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. 

Gossip-Free – Part Two

The second set of questions you should ask yourself to avoid gossiping online are equally important. Before sharing your thoughts, ask yourself, “Am I making private matters public? Am I about to share something that would be better handled privately?” In his wisdom, Solomon said, “It is foolish to belittle one’s neighbour; a sensible person keeps quiet. A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence” (Proverbs 11:12-13 NLT).

If you share what should be secret, you’re gossiping. 

Before you post anything online, be absolutely certain you’re not making something public that should be private. Do it to protect others. And do it to protect yourself. If you want close friends, you can’t be perceived as a gossip. The Bible says, “When arguing with your neighbour, don’t betray another person’s secret.” Others may accuse you of gossip, and you will never regain a good reputation” (Proverbs 25:9-10 NLT).

Be trustworthy!

Keep what’s private, private.

The third set of questions you’ll want to ask when gossip starts flying begins with this: “Am I permitting — maybe even encouraging — others to gossip?” It’s not only wrong to dish it out; it’s also wrong to eat it up. Scripture is clear: “Wrongdoers eagerly listen to gossip; liars pay close attention to slander” (Proverbs 17:4 NLT). Notice that this verse doesn’t say that only gossipers are wrongdoers. No, it says wrongdoers are also those who “listen to gossip.” It not just wrong to spread gossip; it’s wrong to consume it. Why? Because what you permit, you promote.

Not only should you keep yourself from gossiping, you shouldn’t associate with those who gossip. What is true “in person” is also true online. Because I am a Jesus follower, I do not develop close friendships with gossips; in the same way, I choose to avoid those who continually spray venom online.

Remember, if someone gossips to you, then they’re likely to gossip about you. Stay clear of repeating gossip — and of hearing or seeing it.

If someone is gossiping in person or online, you can be subtle in your approach to avoiding it. You can explain politely that you are not feeling comfortable with the conversation. If that’s not your style, you can take a caring approach. Explain to the gossiper that if __________ (insert names) knew you were talking about them, you would hurt their feelings. (And if you’re talking about them online, there’s a pretty good change they’re going to know.)

Or you could help gossipers take an approach that is consistent with the teachings of Jesus. Remind them of Matthew 18:15-16, that if they have a problem with another brother or sister, they’re supposed to go directly to that person. And if all else fails to stop the gossipers, be direct and make the consequences clear. If they keep it up, you’re not going to hang out with them, anymore (or follow them, or whatever). 

Any time I talk about someone else, whether in person or online, I want my words to be something I’d be willing tp say in their presence. We should answer honestly, Am I about to make private matters public?” When talking or posting, “Are my words helpful or hurtful?” Finally, “Am I permitting or encouraging others to gossip?” What we say (or allow others to say) matters because our words have the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). I want my words always to be helpful;, not hurtful. You know that old saying: you’re either part of the problem or you’re part of the solution. By God’s grace, let’s be a part of bringing solutions, not increasing problems. 

Gossip-Free – Part One

God set forth ten commandments for His people. One of them states that we are not to bear false witness. In today’s terminology we might say that a person should not be involved in gossip. Gossip always involves speaking things that are not entirely true. And, even if the facts are accurate, you are only hearing one side of the story and thus missing perspective. And, believe me, perspective can make all the difference in understanding a situation accurately.

Interesting: the people being gossiped about hate it, and God hates it. So before you post an on-line posting, a comment, or a link, consider three sets of questions to keep yourself gossip-free online and thus not in sin. Breaking any one of the commandments is, according to James, a sin.

Before you comment on anything online, ask yourself the first set of questions: “Is what I’m about to say helpful or hurtful? Will this build up or tear them down? What’s my intention behind what I’m about to type?”

Paul surely never dreamed of the technological advances we have today. But he still directly addressed our tendency to gossip: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). If what you intend to communicate is unwholesome, don’t type it. Don’t tweet it. Don’t post it. As followers of Jesus, we want everything we say to build up others. The Bible tells us, “A scoundrel plots evil, and on their lips it is like a scorching fire. A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:27-28). 

We all hate when others gossip about us or someone we love, but we don’t always realize how quickly we can fall into gossiping ourselves. Sometimes we even think we’re being honest, but actually we’re disguising a dig. You know what I’m talking about. We start with something positive before sharing what we really think — the proverbial turd rolled in glitter.

