Tuesday, December 30, 2014

iPhone Confession

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I spend too much time on my phone. There, I've said it. Whew, I feel better already.

No doubt many in our world resonate with my struggle. Here's the deal: I never intended for this phone to be a problem, rather an asset to my life and ministry. There is something empowering about having every piece of information that has ever existed available to you through a few simple taps on a screen. On a device that fits in your pocket. Stunning. Or being able to communicate with literally anyone in the world at any given moment. On a device that fits in your pocket. Again, wow.

But what I didn't realize was the power this information could wield over a person. That same reality that I could have every piece of information that has ever existed at my immediate disposal (including sports scores, weather, flight info to places I may never go, Wikipedia entries, and funny cat videos) provides an overwhelming and constant source of temptation. No longer must you face boredom and its soul-search; you can just call up a video of guys doing awesome basketball trick shots or you can figure out who was the president during World War I (Woodrow Wilson, if you were wondering).

Here's the other piece, though: not only can you avoid boredom, you are also able to avoid the hard work of relationships. How many times do I look with contempt at moms letting their kids go wild at the playground while buried in their phone's Facebook feed, yet I do exactly the same thing at home with my kids. Is it any better because no one else sees it? I guarantee you my sons see it, and they see that someone/something else--somewhere else--is the priority over them at that moment. Is whatever is on my phone really more important than watching my toddler experience sand for the first time? Or rather than having to engage in meaningful (often difficult) conversations which require time and effort, we prefer to distract ourselves with meaningless entertainment and useless information, half-listening so we think we don't offend the other person. No wonder our society is uber-connected yet is the most disconnected people in all of history.

I propose a solution, and I wonder if you would join me. I don't think the answer is everyone going back to a "dumb" phone (although if that's what you want to do, go for it). Again, I think these pocket-sized computers can be used for much good and to aid efficiency and ministry. We simply must understand the grip we allow them to have on us.

So for me and my phone, here's what I'm doing. I have deleted my Facebook and Twitter apps (the two biggest time vortexes for me). Obviously I can jump on the internet to check a message if needed, but it takes some extra steps and won't be as appealing for general browsing. Also, along with that, I have disabled Safari (my internet) in order to limit my useless searching. Does that inconvenience me when I have a legitimate question and I have to go re-enable it for a short time? Yes, but that comes nowhere close to the benefits it provides in limiting me. Finally, I have simply deleted many of my other time-wasters such as Sportscenter, CNN, and Fox News. I know I can re-download any of those if absolutely needed, but I haven't missed them yet (and I don't think I will).

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Now, will this proposed fix change my heart? No, because the issue isn't with the phone itself (it's a neutral tool); the issue is with my heart not being satisfied in God and in His good gifts. But as it is with a massive overgrown bush, you usually have to chop away at the branches in order to be able to even get to the roots to rip it out fully. As I remove the branches of distraction and meaningless entertainment, at the same time I must also utilize the bulldozer of God's Spirit through His Word to rip out the roots of dissatisfaction and to replant full and sufficient joy in Him alone. That is a lifelong pursuit and one that takes grace-driven effort every day, along with accountability. But thanks be to God that He provides the necessary power to change.

So will you help me in this war? And how about you, have you ever felt this same struggle?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Come Expectant

"Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God" (Luke 2:25-28, ESV).

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Think of the anticipation with which Simeon would come into the temple each day. God had revealed to him that he would see the Messiah face-to-face before Simeon died, so imagine how excited he would be upon entering, wondering if today is the day that he would meet the Savior. His response upon seeing Jesus, recorded in Luke 2:28-35, reveals his expectant joy.

But think of this, then: how much more we, Christians, having the Savior God in us, should come with anticipation, expectant that God will meet with us and work through us? We do not need to wait for our consolation; He has already come to us. Like living in a new house, over time we tend to get bored with the familiar. But if we really see Jesus as the Savior Messiah God that He is, as the God of the universe piercing into our history that He is, then we have no reason for boredom. And since He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us, then we should live expectantly and worship with anticipation.

Think of how this reality would change our worship gatherings as a church. Coming expectant for God to meet with His people. Preparing our hearts for Him, giving Him space to work in us. Responding to Him in joy and gladness. We might be even more excited to gather together.

Think of how this reality would change our private worship times individually. Coming expectant for God to meet with you in all of His fullness. Preparing your heart for Him, giving Him space to work in you. Responding to Him in glad joy and obedience. You might be even more excited to get up in the mornings.

Think of how this reality would change our daily lives. Living with anticipation for how God's constant presence will work through you as He sees fit, for His glory. Shaping your heart, moving your circumstances to position you for His purposes. Responding to Him, empowered by His Spirit, overflowing to others. We might see that there is no greater agenda than life in Him.

So come expectant, follower of Jesus. He has come, He is here, and He is in you. Shake off the apathy by seeing Who He is and what He has done, and live with anticipation of what God is doing and will do in and through you today.