Decluttering Your Brain

Do you feel like your brain is in a fog?

Struggling to focus?

Fighting anxiety?

Stressed?

We live in an age of distraction.

Our minds are constantly pulled in a thousand directions.

Everything is competing for our attention.

It’s hard to deny.

Recently I found an article online arguing that the “age of distraction” is a myth. Ironically I couldn’t even read the article without being distracted. Sixty-one different ads, videos, and click bait articles popped up while scrolling through the article.

And what was really scary was that most of the ads were specifically targeted toward me.

Callaway golf irons.

PenFed investments.

123RF stock photos.

Dell computers.

Anything that I had searched for in the past few days was flashing before my eyes, enticing me to put down my research and to start shopping.

This is our world.

It is designed to distract.

And we are feeling the impact.

Neurologically our brains are designed to focus on one thing at a time. 

Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at MIT, makes this point clear:

People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves. …Switching from task to task, you think you’re actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you’re actually not. You’re not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them very rapidly.

When our mind is hit with a multitude of distractions, our brains kick into high gear to try to attend to each thing. We burn through glucose at a rapid pace and we eventually experience fatigue and disorientation.

The condition has actually been given a name.

Continuous Partial Attention.

And the symptoms sound familiar:

  • Having a stressful lifestyle
  • Feeling like you are always in crisis mode
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor decision-making
  • Inability to regulate emotions
  • Loss of impulse control
  • Feeling unfulfilled
  • Feeling a sense of powerlessness

We are overstimulating our brains…overloading our senses…overstretching our attention…and then wondering why we feel overwhelmed.

We simply cannot function this way.

Our humanity calls us back to limits.

Our minds are craving concentration.

Deep thinking.

Meditation.

Reflection.

Rest.

When our brain focuses on one thing, our neurons actually synchronize. The signals become stronger. Clearer. Deeper.

The different parts of the brain work in harmony.

We learn to think…rather than react.

One longitudinal study, conducted with over 1000 children over the course of several decades, discovered that the ability to concentrate was the strongest predictor of success in a person’s life.

This ability [to concentrate] is more important than IQ or the socio economic status of the family you grew up in for determining career success, financial success, and health. …The more you can concentrate the better you’ll do on anything, because whatever talent you have, you can’t apply it if you are distracted. (Dr. Daniel Goleman)

So how do you declutter your brain?

It begins with recognizing the distractions that are all around us and then making an intentional choice to limit them…and eliminate them…as needed.

Start with your smartphone.

Turn it off for a period of time each day.

Put it away once a week.

Keep it away while you are trying to focus on a task.

A “media sabbath,” especially in the mornings, may be the best thing that you can do to help your brain rest…and to be renewed and rewired.

Learning expert Jim Kwik notes:

When you wake up you’re in this theta alpha state and you’re highly suggestible. With every like, comment, or share, you get this dopamine fix and it’s literally rewiring your brain. What your smart device is doing especially if that’s the first thing you grab when you wake up…is rewiring your brain to be distracted.

In an age of distraction, decluttering the brain requires intentionality.

The force of decision.

Discipline.

Spiritual discipline.

Because it is ultimately a spiritual issue.

We were created for a singular purpose–to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, to worship Him alone.

When our central focus is on His glory then everything else falls into its proper place.

By seeing Him, we see everything else clearly.

A.W. Tozer defined faith as “the gaze of the soul upon a saving God.”

And the writer of Hebrews reminds us:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The secret to the spiritual life…the restful life…the joyful life…is learning to fix our eyes on our Savior.

To have a vision higher than the distractions of this world.

To have a focus sharper than the blur of flashing lights around us.

To have a passion stronger than the temporal temptations of our time.

To have a purpose greater than yourself.

To have a love deeper than the lure of distractions.

The old hymnwriter had it right.

O soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior
And life more abundant and free

Turn you eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

Posted in Random Thoughts | 3 Comments

Racism Is Sin

If one thing should be clear to believers in Jesus Christ, it is that racism is sin.