      • “I’ve always liked this restaurant, except for the poor service last time.”
      • “She’s always been someone I’ve admired, but after what she said last week …”
      • “For years I’ve really respected him. But let me tell you what I just found our.”

Even Christians fall prey to deceiving ourselves in fairly elaborate ways. 

One young pastor writes: “When I was a new Christian in college, I never wanted to miss the Thursday evening prayer meeting because if you did, you were fair game. ‘We need to pray for Craig,’ other Christians would say. ‘He doesn’t seem as passionate about God as he use to be. If he was, he’d been here praying with us. And did you hear that he said another bad word during practice? Yep, we definitely need to pray for him.’ One time they were praying in my living room, and I had a test early the next morning. About 11:00p.m., I told them I was going to bed. I actually heard one guy tell the group they needed to pray for me because I cared more about my class than I did about God’s presence.”

Now in that same spirit of carefully disguising gossip as well-intentioned prayer requests, many make their “concerns” public on Facebook or some other form of social media. We’ve all heard or seen these kinds of prayers, if we have not been the person praying them.

      • “Please be in prayer for Megan. She’s doing things with her boyfriend she shouldn’t be doing”
      • “Pray that Bob stays away from that woman in accounting who keeps flirting with him”
      • “Hey, y’all, lift up Jenn in prayer NOW!! She was boozing @ the party last nite.”
      • “My dad lost his cool again with mom. Believe with me that God will do a work in him.”

While it’s always good to pray, not all prayer requests belong online. At least not with the kind of descriptions that imply something you may know very little about in someone else’s life. If you’re going to request prayer online, do it in a way that doesn’t make others look bad.

Maybe you’re inclined to push back and argue, “But, Ralph, it’s okay to talk about things if they’re true, right?” Not necessarily. Everything you say should be true, but not everything that’s true should be said. Before you type it, ask yourself, “Is this helpful? Or hurtful?

If it’s not helpful, don’t say (type) it. 

The Price of Peace – Part Two

The Bible is quite clear about how we can cultivate and enjoy God’s peace, as well as how we can lose it. When we worry and fret over what we don’t have, what we wish we had, what someone else thinks of us, or how jealous we are of others, inner peace remains elusive. Scripture tells us, “Worry weighs a person down, an encouraging word cheers a person up (Proverbs 12:25 NLT).

Whenever technology increases our worry, whenever it helps us fragment our attention and compartmentalize our hearts, it also kills our peace. We worry when we rely on our own abilities rather than trust in God. But His Word tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

When we lack peace, we live stressed and afraid. We’re always wondering when the next problem is going to pop up, the next conflict arise, the next crisis hit. Even when things are good, we hold our breath, constantly expecting that other shoe to drop. (It always does, right?) It’s hard to be whole-hearted in our pursuit of God when our thoughts are polluted by worry and anxiety. Instead, we should, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

Now is a great time to be brutally honest.

Are you addicted to something on line? Looking lustfully? Spending uncontrollably? Surfing endlessly? Playing continually? Gambling consistently? Scrolling incessantly?

Tell the truth.

While it’s never going to be fun or easy to kick an online addiction, you’ll be surprised how quickly your peace will be restored once you surrender the problem to God. Because if you’re serious about pursuing God’s healing, He’ll meet you wherever you are.

So if you find yourself overwhelmed with virtual temptations, remember that God isn’t surprised. He knows what you face, and He’s already made a plan to help you find freedom. Paul offers us this amazing promise: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful, He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Don’t miss the power of these words. 

God will provide a way out.

What’s your way out? I don’t know. It could be something dramatic. But be honest. You are a sharp person. If some small tweak would have fixed your problem, you would have done it a long time ago.

You way out may be confessing to your spouse, your best friend, your small group, or your pastor. It might be deleting an app and making sure you can’t get it again. You might need to lay down your phone, iPad, iPod, Kindle, Kobo, computer, television, and anything else so you can’t get to anything you shouldn’t see. I don’t know what you need to do. But chances are you have a pretty good idea.

God promises to give you a way out.

James tells us, “Submit yourselves then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you, Come near to God and He will come near to you” (James 4:7-8).

If you want to be a man or woman of integrity, then maybe it’s time for you to submit to God like never before. That’s where you start. Then with Christ’s power, you can resist the devil and all his e-temptations. Tragically, so many people do just the opposite. They resist God’s promptings and give in to the temptations of the evil one. But that won’t be you. And it won’t be me.

