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Thankfulness in a Digital World

As we head towards Thanksgiving, lets take this opportunity to call out these areas in our lives that steal our Thankfulness:

  1. Control
  2. Anxiety
  3. Distraction

And let’s combat them in Christ with the tools we’re given:

  1. Draw close to God
  2. Stay connected to the vine
  3. Check the fruit

0:00: Intro
2:10: Thank You

5:30: What deters our thankfulness?
6:30: Control
15:30: Anxiety
17:30: Distraction

21:30: Solution #1: Draw Close (James 4:4,8)
26:00: Stay Connected (John 15:4-5)
29:00: Check the fruit (Galatians 5:19-22)


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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, we are finishing our conversation about being thankful in a digital world. Last week we talked about wonder in a digital world and the difference between awe and amazement. The previous week we talked about hope and how there’s a reason for today and a purpose for tomorrow. And today we’re wrapping this up in time for Thanksgiving. Talking about thankfulness. Really what I’m hoping this conversation, what we take away, all of us and what I’ve grown in preparing this is this idea that thankfulness is intentional. It’s a practice. It’s something we work on. It’s not just a feeling we have, and that there are specific parts, especially living in a digital world, there are specific parts of the world we live in and the habits that we form that actually fight our thankfulness.

So, today’s conversation is what are those things we can be [00:01:00] kind of eyes up prayerfully looking at and saying, Hey, is this thing, or this practice or this habit hurting my thankfulness? And the second is, what can I intentionally do to develop that, I guess, habit of thankfulness? So, that’s where our conversation’s headed today. It will be. A bigger picture conversation that we can share with our kids. One that we can apply to our own hearts. And I pray that we can take into Thanksgiving and share with those that we meet with and that we share with. And as we prayerfully thank God for what he’s doing, we can point our attention and the attention of those around us back to God.

So, with no further ado, let’s get this conversation started.

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.[00:02:00] 

Thank you to everyone who has made this podcast possible. Thank you for listening. Thank you for sharing, for rating, and for reviewing. So, the fact that you’re hearing this. You’re doing the first one for sharing. Thanks for sending this out to your friends, for, to your coworkers, to your church community members. That’s amazing to just be a part of this conversation that is so critical as we raise kids who love God and use tech. Thank you for having us along on that journey. Thank you to everyone who has rated us. If you have not rated, if you’ve listened to multiple episodes and you’ve not yet rated this podcast, would you please do that? It helps people find us. It makes it so that we are higher on the, Both viewing and when people search for content, we pop up faster and we are seeing that work. So, the way you do that is you scroll down to the bottom of whatever app. So if we use Apple Podcast, for example, you scroll down past these suggested lists, it’ll take you through, you know, 147 and then on down for episodes. And then at the bottom there’ll be five little stars. We ask for five star reviews. I’m trying to create five star content. If it isn’t five star content, you can send me a note, [00:03:00] And I would love that feedback so I can make this five star content. And then after you’ve rated it you can leave a little one or two sentence review. It helps people know why you gave it five stars. It helps people hear from other people who are being benefited from this resource and know, Oh, well I do want that kind of information, or that is the kind of thing I’d be willing to give my time to. Cause I know you all could listen to a lot of amazing content out there and you’re choosing to listen to this. So, thank you. 

For today’s shout, this is a special shout cuz I just returned from Pennsylvania. So, thank you to everyone who’s listening in Pennsylvania cuz you may not only have come to the workshop, you now are tuning into the podcast and that’s amazing. Thanks for Todd and Cornerstone Church and bringing me out. It was an incredible opportunity and here’s what it looks like. They heard Todd was at a previous talk I did back in, must have been April or May. Reached out through the website and said, We’d love to bring you out again. Different church, different event. We did the two hour family tech framework format instead of the 70 minute gospel tech talk. And they did an amazing job of bringing in families. I think we had 44 families present, cause that’s how many workbooks we used, [00:04:00] which is a great group of people, which means every one of those families, they didn’t just hear information. They made a tech framework and they left that Saturday morning conversation with the journey started. With the words say, with some practical steps to put in place and some conversations to have.

