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. 

Social Media

This will be a sore subject if your awareness has not been dulled by the constant presence of an electronic device plastered before your face. This might seem a verbal slight but I assure you it is meant for me. My wife and I both have IPhones an IPad, an older IPhone because I didn’t want to part with it. Our kids both have Kindle Fires. We have media players, computers. And a large bandwidth pipe along will data packages in which to empower them to collect all the information we could possible want and more than we could possible consume.

Do you find that your appetite for digital media comes before a real conversation, a face to face conversation? Does your conversation contain phrases like “Did you see?” “Did you read?” “Check out this meme?” “Did you see what they posted?” The thing is who doesn’t love their smartphone, their tablet, it keeps us connected and we can justify the cost by saying it makes us more efficient, we are more available. Efficiency is what drives the bigger picture in our country, to do it better and faster while costing less and because of this thinking, technology will continue to grow without provocation. Have you ever considered that our focus has been torn from real relationship to that of a superficial digital illusion?

Maggie Jackson Wrote in her book: Distracted: The erosion of Attention and the coming Dark Age “Lose the will to focus deeply, to point the compass of our lives firmly in one another’s direction, and we become islands.” It is a warning about trying to be everywhere at once.

Almost everyone you know has some sort of social media, but looking at the larger picture nearly one out of ten people on Earth have a Facebook account. We are in love with our digital media, to the point that we don’t see how we can live without it and we don’t want to try. It is available at our fingertips on any of our devices at any moment, including when we are standing in front of someone in the middle of a conversation.

Most of what comes at us through social media, email and the internet is meant for no one in particular and it serves no usefulness in our lives. It can be like drinking from a fire hose, we are drowning in the amount of information that is coming at us and it will get worse. America won’t be slowing down when it comes to technology we want more and we want it faster, and the rest of the world isn’t far behind.

As I go back over what was just written I realize it comes across as a bit of a rant. I am guilty, I wrote this for myself. I have done and do most of these things. The only successful avoidance so far has been not having a Facebook page; I know what I would do with that, sarcasm would reign supreme if I went there. So I will occasionally live vicariously through my wife’s Facebook Page. Many might say but in moderation everything is okay. If we are honest with ourselves how often do we act in moderation? Are we more excited about our smartphone than our Bible? I can hear it now, “But my smartphone is my Bible!” Guess what; so is mine. Do we spend more time on social media, on the internet than we do with God, than we do with our spouse, or with our kids? Do our relationships come second to our need for digital media? Another way of putting that is: How do you react when your internet is down or slow?

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