, you cannot stop someone else from talking about you. The only person you have control over is yourself, your words, and your responses.  Once you realize this, it will enable you to see clearly what options you do have. Instead of thinking in vain that you wish they would stop, you can decide what to do with your situation and move forward with your life.

Respond

Now we’ve come to the action. What are your options? 

Do nothing. Be patient and let the blow glance off. Use the situation as an opportunity for growth. However, if the fruits of the gossip are hurting your marriage, family, career or your emotional health, this is rarely the best option.

Talk to the gossiper. Sometimes, after talking to them, you may even find out that they didn’t say what was reported to you or that it was all a misunderstanding. If this person has a long history of having an unbridled tongue and thriving on slander, be prepared that you may have serious doubt their denial. History isn’t on their side. If you don’t think you can honestly believe their potential denial, a direct conversation may be fruitless. Whatever you choose to do, keep in mind that gossipers and slanderers thrive on drama. If you give them an emotional response, most likely it will only provide fuel for their next escapade.

Take a step back. If neither inaction or direct action is a suitable option, oftentimes the best response is to just take a few steps back from this person. That may take the form of limiting exposure to them or it may be limiting the flow of information that can get to them – eliminating their ability to turn the factual part of your life story into their own fictional narrative.


Remember that it’s usually best not to go seeking out people’s opinions of you.
If you unwittingly stumble into an opportunity to hear or read people’s non-constructive criticism or negative opinions of you, don’t stick around and listen. Walk (or run) away. Only listen to your Master’s voice and those who build up with His words of love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV)
 



Brandon Moser is a pastor and the President & CEO of the Holy Discontent Motorcycle Ministry (HolyDiscontent.org). He is currently completing his 
doctoral studies in Christian counseling and divinity.


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Christian Trolls Don’t Save Souls

I recently spent an entire weekday reading posts and articles on social media. While that may commonplace for 14% of the nation’s workforce, it’s a rarity in my life. My day of surfing the social media waves was focused on seeing how Christianity is represented in the vitriolic cesspool that is now called social media. I finished my day on social media disappointed and saddened on how many portray Jesus, and Christianity online.

I often saw the precious name of Jesus and Christianity used not to love, but to troll, judge, correct, condemn and insult. Oftentimes, Bible verses were selectively (and inaccurately) being used as ammunition for meaningless attempts to validate whatever viewpoint fits one’s own personal or political narrative. While in the attempt to persuade others and achieve online victory, Christians are oftentimes becoming stumbling blocks to leading others to Christ. It’s not intentional. It can happen to anyone. I’ve fallen into social media traps. But, we need to admit we fall prey to it and correct it.

If you’ve spent much time online, you’ve probably encountered the quintessential comment-section dumpster fire: profanity, non-sequiturs, personal attacks, condescending Wonka memes. You’ve wondered, while gazing at the apocalyptic meltdown of the public forum, “How did it ever come to this?”  But truth be told, the road from responsible cyber citizen to raging troll is short and well-traveled, and many of the latter are unaware they’ve vacated the former. Therefore, before we assume which of these two camps we occupy, let’s take heed lest we fall (1 Cor. 10:12). Someday we truly will “give account for every careless word” (Matt. 12:36–37). Followers of Jesus can’t afford to tweet haphazardly.


Here are three ways to ensure that your online conversation is “gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6).

 

1. Consume and Digest Slowly

Many social media threads spin out of control because people neglect to read the article before commenting. I’ve seen users attack articles that support their opinions, and commenters I know to be biblically sound defend heretical content- all because they only read the title, or watched the first 30 seconds of the video and assumed (wrongly) they knew what the rest would say.
As Proverbs tells us, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (Prov. 18:2). “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Prov. 18:13).

2. Use Your Words. Not Your Emotions.

As any counselor will assure you, there is a world of difference between saying “You made me feel X,” and “When you said Y, I felt X.” When someone’s words affect us emotionally, we often forget the words and only remember the emotions. When we respond to our own emotions instead of the actual words said (or typed, or tweeted), we misrepresent the speaker’s character and opinions.