And it’s not over which is why many of you are listening to this podcast. And that’s amazing and I want to get that word out. This is something we’re doing. We are getting these workshops out. If you have more questions or you are interested in this for your church or your school, reach out to me,, or just go gospel and you click on speaking. Type in your info and I’ll be in touch. Because it is an opportunity that we’re seeing help churches, help families and help communities as they really wrestle with how do we have these conversations well. In fact, I gotta do this up in Monroe, Washington. This. We’re doing a second, like a two-parter, so there’s lots of options for what we can do. Please let me know if I can be of service or a resource. So, thank you for letting me take care of all that housekeeping. 

In this conversation today, we are continuing it on with our idea of [00:05:00] thankfulness. So, we’ve talked about hope, we talked about wonder. Today we’re tackling thankfulness. And where I want this conversation to go specifically is really looking at what benefits and what detracts from our thankfulness.

So, we’re actually gonna start with the latter of those; three things that fight our thankfulness. The first is control. Our desire to be in control is an absolute barrier to our ability to be thankful. In her book, The Cost of Control, Sharon Hodde Miller puts it this way; “Whenever we reach for control to save us, it always costs us something.”

That idea that this was what Adam, Adam and Eve ran into in the Garden. They knew God was good. They knew who God was. They walked with God in the cool of the evening, but they wanted control. And when Eve was offered the fruit, she wasn’t tricked or deceived in that she somehow thought she was doing something else. Like she was like, You know, I’m gonna be helping God. This is good. She looked at the fruit and saw three things: it was pleasant to look at, it was good for food, and it was beneficial for gaining knowledge. And that idea right there, and [00:06:00] therefore she chose to eat the fruit and then gave some to Adam and he’s like, Sure, that was a desire for control. I don’t trust that God is gonna provide me with everything I need. So, God’s good, but I just need this little bit of control. And when we talk about tech we see this raise its ugly head. We absolutely trust you, God, except in getting the word out about my business, right? That hits close to home for me. Like absolutely God, but like, I also need this other little bit of control just to make sure that people really know what’s happening here, God. It’s not this can be with our, man, our, our time. Like I absolutely trust that God is gonna provide me enough time to do these things, but I have to do this other thing and that investment makes me skip my prayer time or my quiet time, or my scripture time or my… right, that time to be with the Lord. That has to go away because I’m really busy with this ministry, Lord. And that, I’m not saying that in judgment as in like I’m doing better than others judgment. I’m saying that in discerning judgment, that the Lord specifically calls us out. That our ability to be thankful, we can’t be [00:07:00] thankful and in control. Because when things go right, when we’re in control, we think, man, I’m amazing. I’m totally crushing this. Think about it like when we’re raising our kids well, and it’s because we read the right book, what’s the end outcome, 99% of the time? I’m amazing. I should tell everyone to read this book because I did it and it works and I have control.

Now, it doesn’t mean that reading a parenting book is bad. Please don’t hear that. I read parenting books. Anna has done an amazing job reading parenting books. It’s that when we use them to control, not to lovingly be thankful for the opportunities God gives us and steward those well. Right. That’s different. When I wanna steward paring my child’s wealth when I wanna disciple them well, and I wanna learn from wise people. That’s amazing. I come at that from a place of humility. It’s when I come at this from a place of control of I need to buckle down. I need to run this show. And when it doesn’t go right, it’s because people didn’t do it my way. And it makes me bunkers and it ruins my thankfulness, because I can’t be thankful and in control because I’m only thankful for me [00:08:00] at that point.

