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How Do We Abide in A Tech World?

How do we abide?

Jesus says it’s crucial: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

But what is it, and how do we do in this on-the-go tech world of ours?

Today we’re going to discuss four ways to make conscious, moment by moment decisions to follow Jesus with our everyday choices. We’ll use four great books on the subject to help us discuss how to:

  1. Keep tech in its proper place
  2. Trust God for the little and the big things: hope, joy, and even our personal desires, make-ups, and goals.
  3. Prayerfully change habits and behaviors that celebrate hurry
  4. Participate in the daily battle that is setting our minds on the things of God

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Nathan [00:00:08] Heavenly Father, thank you for this opportunity to talk about technology when it comes to abiding in You. Would you give me wisdom to speak in discerning words? Would you open my mouth to speak your truth? And then would You open our hearts and our ears to both hear Your truth, and then to let it sink deep and apply so that we can walk out the hope we have in You and the Gospel. Thank You for this time in Your name. Amen.

Nathan [00:00:30] Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Gospel Tech podcast. My name is Nathan Sutherland, and this podcast is dedicated to helping families love God and use tech. Today our conversation is going to be on Abiding. How do we abide in Christ in a tech world specifically? And it is a lot. And so my hope is to make it really simple, because I need it to be simple. This isn’t something that I have down pat. It’s not something I do perfectly. In fact, this is probably the number one challenge I’ve had in the last three years of doing Gospel Tech, since the rhythms of just normal life have kind of been blown up. I was a teacher. There were really strict rhythms that a bell rings and literally tells me my time is over and this job doesn’t have that. And then I found myself thrust into kind of the forefront of ministering and sharing the gospel. And that’s something I did every single day verbally in public school. I always did it in action. And I was very prayerful, an intentional in that brought me to this point. But it’s been different and it’s been hard. And some things I thought I was good at. I’m not. And so this is some learning I’m doing, and I just wanted to ask the question, what does it look like to abide in the tech world, in a tech world? And as I’ve prayed about it and thought about it and gone through lots of other people’s wonderful thoughts and encouragements, this is kind of the four takeaways I’ve got. So today’s conversation is an abiding how do we do it well? As we look towards summer to change of pace like we talked about last week, but how do we change that pace for the better, not just have something different but actually have improvement and intentionality in this season that can often lead to rest when we’re purposeful with it. So that’s today’s conversation. And with no further ado, let’s get the conversation started.

Nathan [00:02:12] Welcome to the Gospel Tech podcast. A resource for parents who feel overwhelmed and outpaced as they raise healthy youth in a tech world. As an educator, parent and tech user, I want to equip parents with the tools, resources and confidence they need to raise kids who love God and use tech. Thank you to everyone who’s made this podcast possible. Thank you for listening, for liking, for sharing. Please do subscribe so you don’t miss any new content wherever you listen to podcasts or on YouTube where this video is. Thanks for being a part of this conversation with us and helping us build out Gospel Tech as a ministry, as a resource for families who want to love God and to use tech. So thanks for being here. Today’s conversation How do we abide in a tech world? What does that mean? So our verse for it is John 15:5. That’s where we’re getting this idea where Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit. For apart from Me, you can do nothing.” We probably have all heard that somewhere. The question is all right, but what is abiding? I want to bear good fruit. I want that Galatians 5:22 of love and joy and peace, patience, kindness. And I see in myself Galatians 5:19 through 21, where I have jealousy and lust and anger and just dissension and all of these negative things that come out often through technology. Like if I look at social media, if I look at the most frequented websites, if I look at the shows that are coming out in the games that are really selling well, they don’t generally look like Galatians 5:22. So how do I abide? What does even look like in a digital space? Does that still apply to us? Is this just one of those old time things that, you know, it just kind of passed away with the ceremonial law? We don’t have to abide anymore. Well, I can tell you firmly, no, that’s not the case. This is the Christian life. So then what is abiding? Start with a couple things. It’s not. It’s not simply reading your Bible. It’s not simply prayer. It’s no less than that. But that’s not abiding. That’s part of it. It’s not just being quiet or alone even. So, driving in the car by yourself, that’s great. Or getting into a space that’s alone and wandering, you know, through the woods or something that can be good too. But sometimes we’re trying to connect with nature, not with God. So that can be part of it. It can be very important, but that’s not the point of it.

