The Detriment of Distraction

Ours is a society that not simply loves—but is addicted—to noise. From getting up in the morning to going to bed at night we are bombard with noise: Radios, podcasts, television, news, sounds from traffic, from the workplace, from school, and from people all around us.

Sadly, we are not encouraged to truly think for ourselves. News media, celebrities, politicians, and “educators” often try to tell us what to think and how to feel—regardless   how illogical. With the passion of a bushfire, but sometimes intelligence equivalent to that of a bowl of mashed potatoes. Yet, many will mindlessly agree.

Daily we are blasted with such messages: anyone who disagrees is  a bad person, hate-monger, racist; corruption and lies are okay in politics, these simply come with the territory; hypocrisy is only wrong in religion; truth is relative; those who hold to values are dangerous; because there is evil there is no God; humility is for the weak; do what thou wilt, let the chips fall wherever they may—THINK LIKE THE SYSTEM—DO NOT QUESTION IT. LEARN WHAT IT TEACHES; FEEL WHAT IT INITIATES (TO HELL WITH CONSCIENCE); BECOME ONE WITH THE SYSTEM. YOU’RE AN INDIVIDUAL—BUT REALLY YOU’RE NOT!

We have become so accustomed to noise and distractions that many people literally cannot handle periods of getting alone to think and ponder the deeper things in life. What should bring a measure of clarity is thought to be too boring and unnerving, instead. Many people do not know how to handle the combination of silence, stillness, and the triggering of their own thoughts. Furthermore, we have become so adapted to the system (i.e., the world) we do not even realize how much it seeks to manipulate us.

Let’s question the system for a moment and consider:

  • You disagree with persons, sometimes with your closest friends. Are you, therefore, a bad person? A hate monger? A bigot? Are your friends with whom you disagree?
  • Is lying and corruption to be permissible in politics? Do we not resent liars, thieves, and backstabbers when we find them in our midst? So why are these applauded in politics?
  • Why is hypocrisy only shunned when it is found in churches? Why is it not shunned in politics, business, schools, and Hollywood? Many claim to not go to church because of “all the hypocrites,” but the aforementioned have the church beat by far when it comes to hypocrisy.
  • Is truth relative? If so, then how can anything truly be right or wrong? If truth is relative, then all is mere opinion; and things like bigotry, slavery, and oppression are merely neutral. If truth, indeed, is relative, who is anyone to condemn anything?
  • Are those who hold to values (virtue) dangerous? Borrowing from the illustration of another, if you were walking a street at night, who would you rather see? A group of thugs who mock values or a group of people who try to live by values?
  • Because there is evil there is no God? If there is no God, then there is no Standard by which we can discern good or evil. “Good” and “evil” become mere empty words we assign false meaning to. If there is no God, then evolution might be true. If so, then we merely witness “survival of the fittest” when it comes to oppression—simply nature running its course (IF evolution was true).
  • Is humility a sign of weakness? Without humility we cannot truly show genuine respect to one another. Humility is required to recognize and respond to the value of others.
  • Do what thou wilt? This is precisely why our world is in the mess it is in—people living as they will, doing “what is right in their own eyes.” Every action has a reaction. Every choice comes along with consequences.
  • One other thing I will mention concerns slavery. Constantly media and education reminds us of the slavery in our nations past, and the evil thereof; however, for all the supposed hatred of slavery, how come there is not a unified outcry against modern slavery—human trafficking? For all the outcries against the oppression of women and minorities (which are the majority of the victims in human trafficking)  c there is relatively little outcry. Interestingly, some in Washington, Hollywood, and the sports world are known to have profited from slavery. Strangely, for all the outcry against the slavery of the past, too often a blind eye is turned away from today’s slavery!

If, indeed, there is truth to be known, is it good or wise to scornfully sacrifice the quest of it in order to indulge in our pleasures, greed, and pride?

The writer of Ecclesiastes, in his quest for happiness and purpose, indulged himself in pleasures, entertainment, work, education, prosperity, etc. He admits that in proper moderation many of the things he enjoyed are good—but not when they distract us from our deeper purpose. He ends the book with these words:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. ~ 12:13-14

The writer of Proverbs writes:

Let the wise hear and increase in learning…. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction…. Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? … Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them. ~ Proverbs 1:5, 7, 20-22, 29-32

Remembering the Cross When We Hurt

In our hurts, pain, broken-heartedness, loneliness, etc., we can feel rather isolated—even abandoned by God. However, feelings do not necessarily reflect reality. When we are going through grief or depression, I dare to say our feelings rarely reflect reality. During these times our feelings will often scream that we are forsaken, God has left us to writhe and die in our pain and misery—alone. But this is not the case at all, although our feelings will defiantly say otherwise.

One of the things that has always amazed me about the Gospel message is God has always “played by the rules.” Although He is God and sinless, He came into our fallen world as a Man, and experienced fully the effects of a world ravaged by sin. Being God, could He not have changed the rules for Himself?   Could He not have bypassed human experience in a fallen and broken world? But He did not, because He is a God of truth and faithfulness. Therefore, He experienced poverty, loneliness, rejection, racism, betrayal, grief, sorrow, pain, stress, disappointment, injustice, etc.

