Tag Archives: Internet

Words of Life or Death

The tongue has the power of life and death…
Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

I once knew a person who was educated, bright, and quite capable. For a short period of time, we were companions on a stretch of the journey. On occasion, we experienced the normal stresses of life, and I observed that this person could get inordinately out-of-sorts. I could watch anxiety and insecurity take over their entire person. In acute moments, they would blurt: “I’M NOT STUPID!”

The thing was, not once when this blurt made its exclamatory appearance did anyone ever hint that our friend was stupid. In fact, no one I knew in our circle would have even thought such a thing. Whenever it happened it was an awkward, inappropriate moment.

I quickly suspected that somewhere in this person’s impressionable childhood years there was a parent, and older sibling, or an adult of significant influence who had repeatedly, in a derogatory fashion, told them they were stupid. Now, the words played in their head like a tape recording on a ceaseless loop.

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of leading various groups of people through creativity workshops and classes. One of the key parts of the class is to identify the negative messages in our heads that create resistance to our creative urges. Almost always, these “blurts” are messages planted in our brains when we were young.

  • “You’re stupid.”
  • “You’ll never amount to anything.”
  • “You’re ugly.”
  • “Why do you waste your time with that shit?”
  • “I wish you were dead.”

I’ve heard so many stories along the way. In some cases, the words were truly evil, and were said with evil intent from a twisted soul. More often, I believe the harmful words were uttered in a moment of parental stress and the adult had no earthly idea that their momentary anger just planted a seed in the soul of a child that would bear rotten fruit in years of self-deprecation and insecurity.

The tongue has the power of life and death,” says the Sage in today’s chapter.

Never in the history of the world have we, as human beings, had instant access to so many words and voices. Never in the history of the world have we, as human beings, had the ability to broadcast our words from the palm of our hand to the entire world. Never in the history of the world have we, as human beings, had such power, with our words, to be an agent of life or death.

In the quiet this morning I find myself thinking about my words. I’m thinking about the words I speak to others. I’m thinking about the words I write and broadcast. I’m thinking about the words and voices I allow, by choice or apathy, to enter my head and heart.

Immediately, God’s ancient words come to mind:

“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life…”

(By the way, you’re not stupid.)

<— Click on Solomon for an indexed list of previous chapter-a-day posts from this series from Proverbs!

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

Featured photo by Larah McElroy via Flickr

The Prophet and the Sower

the sower full

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are now prophesying. Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!'”
Ezekiel 13:1-2 (NIV)

I do not believe that we who live in a post-enlightenment age can possibly fathom the religious climate of Ezekiel’s day. A person living in Jerusalem in that day would be familiar with various temples and religious centers catering to a giant web of Canaanite deities. A person living in the time of Ezekiel would be very familiar with mediums, prophets, fortune tellers, and soothsayers. It was a central part of daily life and the economy in the ancient world.

As I read of the prophetic performances God asked Ezekiel and his contemporaries to produce, it is easy to think that they stood out like sore thumbs. However, when I stop to consider the loud cacophony of prophets who catered to popular gods like Baal, Asherah, Dagon, Molech, Lotan, and Chemosh on the streets of Jerusalem, I wonder if Ezekiel’s prophetic performance art caused any more of a stir than a man dressed like Barney the dinosaur would cause in Times Square today.

In today’s chapter God tells Ezekiel to prophesy against false prophets and those sons and daughters of Israel who were profiting from telling people what they wanted to hear and who appear to have mixed themselves and their faith with the practice of other religions. The question I ask myself is whether Ezekiel’s voice could even be heard above the din of the idolatrous crowd.

Today, I find myself mulling over how our culture (even in out post-enlightenment age) both parallels and contrasts the religious atmosphere of Ezekiel’s day. The internet has raised, to unprecedented levels, the cacophony of voices saying anything and everything to anyone and everyone. I am very aware that the voice of my squeaky little posts are lost in the din of information, advertisement, entertainment, opinion, and conjecture. Did Ezekiel feel the same way?

This morning I’m reminded of Van Gogh’s many drawings and paintings of the sower. The sower does not always know where his seed may fall, nor how they might take root, grow, or bear fruit. The sowers job is to cast his seed into the field. The prophets job is to sow his message into the din of contemporary voices.

Some Things Take Time

 

English: Sample catalog card in the card catal...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years.
2 Samuel 5:4 (NIV)

When I was a boy I spent entire class periods of elementary school learning how to use the library. If I was interested in a subject or had a question that needed answering I would have to wait until the day of the week our class would visit the school library. I would look up the subject in a large set of drawers that housed small index cards arranged by the Dewey Decimal System. It gave me a number that corresponded to the numbers on the spines of books arranged on the shelf and from there I could find all the books on the subject that interested me. Then, all I had to do was scour the books on the shelf to find what I was looking for.

By the time I was a teenager there was a set of Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias on the book shelf in our home. My mom acquired the entire set of encyclopedias, volume by volume, over a period of time using S&H “Green Stamps” she got at the Hy-Vee grocery store. What a time saver. Now, if I wanted the answer to a question I could go to our basement family room and look it up in the encyclopedia.

When I was in my twenties I purchased my first computer. It was an IBM PS1 with a 3.5 inch “floppy” disc drive and no internal hard drive. I eventually purchased a 300 megabyte hard drive for just over $300 and installed it myself. With that computer I got on the internet for the first time through a phone line that dialed-up the connection, but anyone trying to call me at home would get an intermittent tone called a “busy signal” telling them that I was using the phone line at the moment.

By the time I was thirty, I was able to access almost any information I wanted on the internet from home. No going to the library. No looking it up in a book. Simply dial-in to the internet (which by then I could do AND still use the home phone line AT THE SAME TIME! Genius!) and type in what you’re looking for.

