Ten Suggestions When Using Social Media – Part Five

So far we have looked at the first seven of ten commandments to help us use social media in a gracious, kind, loving, and thus Christian manner.

1> Put God first in all you say and post.

2> Love others as you want to be loved.

3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.

4> Use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol.

5> Turn your virtual other cheek to posts that offend you.

6> Do not post out of emotion.

7> Always reflect Jesus, loving God whether online or off.

8> DO NOT USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO FUEL TEMPTATIONS

It’s no secret that technology and social media can open the door to temptations with simple clicks and keystrokes. Instead of having to go through numerous steps, actions, or behaviours to come face to face with a fierce temptation, we can now encounter it on our monitors in nanoseconds.

I don’t just mean sexual temptations. A shopping app for some is more temptation to click and buy than they can handle on a weak evening with nothing to do. Or an open door to gambling is the worse possible temptation for someone who feels lucky — again. For others, online gossip quietly whispers their name: “Come get in on the know.” Some are tempted to compare, to overshare, or to look and lust. It’s important to be honest about where you’re vulnerable, and plan to avoid the traps that can hurt you.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, doesn’t pull any punches when he describes the deception and dangers of temptation. After explaining clearly that God never tempts, James adds, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). The Greek word James uses that is translated enticed is actually a fishing term that illustrates how temptation baits us and then hooks us. What starts out as something small and seemingly harmless can quickly become something big and dangerous, even deadly. 

However, as a believer in Jesus, you never have to battle temptation alone. The author of Hebrews reminds us that “because [Jesus] himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:18). If you are being tempted, you are not on your own. Jesus is able to help you. So if you spot an open door to online temptation, ask Jesus to help you close it.

When you pray for wisdom, God will give it to you (see James 1:5). When He shows you how to shut the door to online temptation, slam that door, lock it, and throw away the encryption key. Delete the app if you have to. Or if you need to, give someone else a password to keep yourself from having access to download apps. You might need to download a filtered browser or block certain websites. Or you might share passwords or have joint accounts with your spouse. Whatever it takes, thou shalt not use technology to fuel temptation.

Ten Suggestions When Using Social Media – Part Four

So far we have looked at the first five of ten commandments to help us use social media in a gracious, kind, loving, and thus Christian manner.

1> Put God first in all you say and post.

2> Love others as you want to be loved.

3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.

4> Use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol.

5> Turn your virtual other cheek to posts that offend you.

Let’s look as several more today…

6> DO NOT POST OUT OF EMOTION

When you think about it, the ability to say whatever you’re thinking to a large group of semi-interested people is pretty scary, which is a good reason never to post when you’re feeling angry, upset, rejected, or offended or are feeling any other unsettling emotion. If you’re wondering whether you are responding out of emotion, remember this: when in doubt, wait it out.

As a rule, I never, ever post when I’m overly emotional. Never,. I also have the discipline not to defend myself or get into unnecessary online controversy. For years, I’ve avoided responding to critics or posting out of emotion. Many years ago the Lord told me to let Him fight my battles. So, even when I am being spoken against or misunderstood – I remain quite on social media. What I might say can come back to bite me so it is better to say nothing. And, remember, people can read whatever emotion in to the words you write that they want to. So, you can quickly add to the misunderstanding without meaning to. Take a deep breath. Relax. The Kingdom is doing just fine. And, let the Lord defend you. He better at it than you are.

Without a doubt, you will be tempted to post when you’re agitated or hurt. But when in doubt, wait it out. Post only out of love.

7> ALWAYS REFLECT JESUS, LOVING GOD WHETHER ONLINE OR OFF

After Jesus had silenced the attacking Sadducees the Pharisees conspired to trap Him. One of the experts baited Jesus by asking Him which commandment was the greatest. “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38 ESV). Above all else, the most important command we have is to love God with every part of our being. Therefore, we should always love and reflect Jesus online and off.

