Overcome the “Fear of Missing Out”

In 2013 the word FOMO was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. The Fear Of Missing Out is the “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere”. College students and young adults have a reputation for being severely afflicted with FOMO. As a freshman I wrecked my health by depriving myself of sleep to pack my day (and night) with excitement: pizza runs at 2am, all-night gaming, road trips and over-the-top pranks. But, it’s not just young adults who suffer. Sometimes FOMO plagues us all. Families pack weekend after weekend with serial sporting events and leave little room for spiritual or relational nourishment. FOMO shows up during the Christmas season when we run ourselves ragged to keep every tradition and then spend money we don’t have.

FOMO is amplified by social media. Technology now gives us the ability to see all the good times friends had without us. Facebook show us exactly what we’ve missed.

How do you know if you suffer from FOMO? Here are 5 common symptoms:

  1. You find it difficult to commit to social invitations. Are you concerned something better may come along and you will miss out on a better opportunity?
  2. You are restless. Are you looking for the next thing to provide you a sense of excitement? Has it become increasingly difficult to enjoy simple pleasures God provides each day?
  3. Your mind wanders elsewhere. Do you have difficulty being present emotionally or mentally with the people you live with daily — your spouse, your kids, your neighbors and friends?
  4. You constantly compare. Has social media stopped being about “staying in touch” and turned into “keeping up”? Do you waste hours online and end up feeling jealous and exhausted by the great things others are doing in their lives?
  5. You believe having more or doing more will make you happy. Do you crash when you can’t handle “the more” you think you want? Have you begun experiencing a bi-polar lifestyle of extreme highs and lows that leave you feeling strung out?

How do you overcome FOMO?

  1. Recognition is the first step toward healing. Until you admit that FOMO is ruining your joy you won’t be able to overcome it. Don’t minimizing FOMO’s impact on you.
  2. Identify your triggers. What sets off your Fear of Missing Out? Consider removing those triggers for a time (or permanently). Fast from social media, leave your phone in your car, or take a break from relationships that feed your FOMO.
  3. Reflect more deeply.  Ask yourself, “Will I truly be happier if I have ____ or if I do ____?” When you identify a lie, you can starve it and feed on the truth. Sometimes less is more. Ask yourself why FOMO is such a common human experience. Could it be that you were made for something more than this broken world currently offers? If you are missing out on what God has in store, FOMO may help spur you to search in a new direction.
  4. Look To God: Only God can satisfy. Our Fears Of Missing Out can only be calmed when we look into Jesus’ face and see the one who came “to make all things new!” (Revelation 21:5) Once we do, our patience will return as we become convinced that no matter how inadequate our current situation God will, one day, restore what is lost and broken. Ultimately, we will not miss out on any good thing!
  5. Read the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. The author speaks from experience. He suffered from FOMO like none other and offers advice for how to overcome.

Chances are you don’t need more good times. You simply need to choose to enjoy what you already have. God has created a world of simple pleasures which are often free and usually the best. Enjoy a brisk walk, a warm drink, a healthy meal. Sit quietly with a friend or family member and listen. Treasure the people near you.

Remember, at Christmas, even God thought it best to slow down and content Himself with less when He became human.

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True Christian Hope: Beyond Positive Thinking

Too many people confuse Christian hope with the power of positive thinking.

This past April a friend from Baltimore asked me, “Do you think the Orioles will win the World Series?” Like The Little Engine that Could I repeated, “I think they can!” I pointed to players’ statistics, team dynamics, coaching ability, and a recent winning record. The trouble was my evidence wasn’t all that compelling. By September, my optimism proved vain. 

sun_754-400What if, instead, someone had asked me, “Do you think the sun will rise every day until the World Series?” Philosophically, no one can prove beyond all conceivable doubts that the sun will continue to rise, but as little orphan Annie sang you can bet your bottom dollar the sun will come out tomorrow!”

Christian hope is not merely historically verifiable, like baseball statistics, but overwhelmingly compelling – like the sunrise. When Jesus defeated death on Easter morning, he wasn’t simply batting above average. Jesus’ victory over death didn’t merely make him a probable winner against future opponents – it makes him the definite winner. Jesus proved he was capable of pitching the perfect game, once and for all, and against all odds. He went against the reigning champion, death itself, who had never lost in a match. Jesus won! In fact, Jesus won every time death, and his teammates (sickness, blindness, deafness, etc.) took the field.

When John the baptist wavered in his hope he sent messengers to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?” Jesus responded with compelling facts, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up.” (Luke 7:22)

The apostle Paul was crystal clear about the basis of Christian hope. He writes, “If Christ has not been raised [from the dead], then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)Paul knew that real hope was rooted in facts – not feelings, intentions, aspirations, or probabilities. The resurrected Jesus Christ shined like the sun upon Paul’s eyes and transformed his skepticism into enduring hope.