Nathan [00:04:30] Abiding is at its core, it’s worship. It’s the intentional, mindful focus on the things of God that Romans 8:5 says, “For those who live according to the flesh, set their minds on the things of the flesh. But those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the spirit.” Abiding is the setting of our mind. It’s an act of will. It’s absolutely an act of grace. There is this part, though, where we get a participate. We are given a loving choice like Eve was, where God says focus on the things that are best, that bring you life, that are good, and we now have a choice. We go, okay, I can do that with my technology and I can do it without, but I can also use my technology or my non technology to do my will. And this is what abiding is, is are we going to mindfully, intentionally make the decision to follow Jesus and not just to do what is right, but to focus our hearts and minds on what is right.

Nathan [00:05:23] So there’s really four things are going to talk about Abiding in Christ in a tech world means we will, number one, keep tech in its proper place. Number two, trust God for both the little and the big. So Joy, hope, but also just our personal endeavors and personality as we’ll cover in that point. It’s everything in our life. We’re going to trust God for that. Yes. For the monthly paycheck. Yes. For the health to continue. Yes. For the hope and desire to do right and yes, for the fulfillment and the inspiration of our goals, like God will even work in that. And that is part of setting our minds on things of Christ. Three prayerfully change habits of behaviors, not because we’re trying to impress God, but because we’re new creations will change our behavior because it doesn’t line up with who we are anymore. And the last one. Finally, number four participate in the daily battle that is setting our minds on the things of God. So to help us through this, because it was so big and I was kind of intimidated by doing this, I’ve actually got four books that I’m going to walk us through. You can pick any one of them. You can listen to them in audio. You can just use this as inspiration and know that these books are out there when you have the bandwidth and the space. Think of this as like your cheat sheet for how to engage in this.

Nathan [00:06:32] But four books, first book we’re going to use when we talk about the first thing we can do to abide in Christ in a tech world, which is keep tech in its proper place. That’s a quote directly from Andy Crouch with the Tech Wise family. This book is a very engaging but also very approachable conversation about what does it look like to live intentionally in a tech world. And the first part of being excuse me, of Abiding in Christ in a tech world is putting tech in its proper place to make an intentional space for relationship, for quiet and for focus, right? These ideas of rhythms of rest. So the questions that he asked, but I like is what is the layout of your house say about your priorities? I love that question. I was like when I first heard, I was like, This is some kind of feng shui thing. Like, what are you even talking about? But he explains in this book, like, All right, what is the space set up say about what you prioritize? For example, what gets an emphasis in a room? First room you walk into walk in your front door. What do people see? What does it say about your priorities when they walk into your living room or your kitchen? What is emphasized? And a way to ask that again is where does all the furniture point? This is the I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. This is what caused Anna and I to start to question, Do we need a television? We like TV. Our kids still watch it. They enjoy movies. We often do Friday movie night. I’m not saying don’t have one. I’m saying ask the question. Does it reflect your family’s priorities? Simply that and the other things in your house are really the question of like, all right, if that’s a priority for you, where are the other priorities shown? When you look at where the furniture is, when you look at the way your rooms are set up and what is emphasized in a room, is it for relationship and for service and for being known and connected, or is a lot of it set up for distraction? I personally believe that it’s best to have a space set up for distraction so you can go to it and you can come away from it. We don’t have that in our home. The home simply isn’t big enough. So we’d opted for the laptop. We got rid of our TV, we did a laptop because now we can go to it and not have it just constantly be waiting for us. But there are other people who love Jesus and are doing great that go about it in a different way. We just want to make sure we thought through it. We want to make sure that we need spaces or excuse me, we want to make sure we have spaces for conversation.