Before you comment or tweet a reply, craft it based on what has been said, not just how you felt in response. You may find that a response isn’t even necessary. Fortunately, social media is well-suited for this kind of measured and exact conversation, since words are usually available to re-read or re-hear as many times as needed.

 
3. Cultivate Empathy

The public forum’s transition from the real world to cyberspace has come at great cost, and that cost is measured in human empathy. Social media has turbo-charged our ugly narcissistic qualities where we seek to be understood before we seek to understand. Sometimes based on one comment, people are stereotyped personally, politically & spiritually into a profile of a person we think they are. More often than not, they do not fit into the box they’ve put in. But, that doesn’t stop people from attacking that persona and ignoring the human being.

In the digital world, we no longer see others as human beings – but as an avatar that represents a human being. This creates a “social media courage” that we wouldn’t have in real, face-to-face conversations. In the digital world, we must decide to be empathetic. We must choose to believe there is a being endowed with the image of God on the other side of the screen. We must weigh our words as if they truly do hold the power of life and death (Prov. 18:21), and as if Almighty God really did entrust that power to us for the purpose of building others up (Eph. 4:29). 


Social media has become an intimate part of our lives, but is in no way private. Everything we share in the digital space is available to anyone with an internet connection. The Hispanic family down the street can hear us dismissing their hardships in trying to give their children a better life. The struggling mom seeking to find hope in this world after losing a child to gun violence. Someone in your social network who is suffering and looking for meaning in life. Knowing that you are a Christian, would these people see the love, empathy and acceptance of Jesus Christ through you – or would they see something else? 

 

The world is listening, church. What will they hear?
 

 

 

Brandon Moser is a pastor, the President & CEO of the Holy Discontent Motorcycle Ministry (HolyDiscontent.org). He is currently completing his doctoral studies in Christian counseling and divinity.

 

 
 
 

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An Epic Fail That Leads to Sin: Fear

Fear-based stress is a primary trigger for potential sinful behavior. I’ve struggled with fear-based stress since I was a teenager. My primary pastime was worrying. I’d worry about everything. When I couldn’t find anything to worry about, I’d stress myself out by worrying about what I “should” be worrying about. In hindsight, it’s tragic how much joy that I denied myself by choosing to retreat into my own head fearing the future. Only after decades of fear-based worry, I realized that my constant outlook on the future wasn’t one of hope and joy, but of impending doom. Even when life was going great, I’d still live in my private internal prison of fear. Whether it was finances, career, or relationships, I allowed Satan to keep me scared.

Fear can be equated to a lack of faith in God. That was a hard pill for me to swallow as I have had a relationship with Jesus for most of my life. In Matthew 14, Peter has faith in Jesus too. Yet, a faithful Peter feared leaving the boat and walking on the water with Jesus. It was only in hindsight did Peter truly have faith that Jesus would take care of him outside the boat. The Holy Spirit tells me what Jesus told Peter, Oh ye of little faith, why did you doubt?

During my times of fear, my temptation to sin was exponentially higher. I’m not alone – most people’s temptation to sin is much greater when Satan is tugging at our emotions and picking at our vulnerabilities. When fear or stress is our trigger to sin, sin often becomes our comforter. When we aren’t looking to Jesus first, we often run to sin for temporary relief from the fear – knowing that the relief is only short-term. The sin could be binge-eating, substance abuse, pornography, gambling, overspending or other harmful behaviors. Those temporary, sinful comforts take on an addictive quality. The stress from which we are temporarily relieving ourselves from is multiplied by the shame our sinful “remedy” creates.

My chosen remedy had always been to overeat. I developed a serious food insecurity fear in my pre-teen years. Although there was never an instance as a child where we went to bed hungry, I was always terrified of it. This fear grew into an overall financial insecurity that I struggled with most of my adult life. To this day,  my most terrifying fear in life is that one of my children ever goes to bed hungry. To relieve myself from the insecurity, my sinful respite was to overeat. An overly hearty meal was a temporary safe haven to escape the demons of fear that Satan used to control me. Satan knows our emotional weaknesses and will unmercifully exploit them.

