2017: A Year of Digital Detox

Digital technology is killing us.

It’s killing our souls and our bodies.

It’s killing our marriages, families, and friendships,

It’s killing our listening skills and speaking abilities.

It’s killing face-to-face communication and inter-family relationships.

It’s killing our minds, especially our ability to focus and concentrate.

It’s killing communion with God as it usurps communication with him first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

It’s killing our peace with its never-ending blizzard of notifications, beeps, and buzzes.

It’s killing our mealtimes through constant interruptions and distractions.

It’s killing God’s voice throughout the day as we fill every traffic stop and toilet stop with social media check-ins.

It’s killing our morality as the tsunami of porn drowns multitudes of young and old, male and female.

It’s killing our health, especially through its shortening, shallowing, and interrupting of sleep.

It’s killing our beauty-intake as we walk through the spectacular with our heads buried in the black hole of our devices.

It’s killing our education as social media distracts and diverts students in classrooms, lecture-halls, and libraries.

It’s killing our finances as productive work-time is stolen from our employers to be frittered away on triviality.

It’s killing the service of others as we selfie ourselves into self-obsession.

It’s killing our identities as we cultivate and project so many social media personas that we’ve forgotten who we really are.

It’s killing privacy as every moment is now digitized not for  family archives but for instant upload to the world for likes and hearts by complete strangers.

Digital technology has punctured every part of our being and is slowly psssssssing the life out of us.

That’s why I’m asking you to join me in making 2017 a year of detoxification, a process  often used to systematically and safely withdraw people from addicting substances.

I’m utterly convinced that vast numbers of Christians are dangerously addicted to digital technology. It has way too big a place in our lives and it’s not just damaging us; it’s destroying us.

Those who can get this under control are going to be uniquely placed to excel — relationally, vocationally, educationally, and financially. There is no surer way to a massive “competitive advantage.”

But control (or lack of it) of our devices is also the biggest determinant of our spiritual health, growth, and usefulness. If we want to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, we must grow in digital self-discipline.

That’s why, in 2017, I’m going to devote many blog posts to digital detoxification. The ultimate aim will be the revival and renewal of our bodies, our minds, and our hearts; our marriages, families, and friendships; our mental and physical health; our productivity, finances, and education; our communication skills and service of others; and above all, ABOVE ALL, our relationship with God.

This is a multi-dimensional problem with multi-dimensional solutions. It’s going to require some eye-gouging and some hand-amputation (Matt. 5:29). It will involve much putting off and much putting on (Eph. 4:22-24). But life on the other side of this will be so worth it that on December 31, 2017, we’ll look back on January 1, 2017 with shock and horror, asking one another, “What. Was I. Doing?”


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Happy New Year! 

Family

A blessed 2017 to you, your families, and your congregations. My family and I had the privilege of spending the holidays in South Florida — hence the break from blogging. It was a wonderful time of refreshing and re-orientation. The almost total break from digital technology made me realize how much harder I have to work to keep it under control. I’ll be returning to that subject frequently in 2017, and I’d be honored if you would continue to visit this blog throughout the year and share its content with others.

Blogs

8 Ways To Turn On Your Brain When Reading The News
Some questions to ask when reading the media.

Interpreting the Bible in 3 Simple Steps
The three steps are observation, elucidation, and application. Observation answers the question, “What does the text say?” Elucidation answers the question, “What does it mean?” Application answers the question, “What does it mean to me?”

A year of living with (chronic) fatigue
A counselor’s lessons from a draining year of living with chronic fatigue syndrome

Ten Major Trends for Churches in 2017
Thom Rainer with his annual predictions. Sometimes a bit Southern-Baptist-centric but still helpful.

Feeding on Christ Reestablishing Ministry Goals
Nick suggests five categories for congregations to conduct an “end-of-year report.”

We need to talk about church scheduling
Yes, we sure do.

16 Top Biblical Counseling Books of 2016
Bob Kellemen’s always reliable list.

Kindle Books

God Is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China $1.99.

On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision $2.99.

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More? Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist $0.99

New Book

God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ


Blogging Break

I’m taking a break from blogging for a couple of weeks. Thanks for taking the time to visit, read, and interact over the past year. See you in 2017 (D.V.).


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Blogs

When Your Depressed Friend Twists God’s Word | Mike Leake
“Sometimes there really isn’t an answer or a set of magic words that make everything all better. Occasionally we have to wait for full redemption. In the mean time we hang on, love people, and keep proclaiming truth even if it ends up getting twisted. Because sometimes the Spirit uses those words and out of the whirlwind God Himself speaks to the heart and provides substantial healing even on this side of Eden.”

Feeding on Christ Sinful Anger: Its Cause and Cure – | Nick Batzig
Jonathan Edwards on watching against sinful anger.

