NOISE - Entertainment

So, after my last post regarding "Noise," I knew that the next thing about which the Holy Spirit was going to deal with me would be entertainment.  I even thought to myself, "I'm not going to post about that one, because then I won't ever be able to watch a movie with a friend again without feeling like I'm being hypocritical or something."  So there's a great deal of resistance in me to address this source of spiritual distraction.

Now, let me say something before I continue any further in this series of posts that reflect my personal battle against spiritual distraction.  I do not believe that a Christian is not allowed to have fun or that we are not allowed to have moments or seasons of personal enjoyment simply for the purpose of relaxation and happiness.
Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work-this is a gift of God. Ecclesiastes 5:19
The Bible teaches that the practice of "enjoyment" of things and experiences that are purchased through our income is a "gift of God."  Enjoyment is a good thing.  It can be a God thing.

I think the problem may begin with our inability to practice the contentment that we are instructed through Paul.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  (Philippians 4:12)
And it's notable that in the book of Proverbs, foolishness - when characterized as a prostitute soliciting business - uses enjoyment as her sales pitch.  Certainly enjoyment can lead us downward into foolishness and sin.
Come, let's drink deep of love till morning; let's enjoy ourselves with love. (Proverbs 7:18)

OK, now all of this was swirling in my mind after my last post.  And then, this past weekend I had a chance to hang out with a friend whom I had not seen in some time.  And in our conversation Tom began to talk about this great discipleship training ministry at his new church.  My ears initially perked up because I have always envisioned a discipleship training institute as part of the epic vision.  And as he went along, he repeated several ways and in several contexts that the course included, in ever-increasing increments, a requirement to limit the use of media in your life: ultimately attaining a limitation to 1 hour per week of all secular use of media in your life.  Media is defined to include TV, movies, music, social networking, internet surfing for entertainment sake, books, and the like.

Honestly, my skin rippled at the thought.  But then I began to ponder how much garbage goes in to my mind and spirit for the sake of entertainment.  And I think of how much profitable spiritual enrichment could be fed to my spirit if I watched fewer movies, were committed to fewer shows, found less relaxation in mindless TV, played less "bejeweled"...  (Of course, I would have to discipline myself to replace those things with truly spiritual things.)  But, because I value entertainment so highly as a source of contentment and as a personal counselor to ease my mind at the end of a stressful day, it has become noise and distraction.  It could be argued that in some areas it has become idolatry.

I have to one degree or another made entertainment a source for my personal happiness and well-being.  There is such a fine line between enjoyment and reliance.
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:17)
The truth is that while it is good to enjoy the things God brings into my life, those things were not created for or necessarily intended for my enjoyment.  They are intended for God's enjoyment.  And when they distract me from my growing relationship with God, they bring God displeasure instead.  They are noise and sin for me.
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:11)  I use King James here because I learned a worship song as a child that quotes this verse in this language.


Noise - Internet Social Networking

Well, this is certainly not an original thought... but one that is currently necessary in my spiritual journey. Our lives are full of noise.  Not necessarily auditory stimulus, but a variety of input that clutters up our heart.  (In the Jewish mind, the heart is the center of the being and includes the elements of our mind, emotions, soul, and will.  It is this definition that I am referencing.)  It has been referred to as noise, because all of this clutter has the net effect of deafening us to God's still small voice.  That is significant because as Christ followers, we are specifically instructed to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), as we follow His voice (John 10:27).


So, I am determining to examine the noise in my life.  I am going to look at the things that distract and why they are so charming to me and so tempt me into comfortable distance from God.  This exercise may not be helpful to you.  I hope that it is though.

I can get very engrossed in facebook.  I never got into myspace.  It just seemed like e-clubbing and had no lure for me.  But the simplicity of shooting out some thoughts or updates to a select group of friends and family who may like to engage in an on-going conversation seemed much more legitimate to me.  And when I bought into the idea that I could keep in contact with friends and relatives who are far off, I was sold.  Truthfully, there is some real benefit in those areas.  I really know several of my cousins much better because of our facebook connection.  I have found a college friend with whom I had a very significant connection during that era of my life, and who I could not get a hold of by other means even though I had tried.  I am aware of the goings on in some of my high school friends lives and even get a chance to have light discussion of some of those goings on.

But here's the noisy part.  Sometimes, I get caught up.  I'll sign on to just "check my facebook."  And before I know it, I'll be commenting on dozens of my friends posts.  And then, after commenting I'll refresh the page to see if any new posts show up on my home page.  And then I'll go back through all of my comments to see if any re-comments have been posted.  And if none have, I'll read any messages that are in my message box to waste some time and then I'll look back through my comments to make sure that my jokes were funny to my friend and their friends too.  And there's no responsive comment, I'll just break down and send them a message with the joke that I already posted as a comment.  And then I'll notice someone who commented on the same post who either looks familiar to me or whose comment intrigued me and I'll go to their profile to see if I really know them...  And before I realize it, I have spent an hour posting and researching unnecessary and insignificant pithy little remarks.  And I have eventually run out.