And what I want is more control in that. Then, just think of it this way. When Jesus addresses this head on, he says, No one can serve two masters free. Either will hate the one or love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24. And that money in Hebrews mamon, and I love this point, this is a point brought up by Andy Crouch in his book, The Life We’re Looking. In his book, he points out that mamon doesn’t mean money like the currency. Like that’s, it’s talking about possessions, wealth, the ability to have influence in this world. And when we talk about money, like, this is what Jesus is getting at the heart of. He’s really saying three things. One, money makes promises, it can’t keep. Money, the ability to get stuff we want when we want it. Promises things like comfort and power and prestigious satisfaction that you’ll have purpose. And these are actually all the same things by the way Satan promises to Jesus when he is tempted in the desert. And Jesus, for example, when he’s shown all the nations and Satan says, Hey, I’ll give you these nations if you just worship me. He [00:09:00] doesn’t actually address the nations. Jesus does want the nations. He will, he will actually have the nations. He has them, He will have them in finality when he takes his final victory. But what he addresses in this moment is you shall worship the Lord your God. He addresses the control issue, right?

He doesn’t say, No, no, you don’t have power over those nations, Satan. He goes, No, no, Satan, worship is wrong in this situation. I will not worship you because that’s not actually what’s at stake here. The control thing is a, is a secondary issue to the concept of worship you just brought up. And that’s Matthew 4:10 when we talk about mamon, when we talk about wealth, when we talk about control and again, wealth is related to control. Cause often that’s how we try to control our environment. We have a wealth of influence. We have a wealth of medical resources. We have a wealth of savings. We have a wealth of family. We have a wealth of opportunities in relational connections or whatever it is. We try to use those things to control the world around us and make it go our way. [00:10:00] And Jesus is saying, No, no, no, no. Please don’t serve influence. Don’t serve money. Don’t serve wealth. Don’t serve possessions. Serve me. And he says the same thing to Satan, which was a counter to Eve’s mistake in the garden, that she chose her own control over trusting God.

So, when we talk in this moment about how control can ruin our thankfulness, we need to recognize that it’s something we constantly are yearning for. And as Sharon Hodde Miller said, whenever we reach for control to save us, it actually always has a cost more than we bargain for. Which is the, the second part of the, I had mentioned three. So, first it makes promises it can’t keep. The second is it takes more than we expected. And the third is that Well, we have to, we have to pick a side. We can’t choose that and God. So, when we talk to, to tie it in nicely with tech, when we do this with tech, we often turn to technology. When technology promises to save us time, to make us money, to increase our status amongst our friends, to solve problems that are holding us back [00:11:00] to make us stronger, prettier, smarter. To make us famous and give us influence in circles that we care about. Technology promises that, and it just says, Well, you just have to give me your privacy. You just gotta give me those special moments with your kids. You’ve just gotta give me weekends, nights, early mornings, the best years of your life. Just gimme 25 to 45. That’s all I need from you. And then everything will work out great. And we are calling that lie out that if we are turning to technology to try to control our lives. To try to even out all the bumps, so we never run into any problems. We’re not trusting God. It’s not bad to be prepared. I’ll tell you, I have insurance. I have medical insurance, life insurance. I’ve got those things, but I’m not putting my trust in those things. I have a house. And a paying job, and my kids go to a lovely school and we have amazing family… and these are not bad things, but it’s if I found my purpose in them. If I looked at my life and said, Today matters because I have these things and I have control, then I’m worshiping that instead [00:12:00] of the Almighty God. And then my priorities are askew. And we need to call that for what it is, cuz it doesn’t actually solve the problems. In fact, when we try to get control, it really does one of two things. It’s either gonna make us really anxious, because we have to keep doing all those things that are making it work, and if we drop any of it, we’re gonna let ourselves and everyone else down and they’re gonna see us as a fraud, and it’s so stressful. Or it leaves us so distracted because we’re doing it all well, that we actually aren’t able to be present in any of the other important things we need to be doing. So, to start with the former of those two.

