Why You Should Keep Your Smartphone in Your Pocket at the Checkout Line

The self-checkout lines at Wal-Mart are closed today for some reason. And they’ve only got a couple lanes open on a busy Saturday morning. I’ve no idea why the man behind Wal-Mart has decided to mess my morning over like this. I position myself behind an elderly lady who will likely take a solid twenty minutes just to unload her butter, cat food, and a bunch of unrecognizable products that I’ll probably understand more in about twenty years.

This is going to be awhile.

Rather than getting bored and letting this time flit away, I do as I’ve trained myself to do. I pull out my phone and decide to take captive a few moments. I skim read through a couple of articles online, check some email, and respond to a few comments on social media.

I’m doing this because over a decade ago I was captivated by the Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. As I’m taking captive a few moments in the check out line, I know that what I’m doing is following Edwards’ resolution #5. “Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.” Rather than wasting my time by just standing in line like a big dumb ox, I’m getting stuff done.

And I’m likely destroying my brain and my ability to actually get stuff done.

I became convinced of the damage I’m doing by so quickly grabbing my smart phone when I read Deep Work by Cal Newport. Summarizing much research, Newport says:

Once your brain has become accustomed to on-demand distraction, Nass discovered, it’s hard to shake the addiction even when you want to concentrate. To put this more concretely: If every moment of potential boredom in your life—say, having to wait five minutes in line or sit alone in a  restaurant until a friend arrives—is relieved with a quick glance at your smartphone, then your brain has likely been rewired to a point where, like the ‘mental wrecks’ in Nass’s research, it’s not ready for deep work—even if you regularly schedule time to practice this concentration. (Deep Work, 158)

This is no fault of Edwards. He didn’t have a smartphone. His idea of “improving the time” was likely quite different than mine. I’m not sure if Edwards would have thought to value a bit of boredom, but I believe we should. There is something beneficial about slowing down and just standing in check-out line while everybody else is on their smart phones. I’m slowing my brain down and preparing it for moments of deeper work later.

Resolved, to keep my smartphone in my pocket, let the emails wait, and indulge in a bit of boredom for the sake of more productive work later…

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Why Denying Future Judgment Undercuts the Call of Lady Wisdom

In college, I had an English Literature professor who posited a hypothetical question to get us thinking. “What would God do if the devil in hell repented?” he asked. That question would then extend a bit further out—surely we cannot doubt God’s ability or desire to forgive repenting souls after life. I heard something similar a few years later in the writings of Rob Bell:

And so space is created in this “who would doubt God’s ability to do that?” perspective for all kinds of people—fifteen-year-old atheists, people from other religions, and people who rejected Jesus because the only Jesus they ever saw was an oppressive figure who did anything but show God’s love. (Bell, Love Wins)

The problem, though, with Bell’s hypothesis and my English professors question is that it misunderstands the reason for folks being in hell in the first place. It creates an imaginary scenario where somebody would have gladly repented on earth if given the proper circumstances. What it inevitably ends up doing is putting the blame at the feet of God.

Proverbs 1:20-33 paints a different scenario. Lady Wisdom doesn’t call in secret. Nor is she only found in the places of the elite. No, she calls everywhere. Her voice echoes forth just as creation does, proclaiming God’s eternal power and divine nature. She’s in the city. Even the cities who have never heard the name of Christ. And what the Scriptures declare is that humanity foolishly “hates knowledge” and “does not choose the fear of the LORD”.

It tugs on your heart strings to picture the person who “rejected Jesus because the only Jesus they ever saw was an oppressive figure”. But this person simply does not exist, according to the Scriptures. Romans 1 says that everyone has “clearly perceived” and are thus “without excuse”. Lady Wisdom has called and they’ve turned aside.

In his commentary on Proverbs, Bruce Waltke gives four reasons why this texts shows why denying a future judgment would undercut the call of Lady Wisdom. These are Waltke’s four reasons:

  1. Human choices before judgment would amount to no more than preliminary decisions before a real choice is made beyond death.
  2. This life would be preempted of its true dignity if choices made now had no eternal consequence.
  3. Fools would be confirmed in treating this life with careless complacency.
  4. The disciples of wisdom would be made to look foolish if sensual pleasure could be had without responsibility and accountability.

Waltke’s third reason is the most compelling to me. The fool is complacent. And he is complacent because he doesn’t believe his life now will matter for eternity. He doesn’t heed the call of Lady Wisdom for this very reason. If there is a second chance after this life then the fool is correct.