Any attitude or action that sees one race, one skin color, as superior to another is antithetical to the heart of Scripture from beginning to end.

From Genesis to Revelation.

From creation to consummation.

We are all created in the image of God. We are all meant to display His glory. We all have value. We all bear dignity.

So God created man in His own image;
in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them.
(Genesis 1:27)

Based on this foundational fact, James says that to bless God and to curse His image (another human being) is the epitome of hypocrisy.

With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness. Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way. (James 3:9-10)

And the apostle Paul ups the ante by saying that not only does every human being bear the image of God but every human being is also someone for whom Jesus Christ died. Thus, we no longer see people based on superficial, external factors but as eternally valuable in the eyes of God.

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. (2 Corinthians 5:14-16a)

Finally, the consummation of the redemptive story shows us the ultimate heart and design of God.

And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.”
(Revelation 5:9-10)

Every tribe.

Every tongue.

Every people group.

Every nation.

Every skin color.

As the Sunday School children’s song taught us from an early age…

Red and yellow, black and white,
They are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Yes, the Christian church has failed throughout the ages to live up to this truth.

Yes, our own “Christian nation” has failed miserably in this regard as well.

Racism is a reality.

The human heart will find any reason to mistreat another.

Skin color is just one of the easiest ways to separate…to segregate…to subjugate.

But this is not the heart of God.

Racism is actually rooted in atheism…in evolutionary theory…in the supposed superiority (or advanced evolution) of one race over another.

Scripturally there is only one race.

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings (Acts 17:26).

So, as a believer, I repudiate racism and the sins that grow from its roots.

I also seek to be a peacemaker, a minister of reconciliation, declaring a message of reconciliation to God–“Be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ!”–and a message of reconciliation to one another in Christ.

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation. (Ephesians 2:14)

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

That is why I also reject the major tenets of critical race theory.

It is rooted in postmodernism, rejecting absolute truth. Thus, it judges all structures, institutions, and laws not on the basis of objective truth but on the basis of the hegemony, the particular power or identity group that put them into place.

It is rooted in Marxist thinking, seeking to divide, seeking to separate people into classes, the oppressor and the oppressed, in order to provoke anger and invoke a revolution.

It is rooted in atheism, denying the image of God in all of humanity and denying the reality of sin in the heart of all humanity.

Since it sees the problem as skin deep, then all of its solutions are skin deep as well.

This does not mean that the ugly parts of history should not be taught.

Slavery.

Jim Crow laws.

The Tulsa massacre.

In fact, it means the opposite.

The issue is not what past events are taught but rather why they are taught and how they are taught.

Anyone who has ever been in an argument over a past event can easily testify that the past can be brought up for one of two reasons–to heal or to hurt, to bring understanding or to breed resentment.

History is to be taught in order that we may listen, learn, and leave its past sins behind in the present time.

History should not be taught to latch onto its sins, leverage them for one’s own purposes, and loathe the person or groups or identities that are labeled evil by its teachers.

I remember one of my favorite scenes from my favorite movie, Remember the Titans.

Coach Herman Boone leads his divided, segregated, resentful football team on a 3am run through the woods. As they run together, they find themselves tired, frustrated, and experiencing pain together. Then, when their strength is almost gone and they are too tired to hate one another, they arrive at their destination.

Gettysburg.

In the midst of gravestones that they had not seen before…with the mist rising all around them…Coach Boone delivers his message.

Anybody know what this place is? This is Gettysburg. This is where they fought the battle of Gettysburg. Fifty thousand men died right here on this field, fighting the same fight that we’re still fighting amongst ourselves today. This green field right here was painted red, bubbling with the blood of young boys. Smoke and hot lead pouring right through their bodies. Listen to their souls, men. I killed my brother with malice in my heart. Hatred destroyed my family. You listen and take a lesson from the dead. If we don’t come together right now, on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed just like they were. … I don’t care if you don’t like each other, but you will respect each other. I don’t know, maybe we’ll learn to play this game like men.

