Friday, August 31, 2018

Don’t Be Fooled By The Imposter!

 Last week I started receiving Facebook messages from people wondering why they were getting a friend request from me when I was already their friend.  It turned out; I was the victim of what has become a very common thing on Facebook and in social media:  Somebody was impersonating me without my knowledge or permission.

Someone had lifted an online picture of me, and some other public photo’s of mine, and put together a Facebook page, using information about me available online.  That person then opened a Facebook account pretending to be me.  The only thing the phony got wrong was my gender.  For some reason he/she listed me as a woman!  This last mistake was a red flag to people who actually knew me. 

Why do this? Why pretend to be someone else online?  There are several reasons someone might want to impersonate you in social media.  If someone is tricked into accepting an imposter as a “friend,” then that phony friend has access to information posted for friends only.  It’s a way of data-mining, as the practice has come to be called.  It also gives the imposter fake credibility, since he/she can make comments or give advice pretending to be you, thus tricking people into taking the imposter seriously.  More disturbingly, it can be a way of smearing someone’s character, since a person impersonating you can post things supposedly from you that make you look bad. 

I reported it to Facebook several times, and when some of my friends started reporting it, the fake account was closed down.  A big “thank you” to my friends who reported the imposter!  So if you have a friend being impersonated, report it right away.

You may think this is a new problem, but it goes back to Jesus’ day.  There are many books claiming to be written by Paul, Peter, Andrew, Judas, Mary, and a whole host of early followers of Jesus.  These books were almost certainly written by people pretending to be them.  If you’re interested in reading these books check out one of the online collections of “Pseudepigrapha” – the fancy name used by scholars for the library of ancient books written by imposters.

.Jesus himself warns against those who would impersonate him!

Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray.  Many will come in my name and say, "I am he!' and they will lead many astray (Mark 13:5-6 NRSV).

Not everyone speaking for Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, or the Apostles, is really speaking for them.  And to spot the imposters, there are some simple things to look for. 

Jesus is all about love (of even enemies), forgiveness, healing, and grace.  Anyone who doesn’t speak with these qualities isn’t speaking with the mind of Christ.  And since Jesus is a reflection of God, anyone who doesn’t speak with these qualities isn’t speaking on behalf of God.  And since the Holy Spirit is the power of Jesus and God at work in the world, anyone who doesn’t speak with these qualities isn’t speaking on behalf of the Holy Spirit.  And since the Apostles were filled with and moved by the Holy Spirit, anyone who doesn’t speak with these qualities probably isn’t speaking on behalf of the Apostles. 

When it comes to me, and other friends of yours, don’t be fooled by an imposter.  And when it comes to Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, or any aspect of your faith, it pays to be extra careful.

In God’s Peace;
The Real David

The Joy Of Losing Things

I recently decided to clean out my cell phone.  I have used it to take numerous photos over the last couple years, saved many documents, taken notes, etc.  I even had a whole file devoted to the 2018 Indiana Annual Conference filled with relevant material. 
Most of this stuff doesn’t mean anything to me now, I don’t really need it, and if it had disappeared suddenly a week ago I wouldn’t have noticed.  Yet, as unimportant as my phone clutter may be, I have a hard time pushing the “delete” button and getting rid of it for good.  What if I accidentally delete something important?  Some of those photos may turn out to have historical value!  And besides, it’s not like they’re taking up space in my house or office. 

So, instead of deleting them, I found an old thumb drive, and simply transferred them over so I can throw them into a corner and forget about them.  I now rest easy in the knowledge that they’re still around if needed, even though I probably will never need or see them again.

Human beings have a natural tendency to view losses as far more significant than gains.  If you find twenty dollars you’re naturally happy.  But if, soon after this, you have a five dollar bill fly out the window and disappear, your regret for losing the five dollars completely overshadows the joy you should have at being fifteen dollars to the good.  In Psychology and Economics this is called “loss aversion,” and it is a verifiable part of our human wiring.  It may make sense from a survival point of view, but in the modern world it can lead to a host of problems including spiritual and physical hording. 

Our fear of losing can get us into trouble because there are things in our lives we ought to lose; things that we cling to unnecessarily.

We walk around with anger, carry grudges, focus on our failures, are bitter over past disappointments, and feel anguish over our own shortcomings.  Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to lose a few of those things after all!  Maybe, in fact, we need to constantly remind ourselves of what really is important, and what doesn’t matter in the end.    Maybe we should be a little quicker to push the “delete” button in our lives.

There’s a story of a man who lost all his investments and money in the stock market crash of 1929.  Soon afterward his pastor paid a visit, finding the investor slumped in his parlor obviously depressed.

“I’ve lost everything,” he said to the clergy.  “Everything.”

The pastor replied:  “I’m sorry you wife has died.”

“She’s not dead,” said the investor.  “She’s as devoted and loving as ever.”

“Well then I’m sorry something has happened to your children.”

“No, they’re fine.  They’re playing in the other room.”

“And your friends have all abandoned you?”

“I still have good friends who are very supportive.”

The pastor concluded with this:  “You haven’t lost everything.  You’ve only lost the least important part of your life.  The important things are still there. Embrace them.”

We can accumulate so much junk in our lives that the good stuff gets buried.  Periodically we need to clean things up.  Like my cell phone’s internal storage, we need to sort things out before we become overloaded with rubbish.  And in this process we must inevitably lose some of the things we cling to.  The Bible challenges us to do this.  As Colossians 3:8 NRSV puts it:  “But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth.”

The least important parts of our lives can interfere with the most important parts.  Let’s take a moment to consider what really matters.  The important things are definitely worth keeping, but this summer might be a good time to lose some of the clutter.