However, my primary weakness wasn’t overeating. My weakness was that I didn’t have enough faith that God would provide for me or my family. Sure, I said I had faith. But remember Peter? When it was time to step out of his boat, his faith wasn’t as strong as he thought it was either. Faith can’t be faked.

God doesn’t hesitate to teach His followers “the hard way” when necessary. When I began preparing for ministry three years ago, our family income dropped by more than 80%. At that time, I still carried a strong fear of financial doom into my path of ministry. As I progressed through divinity school, we’ve lived paycheck to paycheck – when we’ve been lucky. During the last three years, there were days where I’ve felt overwhelming gratefulness when I could leave a grocery store with a full cart of groceries, or the rare soothing comfort of filling a gas tank all the way to the “F”. God put me in a position to heal my insecurity weaknesses by putting me in a constant state of financial uneasiness. God not only taught me that He was always the provider, but that He would never let us go hungry. Even in times where we had close to nothing, God would come through with an unexpected blessing, every time, and take care of us. In times of unrelenting financial uncertainty, my faith that God will provide has ushered in a new peace that I never could have obtained without these hard times. This direct, yet harsh, lesson from God has been more valuable than anything that I learned in seminary. 
 


There is good news. Everyone doesn’t need to learn faith the hard way – unless you’re a stubborn, thick-headed control freak like me. To increase your faith, you may just need to address irrational fears. Here are some ways you can do that:

• Pray. This one seems obvious, but have you truly cried out to Jesus when facing a fear?      
     “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” – Proverbs 18:10         
     “I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” – Psalm 34:4

 
• Cling to God’s Word. In those dark moments of fear and irrational thoughts, God’s Word is a light, speaking peace and unfolding the truth.
     “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” – Psalm 119:105
 
• Surrender to God. Remember who God is, and who you are – His child. He is worthy to be trusted. God is beyond faithful. He has never broken a promise. He never will.
     “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

 

When fear subsides, you’ll find that the temptation to comfort ourselves with sin isn’t as strong. Think about the sin that you continually surrender to. Are you running from fear and stress? Keep running, but run to Jesus instead.
 

 

 

Brandon Moser is the President & CEO of the Holy Discontent Motorcycle Ministry (HolyDiscontent.org). He is currently completing his doctoral studies in Christian counseling and divinity.


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Thoughts and Prayers

A few years ago, I never thought the phrase “thoughts and prayers” would have the stigma it has today. As a commissioned pastor and a lifelong follower of Jesus, I see why the secular world is frustrated with it. I’m frustrated with those words. Our political environment has hijacked certain words like “evangelicals” and phrases like “thoughts and prayers,” and thus, has attached the imperfect, selfish desires of man to words and phrases that once represented Jesus, not an elephant or a donkey.


Today I’m seeing youth from all over the country march to make their voices heard. Whether you agree with their stance or not, it’s difficult to not admire them for their action. This article is not about their stance, or even the specific issue they are addressing. This is about the dangerous imbalance we have between thoughts and prayers and actual deeds – whether it’s real or perceived.

Thoughts are good. Prayers are good. Action is just as important. These kids have decided that it takes more than sitting comfortably in their home trying to win social media debates. They’re acting. They’re trying to change perspectives. I respect that. Our ministry respects that. Our motorcycle ministry is built on action – getting butts out of church pews and displaying God’s love through action. While the kids marching today have the action, they may not all have faith, and in the book of James followers of Jesus need both faith and works.


James 2:14-24 (NIV)

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.


I’m going to take an educated but relatively safe guess. I’ll go out on a limb and say that a good amount of those who throw out the “thoughts and prayers” phrase neither think, nor pray for those in need. This phrase has become a polite way of saying, “I feel bad for your situation, but I’m not responsible for doing anything about it.”  This is not much different than when James refers to those in verse 16 above, who acknowledge a need but take no action.