Coach Boone did not ignore history.

He taught it.

But he taught it for a purpose.

To bring his team together.

Not to divide.

To promote healing and reconciliation.

Not to promote resentment and revolution.

The real issue in the movie is not the structure or rules of football.

The real issue is the human heart.

When the heart changes, everything else falls into place.

So, on this Juneteenth day, I acknowledge the sins of the past.

Our nation has often failed.

The church has often failed as well.

But I also give thanks.

The nation that once ignored its own founding principles and enslaved some of its own people has changed. Not only has it repudiated slavery but it has been one of the few nations in the whole history of civilization to actually work to end slavery around the world.

And the church has changed as well. Yes, we still have our divisions but there are more movements toward reconciliation than there have ever been before.

I am thankful to work with one in our own city.

And that is worth celebrating.

And worth bringing a divided nation together once again.

Posted in Random Thoughts | Leave a comment

Love Is Love

“Love is love.”

The signs seem to be everywhere right now.

The message is simple enough…and hard to argue against.

Love is love.

How can you deny that?

But certainly some clarification is needed.

First of all, not all loves are the same.

The Greeks were wise enough to realize that not all loves are identical. They had four different words to clarify all the multi-faceted expressions of love.

Storge. Family love. The love of a mother to her child. This kind of love is natural, protective, nurturing. It is the “mama bear syndrome.” If you mess with a child, you can be pretty sure that a mom or dad will soon rise up to protect them…or at least they should…unless something strange has disrupted that natural love.

Phile. Friendship love. Mutually accepting. Mutually beneficial. One friend helping another. This is the love of common interests, common desires, common goals joining together to form a common life together. This kind of love can grow as deep as time and proximity allows. And, if the situation demands, one friend can sometimes give his life for another.

Agape. Sacrificial love. The love of the will. The love of commitment. The kind of love willing to persevere, endure, sacrifice for the benefit of the other…even when the other doesn’t deserve it. The highest form of love. It can even rise to the level of loving an enemy.

Eros. Sensual love. Sexual. Romantic. Erotic. Physical love. The surge of emotion and desire. A fire that is often difficult to control or extinguish. The attraction of the eyes. The arousal of physical touch. The hunger for sexual pleasure.

The English word for “love” lumps all of this together…and then some.

I love my child. I love my football team. I love my wife. I love chocolate. I love sex. I love a good book. I love my dog. I love my country. I love country music. I love God.

How confusing is that?

So “love is love” certainly needs to be qualified.

In our current culture, “love is love” generally means that the love between a man and a woman is no different than the love of a man and another man or a woman and another woman…or perhaps a host of other arrangements.

After all, “love is love.”

And if that was all there was to it, then I would agree.

Biblically, we are called to love all people.

The Great Commandment, the foundational commandment, the most important commandment, the one that summarizes all the other commandments in the Bible, is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.

And Jesus defined our neighbor as whomever we happen to meet in any given day, whatever their need or situation or religion or political persuasion may be.

This is agape love.

And it has no limits.

The depth of love between a man and another man, or a woman and another woman, can be as deep as a man and a woman.

Even deeper.

Even stronger.

In the Old Testament, Jonathan loved David as he loved his own soul, desiring the best for him with the same intensity as he desired the best for himself (1 Samuel 18:1). Their lives were knit together. No sacrifice for each other was considered too great.

David described their love for each other as surpassing the love of women (2 Samuel 1:26).

And here is where the real issue starts to emerge.

Some in our culture would immediately take this to be sexual in nature. For their love to be this deep, then it had to be sensual. Their phile love for each other (their strong friendship)… and their agape love for each other (their willingness to sacrifice for each other)… had to include eros love (some kind of sexual desire).

This is where I would disagree.

Does “love is love” have to include sexual desire?

Can love be intensely strong without being sexual?

