Addicted to Technology

Over the last few months I have been writing quite regularly about the changes to our way of life that are occurring due to technology. Current improvements in technology have drastically changed the way we live, the way we relate, the way we receive and process information. And, technology has become a major issue in the field of addiction as many people are seriously addicted and dependant upon technology.

So if you want to change the way you relate to technology and social media, then I encourage you to consider the story of someone who asked Jesus for help when he needed to be healed. In John 5:1-15, we’re told how one day Jesus approached the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, a place where sick people gathered. There were people who were blind, likely lame people. And possibly someone who was paralyzed.

These people gathered and waited patiently because they believed an angel would stir up the water causes bubbles to rise. Like people for centuries before and since and in many places, the people of Jerusalem believed the bubbly waters had healing powers, and needy people embraced the legend that the first person in the water would be healed.

One guy stood out as Jesus approached the crowd of hurting people, a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. Thirty-eight years. We can only imagine how hard this guy’s life was. For thirty-eight years, he couldn’t work. For thirty-eight years, he couldn’t walk. For thirty-eight years, he was dependent on other people to do everything we do ourselves and take for granted. Thirty-eight days of suffering is difficult to endure. Thirty-eight years must have seemed like an eternity.

This reality makes Jesus’ question to this man stand out even more. “When Jesus saw him lying there He asked him, ‘Do you want to get well” (John 5:6 emphasis added). What kind of question is that to ask a guy who’s been unable to walk for almost four decades? This question seems insensitive, almost insulting. It’s like asking a broke guy if he wants to win the lottery. It’s like asking a hungry guy if he wants a year’s worth of free food at his favourite restaurant. Why would Jesus ask such an obvious question?

Because Jesus needed to know if the guy really wanted to change.

Because Jesus knew this guy needed o know for himself if he really wanted to change.

Did he really want to get well?

Now, you may be a bit like me. You have a love-hate relationship with technology. You love it for all the obvious reasons. But you hate that it consumes you and that your default action in any slow moment of life is to start going click, swipe, swipe, swipe., swipe.

Maybe you’ve had a problem with technology for a while. It’s distracting you from those in front of you. People you care about often complain because you’re staring at your phone and not listening to them. You can’t go an hour without checking your device. If you don’t have it with you at all times, you feel lost, vulnerable, and anxious. Maybe your identity is wrapped up in Likes, comments, and retweets. If you gain a follower, you’re happy. But if you loser one, you get upset. You know you shouldn’t be like this, but you are. And when you’re honest, it bothers you.

If you’ve been chained to this addition for a while, you might recognize three major challenges that make it harder to break free. 

1> The longer a problem persists, the more discouraged you become.

For thirty-eight years, nothing changed for the poor guy at the pool of Bethesda. Similarly, for who knows how long, you device may have been keeping you from being fully alive in Christ. Maybe you’ve tried to manage it, but you can’t. So you’re tempted to resign yourself to it, saying, “Hey, everyone else is tied to theirs, right? So this is just the way life is going to be. I wish I could change, but we all know that will never happen.”

2> The longer a problem persists, the more excuses you make.

When Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be well, the man relied, “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred” (John 5:7). He explained to Jesus that because he had no help, everyone else races by him, leaving him stranded without any hope. Maybe this describes where you are today. You want to change, and you secretly hope that somehow God will help you. But you also know it’s easier to just wait by the pool and make excuses than to crawl over and dive in. You may be saying things like this:

      • “I can’t live without my phone for an hour, much less a whole day.”
      • “It’s just the way life is today. Staying current is too important to me.”
      • “Besides, I tried to unplug once, but it just wasn’t worth it.”

3> The longer a problem persists, the more you learn to compensate.

Just like the functional alcoholic who manages to perform work on the job while being a wrecking ball at home, you may be able to get around your techno-dysfunction. You keep passing your classes. You keep getting your job done. And by all means, you keep current on what’s happening in other people’s lives and still manage to make time for the perfect Sunday Selfie.

But your life is full of things that aren’t satisfying you.

You know there has to be more.

You long for it, but you don’t know where to find it.