Nathan [00:08:46] A great way to do this is a group that’s called ARO out of I want to say they’re out at Tennessee in the United States. Aro just is basically a box that helps you be intentional. I’ve always said find a box, find a drawer to put your phone. And they did it. It doesn’t lock. This is not about trying to keep your kids away from the phone. This is about, Hey, I’m home and I want to intentionally put my phone in here. They have an app that tracks it. Kind of like you track your steps, tracks how long your phone is. Create intentional spaces where your technology goes away. And now we have some space to simply be. We need rooms that are built for rest, meaning our bedrooms need to be what they’re made for. They need to be for rest. Don’t put drool tech in our bedrooms. We need to prioritize the activities in the relationship. So look at your room. Say, Hey, what does our family prioritize for the exercise of the gifts and talents God’s given us? Do we read? Do we write? Do we draw? Do we play music? Do we spend time in intentional conversations with question cards or games? Whatever it is, that’s fine. Make sure there’s room in your in your home. These spaces to be relational, that we’re putting tech in its proper place, that we thought about it. We have a plan. We’ve got some kind of family tech framework where we know what content we should engage and what time that’s appropriate. That’s the first part of abiding in the tech world. If we don’t have a plan, we don’t know when we’re on or off, and we want to make sure we use the tech on purpose, not for purpose. So step one in abiding in Christ in a tech world is make sure you keep tech in its proper place. You’ve thought through your spaces, in your home, in your apartment, in your condo, with your roommates or by yourself. This isn’t only for people who have arrived somewhere down the road. This is our conversation for right now. Let’s make sure that our TVs and our laptops and our iPads and our e-readers and our smartphones, that they all line up with who we are in Christ. And I said this at a talk this last week, like, let’s first assess. Maybe I didn’t even have that part of it, but let’s do that first. Let’s assess what we even have for technology and make sure it lines up with our goal.

Nathan [00:10:40] All right. Second, the second thing I had to do was rely on God for the big and the little. Both our joy and our hope, but also for just our individual purposes. And this comes out of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity is a delightful book. It’s approachable but challenging. It was written, I guess, presented first in the 1940s and then compiled again in the 1950s by C.S. Lewis as he was invited by the British government to share what it means to believe in Christ during World War Two. On the BBC, the British Broadcast Corporation just posted these evening talks where he could talk about faith in Christ and the hope that comes with that in wartime and in a world that felt like it was collapsing just 30 some odd years after it had already collapsed once like viably collapsed. It was doing it again in a single generation, basically. So that idea of that, that’s the premise. And he in that space says, Hey, the hope in Christ isn’t that we’re going to have all the things, the hope in Christ that we have purpose even when we don’t. And I really love this. I think this idea comes with how do I trust God with being enough, even if I don’t have the next thing or even when I do get it? And this comes worth with, excuse me, prayerful intentionality. It comes with a reflective relationship with God that says, Lord, as a parent, as I’m a husband or wife, as I’m single or married, as I’m dating or not, as I pursue my job and my children and my spouse, what does it look like to trust that you are good enough? Not flippantly, not making excuses for evil and sin, but saying in these spaces, I know that You’re still good. So what does that look like to trust and pursue You? And one of the things that I like for this is how do we step into the space of being intentional in recognizing God’s goodness in hard and good spaces? And that might sound kind of. I feel like, even as I said, it sounded kind of vague. So here’s what I mean. How do we get beyond simply doing a personal, quiet time and making worship and time with God not too intense, but also not too flippant and just kind of laissez faire. And this is where I struggle. So this would probably be my number one struggle is taking trust in God. Oh, I trust you, Lord. And then I just go about my day and kind of expect God to pick up the mess. Like, no, like, how I…? I do a quiet time, and I’m pretty good on my own quiet times, but I’m kind of a completionist. I was completionist when I played video games. Meaning if I start something, I want to know all of it. I want to do all of it, and I want it to be really, really good, which can be really hard. Like, in fact, that causes me to not start a lot of things, including things like family worship or family scripture reading, because I got to do all of it. We have to read the whole Bible as a family in this year. And if we miss a day like I just implode.

Nathan [00:13:24] Jon Acuff in his book Finish actually addresses this that like perfectionism is the enemy of us getting anything done because it comes from a place of pride. And that’s what I often do. And discipling my family as I make such huge goals. Well, I’ll do it once I understand the Bible well enough. Well, I’m 40 and I think I should probably understand the Bible pretty well. And that’s honestly not a biblical standard like what Jesus says. It’s come to Me all who you excuse me, all of you who have the Old Testament memorized. In fact, that’s who He had his arguments with the most was the guys who had spent their time memorizing the Old Testament. Please do it. It’s beautiful and wonderful and God will use it. And that’s not where we start. That’s where we get in our regular journey. So how do we do the regular trusting of God with our joy and with our hope and with our individual purpose? We seek God together. We do it through prayer. We do the Scripture reading, we do it through worship, and we do it corporately and individually. So please keep your quiet time. That’s beautiful. I said, It’s no less than that. You do need personal time. But as a parent, I’ve been challenged. How do we do it? So I’ve mentioned before I do a devotional with Anna and the kids. We found the Louie Giglio. Amazing God. Oh, that’s not a word of it. I’m going to forget the name of it, but it’s how great is our God is like the series. And there’s three, maybe four now. And there’s 100 of them in there. They’re 5 minutes and there’s a scripture and there’s a truth about creation, which is neat. And then Anna’s been reading Psalms. One Psalm a day. And if you miss, you just pick up the next Psalm like it’s not a super legalistic thing. And I’ve been really challenged recently. And in Mere Christianity, this idea of just living out daily together. So read for 5 to 10 minutes. It doesn’t have to be an hour, it doesn’t have to be a sermon, it doesn’t have to be heavily prepped. It’s engaging God’s Word as God’s Word and doing it together. So that would be my challenge to you, because it’s been a challenge to me that we can trust in God for our hope and our joy, and not because we know all the answers and we know how to fix it. We’re not coming together to problem solve. We’re coming together to seek God and doing that as a family, as with our neighbors, as a church community, and bringing that to the forefront. And that’s going to be part of our abiding. Then it becomes a regular rhythm.