Can love meet the deepest needs of the heart and not have a sensual side?

In other words, the real issue is not whether “love is love” but whether “love to be love must include eros love.” Must love be sexualized?

Thus, the real issue is not love but sex.

What is the nature of sex? And for that matter, what is the nature of marriage?

What is their design? What is their purpose? Do they even have a design and a purpose?

No one is arguing that love is not love.

Love is love.

Truth is truth.

God is God.

The debate and disagreement is not over love but over sex.

Obviously each person has their opinion…and their own individual background.

But I believe that there is a divine design for sex and for marriage.

God designed one man and one woman to enjoy sexual intimacy within the protection and commitment of lifelong marriage.

This was His design.

And our biological design confirms it.

Form does follow function.

And biologically one man and one woman fit together and can create the miracle of life together.

It is amazing…and awe-inspiring when you stop and think about it.

And while you are stopping and thinking about it, sex touches us at such a deep level that it needs the highest commitment and the strongest protection of agape love.

The deepest wounds often come from the abuse, misuse, betrayal, and exploitation of sex for one’s own selfish purposes.

Almost everyone will agree with this…even if they disagree on everything else.

In the midst of the controversies of His day, Jesus called people back to God’s original design for sex and marriage.

And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Male and female.

Decision.

Commitment.

One flesh.

Joined together.

Divinely united.

For a lifetime.

This is the beauty of God’s design.

Sin has clouded the picture.

Torn the canvas.

Stained the frame.

Now we are all spiritually broken, sexually dysfunctional.

Disordered passions.

Disturbed minds.

Dissatisfied longings.

Distorted identities.

There is no room for pride.

There is plenty of room for compassion.

But the divine design still remains.

Calling us to purer passions.

Comforting us in our failures.

Correcting us in our lusts.

Connecting us to a higher love.

The true longing of our hearts.

Sex, at its best, is only a picture.

A sign pointing to something more.

An echo of creation.

A gift of the divine.

And in the light of this vision…

“Love is love” says nothing.

And “God is love” says it all.

Posted in Sex and Marriage | Leave a comment

How (Not) to Read the Bible

Ever come across a strange passage in the Bible that confused you…maybe even challenged your faith?

Ever come across a social media post or meme or YouTube video that attacks the Bible…even mocks and ridicules it?

Ever struggled to make sense of how the Bible deals with science, violence, slavery, gender, or sexuality?

I have.

The Bible is not always easy to understand.

There are passages that I can’t grasp…verses that I can’t wrap my mind around.

There are passages that I, quite honestly, wish weren’t in the Bible. It would make things easier to explain to others.

Believing in the authority of the Bible doesn’t mean that you always understand what it is saying or that you even agree with it from a human standpoint.

A child can submit to the authority of their parents but not always understand why they say what they say or do what they do.

You simply have to trust their heart when you can’t discern their ways.

By its very nature, the Bible is meant to confront…to unsettle…to pierce to the innermost thoughts, motives, and idols of the heart. It speaks outside of our context…outside of our culture…above our preferences.

If you can read the Bible and never be stretched…never be made uncomfortable…never be pushed in your thinking…then you are obviously not reading it correctly.

Dan Kimball’s book, How (Not) to Read the Bible, addresses some of the challenges that people (believers and non-believers) often have with the Bible. His subtitle says it all: “Making Sense of the Anti-Women, Anti-Science, Pro-Violence, Pro-Slavery and Other Crazy-Sounding Parts of Scripture.”

That about covers it.

Kimball is a pastor and a professor at Western Seminary. I have read several of his past books. He writes a lot to a skeptical audience…to a young audience struggling with the Christian faith. His heart for people…his heart for the gospel of Jesus Christ…and his sheer honesty always seem to come through in his writings.

This book is no exception.

If you know someone wrestling with the Bible…or someone who has watched one too many atheistic YouTube videos…then this may be a good book to give them. Kimball hits all the major questions, issues, and attacks that are levied against the “Good Book.” And he includes just about every meme that has ever been used to mock the Christian faith.

