Electronic Gods

This will likely be my last blog of 2018, and it’s befitting that it’s on a Sunday after church because of the subject.

As many of you know, I serve in my church on the production team. For those of you who don’t know what that is…it’s the lighting, sound, camera, and all of the behind-the-scenes activities to broadcast services both live and online. When I started, it was for the purposes of lighting, but there was a greater need for people to run cameras, so that’s how I serve now. Normally, I am on a mobile camera onstage getting closeups of instruments and musicians, so I rarely get an opportunity to see what goes on in the services themselves. Recently, though, I’ve also been added to serve on a stationary camera in the auditorium.

On Christmas Eve, we had two services instead of having them on Sunday. At some point in the middle of the service, we had a candle lighting segment where the members held candles during part of the worship music. I had an opportunity to be in the sanctuary during this time videoing the event, which was quite beautiful I must admit. But I digress…

While I was trying to find interesting angles to film, I couldn’t help but notice the number of people who were on their cell phones in the middle of the service. It was blatantly obvious because of the sharp lighting contrast between the blaring phone screens and the warm candlelight.

I remember thinking at the time how horrible it was that those people couldn’t put their phones down for an hour and a half worship service at Christmas! They were checking e-mails, messages, and I would imagine every social media imaginable. In other words, their minds were on everything but the service which was about Jesus’ birth and Christmas worship music.

Fast forward to today. I was on the stationary camera on the right side of the auditorium. It’s on an elevated platform to get it above the members and to have a better focus on the worship leaders. This allows me to see the congregants really well.

During the three services that we have, there were people on their phones. Many of them have chosen to use a virtual bible rather than using a printed one, which if that’s what they want to do, I guess that’s OK. I don’t personally like it for several reasons. For one, it doesn’t allow you to read other parts of scripture at the same time very well, and sometimes the Holy Spirit will take me from one page to another when reading it. Secondly, you cannot take notes. Forget any notion of virtual notes. It’s not the same thing. Finally, it’s a distraction. Between having to scroll to the next verse as well as the constant temptation to check any messages or notifications, it’s an easy tool for the devil to distract.

That’s exactly what I observed today. There was one teenager sitting next to my platform who was originally using the virtual  bible app on his phone. But then it quickly changed to scrolling through music libraries, etc instead of focusing on the message. I saw SEVERAL people on their phones all within a short radius of each other. I could tell that one was reading text messages and answering them. Others were just browsing. Every one of them focusing on something other than the sermon.

Now I’m going to take a moment to backtrack a minute. I know I said that if people want to us virtual bibles, that’s OK; however, I remember thinking today that I wonder exactly how many people actually can find a bible passage in a real bible. Instead of having the books of the bible neatly listed where they can just select the appropriate passage, they would have to rely on their knowledge of how they are ordered in the bible. I remember having to memorize the books of the Old and New Testaments. It’s how I grew up, and to this day, I have not forgotten them. But I wonder how many cannot. It’s like having bible tabs but electronic.

Now before you write me and wonder why I wasn’t paying attention, you have to remember a couple of things. First, we have rehearsals, and often we hear everything before everyone else does. So by the time the service comes around, it’s not new to me as it is everyone else. Secondly, I also get to hear it every service. Yes, they are all slightly different. Who wants a cookie-cutter sermon?!? However, they are all still basically the same. Third, I actually do pay attention to the message. And any chatter in the headsets. And what’s going on around me in the sanctuary. You have to learn to multitask to be in production.

Now getting back to my original thoughts, I remember looking at the people in the services this morning as they watched their phones. And as I came home, the idea for this blog hit me like a brick in the head. I thought of them as electronic gods.

Read what scripture says:

“You shall have no other gods before Me.”

(Exodus 20:3, NKJV)

This is the first of the Ten Commandments. Most people associate this with an idol that is carved from wood or stone, and yes, those are other gods too. However, God addressed those in the Second Commandment specifically.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…”

(Exodus 20:4-5a, NKJV)

Notice that it is here that scripture says not to carve something and worship it, as was the practice of other Ancient Near Eastern cultures. And as I read these one day, it hit me that God meant something specific here when He phrased these commandments as He did.

