Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Serving Our Screen Idols (Part 1)


"How foolish are those who manufacture idols. These prized objects are really worthless.
The people who worship idols don’t know this,
    so they are all put to shame. Who but a fool would make his own god—
    an idol that cannot help him one bit?" Isaiah 44:9-10



In our modern era, idol worship is thought of as something from a time long ago. We laugh at the statues and totem poles that were once worshiped and scoff at how ridiculous those people must have been. How could they have worshiped something dead and expected results? We know that God should come first and that nothing else should master us. Yet many have fooled themselves into thinking nothing else is their master. We have many prized objects that we have manufactured that are our idols today. The battle of the heart and mind to worship only God and let nothing else crowd Him out has continued from before the golden calf to now.

“Do not put your trust in idols or make metal images of gods for yourselves. I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 19:4

The Israelite's had seen Moses free them from captivity. They'd seen the Red Sea parted, manna delivered from heaven, water gush from a rock, and Moses stand before a burning bush. Yet so easily discouraged what did they build? A golden calf. They'd just witnessed God's miraculous power and His love for them and yet they built a dead object to adore and make sacrifices to.

Instead of focusing on God's miracles, pouring out gratitude to God and rejoicing in their hearts, the poured out all of their energies into making a dead object. This took time, effort and energy away from what they really should have been doing.

"The Lord told Moses, “Quick! Go down the mountain! Your people whom you brought from the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.  How quickly they have turned away from the way I commanded them to live! They have melted down gold and made a calf, and they have bowed down and sacrificed to it. They are saying, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” Exodus 32:7-8

The Israelite's made sacrifices to the golden calf, but we bow down in our own way to make sacrifices to screens and entertainment, or to other vices that come treading down our path. The ever glowing screens, held in our palms, held in our laps, stared at in the living room. And God is crowded out. Do we run to God first, or the screen? We spend hours upon hours of our lives engaging in social media, websites, apps, our smart phones, texting and staring at the computer and television. For many, this is put before their spiritual lives. It is our own golden calf. Mothers and fathers are no longer engaged with their children, but with a dead screen. We don't know the word of God for ourselves and our children do not know it because we don't engage with God, and God is hardly mentioned in most homes. But ask the kids and parents about the latest show or entertainment news and they are quick to answer. 

The hearts of those we love are neglected. Our own heart, soul and mind is neglected by the wasting of time staring at a screen. We run to the screens. Our lives are dictated by them and they have mastered us.

God made us to engage with Him first, and those we love. God's word transcends time. He knew what He was talking about when He warned against idols. He knew that there would be many golden calfs that we would put in His place.

There seems to be a mentality that if we do not engage almost constantly with the internet we are missing out. This screen we are engaging with cannot help us to get to know the one, true God as we should. So we are missing out on the one thing that really matters. God.  To not feel that we are missing out on anything we engage with the tv to watch the latest and popular shows, we engage with social media to see what everyone is up too. Yet we run back for more, never satisfied. The Living Water is right before us wanting us to turn to Him and yet we do not drink. We drink of the world and remain parched. We do not drink of the one thing that will never leave us wanting and depleted but will leave us thirsting for righteousness and that will fill our souls.

"Jesus Christ is refreshing. Flight from Him into Christless leisure makes the soul parched.  At first it may seem like freedom and fun to skimp on prayer and neglect the Word. But then we pay: shallowness, powerlessness, vulnerability to sin, preoccupation with trifles, superficial relationships and a frightening loss of interest in worship and the things of the spirit." -John Piper

  We worship these idols so much we are willing to go to great lengths to get them, wait out in lines in the cold and spend hard earned dollars on them.  We even willingly sacrifice time with our families, time spent seeking after God, our own eternal life, so that we can spend more time with our screens.

"But this became a great sin, for the people worshiped the idols, traveling as far north as Dan to worship the one there." 1 Kings 12:30

    Neglected when we live in our vast wasteland of screens is our own creativity and development of talents, not to mention our thought life. Afraid of boredom (which spurs on creativity, learning and great thoughts) we stifle it with a mind numbing screen. God gave us many talents, and the gift of creating is one of His great gifts. ("In the beginning, God created...." Genesis 1:1) Did Benjamin Franklin, Michelangelo, Albert Einstein,  Galileo and so many others depend on computers to develop their great minds? That creativity comes from God alone and what He by His power alone has put into the human heart and mind.  How many undiscovered talents do our children and even ourselves have because we waste so much time serving our idols? The enemy will use anything he can, even things that can be used for good, to distract us from God's purposes and from our relationship with God. Even something we brush off as benign.

"The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes.
    He trusts something that can’t help him at all.
Yet he cannot bring himself to ask,
    “Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie?” Isaiah 44:20

We have to be honest with ourselves. The things we make idols out of are lies. It's a lie that we can't live a wonderful and full life not spending every waking moment connected. It's a lie that it is necessary to be plugged into every media source there is. We have to bring ourselves to ask the hard questions. Do we use the screens as a tool or are they our master? We find ourselves automatically turning them on without thought and they have mastered us. 

 Addicts are often afraid to give up their substance of choice because they can't imagine their lives without it. But when they do and they succeed in their recovery they are joyful and thrilled to have discovered a new life without that substance. We are not far from being addicts to our screens when we cannot imagine a week without them. Our screens at times serve as a form of "self medicating." We fear feeling and dealing with things inside ourselves and what will be revealed so we escape into our screens.

We think we are "learning," and doing things of value all day on our screens. But we are made to connect with the one great Adonai who pours Himself into us and fills us--- so that we can pour ourselves back into those we love. We are not made to pour ourselves into a void of a screen. It is dead and does not return the favor. We must not be the foolish one who does not realize or examine that they are spending hours worshiping an idol every day.

"Even though the nations around us worship idols, we will follow the Lord our God forever and ever." Micah 4:6

“O Israel, stay away from idols!
    I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you.
I am like a tree that is always green;
    all your fruit comes from me.”

Let those who are wise understand these things.
    Let those with discernment listen carefully.
The paths of the Lord are true and right,
    and righteous people live by walking in them.
    But in those paths sinners stumble and fall." Hosea 14:8-9


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