Distracted and Divided from the Good Life

Multicultural friends group using smartphone with coffee at university college break - People hands addicted by mobile smart phone - Technology concept with connected trendy millennials - Filter image

In an article entitled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, Nicholas Carr wrote:

Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case any more. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do.[1]

Studies have actually shown that not only are we becoming more distracted these days, but the power of distraction and multi-tasking are making us less productive in our work, more anxious, struggling with relationship-building, and often more lonely.[2]

Our Problem: Distracted from the Good Life

Our problem with distraction is that it divides us up, confuses us, and leads us away from life at its best. While we have more information than ever before, tremendous amounts of technology with greater capacities than ever before, and greater ease in life than ever before, we are simultaneously struggling as much as ever – if not more – with attaining to the good life.

The good life is that life the we would like to live; the life that we most desire and long for. Unfortunately, the good life seems to be slipping through our grasp even as we have more access to information and ease than ever before.

I’d like to take us some initial exploration of what it means to live life at its best; that is, how do we attain the life we really desire? This will require some degree of self-awareness. We will need to know our own selves well, and what is hindering us from the good life. Specifically, we will need to give attention to distraction, both the distractions that come from outside us and the distractions that come from inside of us

It will also require some God-awareness. Awareness of God is the key to the good life, specifically how to move from division to unity – or integrity – as people. Let’s look at Psalm 86:11:

Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart
to revere your name.

Beginning with awareness of God will help us access the good life. Increasing our awareness of God as revealed in the Scripture, and preeminently in Jesus Christ, will lead us into transformative understanding of some basic truths. First, the good life is what we were made for. We were created by God, both individually and as the human race, for His good pleasure and for experiencing the good life with Him. Second, the only way to enter into the good life is through right connection with God. That right connection with God requires that our hearts that are focused upon Him through faith in Jesus Christ, and undivided by both inner and outer distractions. The good life requires undivided hearts with God. Over the next few weeks, i will spend some time here at the blog exploring these themes. I invite you to join me in that exploration.

 


[1] Nicholas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, The Atlantic, July/August 2008, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/; accessed January 3, 2019.

[2] Eric Westervelt, “Learning in the Age of Digital Distraction,” NPR, November 5, 2016, https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/11/05/498477634/learning-in-the-age-of-digital-distraction; accessed January 3, 2019; and Harriet Griffey, “The Lost Art of Concentration: Being Distracted in a Digital World,” The Guardian, October 14, 2018,  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/oct/14/the-lost-art-of-concentration-being-distracted-in-a-digital-world; accessed January 3, 2019.

 

 

Sustaining the Good Life (discussion questions)

Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Sustaining the Good Life,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church, the second part of our two-part series on Psalm 23 entitled “The Good Life.” I am preaching from the English Standard Version during this series, so here is the text of Psalm 23 from the ESV:

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What was one of your most challenging times in life? What did it feel like to endure it? How did you make it through that time?
  2. This week we continue our journey into “The Good Life” from Psalm 23. As we explore what it means to live a Psalm 23 type of life all the time, this week we look at the challenging times of life. Psalm 23 is built around two strong images: God as our shepherd (verses 1-4) and God as our host or friend (verses 5-6). We will bring those two images together in our study this week. Whether you are alone or with a small group, begin by asking God to speak to you and then read Psalm 23 aloud.
  3. Verse 4 highlights the reality that even though God is our shepherd, we will still face dangers and hardship. What is the source of hope for the psalmist in the midst of hardship?
  4. The shepherd’s rod was a club of sorts for fighting off enemies. The shepherd’s staff was used for keeping sheep on the path or prying them out of crags or holes. What might these metaphors convey about our life with God?
  5. To be in the presence of enemies usually means to be fear-filled and hasty, but verse 5 offers a quite different situation. What does this verse tell us about God’s presence and power as our friend in the face of enemies?
  6. What enemies are surrounding you right now? How might your perspective or approach be changed by the truths of verse 5?
  7. In verse 6 we encounter the unending commitment of God (“all the days of my life”) and the pursuing kindness of God (“shall follow me”). What hope do these words bring you about your daily life and eternal life?
  8. What is one specific truth or point of application that God is speaking to you through this study, and how will you live that out this week? Write it down. If you are in a small group, share your thoughts with one another.

Living the Good Life (discussion questions)

Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Living the Good Life,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church as part of our series on Psalm 23 entitled “The Good Life.” I am preaching from the English Standard Version during this series, so here is the text of Psalm 23 from the ESV:

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Discussion Questions:

  1. This week we begin two weeks looking at “The Good Life” through Psalm 23. We want to explore what it means to live a Psalm 23 type of life all the time. Whether you are alone or with a small group, begin by asking God to speak to you and then read Psalm 23 aloud.
  2. The image of the shepherd is commonly used of God in the Bible. Read some or all of the following passages, then consider what it means that the LORD (Yahweh) is your shepherd:
  • Genesis 49:24
  • Psalm 77:20; 78:52, 70-72; 79:13; 80:1
  • Isaiah 40:11
  • Micah 7:14
  • John 10:11
  • Hebrews 13:20
  1. What would you say is the difference in meaning between the phrases “God is a shepherd” and “the LORD is my shepherd”? What does that communicate to you about your relationship with God?
  2. Sheep require certain conditions for peace, comfort and provision. What is significant about God’s actions and provision in verses 2 and 3?
  3. The end of verse 3 offers perspective on what God’s ultimate aim is. How do you think God’s presence and provision for us might relate with it being “for His name’s sake”?
  4. We will continue to look at verse 4 next week, but it is sufficient to mention that God’s presence changes the encounters we have with dark and fearful valleys. When and how have you experienced God’s presence in dark times in life?
  5. One notable thing about Psalm 23 is that it is attributed to David who, as a great warrior king, was both powerful and strong. What is the meaning and significance of David putting himself in the place of a sheep with God as his shepherd? What does it look like for you to live that way in your life?
  6. What is one specific truth or point of application that God is speaking to you through this study, and how will you live that out this week? Write it down. If you are in a small group, share your thoughts with one another.

Living the Good Life

Good Life bannerHow do we really enter into the good life?

This is the heart of what I talked about in my message this past weekend, “Living the Good Life.” This is the first of two weeks on Psalm 23 at Eastbrook Church in our series, “The Good Life.”

The outline and video file for the message is below. You can listen to the message via our audio podcast here. You can access all the messages from “The Good Life” series here. You can also visit Eastbrook Church on VimeoFacebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

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The Good Life

Good Life bannerThe next two weekends at Eastbrook I will speak about “The Good Life” from Psalm 23.

In a world the trivializes nearly everything and mocks both meaning and depth, what sort of truths do we encounter in Psalm 23? While much of our contemporary American Christianity relegates Psalm 23 to either sentimentalism or the closing days of our lives, what would it look like to truly enter into the realities found in Psalm 23 in our daily lives? What does it mean to live the “with-God” life where He is our Shepherd daily and all lifelong? I have a hunch that it would be the good life which so many people are desperately trying to find.

July 19/20 – “Living the Good Life” – Psalm 23:1-4

July 26/27 – “Sustaining the Good Life” – Psalm 23:4-6