An End-of-Year Marriage Check-Up | Kevin DeYoung
Some revealing questions here.

Over-confidence? Under-confidence? Assessing counselor tendencies | Musings of a Christian Psychologist
Phil has a message for both the over-confident and under-confident counselor.

‘My Fellow Liberals, I’m Tired Of You’ | The American Conservative
Here’s a fascinating letter from a liberal who is moving right, even to the religious right. The catalyst? The liberal reaction to Trump’s victory on Nov 8.

Kindle Books

Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name $2.99.

Gaining By Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send $3.99.

Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward $3.99.


The Most Difficult Book I’ve Written

The hardest book I’ve ever written is a children’s book called Exploring the Bible! I just finished it on Friday and sent the manuscript in to Crossway for publication in Fall 2017.

What made it so difficult?

It wasn’t its length. It’s only 14,000 words.

It wasn’t its complexity. It’s a very simple concept — a Bible reading plan for kids.

It wasn’t its novelty. Over the years, I’ve put together a few Bible reading plans for kids.

The challenge was writing a Bible reading plan for elementary-level kids that would cover the whole Bible in a year!

Of course, that’s not possible without asking them to read more than three chapters a day. So I had to pick a selection of chapters and passages that would take the kids from Genesis to Revelation in the course of a year while still maintaining the substance and continuity of the biblical story. And that’s where the difficulty was.

The first challenge was deciding on how many verses a day. Too much and kids will give up. Too little, and we won’t make any progress. Readings therefore are about 4-6 verses a day with a slight increase to about 6-7 verses towards the end of the plan as kids build reading stamina.

The second challenge was how much Old Testament and how much New Testament? I decided on 24 weeks of the Old and 28 weeks of the New.

The third challenge was what to pick from each Testament. At a pace of 4-6 verses a day, six days a week (we’ve reserved the seventh day for recap and writing notes about the pastor’s sermon), I had a “budget” of about 25-30 chapters in the Old Testament and about 35-40 in the New Testament. So which ones to choose?

Without going in to all the detail, I ended up with five chapters from Genesis, two from Exodus, a handful from the historical books, samples from each poetic book, a few chapters from the prophets, sixteen from the Gospels, five from Acts, four from the New Testament epistles, and two from Revelation.

But no matter what I did, however I sliced and diced it, I ended up with many wonderful chapters that I just couldn’t squeeze in. It was an agonizing choice. I just had to keep telling myself that it was better to get the kids into the habit of daily and doable Bible reading that they would want to continue rather than aim too high and overwhelm them.

Now maybe you’ll see why I say it was the most challenging book I’ve ever written.

Did I succeed? I suppose I’ll get some idea when I hear back from the editor in a month or so. And I won’t know for sure until parents start using it with their kids next Fall and giving feedback. But I was encouraged by the “Mom’s Focus Group” I tested it on from time to time. They especially loved the interactive elements and other learning tools throughout.

What I’m perhaps most excited about though is that Crossway have planned  some wonderful graphic design ideas for Exploring the Bible. They are investing a lot of time and talent into making this a beautiful and attractive book for kids.

Our hope is that Exploring the Bible will teach children the holy habit of daily consecutive Bible reading that will continue to grow and develop over the years. Maybe some adults might benefit from it too!


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Blogs

How to Write and Deliver a Great Speech | Simon Lancaster
Makes it seem so simple. Good for preachers too. See video below.

The 10 Best Apps Of 2016 | Fast Company | Business + Innovation
Everything on this list is either free or sports a free version with enough features to keep your wallet safe for a while.

Revenge of the Adjunct Professors | The American Spectator
This is a fascinating insight into the new Trump cabinet: “The new Trump administration represents a critical break from the stagnant, bureaucratic model that’s been increasingly our ruin.”

3 Skills Christians Can Learn from a Great Interviewer | A Small Work
Some tips on how to be a better questioner and listener.

Before You Go For a PhD | Trevin Wax
Trevin has some practical advice for anyone considering a PhD.

Hate What God Hates | Tim Challies
“Today I am kicking off a series that will examine the things God hates, for what God hates we must hate as well. I have distilled the list of 40 into 8 categories. We begin today with God’s hatred of idolatry.”

Dear Future Pastor – A Letter From a PK | Barnabas Piper
“Your children will need you to be their parent before you are their pastor. Talk with them; don’t preach at them. Listen to them as a confidant not a professional counselor. When you can, protect them from the double standards heaped upon them.”

Kindle Books

The First Days of Jesus: The Story of the Incarnation $4.99.

The Presence of God: Its Place in the Storyline of Scripture and the Story of Our Lives $4.99.

The Incarnation of God: The Mystery of the Gospel as the Foundation of Evangelical Theology $4.99.

Video

Big Speeches of 2016 Reviewed
Fascinating commentary.