Big faith has little to do with the size of your belief but everything to do with the object you believe in. If the object of your faith is big and reliable, your faith is strong — no matter how much doubt is mixed in. Jesus said we only need “faith the size of a mustard seed.” (Luke 17:6) Even the smallest, weakest faith in Him is strong because He is strong.

Christian hope is based on what Jesus accomplished — not our feelings. There is a huge difference between placing faith in Jesus and placing faith in your faith.

  • Do you struggle to trust God has forgiven you? Do not base your confidence on feeling sufficiently sorry or proving earnestness to yourself. Rest instead on what Jesus did. He paid your debt on the cross so you may be fully forgiven, no matter your failure.
  • Do you want assurance that you can change. . . that your character flaws are redeemable and your addictions are conquerable? Look not in the mirror. There you will only find a flawed person barely capable of short lived victories. Look beyond the mirror to, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Jesus reflects the image of God perfectly and is working by His Spirit to restore you to look as glorious…someday!
  • Are you worried the best things in life may pass you bye? You can strive hard after them, but to what end? Even the best things under the sun will leave you hungering and thirsting for more. Then death will rob them all away. Strive instead after the one who defeated death, and offers Himself. The one who came to give us life to the full, now, and forevermore.

By all means think positively. But if you want a hope that never fails, look to Jesus.

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The Most Influential Person of All Time

51OOB97bKFLTime Magazine published a special edition in April 2012. The cover read “The 100 Most Influential People of All Time”. It was global, pluralistic and offended almost no one. Joel Stein wrote, “If you’re a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew or a Zoroastrian, you have no reason to get upset. I’m hoping, however, that no Scientologists see this.”

To say that Jesus Christ should make the top 100 is a given. The ball dropping in Times Square will soon flash 2016, reminding us that we still date time after him. But should Jesus top the list as “The Most Influencial Person of All Time”?

Scientists would likely choose Newton, Galileo, Darwin or Einstein. But we must ask, “How did science come about in the first place?” It rose in medieval Europe; not Asia, nor the Middle East, nor Africa, nor the Americas. Many societies developed alchemy, but only in Europe did alchemy turn into chemistry.  Only in Europe did astrology lead to astronomy.  Why?

The most important victory in history, was the victory of reason which occurred within Christianity.  Dr. Rodney Stark clarifies in his book The Victory of Reason,

“While other world religions emphasized mystery and intuition, Christianity alone embraced reason and logic as the primary guide to religious truth.  . . from the early days, the church fathers taught that reason was the supreme gift from God and the means to progressively increase their understanding of scripture and revelation. Consequently, Christianity was oriented to the future, while other major religions asserted the superiority of the past.  . .  Encouraged by Scholastics and embodied in the great medieval universities founded by the church, faith in the power of reason infused western culture, stimulating the pursuit of science and the evolution of democratic theory and practice.”

Alfred North Whitehead, co-author with Bertrand Russell in the landmark Principia Methematica admitted to his distinguished, yet shocked, audience at Harvard in 1925, “faith in the possibility of science. . . [was] derived from medieval [Christian] theology.” 

However, can we really say Jesus stands out on top if we look at His influence from a global perspective? China, a secular country of over 1 billion people, has been committed to a communist and atheistic ideology for several generations. Yet consider a recent statement by, Zhao Xiao, one of China’s leading scholars.

“One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system.  Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.”  (Aikman, David. 2003. Jesus in Beijing. Regnery. 2003. p.5)

Zhao Xiao later confesses, “I thought I could never believe in God, because I am an economist.”¹ He now attends a Christian house church in China. Currently China is a hot-bed of church growth and some scholars estimate there are nearly 100 million Christians in the underground church.

A book co-authored by an atheist and a Roman Catholic (The Economists’s John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge) titled God is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith is Changing the World records,

“Almost everywhere you look, from the suburbs of Dallas to the slums of Sao Paulo to the back streets of Bradford, you can see religion returning to public life. . . One poll in 2006 – fifteen years after the fall of the Soviet regime — discovered that 84 percent of the Russian population believed in God while only 16 percent considered themselves athiests. [Even] Mikhail Gorbachev has shown signs he is a Christian.”

Jesus Christ continues to change cultures and individuals. I see this reflected on college campuses. I’ve only been a campus minister for 20 years, but more students than ever are attending our events and seeking answers about Jesus. Time magazine may never call Jesus “The Most Influential Person of All Time” but the evidence continues to accumulate.

This Christmas I pray more and more people discover what over 3 billion followers profess about Jesus. He is Immanuel — God with us!

¹ (Micklethwait and Wooldridge, God is Back. Penguin Press, 2009. p18)

Free Book by Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni Eareckson Tada is founder and CEO of Joni and Friends, a ministry “dedicated to spreading the love and message of Jesus Christ to those affected by disability around the world”. Joni is a famous author, artist, speaker and hope-builder. I have read many of her books and recommend all of them! This incredible lady, who has lived with immense suffering, is currently offering her book Hope…the Best of Things for FREE on Kindle.