So here’s the bottom line: you cannot change what you are willing to tolerate. If you just sort of don’t like it, the problem won’t go away. Not ever. If you’re willing to put up with it, things will never be different. You have to get to the point where you’re no longer afraid of what you might miss out on. You have to refuse to miss out on what — and who — is right in front of you. 

So, do you want to be healed and set free from your addiction to technology? 

Cyber Sabbath – Part Two

I believe that a lot of us have a hard time tuning out and shutting down. We find it extremely difficult to simply ignore the phone for a half hour during our lunch break or at 10:30p when you are brushing your teeth and getting ready for bed. And, let’s admit, many of us when we are bored, when we don’t have anything else going on, or when we’re between tasks or conversations have a default, brain-off habit of picking up our mobile devices and lazily clicking around.

When our minds are idle, we’re not thinking about anything meaningful, and when we’re not intentionally living, it can be so easy to shift into neutral. When we don’t have a specific destination in mind, any road will do. And if our time and resources aren’t precious, if we’re not doing anything important, it can be so easy to just pick up our phone, unlock the screen, and wander aimlessly through cyberspace, wasting our time and our thoughts.

Because we constantly allow ourselves to be distracted, because we don’t take our thoughts captive in obedience to Christ, our minds never shut down. So we’re constantly distracted. We can’t work productively for long stretches because we allow something to ping or beep and break our concentration. We let our RPMs run all the time, constantly revving our mental and emotional engines. We feel overwhelmed, and we don’t know why. We’re short with our children, and we don’t know why. We feel exhausted spiritually, and we don’t know why. We long for something more. Ironically, we keep returning to the source of our discontent, and of course we won’t find peace there.

Something has to change.

Most people in our culture accept the fact that our bodies need rest. However, I’d argue that our souls need rest just as much. Our souls need to be disconnected bing! Long enough to find peace bing! And some solitude in the presence of the God bing! Who created us to know Him bing! To walk daily with Him bing! To be in an intimate, ongoing, thriving relationship with Him, bing! Representing His love in this world bing! Rather than being wrapped up all the time bing! With some little device that absolutely demands our attention.

Can you feel what I am saying?

Speaking to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul says, “‘I have the right to do anything’, you say — but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ — but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12) When Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, he was responding to all sorts of perverted and sinful actions that he had learned they were doing. He was trying to express that in Christ, we have freedom to do many things. However — and you probably don’t need me to tell you this — just because we can do a thing doesn’t mean that we should do it. 

What Paul says here is one of my favourite verses in Scripture: “‘I have the right to do anything,’ but I will not be mastered by anything.” The power of Christ in me should be stronger than anything else in my life. I will not be mastered by an addiction to food. I will not be mastered by material possessions. I will not be mastered by an addiction to looking at things that are inappropriate for me to see. I will not be mastered by what other people think of me.

I will not be mastered by technology.

I love technology, but I have to stay mindful to refuse to be mastered by it. Christ in me is stronger than any addiction or potential addiction in me. Christ in you is stronger than any addiction in you. We will not be mastered.

If you’re constantly connected, and you find yourself feeling that low-grade frustration — “There has to be something more, there has to be something more” — then I’m going to argue that God has a special rest for you in Christ. You need to know that His rest is available to your soul.

And it’s available right now: “So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labours, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall” (Hebrews 4:9-11 NLT).

Why is it so hard to find this rest? And what is that one thing we’re actually longing for? St Augustine said: “Because God has made us for Himself, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.” God made us to be in relationships with Him. So our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.

This explains why our souls have been restless for so long, why we keep looking online for something that can satisfy our longing. Our souls need something that can bring meaning, something that can help our relationships work, something that can give us purpose and significance, something that fills the void inside of us once and for all. This is the central issue: we have a Jesus-shaped void inside of us. And nothing besides Jesus is ever going to fill that vacancy.

Jesus longs to give us what we so desperate crave: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 ESV).

I appreciate the Message version of these two verses and the one following: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message Version).

Are you weary? Do you feel burdened? Come to Jesus. His invitation is for you. Come to Him now. Come to Him by faiths and He’ll give you rest. He’s gentle. His heart is humble. Jesus is offering you His special rest.

