Your Input, Your Choice, Your Spirit [HIM]

By Karen Zerby (aka "Mamma Maria")

AM; ML#3800; October 2009

Dear Family,

1. The Lord wants to update our perspective on what we take in through the various forms of media and communications available today. As the Family shifts to a more outward focus in order to more effectively fulfill the mission, there needs to be a change in how we judge our input. Factors such as opening the door for secular employment and business opportunities when they facilitate the mission, making allowance for our children to attend school outside the Home when that is the best available option for their education, and all Family members generally being more active and involved in our job of reaching and winning the world, will often mean taking in certain input that we might previously have shunned, and using it wisely to further the mission.

2. In the change journey, the Lord is consistently moving us away from the "one size fits all" rules and regulations approach to keeping our spirits strong. He is expecting us to have personal faith and conviction about our choices, because we've made them in counsel with Him. He wants us to be happy.

3. What we view, read, and listen to has a huge effect on our lives. In this Letter we'll be focusing on the effect that input can have on us and how to gain the results we want through making good choices. For the sake of simplification, I'll just refer to everything you take in along these lines, whether information, entertainment, media, education, or other, as "input."

4. In the past, the Lord has given a lot of counsel on the topic of the input we take in, much of which is still applicable today if you see it as guidance, wise counsel, and sound principles rather than hard-and-fast rules. While some of the specific applications or examples have changed over the years, the Lord isn't nullifying the concerns He has outlined about our input in the past, or the general counsel He has given regarding how to determine what may be good and helpful and what may not be. There are helpful guidelines in His past counsel, but how you apply it is in your court and is your responsibility.

5. I'll keep this Letter to the point so that the counsel is clear and easy to review. There will be more information from the Lord in the devotional that follows. I pray that reading and studying these two Letters will aid you in evaluating your goals, habits, and priorities, and based on that, making good decisions on the input you take in, so that you can most effectively fulfill His call in your life of fulfilling the mission.

What is "worldly"?

6. In the past, we tended to classify most reading material and media that were not strictly Bible-based or Family-produced or approved as "worldly" or "of the world," which we often equated with "ungodly."

7. Now, rather than judging only by the source of the material, we must focus on the effects of what we take in, recognize how it influences us, and discern what is helpful or harmful accordingly.

8. When we use the term "worldly" or "secular" in this counsel and from now on in our pubs, we won't be equating it with something that is assumed to be negative or ungodly. It will be used to refer to input that is nonreligious, as opposed to either Family input or other religious input.

9. This is more in keeping with the dictionary definition of "worldly" or "secular," which does not describe it as either negative or positive, but simply as anything related to the temporal realm. It will require a conscious effort to shift our perspective and to not automatically label input as bad just because it is worldly or secular.

Worldly input

10. Definition: Input that portrays things that are temporal and of the earth. That which is devoted to, directed toward, or connected with the affairs, interests, pastimes or pleasures of this world. That which is secular; nonreligious. Information, education, media, entertainment, or other input relating to or devoted to the temporal world.

What is godly and ungodly input?

11. To decide what is godly and ungodly input, you need to determine the effect that it has on your spirit rather than solely what its source is.

12. Just as worldly or secular material cannot automatically be assumed to be ungodly, it's also true that religious material cannot automatically be assumed to be godly. Some materials may be religious, yet because they promote false religious assumptions, they may be ungodly.

Godly input

13. Definition of godly: Showing reverence for God; emanating from God; belonging to Heaven (true to heavenly culture values); true to godly beliefs and values.

14. Godly input is any input that brings you closer to God, supports your faith, or has an uplifting and positive effect on your spirit. It is input that amplifies the truth, or illustrates lessons that result in spiritual growth. It is input that promotes godly attributes and values, and that motivates thoughts, words, or actions that draw you or others to God.

Ungodly input

15. Definition of ungodly: Lacking reverence for God; denying or disobeying God; sinful; characterized by iniquity; evil.

16. Ungodly input is any input which moves you away from God, hinders your faith, or teaches incorrect or negative principles. It is input that hinders positive spiritual growth or that promotes disobeying or even denying God. It is input that tries to refute God's Word or to destroy faith in it. It is also input that promotes evil as good or exalts values that are contrary to godly values.