And it occurred to me that in a broader context, the First Commandment meant anything that superseded God Almighty Himself. In today’s modern culture that can equate to any of the following:

  • Money
  • Sporting events whether televised or participating in them
  • The Internet
  • Food
  • Anything to which you are addicted
  • Video Games
  • Social Media
  • Television / Movies
  • Mobile Phones
  • Music
  • Books
  • Career
  • Friends / Family

I realize the last one on the list may be controversial, but I mean when you choose to spend all your time with those people rather than spending time with God. Basically, it means anything that is more important to you in your life than God is another god.

So as I watched these people today, I realized that they were so addicted to their phones and what came out of it than they were God. That’s true with much of society. If you don’t believe me, then look around you as you drive. You will notice people all the time viewing their phones while they drive (even if it’s illegal to do so) or they will view it at every traffic light when they are stopped. Observe the majority of people in a restaurant. They often have tables full of people, but no one is conversing with each other. No one is building relationships. They are on their phones. They are more focused on them than they are on the people who are choosing to spend time with them.

You cannot build a relationship that way! It destroys relationships!

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that phones are evil. Neither is anything on the list above (unless you are addicted to something you shouldn’t be). There is nothing wrong with books, music, movies, etc. But scripture teaches moderation. It teaches balance.

Today’s sermon was on making a choice for God rather than choosing something trivial such as acceptance or anything else. The guest speaker made the point that when we just do what God asks, we please Him, just as we please someone with a gift at Christmas if we give them exactly what they ask for instead of something else.

My point to this, is that society as a whole has bowed its knee to the electronic god called the phone/tablet/computer. Electronic pulses of light supersede the Light of the World…Jesus.

People have chosen the phone over building a relationship with Him. That includes those I saw today in church who were more concerned about what their friends were saying in social media than they were what God was trying to tell them in the word…in the message…in the worship.

And we wonder why marital relationships are crumbling? We wonder why things are falling apart around us?

It’s because God is no longer guiding their thoughts, their lives, their opinions, or anything else. The phone and everything it has access to is doing that.

So what do we do? For one, we put the frazzling things down, especially at church or any other time we are trying to worship. I put mine on silent, not vibrate, when I am going to pray. I refuse to allow outside distractions stop that process.

Put them down when you are with your friends, your family, and anyone else who is important to you. Focus on building a relationship with them, and with God…not on what’s the garbage du jour.

If every Christian sets this example, then maybe…just maybe…it will have an impact on society. At the very least, it will teach our children that God is the most important aspect of our lives, not a palm-held device. It breaks the cycle…one family at a time…and it helps establish a better foundation for our futures…their futures.


			

Desire Awakened

Today’s sermon was exactly what I needed to hear. I am constantly in awe at how God manages to reveal Himself…how He chooses to speak to my heart.

I have been in fervent prayer over His will for my life. Each day I find myself pursuing Him more deeply than the day before. I am the farthest thing from perfect, but my heart beats so passionately for God. I do not know how else to explain it, and unless you have the same passion for Him, I do not know if you can fully understand what I am saying. Continue reading →

Time Wasters

I once heard a preacher recall something his father, who was also a preacher, said to someone. The elder pastor remarked, “If someone accused me of killing my own grandmother, I wouldn’t take the time to deny it.” The junior pastor then elaborated that the devil is skilled at putting little “fires” in our pathways in order to get our focus off the raging “forest fire” that is in front of us. He continued that if we ignore the smaller fires and keep looking at the big one, the little ones will eventually burn themselves out without our having to do anything. His dad’s comment illustrated his resolve not to let trivial things that didn’t matter get in the way of ministry. Continue reading →

Toxic Relationships

With all that has been going on for the past month, I am finally at a point where I can start writing again…I think…I hope. Actually I tried to start this blog a couple of nights ago on the app only to find it frustrating. I am sure that is an excellent way to write short notes or to make minor edits to existing blogs. While I can text moderately fast, it is nowhere near my typing speed. A gorilla texting with his toes seems faster than I am sometimes, so I just held off until I could get to a real PC, which is fine because it gave me time to really think about what I wanted to write.

Moving on… Continue reading →

Redeemed

I am listening to Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave as I type this, so it seemed appropriate to name the blog accordingly.

All of humanity is flawed. It is a sobering reality to realize that no matter how good we try to be, that we are incapable of being good in and of ourselves. From the moment we enter into the world to the time that we exit it, we are steeped in sinful behavior, thoughts, and actions. Because of Adam’s sinfulness, we are all cursed with his punishment.

I hate that no matter how much I desire to walk through any given day without messing up, I know before I even get out of bed that it is an inevitable fact that I will mess up before the day is through. It is not like I get up any given morning and say, “Hey, I think I will go out of my way to disappoint Jesus.” That happens on its own from the muscle memory that is instilled in us from birth. In a lot of ways it is not fair that we all must suffer the same consequences because of someone who lived more than 6,000 years ago. I understand…I think…why God had to design it this way after the fall of mankind. That does not mean I like it any better, though.

Scripture tells us that if we know to do something and do not do it, to us it is sin. Sometimes that happens as a result of an emotional response to a situation that we may be facing. Sometimes we goof up unintentionally. Sometimes we just rebel against God and do our own “thing” just because we “can”. We just get stubborn, put the focus on ourselves, and go against God’s commandments. I wish I had a better reason other than we just get spiritually stupid sometimes and act this way. There is no other explanation other than we just do it. It is not dissimilar to a parent telling a child not to do something only to have the child do exactly what they were told not to do a few moments later. We, as God’s children, do the same thing.

I remember a few years ago, I awakened one morning with my heart heavy because I had done something that I knew was contrary to what I was supposed to do. I did it out of just plain rebellion just because I “could.” I do not remember the particulars of exactly what I had done. I remember more of how I felt that morning. I had asked God for forgiveness almost immediately upon being convicted by the Holy Spirit, but for some reason I could not shake the feeling of shame and inadequacy.

On this particular morning, I was going through my normal morning rituals getting ready for work with the exception that I kept asking God for forgiveness for turning my back on Him the night before. This went on for about twenty minutes until I heard the Holy Spirit…not audibly with my ears but inside my spirit and loudly at that. He said, “Will you please just shut UP!” That got my attention in a hurry. In the moments that followed, He spoke to my heart in a way that I have never forgotten, nor have I forgotten what He told me. Periodically, He takes me back to that exact moment and reminds me when I start going down the same pathway…though admittedly I don’t do it as much as I did when I was first learning how to walk in Christ. He told me this one thing that set me free.

He said, “Your confession to your sin is not when I found out about it. You are doing exactly what Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for…their vain repetitions. The day you made Me Lord of your life, all of your sins…past, present, and future…were covered under the blood.” Without missing a beat, I halfheartedly threw back to God, “oh yeah, what about 1 John 1:9 about confessing our sins where you are faithful to forgive them?” And true to form, God had a response faster than I did, and it was in this answer that I found the freedom. He said, “Confession for the Christian is not for the covering of sin but for restoration of fellowship with Me.” That was the first time I had ever thought of redemption that way.

Hebrews 5 talks about sin being covered once under the blood. That doesn’t mean we do not sin afterwards…it means that the stain that sin leaves is gone. The gap between God and us is bridged by the cross permanently. Otherwise, we would be doomed because it would be impossible for us to operate at a standard high enough to meet God’s standards, and we would be in a constant state of flux of saved/not-saved. In other words, it would be dependent upon us for our salvation.

