Media: a balanced diet or an all you can eat buffet?

This is a copy of the workshop I taught at a women’s event at our church this past spring based on a book written by Jen Hatmaker called: Seven: An Experiental Mutiny Against Excess
I have been married to Joe for almost 19years and in three days our twins will be 14 years old, a girl and a boy, and we homeschool them. I started looking at the Seven Experiment when Linda invited me to be a part of this team. As I started looking at it I thought, “This is so legalistic it’s not even funny!” But as I started reading more and really getting into it, it is NOT legalistic at all. It truly is another way to honor and glorify our Heavenly Father and love our sisters and brothers in Christ. When we confront our own materialism we allow more time to give to others and find out that a simple life really is liberating. So I decided to give this Seven Experiment a try and really practice intentional restraint and allow God to AWAKEN a new perspective within me. 

So, welcome to the workshop: MEDIA: a balanced diet or an all you can eat buffet.

Scripture verses: I would like to start out looking at some scriptures for us to think about as we talk about media excess.

Jesus praying for us: John 17:15-18 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world but to protect them from the evil one. They don’t belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. “Use the truth to make them holy. Your words are truth. I have sent them into the world the same way you sent me into the world. I’m dedicating myself to this holy work I’m doing for them so that they, too, will use the truth to be holy. 

Matthew 6:21 Your heart will be where your treasure is.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 “Everything is permissible,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up. No one should seek his own good, but the good of the other person. 
In other words, just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

I am prone to pride and idolatry therefore, I need to see Him and be willing to lay down my pride and idols and be willing to do His will and not my own. It is so easy to let all the different types of media become idols in our lives. We let our phones, computers, televisions, music, and calendars rule us and eventually we can become slaves to them. I believe there is good in media and really what it comes down to is obedience and discipline. Just like the verses in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 say: Everything is permissible, but not everything is helpful. 

Remember, just because we can doesn’t mean we should. We don’t have to participate in everything the world sends our way. We must be careful not to become absorbed into the world and the temptations of it. John 17 tells us that we were made to be holy just as Jesus was made to be holy. When it comes right down to it, what we allow into our minds, ears and eyes eventually makes its way into our hearts and Matthew 12:34 tells us: For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.

Why do we find ourselves grabbing our phones, iPad, or other devices? I know that when I sit down to watch television I also want to have the iPad or my phone to play a game or scroll through the news as I am watching a show. I didn’t realize how addicted I was! So I made a choice to pray when I feel this happening and give those feelings to God and allow Him to satisfy me so I can make better choices. For Him to give me a better perspective and wisdom about my media choices. I’m not always successful at accomplishing this but I am trying to be more disciplined with it. 

Did you know that there have been studies done on what happens to our brains, and our thought patterns when we are so consumed with multitasking every minute of our lives. “Scientists say juggling email, phone calls, and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information. . .

The stimulation provokes excitement-which is a dopamine squirt-that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored. The resulting distractions can have deadly consequences, as when cell phone-wielding drivers and train engineers cause wrecks. . . And for millions of people… these urges can inflict nicks and cuts on creativity and deep thought, interrupting work and family life.

Even after this multitasking ends, fractured thinking persists; because evidently this is also your brain off computers. Researchers at Stanford found that media multitaskers seem more sensitive to incoming information than nonmultitaskers, and that is not necessarily good: A portion of the brain acts as a control tower, helping a person focus and set priorities. More primitive parts of the brain, like those that process sight and sound demand that it pay attention to new information, bombarding the control tower when. . .stimulated.

Researchers say there is an evolutionary rationale for the pressure this barrage puts on the brain. The lower-brain functions alert humans to danger, like a nearby lion, overriding goals like building a hut. In the modern world, the chine of incoming email can override the goal of writing a business plan or playing catch with the kids.

How much time do you spend absorbing biblical truth compared to absorbing media?

So let’s have a look at how media can distort what God’s word says. Now, considering mainstream media ideologies, how would you generally describe the message that media, not just social media but ALL media, including advertising, convey’s for each of the following?