The second way that tech fights our thankfulness is anxiety. I’m not talking about medical anxiety. I’m specifically addressing in this case that anxiety, that worry, that comes as a byproduct of trying to be in. I think, I mean, one of the main ways I see anxiety bump into my life, is my inability to focus on a single task. So, that’s one . It’s not just my ADD . My ADD is there too. But this comes from me and I’ve, I’ve confessed this before is news, I was a history poly [00:13:00] side, double major. News is always fascinating to me. I love the story of it. They package it really well now so you can feel like you’re learning information when really, it’s just international gossip. But trying to find out what happens and then find out the why. Right? The history’s the what’s happened and the PolySci attempting to explain on a, on a country level why. I’m fascinated by that and I can dive into the weeds. But often I want to be in the know and just have information. It’s not affecting the way that I love others. And it makes me very anxious usually because I get mad at people because I feel like they’re being stupid and I’m really smart. And, oh look, it’s Nathan trying to be in control again. Which then makes me anxious. And when we begin to feel anxious. We can’t be thankful and anxious. Right? This is why Jesus says, be anxious about nothing.

When he starts pointing out to look at the sparrow, look at the lilies of the fields, Look at the way God is providing for all of his loved creation, you are so much more loved than these things, he’s saying. You’re trying to take control over stuff you can’t control. You can’t extend a single day of your life by your worry. [00:14:00] And yet he said, And so, you don’t worry. And yet God loves you so much. He wants to give you these things. So, ask him for those good things you want. We can’t be anxious about our control and be thankful. We can’t be in a position of humility saying, God, thank you for providing. Thank you for my children. Thank you for my health as long as I’ve got it, and when I don’t have my health, thank you that you are still good despite my brokenness. Despite this hard season. Those are not easy things to say. I can say that right now with smile on my face because I’m not in one of those dark seasons. I’ve been there. I’m certain the Lord will bring me back. And in those seasons what I know, is God’s character in nature hasn’t changed my anxiety when it change. It spikes when I attempt to be in control. When I look to my technology and I try to keep all those balls in the air. I try to keep social media looking like it’s perfect. I try to keep the front facing media side of either work or just life.

Sometimes we like to brand our families [00:15:00] and we try to get the perfect everything and only post the good stuff. And part of that is so we’re not a bummer on people. When I was in a harder spot emotionally and psychologically, it’s hard to share that stuff cause you don’t wanna like trigger other people into having terrible days. So we, we don’t just wanna like emotionally dump onto people who aren’t asking for that. And yet sometimes we use that as an excuse to curate the negative out of our life, and to not ask for help, to not seek support and prayer, and to repent and confess. We become anxious because we’re trying to hold it all together. And I’m telling you right now, Jesus died and rose again for that anxiety. So, you won’t have to try to be in control because you can’t be in control. And the anxiety that comes from that, like when I look at the world news and instead of seeing broken people who need Jesus, and a savior that can redirect their purpose, I see a bunch of fools who aren’t running things my way, and if only I had control, right? I turned out to be a little more like Beorn from Lord of the [00:16:00] Rings. Like if only I had all the power, then I would use it for good and I would crush people and they would fear and love me. And that is what we’re talking about with anxiety. It is often because we are gaining control, and it absolutely is debilitating to us. We don’t know what to do with it because even when it works now, it has to keep working. And that idea of, I have to keep my kids good, I have to keep my marriage good, I have to keep myself good. And you can feel things start to slip off the rails. That’s not true. That’s not our spot. In fact, Jesus tells us that he is the one who keeps us good. And I’ll, I don’t wanna steal my own thunder, but the next part of what’s our solution to this, we will address what we do when we’re out of control or in this case, in control and feeling so anxious. Because the third way that we get distracted from our thankfulness is distraction itself.

