Archives for category: The Internet

Sometimes, I wonder whether hard work, drive and ambition are dying virtues—extinguished—buried somewhere along with chivalry, good manners and decorum.  Our social media culture has created the expectation of overnight success and instant stardom.  A few decades ago, people were trying to keep up with the Jones.  Now, it seems as if most people are trying to keep up with the Kardashians.  Once upon a time, resumes were reflective compilations of tenacity, hard work and dedication, a stark contrast to today’s Internet culture where opportunities are heavily reliant on self aggrandizement and even, self deprecation.  Followers equal dollars.

 

Here is my question:  If everyone is off becoming an Internet super star, who’s actually learning and training to become our next leaders—our doctors, our lawyers, our teachers, our philosophers or our politicians?  Where are the new, future world changers?  I’m not saying that the next visionary cannot be discovered behind a computer screen.  What I am saying is that there is a low probability that ALL our future leaders will be discovered on YouTube.  The sobering fact is that many of us are going to have to put in a little elbow grease in order to achieve success.

 

The pursuit of celebrity is nothing new. The over-the-top lifestyles that are oftentimes depicted in movies, magazines and television can be alluring, but there is a cost.  You are either going to pay in time or in kind.  Oftentimes, shortcuts are more expensive in the long run because nothing is ever truly free.  The question is: Are you willing to pay the associated price?

 

I think we need to go back to a time where we revered the people in our communities—people whom we actually know and have seen the results of their tireless efforts.  The unsung heroes in our families and our neighborhoods are often the ones who are making the most difference in our society.  They should be the ones whom we celebrate.

 

Fame and fortune should never be terminal goals because as independent virtues, they are both inherently valueless.  They should be deemed as conduits for change—a means to an end.  To whom much is given, much is expected (Luke 12:48).

 

Traditional slavery, chattel slavery, is officially illegal in all countries.  However, while most of the world has since eradicated the antiquated systems that once forced multitudes of people into involuntary servitude, today, there is a new form of slavery—a new slave master.

 

According to Cambridge Dictionary, slavery is defined as “the condition of being legally owned by someone else, or the system in which people are owned by others.” Wikipedia puts it this way:  Slavery is “a legal or economic system in which principles of property law are applied to humans allowing them to be classified as property, to be owned, bought and sold accordingly, and they cannot withdraw unilaterally from the arrangement. While a person is a slave, the owner is entitled to the productivity of the slave’s labor, without any remuneration.”  In today’s capitalist economy, financial institutions have become the new captains of the slave trade.

 

Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender,” (NIV).  No where is this truer than in “free trade.”  The average American is shackled by debt.  According to an article published on Nerdwallet.com, as of October 2015, the U.S. household consumer debt profile was as follows:

  • Average credit card debt: $16,140
  • Average mortgage debt: $155,361
  • Average student loan debt: $31,944

 

The article further went on to say that the total debt owned by American consumers was:

  • $11.85 trillion in debt
    • An increase of 1.4% from last year
  • $918.5 billion in credit card debt
  • $8.09 trillion in mortgages
  • $1.19 trillion in student loans
    • An increase of 5.9% from last year

 

The median household income for 2014 was $53,657. As the numbers suggests, most Americans are in over their heads in debt.  The problem is not so much the debt itself.  The problem is the issue of usury, which is illegal and morally reprehensible.  Merriam-Webster defines usury as, “the lending of money with an interest charge for its use; especially:  the lending of money at exorbitant interest rates.”  How does one quantify and/or qualify exorbitant?  Today’s credit card APR can range from low 13% all the way to 29.9 %.  I would make the argument that even 13% could be considered exorbitant.  Who determines exorbitance?  I’m sure it’s not the average citizen.

 

The main difference between traditional slavery and economic slavery is that most individuals, at some point, voluntarily entered into their financial engagement(s).  However, the similarity that both conditions typically share is the inability to readily disengage from the entanglement.

 

Let’s take another look at the definition of slavery.  The first part of the definition of slavery asserts that slavery is orchestrated by “a legal OR economic system.”  By definition, the financial system is an “economic system.” So, check.  The second condition of slavery is that an individual is “legally owned” by another individual(s).  Yet, another check.  I must say this, although individuals are not physically owned by financial institutions, they are economically imprisoned and shackled.  Before I expand on this though, I would like to state the third condition of slavery, which is “they cannot withdraw unilaterally from the arrangement.”  Check!

 

Most financial institutions are in the business of buying and selling debt.  It is not uncommon for people who are saddled with debt to see their loan(s) change hands several times during the lifetime of their loan.  With each change of ownership, there are new notices and disclosures, which are usually multiple, page documents that are typically indiscernible, microscopic fine-print with an inherent obligation for compliance.  In essence, the borrower does not get to pick and choose which terms and conditions they accept and agree with.  Once the loans are sold, the borrower’s finances become subject to the new lender’s (“owner”) discretion. The borrower cannot readily disengage from the financial obligation without legal recourse or ramifications.  In some cases, many individuals are working solely to pay debts.

 

There are people who are reading this post and are probably thinking that individuals who are indebted are in the position that they are in because of poor decision-making.  While that may or may not be true of some, it’s not true of others, and I caution such thinking.  There are many individuals, who have made prudent decisions, yet have still found themselves victims of circumstances, including divorce, life, sickness, death, fraud or even hunger.  Not everyone in debt is living above their mean.  Some people are simply trying to live.  A mother who uses her credit card to buy food and clothing for her family is a far cry from a squanderer.  A young, doe-eyed humanitarian who made a prudent decision to attend medical school to refine his God-given gifts and impact his community and the world around him is far from what I would call irresponsible.  While I am sure there are people who’ve placed themselves in the lion’s den, this is not everyone’s story, and the truth is, even if it were, do they deserve to be eternally imprisoned?

