By Lee Sullivan
Random Writers Topic: Write about what life has taught you recently?
We had another wonderful growth group last night as we discussed Chapter 7: Your Personal Firewall, from The 4:8 Principle by Tommy Newberry. The chapter began with Proverbs 4:23 “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” What a reality check! This chapter made me realize just how little I prioritize God in my day to day.
I want to share this one passage from the book with you.
Guard your heart means to be intentional about your exposures, so that as you strengthen your mind, you simultaneously increase your capacity to serve others and affect the world in positive ways
Now, let me explain about the prioritize statement. In the book, Mr. Newberry talks about how “if junk goes in, then sooner or later junk must come out.” I think we all know this and it’s not this great big revelation.
When I first read The 4:8 Principle in preparation for this small group, I was blown away but this chapter. There are three habits that it suggests to help you “erect a fortress around your mind.” The first is to feed yourself with positive mental nutrition. Pretty self-explanatory – junk in equals junk out. He prompts us to ask this question, “How are my reading, listening, web-surfing, and TV habits different from non-Christians?” Sadly, the answer for me is probably not much different at all. I spend entirely too much time watching reality TV, reading news stories skewed by main-stream media agenda, FB, Twitter and other online trash. I will say that I’m pretty comfortable in my listening choices as I now listen almost exclusively to either Christian radio or artists with positive, faith inspired lyrics. Overall, though, I realize I have much room for improvement on developing this first habit.
The second habit he suggests is to start the day with joy. Easy enough, right? Well, not for me. The suggestion is merely to make your day’s first fifteen minutes be about God. He even suggests that if you have to, wake up 15 minutes earlier. Uh-oh. You see, I need sleep. My day, every day, starts badly simply because I had to wake up. I.Hate.Waking.Up. Hate it. So, the idea of waking up earlier than I need to just puts me in a bad mood thinking about it. This is where I fail God yet again. I’m not willing to give up a measly fifteen minutes of sleep so that I can read my bible, pray, or do some other faith enriching activity. And yes, this realization is painful for me. God gave His Son to die on the cross for my sins and I can’t give Him 15 minutes. Yep, I’m probably going to hell.
Now, can you guess what the third habit is? Newberry tells us to seal our day with joy. And you guessed it, one more area in which I fail God again. You see, I’m a true-crime junkie. Whether it be in the form of TV shows like CSI, Body of Proof, or Castle, I love crime solving. My DVR is set to record every episode of Dateline and 48 Hours, and even though I can’t possibly find the time to watch all of the recorded episodes, I still watch as much as I can in pieces when I have a few minutes to kill here and there (Ahhh, the joys of the DVR). My nightly routine involves brushing my teeth, crawling into bed and immediately tuning the TV to Investigative Discovery. I often fall asleep to some narrative about real life unsolved murder mysteries.
I had never thought about the messages that are being “impressed on my mind” each and every night as I fall asleep. I’m pretty sure this does not qualify as positive mental nutrition. After reading this book for the first time, I realized I had to make changes. On the day I read this chapter, I went straight for my DVR, deleted all recorded episodes of Dateline and 48 Hours and then stopped the series from being recorded again. That night, I fell asleep with the Oprah Network airing a re-run of Oprah’s interview with Pastor Joel Osteen. I fell asleep feeling really good about this change I was making. I was not devoting my final fifteen to God, but I was filling my thoughts with positive messages from positive and good people. There would be no more true-crime drama in this house.
Yeah, right. Who was I trying to fool anyway. My new directions quickly veered off course and within weeks, I was sneaking in episodes of Dateline when I was home alone, much like a junkie needing a fix. I don’t know what I was thinking but I do know I failed, and as more time went by, I stopped feeling guilty and resorted to my old ways as if nothing had ever happened. The junk was filling my brain. And my heart.
Gandhi said “Action expresses priority”. It’s amazing how three little words can shake you up as much as these did for me. My actions have clearly not expressed a priority for God. If anything, my actions have expressed that my desire for sleep and sleazy entertainment trump my desire to grow in my faith. Alright, I’m being a little bit dramatic. I know that, but I am trying to make a point here.
In reality, if I sit and catalog the events of most of my days, it would be very clear that I do spend time with God, that I do work to become closer to Him, and that not all of my days and nights are filled with junk. However, this chapter did make me realize some areas in which I can do so much better.
I probably won’t give up my true crime TV or resist my desire to read depressing new stories during my lunch. It’s a pretty sure bet that I will not set my alarm to wake me 15 minutes earlier each morning. But, I am putting myself on notice. I will be developing more of a personal firewall to guard my heart against the junk that surrounds me. It may take me some time to get there and I will probably fail many more times. However, I know that God will not fail me. Ever. And THIS is why no matter how many times I fail Him, I will keep trying.