Monday 30 October 2017

#struggles - Restoring Intimacy (Chapter 2)

It's important to consider not just what Jesus said but even what he didn't say (John 13:34-35). Notice he said that "everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Jesus didn't say "everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have perfect theology." Certainly good theology is important, but it's not how the world will be able to see that we follow Christ.

Jesus didn't say "everyone will know that you are my disciples if you attend church regularly." Does that mean we don't need to go to church? Of course not! We're supposed to spend time together to encourage each other in the things of God (Heb. 10:24-25). But going to church isn't what shows the world that we follow Jesus either.

The way they will know we are his disciples - according to Jesus - is how we love one another. He set the example for us himself by washing his disciples' feet, an act of absolute humility. We should treat one another in ways that show that the sacrificial love of Jesus lives inside our hearts. That's how the world will know that we are his disciples.

And that's how we will know if technology is in its proper place in our lives: by how well we love one another. It's hard to wash someone's feet with a phone in your hand.

So be honest with yourself as you listen for God's voice. Are you sending emails when phone calls would be more meaningful? Are you typing a quick text when a personal visit would deeply impact a loved one? Have you intentionally neglected to use your gifts to serve others because you are hoping others' Likes will serve your need to be noticed? When was the last time you actually snail-mailed a handwritten birthday card or thank-you note instead of simply texting because it was easier?

Jesus has something better for us. Maybe it's time to put down the device and pick up a towel to serve.


I can't speak for you, but to be really honest, I have to admit that the more I dabble on social media, the more I realize I'm delaying the personal interaction I crave. I have also never been more connected and yet felt so alone.

The author of Hebrews wrote, "And let us not neglect commenting on one another's posts." Oh, wait, wait... I'm sorry. I totally messed that up.

No! He writes, "And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another" (Heb. 10:25 NLT).

Really let that sink in: "Let us not neglect our meeting together."

"Let us not neglect our meeting together."

"Let us not neglect our meeting together."

Have we fallen out of this practice?


Actually get together with people. Be physically present with one another. Not digitally. Not virtually. Not just in a group text, but in the same living room. Make the time to love people face to face, not just keyboard to keyboard. If you want to get really crazy, don't set a time limit on how long you'll hang out or what you'll discuss. In other words, just be with someone (not in the biblical sense, well, not unless you're married.)

You know that device you use to text with? It might be hard to remember, but what's something else you can do with that device? That's right! You can actually talk on that thing. It's a lot harder, but maybe you could scroll through your contacts, find that person, tap their number, and call them on the phone.

As they answer, you will actually be able to listen to what they're saying. You can hear the words and listen to the tone in their voice, which will also be communicating something. You might even ask if you can pray with your friend, right there over the phone. Then based on what they tell you, you can ask them a few more questions. I can promise you that a person-to-person conversation can go to amazing places that texting back and forth will not go.

What's another way you can show love? You can actually go see them. Just sit down with your friend, face to face. Ask a few questions, and then just listen. If it seems appropriate, maybe put your hand on their shoulder. Maybe even hold hands across the table and pray with them.

Presence is powerful.


Be emotionally engaged too. Don't just be present; be all there.

Engage deeply. Go all in. Make sure that the person you're with is the most important person in the world when you're together.

We've either seen, or if we're honest, we'll admit we've been, that family in the restaurant with each member glued to their phone or tablet - texting, gaming, emailing, surfing, whatever. We're losing the ability to relate to one another in natural ways.

We've become so used to interrupting normal, healthy communication with other activities and human beings that we somehow think this is okay. We're face-to-face with someone who matters to us, but instead of being with them the entire time, we're somewhere else virtually, digitally, electronically.

We're present, but we're not there.


Don't assume that I just don't understand or appreciate our world of tech. Hey, I have a smart phone too. And I'm just like you. Every time it buzzes, whistles, chirps, beeps, or dings, something in me can't help wondering, "Oooh. What was that? I wonder if it's something important. Who sent me something? I must know 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.

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 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 people.

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?

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.

Others won't know you by your Likes.

They will know you by his love.