On the way to the lake this past Wednesday night Wendy and I saw a gorgeous rainbow. “Why are rainbows arched?” we mused. Wendy simply picked up her phone, which is connected to the internet at all times, and asked the question. Everything you could possibly want to know about the subject was available to us instantly on our cell phone as we sat in our car speeding down Highway 63 in rural Missouri.

Face it. We are becoming an increasingly impatient people. I think we have enjoyed the blessings of rapidly advancing and evolving technology which deliver results and instant gratification, but scarcely have we realized the impact that it’s having on us.

David was anointed king as a boy. Chapter-by-chapter we’ve followed his journey across some twenty years from being a young hero over Goliath, to developing into a warrior, to spending years as an outlaw on the run, to becoming a mercenary for hire against his own people, to becoming the leader of his tribe. He didn’t realize the fruition of his anointing until he was 30.

Some things take time, and we are being increasingly conditioned to believe that everything should happen for us immediately and upon demand. I know I’m at risk for sounding like a stodgy old man grieving the good old days, but I’m really not. I enjoy the blessings of technology as much as everyone else. At the same time, I wonder what it is doing to me, how it is changing me, and when I should be concerned. One of the fruits of God’s Spirit is patience. David had to learn it in his long trek to the throne. I have had to learn it (often the hard way) in relationships and life and art and business.

Today, I’m reminding myself to be patient. Some things take time in order to work out for the best, and I want God’s best for me, no matter how long it takes.

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Rebuilding Babel

The Netherlands (Flanders)
The Tower of Babel by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day Genesis 11

“Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Genesis 11:6 (NLT)

Over the past ten years I have come to be more and more intrigued by the story of the Tower of Babel presented in today’s chapter. I believe that the story is more relevant today than ever and I believe it’s important for us to connect the dots. For those who’ve never read the story (and haven’t read all of today’s chapter), the Cliff Notes version goes like this: All of the people spoke one language. They began to advance quickly as they learned how to make bricks and construct cities. Using their advancing technology they made a tower which would “reach to the sky” and “make them famous.” God, not happy with how quickly human kind was advancing and concerned about human pride, responded with the verse I’ve quoted above. God scattered the people across the globe and confused their languages.

I believe the story of human history is the story of our slow return to Babel. From being scattered and our languages confused, we have slowly reached out, explored, conquered, mapped, and increased our knowledge, technology and communication. In the past few decades we have once again become people of one language: the language of the internet. As we become one people and one language technology is advancing at unheard of levels. How ironic that last week I attended a professional conference last week in which the technology of Speech Analytics (e.g. computers translate and analyze mass quantities of recorded customer interactions and place a dizzying amount of information at your fingertips) was presented to those in attendance as the emerging solution that will revolutionize the way we all do business. The name of the particular product that was presented: Contact Babel complete with a logo of a little stair-step tower

I submit that our generation has begun to rebuild the Tower of Babel using Cat-5 cable, fiber optics, micro processors, satellite streams and DNA strands. We hear whispers in the press and on the web of doing what previously would be thought impossible. Not only can we cure disease with genetics but we can also order genetically designed children ala carte. The internet is tearing down international boundaries and making it impossible for governments to control information (it’s no wonder the U.N. wants to bring the internet under its control). We are hearing more and more about becoming a one world economy without a physical currency. And, all along the way I watch and listen as God becomes more and more irrelevant, passé, and obsolete to a popular culture hell-bent to embrace its own self-deification.

Then I sit at my desk in the wee hours of the morning and ask myself where this is all leading. Don’t worry, we’ll get back to the book of Revelation at some point. In the meantime, hold on tight. I think we’re in for a bumpy ride.

Chapter-a-Day Acts 1

source: Michael M Kenny via Flickr

Jesus replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.” Acts 1:7 (NLT)

One of the more difficult aspects of going through a divorce is the struggle to know when to speak, and when to be silent, with your children. This is especially true when they are teenagers. Seven years ago, as I walked that painful stretch of my own journey, I found two easy temptations with regard to talking to my girls.

First, I discovered the temptation to say too much because the breakdown of the marriage is affecting them so acutely and I wanted desperately want to provide some reason, understanding, and context. Second, I recognized the subtle, self-centered temptation within myself to want the girls to take, or at least to understand, my side of the story. What teenagers, in their stalwart belief that they are both fully mature and completely omniscient, fail to understand is that information without context, knowledge, wisdom, and discernment can become both a burden and a curse. It is said that ignorance is bliss, and sometimes that is true. Sometimes it is the very least appropriate for the situation. 

As children, we often feel that we have a need to know things. We will even go so far as to think that we have a right to know certain things. We live in a culture steeped in First Amendment rights and the Freedom of Information Act coupled with an almost instantaneous access to any piece of arcane trivial information you could desire. People even publicly post the most mundane and salacious facts about themselves on Facebook and Twitter. Television programming projects an endless hunt for the most juicy, private personal gossip about celebrities 24/7/365. It is no wonder that we feel so entitled to know so much about so many.

I found it interesting in today’s chapter that Jesus deflected some of his followers’ questions. Father God knows things we don’t know. He holds certain things close to the vest, and as His children we are all on a need-to-know basis. For some children, this seems terribly unfair, unjust and spurs fits of childish rage and rebellion. Personally, I find comfort in the fact that He’s got it under control and I can trust Him with that. Someday, when I’m ready and it’s appropriate, He’ll perhaps share some things with me. Perhaps by that time it won’t really matter. Until then, I can let it go and experience the freedom that comes from not having to know certain things.