That we are either so busy staying awesome, that we can’t do anything else. We have to be all hands on deck all the time. But more often than not, I have found that in my life and in the lives of people that I know and care about, often the [00:17:00] distraction comes, we can’t think about how anxious we are. Because we’re attempting to be in control, we either are perfectly in control or we are out of control now, which makes us anxious cuz we either wanna be back in control or we have to stay in control, and we can see it slipping away. And distraction comes either because we’re staying so perfectly in control, on the one hand, or we see it slipping. We can’t handle it. We can’t acknowledge that we’re losing control. We’re not repenting. We’re not confessing. And so, we just get distracted. We jump on social media and we fill our lives with other people’s lives. Or we curate our lives so we feel in control, even if it’s not true. At least in this way, we can sort of live the life we want to live.

It’s not real. It’s not true. It’s not centered on God. It’s centered on worshiping ourselves and this image that we’ve created of what life should be like. But nonetheless, it’s a distraction we accept, or we dive into shows or social media distracted with parasocial relationships. Where we start following other people who have lives that we want to [00:18:00] have and we kinda live vicariously through them. Or we jump into video games and we start living adventures that aren’t ours in order to feel like we have purpose. Video games are not bad, but when we start to live out adventures that we wish we had, because our lives are unsatisfactory. That is not God’s purpose for us. So, that becomes bad. And really at the end of the day, distraction starts to consume us.

And by the way, every time we quit being distracted, what do we see come up to the surface? Anxiety. Why? Because we’re out of control. And we get, it gets worse every time we run away, and then every time we’re forced to come back. Our family needs us, or our job is calling to us, or our health begins to dwindle, we start to recognize, oh no, like this distraction isn’t actually building me up. It’s not reflecting reality. It’s not true. And that in turn makes us very anxious. So, when we look at this concept of thankfulness, what fights it? Control fights thankfulness. What, what does control often cause? Anxiety, that fights thankfulness. [00:19:00] And our anxiety, when it’s peak level, either because we’re doing a great job at control, or we’re doing a terrible job of control, we run to distraction. We run to oftentimes kind of a digital self-medication to make the world just more acceptable. And this is where we start saying things like, Well, I just need this time to decompress. That might be true. You, you might enjoy this time. And I’m, I’m comfortable saying that. You can watch your shows, play your games, listen to your music. As long as it’s for enjoyment. As soon as it becomes a need, I need this thing or I’m not gonna be okay. That’s a hard spot. Hopefully it’s just a season. It’s a week. It’s, you know, a short period of time where it just, Hey, we get it.

Life is tough. Or you’re on an eight hour flight and like, you get it. You’re gonna make it through. It’s a sub-p ar situation. All right. But if this is weeks, months… if this is just the norm and this is how you make it through, then that’s an area for prayer. Because our solution is number one, so before I run on, being clear, we finish those three things that are distract us from God.

The [00:20:00] second part then is what is our solution to being thankful? I wanna be thankful. How can I do that? I can’t be thankful when I’m in control, I can’t be thankful when I’m anxious because that’s me attempting to be in control and either doing great in my own power or doing awful, and then I’m distracted and I can’t be thankful when I’m distracted because I can’t really remember what I’m thankful for because I’m so busy pursuing this other thing to try to feel good. So, our solution then, first and foremost, is to draw close to God. And this comes outta James 4:4,8… 4:8. You adulterous people do not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God. Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded. And I love this picture. Again, that was James 4:4 & 8. It says, Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands. This isn’t an effort thing, like well just go do better and then God will come close. He’s saying, God came down. This is, [00:21:00] this is God; came down, put on the body of a man, lived a perfect life and died so that as a human, in taking a death that was unjust, could pay for that debt. And then rose again cuz death had no hold on him and now offers you not just life. He’s offered for all the Old Testament. The gospel didn’t start with Jesus. It’s fulfilled in Jesus. He’s the fulfillment of the law. He’s the new perfect Adam. He’s the perfect high priest, and he now intercedes for us with the Father, constantly reminding God the Father, that that one is a chosen one of ours. 