What is neutral input?

17. While some input is clearly godly and some is clearly ungodly, there is much input that is neither godly nor ungodly in itself. Instead, the individual's perceptions, motives, and treatment of this input determines whether it has a godly effect or an ungodly effect on them. Things that fall into this neutral category often tend to become spiritually negative or harmful if overindulged in, because they crowd out the beneficial input and life experience that a person could otherwise be getting.

18. If we place neutral input against the touchstone of the mission, it becomes clear that:

19. We do need a certain amount of input from the world in order to stay current and relatable to those we are here to reach and win with the Lord's love. Staying current with the news, local happenings, and being aware of trends or current issues, and being relatable to others in our speech and writing, are all part of "becoming all things to all men, that we might win some" (1Cor.9:22). There may also be certain skills we need to develop in order to professionally participate in or facilitate the mission in the way the Lord is calling us, and this may involve reading books or online resources, or taking courses, to increase our knowledge and skills.

20. In summary, we can view our input in two distinct ways:

1) Based on the source of the input: secular, Family, and other religious material. This classifies what kind of material it is, but isn't all that useful or reliable in determining whether it is something positive or negative for you to partake of. Thus this isn't the most important classification. However, it helps to be aware of the source and what it represents, as part of your decision.

2) Based on the potential effect of the input: godly, ungodly, and neutral. The potential effect of the input is what you should be making your decisions based upon, regardless of the source. Determining the effect the input has, whether godly, ungodly, or neutral, should be your criterion from this point forward in deciding what you will or won't allow in your life.

Our duty as Christians to protect our spirits

21. Our mission is bringing Jesus to others, helping them come to know His love, and sharing spiritual truths with them. In order to do this successfully, we need to be full of Jesus and to live those spiritual truths ourselves. The more of Jesus we have in our lives, the more we take on His nature. The more of Jesus we have in our lives, the more others will be drawn to His Spirit in us, and the more successful we will be. Thus, anything that draws us away from Jesus and His Spirit, or that tarnishes our spirit or sullies our testimony is something we would want to avoid. Anything that weakens our conviction and motivation to be His lights in the world could hinder our success in the mission.

(Jesus:) As a Christian missionary and disciple, you want people to clearly see My values alive in you. You want your actions, countenance, words, and lifestyle to reflect godly qualities. Upon getting to know you, people should say: "They're principled. They're honest and kind. They love Jesus. They're trustworthy. They're happy. They're good Christians."

What you take in is what you reflect. If the things you take in aid you in living a godly, balanced, happy life, then your reflection will remain clear and vivid. People will see Me within you (ML #3801:27-28).

22. As Christians, Jesus has commissioned us to be in the world but not of the world. We are His representatives, entrusted with sharing His message with the world. In order to do well as the Lord's representatives and to be an accurate reflection of His love and care for people, we need to be conscious of how we give the world entrance to our lives. We need to identify which forms of input negatively affect us as individuals, and we need to do our best to counteract or minimize those avenues, so that we can successfully be "in the world, but not of the world."

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.—Phil.4:8

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.—Rom.12:21

(Jesus:) When I'm important to you, and maintaining a strong spiritual life is important to you; when being a quality representative of Me to the world is important to you; when your Christian values and the qualities of a disciple are important to you; when you are judicious as far as what you invest your time and talents in, then you are in a good position to weigh the pros and cons of worldly input, information, and entertainment, and judge what is or isn't worth your time and acceptable for your spirit (ML #3801:32).

What turns neutral input into ungodly input?

23. Both your purpose for neutral input and the effect it has on you can play a big part in whether or not neutral input becomes ungodly for you.

24. Due to the Internet, information (which often falls into the neutral category) is plentiful and accessible the world over. Being able to access information easily, quickly, and cheaply creates great benefits, both for the mission and the spread of the Gospel, as well as for personal or work needs.

25. However, knowing how to use the Internet effectively and how to stay focused on getting the information that you need without it becoming a timewaster or a distraction from your goals is important in order to prevent this potential asset from falling into the ungodly category.

26. Entertainment is enjoyable, and it has a place in a balanced life. It goes without saying that most entertainment isn't entirely pure, but some of it can be acceptable and even healthy if it is used in moderation for times of relaxation and recreation; otherwise it can become ungodly by overindulgence or not guarding your attitudes and habits from being negatively influenced.

27. Whether neutral input is acceptable or ungodly depends on your use of it. Is what you're spending your time on benefiting you as a person or aiding you in your service to the Lord, or is it stealing your time from priorities that are actually much more important to you? If the latter is the case, it would fall into the ungodly category.

28. When determining what neutral input is acceptable for you, or when determining the amount of time that you spend on it, it's vital that you are honest with yourself about your priorities in life. For example:

29. * Are you consistent with your godly input—your time with the Lord, your time studying His Word, and strengthening your faith? How effective is your time with Jesus? Are you becoming more like Jesus through your times with Him, taking on more of His nature, and growing in faith?

30. * If you made a list of the things that are most important to you in life (for example, your spouse and children, your service to the Lord, your relationships with others, your health, your character, ongoing training in areas that will enable you to be more successful in fulfilling the mission), would you say that you are investing in those priorities in the manner you want to? Do you spend the majority of your time on the things that are truly important to you?

31. * How are you affected by the input that you allow in your life? Does it enhance your service for the Lord, or does it drain you spiritually, or make you feel lethargic, discontent, unmotivated, or desirous of more of the world? Does your input detract from your joy, peace, and faith? Does it take away—whether in time or quality—from fruitful, happy, uplifting relationships with friends, co-workers, or fellow believers? Is it taking the place of time that could be invested in the development of your talents or skills, in preparation for greater usefulness in the future?

(Jesus:) If you have a strong personal desire to maintain spiritual health and cleanliness, then you will be able to discern and avoid what has an unclean or negative [ungodly] influence in your life; you will be able to keep yourself spiritually clean. This is going "beyond duty" and discovering what I know is good for you as an individual (ML #3801:37).

32. When it comes to the more neutral forms of input, in order to accurately assess what is or isn't good for you, you have to ask the Lord and analyze the results of your actions and intake on your spirit. It can be humbling to admit that something just isn't good for you. It goes against human nature to stop watching, reading, listening to, playing, or partaking of something that is entertaining or relaxing or interesting but that's spiritually detrimental. But that's exactly what you need to do if you want to protect your spirit. If you can learn to recognize what things are healthy or harmful for you, you'll be well on your way to making healthy choices.

33. There are some things which might be tolerable input for one person, but for another person would be damaging and something to stay away from completely. There might be some things which are okay for someone in a limited amount, but problematic for that same person if taken in excess. When looking at yourself and examining whether something is spiritually healthy for you, there are many factors to consider, but one big one is: What is the fruit in your life? How does it affect you?

When John Wesley was away at college, he asked his mother Susanna for a list of sins to avoid, and she replied: "Whatever weakens your reason, whatever impairs the tenderness of your conscience, whatever obscures your sense of God, whatever increases the authority of your body over your mind, whatever takes away from your relish for spiritual things, that to you is sin, no matter how innocent it is in itself."

(Maria:) If you're going to be a Family member and you want to adhere to the truths that the Family teaches, then of course you need the Word that the Lord gives through the Family. Besides this, whatever other extracurricular material you read, study, or view should have a positive effect on you; that should be the standard you judge by.

Time is a major factor

34. A principle of success is that you must use your time wisely. Successful people are disciplined in their decisions and activities; they are judicious and don't waste time. They put the best of their time, focus, and energy toward reaching their most important goals. Often that means sacrificing something they would like to do in order to accomplish something they need to do.

35. This principle is a good one to apply to the time you spend on extracurricular input. How much time is appropriate to give to this extra input should quickly become apparent when you compare how much return it is giving you for the time invested, versus the other important things in your life that you need to invest in.

36. Time is in short supply; there is never enough time to do all that needs to be done. Professionals the world over are faced with this dilemma. Some time management experts say that what people choose to spend their time on determines approximately 90% of success or the lack of it. It's not money or talent or luck or circumstances that make the biggest difference—it's time, and how you choose to spend it. Those who reach their goals are those who invest significant time and effort in reaching those goals, and who often make sacrifices in order to do so.

37. As a Family, we are reaching for more success in accomplishing the mission. We're not content with the results we've gotten so far. We also have other important priorities in our lives, such as giving our children the best education and training possible, nurturing our marriages, progressing in our spiritual lives, building our networks, studying topics we want to become more proficient in, investing in our health and fitness, etc. All of these priorities require time.

38. Thus, one of the greatest factors to consider is not just the quality of the input itself—although that is important—but the time that it can take away from other important things, if you let it.

(Jesus:) The entertainment you enjoy may be relatively harmless in content for your spirit and faith, but it can still be harmful to your profession and to the mission and to your happiness if it's robbing you of your time (ML #3801:71).

(Jesus:) I want you to approach worldly [secular] input not just as a spiritual issue, but also as a practical one, as a time-management issue (ML #3801:75).

(Jesus:) Something that begins as a good thing in your life, or that has the potential to be a benefit in your life, can become a negative or ungodly influence if it consumes too much of your time, focus and spirit (ML #3801:19).

Let him who would enjoy a good future waste none of his present.—Roger Babson

39. Something to keep in mind is that those who create and market information and entertainment specifically aim to make it interesting, gripping, even addictive. Those who have a vested interest in making their program, movie, game, website, album or book successful do their best to make it very appealing, and to make you want more, to keep you coming back. That's how they make it pay.

40. This is something to understand on a fundamental level about information and entertainment—it's designed to draw you in, to absorb your interest. Without realizing it, you can surrender hours and hours of your precious time. Unless you've consciously decided to spend a set amount of time, you can chalk it up to having been caught by the creators of that media. They were successful in their goals. How are you doing on your goals?

(Jesus:) If something—even something that can be beneficial and have a place, such as good movies—is taking your time from the most important things, then it's not good for you and should be reduced or eliminated. It's a matter of what you're spending your time on; it's a matter of priorities (ML #3801:11).

Why is it that we can spend all day scrounging for extra minutes and then head home only to flush countless hours down the drain watching television? Television (even bad television) can be extremely habit forming, turning your half-hour escape into an entire evening wasted.—Laura Stack, Productive magazine

If you are feeling the stress of too much to do and too little time, I recommend you … avoid screen-sucking activities. This is a modern addiction similar to smoking cigarettes: Once you're hooked, it's tough to quit. Be aware of and limit how much time you spend watching uninteresting television, checking e-mail, surfing the Web, playing computer and hand-held games, etc. You will be amazed about how much more reading, connecting to old friends, or just thinking can be done without a screen in front of you.

Ultimately, what do you want to do more of? What do you want to do less of? Figure that out so you create and live within your personal boundaries, then do it. You'll be so glad you did!—Abby Marks Beale, The Corporate Educator

Many Christians, perhaps most, can imagine making heroic sacrifices for God, yet we resist the small adjustments. "Jesus, I will forsake my home, family, and future, but don't ask me to give up my favorite [form of entertainment]!"—Joshua Harris, Focus on the Family magazine

[Media] is altering the meaning of "being informed" by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation. … Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information—misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information—information that creates the illusion of knowing something, but which in fact leads one away from knowing.—Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

Spiritual accountability

41. The Lord is counting on you to take responsibility for your life and choices, to be willing to make hard choices in order to reach your goals and to be what you feel He is calling you to be. The counsel here will bear good fruit in your life if you have the discipline and objectivity to assess your habits and pastimes, to compare them with your priorities in life, and follow through accordingly.

42. This is something that you may need the help of others to achieve, especially if you tend to slip on your commitments. If you need frequent motivation and an outside perspective in order to stay on track with your goals and habits, please don't hesitate to be honest with yourself and others, and set up safeguards accordingly. That's a sign of strength, maturity and wisdom.

43. Everyone has different areas of strength, and self-discipline is not a strength that we all have. You need to be spiritually mature, willing to be honest with yourself and with others, and willing to do whatever is necessary in order to preserve your spirit—whether you can follow through on your own or you need help to be consistent. The important thing is that you seek the Lord personally, receive His tailor-made counsel and know what is acceptable for you, then set clear guidelines for yourself and remain within them to the best of your ability.

44. While the Lord's counsel to us on this topic is on the one hand a personal matter, because He is asking each individual to be more accountable and mature about their choices, we are also accountable to one another, because we affect one another. While some choices are a private matter, the effects may not be private. Therefore we have a responsibility to be honest with ourselves about our limitations, and to help each other to stay strong for the sake of being a good representation of Jesus and accomplishing the mission.

45. When you live communally, it's not only the results of your actions that affect others, such as the effect that wrong, unbalanced or negative input may have on you, and how it affects your demeanor, the quality of your work, your focus, and your success. Your actions also affect others in a personal way. If you watch a movie in the living room, other people hear it and see it. If you play music aloud, other people hear it. If your children are allowed to do something, the other children in the Home will want to do it too.

46. If you live communally, these are things that you will continue to need to discuss as a Home and agree on guidelines together. It's possible that you'll want to establish guidelines that apply to anything that is done in a public or communal area or that can be heard or seen by others. The Home is still responsible to make sure that the actions and testimony of its members are consistent with the testimony of your Home overall and the mission you aim to accomplish.

47. Whether you live on your own or with others, it's important to seek out safeguards in the form of reliable, open, and honest friends who share the same goals. They should be willing and able to "tell it like it is" regarding how you are faring in the area of reaching your goals. It's crucial that you share a mutual trust and openness in your communications.

48. There is tremendous strength in having support from like-minded people who share your goals and visions and determination, and who are willing to work hard with you for success. Take advantage of the camaraderie that can be found in having mutual goals and commitments, and support one another in being all that you can be for Jesus.

49. People are different and have different needs—and that's okay. You can support one another in keeping your personal commitments and staying spiritually strong. The fruits that are borne in your life and work will be an indication of the strength and clarity of your decisions and commitments in this area. If someone is keeping their spiritual life healthy, is open to counsel, successful in their work, working in unity, and manifesting the fruits of the Spirit, they are probably making good choices in their input. If someone is faltering, they might need more help and support and encouragement in their choices and commitments. What they do remains a personal choice, but your support can go a long way toward helping them have the strength to follow through and make progress in this area.

50. If you find that you don't have enough motivation to make strong choices for yourself, thinking about your loved ones and the mission you are here to accomplish can give you the added impetus you need. You are responsible to preserve your spiritual integrity, not only for your own sake, but for the sake of the work, for the sake of your brothers and sisters who need you, for the sake of your family and children, and for the sake of those whose lives you will yet reach and change with the Lord's love.

Frequently we use media simply for a diversion. How often do you sit down and say, "You know, I want to find something that is mindless and I can just veg out to"? We think it's harmless enough. Yet research shows that this is the state of mind that makes us the most vulnerable to ideas we don't usually agree with. Why do you think advertisers have so much impact on our culture? They hit you when you think you're not paying attention and aren't impacted by their message.—Chris Leland, Focus on the Family

True wisdom does not come from information alone. Clifford Stoll quips that, "Data is not wisdom any more than 50 tons of cement is a skyscraper." Wisdom comes from meditating on, then acting on, meaningful information.—Kevin A. Miller, Leadership Journal

Parental responsibility

51. When it comes to teens and children, it's obviously a different situation. Most children and teens enjoy movies, games and entertainment quite a bit, and many don't have enough life experience or self-discipline to make responsible choices on their own. Until a child becomes an adult, it is the responsibility of their parents and guardians to set boundaries, to train their children and teens in how to make these decisions, and, usually, to limit or monitor the amount of input or entertainment they partake of, until they are responsible enough to make wise decisions on their own.

52. This takes time, and it's often not a smooth road, but you can take comfort and advice from parents the world over who work through this with their children and teens. Parents set boundaries for their children and young people in this area because it's necessary to learn discipline and discernment when it comes to entertainment if you want to be successful in life. It's part of learning to use one's time wisely and to make the right choices, even if they come at some personal sacrifice.

53. In deciding what boundaries are healthy for your children and teens, bear in mind that if you are limiting media entertainment, they will need something to replace it. Children and teens need action, stimulation, adventure, and new experiences. They need things that grab their interest and that they can delve into and learn about and experience. If they don't have those things in real life, they will want to get that excitement and thrill from the vicarious experiences they can have through movies, games, the Internet, and other forms of media.

54. Keep in mind too that once someone of any age has gotten used to being entertained by the media, it can take time to develop a sense of enjoyment from other pastimes, activities, or interests. This transition isn't necessarily a spiritual problem; it arises from the way our brains and bodies function. Once someone is used to the fast-paced visuals and sounds of games or movies, it can seem that not much in normal life measures up, and it takes time to wind down from that and learn to enjoy real-life experiences and opportunities. There will be a period of withdrawal, when nothing seems as much fun as the media you are trying to cut back on, but that stage of dissatisfaction will pass if you stick with your convictions.

55. Don't be discouraged if it seems that your children or teens have developed preferences for "screen" entertainment above any other. If you are consistent in limiting media entertainment and replacing it with quality time spent together, and helping them to pursue other interests and hobbies or learn new skills, in time they will adjust and have much healthier appetites and perspectives on what they consider fun and worthwhile. They will be experiencing more of life rather than just watching it, and as a result they will be more well rounded, well adapted, and better educated.

Compared to the ease with which, say, our grandparents were able to find delight in relatively low-stimulating activities, it now takes an enormously high level of stimulation to deliver us just a modicum of enjoyment. There is a pervasive emotional numbness overtaking us. … Many people now report what someone has called a joyless existence—a life where even the most significant accomplishments leave you feeling empty, and what used to bring great excitement and happiness now leaves you numb and unsatisfied.

Anhedonia, the reduced ability to experience pleasure, is no longer the exclusive domain of emotional disorders. It is becoming the experience of a lot of ordinary people like you and me. Increasingly, we are finding it difficult to extract ordinary enjoyment out of our chaotic world.

Simply put, anhedonia is brought on, paradoxically, by the excessive pursuit of pleasure. It is a by-product of the fantastic technological improvements in our world. We now have such a high level of stimulation that we can escape boredom in an instant.

Just think about it. Are you ever lonely? Just log on to your favorite Internet chat group, and bye-bye loneliness. Bored? Turn on your iPod or watch a movie on your [computer]. … Need to work on a project or homework? Put your iPod earpiece in one ear, your cell phone earpiece in the other, turn on your laptop to check your e-mail, and now you can concentrate on your project or homework.

All of this stimulates your brain to the point of overload. Technology is revolutionizing our lives but ravaging our brains. A reasonable use of technology is good, but too much is bad. …

…A healthy pleasure system is best achieved if you spread your pleasure around. We should be able to derive pleasure from our work, but also from our play or recreation time; from our hobbies, but also from time spent with our family; from personal "me" time, but also from social activities; from private meditation, but also from [group] worship. As in so many things in life, it's all about balance. The pleasure you get from life is the accumulation of the pleasure you take from all aspects of your life.—Archibald D. Hart, Ph.D., Thrilled to Death—How the Endless Pursuit of Pleasure Is Leaving Us Numb (See also "Hollywood Stars Turn Their Back on the Small Screen.")

What do you want out of life?

56. As you make your daily choices of how to spend your time, you are determining your future, your fruitfulness, your legacy, your success. It all comes down to what you want out of life, and then being disciplined enough to pursue your goals.

57. We are each responsible before the Lord to preserve our time and invest it wisely, and to guard our spirits. If you are careful about these two things, you can safely enjoy and benefit from what is available.

58. If you are vigilant about preserving your time, you will have enough time for the most important things in your life, and the sacrifices you make will be repaid many times over in the happiness and fulfillment that comes from reaching your goals and finding success.

59. If you guard your spirit—taking in what is beneficial and walking away from those things that harm your spirit—you'll have a healthy spirit that will stand up well to the storms of life, and you'll have peace in your relationship with Jesus. You'll be a testimony of His love, someone He can use to bring many to Him.

