• Diana Dodd

Finding God - Part II

“Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest of your souls.’” Jeremiah 6:16

One of my favorite movies is You’ve Got Mail. It released in 1998 and was the first movie of my recollection to have email and online romance as a theme. Greg Kinnear plays a supporting role as Meg Ryan’s journalist boyfriend, Frank Navasky, an endearing “nut,” as one character describes him, who is adamantly opposed to technology, especially computers. There’s a running bit throughout the movie about his love for and collection of typewriters.

In the first scene of the film, Frank goes on a rant about how technology is ruining the world, and he sums it up by gesturing toward his girlfriend’s computer and saying, “You think this machine is your friend, but it’s not!” Keep in mind this was about the time that people were just getting acquainted with the internet and email, and I would hazard to say the movie probably gave both a bump in popularity.

Since 1998, our world and the level of technology involved in our daily lives has increased dramatically, and I think it’s safe to say that Frank Navasky would have already had an aneurism or moved to the Alaskan outback to escape.

But how do we escape all the things vying for our attention today without pulling a Frank Navasky and removing the last 30 years of technology completely from our lives? How do we slow down our frenetic pace and hear the voice of our God when everywhere we turn there’s a push notification from the world trying to keep us distracted from Him? “New episodes,” “Fran added to her story,” “John just shared a post,” “New email from little Bobby’s teacher,” “text from your boss.”

While none of the above is bad in and of itself, when we allow such things to dominate our time and mind and push God further from our thoughts or to the bottom of the priority list, we’re giving the enemy control, because make no mistake, the enemy is master of the current world order. He’s pushing the buttons, pulling the levers, and manipulating the strings. The world’s messages of “do more, faster, buy the latest and greatest, and oh, by the way, the sky is falling,” are entirely his, and his intention is to drown out God and pull people away from God’s redemptive message, His slower pace of life, and the peace it brings. (See 2 Corinthians 4:4)

The enemy seeks to keep us stressed out, distracted, fearful, and exhausted, none which yields peace.

So, how do we slow down and find God in the modern world? We intentionally and deliberately choose to prioritize Him. We make time for Him, and we jealously and zealously guard that time with Him. We unplug and spend quiet time with Him, time in prayer and devotion, reading His word and talking to Him, and time worshipping Him. We include Him in everything we do.

If you look back to part one of this blog, I gave several examples of God’s daily interactions and involvement with His people in the ancient world. He literally walked and talked with them, and I asserted that over time we pulled away from Him, choosing worldly pursuits and pagan gods over our loving Creator. Today, ignoring God is the easiest it’s ever been, and the messages bombarding us from the world encourage us to make ourselves our gods, telling us that the pursuit of our own fleshly desires is the key to happiness and fulfillment.

Friends, nothing could be further from the truth! Our Father created us to love and serve Him and to find fulfillment and joy in His service. Jesus set us the greatest example of sacrificial service to God when He came to Earth as a servant to mankind. Absorb that for a moment. God Himself took on flesh, came to earth, and served humans! (See Matthew 20:20-28)

The only way to combat the constant worldly message of self-service is to include God in everything we do. When you walk your dog, leave the earbuds at home, and use the time to concentrate on the natural world around you, the sounds, sights, and smells. Feel the connection to your Father, the Creator, and talk to Him. Pray over your conversations with others and ask Him to guide your words, ask for His protection when you drive, discuss your work with Him, and consider His watchful eye upon you when you choose your entertainment.

People often think of prayer as time spent on their knees, formally talking to some distant Being, but God is much more personal than that. Yes, our prayers should be respectful and reverent, but they can also be informal and conversational. Romans 12:12 tells us to “be constant in prayer,” which can be interpreted two ways. One, we are to make prayer a regular practice, a part of our daily routine as the prophet Daniel did (Daniel 6:10), and two, we should pray constantly, or all the time. Since it’s not feasible for us to spend all day, every day locked in our rooms on our knees, I take this to mean that we must incorporate prayer into everything we do.

Daniel is a wonderful example of the message I’m trying to convey. Kidnapped as a teen when Babylon attacked Judah and taken as a slave to serve the Babylonian king, Daniel spent the rest of his life in the pagan country of Babylon. But from the moment of his arrival until he was finally released from slavery by the Persian king Cyrus (Persia had attacked and subjugated Babylon.) Daniel never wavered in either his faith or his service to His God, despite the despotism surrounding him. (See Daniel 1:11-21, Daniel 6:6-21) He could have given up, given in, and lost faith considering his circumstances. After all, he had suddenly gone from prince to slave (Daniel 1:3-4), but Daniel faithfully served God throughout his entire life.

No matter the temptation, danger, or consequence set before him, Daniel never turned his back on God. He never chose the easier path of sin, and he never valued or prioritized anything above God.

So, again, I ask how do we find our ancient, immutable God, the God of Daniel, Moses, Abraham, and Adam, among the distractions and clamoring of the modern world? We prioritize Him. We take time to withdraw from the world and from its technology, the advanced methods of communication and entertainment, and return to the old ways. For instance, during your devotion time, use an actual Bible, rather than an app or a website, so that no text, email, or notification can distract you. In fact, put the phone away in another room, and try actually writing notes, favorite verses, and prayers in a notebook with a pen.

Let every word, thought and deed be said, considered, and done with His guidance and supervision. Seek and find Him where He is in the natural world, in your heart, and beside you on the “ancient paths.” Follow Jesus’ example of withdrawal to a place by Himself to spend time with the Father in peace and quiet (Luke 5:16). Identify a space in your home that you can use for study and devotion and leave your devices behind when you go there.

These are habits I’m trying to reimplement in my own life. Before smart phones and social media, it was simple to find a quiet spot to study my Bible, but now I must be more intentional about eliminating distractions. For example, I love the fact that I can find any scripture quickly and easily just by Googling a few key phrases, but if I have my phone with me when I study, I’m too easily distracted by texts, notifications, and emails and will be drawn down the rabbit hole and away from my study time. So, I force myself to look up scripture references the old-fashioned way, with my concordance. It takes longer, but in many cases, I find other relevant scriptures to study also as I search for the specific one I want, which leads to greater understanding and more in-depth study.

Newer and faster is not always better, and I believe in the case of our general level of busyness, informational bombardment, and the saturation of negative messages we receive, we need to pursue a slower, more peaceful pace as often as possible and seek God with greater perseverance.

As believers we are called to be in the world, not of it (Romans 12:2, James 4:4, 1 John 2:15), meaning we look, speak, act, and spend our time differently, and that may mean taking a more old-fashioned approach to life in general. I find myself yearning for a simpler way of life. How about you?

Things to consider:

What are some other ways you can slow down and take an old-fashioned approach to life? For example, maybe instead of texting an old friend or messaging them on Facebook, you could write them a real letter.

Most of us enjoy our smart devices and social media, but do you find yourself spending too much time with it, endlessly scrolling, or sending out “likes” and comments, or constantly texting and emailing? What steps can you take to prevent yourself from getting pulled in and better manage your time? How can you redirect your energy into something more positive?

What is something that you used to do and enjoy that technology has replaced? For example, I used to love talking on the phone to family or friends in other states. I would call my grandmother or cousins all the time, but no one really talks on the phone anymore. When was the last time you called someone just to catch up?

Our heavenly Father, we thank You for the many conveniences and luxuries we enjoy because of advances in technology. We ask you to help us to use them and our time wisely, and in all things, please help us to seek You, acknowledge You, and follow Your guidance for our lives.

Please forgive us for the times we push You to the bottom of our priority list, and please help us to find the good way and walk in it. In Jesus Christ’s holy name. Amen.

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