So, we then gain thankfulness. We combat control, anxiety and distraction by drawing near to God. And how do we do that? Well, we draw near to God in prayer. That’s a first way. In conversation with God where we are reminding ourselves who God is. This is Jesus way of praying. Where he says, Our father who is in heaven, holy is your name. Our first thing is remembering God. Why we’re doing this conversation in the first place. That we’re not talking to ourselves. We’re not digging deep into our hearts [00:22:00] to try to find something good, because all we’re gonna find is bits and fragments that God’s planted there of his own likeness. And when we see those, we don’t go, Yeah, I am awesome. Look at the goodness that’s in here. We go, wow. How is there any goodness in here? Man, God, you are great. And it draws our heart toward thankfulness. So, that’s the first thing we’re gonna do is pray. We’re gonna, we are going to repent when we find those other little bits that are much more frequent than the good bits in our hearts.

We’re gonna repent, which is turning back to God and saying, Oh man, I can’t do this God without you. I can’t love my wife well, or my spouse well, in this case. I can’t love my kids. Well, I can’t do my job well. I can’t even do a good quiet time apart from you, Lord. And we, we draw close to the Lord.

We can also worship, where we are singing out truths about God. Maybe truths we’re not even feeling. Maybe truths we want to feel. Like, God, you are long suffering and the Lord you are gracious and slow to anger and like, I Lord, I see your character and I need to see it. And worship does an amazing job of kind of bypassing that logical part of our brain that tries to put everything in order so that we can [00:23:00] contain God and understand him and all of his goodness.

And instead we just go, No. I, I’m just gonna worship because God you are worthy of this praise. And so that’s the first thing is we draw close to God. That is a solution to be thankful. It combats control, anxiety and distraction. You cannot be truly in that space of drawing close to the Lord and completely distracted, because the closer you get to the to God, the more those distractions burn up. The worries disintegrate. And I don’t know any other way of saying it other than that. Is that I can experience distraction and incredible anxiety and worry and frustration and anger on a Sunday morning when I go in for corporate worship. And it just kind of like, I’ll remember it afterwards, but it doesn’t have the same teeth. It doesn’t latch onto me like it used to. I can still go address it. I can bring it up in conversation, but it doesn’t irk me. It doesn’t make my blood pressure spike, because control, I’ve, I’ve abdicated it. That act of worship reminded my heart and my spirit who’s actually running the show here. [00:24:00] So, that’s the first thing is we draw close to God. 

The second way to experience thankfulness, to recognize who is actually in charge of this work that we’re living out on a basis, who’s in charge of the best stuff happening. Our kids, our spouse, our jobs, our opportunities, or who’s in charge of providing opportunities so that we can see the kingdom of God come, and his will be done and not ours, that is done by drawing close to God. The second thing is when we draw close, we’re actively staying connected to the vine. And Jesus says in John 15:4-5, Abide me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine. You are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he that bears much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing.

And this beautiful picture, first we draw close to God. I love this because it’s not a one time drawing. It’s not a go high five Jesus, every time you need something. It’s Abide. It’s a branch Right now. We’re in [00:25:00] full winter prep here in the northwest, so we did all our pruning this last week. And when we talk about abiding, you see these branches that are pruned back and they’re trimmed for fruitfulness, and then the spring comes and they blossom, and they only do that when they’re connected to a vine. Actually they will do that if you prune them in the spring, they will still try to blossom, but they die pretty quick. They’ll put on, they’ll put on some some leaves, they’ll put out some even little buds, and then they’ll shrivel up because they don’t have a constant flow of life coming to them from the vine itself, or from the tree itself if it’s a tree. Picture is so beautiful that we draw close to God and then we stay connected to the vine and we abide daily, asking ourselves, Do I trust and follow Jesus? Am I trusting and following Jesus? Am I doing what he’s asked for me to do? And that he says I need to love him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I need to love my enemies. Am I faithfully doing that? Am I making disciples? These are things I do to stay connected. Yes. Prayer scripture, worship, meeting with [00:26:00] the church body… That’s part of it where we publicly proclaim the gospel. Where we connect it to scriptural truths as Jesus did. To Isaiah and the prophets, the entire Old Testament says, This is the Gospel of God and what he will do, and then the New Testament Church says, Yes and amen. And he has done it in Christ. That is really, really, really important for staying connected to the vine. And it allows us to repent and confess our sins and to have other people confess their sin to us, and have us pray with them. And also for us to bring the gospel to bear on people’s lives when it’s not going correctly. And we see control and anxiety and distraction at play.

