Pocket Idols

In a recent Facebook status update, I made the observation while sitting in a crowded cafe that I wondered “…if the time we used to spend thinking on the things of God is now taken up by our smart phones?”

The problem isn’t inherently with our smart phones. We have all sorts of technology that can take our time. Laptops, YouTube, Hulu, television, movies, music, fantasy leagues; it’s an endless list. I’m by no means anti-technology. I work with it everyday, have a smart phone with a data plan, am on Facebook, etc. Each of us has a responsibility to manage our time, our thoughts, our hobbies and interests. The infamous bumper sticker, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” comes to mind. Nevertheless, I haven’t been able to shake the observation I had at that crowded cafe.

Sitting down for breakfast last week I finally had a breakthrough. I believe mobile devices have the incredible potential to turn our affections away from God, more so than other technology and here’s why. Unlike the TV, the personal computer or even the laptop, mobile devices are always on and always with us. As such we are tethered to our social networks, our news, apps and everything else clawing for our intention, our time, our thoughts and yes, our affections.

The things that can turn our affections away from God are now more readily accessible and more difficult to disconnect from.

So what’s the point? I’m not calling for boycotts or for everyone to return to the dark ages. Mobile technology has the potential for good and there is so much about it that is good. I simply hope that there is a realization that there are two sides to the coin.

All the good that mobile devices provide open us up to unprecedented amounts of proverbial “golden calves.” And we can get comfortable, love our Tweets, our status updates, the Facebook banter, our fantasy leagues, Farmville scores, go to church on Sunday and yet be oblivious to the idols in our pocket. We co-exist and the greatest lie we tell ourselves is to puff up our chest and say technology has little to no effect on us. Make no mistake, it does effect us, it already has and it already is.

As Christians, we should come to grips with that reality. If we don’t believe there is a great potential for our heart to turn its affections from God and that there is a virtually endless supply of things which can cause it; we run the risk of diluting our influence, losing our effectiveness and as Tozer says, become just another “sluggard”.

Use technology, don’t bury your head in the sand or retreat to an underground bunker. For those who are given much, much is expected. But always be on guard. Our hearts are as deceitful as the things that clamor for our attention.

The Workout I Will Always Remember

Are you kidding me, Coach?” That was the thought running through my mind when my coach asked us to do some things I thought I’d never be able to do physically. Making the transition from a high school cross country runner to a NCAA Division II distance runner had been a challenge. There were more miles, more workouts and greater intensity mixed in with all the stresses of college life.

[pullquote]As Christians, I believe we often underestimate the potential of our spiritual capacity. We incorrectly believe that we’ll never be good enough to do what God desires.[/pullquote]

This particular workout remains one of the most vivid memories of my college career. As my teammates and I stretched for our afternoon practice, our coach laid the plan out. We were to run the “Market Street” route, which led us through five miles of residential, city, campus and rural roads. Each mile had to be run in five minutes, thirty seconds—no slower. Directly following that run, we would meet at the track and run 20, 400m laps at 72 seconds each. “Are you kidding me, Coach?” Five miles at a 5:30 pace was hard enough by itself!

But our coach knew what I would eventually discover. We had trained all summer and were in the middle of our collegiate cross country season. I had already put hundreds of miles in, lifted weight and had increased my physical capacity to run further beyond what I had thought. I had faithfully done the work, and it paid off.

I completed the Market Street Five at a sub 5:30 pace. As we tried to catch our breath, we heard the infamous words, “On the line!” The 20 400m laps were about to begin. We ran 17 at sub 72 seconds and then ran the 18th lap in 69 seconds to avoid the last two.

What started out as a mentally impossible proposition was possible, because I had the physical capacity to do it. When I doubted, the challenge of my teammates and coaches revealed my true capacity. I could run farther, faster and longer than I ever imagined.

As Christians, I believe we often underestimate the potential of our spiritual capacity. We incorrectly believe that we’ll never be good enough to do what God desires. We’ll never find consistent spiritual disciplines in prayer and reading God’s Word. We’ll never be able to control our tongue, stop lusting, beat addictions, drop the worldly attitudes or ever become Christ-like.

The truth is, without Christ we can’t. But once we come to an authentic faith in Jesus Christ, we become children of God with unbelievable spiritual capacity. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we have “His divine power” which has given us “everything required for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3-4). Jesus did the work on the cross, and through his life, death and resurrection, we have Christ-like potential.

When God calls you to radical change, He knows the power of the Holy Spirit has given you everything you need to change. When you think you can’t give anything more, God will continue to equip you. When there doesn’t seem to be a way out, He will provide a way.

You have more spiritual capacity than you know. Will you partner with your Savior to go discover it?

This writing is part of a devotional I wrote for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. You can view the complete devotional here