The Sermon that Provided the Solution

Last Saturday, as I drove to visit my Seventh Day Baptist friends, I was fretting over my life aloud to God.

It wasn’t so much a prayer, really, as me simply worrying and complaining to Him about what wasn’t right, and what I’ve tried to get things right, and how could I still be struggling with this thing or the next after all these years and how I couldn’t find they right path to fix x or x.

Trust me, the transcript wouldn’t make for an interesting blog post. As I pulled into the church parking lot, I concluded by saying, “I clearly don’t have the answer to my own life, but I know you do. I’ve reached the end of my ideas, I’m ready for yours.” Now, that sounds like spiritual submission, but I’m sure God saw my transparent attempt at saying, “I’m tired of trying things, I want you to perform a miracle.”

I’m sure Jesus was rolling His eyes and holding his forehead in his hand.

But, He is full of mercy.

My brother-in-Christ, Rev. David Stall, preached a sermon (Click here to view the livestream of the sermon. It starts at 1.01.46) he was certain would leave him friendless by the end. Dave used Ephesians 4:29-5:20 as his Scripture text and asked us all to evaluate what we watch and hear on TV, movies, radio, music, the Internet, in video games, and through social media against the standard of those verses. Ouch, right?

Except not really because I’ve been living pretty clean these days, so as I considered my choices, there wasn’t much conviction about anything specific. (Believe me, these little eyes have seen plenty they shouldn’t through the years, but right now, it’s not a huge struggle.)

As I listened and prayed, asking God what message I should take from my clearly passionate brother, I sense Him urging me to cut it all out this week. Shut off the TV and the radio, eliminate all the social media I could apart from my writing obligations, and pay attention. He seemed to have something He wanted to show me rather than tell me.

So, I did.

I wasn’t a monk about it. I watched the Patriots game with Dad and our nightly episode of MASH because we haven’t much time left to do those things together this side of glory. I listened to the Bible on CD and my worship music playlist. I watched one show on Hulu while walking my treadmill (after deciding it met the standards of that Ephesians passage).

The rest of the week, I went media silent, and I’m here to testify that it’s changed my life. I’m calmer. More content with myself and my portion. I’ve slept better, eaten better, and felt healthier. Suddenly, it’s as if I do have time to do the things I’ve felt sad not to do – like sleep, read, walk, pray, chat with friends, linger over meals with my husband, and think.

I feel rested, focused, and awake – despite my high stress day job, the pressures of writing and speaking, my father’s last days, and the shortfalls of my appearance and my bank account. I barely changed a thing and yet everything changed.

Huh. Who knew? (Don’t answer that.)

By muting much of the world’s chatter, I made space for God to enter in. And you know what? I’m not less in touch with the world. In fact, I feel a clarity about the world I haven’t felt in months. And with my internal resources replenished, I feel a renewal of compassion, patience, and mercy toward this generation I thought I’d lost.

I’d convinced myself that by engaging in all that media, I was listening to my generation, but really all I was doing was allowing their white noise to bombard me. Parts of me were shutting down in self-defense and believe me, it’s impossible to minister to people when all you want to do is scream, “Shut up, already!”

Other parts of me were absorbing the constant message that I wasn’t enough, I don’t have enough, I’m not attractive or wealthy or successful enough, and I’m not doing enough. I thought I was immunizing myself with my anemic time in God’s Word, but that’s like dabbing insect repellent behind each ear and then setting up camp amidst a mosquito swarm.

With the space and energy I gained letting go of media, I was more generous in my time with God, others, and even with my attitude toward myself. My prayer increased, and my negative self-talk diminished.

Pastor Dave stated that while many of us use media as an escape thinking it helps us relax, the science proves it does just the opposite once we push the boundaries of moderation. God showed me this truth in my experiment this week.

I love the creativity of movies, television, and music. I appreciate the innovation and ministry opportunities available through the Internet and social media. I long ago began screening to be sure my media didn’t violate God’s standards. It’s just like the enemy, though, to worm his way in through the temptation to over-indulge in even clean media and blind-side my spiritual life through a back door. Our world is full of screens always switched on which was the nightmare scenario in Orwell’s 1984. Of course, there’s a negative impact. Of course.

I’m grateful that my brother spoke words that were brave, true, and biblically-based. I’m grateful that God softened my heart and moved me to act. I’m so in love with the outcome, I’m continuing to live with radically reduced media this week.

What might happen if you lived the message of the sermon you heard this weekend? Do you, like me, often rely on 

your own wisdom rather than trusting that God has a message for you even if you aren’t sure what it is? 

I believe God’s truth is often like the highway exits in Connecticut. In that state, exits don’t really appear until your car is right on top of them. The GPS says the exit is there. The road signs indicate the exit is there. But until your car is making the turn, the exit is almost impossible to see until suddenly, there it is.

We often don’t appreciate the power of God’s Word until we take action to obey it.

Try applying this week’s sermon and let me know how that works out. Let God show you what He means.

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    The Conversation

  1. Nico van der Merwe says:

    Thank you for reminding me again that I need to look carefully how I walk, not as unwise but as wise. Your blog is timely and hard hitting. Thank you!

  2. Sandra Lovelace says:

    I accept the challenge. The sermon I heard yesterday used Nehemiah 4 to illustrate how we overcome discouragement with kingdom endurance. This week I will pray, plan, and press on with perseverance as I repurpose the clutter around me based on the claims of Christ.

  3. Rob McCullough says:

    Amen Lori! I am always blessed by your blog! Blessings and Life to you!

  4. Teddi Deppner says:

    “I’d convinced myself that by engaging in all that media, I was listening to my generation, but really all I was doing was allowing their white noise to bombard me.”

    ^^ This. I’d felt the same way, and realized the same thing (eventually). Thanks for this reminder, Lori!