Monday, November 24, 2014

Questioning Entertainment: Center on God

Our entertainment habits should help us become more like Christ.  That's what it means to love God with all your mind.

The scripture tells us that we need to Center on God, Connect in Relationship, and Change our World. (See John 15.)

As you seek to Center on God through your entertainment choices, here are some key questions to ask yourself.  Bring these to God in prayer, and let him lead you.

  • What is this (book, movie, TV show, video game, blog, etc.) doing to my soul?

  • How is this helping me love God with all my mind?

  • How do I feel during and after engaging with this content?

  • What/whom does this content glorify?

Just thinking about these questions will help you consider the impact your entertainment may have on your mind.  It's worth thinking about.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Rest All Around

We were created by God to have periods of rest.  The Fourth Commandment tells us to remember and honor the Sabbath.  

Jesus reminds us that the Sabbath was made for us; it is God’s gift of rest to us.  We need rest in every aspect of our personhood:  heart, mind, soul, strength.  

God wants us to rest our hearts in him,
letting go of emotional burdens.  
He wants us to rest our minds,
laying down the puzzles and plans of life.  
He wants our souls to find rest,
as we take His yoke upon us (Matthew 11:28-30).  
He wants us to rest our bodies,
with sleep and appropriate, regular exercise.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Entertaining Thoughts

To love God with all your mind, you have to surrender your entertainment choices to Jesus.  That's not easy. It may take a long time.  It may be a process.  But Jesus certainly cares about what you put in your mind.

I'm camping out on entertainment because I keep seeing television commercials from cable and satellite companies who claim that they make your life better.  They improve your life by allowing you to watch a crime drama during a wedding reception or watch a ball game during  backyard family time.  Really?  Life is better when you can be distracted anywhere?  That's like putting a refrigerator in every room in the house.  And in your car, and in the backyard.

What is entertainment?  One way to define it is:  Passively consuming or engaging with content for fun.  This would include video games, binge watching, Facebook, Twitter, internet, cable TV, hand-held devices, smart phones, books, movies, magazines, etc.

There can be great value in entertainment.  It can provide encouragement, education, relaxation, catharsis, fellowship, laughter, relaxation, diversion.

There are also great dangers in entertainment, including addiction, loss of time, isolation, obsession with narrow topic.  Sometimes it reduces stillness; threatens time with family, self, and God; damages relationships.  And the content can be harmful to your soul—ungodly world views, porn, celebration of evil.

Like any powerful tool, entertainment can be used for great good or great destruction.  Like fire, it must be handled very carefully.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Entertainment and the Great Commandment

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  (Mark 12:29-30)  This commandment gets me every time.  It reminds me of how far I fall short of God's ideal.

For a lot of Christ's followers, we seem to ignore this commandment with our entertainment choices.  "Uh, Lord, I'm going to see this movie...hope you don't mind...uh, well, we'll talk about it later."  It's as though we know that the movie or TV show is spiritual poison, but we are willing to deal with the consequences.  Our entertainment choices are off limits for discussion, even with God.  We want to love God with all our minds, but entertainment doesn't really count, does it?

This inward tension--between what we know is right and what we do--hinders our spiritual lives.

I don't want to set some artificial guidelines about movie ratings, or how much nudity is okay, or how many f-bombs are permissible.  It would be way too easy to create some man-made yardstick and hold it up to every book or movie.

I think Jesus wants to get to our hearts.  He wants us to be in constant communication with him, even in the movies.  He wants us to bring these choices to him.  He wrestles with sin in this world.  He has a sense of humor.  He enjoys irony.  He likes good stories.

Would you dare to let Jesus in on your entertainment choices?  He's not a killjoy.  He might even help you enjoy your entertainment more.  Maybe that show is not really spiritual poison, if you see it through his eyes.

Love him with all your mind.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Giving Crap to the Poor

I just read a blog saying that we should stop giving our crap to the poor.  Okay, let's give them our best.  I like the idea of giving good stuff to the poor.

But what do we do with our "crap"?  I tend to use things until they are really worn out.  But sometimes, I think that someone could get some use out of them.  What do I do with these items?  Should I fill our landfill with them?  Should I burn them?  Should I keep on storing them?

I don't want to feel guilty for giving away items that could be of use to someone, even if they have a few miles on them.   If an item is truly useless, I have no problem discarding it.  But if it could really serve somebody's needs, I would like to get it to that person.  Donating it looks like the best way to make that happen.

Furthermore, some of these items could be repurposed--clothes made into quilts, hardware turned into art, tools used for wall decorations in restaurants...

Just because something is worn out doesn't mean that it is completely useless.  But we should also give our good stuff to the poor.  Even new stuff.  Giving without sacrifice is just cleaning house.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Spiritual Disciplines

Spiritual habits or disciplines have shaped Christ's followers for centuries.  I believe today we need to rediscover those tools for spiritual growth.  There is no list of spiritual disciplines in the Bible, but the scripture is full of examples of people practicing spiritual habits, such as prayer, scripture study, fasting, and solitude.  To find a systematic description of disciplines, one can look at Christian writers through history.

Richard Foster gives a description of disciplines in The Celebration of Discipline, and in The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard  explains what disciplines are, and how they are helpful in the life of a Christ follower.  He says that disciplines are activities we engage in with our physical bodies which help us deepen our relationship with God.  These activities do not earn us points with God, but they help us develop our spiritual muscles and help us become ready to receive God's blessings.

Consider these analogies:

  • You put a plant near the window so that it gets more sunlight.  The place on the window sill is important only because it puts the plant in the sun.  The sunlight makes the difference, not the particular location.  Similarly, solitude, as a spiritual practice, has value because it puts us in the place where God can speak to us.  Isolation has limited value by itself; but being able to hear God speak is essential for the Christian life.
  • Basketball players run wind-sprints as they train.  No one ever won a game by sprinting alone, but the practice of plyometrics develops speed and endurance; with speed and endurance, players have better ability to rebound, shoot and defend.  In the spiritual realm, scripture memory can help us stand firm when tempted, letting us live in the Spirit's power, not our own weakness.  Scripture memory doesn't guarantee victory over temptation, but it provides us a solid spiritual foundation on which we can live victoriously.

I found it difficult to teach on the spiritual disciplines, because most biblical teaching on disciplines is indirect. But I do want my teaching to be rooted in scripture.  So as I teach at Crossroads about spiritual habits or disciplines, I refer to the Great Commandment of Jesus, Mark 12:29-30 (NIV) "The most important [commandment]," Jesus answered, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'"

I now base my teaching on spiritual habits upon Jesus' instruction about heart, soul, mind and strength.  After studying other writers' lists of spiritual disciplines, I have grouped the disciplines as follows:

Heart  (Will)
Personal Emotional Development
The habit of Worship
Sacrifice, Celebration
The habit of Fellowship
Submission, Confession
The habit of Stewardship
Frugality, Tithing

Personal Intellectual Development
The habit of the Study of God’s Word
Memory, Reading, Study
The habit of the Study God’s World
Current events, Literature, Art, philosophy, Science, Industry
The habit of Entertainment

Strength (Body)
Personal Physical Development
The habit of Sabbath
The habit of Service 
Evangelism, Secrecy
The habit of Health
Chastity, No addictions, Exercise, Diet

Personal Spiritual Development
The habit of Prayer
Silence, Fasting
The habit of Solitude
The habit of Blessing

In future posts, I want to dig into this spiritual habit I call "entertainment."  Stay tuned...