I encourage you to go through everything you’ve posted or said online in the past month. Pretend like you don’t know anything about yourself. Look at everything objectively and determine what conclusions someone would draw about you based on what you’ve posted. Do you like what you see? What does your online footprint reveal about you? Does what you show accurately reflect what you believe? Would people say you love God above all? Or would they think you love something else more – maybe even yourself?

This doesn’t mean the only thing we ever post should be Bible verses or quotes from your pastor’s sermon. But over a month’s time, certainly people should be able to see evidence that we love God and follow Jesus. If this evidence is not in your posts, ask yourself why not. Are you afraid of what people will think? Or worse yet, are you revealing that you aren’t really loving God above all else?

If you are falling more and more in love with God each day, your love will show in the things you post. You won’t have to force it or fake it. If you realize you are forcing or faking it, instead of trying to show something that’s not real or genuine, acknowledge the you aren’t loving God with all your heart and all you are. Ask Him to help you, to guide you, and to draw you. When you seek Him, you will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13). He will reveal Himself to you. When you experience Him and taste His goodness, so will your online and offline witness for Him.

Thou shalt always reflect Jesus.

Love God online and off. 

Ten Suggestions When Using Social Media – Part Three

So far we have looked at the first three of ten commandments to help us use social media in a gracious, kind, loving, and thus Christian manner.

1> Put God first in all you say and post.

2> Love others as you want to be loved.

3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.

4> USE SOCIAL MEDIA INSTEAD OF BEING CONTROLLED BY IT AS AN IDOL

As followers of Jesus, we need to make sure a good thing never becomes a supreme thing. Unquestionably, leveraging technology to share about Jesus and connect with people is a good thing. But if left unchecked, using technology can become obsessive and idolatrous.

We all know people who are obsessed with how many followers they have, how many have started following them, and who has unfollowed them. Most of us have found ourselves hitting refresh a few too many times in the hope of finding new Likes and comments. Some people get lost in a world of creeping on others, constantly obsessing over what they post or say, sometimes with people they don’t even know! Some can’t control the urge to look at just one more thing on Pinterest, knowing that one final click (which is never just one) might hold that special something that will finally make their life complete. Still others play just one more game, hoping this time they’ll finally break their high score or reach a new level.

It’s hard to see it in the moment, but when we stand back, we realize that we might as well have bowed down before some giant smart phone in the sky. The Bible couldn’t be clearer about idolatry. In addition to the commandment to “have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3), we’re also told: “Dear children, keep yourself from idols” (1 John 5:21). The moment you realize you’re starting to put something above God, tear that idol down. As soon as you realize that you don’t have control, that you click and click again without knowing how to stop, acknowledge the problem. Don’t rationalize it. Don’t explain it away. And don’t put off dealing with it.

Just tell the truth.

You are addicted.

And it is idolatry.

Once you acknowledge your problem before God, you can ask for His forgiveness and His help. God always hears the prayer of the repentant heart. Not only will He forgive you, but He will also give you the strength to put away the things that keep you from Him.

Use social media. Enjoy it. But don’t let it overtake you. If you see an iDol in your life, smash it!

5> TURN YOUR VIRTUAL OTHER CHEEK TO POSTS THAT OFFEND YOU

Follow enough people, and it won’t take long: someone will say or show something inappropriate or offensive. If you’re like most people, you find it easy to get up in arms and take offense. As Christians, though, we can rise above the temptation to get down in the dirt. Solomon says, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11, emphasis added). 

In our culture, many people are quick to judge, quick to call a foul, and quick to be offended. But even though they may be quick to get upset, they’re slow to show grace by overlooking offences. God’s Word teaches us to be different from the world. It’s to our glory to overlook an offense.

To be clear, overlooking an offense isn’t the same as pretending it didn’t happen or encouraging injustice. No, to overlook something is a decision to let it go. It’s a form of forgiveness. The Hebrew word translated overlook also means “to pass over.” You can look at what can hurt you and spiritually soar right on by it.