 

King Solomon said it best when he said, “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all,” (Ecclesiastes 9:11, NIV).  One on the worse things that any of us could do on our journey on this Earth is to make distinctions between “us” and “them.”  If anyone has lived on this Earth long enough, one of the valuable lessons learned is that time is the ultimate equalizer where “they” often becomes “me.”

A few years ago, I created this blog to challenge the way we think–to open our minds. Today the old adage, knowledge is power, is probably truer than ever before. Many of us fear what we do not know.

On Tuesday, I sat in front of my television, as perhaps millions of others, and watched as Charlie Sheen disclosed what was probably his biggest personal obstacle to date: his HIV status. As I watched him, I saw an individual who was the embodiment of the human experience–wonderful, flawed and broken, all at the same time. At times during the interview, he look bewildered, as if he were having an out of body experience–as if it were happening to someone else.

Days before the Matt Lauer interview, I already knew what Charlie Sheen’s disclosure would be. The Internet was already abuzz. The opinions and speculation varied from support to condemnation. As I read through some of the posts, I was reminded of King David. During one of his fallen moments, he declared, “It would be better to fall into the hands of God than to fall into the hands of man.”

God’s grace reminds us that we are ALL wonderful, flawed and broken. In all of our lives, we will experience moments where our actions will take us to dark places from where only God can deliver us. The truth is, only God can judge.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Whether we know it or believe it, we are all called for God’s purpose. He can take our biggest mistakes, failures and shortcomings and use them for His glory. One of the positives that came from Sheen’s disclosure is the open dialogue about HIV and AIDS. There is still so much misinformation and stigma surrounding the disease. As having had the experience as an HIV educator and working with HIV researcher, I understand the value of these teachable moments.

Last year, I wrote and produced, “What is Your Status: An HIV Awareness Story ” to highlight some of the issues that still surround HIV and AIDS.
Please check out the video below:

The Internet has revolutionized the world by allowing, for the most part, a free exchange of thoughts and ideas.  Information on the Web is instantaneous.  Long gone are the days when news took days, weeks or even years, to travel from one side of the world to the other.  Social media has also influenced our culture by encouraging the liberty of free speech.  However, the impact of social media has not always been positive. Oftentimes, it allows ill-spirited people to spew hatred from behind the protective shield of a computer screen and from behind the anonymity of a screenname.

A few weeks ago, I was thinking about King David.  In fact, I’m always thinking about King David.  He’s one of my favorite people in the Bible.  I love his naked transparency.  He was perfectly imperfect, if such a thing exists.  God loved him too, so much so that the Bible labeled him the apple of God’s eyes.  The stories of David teach us that even though God loves us and always forgives us, there are times when He holds us accountable for our actions.  In 1 Chronicles 21, David sinned against God.  He did something that God instructed him not to do.  As a result, God held him accountable.

God was very displeased with the census, and he punished Israel for it. Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt for doing this foolish thing.” Then the Lord spoke to Gad, David’s seer. This was the message: 10 “Go and say to David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments, and I will inflict it on you.’” 11 So Gad came to David and said, “These are the choices the Lord has given you. 12 You may choose three years of famine, three months of destruction by the sword of your enemies, or three days of severe plague as the angel of the Lord brings devastation throughout the land of Israel. Decide what answer I should give the Lord who sent me.” 13 “I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great. Do not let me fall into human hands,” (1 Chronicles 21:7-21).

David’s response to God’s three choices has been something that I have held on to in my life.  David said that he would rather fall into the hands of God that into the hands of men.  Oh, how true!  As I read many of the pop culture news stories, I often ask myself the question, “How long should we be made to pay for our past mistakes?”  God said that we are new creatures in Christ, (2 Corinthians 5:17).  So often, people want to define us by our past.  So often, people want us to carry the scarlet letter of sin to the grave.  They want us to walk with our heads hung low for things we have done in our past.  I would rather fall into the hands of God than into the hands of man.  God makes all things new (Revelation 21:5).  Just as any good parent would, there are times when God does punish us for our sins.  However, the punishment is finite.  There IS an end.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us,  nor remain angry forever. 10 He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. 11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. 12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. (Psalms 103: 8-12, NLT).

The heart of men tends to incline toward eternal condemnation.  Thank God, there is freedom in Christ Jesus.  We are not defined by our past.  We are not who we were.  Christ allows us the freedom to reinvent ourselves yearly, monthly, daily and even secondly.  In one minute, we could be the devil reincarnate and in the other, we could be ambassadors for Christ.  This is the freedom found in the blood of Christ.  Man does not define us.  They cannot.  Man cannot define what he did not create.

As we lean into God today, I want to remind you that you are not who you were yesterday.  During the next few weeks of this challenge, consider taking a break from social media.  Unfortunately, today, so much of who we think we are is tied up in other people’s opinions and validation, or lack thereof.  We need to reset our standards.  Over the next few weeks, learn who God says you are.  Learn who He created you to be.  Remember, when God created man, He created him in His own image.  When He was finished, He said, “This is good,” (Genesis 1:27-31).  God did not say, “Wow, this is bad.  Back to the drawing board.”  He said, “This is good!”  Therefore, He intended for us to see ourselves as such.  We are His masterpiece, (Ephesians 2:10).

Today’s prayer:  Lord, remind us who we are.  Never allow us to fall into the hands of man.  Lord, we know that when you punish us, your judgment is swift and fair.  Lord, allow us to learn who we are in you.  Remind us that Christ has made all things new.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen!