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07.18.13 by brent hand

Fifteen years ago, the most advanced piece of equipment I used was a Nintendo 64, our dial-up internet and the graphing calculator I used in my Geometry class.

Now technology is everywhere.  And I mean EVERYWHERE.  Just a few minutes ago our pastor asked a random question about fire extinguishers.  I found the answer thanks to google in just moments.  In the past hour I’ve received a text from my mother, talked to my wife at work, seen a beautiful sunset I missed last night via Instagram, and watched a video of the countryside in Romania. All without leaving my desk chair.

But with all the great things technology has brought us, it has left us with one thing we never saw coming: a complete disconnect from the present.

We often miss what is going on right here right now because we’re too busy reading about something going on somewhere else. Other times we’re too busy sharing this moment through social media to actually enjoy the moment we have to it’s fullest.  Our society has become addicted to technology.

What’s that you say?  “But it’s not a serious addiction.  Nothing dangerous!  It’s not like we’re addicted to heroine or… jumping off bridges or… Nicholas Sparks novels!”  You’re right. There are far worse problems in the world, aren’t there?

In the Bible, the children of Israel had been sent back to the Promised Land after living in Egypt for hundreds of years.  The land promised to them by God was left vacant and other people had moved into the land.  In order to be everything God meant for them to be, the squatters who had taken up residence in their absence had to be removed.

One of the first places they came to was a city known as Jericho.  Jericho wasn’t very big. It was less than a mile to walk around it.  They had some impressive walls, but not much else.  There were bigger enemies out there.  Some Israel would fight for generations.  Some would eventually conquer them all over again.  Why worry about little old Jericho while there are bigger enemies to tackle?  In fact it says in Joshua 6:1 that the city was all shut up and no one was going in or out of the city.  In other words they weren’t bothering the children of Israel, and they weren’t going anywhere!  How easy would it be to march on by and not do anything about them?  Why did they have to deal with such a little city in the first place?

They could have gone on and defeated other enemies first, but Jericho would have always been there.  No matter where Israel’s armies went, they would have the lingering thought that Jericho could come back to bite them at anytime if they weren’t defeated first.  Jericho could constantly cause trouble for the Israelites by attacking and retreating back to their safe fortress, causing minor headaches at the worst times and ultimately distracting them from facing the bigger enemies.

And that’s really the point: Jericho was not the big bad guy.  Jericho was just a distraction.

Distractions keep us from doing what we were made to do.

Technology is not evil.  Technology is just a distraction.

It’s so easy to spend time on facebook, instagram, twitter, snapchat, pinterest, ebay, vine, candy crush, or reading a blog post instead of doing what you are supposed to be doing.  It’s not that any of those apps or sites are evil, it’s that they keep us from dealing with evil in our lives.  They keep our mind off God and put the focus on our tiny little world.

Still don’t think it’s a problem?  Ok.  Can’t believe I’m going here but plain and simple, ask yourself these questions and think about it and answer as honestly as possible:
How long can you go without looking at your phone without worrying about it?
How long can you go without spending time with God without worrying about it?

Is there a problem?

Maybe cell phones ain’t your thing.  Maybe it’s something else you can’t go a few hours without.  Maybe there’s a part of you telling you “it’s not that big a deal.”  And it’s not, until your hobby, addiction, or habit keeps you from being who you were made to be.

Distractions must be dealt with.

So what can we do about the distractions?  Should we pile up all our electronic devices and burn them?  Should we move away from society and live like they did on Little House on the Prairie?  Should go back to hunting mammoths with pointy sticks?

Of course not.  Technology isn’t the bad guy.  Remember: it’s just a distraction.  What do we do about it?  How do we make sure it’s no longer a threat?

Here’s what God told Israel to do about their distraction.  “You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” (Joshua 6:3-5)

The city was theirs.  They conquered it in a week without lifting a finger.

Last night I shared this same message with our students.  And then I issued a challenge.  I challenged them to put down their phones (turn them off actually) for one hour when they would normally be in use.  I asked them to do this once everyday for the next six days.  I gave a further challenge to turn off all media (xbox, tv, computer, etc) to those who really wanted to take this seriously.  I asked them to spend that hour with God, reading their Bible, praying, talking with a friend about their faith or just hanging out with loved ones enjoying the time God has given them together.  Then on the seventh day (next Wednesday) from noon until church time (7pm) we’ll turn everything off. And the “fast” will culminate with a celebration next Wednesday night.  We won’t be blowing ram’s horns or anything, but we will have worship, prayer and food together.

It’s going to be an interesting week.

You should join us!  I don’t care who you are, how old you are, or where you go to church.  Even if you’re reading this months from now, you can still be part of this.  I hope this isn’t a one time event for us anyway. So for the next 7 days, put the phone down and turn off the  other distractions so we can see what God is doing in the here and now.  And then celebrate on the seventh day (blow a trumpet if you’ve got one lying around) and thank God for what he’s doing in your life.  Who knows?  You may not want to stop!


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