Nathan [00:15:33] The third then that we do is we get our digital world to operate at a pace that glorifies God. So the third one was prayerfully change the habits and behaviors that celebrate hurry. And this comes from the Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comar. That book was challenging to me. The quote that really stands out is this idea that technology encourages a lifestyle, specifically, digital tech in our modern world encourages a lifestyle that makes life move at a pace faster than our souls. And while that’s not necessarily a biblical concept, I think it’s a lovely image for what we’re doing. And by not biblical, I mean it’s not an explicitly biblical concept. It is, I believe, biblically accurate that there’s something about a lot of our digital tech that’s built around us. We talked about this with the eschatology of technology that there’s going to come a day when a lot of the tech we use and love is going to go away because it’s about efficiency or leveraging our own abilities. And it’s not that it’s not going to work anymore. It’s going to be like a lot of the tech we don’t use anymore. We don’t use the phonograph and we don’t use slide projectors or Betamax or floppy disks, not because they’re bad, because they no longer accomplish the purpose we need. If we need storage, we go to a, you know, terabyte and a thumb drive. We wirelessly upload to the cloud like we don’t need floppy disks anymore. I can listen through my phone or even through a record player. Don’t need a phonograph. They’re so limited in their capacity to meet my needs. Well, when I have eternity, I don’t need an airplane because the entire process in a perfect world is a joy. So what does it matter if it’s 30 years to walk someplace. Like that’s 30 years of complete joy to arrive at a destination that’s also joy. So I think when we think about hurry and about what is important, we often put a priority on is it efficient or does help me accomplish goals? And that’s fine as long as it’s efficiently using the time God’s given us. I think that’s great. But we do fall into this idea of like, Well, I need to grind this job. I need to work really hard either to impress God, to show Him that I’m worth it and then I’m good. And that was a good thing He saved me. Or because I have goals and I’ve asked God to join them and I want to like, thank you God for giving me this. Now I’ve got it from here. And that’s not biblical. It’s not good. It’s bad for our souls. And we didn’t see Jesus to it. Yes, Jesus used Roman roads, but we don’t have any evidence. He rode horses. In fact, Jesus did the opposite of riding horses to get from one space to another faster so he could share more gospel with more people. We saw Him walk. We saw Him intentionally delay. And we saw Him leave crowds, throngs of needy people to go abide with His Heavenly Father. We saw Him go to the quiet places, not just alone, but to solitude, to space where He could be fed and reminded of who God was and who He was, both as a Son of God and as a human who needed God. And this idea that He went in spite of the service, that He could have been doing. So that He could do the service He was called to. And I think that idea, their ruthless elimination of hurry, makes sure that our bodies don’t move faster than our souls. That we remain connected to the vine. That we don’t get so busy that we can’t remember to love our kids or our spouse or our coworkers or our enemies. Because as C.S. Lewis says, in Mere Christianity, when evil comes out of our hearts, we often blame it on. I was just really busy. I was going through a lot right then. I was really tired. I just wasn’t rested. And as Lewis points out, that’s exactly the time when you’re really being who you are. Like, Of course, anyone who knows something bad is going to happen will be able to fake their way through it. That’s a sign that we need to slow down and rest. And if our lives don’t allow it, we need to pray. And what does it look like? Maybe it’s a season. You got a new kid or a pair of kids, right? Sometimes twins or you’ve adopted or you’re working multiple jobs to keep, you know, bat down the fort and keep your family afloat. And I get it. Those are seasons. And we go through those seasons of trauma and seasons of hurt and seasons that aren’t optimal because we don’t always get the choice. But I’m specifically addressing people who do have the choice. Many of us are stressed out to the max and we are forgetting what it means to abide or feeling so stress that we can’t abide. Myself included. I do this. I can’t do a quiet time. Look at all the work I have to do. Look at the people that I need to reach for the gospel. And it sounds so righteous and so good. And it’s not. It’s evil and it’s prideful and it’s not trusting God. And so instead I have to carve out time to eliminate hurry, and I have to get rid of some practices I have that celebrate hurry in an unhealthy way. So that’s this piece as we look for how can we get a pace of life that better lines up with the gospel.

