My Favorite 5 Books This Year:
1) The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business- Charles Duhigg
2) Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy- Timothy Paul Jones
3) Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision For Christian Relationships In A Hypersexualized Age- Jonathan Grant
4) You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit- James K.A. Smith
5) Jesus The King: Understanding The Life And Death of The Son of God- Tim Keller
My Favorite 5 Podcasts of the Year
1) Q Podcast
3) Freakonomics Radio
4) Kingdom Roots with Scot McKnight
5) New Persuasive Words
Hosted by Scott Jones and Bill Borror, this podcast dives deeply into church history, theology, sociology, and really any other –ology. The hosts are hilarious, but they really nerd out as well. Listening to this podcast makes me feel like I am in their living room, on the edge of my seat, engaged with every word. It requires a little bit of background to actually know what the heck they are talking about sometimes, but totally worth it if you are interested in the above-mentioned topics.
The Contemplative Pastor: Returning To The Art Of Spiritual Direction. The chapter “The Unbusy Pastor” had
a particular impact. The principles within this chapter extend far beyond the busy pastor, all the way to every
The Vanity of Busyness
Peterson admits: “I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself—and to all who will notice, that I am important.” He continues: “I live in a society in which crowded schedules and harassed conditions are evidence of importance, so I develop a crowded schedule and harassed conditions. When others notice, they acknowledge my significance, and my vanity is fed.”
The Laziness of Busyness
“I indolently let others decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself. . .by lazily abdicating the essential work of deciding and directing, establishing values and setting goals, other people do it for us; then we find ourselves frantically, at the last minute, trying to
to those of us that work in less structured environments and create our own schedule. If we don’t plan, we get planned.
The Battle Against Busyness: The Appointment Calendar
“How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion?”
1) Life is short.
Tragedy reminds us that life is short. We will all die. Yet sadly, we spend much of our waking hours wasting time doing things that actually aren’t that important to us. What truly matters is the kind of person we are, and the kinds of relationships we foster. Time is flying by, and we may have less of it than we think.
2) God cares.
Psalm 34:18 says that: “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” We don’t always have the answers to why these things happen, but we KNOW that the answer is not: “because God doesn’t care.” All throughout the story of God, we see his endless love and concern for his creation in general and people in particular. Reading through the Psalms shows us that God cares and is always approachable and available to carry our burdens for us.
3) God suffered too.
And he promises to one day: “wipe away every tear from their eyes” and to “make all things new” (Rev 7:17; 21:5). I’m praying for all of you that are hurting, and please don’t hesitate to contact me for more specific ways that I can help.
“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10
It all started as I was counseling a high school student due to a pervasive pornography habit. Instant access through his smart phone made fighting the problem, well, problematic. Now sometimes I’m a linear thinker, but I made an offhand comment about perhaps chucking his smart phone for something dumber. He didn’t take me up on it, but ironically, the idea began to “flirt” with me in my own life.
I’ve been discontent with social media for some time now. The other day, I read a Chicago Tribune article, written a couple of yBy Tyler Goensears back, on an increasing number of young adults who are staying or switching back to dumb phones. Young professionals cited things like a lack of productivity as a reason for their switch.
- The Power of Productivity – We all know that social media distracts us. In fact, we kind of like it. It takes us away from doing our more mundane tasks. However, it is obvious that this welcomed distraction makes us far less productive. I was able to get far more done than “normal” in work and school during this time of “fasting.”
- The Pleasure of Solitude – Social media has heightened the sense that I am always being watched. It makes me constantly aware of myself, “and thus unable to lose [myself] in the pleasures of solitude.”  I think somewhere in the back of my mind (or maybe closer to the front), I think I’m pretty important. In other words, people need to know where I am, what I’m doing, what I’m eating. Not only is this false, and dumb, it’s damaging. Living in this way means that I can never truly be by myself, as long as my phone is with me. It’s incredibly freeing to realize that no one is thinking about you (except maybe your mom).
- The Purpose of Relationships – Not to sound like I’m 80, but remember the good ol’ days, when people didn’t bring their cell phone to the dinner table? Okay but seriously, this time away from social media reminded me of the purpose of relationships. I love social media’s ability to keep me (relatively) connected to my friends all around the globe. However, when I took some time away from the online world, I was far more focused on the relationships right in front of me. Real relationships are harder, for sure, because I don’t have the luxury of the complete control that social media gives me. Face to face relationships are more work, but more rewarding, and more in line with God’s intention for human relationships and connection.
- The Practice of Worship – As Smith so wisely notes, social media comes “loaded with a Story about what matters, and who matters. And as we inhabit these virtual worlds—clicking our way around the environment, constantly updating our ‘status’ and checking on others, fixated on our feed, documenting our ‘likes’ for others to see, we are slowly and covertly incorporated into a body politic with its own vision of human flourishing: shallow connections for instant self-gratification and self-congratulation.”  In other words, social media is a form of worship—worship defined as something we love and cherish, as well as something that changes us. Christian worship, in contrast to that of social media: “invites us into a very different social [existence]. . .Whereas [social media] reinforces a social imaginary in which I am the center of the universe. . .Christian worship is an intentionally decentering practice, calling us outside of ourselves into the very life of God.”
It’s hard to say it better than that! My time away from social media helped relearn certain practices of worship.
I’m not going to delete my social media outlets (yet), but I am encouraged to seriously reconsider my social media habits, including the frequency of use and my notification settings. Life is too short, people are too important, and God is too good for me to be mastered by social media.
Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism – Timothy Keller
The Talent Code- Daniel Coyle
Desiring the Kingdom- James K.A. Smith
The Meaning of Marriage- Timothy Keller
Is God Anti-Gay? – Sam Allberry
The other day, I was watching this sports’ documentary called Broke. One statistic from this documentary absolutely blew my mind. By the time that NFL athletes are retired for two years, 78% of them have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce. 78%! That’s unreal!
I guess money isn’t always a sure-sign of contentment or fulfillment. In fact, in the rest of 1 Timothy 6, Paul argues that pursuing money will probably destroy you. Rather, he urges believers to pursue contentment in God alone. This means finding our enjoyment and fulfillment in Him, recognizing that He is better and more valuable than anything else. 1 Timothy 6:17 says: “Command the rich. . . to put their hope in God.” This command isn’t just directed towards the Donald Trump’s of the world, but also to you and I (if your family makes more than $10,000 dollars a year, you are wealthier than 84% of the world).
As we enter into this Thanksgiving and Christmas season, may we be people who strive for and thrive in true contentment. We’ll miss out on the greatest Christmas gift if we get caught up in the stress of shopping, people-pleasing, and focusing on what we don’t have.
But how does this work? How do we see more of God?
Get on the Right Channel
You see, if I want to watch a person on television, like Jimmy Fallon, or Donald Trump, or Hillary Clinton, or Lebron James, I need to be on the right channel. I won’t usually find Ronaldo or James on the news; I won’t usually find Jimmy Fallon on ESPN; I won’t find Trump or Hillary on the Disney Channel, as much as some of us think they belong there. On which channel would you see God?
We almost always think of purity and impurity in the area of sexuality- what we watch, how we think, how we act. But while a pure heart includes this, it goes so much deeper than just our sexuality. A pure heart is undivided, unified, exclusive, and single-minded. Conversely, an impure heart is a divided, conflicted, and double-minded.
Sexual impurity or pornography most certainly reflects an impure heart, but so does living for God and the praise of people. It is impure to love both God and money. An impure heart prays and serves, but is interested more in what others think than what God thinks.