And then sometimes I log on to facebook just to post something from my own life.  And the more I think about this, the more noisy this practice seems to me.  I mean seriously, I rarely post some significant accomplishment or earth-changing event.  I sometimes share developments in my kid's lives. And occasionally I post something that relates to my ministry or that reflects God to the facebook world.  But most often my posts go something like this:  "stuck in line at WalMart... guess I'll catch up on Linday Lohan."  Or how about this one, "LOST tonight - can't wait to see Smokey bite the dust!"  Now what is the real purpose of such posts?

I can't help but remember how in my youth I walked through the world as if I always had an audience.  I thought everyone around me was somehow so interested in my life that they watched my every move.  Of course then, it was all based on some kind of low self-esteem and an intense anxiety that I was always doomed to mess up somehow.  But, why to I think anyone cares what I am watching on TV or that I am standing in line at the local branch of the world's discount czar.  I mean is there some kind of narcissism going on here?  Why would I think that 687 friends really want to know that kind of minutia?  Do I like deluding myself into the belief that I really am the star of my own movie?  I think of the worship song (the title of which I can't remember at the moment) that talks about the importance of an 'audience of One.'  Living for God alone!!!

Now, just one more tangent before I conclude.  What's up with facebook on the cell phone?  Not only do we (I) allow it to eat up too much time at home and work, now I can actually tune out of my real and personal conversations to rudely dismiss the people who I am physically with to play to my audience via the cell phone.  How ridiculous!  How absurd!  Just more proof that there is some kind of imbalance in the whole thing.

Noise!  If just the fancy of the current trend or if truly a self-obsession that borders on idolatry, this kind of obsessive use of internet social networking is a problem.  I'm not saying that all internet social networking is idolatry or sin.  I'm saying that to one extent or another we have a new source of noise in our lives that has varying degrees of potential to drown out the voice of God.

Perhaps a internet fast would be revelatory to us all!
Perhaps creating a strictly enforced social networking 'diet' which allowed us no more than a cumulative time of 45 minutes/day!
Perhaps giving it up all together!

I am fully aware that blogging is one of these venues to which I am referring and my use of it for this subject may seem somehow hypocritical.  We'll all have to judge that for ourselves.  But here is my first installment of "noise."  What are your thoughts?


A Succinct Description of God

Here is just one of my thoughts so far during my vacation...  Among several others, this thought keeps me thinking and working within myself for more of God and less of me...  

(Sorry I haven't blogged more or facebooked.  I have tried to really unplug during this vacation, other than the promised 'Adventures of Ruby' on the photog.  Click on the photog link in the upper right to catch up on the family trip through Ruby's eyes.  God is using this time to refresh us.)

Michael DiMarco says, “the best way to describe God is, ‘love.’”  Now, I certainly know that God is love. (1John 4:8)  and I have likely over pontificated the fact in more than one sermon.  It has in fact been one of my favorite points to make when counseling people who carry the unnecessary baggage of guilt and shame.  I say, “God doesn’t have love, create love, own love, or even give love...  God IS love.  It is His very nature and we cannot have any kind of relationship with Him, than a love relationship.”  It is certainly a well-known theological position for me...
But, a description of Him?  I usually launch into quite a long diatribe when describing God.  And honestly, nobody ever asks me to describe Him.  And certainly I don’t remember ever being asked, or being given an cause, to describe God succinctly.  So I ponder, “the best way to describe God is, ‘love.’”  Simple.  That’s it.
The Bible tells us that God is powerful and majestic, that He is jealous, that He is faithful, worthy.  (ie. Ps 29:4; Dt 4:24; Ps 25:10; Ps 18:3)  And there are many other adjectives used to tell us what God is like and what is character is.  But, to use a noun in description of God.   To say that God is love is and reciprocal statement.  The verb IS creates a powerful statement in which subject and object are interchangeable.  I mean this statement can be said, ‘love is God,‘ just as truthfully as it is stated in it’s original form.  That makes this a unique statement in the scripture.
OK, there I go pontificating again.
Here is what I am challenged with.  If it is best to describe God as love, how am I doing at that?
Do my friends see love in me (I mean God in me)?   
Am I patient with them?
Am I completely trustworthy for them?
Am I authentic with them?
Do they think of me when they have a need?
Do I turn the other cheek when I am wounded in our friendship?
What about strangers?
Am I patient with them?
Is kindness their first impression?
Do they recognize meekness, and humility in whatever strengths they see in me?
Do I make a positive impact on their situation?
What about widows and orphans?
What about prisoners, the hungry, those needing clothes?
If it is best to describe God as ‘love,’ I had better make love the cornerstone of my relationships...  I want people to say that my God is love and they can tell by the way He acts through me.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.  (Romans 13:8)

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