I had no idea that there was that much hatred for the Bible out there.

One thing you can say with confidence: the Bible is still controversial…and still relevent. No matter how much people try to disparage or dismiss it, it still keeps demanding their focus and attention.

Kimball gives four main premises on how to read the Bible:

  1. The Bible is a library, not a book.
  2. The Bible is written for us, but not to us.
  3. Never read a Bible verse (apart from its context).
  4. All of the Bible points to Jesus.

His gist is fairly simple. The Bible has to be understood on its terms not our own. It is filled with different genres, covers the whole history of the redemptive story, has a theme and a purpose, and has to be read in its historical, cultural, grammatical context.

Pulling verses out of context…and assuming that you can just slap your present-day, limited, cultural understanding on them…is foolish and unfair to the sacred Scriptures.

Even if you don’t believe the Bible, you should at least approach it with respect. It is, without argument, the most influential, most read, most translated, most influential book in human history. It is also the best attested ancient document that we have. It was written by over 40 authors, in three different languages, over a span of 1500 years, and yet it tells one story, from beginning to end, with one theme, the person of Jesus Christ.

That in itself is remarkable.

To think that a five-minute YouTube video made by someone in their momma’s basement is enough to discredit the Bible is absurd.

Kimball covers five particular objections to the Bible:

  1. Strange commands and customs, including slavery
  2. The treatment of women
  3. Creation and science, particularly the age of the earth
  4. The exclusive truth claims of the Bible (or why other belief systems are wrong)
  5. The brutality of OT violence

Kimball handles each of these subjects better than I can…and more in-depth than a blog post. But here are a few quotes that summarize his thoughts:

Most of ancient slavery in the time of the OT and NT was different from the slavery we are familiar with in modern times. Back then people were bought as servants, the money going to pay a person’s debt. Poverty forced others into servanthood just to stay alive. This slavery, or servanthood, was not race-based. The NT laid the groundwork for the eventual demise of slavery, as it taught that all humans are of equal worth….

In the beginning, God created a perfect harmony of man and woman–unique but equal. After humans rebelled against God in the garden, patriarchal sin developed with various types of abuse of women, including misogyny and polygamy. This is not what God created; it is what humans put in place. …Jesus and the NT show the forward trajectory of women being seen as of equal worth, value, and importance in God’s sight and serving on mission together with men….

To read the Bible as a science manual and ask science questions about the age of the earth, the length of days, what specific order everything was created in, and if Eve was made of an actual human “rib” are not what the early chapters of Genesis were written to answer. This is reading Genesis incorrectly and asking questions it was not written to answer and missing the purpose for which it was written. …There is much mystery we just don’t know, details that Scriptures don’t give. What we can know is that God created everything….

When you examine the world religious, you find they do not all point to the same God or to paths that end in the same place. Their major tenets of belief are different and contradict each other. …Either one is right and the rest wrong or they are all wrong. The claims of Christianity make the most sense and have the backing of historical Scriptures to prove its claims are true….

Violence is very difficult to understand, as even one death ordered by God is horrific to grasp. Ultimately we have to trust God and what we know of him as abundantly loving, immensely kind, endlessly compassionate, and exceedingly forgiving. So if violence is used, God knows why even though we may not be able to comprehend the reason….

Kimball’s answers may not satisfy everyone…and some of his conclusions may be a little off base…but he does adequately show that the Bible can stand on its own…if you are willing to approach it with humility and teachability rather than arrogance and “chronological snobbery,” as C.S. Lewis once called it.

What is ironic is that often people use the biblical, Judeo-Christian ethic to attack the Bible itself. The concept of human rights, human equality, and human compassion emerged out of the truths of Scripture. They were not endemic to the ancient cultures of the world.

