One Thing

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

I have come back to this passage over and over again as we press deeper into this period of social distancing. I keep coming back because I keep seeing so much of Martha in myself. Her issue isn’t that she’s working. That’s not what this passage is about at all. Martha’s problem is that she’s distracted, anxious, and troubled. That’s what Jesus points out. That’s what Jesus wants to lead her out of and it’s what He wants to lead us out of as well. I keep coming back because I need the daily reminder that the one thing we truly need is the one thing that can never be taken from us. I keep coming back to hear the voice of God, the voice that melts anxiety, fear, and distraction.

And I’m not the only one who needs to keep coming back to this truth. We all do. I read an article yesterday that told us that 43% of American adults say their emotional health has gotten worse over the past week. For what it’s worth, I also think that means 57% of survey respondent are either (a) way more spiritually mature than I am or (b) lying. You decide! But I don’t know anyone who isn’t feeling a little distracted these days. It’s where our hearts and minds naturally go during times of uncertainty and upheaval. And, now, we have 24/7 internet access to relentlessly fuel it all.

All of which means we need to cultivate rhythms that enable us to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His voice, even in the midst of a pandemic. He’s speaking through the miracle of His Word and the presence of His Spirit. He’s inviting us to believe that He’s real, to believe that He’s still good, and to believe that He’s still for us and not against us. He’s inviting us to make King David’s prayer our prayer during this time:

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul.

Psalm 86:11-13

Those rhythms are going to look a little different for each of us but here are a few that I’ve found helpful:

  • Getting up at the same time I always do to spend time with God in the quiet of the morning.
  • Only allowing myself to check the news and social media twice a day. For what it’s worth, this is the hardest one for me!
  • Pausing 2-3 times during the day to be still, to pray, and to read a short passage of Scripture.
  • Participating in our RCC Prayer Nights every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 8PM.
  • Continuing to practice a weekly Sabbath.
  • Intentionally engaging with the sermon and other Sunday morning content we make available rather than having it play in the background while I multi-task.
  • Continuing to meet with my Community Group, just online.
  • Going to bed at the same time I always do so I can get up and do it all again tomorrow.

Lord Jesus, teach us to listen. Teach us to hear your voice. Teach us to enjoy Your presence. Help us step away from the chaos and to just be still.

Be A Grown Up And Put The Phone Down

guy phone.jpg

I read an article in Bloomberg last week that stunned, convicted and challenged me greatly.  Researchers have found that middle aged Americans spend more time on social media than millennials.  In fact, 35-49 year olds spend an average of 7 hours per week on social media – that’s a little over 15 days per year!  It’s horrifying to me that people in the prime of their life (I say that as someone who sits right in the middle of that demographic!) are wasting this much time.  It’s coming at the expense of marriages, kids, careers and significance for Jesus.  It’s all so sad.

And all so familiar.

I’m not sitting in judgement of those people.  If anything, I’m aware of how much of myself I see in that statistic.  As I’ve searched my own heart, I’ve realized my social media obsession is driven by two primary factors:

We’re dissatisfied with our lives.

Truth be told, I think a lot of us are disappointed in ourselves.  Life doesn’t seem to be working out according to our plan.  We aren’t as extraordinary as we had hoped and are, in fact, struggling to keep up with the ordinary demands of life.  Ten years ago, we dreamed of being a CEO and now we’re just trying to pay the mortgage.  We wanted an amazing marriage and are learning to make peace with a domestic partnership.  We dreamed of significance but now we just dream of retirement.

And social media provides an incredible opportunity to avoid all of that.  Why deal with our own lives when we can look at someone else’s?  Plus, if we stay on social media long enough, we’ll find someone who makes us feel better about ourselves.  So much of our social media obsession is driven by a toxic combination of escapism and comparison.  All of the irate political banter, selfies, latte photos and vacation envy helps us avoid our situation.  But it’s a lot like getting drunk – it may distract us in the moment, but our problems only grow and our ability to deal with them only shrinks.

So, stop judging or envying others and get busy living your own life.  Deal with your problems.  Find your own joys.  Embrace your reality.

We’re unsatisfied in our souls.

The prophet Jeremiah had never heard of Twitter but God gave him tremendous insight into the human soul.  “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:12-13)  For many of us, social media is a broken cistern.  It isn’t holding water.  It’s leaking like crazy and our marriages, kids, careers and churches are suffering.  But we’re only trying to trap water because our souls are thirsty.

It’s not just that we’re looking for an excuse to avoid the laundry.  Our souls are crying out for relief – refusing to give up on the belief that we were made for more and demanding we find something to satisfy that thirst.  As a Christian, I know that thirst can only be satisfied in Jesus.  I know when I’m walking closely with Him, immersed in His Word and connected in prayer, I don’t care that much about Facebook.  But when I’m not abiding in Him, the thirst of my soul demands satisfaction and I’ll run to Instagram.  It’s so sad because living water is ours for the taking.  Our souls don’t have to thirst.  We just need to learn how to satisfy them.

