Category Archives: Reflections

Reflections on “18 Obstacles to Personal Devotions in the Digital Age” by David Murray

Yesterday, while going through my twitter feed, I ran across the above named aritcle. I enjoy reading David Murray’s blog, as his posts are biblical, thoughtful, and challenging. (I’m also excited to begin reading his new book, which came out just after I made my fall reading list). This particular post struck a cord with me, and so I want to share it and some thoughts on it. Before reading my reflections, please take a moment to read David Murray’s post here, as I will only comment on a few of the 18 obstacles.

To briefly summarize, Murray contends that despite all of the good (or perceived good) of the digital age, the habits created by the pervasiveness of technology and information can actually be quite detrimental to our spiritual lives. Murray is concerned not only by the distractions produced by our always-on-hand devices, but also by the way our consumption of and access to information is seemingly changing the way we think in general. (Lest you think Murray is being an alarmist, Nicholas Carr was discussing this issue back in 2008). Thus, Murray lists 18 obstacles that the wonders of technology present to Christians’ devotional lives, and thus their spiritual health.

Two of Murray’s points particularly resonated with me:

Murray writes:

9. Loss of quiet: Constant beeps, buzzes, and updates reduce undisturbed time for the brain to rest. Unlike other revolutionary media like radio and TV, the Internet is ubiquitous. We never get even a few minutes waiting in line with our own thoughts but turn to the smartphone to fill it up.”

I can certainly relate to this. I have noticed I used to chat with people in a line or think about an issue that was on my mind, now I just check twitter. This can also be a killer to my devotional life, because anytime I hear an alert on my phone, I want to grab it and see what it’s all about. To combat that, I try to always silence my phone when I’m reading or studying my Bible. If I forget to turn the volume off, I simply ignore it until I am done reading. Chances are whatever the alert is, it can typically wait fifteen minutes.

This next point by Murray struck me on an even deeper level:

“17. Loss of humility: In This is your brain on GoogleKate Shellnut wrote: ‘These days, we still say things like “I don’t know how” and “I can’t remember it,” but our ignorance rarely lasts long. Seconds later, it gets pulled up on Google or YouTube. The information we don’t know is so close—quite literally at our fingertips—that we forget we don’t know it.'”

As I think more about my social media habits, I find that much of the reason I spend so much time on twitter is because I want to be “in the know.” Somewhere, deep inside I am terrified of being “late to the party” and looking silly because I found out about something three hours after everyone else. I don’t want to not know. I want to have seen the tweet, read the blog, watched the video, so if someone says “Hey did you hear about (insert new pressing thing here)?” I can calmly (and smugly) answer, “Oh yeah, I knew that.” That is insecurity. That is pride. That is me wanting what only God has: omniscience. And that is sin. For that I must repent. Which is a sure sign I need to spend less time on twitter, and more on my knees.

This is a pretty big issue for Christians, and one of which I think many are unaware. We can often feel that we don’t have time to sit and read God’s Word, and when do, we often find it so difficult to focus. As it turns out, some of that may well be caused by the environment that live in; by that very patterns of life we’ve come to accept as “normal.”

The truth is, growth in Christ is something that takes time, a lifetime in fact. We can’t Google ourselves to spiritual maturity. It takes the work of Holy Spirit moment by moment, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ. My prayer and hope is that articles like this one will help me and you identify those things which would distract us from Christ and build the discipline to press further into Him, even if that means disconnecting, unplugging and not being the “first to know” the latest news.

UPDATE: Be sure to check out David Murray’s follow-up post: “20 Tips to Personal Devotion in the Digital Age.”

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Soul Food (but not the deep fried kind)

Soul FoodThe other day I read this in the book Valley of Vision, which is a collection of Puritan prayers. It really nourished my soul as a reminder of my sinfulness and utter for grace in  Jesus. This reading can be found on pages 122-123 of the leather bound edition of VoV. I hope you enjoy:

Self-Knowlodge

Searcher of Hearts,

It is a good day to me when thou givest me a glimpse of myself;

Sin is my greatest evil,

   but thou art my greatest good;

I have cause to loath myself, 

   and not to seek self-honor,

   for no one desires to commend his own dunghill.

My country, family, church

   fare worse because of my sins,

   for sinners bring judgment in thinking sins are small,

   or that God is not angry with them.

Let me not take other good men as my example

   and think I am good because I am like them, 

For all good men are not so good as thou desirest, 

   are not always consistent,

   do not always follow holiness, 

   do not feel eternal good in sore affliction.

Show me how to know when a thing is evil

   which I think is right or good,

   how to know when what is lawful

   comes from an evil principle,

   such as desire for reputation or wealth by usury.

Give my grace to recall my needs,

   my lack of knowing thy will in Scripture, 

         of wisdom to guide others

         of daily repentance, want of which keeps thee at bay;

         of the spirit of prayer, having words without love,

         of zeal for thy glory, seeking my own ends,

         of joy in thee and thy will,

         of love for others.

And let me lay not my pipe

   too short of the fountain

   never touching the eternal spring,

   never drawing down water from above.

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Welcome “Distractions”

Have you ever had one of those times where you just want to be alone? Maybe you were busy and had an urgent task to complete, maybe you were exhausted and needed a nap, or maybe you just a few minutes of silence. Whatever the case, we’ve all been there. As we read through the gospels, we see that Jesus had days like that too. Luke 9:10-11 describes one of those days in the ministry of Jesus.

Jesus had recently sent his 12 disciples out on a sort of messianic mission trip. They cast out demons, healed the sick, and preached the message of the Kingdom. Now they had returned, excited to tell Jesus all the ways they experienced the power of God. So, in order to have some time celebrating with his disciples, Jesus withdrew from the crowds to the town of Bethsaida (Luke 9:1-10).