James 2 shows the Biblical principle that thoughts and prayers are essential. But action is also essential. Thoughts and prayers, not accompanied by action, aren’t reflecting the true Word of God. That is one of the reasons that this once meaningful phrase of “thoughts and prayers” has been turned into a meme rather than the true reflection of Christians’ empathy and prayer toward Christ to bring healing and resolution to those we have been called to care for. Both the secular society, and even parts of the Christian community, see a lack of action as the crucial, absent part of this equation. The lack of action could be motivated by over prioritizing political ideologies over God’s directives. It could be motivated by pure laziness. The motivation is irrelevant. Now is not the time for excuses. It is the time to think, pray and act. Either way, as the disciple James communicates in no uncertain words, faith without action is dead.

Pray about those who are suffering. Think about how to help them. And then do something about it.

Because the Bible tells us to do so.

 

 

Brandon Moser is the President & CEO of the Holy Discontent Motorcycle Ministry (HolyDiscontent.org). He is currently completing his doctoral studies in Christian counseling and divinity.

 

 
 
 

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Struggling Vs. Surrendering

Some phrases just get under my skin. One of the most common phrases I hear in Christian circles is, “I’m struggling with…”… then they fill in the blank related to a persistent sin.

“I’m struggling with jealousy.”
“I’m struggling with pornography.”
“I struggle with gambling.”


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Now Entering the Content Zone

My daughter and I have a ritual lately. We spend some of our father-daughter time watching, interpreting and discussing episodes of the original “Twilight Zone” series. I loved watching them when I was a kid, and my daughter is finding the same joy in watching them. We both bask in the pride of being Twilight Zone nerds and will debate whether “Eye of the Beholder” or “The Hitchhiker” should be voted as the best episode ever.

Even the most casual Twilight Zone fans are familiar with the episode called, “To Serve Man.” The title is a play on the verb serve, which has a dual meaning of “to assist” and “to provide as a meal.” The episode is one of the few instances in the series where an actor breaks a fourth wall (nerd talk, I know) and addresses the viewing audience at the episode’s end. The episode, along with the line, “It’s a cookbook!” have become elements in pop culture.

After watching this episode again with my daughter, I began to think of the duality of the word “serve,” as it relates to our engagement with Christ. It’s also the foundational catalyst for the formation of the Holy Discontent Motorcycle Ministry – pursuing the art of getting off of our butts. God wants us to assist others in service to Him. He doesn’t want us just being fed. God is not here to serve man. We’re here to serve God. Too many of us are only being served – and the facts prove it.

Research shows that approximately 1 in 5 active churchgoers have served within their church during the past year (Thuma & Bird.) When I refer to active churchgoers, this means the congregation that regularly shows up for services. I’m not including the additional, and significant population of those who are the “Christmas and Easter” Christians.

Only 20% of Christians serve in their church in some capacity. We could, and should, be doing better. Before the emails come in, I do realize that some participate in ministries outside their own church. However, does that account for the entire dormant 80%? I’ll be uncomfortably generous and say that additional 20% regularly serve in ministries outside the church. Even by grading on the ridiculously generous curve, we have a ton of work to do. That’s not coming from me – it’s coming from God’s Word:

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
– James 2: 14-17

Are you only being served? Or are you serving, too?

Here’s another disturbing fact. The reputable “State of Plate,” which is funded by Christianity Today and the Evangelical Christian Credit union, have released studies that show only 7.4% of active churchgoers are tithing regularly.

It’s worth repeating – 7.4% of active Christian churchgoers are tithing, and obeying God’s directives regularly.

Although Jesus demands it, it’s unrealistic that 100% of Christians will both tithe and serve. However, imagine what the impact on the world would be if we had 50% of active Christian churchgoers both regularly serving and tithing.

Before forwarding that Facebook post about how America is suffering because we’re slowly becoming a secular nation, ask yourself what you personally are doing to change that. Ask yourself if you’re serving, or if you’re just being served.

 

 
Brandon Moser is the President & CEO of the Holy Discontent Motorcycle Ministry (HolyDiscontent.org). He is currently completing his 
doctoral studies in Christian counseling and divinity.

 

 
For additional articles by Brandon, click here.

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Share Your Faith by Walking Like An Egyptian

In February, I was blessed to spend a week in Cairo, Egypt. During my time in the Middle East, I had wonderful conversations with Christian men and women who spread the word of Jesus throughout an environment that isn’t conducive to doing so.