Yet Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we cannot do anything of ourselves other than exercising faith for salvation. Grace is God’s answer to our sin, and it is given despite our short comings. In other words, God’s love is capable of transcending who we are…even without Christ…to see us for who we can become through Him. We ourselves are incapable of doing anything, but God does it for us. Mercy is when we are deserved punishment and given a reprieve for no other reason other than the one giving the mercy wanted to!

Therefore, going back to that day many years ago, the Holy Spirit was telling me that on whatever day we ask Jesus to come into our lives…the day we confess our sins…the day that we ask for His covering of those sins…all sin is covered. It would have to be. Otherwise Psalm 103:12 would not be true. That verse says that He throws our sins as far as the East is from the West…He remembers them no more.

That does not mean that we do not break fellowship with Christ when we sin. In fact, we break His heart when we turn our backs on Him. I think it is even more so because we know better. Yet at the same time, the entire process of salvation is predicated on the knowledge that we get saved despite ourselves and despite the fact that we will still rebel against God at a future point. The concept of salvation, then, is that grace still abounds regardless. Colossians 1:21-22 says that we are “holy, unblamable, and without reproof” in His eyes. That is Psalm 103:12 in action.

So why, then, do we feel so much pain and feelings of inadequacy…of shame and guilt when we mess up, even after we ask for forgiveness for what we said or did? I think that is from a two-fold process that also epitomizes our humanity and dependence upon God. On one hand, if we genuinely are seeking to please God, the moment that His Holy Spirit convicts our hearts of our offense, it sets off a chain reaction within our spirits, and we cry out to our Father. We hurt Him, and knowing that we hurt Him in turn hurts us. So there is a pain deep inside as we seek to reconcile, just as we would with a friend or loved one that we cared about very much.

On the other hand, I also think that the devil tries to use our mistakes as a tool against us, whereby he constantly assaults our mental capacity with shame and regret. He tries to make us feel inferior, insignificant, and inadequate of God’s presence whatever we did or said. In other words, it is an attempt to oppress us and blind us…to distract us from the Truth…to keep us from being effective in our daily walks with Christ. It makes sense because if he can get us focused more on the problem rather than the solution, it keeps us from fulfilling our purpose to its fullest.

But scripture says that Jesus is our Advocate who is ever interceding on our behalf. That means that in the courtroom of God, whenever the devil brings a railing accusation against us or says “Look at what he/she did or said” that Jesus simply says to the Father, “No worries…they are covered under the blood.”

Now, this does not give us license to freely commit the same sin repeatedly saying that it’s covered. Yes it is covered, but God also expects us to repent, to turn from it, and to be bigger than what we think we can be. Still, we mess up, and often we do repeat the same mistakes…sometimes intentionally…and they are still covered under the blood. But when we do, it takes away the ability for the Holy Spirit to operate at His fullest in our lives until we do confess and turn.

Too many Christians…I myself included at times…have been entrapped with the fallacy that we can do just whatever we want, and that just is not true. We are redeemed through the blood of Jesus Christ, and we are counted as His children for which there is nothing we can do to change that once it happens. That means, though, that we have a duty to daily offer ourselves as a living sacrifice and deny ourselves to take up our cross to follow Him.

Will we mess up along the way? Yes. Will we mess up intentionally, maybe even repeatedly at times? Of course we will. However, we are the Redeemed because Jesus said so. He paid for you with His blood, and you were bought at a very high price. When you mess up, then, do not listen to the assaults of the devil who may try to convince you that you have messed up beyond His ability to fix it. Your sin is not any of the devil’s business because it is covered under the Cross.

When you mess up, don’t run from God…run to Him. Embrace the fact that your sins are completely covered, that He remembers them no more, and that you are counted holy in His sight because of it. You are simply restoring your fellowship with Him so that He can manifest Himself to His fullest in your life.

That will liberate you just as it did me those years ago.

You are redeemed. I am redeemed. Anyone who has ever asked Jesus to cover their sins is redeemed. You are forgiven.

Now go act like it!