Do you get the picture? Here is Jesus taking his disciples for some time alone with them. But we see in verse 11 that the crowds somehow hear about where Jesus has gone and follow Him. And how did Jesus react? “And Jesus rebuked the crowds…, ” no. “And Jesus seeing the crowds sighed…,” nope. “And Jesus said, ‘Hey guys give us a minute,'” no.

Instead, we read, “and Jesus welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing,” (Luke 9:11). That is amazing. Jesus welcomed them, not begrudgingly or out of duty, but gladly and took the time to serve their needs. People were not a distraction or interruption to Jesus. Rather, it was His joy to serve and love them, ultimately by laying down His life. That is why He came (Mark 10:45).

I don’t know about you, but I find my reaction to people is often far different from that of Jesus. I often act as if it is a chore to serve others: I grumble, I am rude and dismissive, I snap at my kids for interrupting me while watching SportsCenter. The difference? Jesus was full of grace and truth (John 1:14) and I am, well, full of my self. When Jesus saw the crowds He didn’t sigh, He served. He didn’t grumble, He gave. He didn’t run, He received. Jesus understood (and still does) that what the people needed most was Him. And He is never short of the grace to give the truth of Himself.

The point:  I need the grace of Jesus to see and love like Jesus. The grace to be reminded that He always has time for me, that He gave His very life for me, even when in my sin and rebellion I didn’t deserve it. And I need His strength to then show others that same grace. To remember others around me need the grace and truth of Jesus too. To remember that people and their needs aren’t a distraction, but that people are the point. And then like Jesus, to welcome them and give them grace and truth.

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A Quick Punch in the Gut to Start My Day

This morning I got a nice shot to the gut while reading 1 Peter 1:14-16: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” ( ESV)  I’m not exactly sure why, but these verses really hit me, and two things stood out.

First  is the phrase “in all your conduct.”  Conduct here means the totality of your daily way of life.  And that little word “all” makes this phrase so pesky.  It is generally easy to be holy (removed from sin, and focused on Christ) in the big things.  But, big things aren’t everything, they aren’t “all.”  So, this really made me ask: “Am I being holy in the little things of my daily life?”  Am I holy in how I use free time, or am I generally lazy and wasteful?  Am I holy when I get tired, stressed, and frustrated, or do I get irritable, angry, and short tempered?  Am I holy in the check-out line at Target, or am I impatient and rude?  Am I holy in my conversations with others, or am I distant, dismissive, and arrogant?  “All” is a big word, and it is way too easy to overlook the small things and not live holy there.

Second, I was reminded again why as followers of Jesus we are to live holy lives.  It is not to make us better people, it is not to make us more religious, it is not to earn God’s love, favor, and acceptance.  No, we are to live holy lives as a response to what the holy God has done for us.  Look at what Peter says, “as the one who called you is holy, you also be holy,” that means we already have God’s love, favor, and acceptance in Christ.  We have been called.  We have been forgiven.  We have been accepted.  All in Christ.  So, in response to God’s grace given to us on the cross of Christ, we live holy lives to show Him our love and thanks (John 14:21).

So, some days I guess a punch in the gut is what I need.  It helps clean out those nooks and crannies in my life, where there is still unholiness.  And it helps me remember I can’t earn God’s favor, it’s mine in Christ, and for that, I owe Him all my love, all my conduct, all my life.

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Reflections on 2 Corinthians 5:17

I recently had a friend ask what I thought it meant that Christians are “in Christ.” As I thought about how to answer that, my mind went quickly to 2 Corinthians 5:17. Since I’ve been studying through 2 Corinthians, here are the thoughts I shared with me friend:

I see two big truths to being “in Christ”, the first is the “positional” or “objective”  truth. By this I mean that when we place our faith in Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we are now positionally viewed by God as being in Christ: our total identity, who we are, is found not in our sin nor our works, but solely in Christ. Thus, when God views, judges, and loves us, it is based on Christ’s finished work on the cross and not our sin or anything else we do.

As a result of this “positioning” in Christ we share in the benefits of His work on the cross and resurrection. We have peace with God, we are co-crucified, co-buried, co-resurrected, co-ascended, and co-seated with Christ (Eph. 2:4-7; Gal. 2:21). Our life is hidden with Christ (Col. 3:3), and when we die, we die in Christ and so are with Him, and will be raised in His power (1 Thess. 4:13-18). There are certainly many other positional truths to being in Christ, like being adopted as God’s children, but these are the big ones for me. These positional truths don’t only effect our standing with God and our eternal destination, but also revolutionize the way we live here and now.

The second big truth I see as being “in Christ” is the “practical” or “subjective” truth. By subjective I don’t mean “uncertain” or “only true to you”, I mean truth as it applies to your personal experience. So, those who are in Christ are enabled, by the power of the Holy Spirit to live and love like Jesus. In Christ, we have renewed minds (Rm. 12:2), so we can see people as Jesus does (Mt. 9:36), and we can make ethical and moral decisions in a way that honor God. In Christ, we are free to resist temptation, and so can choose not to sin (1 Cor. 10:13). Not that we always live in these ways, but when we are in Christ, we have the ability to choose to live for God’s glory in all we do, and to find our total fulfillment in Him alone.

So to be in Christ revolutionizes our eternity and our now. We find our significance, motivation, reason and model for life, power for living, and salvation all from being “in Christ”.  In short, being “in Christ” calls us to live radical lives for the glory of God and His Kingdom.

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