But in order to fully experience His rest, you’re going to have to focus your heart on Him and Him alone. Nothing else. No one else.

Only Jesus.

Cyber Sabbath – Part One

Do you suffer from homophobia? Do you even know what it is. I didn’t until recently. I have been reading and studying about the changes technology has brought into our culture and way of life. That may be somewhat obvious by the number of references to technology in my recent blogs from early July until now.

According to Psychology Today, homophobia is “the fear of being without a mobile device, or beyond mobile phone contact.” Among today’s high school and college students, it’s on the rise. An increasing number of college students now shower with their cell phones. One study showed that the average adolescent would rather lose a pinky-finger than their cell phone.

Even if this information makes you laugh or roll your eyes, make no mistake: homophobia is real. Studies have shown that about 66 percent of adults feel extreme anxiety if they lose connection  with their mobile device. You know, that feeling you have when your battery drops to 8 percent? Or that sick knot you feel in your stomach when you reach in your purse or pocket, and your phone’s not where it usually is? More than half of the people who use a mobile device begin to feel upset when it is not with them.

On a recent flight from Detroit to Los Angeles I boarded and sat in the back row of a large plane. As I arranged myself for the lengthy flight — book out, highlighters and pen available, phone charging… I realized I did not have my iPhone. After a frantic look through pockets and briefcase I realized I had left it in the airport bathroom. The plane is almost full and near ready to depart. Panic. So, I understand that ‘separation anxiety’ you feel when you have lost or misplaced your cell phone. I was feeling seriously upset and panic-stricken.

Sound extreme? Well, guess what? If the age group is limited to eighteen to twenty-four, the percentage jumps to 77 percent. Think about that number for just a moment. It means three in four young adults suffer anxiety when they’re not connected through their technology. 

The first time I read these numbers, honestly, I found them pretty difficult to believe. But with further research I realized how real and pertinent these statistics are. According to one study, 58 percent of people say that won’t go one waking hour without checking their phone; 59 percent check their email as soon as it comes in; and 89 percent check their email every single day they’re on vacation. Another study says that 87 percent of teenagers sleep with their phones. I’m sorry, but if you’re sleeping with your phone you need help. You need counselling. You need Jesus. And someone needs to take your phone away from you for eight hours while you sleep.

Eighty-four percent of people said they couldn’t go one day without their phones. That’s the power of homophobia in action. It’s incredibly real. And it’s increasingly common. 

Let me ask you you a few questions, and I want you to answer as honestly as you can. You should never lie to anyone, but remember, I’m a pastor, so it’s even worse if you lie to me. (I’d hate for lightening to strike you where you’re sitting and leave just the charred remains of your phone case.)

Is checking your phone the last thing you do every day?

What about when you wake up? Is checking your phone one of the first things you do every morning?

Do you feel compelled to check your phone while waiting in line at the fast food drive through, in the checkout lane at the store, or while waiting in the airport? More than once?

Would you rather give a mugger your purse or wallet than your phone?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, maybe it’s time to power down and take a cyber Sabbath. Maybe it’s time to remember what life is like without your phone, tablet, or laptop. Maybe it’s time for your soul to rest.

More next time…

No Other Gods But God Only!

Speaking to people today it appears that they have numerous – and often many – gods before God Almighty. They worship money and all that it can do for them. The pleasure it can bring. They put technology before God and spend more time posting on Facebook and Instagram than they spend in God’s Word and in His presence. They have a seriously dysfunctional relationship with their followers on Facebook, their phones, and their many social apps. But they don’t care. They know something should change. But they just shrug it off. They think, “I’m fine with it. I like it. This is just my thing. Even if it’s wrong, even if God has something better for me, I don’t care.”

In the Old Testament, Gideon faced a similar problem with the people around him. They willingly bowed to idols and thumbed their noses at God in the process. But God was having none of it. With righteous passion, He told Gideon, “Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it” (Judges 6:25). Notice that God didn’t tell Gideon to help the people manage their idols, to shorten them by a few feet, just keep them under control. No, He commanded Gideon to tear them down. Cut down the poles. Don’t tolerate the idols. Crush them. Destroy them. Smash them. Obliterate them.