So, what do we do about all of this?  Let me suggest one simple solution.  And, no, it’s not to get rid of all social media.  There’s plenty of good, inspiring content out there to be found.  It’s a small change born out of a realization I had in my own life – when my phone is in my hand, it’s like whiskey in the hand of an alcoholic, I’m almost powerless not to check it.  When it’s in my pocket, it’s not much better.  But when it’s in my bag or in a drawer in the kitchen, I don’t really care about it that much.

Just that little separation helps me resist the temptation to check out and actually stay present with Laura and the kids.  I can actually get work done.  I can actually go to the gym.  I can actually address the areas of my life I’m not satisfied with.  I can actually make progress, focus on God’s Word, find rest and end up much happier.  No doubt, God is doing a lot of work in my soul to deepen my satisfaction in Him.  But my contribution to that work is putting the stupid phone down and creating the space for him to work.

Don’t Waste The Next 96 Days

tv outside of house

Here’s a bit of good news about the 2016 Election – 97 days from now, it’ll be over.  In the mean time, it seems to be the only thing people are talking about, at least here in DC.  We simply can’t help ourselves.  We’re caught in this horrible trap of political rubbernecking…slowing down the progress of our lives to look at the wreck that is this election.

As I continue this short series of posts on the three traps followers of Jesus need to avoid in this election cycle, I want to ask the basic question, “Is this really how you want to spend the next 96 days of your life?”  Don’t get me wrong – there will be plenty to keep us entertained.  Trump will say thousands of outlandish, silly and downright ignorant things.  At some point, Bill Clinton will be unable to control himself and he’ll jump in with a few soundbites of his own.  Hillary will plod through questions about email, judgement and what drives her.  The real issues facing our country will be ignored as we struggle through the most substance free campaign in American history.  We’ll get to hear about affairs, Playboy covers, corruption, greed, bankruptcies and countless other topics.  The debates will be a circus – think Jerry Springer, but with less emotional maturity.

And this is what we’re going to do as a country for the next 96 days?

Yesterday, I wrote about avoiding the trap of division.  Today, I want to take aim at the trap of distraction.  And I want to do it in the spirit of Ephesians 5:15-16, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”  I just can’t believe that the best use our time is following the daily drama of this election. Should we be informed voters?  Absolutely.  Should we educate ourselves on candidates and issues?  Yes.  Should we waste time with the sideshow dramas?  No.

 

Imagine what God could do with the next 96 days of your life if you devoted them relentlessly to making the best use of your time.  Where would He have you direct your focus?  Your relationship with Him?  Your marriage?  Kids?  Friends?  Your health?  What adventures is He calling you to?  What books could you be reading?  What relationship needs attention?

There are so many things I need to be focused on in my life.  I don’t want to waste the next 3 months being distracted by a sideshow carnival.  I promise you this.  God’s agenda for you in the next 96 days is far greater than simply deciding who you’re going to vote for.

Let’s get our heads out of the drama and into the game!

The Distracted Church

Distracted Church

It’s so easy for me to wander off the narrow path of ministry effectiveness and into the weeds of distraction.  I believe with everything in me that God has designed His church to be a brilliant display of Christ’s glory while we fight for the good of our city and world.  We’re called to be the peace makers and the prophets of our day.  We’re called to be salt and light.  We’re called to radiate faith, hope and love.

Yet, we waste so much time entertaining and impressing one another.

There are days when I can’t help but wonder if the church is tweeting, posting, pinning, periscoping, instagramming, conferencing, coffeeing, blogging, podcasting and webcasting ourselves into irrelevance.  All the while there are flood victims in South Carolina, Syrian refugees and victims of human trafficking in our own city.  There are stagnant Christians in our pews, hell-bound people in our work places and hurting people in our homes.

I don’t want to seem like a hypocrite for saying all of this on blog, so let me be clear: I don’t hate social media.  I use it and I’ve seen some brilliant uses of people leveraging their platform for the good of others and the advancement of the gospel.  I’m all for it!  But I wonder how much more effective we would be if we put down our devices and picked up the Word of God a little more frequently.

The Scriptures lay out a clear path to ministry effectiveness:

  • “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4)  By the way, it worked.  Acts 6:7, “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”
  • “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
  • “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

The path to ministry effectiveness is as clear as it is elusive: be a witness for Christ in our world, make disciples and build the whole thing on a foundation of the Word and prayer.  Use whatever means available (social media included) to move down that path.  But don’t allow them to become a substitute.

I pray for a church that is focused on our mission, the disciplines that undergird it and the incredible calling God has given us.  I pray for the humility to care less about digital impressiveness and care more about personal effectiveness.