Christians in Egypt are facing unprecedented levels of persecution. Don’t take that word lightly — the meaning of the word “persecution” has been severely diluted in the United States with inaccurate and exaggerated politically driven narratives.

Per the Open Doors 2018 World Watch List, Egypt ranks two spots behind Syria on the list of the most dangerous countries in the world to follow Jesus. The U.S. doesn’t even make the top 50. There is simply no comparison between the perceived, and often dramatic, Christian claims of persecution in the United States versus the reality of the Middle East.

In 2017, 128 Christians were killed in Egypt for their faith and more than 200 were driven out of their homes in 2017. The rise in persecution is attributed to the overspill of Islamic terrorists driven out of Iraq and Syria. “There is only a small amount of violent extremists, but the culture in Egypt clings to the perception that Christians are infidels,” one Egyptian Christian said to me during my visit to Cairo.

However, the response of the Christian community has been one of endurance, prayer and forgiveness. Christians in Egypt face a barrage of discrimination and intimidation, yet they refuse to give up their faith. I found that that the Middle Eastern Christians are more eager to share their faith, even under the constant danger of persecution, or at least, discrimination. They have developed an art of sharing the word of Jesus by not being too overbearing but letting others see Christ in them first.

On the 24-hour plane ride back to the U.S., I was overcome with a sense of personal guilt. In America, we have the freedom to share our faith with anyone without risking our lives or our families’ lives. Do we use that freedom to spread God’s Word as often as we should? Do we do it as much as Egyptian Christians, who are endangering themselves by doing so? By comparison to my new friends in the Middle East, my answer would be a resounding “no.”

How to Share Your Faith Like an Egyptian

  • Listen More. One of the most important, and most neglected, aspects of communicating with others is effective listening. The apostle Paul encouraged Christians to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). To share each other’s burdens, we need to know what those burdens are. Often, those who are suffering are most receptive to seeking a closer relationship with God. But they need to feel comfortable discussing their problems with you, otherwise, they won’t. When people are expressing their feelings, they appreciate being heard. If you are a good listener, they will talk to you. That gives you an opportunity to respond.
  • Respond with Christ-Centric Answers. You don’t have to knock on doors and articulate the message of salvation with the fiery passion and prose of a cheesy televangelist. That approach is rarely effective, and it certainly doesn’t work in the Middle East. As you listen to others, respond to them with answers that show that Jesus is a part of you. Whether it’s talking about how excited you are about going to your church this weekend, how God has blessed you, or sharing about your flaws and how you’ve found forgiveness and redemption through Christ. It’s usually not difficult to sprinkle in your love of Jesus when the conversation is natural and comfortable.
  • Love Instead of Judge. This is a tough one — especially with the current climate in the United States. The apostle Paul said not to offend each other. “Let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way” (Romans 14:13). One of the quickest ways to turn people off is to be judgmental, whether it’s in person or on social media. Who wants to talk to someone who, when you express some belief you have, self-righteously condemns you for your weakness in the faith, plus a general lack of good sense? Instead, may we resist the powerful urge to determine who is good and who is evil, who is in and who is out, and who is worthy of our self-sacrificial love and who is not, based on a perception or label. Instead, may we strive to see them – as difficult as it may be at times – the way God sees them.
 
 
 
Brandon Moser is the President & CEO of the Holy Discontent Motorcycle Ministry (HolyDiscontent.org). He is currently completing his doctoral studies in Christian counseling and divinity.
 
For additional articles by Brandon, click here.

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The Unfriendly Assault of Unfriending

I’ll admit it. I can’t stand Facebook and Twitter. I’d probably despise Instagram and Snapchat if I ever bothered fully embracing them. However, as I prove by posting this, social media has become necessary in both our careers and personal life.

There are a lot of positive aspects that social media brings to our relationships. But there’s another side to all of this. Just as much as Facebook can amplify the positive of our offline relationships, it has also brought a way to completely end relationships once and for all in a very clear and public way through unfriending. With the simple click of a button we can signal that we no longer want someone in our lives.


