Psalm 16:2-4—Going Screen Free



Psalm 16:2–4 (NIV84)

2 I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” 3 As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight. 4 The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips.

Other gods. This week has me thinking about who and what those are in my life. This week, my wife and I are going screen free after dinner. And it’s been this strange combination of liberating and pathetic. Pathetic, because the the first night, I really didn’t know what to do.

It’s incredible how much of my life is on this laptop. Want to read a book? Screen. Want to listen to music? Screen. Want to work on a project—maybe cabinet doors in the basement? Screen. Screen. Screen.

And it goes so much further. I’ve learned to avoid silence. I’m working in the garage, but I’m listening to a podcast on my phone. I’m in the shower, we have a speaker there too. Sitting in bed before I go to sleep? Maybe a little sudoku on my phone, browsing a few website. Oh, looks like I have an email from someone I know. Great, the something to deal with. Wait, what was I doing? Right, we were going to watch a show on my laptop before bed. Better open that up. (Mind you, that wasn’t what I was doing.)

And then there’s the simple fact that I’ve lost, in some way, my ability to entertain myself. It’s crazy how easily vedging happens. Mindlessly reading news online. Mindlessly checking social media. Mindlessly watching YouTube or Netflix or something we’ve recorded on TV. And then there’s the waiting. Oh, just got an update. I’ll click next and wait for it to install. And then you’re waiting and wasting.

So, just a little pathetic. And it makes me wonder, have I been pouring out a libation to other gods—the god of technology?

But then, there’s this liberation. (And I realize that I must sound like a drug addict getting sober.) I’ve actually had some original thoughts in the last two days. Not only that, my mind has felt clear. I’ve slept better, and I haven’t felt so tied to the world around me. I mean, it’s almost like I’ve had this buzzer attached to my hip that could jolt me at any moment—take me out of whatever I’m doing and demand I pay attention to it. Except, that’s exactly how it’s been.

When and how did this happen? And what’s more, if I weren’t imposing this Holy Week, screen-free rule on myself, would I have the disciple to keep a safe distance?

And it just makes me wonder, what have I been missing being so connected? Who have I short shifted? How have I stifled God’s voice in my life? Would things seem clearer if I kept the screens away? Maybe so. And so, I thank the Lord for this experience. And like the potion and cup he assigns me, I ask that he would not leave me unaffected—that he would use the experience to draw me closer and enable me to delight, again and again, in his glorious inheritance.

Philippians 2:5-11—The Attitude of Jesus

Philippians 2:5–11 (NIV84)

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”

Talk about a bold directive. Have the same mind or, as the Greek more literally reads, attitude as Christ Jesus. Setting aside the question “is this even possible?” I linger instead on the thought “what would this look like?” I mean, what would it look like to make my mission the mission of another? What would it look like to make my actions always and ever in service to others? What would it look like to give complete and expect nothing in return?

Luckily, however, Paul gives us a picture. And so, in what many consider to be the first Christian creed and an early hymn, we discover how he understood the attitude of Jesus and what our lives ought to look like.

Jesus was God, but he didn’t considering his status of great importance. Instead he assumed the status of a slave—of a, get this, human. And that probably deserves its own aside: I mean, what’s Paul suggesting when he says that being human means being a slave or a servant? But we’re concerned with Jesus attitude, and his attitude is one in which he doesn’t care about his status. It just doesn’t enter into the equation. And, here, Paul is suggesting that that should be our disposition.

And so, as a slave, as a servant, as a human, Jesus empties himself. He gives all he has, and he does it until he dies in the most horrific fashion. And, if you’re anything like me, that might just make you more than a little hesitant. Because while I can an empty myself into my friends and family, while I can empty myself into my career and calling, I’ve never done it to this degree before. And before I can ask the question, “Would I want to?” I realize that I have to ask the much bigger question, “Is it even possible?”

Yet, for Jesus, all things are possible. And so, that’s why he’s able to do it. And when he did, God highly exalted him. And that’s why his name is special, that’s why his knees bend and his head bows, and that’s why tongues confess that Jesus is Lord. Jesus is master. And when you realize that Paul writes this in a world where there was only one Lord, and his name was Caesar, it makes you linger. Jesus is President. Jesus is CEO. Jesus is guru. Jesus is master.

And so, while I began wondering, “What does it mean to have the attitude of Christ,” I close giving thanks to Him, because while I’m not sure that I can have this attitude, while I’m not sure that I can solve all my problems, I am confident that Christ can and will and has the power to make this happen.

So, thanks be to him. In Jesus name. Amen.

Matthew 3:13-17—Christmas Letters and a New Identity

Matthew 3:13–17 (NIV84)

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine wrote a post for her blog, summarizing 2016. “2016 sucked,” she said. “In early 2016, I broke me knee, and all the awesome things I wanted to do, I didn’t get to do.” I’m summarizing a bit, but that was the gist of it. She’s goes on to comment about all the Christmas cards she’s getting and how all of them look much more impressive and spectacular than her year.

Which got me to thinking: These Christmas cards that we make and send are a lot like a paper version of Facebook. They’re these carefully crafted and curated windows into our lives. Time is spent picking the right pictures and right moments to include in this little piece of paper we send to a select group of family and friends. And we actually spend money … on stamps to send it to them.

Now, I like getting these cards and so does my friend, but it also strikes me how they can warp my sense of identity. “Wow, they did that! They’re having another kid! They’re getting married!” It makes me reevaluate what I include in our letter, because shouldn’t I also include the picture of me at dinner with my wife and uncle when I learn that the startup she’s working for is scaling back or all the hard conversations we’ve had this year about deep, weighty topics?

And that’s when I think about this other picture of my identity–the picture that’s spoken on me in baptism: This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” It’s kind of hard to believe. But unlike all the pictures and posts, this is an identity I can actually take to the bank. Jesus died for me.

Makes me wonder what would it look like for me to include that picture in our 2017 Christmas letter?

Matthew 11:2-15—Advancing

Matthew 11:2–15 (NRSV)

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’

Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. Let anyone with ears listen!

It must have been an exciting time to live. At least, this moment must have been exciting—sort of like you’re on the edge of something big. I wonder if people working for NASA in the ‘60s felt this way or the explorers who traveled the globe long ago.

Jesus is talking with his disciples and says, “From the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing…”

But then, I wonder what was this like for his disciples. You know, as it was played out in everyday life. I mean, they’re a handful of guys, following this rabbi around Galilee. Occasionally, they travel down to Judea. Crowds will notice him from time to time, but it’s not quite a nation preparing for a moon landing.

And then, I think about John and his disciples, because they’re the people who really speak to me in this reading. John’s in prison. Life hasn’t gone exactly how he hoped, but he knows about his cousin, Jesus. And it makes him wonder, “Is this the guy?” Now, he can’t ask him, so he sends some of his disciples who find him and ask that burning question, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

And here’s why they speak to me: Jesus answer is rather obtuse. I mean, he doesn’t given them a definitive yes or no. And a lot of times, that’s exactly how my life feels. Jesus doesn’t say go this way or that. I just see what he’s done, and that needs to be enough for me, at least for right now.

And so, that’s my prayer today—that I would see what Jesus has done and trust: Trust that he’s got this under control even when my life feels out of control. Trust that I’m following him for some bigger reason when it sometimes feels like it’s just me and a handful of other people following him around Galilee. And trust that this really is the most exciting moment there ever was, because the Kingdom of Heaven is forcefully advancing. Amen.