  • MONEY: the more the better – love it – more, more, more – keep all you can
  • SEX: the more the better – love it – it’s for everyone – more, more, more
  • POWER: the more the better
  • VIOLENCE: it’s okay – it’s acceptable in certain circumstances – the more, the better
  • BODY IMAGE: the less the better – smaller is better 
  • LIFE PURPOSE: to make everyone think your life is better than theirs – if it feels good, do it as long as you aren’t hurting others.
  • FAITH: funny how this is the last one on the list because it’s often last in people’s lives – keep it to yourself.

These are the messages that the world is telling us through our media. Are we willing to bring these messages into our homes? 

Now let’s have a look at what God’s word says and how the truth Christ calls us to live out is the complete opposite of what mainstream tells us:

  • MONEY: is not to be loved – give it away – 1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
  • SEX: is part of a holy covenant between a husband (man) and wife (woman)
  • POWER: Jesus is the true power: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13
  • VIOLENCE: Love others – 1 John 4:19 says We love because God loved us first. – turn the other cheek and don’t be a doormat.
  • BODY IMAGE: Modesty is the best policy – our bodies are God’s temple – 1 Timothy 2:19a I want women to show their beauty by dressing in appropriate clothes that are modest and respectable.
  • LIFE PURPOSE: Live completely surrendered in obedience to Jesus – Glorify God – love others as yourself – serve others before yourself.
  • FAITH: 2 Corinthians 5:7 says: For we live by faith, not by sight.

So, the funny thing is that I work in media! I’m the Computer Graphics Director at Mountaintop Community Church. So, I actually love using media! I love allowing God to use the media in my life and my families life for good. BUT media can totally capture our thoughts, our minds, and eventually our hearts. We need to be concerned with how casually media portrays wealth, top priorities of self-indulgence and gratification – the toxic depiction of marriage, the definition of success and the “American Dream”, the endless enticements to want more, buy more, have more are all trying to make us see that all these things are “normal.” When surveyors look at the results of surveys conducted, if 51% of those surveyed say they do it, it becomes the new “normal.” Like divorce, having an affair, same sex marriage, watching porn, and soon it will be human and sex trafficking! These things should NOT be normal at all, not according to God’s word. If we buy into all that media says is normal, it renders the bible obsolete. So, just because we see people in movies and on t.v. having affairs doesn’t mean we are going to have one, just because we hear racial slurs and vulgar language in music lyrics and on t.v. doesn’t mean we are going to turn into bigots. But remember, what goes in eventually comes out. We go back to the scripture that says: just because it’s available doesn’t mean it’s permissible.

 Jen Hatmaker said: “May we be only under the control of Jesus who fills our minds with hope, and truth and grace unending.” 
There are many ways to use media for good things. The screens at church, live streaming for those who can’t come in person, the school curriculum. I’m not going to list all the wonderful ways media can be used because truly there are THAT many! There are also many helpful things about social media like spreading the word quickly about a missing child, a prayer need, staying in touch with far away loved ones, and many other examples that I won’t list. But for those of us that struggle with it we have to be very careful and very disciplined to not let it become an idol and take over our lives.

How much time are we allowing these messages to come into our homes instead of God’s message in our home? Have you ever asked God to reveal to you your blind spots in the area of media? Remember when you ask HIM to reveal these areas to you that HE convicts every person in a different way. What is a problem or an idol for you may not be for someone else. It’s all about less of what we want and more about what HE wants.

Ask HIM for eyes to see and ears to hear. And to make pleasing HIM more important than pleasing yourself.

As I started praying about the excess media in my life I kept thinking to myself: The Creator of the universe wants an intimate relationship with me and I want one with Him. I want to go deeper and just be immersed in Him. I live in a country where I can freely worship Him at any time day or night and anywhere. Why don’t I choose to spend more time at His feet being “Mary?” Instead, I tend to busy myself, like “Martha,” with unnecessary things. 

Since starting the Experiment, we now try to have two nights a week that are family nights. One night is “reading” night/game night and we read for a couple of hours, or play some board games. We aren’t perfect at this and some weeks our schedules sometimes don’t allow these nights to happen but it is our goal and we try really hard to have them. And we sometimes every work on a bible study together. 