If you know your unhealthy obsessions are interfering with your most important relationships — with people or with God — it’s time to act.


This moment.


God doesn’t want you to have any gods before Him. Not a single one. God longs for you to know Him, to enjoy His constant presence and goodness, to walk by His Spirit, and to live in His love.

When Jesus saw a rich guy who idolized his money and things, Scripture says, “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack, He said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me’” (Mark 10:21 emphasis added).

Don’t miss Jesus’ motivation here for asking so much of this rich young guy. Jesus didn’t tell the young man to give all his money to Him and to His disciples, or to the building fund for the new temple. Jesus simply loved him. Do you see that? Jesus loved him. And Jesus loves you more than you can imagine. He doesn’t want you to allow yourself to be seduced into settling for something counterfeit. He wants you to embrace His grace, satisfied in your soul, because He is not only all you need but more than you can imagine. 

It’s interesting to me that at least in the Gospel record, Jesus didn’t tell anyone else to sell everything snd give away all their money. This is the only time that Jesus gives such a specific command. Why did He tell this guy and no one else to get rid of everything? It’s not because God doesn’t want us to have money and things; it’s that He doesn’t want money and things to have us. Without question, the things of this world had this rich man’s heart. They consumed him. He’d been seduced. And because Jesus loved him, He wanted him to have something better. So He commanded him to get rid of his idols and follow Him.

If you sense the Spirit of God nudging you (or maybe it’s more like a kick in the cursor), don’t ignore Him. He loves you. If your soul has been seduced into serving a counterfeit god, the one true God wants something better for you.

But gaining the better requires tearing down the idol.

Don’t manage it.

Destroy it. 

Living With Hope and Certainty!

A lot of people today have the understanding that it really does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere in what it is you say you believe. Of course this plays well until we come to the place in life when we are genuinely facing our own possible death. Then what we believe immediately comes into sharper focus and becomes seriously important.

What you believe should shape the lifestyle you live. But what you believe – sincere or not – will seriously shape your “life after death.” So, it is important to review your foundational beliefs and understandings. And, may I be so bold as to suggest, check them again what the Christian faith and the Bible sets forth as truth. Even if you are not a Christian you might still take a look at what the Bible teaches about death and life after death. Just to give yourself a context and something to bounce your own beliefs off of at such an important time. 

I just read Alex Trebek’s autobiography “The Answer Is… Reflections on my life.” He is the host of the long-running game show “Jeopardy.” The back of the dust jacket reads: “I believe in the will to live. I believe in the power of positivity. I believe in optimism. I believe in hope.” Caught my interest and so I took the time to read what is an amazing story and a well written book. 

In the last few pages of the book, the author writes of his current battle with terminal cancer. He writes…

“But when death happens, it happens. Why should I be afraid of it? Now, if it involves physical suffering, I might be afraid of that. But, according to my doctor, that’s what hospice is for.

They want to make it as easy as it can possibly be for you to transition into whatever future you happen to believe in. Am I a believer? Well, I believe we are all part of the Great Soul — what some call God. We are God, and God is us. We are one with our maker. How do I know this? It’s not that I know it. It’s that I feel it … I feel it in my gut.

But do I pray to a specific God? Do I anticipate a particular version of the afterlife? No, I do not. For all I know I’ll wind up coming back in another life as a knitter during the French Revolution sitting there like Madame Defarge watching the executions. However, lately I’ve been thinking more and more about that old line they used in the military: “No one’s an atheist in a foxhole.” If ever there was an opportunity to believe in God — a god — this might be a good one. Trebek, now that you’re on the verge. What have you got to lose?”

“The Answer Is…” page 284

Like the author I believe in the will to live. I believe in the power of positivity. I believe in optimism. I believe in hope. But my hope is anchored in my Christian faith. It is based on the words of Jesus who is God in human flesh. It is based on His death and the resulting forgiveness of my sins. And on His resurrection proving He is who He says He is and giving us the hope – really the deep knowledge – that there is life after death. A life in Heaven with Him where we will experience the fullness of His life and actually be all He created us to be. I certainly don’t believe in the “Great Soul” and that “we are God and God is us.” 