Ancient cultures, apart from Israel, completely lacked any sense that the poor or the weak might have the slightest intrinsic value. (Tom Holland)

Without the Christian idea of the imago Dei, “universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated” human rights simply wouldn’t exist. In fact, even the guy who said “God is dead,” Friederich Nietzsche, said universal human rights, an idea he considered weak, came from a Christian view of the world. (John Stonestreet)

Intellectual honesty demands recognition of the fact that what passes as ‘secular,’ ‘Western’ principles of basic human rights developed nowhere else than out of key strands of the biblically rooted religions. (Max Stackhouse)

So what we can’t understand about the Bible should be governed by what we do understand…and, in the same vein, what we can’t understand about God’s ways should be governed by what we do understand.

The God who created us…loved us…entered our world and died for us…is a God who can be trusted.

And His Word is written for our good…to teach, rebuke, correct, and train us to live differently than our culture and in line with our created purpose.

The Bible is my authority for faith and practice.

It is my light in this darkened world.

It is my sword in this spiritual battle.

It is my bread for this starving soul.

Because it points me to Jesus, the Word made flesh, my Savior and my Lord.

If you read the Bible and somehow miss your desperate need for Jesus and His great love for you, then you haven’t read the Bible right.

Because the story is all about Him.

That simple children’s song I learned in Sunday School captures it best:

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Posted in Recommended Books | 1 Comment

How Much Do We Really Need to Know?

We live in a world of ubiquitous news.

It is everywhere.

24/7.

On the TV. On the radio. On the computer. On our phones.

I remember reading a statement in the book, Margin, which has always stuck with me:

A single edition of the New York Times contains more information than a 17th century Britisher would encounter in a lifetime. 

Let that sink in for a moment.

In one day, we are exposed to more news than most people in history would have heard over the course of their whole lives.

We are inundated with information…overloaded with news…deluged with stories around the globe that are beyond our human capabilities to fully digest, understand, or do anything about.

But isn’t the “information age” a good thing?

Doesn’t knowing all this stuff make us smarter…wiser…better able to impact the world?

Isn’t “knowledge power”?

I’m not so sure.

One thing I am sure of is that all this news makes us more anxious, stressed, angry, and depressed. Here is what many mental health experts are saying:

Consuming the news can activate the sympathetic nervous system, which causes your body to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Then, when a crisis is happening, and we are experiencing this stress response more frequently… physical symptoms may arise. Some of the most common symptoms are fatigue, anxiety, depression, and trouble sleeping.

This emotional toll and negative effect on the psyche was demonstrated in a study that found people who watched negative material, as compared to those who watched positive or neutral material, showed an increase in both anxious and sad moods only after 14-minutes of viewing television news bulletins and programs. (verywellmind.com)

The Bible actually describes the “last days” as a time when many people will be running to and fro and knowledge shall increase (Daniel 12:4).

One older Bible commentator described it as a vain traveling about in order to discover knowledge (E. J. Young, 1949).

A vain flipping of channels…surfing of the internet…scrolling through social media…in order to “be informed.”

In a similar vein, the apostle Paul talked about people always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7).

We are running around…almost frantically…trying to know as much as we can know about all there is to know.

And the news media feeds our addiction.

It is a multi-billion dollar industry…and competition is stiff. So what do they need to do to stay in business? Keep you hooked. Not just to the news but to their “inside scoop” on the stories…to their own unique political angle to what is happening.

It is almost like a soap opera. Regardless of when you start watching, you are instantly sucked into the narrative…and you have to “stay tuned” for more.

Two years ago, I took what I called a “monk retreat.” I spent three weeks in a small cabin in the woods of North Louisiana. No smartphone. No internet. No TV. No radio. No news.

It was an information-overload-detox.

And a significant spiritual time in my life.

Ironically when I returned to “civilization,” I found that the news hadn’t changed. It didn’t miss me. The same crises were still being talked about…with a few new ones thrown into the mix for fun.

The same angles. The same anger. The same angst.

The same addiction.

And to further feed our habit, many people are running headlong into conspiracy theories. The “real” story behind the stories. What is really happening.