We only have one TV in our house which allows for lots of family time. We DVR everything we watch on cable because not only is it a time saver but I really don’t want any of us to see the awful advertising/commercials that are allowed these days. I don’t think I need to explain any of those. We also watch a lot of Netflix which is commercial free! We have dinner just about every single night around the table as a family and that is a screen free zone. No phones at the table. This part isn’t always perfect but we try! I also have more time to study the word or meet friends for coffee or lunch.

My awakening came when I realized I was spending way too much time on FB and how many conversations started out with: “Did you see on FB?” Or “I posted it on FB, didn’t you see it?” It was becoming one of the only ways I communicated with some people, even some family members. It was also a huge time killer for me. Anytime I would sit down and find myself bored, I would open FB and scroll through my newsfeed. I was allowing it to change the way I would think about people because of a post or a comment they made and I was even allowing what others posted to hurt me (mainly family). It was truly not a healthy thing for me to be involved with. I would hear God telling me I should stay away from FB but I would then try to justify my staying on FB by telling Him that I was only spreading His word and not anything negative or derogatory and I was able to stay in touch with old friends and far away family. But still I heard Him tell me to get off. I did not, that is not until I heard Mari Beth do a teaching on living differently. During that teaching I heard God so clearly telling me to get off FB and that He called me to live differently, that the world was on FB and I was not to be like the world. (Remember He convicts & speaks to each of us differently and what HE convicts me of HE may not convict you of.) I still tried to justify being on there again with Him and still the answer was to get off. Then He told me that I could make a bigger impact on His kingdom face to face and voice to voice rather than post to post. I went home and deleted my account. Now, I did stay on Instagram because my kids are on there and to keep them accountable and safe, I follow who they follow. 
(Side note: I got back on FB to be a part of a book launch group, after being off for over a year. I have a much healthier attitude about it now.)

Which leads me to my next point. . .

What do your social media apps look like and what do your kids social media apps look like? Who do you/they follow? What comments are you/they seeing on their newsfeed? YES, I have asked my daughter to stop following someone because of comments on their posts. Have you warned your kids about trafficking and how traffickers stalk the locations posted on our posts? You can choose not to “check in” on FB and you can choose not to post the location where you are posting the picture from. 

What security/protection devices, apps have you put into place for the safety of your kids and for yourself?  

Did you know that there are “restriction” settings on iPhones that you can set for your kids? You get to choose the password and they can’t access that area on their phone unless you give them the password. We gave our 14 yo twins their first phones about a month ago and we went in and set what they are able to control and not control on their phones. They can’t even add or delete an app without the password. Their phones are connected to my Apple ID and they don’t have my password for that either.

There’s also a wonderful new device (filter) out there called Circle with Disney. It’s a small white cube that pairs with your router and allows you to control ANY device that runs through your wifi. You can control this through a free password protected app on your phone or tablet. You can be home or away from home to make changes. That also includes apps, websites, phones, kindles, computers, etc. It even has a pause button so you can pause the Internet either per device or for the entire house. You can see “live” what websites they are on and you can block any that you don’t want them going to. It also allows you to set time limits and bedtimes. When your child tells you that they feel violated because of this device, that’s a good thing! The best news is that it’s only $99 with no subscription fees! 

In closing, media is so much more than a screen. It’s music, magazines, ads, etc. . . We need to pay attention to the things we are allowing in, they will eventually work their way into our hearts and back out of our mouths. I would love to share with you with a couple of quotes and a couple of verses. These quotes are about advertising, and you might ask what does advertising have to do with media? Don’t miss this point, all the free media and even some of the “paid for” media we consume, is paid for by advertising dollars. So when we consume media we consume advertising as well. 

Malcolm Muggeridge said: “History will see advertising as one of the real evil things of our time. It is stimulating people constantly to want things, want this, want that.”
Eugene H. Peterson said: “American culture is probably the least Christian culture that we’ve ever had because it is so materialistic and it’s so full of lies. The whole advertising world is just, it’s just intertwined with lies, appealing to the worst of the instincts we have.”

2 Timothy 1:7 says: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control.

And finally, let me leave you with some words that Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8-9: Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. Keep to the script: whatever you learned and received and heard and saw in me -do it- and the God of peace will walk with you. 