If people say something harsh or sharp, instead of puffing up and striking back, allow God’s Spirit to help you give them the benefit of the doubt. Chances are their bad mood isn’t about you, and their critical spirit probably isn’t against you as much as it’s a reflection of something they’re dealing with, That someone is constantly angry or harsh is often a sign they’re hurting. Why? Because hurting people hurt people,. Rather than taking an offense, you should take them to prayer and ask God to help them.

If a post starts to grieve your heart or make you unrighteously angry, remember that you don’t have to follow the poster. You can to some degree control what you see and read. No matter what, remember that just as Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek when someone strikes us, so we can turn a virtual other cheek to posts that offend us. Life is too short to allow someone else’s bad attitude pollute our heart and relationships.

Ten Suggestions When Using Social Media – Part Two

The second social media commandment as we saw last time is…

2> LOVE OTHERS AS WANT TO BE LOVED

You’ve probably heard the Golden Rule before: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). Jesus summarized His instruction on how to treat other people with this rule when a group asked Him how they should respond to their enemies. Raising the bar higher than ever before, this rule applies when we interact with others in person as well as online.

When you think about how you like to be loved online, it’s easy to know how to treat others. For starters is the obvious. You can “Like” someone’s post. You can retweet what they say or reply with a kind word or two. You can offer a sincere and uplifting compliment. You can comment positively on something they said or posted.

You can refrain from saying something hurtful to others, being antagonistic, or always ignoring what they do or say. As a general rule, I try not to post things that are negative and critical. Enough people are doing that. I want what I say and show to be uplifting and encouraging, to build rather than to tear down. This doesn’t mean that we avoid tough issues but we can talk about them from a positive perspective, offering solutions rather than poking at people and making others look bad.

Besides saying nice things and avoiding ugly online interactions, you can find all kinds of ways to love people using technology and social media. You can take the relationship out of the virtual realm by replying in person. Instead of simply posting a comment, you can reply with a call, a handwritten note, or a personal visit. If someone asks for prayer, you can go to their home and pray with them instead of just praying from a distance. If someone loses a job, you can offer to pay a bill while they’re looking for work or help them network to find new job opportunities. And when they get a job, you can go out to dinner with them to celebrate the blessing. You know tons of things that people do for you that help you feel loved. So get creative online and off and love others in the same ways you want to be loved.

3> USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO FACILITATE, NOT REPLACE, REAL RELATIONSHIPS.

Ten years ago, most of us would have never imagined all the social benefits technology now offers. Even as I’m writing this, I can’t believe that I can FaceTime my friends who are on the other side of the planet or send a text to my best friend just across town. And, we are constantly seeing the development of more and more social media to help us stay connected with others.

We should maximize all that technology offers to help strengthen our friendships and relationships. But as the gravitational pull to live online continues to grow, we must remind ourselves that the best relationships are not those that are limited to looking at a screen but those that involve loving a person in person.

So text away. Tweet what you’re doing. Post what you’re eating. But put more effort into your treasured relationships. Remember to call. Plan a visit. Eat with someone, and then sit and chat for two hours afterwards. Sit across from each other in a coffee shop and talk about everything that matters and a few things that don’t. Make a meal for someone and being it to their house. Take a long walk with a friend and just chat about whatever comes to mind. When someone you love is injured and in the hospital, don’t just text them; go visit them. Don’t just do life together from a distance. Do life up close. As Paul might have tweeted, “Be devoted to one another in love” (Romans 12:10).

Ten Suggestions When Using Social Media – Part One

In the Old Testament, when God saved His people out of bondage, He saved them for a purpose. God led Moses to the top of Mount Sinai for forty days. During this time, God not only gave Moses detailed instructions for the tabernacle; He also gave Moses two stone tablets inscribed with special instructions we know as the Ten Commandments. Out of His love for His people, God gave them these moral and spiritual laws to keep them safe as well as set them apart. 