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Stop Reading The Labels

We label before we understand. We disregard before we listen. Some have lost the ability to see others as individuals rather than quickly placing them in a stereotype box and treating them as that stereotype instead of a human being. This problem has not only has divided the country, but fractured the church.


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Love Without Casting Stones

As Christians, one of our main goals in life should be to love the people we have contact with. This is a foundational pillar of the Holy Discontent Motorcycle Ministry. Most the time, our members are not spending the majority of their time in safe, traditional Christian circles. We spend time with prison inmates, spousal & child abusers, and substance abusers. We befriend members and leaders of motorcycle clubs and “one-percenters.” What we often find is amazing, beautiful, kind and generous people who are sinners just like us. Yet they’ve been labeled and discarded by society, and oftentimes, the Christian community. Our ministry wouldn’t be successful if our approach was judgement-driven rather than fueled by an unconditional love for others.
 
There is a reason why the members of our ministry wear the brown “Dirty Cut” rather than 
traditional black biker vests.  It’s a daily reminder to us that we all came from the same dirt, as it says in Genesis 2:7. Whether we’re rich or poor, a pastor or a prisoner, a Republican or Democrat – we’re all sinners in God’s eyes. The more we remind ourselves of how God loves us despite our own major flaws, we’ll be better equipped to approach others with love instead of condemnation.
 

Love should be the hallmark of our relationships with others. Yet, that’s oftentimes not the first impression others get. Like it or not, we live in a culture that uses labels to help us identify things. Sometimes this can be very helpful to navigate us through everyday life. However, when it comes to labels of Christians, there’s a real danger that we should all be aware of: judging. The sinful desire to judge others is at the heart and soul of a fallen human condition because none of us can justly and correctly judge someone else. However, like any habit, we have a difficult time breaking ourselves from it.

And so, we judge. We determine who is in and who is out. Who is good, and who is evil.  Who is worthy of our self-sacrificial love, and who is not.

On any given day I may be on the giving end of this type of judging, or on the receiving end — as are you. Such is the overwhelming power of the desire to judge others. The biblical prohibition on judging exists because that is singularly God’s job, and he will do it not by judging by external matters, but by judging what is unseen – the heart (1 Sam 16:7). The content of an individual’s heart is something we are not able to see and is off limits except to God himself.

I’ve had Christians tell me before that I was going to hell. When I’ve asked why, they’ve replied it is because I didn’t vote for the political platform they’ve deemed as Christian. I was no longer in the ministry in their eyes – I was labeled a “Liberal.” They’ve told me that I’ve not been hard enough on judging those who have abortions, or the LGBTQ community. I’ve been told, because of my tattoos, that I don’t physically represent what a minister should look like. They’ve told me that <sigh>, I shouldn’t keep company with sinners. Some have put significant time in judging why I am not worthy of God’s grace and eternal life. They use broad labels and generalizations so that can be used to reduce me, judge me, and condemn me to hell.

This judgement flows in reverse as well. The sinful desire to judge others isn’t something that only conservatives do. The non-believer’s perceptions of the words “Christian” and “evangelical” have suffered over the last decade – some fair, and some not. These words have been partially hi-jacked and used for political currency, along with us failing to resist the temptation of labeling and judging others. The arrow of judgement and labeling soars both ways.  

And so, my prayer for us, including myself who constantly falls prey to sin — is that when we see a person and begin to feel the string to our bow pulling back to let judgement’s arrow fly, we’ll remember how functionally worthless a Christian label is when it used it to judge what only God can judge – the human heart.

Instead, may we resist the powerful urge to determine who is good and who is evil, who is in and who is out, and who is worthy of our self-sacrificial love and who is not, based on a label. Instead, may we strive to see them – as difficult as it may be at times – the way God sees them.

  • As someone who was created in his image and likeness.
  • As someone who is loved beyond our comprehension.
  • As someone Christ gave his life for.
  • As someone Jesus explicitly told us to love without judgement.
 
 
 
 
Brandon Moser is the President & CEO of the Holy Discontent Motorcycle Ministry (HolyDiscontent.org). He is currently completing hisdoctoral studies in Christian counseling and divinity.
 
For additional articles by Brandon, click here.