The writer of Hebrews states:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~ 4:14-16

Some time ago I wrote the following song:

He Is Still Worthy of Praise

Even when storms rob us of sunshine,

    And our laughter turns to cries;

Even when our nights are the darkest,

    And there are no stars in our skies…

Bridge:

We look to Christ,

    The Holy One who cares;

In brokenness,

    We worship Him through tears…

Chorus 1:

(For) He is still worthy of praise;

He is still worthy of honor;

He is still worthy of worship;

He is still worthy of all!

(Repeat)

Even when our minds are afflicted,

    And questions scream with rage;

And our hearts are so deeply wounded,

    Feeling forsaken in some cage…

Bridge:

We look to Christ,

    And bend our knees in dust.

In spite of pain,

    We sing to Him with trust…

(repeat Chorus 1)

Through loneliness and friendlessness,

Through deep darkness and through sickness;

Through failure and tears, through raging fears;

Through broken dreams, and angry screams …

Through temptations, and frustrations;

Through broken-hearts, and worlds torn apart;

Through death of loved ones, when grief overcomes –

Through all the loss, we remember His Cross!

Even when we face disappointments,

    When dreams are smashed on rocks,

And we watch them sink under waters,

    As our hearts are crushed on the docks.

Bridge:

We bow our souls,

    And cannot even speak.

We want to run,

    We want to die,

    Yet to our God we cry … and we seek …

(repeat Chorus 1)

Chorus 2:

God You are worthy of praise;

You are still worthy of honor;

You are still worthy of worship;

Jesus, You’re worthy of all!

You are still worthy of praise;

You are still worthy of honor;

You are still worthy of worship;

Jesus, You’re worthy of all!

… Through all the loss, we remember Your Cross …

Jesus, You’re worthy of praise.

(Words & music by Geno Pyse)

Indeed, when we are going through hurts and loss, may we remember the cross. You are loved, and you are not forgotten. Your pain serves a greater purpose, if you will but continue to trust even though nothing seems to make sense.

Our High Priest and Unnecessary, Distracting, and (the) Wrong Questions

I enjoy studying and discussing theology, provided the discussion is edifying. Theology can raise a lot of questions—some very difficult ones. Note, many of our questions must remain unanswered. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9, ESV). God is perfect in holiness, love, justice, and all His ways. Will we choose to trust Him?

Sometimes our questions of curiosity are simply irrelevant (i.e., the classic “Can God make a rock so big He can’t move?”). However, some of our questions are distracting to more important ones. For example, Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Sometimes the question—even debate—arises, “Could Jesus have sinned?” The differing answers go back and forth. The question is not insignificant, but neither is it the most important. Furthermore, it distracts from the wonderful truths being revealed. Two more important questions are: Did Jesus sin? And can He truly sympathize with us when we struggle with our sinfulness? Could He have sinned? Some say yes, others say no. However, what we do know is He was genuinely tempted—therefore, He can sympathize—but He did not sin. Good thing! Otherwise we would not have a Savior.

Could Jesus have sinned? Does He know what it is like to be tempted with the same sins as I am? Maybe, maybe not. What I know with utmost certainty is I can—and do—sin, and I have High Priest and Savior who can sympathize with me—and you. 

You and I will continue to have questions, but may we learn to ask the right questions, instead of being distracted by the unnecessary and wrong ones.

God (Part 2): The Importance of Correct Perception of Him

In his book, Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer writes how modern man tends to think of idolatry in terms of people bowing to figures carved of stone, metal, or wood. However, idolatry begins in the mind, even if no overt worship takes place. Tozer goes on to explain that idolatry is any entertaining of thoughts about God not worthy of Him, not only worshipping something other than Him.

This has great relevance in our society that views God in so many different ways other than what He reveals in the Scriptures, and that tries to use Him for political and financial gain. This also has great relevance within modern Christendom where many of its adherents often seem to stress more as to whether or not they like the worship services, rather than truly considering if He likes them.

Nearly across the board people believe in God’s love. Certainly love is part of God’s character. The Scriptures declare, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8 [ESV]). However, it is imperative we understand His overarching attribute—holiness! This attribute is the umbrella to every other one. Holy means “set apart; other; extraordinary; transcendent.” It is the only attribute of His mentioned to the third degree—and in both the Old and New Testaments:

“And [the seraphim] called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” (Isaiah 6:3)

“And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” (Revelation 4:8)

God’s love is a pure, holy love. His love will never be separated or go against His holiness. Jesus says the Father desires worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth (see John 4:23-24). So, to profess God’s love while disregarding His holiness is to make a mockery of true worship and to plummet heart first into idolatry, which leads to holy judgment.

One of the tragic cycles we read of in the Old Testament is the Israelites’ regression into idolatry. Integrating the customs, behaviors, and beliefs of the people around them into the worship of God, only to drift away from Him without even realizing it. Perplexed and angered by the prophets’ rebukes and confrontations, all the while indulging in the immorality of the cult religions of Baal and Astarte, and the child sacrifice of Moloch (something God declares that never even entered His mind [see Jeremiah 7:31]).

One of my great concerns for many churches today is the adapting of customs, behaviors, and beliefs of the secular and pagan society around us, trying to integrate these into the Christian faith, dismissing the very attributes and ways of God He reveals to us in the Scriptures. 

Jesus said of some of the religious people of the day, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me’” (Mark 7:6-7).

And one of the most haunting things He says is, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

God is holy, but He is also loving. Although He is loving, may we remember He is also holy, holy, holy, and His love is a holy love. If we try to tweak these to accommodate our desires or to condone or justify our beloved sins, we are guilty of idolatry. To not desire God as He is is merely to desire a god of our own making.