Archive for August, 2013

technology_confusion

There’s no getting away from it, even if you wanted to…which you probably don’t, not really.

Technology pervades nearly every area of our lives.  It’s amazing stuff.  It’s awesome…but it’s also annoying sometimes, isn’t it?  It’s made a lot of great new things possible…but it’s also made a lot of great old things disappear.  So is it a blessing or a curse?

It’s…complicated.

Your voice can be heard around the world! A video or a blog can instantly touch the lives of people in parts of the world that we’ll probably never set foot. Everyone’s voice can be heard around the world, so the world doesn’t know who to listen to anymore.  Everyone is an expert, so no one is an authority.
We can stay connected to people no matter where they are.  Skype, Facetime, Facebook chat…proximity no longer dictates communication. It inhibits face to face communication.  People are texting someone on the other side of the world rather than looking at someone on the other side of the table.
We can find support and community with other people who are interested in or struggling with the same things we are.  My little town doesn’t have many Tolkien fans, but there are hundreds of Tolkien fan groups on the internet. No one else in my town has leukemia, but there are all kinds of leukemia support groups I can connect with on the web. We’re cutting ourselves off from other perspectives that would challenge us and make us grow.    By being able to tune in to really narrow interests, we’re tuning out everything else.  We don’t have to deal with alternate views.  We just spend all our time reinforcing our own preferences.
We can find out anything we need to know!  We don’t know what to do with all the information.  Knowledge has replaced wisdom.
It makes us so much more productive!  We can research a topic, write a proposal, video-conference with co-workers and keep track of the stock market without ever leaving the house. We’re paralyzed by all the options and easily distracted by all the info-streams vying for our attention.  Wait, is that a puppy?  That’s too small to be a puppy, isn’t it?  I’m gonna Google the average size of a puppy…
We can re-create ourselves online.  Can’t get rid of a mean nickname that got attached to you in third grade?  No one in SecondLife knows that nickname.  People look at you funny because you’ve got psoriasis?  Not in WoW you don’t.  I mean, you’ve got a horn in your forehead, but that’s ok…I mean, no-one judges you for having a horn in WoW. It’s hard to know who people really are online because it’s so easy to create a false persona.  All those people we think we’re really connecting with, building a real community with?  Are they really who they pretend to be?
We have instant access to loved ones who live far away.  We can share pictures, videos, and updates throughout the day.  It doesn’t even have to be about important stuff. It can just be the little stuff that makes up our lives We’re expected be available to everyone 24/7. (bing) Oh, my aunt’s cat coughed up a furball, good to know. (bing) Did I get the text about the furball? (bing) Why didn’t I respond? (bing) Don’t I care about her cat? (bing) Don’t I care about her?   
We’re more honest and transparent with each other online. It’s easier to say difficult things to each other when we’re not in an uncomfortable face-to-face situation. We’re meaner and ruder to each other online.  It’s impersonal and we often don’t have to see how our words affect anyone else.
Because it takes less effort to communicate in a quick text or IM or Facebook post, we communicate more. Increased communication means fewer misunderstandings.  The implications of tone and humor are often lost in digital communications, leading to misunderstanding.
It makes us more active.  Reviews of family hiking trails, geocaching locations, flash mob invitations… it all helps us find new things to get out and do.  It makes us sedentary.  We can go days without ever getting outside.  Maybe I can use Google earth to check out that geo-cache location I was reading about…
It’s great for the environment!  Do you know how many trees we’re saving every year now that so much stuff is paperless? It’s terrible for the environment!  Do you know how much electrical energy we have to generate to keep all our devices charged?  And what about all the toxic metals and plastic going into our landfills when we throw our old tech away?
It creates jobs! It eliminates jobs!
It simplifies our lives!  We have databases and calendars and automatic reminders with us all the time.  We’re free to focus on the important things. It complicates our lives!  We have so many devices and info streams to keep track of that our lives are discombobulated.  With so many things clamoring for my attention, we don’t know what to focus on anymore.

Thanks to my team at Shepherd Project Ministries for this brainstorm from yesterday’s staff meeting!

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I am not a man of unshakable faith.  At heart, I’m a logical, rational man who prefers careful planning and wise decision-making to bold leaps of faith into unknown waters.  I do not believe the pseudo-Christian teaching that says, “If you just have enough faith, God will do anything you ask!”[1]  What I’m saying is that I’m not a man for whom faith comes easily.

But as I grow older, I find that I possess, and am possessed by, a deeper and more profound faith than I would have ever thought possible in my younger years.  While faith and reason are often thought to be opposites or, at the very least, uneasy compatriots, I have found them staunch allies.