In the same spirit, I want to suggest ten commandments for you to consider as you use social media. It’s pretty obvious these didn’t come directly from God. But the principles are definitely based on His Word. I borrowed these from a Christian author who I greatly appreciate and read all that he publishes. These are ten ways to protect your time, your heart, your body, and your soul, as well as deepen your faith through what you type, text, and tweet.

These are simply ten helpful suggestions for how you can use social media in ways that will show others your love for God while not allowing social media to define you or to take an unhealthy place in your life. Social media and technology are amazing tools, and with a little discipline and prayer, they can be a gift to connect with others and reflect your love for an amazing God. So just imagine they’re on virtual stone tablets. I will list the ten of them and then comment on them individually over the next few days.

1> Put God first in all you say and post.

2> Love others as you want to be loved.

3> Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.

4> Use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol. 

5> Turn your virtual other cheek to posts that offend you.

6> Do not post out of emotion.

7> Always reflect Jesus, loving God whether online or off.

8> Do not use social media to fuel temptations.

9> Form your own opinions; do not follow the crowd.

10> Do not base your identity on what people think.

Let’s dig into the first one…

1> PUT GOD FIRST IN ALL YOU SAY AND POST

Sounds easy enough, right? But if it really were that easy, you wouldn’t need me to remind you. So let’s think about ways you can remind yourself of what is fundamentally true.

We need to always remember who you are and whose you are. You don’t just represent yourself or your family; you represent Christ. Paul says it clearly: “And whatever you do whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17)

Too often we want to compartmentalize our lives. We’re tempted to think we’re okay because we do the church thing on Sundays. Then during the week, we do the work thing, and on the weekends we do our own thing. But in reality, because our lives belong to God, everything we do should be God’s things. 

Everything.

He should be first in all we do. If we’re watching television, going to the grocery store, studying for an exam, asking someone out on a date, updating our Facebook status, or tweeting about out latest business deal, whatever we do, we should do it for God. Notice the way Paul qualifies his instructions: “whether in word or deed.” Whether we are speaking or acting, shouting or singing, do it all for the glory of God. We could translate this into our social-media culture by saying, “Whatever you do, whether tweeting, commenting, posting, or uploading, do it all in the Name of the Lord Jesus.”

Before saying anything online (or in person), ask yourself whether you are truly representing and reflecting the love and goodness of God. If not, don’t say it. Ever. And don’t just think about the words you say; think about the pictures or videos you post. If in any way they don’t reflect God’s standards, don’t share them.

I love the way The Living Bible translates Proverbs 3:6. This should be our standard online: “In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success.”

In other words, “Thou shalt put God first in all you say or post.”

Faithful or Familiar?

We have been looking at problems and addictions. In particular, addiction to technology. And we saw recently in the story of the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15) that we are in need of answering Jesus’ question: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6).

Often we realize that we have a problem – an addiction, a relational issue with someone we care about, a situation at work. Or the one we have focused on a lot recently in these blogs – spending too much time and giving too much attention to technology – your cell phone, tablet, computer, laptop, or the multitude of channels you can watch on cable television and streaming services. And we saw that often we have become so comfortable with the problem that we simply don’t want to change. Or, ‘get well’.

But the question Jesus asks is still valid today: “Do you want to get well?”

About 6 weeks ago I invited a number of believers to supper is my yard … an outdoor chilli and buns supper and coffee conversation. I noticed that one man spent the first 40 minutes staring at his cell phone. He did not engage in the conversation. He was not attentive to what was going on around him. He was not entering into the fellowship. And, throughout the evening he continued to reference his cell phone on a consistent basis. When he left he had literally engaged with only one person. And that person came to him and engaged him in a conversation. If that had not happened the man would have left without exchanging anything of significance with anyone else. It would have been like he was not there – because other than physically, he was not there. I have spoken to him many times about ‘engaging’ and ‘embracing’ but to no avail it seems. He apparently does not want to change.

Maybe you can sense the Spirit of God posing Jesus’ question to you. Do you want to change and get well?