Paul an apostle in the Church wrote (1 Corinthians 15) that because Christ has been raised from the dead we can live with hope now in this life. But “if in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (15:19). Why? Because our hope is also anchored in the historical fact that Christ was raised from the dead and is alive. “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead…” (15:20a). So, we not only live with hope now but we live with the hope and knowledge of life after death. 

We don’t have to guess what this might be like. The Bible and our Saviour Jesus is very clear what life after death is like – both for the true believer and for the non-believer. It is not based on living according to what you “sincerely believe.” It is based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and having a personal relationship with Him now in this life – day-by-day. Our hope is founded upon the sure and certain fact that Jesus is God and that He died for our sins and was raised again from the dead and is alive today. That we can have a personal relationship with Him as our Lord and Saviour and thus live life with hope and die knowing (not a gut feeling) that He will welcome us into Heaven where there is a place reserved and ready for us as His children. 

  STEP OUT IN FAITH (Overcoming Feeble and Frozen Faith)

Walter invited his good friend Arthur to take a ride with him out into the county. They drove past groves of fruit trees and dilapidated shacks to an area that looked to Arthur like a barren wasteland. Walter began telling his friend about the exciting plans he had for this boring parcel of land southeast of downtown Los Angeles, California. Walter’s express purpose was to give Arthur the opportunity to become an investor in his dream.
Walter had enough money for the main project, but he wanted to ensure that the land surrounding his venture would be bought up at the same time. He was confident that within five years the whole area would be filled with hotels, restaurants, and even a convention center serving the throngs of people who came to visit his development.
But Walter’s friend, radio and television personality Art Linkletter (born a Canadian but living in the United States), could not see the potential and turned down the opportunity to buy up the area of land that now surrounds Disneyland, the dream of his friend, Walt Disney. Today that “barren wasteland” in Orange County, California, is worth billons of dollars.

Read more


When God created the world, He declared that everything was good (Genesis, Chapter 1)
The sun, the earth, the moon, and the stars — all good!
He was pleased
Pleased with the animals
Pleased with the mountains
Pleased with the oceans
Pleased with the trees
Above all, God was most proud of His best work: Man (“very good”)

Read more

A Time to Refocus and Reprioritize – Part Two

Continuing on from yesterday…

You might not be obsessed with your phone (or with money or things or whatever). But if you’re like most of us, you’re coming dangerously close to idolizing yourself. Disguised and subverted in our reverence for technology is this sense that it empowers us to do anything we want to do. Yep, those commercials for the latest phone, app, tablet, or laptop might as well promise superpowers.

Approximately 80 percent of what people do on social media pertains to themselves. This is why I say we might have an issue (problem) with idolizing ourselves. Think about the whole notion of selfies for a minute, a phenomenon that still fascinates and repulses me in equal measure, like some roadside accident on the information superhighway. I don’t think the word selfie even exited a decade ago. Yet in 2013, the Oxford dictionary crowned it as their “word of the year.” Seemingly out of nowhere, selfies have become an obsession for so many.

Pamela Rutledge said on, “Selfies frequently trigger perceptions of self-indulgence to attention-seeking social dependence that raises the damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t spectrum of either narcissism or very low self esteem.” It’s not unusual for selfies to fill the vast majority of most teens’ Instagram albums. This may be ‘normal,’ but it’s certainly not healthy.

This story makes me unbelievably sad:

Danny Bowman [a British teenager] says he became so obsessed with trying to capture just the “right” selfie that he ended up shooting about 200 pictures a day trying desperately to get a perfect representation of himself. And when Bowman failed to take what he perceived to be the perfect selfie, he attempted suicide with an overdose of drugs. Prior to his suicide attempt, Bowman says, he estimated he spent about ten hours every day taking selfies.”

When we contrast self-centredness with what God requires — selfless surrender — the difference is striking. Jesus didn’t say, “To be My disciples, you must promote yourself.” He says just the opposite. Jesus boldly proclaims, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. (Matthew 16:24 emphasis added).

Our culture says show yourself. Jesus says deny yourself.

If people looked at your Facebook page, your Instagram pictures, to your most recent tweets, what will they see? Look over what you’ve posted, pinned, and tweeted in the past week or so and be as objective as you can. Do you see a humble, other-focused, Christ-centered disciple? Or do you see someone other than who Christ as called you to be?