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Protecting Your Family from Family

I’ll admit it. If someone hurts my wife or children, even if the assaulter is extended family, my initial response usually isn’t how Jesus would want me to respond. By those initial emotionally-charged responses, you’d never suspect that I’m in the ministry and an emerging Christian counselor. There have been times where I’ve unleashed a fury of vengeful words, knowing I’d need to ask for God’s grace and forgiveness later. While I’m not proud of that, ignoring my shortcomings in this area would be disingenuous.

Most men, including myself, feel it is their duty to protect their immediate families from physical and emotional harm. Our instincts are to launch a “shock and awe” campaign to protect those we love. Often, the assaulters are not strangers on the street, but extended family members. If clear and healthy boundaries have not been established and agreed to, once-beloved family members can oftentimes become adversarial and damage the dynamics of your immediate family – including your marriage. The dilemma for Christians arises in trying to determine the balance between protecting our immediate family, honoring our extended family, and responding in a way that honors God.
 

Remember Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”. Per Barney’s Notes on the Bible (Andrew Barney is well-known American theologian), this verse means:

  • We are to do our utmost endeavors to preserve peace, and to appease the anger and malice of others.
  • We are not to “begin” or to “originate” a quarrel.

     

We are to seek peace. But then it does not always depend on us. Seeking peace often means backing away from some family members that are toxic and damaging your family and/or marriage. As we try to seek peace, others may oppose us; they may slander, disparage, and emotionally injure us; or they may try to manipulate and control us. While we are to seek peace, 

it doesn’t mean we have to submit to continual harm to our family members, spouse and ourselves. Peace often has to be defined as the increased peace we find in our own homes by backing away from toxic family members. Our duty is to forgive and to resist the temptation of repaying evil for evil:

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil…” – Romans 12:16-17.

These are all easier said than done! I have sometimes failed in this area, especially with those who insult my wife or our children, or those who spread vicious lies about us. Within the last year, we’ve had extended family insult my daughter with a vicious comment about her physical attributes, publicly lie about the dynamics of our marriage, question our faith in God, meddle in our financial affairs and spread hateful lies about us. It hurts my wife and I deeply and has left scars that may be difficult to heal. It’s challenging to resist unleashing a furious response. Nevertheless, these verses are clear: God wants us to relate to people with a lot of humility, as well as with the same grace and mercy that He Himself demonstrated toward us.

Second, remember the “leave and cleave” principle: “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife” (Genesis 2:24). When we get married, our spouse comes before any other family members. You both must do everything you can to protect your marriage. Your spouse must do everything they can to love you, build you up, and take care of you and your children.
 
Unless there is a risk of exposing yourself and your children to a continued pattern of physical or emotional abuse, it’s important to keep the doors to those relationships unlocked. In considering whether you must attend family events or stay in contact with them, you should be sensitive to what is in the best interest of your spouse and kids. If the chances are high that you and/or your family is going to be the recipient of continued verbal abuse, even if it’s wrapped in sarcasm or a joke, its best to consider whether it’s fair to subject yourselves to those subtle assaults. You should be resolute in not allowing their underlying issues that are driving their poor behavior to become your problem. Being empathetic to their personal demons does not have to come at the emotional and spiritual expense of you or your immediate family. You can close the door on the relationship, but don’t lock it. God has an amazing way of softening hearts, changing behaviors transforming relationships. If you lock that door permanently, you will not be able to give them the opportunity to hear and see Christ’s love in you, while also depriving your children of knowing their extended families.
 
 
 
Brandon Moser is the President & CEO of the Holy Discontent Motorcycle Ministry (HolyDiscontent.org). He is currently completing his doctoral studies in Christian counseling and divinity.
 
For additional articles by Brandon, click here.

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Most think they are good listeners. Some of them think they are such good listeners that they can’t shut up about it. Dale Carnegie, in the inspiring How To Win Friends and Influence People embraced listening skills, coupled with deep and genuine questions, as the means to get along in life.


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Creating Positive Peer Pressure for our Kids

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Do You Have a Budget For Your Words?

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The Subtle Art of Doing Nothing

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