Nathan [00:20:13] And finally, the gospel means we’re going to be abiding in Christ, means we’re going to participate daily in spiritual warfare and the battle for our hearts and minds. And as Rosario Butterfield says, so gently and so poignantly, and The Gospel Comes With the House Key. Hospitality is spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare is the act of putting our eyes back on Christ and trusting in Him. And hospitality does that. It does not mean. So, she host seven days a week host in church services in her home on snow days, right? Like is very intentional has built that but she also is very gracious to say maybe your job is to be the guest in someone else’s home. It doesn’t mean every single person has to be doing the cooking and doing the thing. It means you have to know that you’re both guest and host and that you can be an intentional part of maybe someone else’s journey of hosting the physical location while you host the hope in the gospel and you’re another Christian in that space to ask questions and to be present, to grieve with people and celebrate with people because abiding is going to inherently be relational. And that relational piece is spiritual warfare. Yes, we pray. Yes, we read our scriptures. Yes, we disciple our children. Yes, we slow our lives down so we can be present in the moment. And we intentionally step into relationships with our church community, with our neighborhood, with our schools, with our workplace, with the people God has put directly around us and around the world. Invite refugees into your house. Invite those who are the least of these. Absolutely. And remember that it’s not you going out and doing good that’s going to fix the world. It’s you being faithful to the gospel, that this is the gospel, this is the abiding. We can’t simply say, well, family first and believe that we are trusting and following God. Unless you mean family as in like the people who are made in the image of God, who Christ died for, just like He died for you and me while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8. And it inspires us then to go out and love because we were first love. 1 John 4. Like, that’s great, if that’s what you mean. But if our idea is some kind of distorted biblical protectionism, we’re not following Christ well. Instead, we need to make sure we are being humble and gentle and welcoming, not making excuses for sin, but bringing people in. Because, as Rosaria says, so lovingly says that our homes are going to be both hospitals and incubators. That they are going to be for the sick and for the very young that need to be shown how to live a loving life.

Nathan [00:22:42] So that’s what we’re going to be doing. I think if you had to look for practicals from that, we can set a space and time to pursue the Lord personally with our families. We can fill our minds and hearts with godly content, including books and movies and things that are going to remind us of who God is that simply is replacing content that we consumed otherwise. We can keep things simple and analog. The hurry is often encouraged by our devices, and our devices are often so close to all our distractions and our personal ambitions that taking your notes from the Bible on a piece of paper instead of Apple Notes might help. Reading your Bible from a physical Bible instead of YouVersion or ESV, it keeps you another step where you have to go pick up your phone now rather than just get a notification or open a new tab. Right? It gives us some space and some intentionality. And finally is we’re going to make it relational. We’re going to pray about who, Lord, have You put in my life that I can serve now? Not to start a brand new thing unless the Lord laid that on your heart, but just step into a relationship, invite somebody over, pick one day this month and let’s do it. Let’s try it. We’re going to go to a baseball game like and none of our kids are playing like we know people there and we’re going to just go be and we’re going to pray and do what that looks like one day this month. Think about it, what it could look like.

Nathan [00:23:57] So I hope this is encouraging to you and I hope that you found something here where you can reflect on what does it mean to abide in Christ in a digital world, that does not mean you have to get rid of your smartphone. It doesn’t mean you can’t have Internet. Maybe it does depend on what the Lord convicts you of, but it means you have to start asking the questions intentionally. Follow where Christ leads you and remember that He is our source of hope, joy and purpose, and that we’re saved not from the world, but for it. And that’s going to happen through relationships. So thank you for listening. Thanks for participating in this. And would you please share it with others and then join us next week as we continue this conversation about how we can love God and use tech.

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