So, to be honest, if you are checking multiple times a day to see what people are saying about you, let’s call that what it is: idolatry. If your identity comes more from who follows you, who Likes you, what they say and what they think about you rather than who God says you are, it’s time to refocus and reprioritize.

Of you might be a person who compulsively checks emails. Any time you see one come in, you just have to know what it says — immediately. Or maybe any time your phone buzzes, beeps, or dings, it draws you by some seemingly unstoppable force. If so, pause to consider: Are you drawn to the things of God in the same way? Or has the magnetic force of your phone become a stronger force in your life than the promised present of God?

Most young people know that their obsession is distracting them from God. Let me ask you to be honest. Do you think more about what God says in His Word or what people say on your feed? How much time do you think about God versus what to say online? Work hard to tell the truth. No matter how tempting it is to ignore Him, if God is trying to get your attention, don’t  shake Him off.

Have you made a good thing into a supreme thing, even above God?

David asks this question and then, inspired by God, he answered it:  “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false” (Psalm 245:3-4 NIV 1984). This imagery of lifting our souls to an idol strikes me. Are we trading our worship of the Trinity for something more along the lines of 5G LTE?

Is it possible that our soul, the part of us that no one sees but God, is secretly elevating our online presence above His eternal presence? Are we constantly pursuing something evasive? A black hole of empty promises? Are we believing that more of something other than God will fulfill us, satisfy us, and bring meaning to our lives? Is it possible that we’ve lifted our soul to an online idol? If we have, our soul still longs for more.

God is a jealous God. He wants to be first, above all else in our hearts and lives. So be honest about social media, or any other area of your life that you have put above God. It’s time to tear the idols down. 

And it is a time to refocus and reprioritize in your life right now. A time to take a deep, honest look at who you present yourself to be and then who you really are. Contrast those two pictures with whom Jesus calls you to be. Yup! Tine to make some changes and adjustments. 

A Time to Refocus and Reprioritize – Part One

I spent some serious time in the summer months refocusing and reprioritizing. My life is lived most days in the fast lane. There is always much to accomplish and many things demanding my attention. And so with all the demands on my time and energy I find it helpful to occasionally take some time to see how my soul is doing and make whatever changes are needed to get back into a healthy place where my soul can prosper once again (3 John 2).

So my question today is: Are we placing too much value on something that’s not that important? Are we bowing down and worshiping something besides God? Some examples: Ministry; Social media; Entertainment; Work; Success. Have we fallen into a new dimension of sin? Are our souls being seduced by all the pressures of the face-paced world that we live in?

Jesus asked the question: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36). We can adjust the question to today’s culture: what good is it to get more followers, more Likes, more comments, more Pinterest pins, and yet forfeit our soul?

Is anything worth more than having a growing passion for our loving Heavenly Father? I don’t think so.

And neither does God, who clearly doesn’t pull any punches. With ultimate directness He says, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…” (Exodus 20:3-5a)

That’s pretty straightforward.

“You shall gave no other gods before Me.”

God wants to be first in our lives. Second place is not acceptable. It’s not sinful for God to be jealous in this way because for Him, this is a holy jealousy, a righteous longing for our whole heart.

Why is it wrong to put other people or things before God? First, we need to realize that God is holy, eternal, omnipotent, and sovereign. He’s … well … God, and we most definitely are not. Because He is God, He must be first. We need to understand that we are not a body with a soul. We are a soul with a body. Our bodies will die, but our souls will live forever. Our souls were created by God to be in intimate relationship with Him. Our souls are created to know God, love Him, worship Him, and do life with Him. That’s why we must guard the affections of our soul and put Him first.

Our souls can be seduced. We can be distracted. The pollution of this world can poison the purity of God’s presence, making it harder to find Him and be in relationship with Him. That’s why so many have to search so hard for Him when in a time of need. That is why we try to meet our need for God with other things. But money, or things, or friends, or Likes, or followers, or whatever we think will make us happy never does make us happy. Our news feeds can be full, but our hearts and souls empty. Anytime we allow our souls to be consumed with anything other than God, we will never be satisfied.