Those are tools of the enemy. To ruin our ability to be thankful. To choose us to pick up control in our own strength and say, Ah, but I’ve got this one. And we call that out in the name of Jesus and we call that out by pointing to the gospel, and we lovingly live life together. This is the church. This is what we see in Acts. This is what we need to be doing, and it’s a wonderful way to stay connected to the vine. 

[00:27:00] Two, do it in community, which points us to that personal relationship, which is very real, but it shouldn’t just be a personal relationship. It’s not just you and Jesus via the world. That’s not a biblical standard for what we see living this life out.

Which brings us to the third part of going, All right, well, how am I doing all my thankfulness? And we can check for fruit. When we talk about how we can be thankful in digital world, how can I know if my social media is a problem? How can I know if my internet use, if my apps, if my news resources, which for me are apps, how do I know if those helping me be connected to the vine and live out the work of the Lord, or if they’re distracting? Galatians 5:19-22 is a wonderful resource. Simply ask yourself, do you produce from your tech use, do you produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Are those fruit that you see in your life because you are [00:28:00] playing that game, watching that show, listening to that music? Another way that I ask it is the reset. Does this tech that you’re using improve your relationships and responsibilities, your emotions, sleep, enjoyment, and time? It’s a wonderful way to ask. And if it is, then that’s great. The fruit is there, which means you cannot be producing those fruit unless you’re connected to the vine.

And if you are connected to the vine, then that means you are drawing close. And if it’s not, then that’s an easy area to repent; which is the process of drawing close to God and beginning to abide him and staying close to the vine and putting scripture back in your heart and mind, and setting your heart where God has called you to set it, right? On the spirit, not on the flesh, because your other option is right, well, your tech use your digital distractions, your digital anxieties, your digital control, or whatever area it might be. Maybe it’s not digital, but that’s our kind of purview for this conversation. It’ll produce sexual immorality, says Galatians [00:29:00] 5:19-21, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness orgies and things like these. I warn you, as I’ve warned before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. He’s not saying never sin and you’ll go to heaven cuz most of us have experienced these things. A lot of those are on a list that a lot of people who love Jesus have participated in.

So, what are we supposed to make of that? What do you do with it when that shows its ugly head? Or even if it’s been severed for years and now it’s rearing up again and it’s sending up shoots from the ground, what do you do with it? Right? When that thing of control, anxiety or distraction shows up; when that thing that brings impurity or division or envy; when it brings dissension and rivalries and fits of anger; when it brings jealousy and strife and enmity, [00:30:00] idolatry, worship of something other than God, what do we do with it?

Do you just ignore it? You just pretend like it didn’t happen? Do you just not take a picture of it and post other stuff on Instagram? Like, or do we do what Jesus is calling us to do? Do we draw close to him? Do we bring it to the feet of the cross so that he can kill it? Right? Whatever this sin is, he can sever it and cut it off and prune it and throw it away so that we can bear good fruit. Cuz that really is the Christian’s decision, is when this stuff arrives in your life, in your heart, and the hearts of those you care about in your church and family, is it getting killed or is it being allowed to rest and to grow and to gain strength and momentum? When we talk today about how can we be thankful, When we look towards Thanksgiving, we recognize that the three things that steal are thankfulness. The three things that make it very, very hard to be thankful are a desire to control, and our attempts to control. The anxiety that comes from controlling well or controlling poorly, both of them create anxiety [00:31:00] and the distraction that comes on both sides. From controlling really well, we’re distracted with doing it really well. We’re so busy. We’re so on top of it. We’re so we can’t possibly stop for a minute because if we did, all of these cards will crumble. Or distracted because we know we can’t do it and we can’t possibly handle the weight of recognizing our failure.