Rather than trying to mute Lady Wisdom wouldn’t it be better for us to give her a megaphone?

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Read This! 05.18.17

Fast from Food, Not Facebook

I appreciate this article on fasting. A bit convicting too, I might add.

Southern Baptists and Conventional and Cosmopolitan Cultures

This is about as good of a commentary on this as I have seen.

3 Reasons Cuckoo Clock Leadership Is Ridiculous

Helpful image, and I think he’s right. Such leadership is a mirage.

Aren’t There Already Enough Churches?

Heard this objection to church planting quite a few times.

Is There a Silver Bullet of Sanctification?

Nope. But we sure think there is.

Was Jesus Ever Ill?

What do you think?

Eight Signs Your Church Might Be Closing Soon

“Death spiral” is a scary term and it’s one we should avoid getting on.

The Best Discoveries Begin as Proverbs

I’m preaching through Proverbs so I found this really beneficial.

Our family just discovered this video a few days ago and thoroughly enjoyed it:

Aiming to Displease

An eighteen year old John Ryland, Jr. wrote a book of poetry called Serious Essay’s on the Truths of the Gospel. He received high commendation for this work. Though a dear friend, one particular pastor was a bit put off by what he perceived as arrogance coming from this young man. At the end of the preface Ryland wrote, “As to manner, I have not aimed to please critics; as to matter, I have aimed to displease Arminians.”

This statement drew the ire of this elder pastor, who took to pen and thus began a lengthy friendship. That more seasoned pastor was John Newton, who graciously rebuked the young Ryland. Newton had this to say about Ryland’s barbs towards Arminians:

You say, ‘I have aimed to displease the Arminians’, I had rather you had aimed to be useful to them, than to displease them. There are many Arminians who are so only for want of clearer light. They fear the Lord, and walk humbly before him. And as they go on by an increasing acquaintance with their own hearts and the word of God, their objections and difficulties gradually subside.  And in the Lord’s time (for he is the only effectual teacher) they receive the doctrines of grace which they were once afraid of.

Now these should not be displeased, by our endeavoring to declare the truth in terms the most offensive to them which we can find, but we should rather seek out the softest and most winning way of encountering their prejudices.  Otherwise we make a parade, and grow big with a sense of our own wisdom and importance, but we shall do little good. (Wise Counsel, 15)

I care little about hashing out debates on the doctrines of grace, but I do believe we can learn a good deal from Newton here.

I doubt click-bait titles on social media will be going away anytime soon. But what I would love to see are less and less believers sharing them, especially the ones of a certain nature. I’d love to see the ones I call the “gotcha” articles no longer be shared and visited by believers. By “gotcha” article I mean the ones where the clickbait title reads something like this:

LIBERALS ABSOLUTELY HATE WHAT THIS BEAUTY QUEEN SAID

or

THIS ACTRESS SHOCKED THE MSM AND CAUSED A LIBERAL MELTDOWN

You get the picture. I only mention this from a conservative perspective because that is more my audience. I’m sure that similar click-bait articles are written across the aisle, I just don’t see them shared as much.

I understand why we like these articles and why we share them. I’d like to say we get it from Hollywood, but it’s probably more accurate to say we get it from our first parents. There is something within us that loves that moment when we say something so incredibly witty that the other person is shamed into silence. We love watching a house of cards tumble so long as it’s not the house we live in.

I think this in part is what Paul meant when he told Timothy that the godly leader will “correct his opponents with gentleness”. It’s what John Newton was trying to impart in the young Ryland. It’s a good thing to want to walk in the truth. It’s also a good thing to desire others to walk into truth. But there is really no place in the Christian life for this shame-inducing game of gotcha that we so often like to play on social media. Ryland was wrong for trying to provoke those whom he disagreed with. And likewise we are wrong when we aim to displease rather than win over.

Calvin commented on 2 Timothy 2:25 that, “Paul’s meaning is that gentleness should be shown even to those who least deserve it, and even if at first there is no apparent hope of progress, still the challenge must be accepted.” 

If we want the Lord to be pleased with our social media interactions we will take up gentleness, and refuse to share these “gotcha” articles even if we believe it gives a serious blow to our enemies. Let us major in truth…but let it be gentle and winsome truth. Not a truth which aims to displease, silence, and shame our neighbors.

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