So. I take time probably twice a year (summer and Christmas) to have a look at what place God has in my life. Is He still first? What is my primary focus? Is He receiving quality time every day or just the leftovers after a day when the world has been my primary focus. Or ministry has been my focus? Do I allow social media, text messages, and emails to have my instant attention even when it causes me to neglect my soul and spend less quality and focused time with the Lord? What is the condition of my soul? 

We live in soul-scorching times. The mad pace of life and ministry, the number of demands on our time and energy, and the overwhelming torrent of information coming at us 24-7 have left us all ragged, wrung-out, and emptied. This isn’t the life we wanted, so we need to get off the roller coaster, right?

More next time…

What Do You Worship?

The question is “what” do you worship – not “who” do you worship. I am quoting from a book I recently read while on a three week retreat in the north of my province….

And, please note my definition of idolatry. Idolatry is taking something — anything — and making it more important than it should be in our lives.

A friend of mine who visited a remote, impoverished village in India told me a story. He saw a woman sacrificing a chicken as an act of worship to her god. My friend was shocked to see such blatant, modern-day idolatry. After striking up a conversation with the woman, he was impressed with her. She was well-spoken, kind, and educated.

When he learned that she had visited New York City three years earlier, he asked what she thought of America. She explained that she hated it. She had never seen more idolatry anywhere in her entire life. When my friend pressed her, she described three areas of idolatry that she saw.

First, she said, not so gently, the Americans worship their stomachs. Her eyes wide as she talked, this woman from a simple village described the massive stores overstocked with food to sell to people who had already had too much to eat. Evidently this woman was offended by people who are overweight when so many people in her village go hungry. 

Second, she described how Americans worship television. From her perspective, they design their homes around the television. It takes the most prominent place in the most important room, and the furniture is arranged not for talking to people but for watching television. It was almost too much for her to comprehend that some people even allow a television in their bedroom — of all places!

Finally, she said the worst form of idolatry was in the relationship people have with their phones. She was deeply offended that people use them while driving. Even worse was that no one (at least in her experience) could have a full conversation without reading something on their phone.

Kind of gives new meaning to American idol, doesn’t it. My friend didn’t try to disagree with the Indian woman. He knew he couldn’t. Everything she said was true. And she hadn’t even scratched the surface. 

Without getting into our obsessions with food and media, I’m simply raising the question about what we worship when we click. You are probably not putting a statute of a turtle ahead of God, and you probably aren’t a star-worshipper, but is your obsession with your phone gearing out of hand?

Some of us can honestly answer no. We are already using technology with good boundaries. We control it. It doesn’t control us. We might have a healthy view of social media and how we interact with it. If so, I’m thankful, and you should be too!

Yet I know many well-intentioned followers of Jesus who are being seduced, sucked into, and consumed by the virtual world. They think, “I just want to help my business.” Or, “This will give more exposure to my ministry.” Or, “I just love staying in touch with so many friends and family members.” 

As I read this and then took a long walk to think about it I had mixed feelings and several distinct reactions. I was pleased that for several years now I have set boundaries on my iPhone. It turns on at 9:00a. Before that is my time with the Lord, in prayer, reading and studying the Bible. It turns itself off at 10:00p so that I have an uninterrupted 90 minutes to read before heading to bed. I work so many hours in front of the computer screen in my office (9:00a to 1:00p) with emails and texts and then shut it down and go about other things – appointments, meeting with non-believers, and time in my study writing a book I am currently working on.

But I did realize that I needed to put up better boundaries regarding how much time I “waste” watching television some evenings. I realize there are more productive things I can do. But, after a normal day and early evening I am tired and want to simply relax and not have to think. But, that is simply a rationalization and an excuse. So, I have been changing my evening routine and putting my time and limited energy to better use. Establishing boundaries. No longer spending more time binge-watching than I do with the Lord in any given day.

Idolatry is still very much alive in the world today … no matter where you live or what language you speak. And, with all the technology now available idolatry has become an acceptable aspect of life. It is time to reclaim the precious time the Lord given to us each day. 

Remember: Idolatry is taking something — anything — and making it more important than it should be in our lives.