Click here to take advantage of this free book offer.

51QcEBbJhhL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_-2Here is a description of the book from Amazon:

“One thing has saved her: the heaven-sent hope found only in Christ.

If hope is scarce in your life, this special booklet will draw you-toward a fresh perspective on suffering, true scriptural encouragement, and this beloved author’s hard-won insights about the goodness of God.

In her life’s journey Joni has learned to meet suffering on God’s terms. She has learned that joy is for real. And most of all, she has learned that hope is the best of things when we give it a chance. This book powerfully communicates all these truths from someone who has lived them, so that you can live them too, no matter what you’re going through.”

In the Name of Religious Diversity Speak Up, Don’t Cower

As a Christian minister to college students for nearly 20 years I’ve discovered there is one topic, more than any other, that causes an uproar when broached on campus. Surprisingly, it’s not the doctrine of hell, nor the problem of evil, nor the perceived battle between science and faith. Those topics certainly spark lively discussions, but they remain civil compared to discussing the idea of exclusivity.  It’s considered anathema to suggest that one religion (or view of god) is true and the others are false.

Over the years, students I’ve worked with have written opinion articles in their college newspapers. Articles that address important religious topics such as: “How can a good and powerful God allow so much suffering?” or “Does religion cause violence?” rarely provoke a written response. But when an article titled “Is there one true religion?” was answered in the affirmative, it provoked several strongly worded rebuttals. All of them basically stating how ridiculous, arrogant and intolerable it is to make such spiritual truth claims.

“We have been told since we were very small children that Christianity is the one true religion. We were also told that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole and brings presents to the worlds’ children on Jesus’ birthday…My parents didn’t lie to me about Santa and my pastor didn’t lie to me about Christianity.”

“To those of us serving on the Interfaith Council, the article on Christianity does not reflect what we believe are indispensable values — the support of tolerance, the practice of humility, and the encouragement of religious diversity… we simply believe the sentiments expressed are contrary to [the] college’s goals as a liberal arts institution.”

You would think the article that sparked these responses was filled with mockery or profanity. It wasn’t. The article was gracious but it deconstructed a very old, and well known, Jainist parable about a group of blind men and an elephant. (The elephant represents spiritual reality.) This parable has become the gold standard for acceptable religious expression on today’s college campus.

One blind man feeling the elephant’s trunk says, “It’s long and flexible like a snake.”

Another touching the leg says, “Not at all, it’s round and rough like a tree trunk.”

“You are both wrong, it is large and flat like a boulder!” says the third blind man feeling its’ side.

Since none could envision the entire elephant, each blind man described the elephant in part. Each man is properly rebuked for thinking they understood the truth. The parable teaches the nature of spiritual reality. The moral is: “It is ridiculous to bicker over equally valid belief systems”. It is argued that each religion sees spiritual reality in part and no religion can have a comprehensive vision of truth.

The problem with the parable is that it backfires on itself. As Dr. Tim Keller writes, “The story is told from the point of view of someone who is not blind. How could you know that each blind man only sees part of the elephant unless you claim to be able to see the whole elephant?” (The Reason for God)

One student responded, “the elephant is likened to the ‘unknown’ something that cannot be fully understood or agreed upon.” To say he missed the point is a gross understatement. The moral of the parable falls apart if there is no special revelation given to the narrator and denied to all others. Who knows, maybe the ‘unknown’ is three different things: a snake, a tree, and a rhinoceros?  In that case, there would be reason to disagree and hold your ground out of respect for the truth. You could do so humbly, but you’d be arrogant to insist each blind man was grasping at the same thing.

Unfortunately this parable has been used, time and again, to shame Christians, Muslims, Jews, and even atheists when they express exclusive views of spiritual reality. But no one should be intimidated into silence by the Jedi mind-tricks of relativist.

Certainly we must humbly recognize that we can learn from anyone. But, Jesus calls us to do more than tolerate others. He calls us to love everyone, even our enemies. At the very least this means sharing the truth about what Jesus claimed about himself, even with people from vastly different religious backgrounds. The hope of Christianity is that God has revealed Himself in the flesh. In other words, the “elephant” has spoken and declared who He is.

The unavoidable truth is that everyone, even elephant-loving relativists, make authoritative truth claims about spiritual reality that not everyone shares. They are free to do so, but lets be clear about what they are doing. They are making exclusive claims about spiritual reality that boil down to “I am right and you would do better to convert to my view.”  Surely if is it permissible for them to work for conversion then how can they deny that right to others. In the name of religious diversity, the biggest favor we can do for our relativistic friends is to point out this hypocrisy, so they may be more self-aware.

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