60. The wonderful thing is that you can reap these good results without having to give up all the entertainment you find relaxing or enjoyable, or cutting yourself off from the readily available information that can make your job and life better or easier. You can strike a good balance. It will include some sacrifices and difficult choices—because doing what's best is often the hard choice—but it will also include rewards and payback that are well worth it.

61. You can learn to take what is good and beneficial from what both the secular and religious worlds have to offer, while still protecting yourself from timewasters, false or distorted principles that can sometimes be mingled with some truth, or excesses that cause you to lose track of the true standards and get off balance in your attitudes or perspectives. It all depends on you and your commitment to maintaining your spiritual health, guarding your time, as well as the discipline that you put into reaching your goals.

62. Don't lose the habit of asking the Lord about your input. That doesn't mean you have to sit down and get a lengthy prophecy every time you want to do something, but He does want to give you counsel on your activities, your entertainment, your education, your information-gathering. Have faith to come before Him with an open heart, and learn to trust His choices for you, too, knowing that He loves you and wants you to be happy.

Every movie, TV show and song contains someone's philosophy. Of course, not all entertainment is "hollow and deceptive," but much of it is. And unlike being taken prisoner during war time, the captivity process of the mind occurs slowly—a gradual desensitization.—Bob Waliszewski, What's Up With Today's Entertainment?

Most of us want to be physically healthy. Unfortunately, sometimes we don't eat as if that were true. The same is true of our minds. We want to be mentally healthy. But too often we don't "eat" as if that were true! Our minds are often filled with things that are unhealthy. This can be especially true of the entertainment we choose.—Jerry Solomon, "Is It Just Entertainment?"

(Jesus:) Think about what lasts in the world beyond, and whether what you're doing today, or this week, is working toward something eternal that will still matter once you're gone from this Earth. Think about the things you love or that matter to you right now—are they going to come with you into the world beyond? Or are they temporal things of this world that are going to pass away?

As you think about these topics, you'll find yourself wanting to change the way you live, or make adjustments to the things that are important to you based on eternity and on Me. That's how you can tell whether you're living for Heaven or living for this world.

When you're not keeping the heavenly vision, your self becomes so much more important to you. … But when you live for Heaven, I become the most important One again and you remember just how vain and fleeting it is to chase your own satisfaction for the short time that you have on Earth.—"The Heavenly Vision," ML #3608:23-25, GN 1185.

In summary

63. As mature adults, we are each responsible for our spiritual lives—both our relationship with the Lord and growing spiritually, as well as protecting our spirits from those things which would be negative or detrimental to our happiness and our service to Him. We are His representatives, and the more of His nature we take on, the better we will be able to convey His love and message to others. To be successful in the mission, we need to minimize those things that harm or taint our spirits, or influence us to become more like the world and less like Jesus.

64. The major considerations when deciding what input is acceptable for you are:

a) The source of the input. It helps to be aware of the source and what it represents, as part of your decision.

b) The content and tone of the input, whether it is godly, ungodly or neutral, and if it is neutral, what the fruit is in your life, how it affects you as an individual, and what example it is to your family, children, and others.

c) The time it takes, and whether it is taking away from other priorities and goals in your life.

65. What do you want out of life? Where do you want to invest your time? What are the things that are truly important to you? What do you want your future to look like? What will help you to grow, either spiritually or in your character or your skills? You will want to invest your time in reaching those priorities and goals.

Former Charter policy required all FD Homes to have "System input guidelines" in place for Homes and individuals, and for each individual member to adhere to those guidelines. This Letter now contains our current policy stance on these matters.

While we still recommend that a communal Home unitedly decide on guidelines for matters that affect a Home collectively, and it is the communal Home's prerogative to do so, the responsibility for making wise choices in regard to personal worldly input falls to the individual.

The responsibility for children or teens' worldly input falls to the parents, who are encouraged to set guidelines that teach responsibility and discernment until the child or teen is ready to start helping to make those decisions for themselves.

Copyright © 2009 by The Family International