Instead we will live with online integrity leading to holiness and righteous living. Because our lives are not about us. We will not gratify the self-centered lusts of the flesh because we’re born of the Spirit. We will not allow God’s loving trust to slide into the quicksand or popular opinion sink us into lower standards. We will guard our peace. We won’t allow how we use tech to rob us of our purpose, passion, and power.

As we pray, God will give us wisdom to set up pleasant boundaries and safeguards to keep temptations as far away from us as possible. And when we are tempted, we know that Jesus has already given us an escape route.

We will seek Him, see His way out, and take it.

We have His power to overcome sin. We have His Spirit to lead us into righteousness. We have His presence to keep us pure.

We will be whole.

We will be complete.

We will know the peace of the Lord. 

The Price of Peace – Part One

When you think about it, no one stumbles into righteousness. People fall into sin every day. But no one just falls into holiness. It requires making deliberate, prayerful choices and walking an intentional path. Which bring us around to thinking of the peace that being right with God brings into our life. When we are born again, we finally have peace with God (Romans 5:1) as the war is over. And then as we walk with Jesus we have the inner peace that passes all understanding just as He promises.

However, there is a stress point here in our lives. Because of modern technology we see this peace that is specific to being a believer destroyed by the constant need (or what we think is a need) to respond to every sound that our phones and laptops make when messages are being received. 

Peace is a funny thing. We tend to think of it as the absence of conflict, the period between wars and military battles where opposing sides at least pretend to get along. (Does that remind you of some marriages?) Whether it’s “peace and quiet” longed for by a stay-at-home mom with young children or something negotiated among world political leaders, we all tend to think of peace as this quiet, calm, serene state of being.

But in the Jewish culture, the word peace, shalom, has a much richer, fuller meaning than just “getting along” with everybody. In fact. Shalom is one of the underlying principles of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible that Jews consider foundational to their history. Shalom means not only the kind of personal peace we often crave but also a harmonious environment and a sense that everything’s right with the world.

Shalom is about living out the fullness of who God created you to be and enjoying the abundance of blessings God showers on you. This kind of peace includes a feeling of confidence and blessing because you know who you are and what you’re supposed to be doing. It also encompasses a sense of security, an ability to relax and not have to try to control everything because you’re able to trust in God’s goodness as well as His plan. What’s interesting is that peace, shalom, cannot be earned like a paycheque after a week’s work. It comes as a free gift if we’re just willing to receive it. 

We all say we want more peace, but I wonder if we recognize what we do that often robs us of God-given peace. Like checking our email obsessively because we’re afraid we’ll miss something, when we should be enjoying time with God, our family, or a close friend we’ve been missing. Or like responding to emails to make sure everyone views us as the hardworking, super-efficient people we are, when we should be focusing on more important priorities. Like killing time surfing for an hour or so because we are avoiding a difficult conversation. Like obsessing over the latest hot app game when we should be playing with our kids. Like numbing the paining of life by clicking to the “wrong sites” for a lustful escape from reality.

Here’s what many people miss: when we misuse technology, we’re robbing ourselves of the peace we so desperate crave, because even the momentary escape is followed by waves of intense guilt. We want to numb the pain, but on the other side of our binge, the pain is still there, only worse. We love the momentary distraction, but then reality screams at us and our responsibilities pile up. We love the thrill of the lust, but the fear of getting caught haunts us and robs us of sleep and peace. Like a person dying of thirst who gulps salt water, that which is supposed to satisfy only intensifies our need. So life goes on as usual. More stress. More anxiety. More worries.

And less peace.

Everyone talks about being so busy and longing for more rest, but not many of us are willing to guard our integrity by unplugging and protecting our personal peace.

One way to measure the peace in your life is to think about your level of satisfaction and contentment. Are you always striving for more, trying to keep up with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers? Or can you appreciate the enormous blessings you’re enjoying today — a bed to sleep in, food to eat, a family to love, friends to enjoy, a car to drive, and a job that provides income?

I’m convinced that our peace (or the absence thereof) is directly tied to what we focus on each day. We don’t need a lot of specialized knowledge or superhuman will to achieve peace. We simply need to keep paying attention to what we are doing with our time. If we’re focused on escaping the pain of life, avoiding problems, and trying to control our image to the rest of the world, then we won’t have much peace. And the more we seek to surf porn, feed a shopping or gambling addiction online, or envy others for all they appear to have online, the more miserable, restless, and anxious we’re going to feel.