Do you want to get well? Do you really? Do you want to enjoy the blessing of technology without being a slave to it? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to put God first in your life?

Someone once asked, “What do you thing is the greatest hindrance to faith?” Lots of possibilities come to mind. Worry is certainly a hindrance to faith, right? So is doubt. You could also argue that fear really undermines faith. And God has not given his a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7 NLT). But as I pondered all these contenders, another one came to mind that is less obvious, but just as dangerous. 

Perhaps the familiar is the greatest enemy to faith.

Instead of believing that God can do anything, many surrender to what they can see. They accept what is instead of what could be. Maybe you’ve become comfortable with your addiction to technology. You’ve learned to rationalize it, to explain it away. You tell yourself it’s really not that big a deal. Maybe everyone you know is a lot like you, so it couldn’t be that bad, could it?

Perhaps the familiar, what you know and accept, is the greatest obstacle to your faith. Faith in what could be. Faith in what God calls you to be.

The invalid at the Pool of Bethesda could have argued, “I’ve never been able to walk. I’ve always been dependent on others. No one will ever help me.” You might have your excuses: “I’ve got to be on my phone 24/7. If I’m not, how will they reach me? I have to stay in touch with what’s going on. I can’t do my job without my phone.”

If the familiar is the greatest obstacle to faith, then it takes faith to step away from the familiar.

Maybe that’s why Jesus asked the invalid, “Do you want to get well?” Maybe that’s why you can sense His Spirit asking you the same question. Do you want to enjoy the benefits of technology without being ensnared by the curses? Do you really want to change? Do you really want to be well?

Because you can’t help someone who needs help.

You can only help someone who wants help.

Do you want to be free?

You have to want it. Really want it.

The healing will not begin until your desire is greater than your disability.

When you finally realizer that you want to be well more than you want to be wired (or whatever your addiction is), then you’ve opened the door for God to work in your life. If you’re tired of surfing, trying to fill the hole in your heart that only Jesus can fill, then it’s time for healing. If you’re sick of being a slave to the latest operating system or to having a Wi-Fi connection at a restaurant, and you’re ready to do something about it, then you’ve taken the first step. 

Addictions are not easy to overcome. It is only when your desire for healing becomes greater than your disability that God can begin to set you free. 

Maybe you are addicted, hooked, and have been struggling to be free for some time. I don’t know how long you’ve been down, but with Christ you’re not out.

Like the man at the Pool of Bethesda it is time to stop making excuses and start getting well. When he looked at the crippled man, “Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked” (John 5:8-9 emphasis added). Jesus didn’t heal the man a month later; it happened immediately. In the same way, when you surrender your challenge (addiction) to Jesus, He can do more in that moment than you can ever imagine., You might not feel any different, and the change might not happen all at once, but Jesus’ power will be working in you.

Jesus told the invalid to get up and start walking, That’s a pretty hefty assignment for a guy who most likely had never walked in his life. Jesus told him to do what everyone else would have considered impossible.

Notice that the guy didn’t even ask Jesus to heal him. Jesus just did it because He’s Jesus. When you get close to Jesus, He will do things you don’t even ask Him to do. He’s just that good.

Jesus essentially said, “I don’t want to hear your excuses. I want to see your faith.”

And He is speaking to you right now telling you that you have to let go of the familiar (what you are comfortable with) as it is an enemy of faith and without faith you cannot please God.

So, this blog is longer than most. So let me close by saying…

When you occasionally (or often) unplug from technology, you will find true rest for your soul. When you make pleasant boundaries, you will be making wise choices to keep your eyes, mind, and heart pure. You will not put anything ahead of God. When others are tempted to tear people down, you will break from the crowd and follow God, who has called you to build others up.

As you remove the blanket of excuses and follow God’s leading, you will be healed and delivered; transformed into the image of Christ.

Do you want to get well?

Then let Jesus heal you.

He is more powerful than any struggles you will ever face. 

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.

Today.

This moment.

Now.

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.