Escaping Escapism

I need to be the first to admit that I absolutely love getting lost in a good book. I thoroughly enjoy following the complexities of a well-written plot. I relish at the chance to make predictions during a movie and proudly proclaim, “called it” to my wife’s astonishment.

I like to enjoy creativity, and I love a good story.

But I cringe at escapism.

Escapism is the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.

Escapism is dangerous. Escapism unchecked is disastrous.

I certainly understand the appeal of it though. When we go through stressful, unpleasant, even terrible times, our default, as humans, would be to simply shut out the real world and jump into our fantasy world. It’s a coping mechanism. It is understandable. But it still is trouble, and we still need to run from it.

While jumping head first into fantasy may be appealing, we need to understand that God has placed us firmly in reality. We worship a real God who created an incredible world for us to live in and proclaim the reality of His love for people. We believe in a real Jesus who actually died and truly rose again.

One biblical concept that shows itself time and time again is the reality of God and the reality of His creation. Genesis chapters 1 and 2 tell all about how God created the heavens, and earth, and everything contained in them. John 1:3 says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” There is a reality to God’s creation.

God does not just simply conceptualize things, He actually chooses to create birds that have physical feathers, water that is truly wet, and men and women who have actual physical flesh and blood.

That same chapter in John tells us that Jesus Himself chose to “become flesh and dwell among” mankind. Actual physical components of God’s creation seem to be very important throughout the Bible. Moses did not pretend to talk to Pharaoh, Daniel did not spend time with imaginary lions, and Jesus did not just simply conceptualize dying on the cross. All of those things happened physically and are grounded in reality.

With all of that being said, I do think that it is important that believers in Christ use their imagination in order to produce creative works of art that appear of the page, the screen, the canvas, and so on. The truth of the matter is, we serve and follow the ultimate creator who is unequal in His creativity. It would seem that His followers should be using their minds and talents to also be creative.

However, all of our creativity should be expressed with the intention of reflecting the true message of the reality of the Gospel.

As believers in Jesus Christ, our chief goal should be to share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in everything that we say and do. We can only share this real message if we ourselves are firmly grounded in reality.

Escapism moves against reality. This does not mean that we need to give up all forms of entertainment, by no means. Books, film, music, art, all of these things can actually be invaluable aids to us as believers. The best stories are ones that creatively remind the audience of the present reality and have a realistic call-to-action.

Our stories should teach us something, not just waste our time.

Some might respond by saying something along the lines of, “but life gets hard, like really really hard…escapism helps me to cope with all my stresses and then I can forget about my problems.”

That certainly seems understandable, however, when life gets hard and complicated God actually desires that we turn to Him. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us that we need to be “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Instead of turning to fantasy in order to help us through, we should be turning to the God of the Universe.  God cares for us more than we can imagine. We, not only can but should talk with Him anytime and anywhere. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Let’s stop escaping and, instead, run into the real God who truly loves us.

Political Mess

Political Ads. Yuck.

I feel like I could end this blog post right now and I would have already said enough. You all understand exactly what I mean with those first three words, don’t you? The slew of political Ads that we have all been subjected to for the last few weeks on T.V., Social Media, print, etc. have just been plain…yucky.

It seems that the majority of Ads are vehemently bent on personally destroying the character, integrity, and very being of opposing candidates. I don’t need to go into depth here concerning the outrageous lengths that these ads go to in order to tear down opponents in every conceivable way. But frankly, it’s pretty appalling. And I have seen it come from both sides.

Thankfully, today is election day (and you should go vote your conscience, by the way) and that means that the ads will go silent, at least for a while. But even though the ads will go away for a time, doesn’t mean that the underlying problem will.

Every single human being is made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26-27) Human beings, both males and females, have inherent value and dignity simply because they are beautifully crafted in the image of the one true God.

What is the problem then? It is that people fail to recognize this Image-Bearer status and fail to treat one another with dignity and respect.

All throughout the Bible, it is clear that God loves all of His creation. But His absolutely most prized creation is mankind. We see time and time again that God cares for people, usually even in the midst of their unbelief and open rebellion. All of God’s love, care, kindness, and grace for mankind, of course, reaches its climax at the cross where Jesus willingly died in the place of all of people.

The Bible also warns and encourages people to treat one another with respect and to humbly think of others before themselves. We are instructed to encourage one another, seek the good of others, and love one another. We are even instructed to love and pray for those who, not just disagree with us, but who are our enemies! (1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 10:24-25, Ephesians 4:29, Mark 12:30-31, Colossians 3:16, Proverbs 10:12, Leviticus 19:18, Luke 6:27-31, Romans 12:20…and so on…you get the picture.)

James chapter 3 talks about the power that our words have over others. Our words can build up and bless. Our words can also tear down and curse. As Image-Bearers we need to understand the huge responsibility that we have to control our words.
Now, you may be reading this and think, “Sure, I get what you are saying but that person/program/policy is just so stinkin’ bad!”

I hear you. We live in a fallen and broken world. Ever since the events of Genesis chapter 3 mankind has been under the curse of sin and death. The results of The Fall are devastatingly obvious. But the fact is people still bear the Image of God, even if it is a broken and scared version of the original.

We won’t win arguments by shouting louder. We won’t gain friends by being rude. And we certainly won’t win people over to Jesus by abusively insulting others. Speak the truth, but do so in love.