Guaranteed.

More next time….

Missing Persons

Have you noticed that every time your smart phone buzzes, whistles, chirps, beeps, or dings, something in you can’t help wondering “Oooh. What was that? I wonder if it’s something important. Who sent me something? I must know right this instant.”

Have you heard of FOMO? It’s a thing. I read recently that FOMO was added to the latest edition of a popular English-language dictionary. FOMO is an acronym for “Fear Of Missing Out.” It was coined for an entire generation of people who are constantly worried they’re going to miss something.

We ask, “What am I missing?”

“I might miss someone’s funny cat picture.”

“I might miss the next video clip that goes viral. Then tomorrow everyone else will have seen it, and I’m going to look like some kind of idiot because I haven’t seen it yet.”

“I might miss the next trailer for that movie that doesn’t come out until eight months from now.”

“I might miss a really beautiful inspirational quote from some person I’ve never heard of.”

“I might miss someone Liking that picture I posted twenty minutes ago.”

Ask yourself this question: at the end of your life, is it really going to matter how many “Likes” you got? Do you honestly believe that you’re going to be lying on your deathbed one day thinking to yourself, “If I had gotten just three more Likes on that picture I posted of that weird tomato back in ’15, I would have made an even hundred. One hundred Likes. Triple-digit Likes. Ooh, life would have been so good. #ICanDieHappy #RIPme” 

Life is not about how many Likes you get. It is all about how much love you show. The only way people will know that you are a follower of Jesus is by how well you love other people.

Have your children been begging for your attention? Have they been acting out? Maybe instead of posting online about how they’re driving you crazy, you should put down the phone and engage them face-to-face. Maybe you argue, “Well, they’re doing the same thing! I can’t peel them away from that stupid device!” That may be true. But you’re the parent. It’s your job to teach your children (no matter their age) how to engage in real life in ways that make it more meaningful than anything they can get looking at a screen and tapping pictures.

Instead of FOMO online, what you really should be afraid of is missing out on the people in front of you. You may be missing out on your children growing up. You may be missing out on enjoying an intimate marriage. You may be missing out on deep friendships filled with meaning. Is your fear that you’re going to miss out on something causing you to miss out on what matters most?

Figuring this out in your own life is going to take a little effort on your part. But maybe it’s time for you to make some basic rules like these:

Phone curfew is 10:00pm: phones get silenced and plugged in somewhere out of sight.

When you’re with your family or close friends, phones get silenced so they don’t even vibrate and are placed face down. Nobody picks up their phone during dinnertime or at your small group.

Really think this through. If you’re in bed with your spouse while you’re both on your phones, and you text her, “In the mood?” there’s something wrong. She texts back, “Sry not tonite #headache.” If you’re not laughing at this, maybe it’s because you can picture it happening — if it hasn’t already.

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions” (1 John 3:18 NLT).

Don’t just pray for people. Pray with them.

Don’t just Like what they post. Like who they are.

Get involved in one another’s lives.

The greatest weapon the first-century followers of Jesus had was their love for each other. The outside world persecuted them so fiercely that they were driven together into a radical, unifying love for one another. If anyone among them had a need, someone else sold some of their possessions and used the money to meet that need. Scripture says that they were so generous and so loving that “there were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4:32-37).

Can you imagine? The sceptical world looking on was thinking, “You know, I’m not so sure about that whole Jesus-being-raised-from-the-dead business. I’m not sure I believe what they believe, but I sure wish I had what they have. They love each other and care for each other.”

That’s exactly what Jesus said would happen: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples” ( John 13:35 NLT).

They won’t know that you’re His disciple by how many followers you have.

They won’t know that you’re His disciple by how many Likes you get.

They won’t know that you’re His disciple by how quickly you respond to emails.

Believe it or not, they won’t even know that you’re His disciple by how many Bible verses you post.

No, they will know that you’re Jesus’ disciple when they see His love in you through your actions. When you get involved in the lives of other people, when you care for them right where they are, when you open up your heart and do life with them — that’s when they’ll see something in you that they really want. Then when they ask you what makes you so different from everybody else, you’ll be able to say, “God gave His Son for me to forgive me of my sins. I’ve found freedom and life in Him, and that’s how I’m able to show you this kind of love.”

Others won’t know you by your Likes

They will know you by His love.