It feels powerful. Like you are the only one who is truly “in the know.”

But it is simply modern-day Gnosticism…the belief that “secret knowledge” is the key to life…even the key to salvation.

Are there conspiracies out there? Certainly. People with power and influence will almost invariably try to use their power and influence for their own purposes. And sometimes they may hide their true intentions behind false pretenses.

Back in 700 BC, when powerful world empires were just beginning to form, people started talking about conspiracy theories all the time. Finally, the prophet Isaiah had to address it:

“You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’
Regarding everything that this people call a conspiracy,
And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.
It is the Lord of armies whom you are to regard as holy.
And He shall be your fear,
And He shall be your dread.
Then He will become a sanctuary…” (Isaiah 8:12-14a)

In other words, you either believe that the “power players” in the world call all the shots or you believe God does. Either you fear them…or you fear God.

When you fear God alone…and recognize His sovereignty…then you find yourself enshrouded in a sanctuary of His peace. Underneath His wing.

Let the powerful conspire.

They will all expire.

Let the nations rage.

God will still reign.

We are called to be a people of faith…who follow the directives of Scripture not the invectives of man.

Is knowledge important?

Absolutely. But the right kind of knowledge. The knowledge of truth. The knowledge that leads to wisdom. The knowledge that leads to love.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

Watching and reading news at the start of your day…and throughout the day…and before you go to bed…does not lead to truth…nor to wisdom…nor to peace.

It usually leads you to the doctor’s office…or to the increasingly isolated world of the constant complainer or the angry cynic.

So does that mean we put our heads in the sand and let the world go on its merry way?

Nope. That’s not what I am talking about at all.

We need to be aware of our world. Students of our culture. Discerners of the times.

But here’s the counter question: How much “news” do I really need to know to be effective for Christ in the sphere of influence and ministry which God has given me?

Am I watching the news to make myself a better witness for Christ…a better spouse…a better parent…a better friend…a better neighbor? Or am I really watching it because it has sucked me in…because it feeds my incessant curiosity…because it makes me feel like knowing things is somehow changing things?

Am I nothing more than an ancient Athenian spending all my time seeking out something new to talk about…but missing out on what life is really all about (Acts 17:21)?

So here’s the bottom line.

Let Scripture frame your mindset not the narrative of the news.

When you start the day saturated in the news and end it there, you will inevitably let the media-framed crises of the world dictate your thinking, your emotions, and even your view of how God’s people are to live.

Instead begin the day in God’s Word and end it there. Let Scripture give you the lenses for seeing the daily news in the right perspective…through an eternal perspective.

Let the eternal frame the temporal…not the other way around.

Only watch and read as much news as you can actually digest, pray over, or act upon in some way for the kingdom of Christ and the benefit of others.

It is the biblical command to “watch and pray.”

Watch. Be alert. Know what is going on around you.

And pray. Take all that you are alerted to and pray for God’s wisdom, strength, and grace to know how to respond.

What if we kept a small notepad with us while we watched the news and wrote down the needs of the world that we are exposed to, the people who are in power that need God’s salvation, and we stopped and prayed before going to the next news show?

It would probably curb our news consumption.

And change our perspective.

Take a week off from watching the news, surfing the net, or scrolling through social media. 

Do a media detox…and see how addicted you really are.

Invest the time you would have spent on the incessant media world and meditate on God’s Word, listen to praise music, go on long walks with the Lord, read a good book, exercise, volunteer, write the letter, note, or poem that you have been thinking of writing.

Then, after the week is over, take an honest inventory of your mental, emotional, and spiritual state and see if anything has changed.

The world will be the same.

But maybe your heart won’t be.

Perhaps your focus will be different.

Your perspective larger.

Your hope greater.

Your life simpler.

And your knowledge truer.

After all, the only knowledge that really matters is knowing the Lord.

And knowledge of Him is not only power.

It is life itself.

Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. (John 17:3)

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