It is the logical decision to focus on what I know rather than on what I do not that has kept me moving forward when doubt would mire me in place. It is the rational choice to make decisions based on what is undeniable rather than what is inexplicable that moves me on, around the bend, where I consistently find answers to the questions that once threatened to paralyze me.

Sometimes, we miss God moving because we deal with our doubts in an unhealthy way, a way that keeps us from ever rounding the bend.  We stay rooted where we are, desperate for a change, but too frightened to move forward.

I am not saying that God requires us to leap into the unknown.  I am saying that God, in His mercy and love, is in the habit of giving us undeniable experiences all along the way, but that we too often focus on what He hasn’t done or on what we don’t understand about what He’s doing.  That has to change.

If you want to make sure you don’t miss God moving in your life, then you need resolve to focus on what you do know He has done rather than on what you don’t know He is doing.  You need to choose to act on what is undeniable rather than on what is inexplicable.

Then and only then, will we, who have been blind, have any chance of seeing.

 

Interested in reading more on this subject?  Check out my newest book, How Not To Miss God Moving:

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[1] This teaching, based in part on a very simplistic reading of Mat 21:21 and James 5:15, misunderstands several important Biblical principles.  First, it is not the amount of faith that matters but in Whom that faith is put.  Second, the more we trust in God, the more we find that what we want God to do is not nearly as important as what God wants to do…and sometimes the two are incompatible.  If God wants to teach us patience, our prayer for a quick end to a trying situation may not be granted.  I’m not saying that faith is unimportant.  On the contrary, it is critical.  But this idea that God will do anything we ask if we only believe it enough is simply false.

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When God’s people are faced with a black and white choice between siding with God or with men, the choice is clear.  We might lack the strength of character or conviction to do what is right, but it’s not hard to know what is right when confronted with a clear choice between God and anything else.  However, thankfully, the alternatives are usually not that stark.  We are rarely forced to choose between God and not-God, but between two or more options where the rightness – the righteousness – of the options is not so obvious.

And the sad truth is that we prefer this ambiguity because it allows us to go with the flow and convince ourselves that we aren’t doing anything wrong.

See, if we can’t say conclusively that the status quo is wrong, then we can keep doing what we’ve been doing and not have to deal with all the unpleasant consequences of fighting against the current.  And of course – or so we tell ourselves – if God were to show up and tell us plainly that we needed to do something different, then we wouldn’t hesitate to do whatever He required.  But since it’s not really certain that He wants something different from us, we’re content – relieved even – to keep on going the way we’ve been going, the way everyone else is going.

The great problem with this kind of thinking, of course, is that it means that when we begin to suspect that God might be moving us to something different, we have a powerful motivation to ignore that suspicion.

“Nah,” we say to ourselves, “that was nothing,” like the child in the dark trying to convince herself that there are no monsters under the bed, working hard to ignore every sound or write it off as branches in the wind or the house settling.

Or how about this: have you ever awakened in the night with a suspicion that you need to pee?  I know, it’s a crass analogy, but bear with me for a second.  Maybe you wake up in the darkest hours of the night, not with a burning need to relieve yourself but just a little, nagging suspicion that if you don’t get out of bed and make your way through the dark to the bathroom, you’re probably not going to be able to go back to sleep.

But of course that’s going to be a lot of trouble.  The bed is warm and the night is cold.  Your room is full of hidden obstacles to bonk your shins and stub your toes.  Maybe you have a dog waiting at the foot of the bed for some sign that you’re awake so she can greet you with joyful slobber.[1] So maybe, lying there, you tell yourself that you don’t really need to pee.  Maybe you misread the signs.  Maybe it was all in your imagination.

You see what I’m saying: when we’re comfortable where we are, we’re not anxious to find out that we need to move.  When we’re comfortable with the way we’ve been going, we’re not anxious to find out that we need to change directions.

Ironically, we will often remain in situations we aren’t even happy about simply because we’re more comfortable staying than going. Comfort doesn’t necessarily mean happy.  Many people are comfortably unhappy. We often find ourselves in situations that we don’t really enjoy –we’re just reluctant to pay the price that might be required to change things, so we don’t.  We do our best to ignore the little signs that tell us we have a choice to make, and the clearer those signs get, the more uncomfortable we become.

And yet, here is a basic, though uncomfortable truth:  when God moves, kingdoms collide and when kingdoms collide, we have to choose sides.

Which kingdom are you choosing today?

(this post was excerpted from my newest book, How Not To Miss God Moving.  Check it out here!)

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[1] Mine is named Selah.  I don’t think she sleeps.  She just waits in the dark and takes any sign of movement as a certain sign that day has dawned.