Disappearing Respect

Our guest blogger visited again with a great post about RESPECT. . .

I have been saying “I guess it is because I am getting older…”, but that is not true. Respect is disappearing, it has been for years. Most children do not respect their parents, themselves, teachers, each other, personal property belonging to anyone or anyone else in authority over them. The news is filled with murders, robberies, beatings, bullying and suicides. In every age bracket these crimes and others are being committed. Everyone thinks it is okay to call others names, or slander one another in public and on social medias. With the technologies today there are inappropriate pictures and text messages being sent left and right. Stores and businesses have no customer service anymore, they do not care if you come back to shop with them or not. Stupid, idiot, or worse come out of our mouths so easily we think nothing of it. A sense of entitlement is the rule rather than the exception.

What is going on in this country? Have seen all manner of disrespect from people of all ages against our government, country and leaders. Even leaders in the House and Senate, (and White House), are disrespectful.

God’s word is very clear about how we are to act toward our leaders and government, oh and each other. Look what I found the other day in Matthew while reading The Message translation.

Matthew 5:21-22 “You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that WORDS kill.

Wow! How many times I have thoughtlessly called out “Stupid’ or “Idiot” in a moment of frustration. We are to be about unconditional love……toward one another…..oh my goodness. Our focus has gotten so far away from caring about the other people we are around, no matter where we may be, that we just open our mouth and spew out things that are hurtful without stopping to think how it will impact anyone, DISRESPECTFUL!

I don’t know about you but I am going to:

1.) Thank the Lord for showing me this scripture.

2.) Ask Him to forgive me.

3.) Write this on a card to keep in front of me where I can see it and try to do better.

If we know better, we can be better (Mya Angeliou)

So let us each try to be better, kinder, gentler toward all!

Don’t Go Looking For Trouble

How many times have you been accused of doing something or saying something maliciously? I mean really, some people are always on the defensive, looking for something done wrong or said wrong. Do you know anyone like that? I think we all do.

So, how do handle situations that others put us in like that? I know for me, if I let my flesh decide what to do I would cut off all contact with this person and just be done. But guess what? I try really hard not to listen to my flesh and seek out God and what HE would have me do when I find myself in a situation like that. By seeking HIM it gives me a chance to cool off, calm down and react out of love and not anger or bitterness. Scripture commands us to forgive others so we can also be forgiven.

“If you forgive the failures of others, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failures. Matthew 6:14-15

If this individual continuously causes you strife you may want to think about setting some new boundaries with them. I found a great devotional the other day that dealt with this specific issue, here it is:

If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. Titus 3:10

Paul admonishes believers to be satisfied in whatever circumstances they endure (Phil. 4:11; 1 Tim. 6:7-8), but Scripture makes a distinction between godly and ungodly contentment. Because of their own brokenness, some people are not happy until they’ve stirred up strife in the relationships around them. Uncertain about others’ love for them, they attempt to find security in controlling the environment and creating factions.
When we come to Christ, however, He redefines our understanding of normal and healthy. No longer dependent on our selves, we find that he calls us to trust in His protection rather than our own. But we may not recognize how deeply our defense mechanisms rn, and some individuals simply choose not to walk in Jesus’ promise to make all things new (2 Cor. 5:17; Rev. 21:5). In Titus 3, Paul shows us how to handle relational strife: First, we respond with grace through a right understanding of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross (vv. 4-7); we teach, model, and warn if necessary (vv. 10-11).
Reflecting Jesus’ love doesn’t mean partnering with other’ dysfunction. Instead, we mush present to others the light of His truth (1 John 1:5)
~ Regina Franklin

Now this isn’t to say that we should appear perfect and holier than thou, we will never be that and never could be. But we should be vulnerable when we make mistakes, we should be quick to forgive and ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t easy, but we don’t ask for it and we don’t offer it. Why do we choose to darken the light within us? Our God is big enough to change not only you but whoever you are having trouble forgiving. We need to let go of the chains of un-forgiveness, because we are not shackled to them we are holding onto them. God tells us to forgive and then He will forgive us. It’s pretty simple but we make it so complicated, God doesn’t want the perfect person He wants us with all our baggage. And with HIS help we can start to sort through that junk too!