Excerpts from other chapters in the book:
Chapter 1 - Recovering Contentment

Monday 23 October 2017

#struggles - Recovering Contentment (Chapter 1)

Excerpts from '#1 Recovering Contentment' in #struggles: Following Jesus in a Selfie-Centered World by Craig Groeschel:

Let's take a few minutes to expose any discontent - which is another way of saying envy - that you might be harboring in your heart. First, do you battle with material and financial envy? Second, do you harbor relational envy? Finally, maybe you battle with circumstantial envy. You see what other people are doing, where they're working, how they're living. Do you then look at your life, your circumstances, and wonder why you don't have the things they have or get to do the things they're doing? If you do you're probably green with envy.

I can't think of anyone in history who had a better understanding of managing his responses than the apostle Paul (Phil. 4:12-13). Paul is essentially saying, "I've gone without the things that I need before. But I've also had times when I had more than enough. Life happens in seasons. I've had good seasons when everything was going well, and I've had hard ones when nothing went my way. But in all of that living, I've learned that there's one secret to being content, no matter what my circumstances happen to be at the time. And that secret is that I can do anything and everything not by my power but through Christ. He's the one who gives me the strength to handle anything that comes my way."

Don't miss this truth. You will battle with discontent until you let Christ be all that you need. Don't believe me? Then prove me wrong. Achieve, conquer, accumulate, repeat. Sound familiar? None of it works. At the end of the day, every day, you'll still feel empty.

When Christ is all you have you'll finally realize that Christ is all you need. He's everything that matters.

If you keep searching, comparing, and envying, you'll never have enough. So let's look at three ways we can help ourselves battle the sin of envying, keeping in mind that we'll need Christ's strength to win the war.

James 3:14-16. Notice that wisdom is in quotes because James was being sarcastic; these attitudes are not wise. But also notice this: envy is demonic. Where envy is, there is disorder. Where envy is, there is every evil practice. Look at these words. Demonic? Every evil practice? This is serious. Envy is not from heaven. It's earthly. It's unspiritual. It's demonic. I don't want to participate in activities that the Bible calls demonic. I'm sure you don't either. And James doesn't say, "Probably it would be a good idea if you considered being careful about envy." He says that with envy there is evil.

Envy isn't just unhealthy. In God's eyes, it's downright sinful (Ex. 20:17). We need to kill our comparisons, because comparing ourselves with others is not wise.

The first step in combatting evil is to consider what you can and should give up. Just choose one thing to stop doing today. For example, stop checking your Facebook feed before bed. Don't post a picture of the delicious plate of food you've been served at a restaurant. Stop reciprocating with everyone who follows you on LinkedIn, especially if you don't know them. Practice stopping that behavior over and over. Ask others around you to help you stop. Commit to yourself and to them that you will stop.

The second practical thing you can do to kill comparisons is to celebrate other people's successes. When you see someone else being blessed in a way that you hope to be blessed, celebrating with them can purify the intentions of your heart. When you see someone else get that thing you've always wanted, try thanking God instead of wallowing in jealousy: "God, thank you so much that your hand of blessing is on them. Please continue blessing them." Celebration sends a kill shot right to the heart of envy.

A third way to kill comparisons is to cultivate gratitude. I read an excellent definition of envy that went something like this: envy is resenting God's goodness in other people's lives and ignoring God's goodness in your own life. Proverbs 15:15 says, "For the despondent, every day brings trouble" (NLT). The despondent see every single day bringing more trouble. They can't see the blessings because their glass is always half-empty. But Proverbs 15:15 doesn't end there. The second half says, "For the happy heart, life is a continual feast" (NLT).

Are people who start the day miserable living in the same day as people with a happy heart? Of course they are! The difference is in what they're looking for. Despondent people are looking for trouble - and they find it. People with a happy heart are looking for God's goodness - and they find it!

You want to have a nonstop party? Enjoy what God has given you, instead of longing for what you don't have. Be thankful for what God has given you, instead of resenting other people's instagrams: "Oh, I wish I had their life!" Guess what? They're longing for your life in ways you don't even know about!

Let's worship our God not because he gives us everything we want but because he is worthy of our praise. Let's worship him because we've learned the secret of being content, whether we're living in plenty or living in want. That secret is that we can do all things through the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who gives us strength.

Excerpts from other chapters in the book:
Chapter 2 - Restoring Intimacy
Chapter 3 - Revealing Authenticity