The only way to battle that is to draw close to God. To come to him in repentance, to come to him in worship, to come to him in need. That’s what Jesus tells us he’s here to do, is to help those who are sick. Those who recognize they have a need and he has already paid the price, and he’s already done the redeeming and he’s got a Holy Spirit waiting for you that’ll indwell you and give both the power and the ability to do what you need to do. So, he doesn’t just change your heart and then leave you broke. He changes your heart and gives you the strength with which to do the right things he’s calling you in to do. We then stay connected to the vine in daily abiding, and throughout a day, abiding. And then we check for that fruit.

That’s an easy way to know where am I abiding? Like where am [00:32:00] I connected to the Lord? And when we recognize that fruit in this situation, when you realize that fruit of the Lord is being born in your hearts and I am, for example, a very clear example for middle school teaching, there were kids in my class who would show up and I’d be like, This kid is hard to love. In fact, I don’t enjoy them around. And I was challenged by a friend to pray about it. And they’re like, All right, ask the Lord for that. And I was like, I like, what does that sound like? Dear Lord, help me care about this kid. And he was like, Yeah. I was like, All right. I’ll give it a shot. Craziest thing happened. I had to pray that prayer every single year about, usually it was around two or three kids out of 150, 160. So, not a, not a huge sum, but I’d have to pray it. Every single year he would do it. He would literally make it to where the kid would still be annoying. The kid would still be hard. The kid would still be purposely disruptive in class, but I wouldn’t hate the kid as a human. And that might sound really harsh. I don’t, teachers, you might feel me on that, but like, it feels personal. Like I am act, I’ve worked really hard to get this degree and then to get in front of these [00:33:00] kids and there’s 147 other kids who want to learn, or at least aren’t actively trying to disrupt everything, and you are actively just being a really mean, terrible human. And I wouldn’t take it so personally. And when I did take it personal, I would take it personal on their account of like, no, like you aren’t living up to who you’re supposed to be. And yes, I’m still mad about this, but I’m mad differently. I’m no longer gonna try to “teach you a lesson.” I’m gonna intervene because you don’t even recognize how destructive you’re being to your own self and your own potential and your own purpose.

And I think that is when we talk about drawing close and saying connected to the vine and then checking our fruit, we can be thankful when we recognize where it’s coming from, because it’s not that, that fruit being born out of caring for this kid wasn’t cuz oh good. Nathan finally found his inner self and now he can love kids. Nathan’s inner self got really, really mad often at kids, and I’m sure that that was damaging when I wasn’t being repentant. But when I was repentant, I found thankfulness gushing to [00:34:00] the surface, because oh my goodness Lord, this fruit of care for this kid… wow. That’s because of you. This fruit of, that kid is ruining opportunities or hurting the people around him. Wow. Thank you for that. Because it’s not making me mad at the kid. I’m actually staying focused on the action and able to still love the kid and care and not write them off. And that when we see that fruit for our own children, for our own work, for our own spouse, even our own hurts that we’ve caused on purpose through sin, we no longer hate ourselves because we can see God’s love for us, and we can recognize that we must have value because of what Jesus had done, and be able to move through that. So we can be thankful, not in control. 

And so, that’s my hope and prayer for each one of us as we head into this week, that we can be thankful, that we can be intentional, that we can recognize the areas that steal our thankfulness. We can prayerfully give them back, and we can pick up a close abiding love of the Lord; an intentional pursuit of him daily, and looking for that fruit. And I hope that this conversation. [00:35:00] Was was encouraging to you? If it was, would you consider sharing it with somebody? Would you pass it along to someone who needs to hear this or is going through something where this would just be a helpful conversation for them to begin? Would you consider joining us in future talking opportunities? Bringing me out to talk about gospel tech or running up a family tech framework for your church or your school?

And would you join us next week as we continue this conversation about how we can love God and use tech?

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