So, go ahead and vote today.

Just remember, the candidate that you did not vote for is, despite everything we have been told to believe, a living breathing person made in the image of God.

The Trees Are Singing!

The leaves are beginning to fall to the ground, and it makes me smile so big that my face hurts. Am I the only one who will walk 15 feet out of my way in order to just simply hear the satisfying “crunch” of fallen leaf underfoot?

As I look out my window this morning I see trees that are bursting with vibrant colors set against a gray cloud-covered sky. Perfectly beautiful.

There are so many things that I look forward to in the fall. Walking outside and seeing my breath. Jumping in piles of leaves. (Yes, I am still 5 years old.) Eating apple cider donuts. Spending time together with family and friends. Huddling around a bonfire. And of course, eating turkey, pie, mashed potatoes, and rolls.

As I sit here gazing out at the incredibly beautiful leaves a Psalm comes to mind. Psalm 96 to be exact. The Psalm focuses entirely on worshiping God who is oh-so-worthy of all of our praise.

I would highly encourage you to stop reading this post right now and go and read Psalm 96. It’s not long, only 13 verses. So, go ahead and read the Psalm now, I’ll wait.

You back now? Wasn’t that awesome!

I particularly love the wording used in verses 11-12.

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy…”

The whole earth cannot help but declare the greatness of our God.

When I was younger I remember wondering why the leaves on the trees would change color and then fall to the ground. It’s a question that all of us have wondered at some point in time. The answer is pretty incredible.

When temperatures drop the heartier parts of the tree, the branches, roots, etc. can endure the colder temperatures. However, the fragile leaves of broadleaf trees cannot. They are thin and filled with water and sap cells that will quickly freeze during the winter months. Therefore, any part of the tree that is unable to survive freezing temperatures is sealed off and eventually will detach from the rest of the tree.

I am not here to remind you of a lesson that many of us learned in elementary school. But what I do hope to remind you of is this simple yet incredible fact, God designed trees to function in this particular way. That’s pretty neat.

God is infinitely wise, infinitely creative, and infinitely knowledgeable in order to design, create, and maintain trees in the way that He did.

The forest does indeed sing for joy because of its Creator.

We need to remember that every time we see a tree change colors, or a squirrel bury an acorn, or a bird feed its young, or rain fall from the sky, or waves splash onto the shore…we are witnessing creation do exactly what it was created to do.

Creation glorifies God when it does exactly what it was specifically designed to do.

You and I were also created for a specific purpose. And when we fail to do what God designed us to do we are effectively robbing God of His glory. God designed us to know Him, worship Him, obey, Him, love Him, and tell others about Him. I have no intention of robbing God of His glory.

So, let the heavens declare, the leaves fall, the sea roar, the trees sing, and let the people trust in Jesus.

“Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised…” Psalm 96:3-4

Continuity Errors

Have you ever been enjoying a movie or T.V. show, perfectly enthralled in the moment? Your mind has been transported to a distant fantasy land, or perhaps you are helping the detectives to solve some sort of incredible mystery. Then an image dances across your screen, even for just a brief moment, and suddenly you are woken from your daze. Something is just kind of, off. You may have just witnessed a continuity error.

These lapses in consistency occur often. In one shot an actor is eating blueberry pie, then in the very next shot, the pie is now apple. Or perhaps you see your favorite actors driving in a white car, but in the next wide frame shot the car has changed not only colors but also brands.

Most normal people do not get overly frustrated with continuity errors, but I tend to be highly observant, and I certainly am not normal.

It is hard to believe that any continuity errors would slip past editors in post-production given how many people there are closely examining the film. But there are always a few that inevitably slip past. Perhaps the editors allow them through just to annoy folks like myself?

Anyway, back on topic.

I have come to think that the main reason why continuity errors frustrate me so much is that consistency is so vitally important. Not only do we expect consistency, in many cases we actually desperately need it.

Now, if consistency is important in films, it is infinitely more important in our real daily lives.

I am sure that I am not the only one who has ever acted inconsistently with who I hope to really be. Even Paul, the Apostle, struggled with staying consistent. In Romans 7:15 Paul says, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” If there were continuity errors in Paul’s life that he wrestled with, there certainly are some in our lives as well.

But, thankfully, the story does not end there. Later, in the next chapter Paul explain that we who believe in Jesus have been given the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. God not only puts up with our continuity errors, but He also, more importantly, changes us from the inside so that there will be fewer and fewer errors, and instead, more consistency.

In another New Testament book that Paul wrote, he says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

God makes us better than we once were.

The incredible work of the Holy Spirit, sanctification, is the awesome process of making us more and more like Jesus each and every day. (Romans 8:29, Hebrews 10:10, 2 Peter 3:18, Philippians 1:6) As we grow more and more like Jesus the continuity errors in us start to fade away. God does amazing work in us.

But that does not absolve us of any responsibility in the process. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 instructs us, “do not quench the Holy Spirit.” Instead, we ought to be actively allowing God to work in and through us on a daily basis.

Each day when we wake up we need to actively choose to follow Jesus, and we need to do this on a consistent basis.

I dislike continuity errors in movies. I hate continuity errors in my life, and I hope you hate them in your life too.

God, make us more consistent in our love, obedience, and commitment to you.