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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

The Domino Effect

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The News About the News
Jared Chapman
Hooked

That’s the relationship we hold with many of the tangible and abstract things that exist in the world all around us. Consciously (or more than often unconsciously) we tighten our grasp on the things we think we are controlling in the world—all the while unaware that in our subconscious, the very things we try to control end up controlling us. The news is a perfect example.

Our minds are constantly bombarded with negativity mixed with occasional glimpses of positivity. The impact on our brains, which are so malleable, is very real. Inside our brain, when we watch something negative, a boost of cortisol is released in our body. Then when the occasional positive story emerges, a little rush of dopamine is released. Then the negativity returns and the cycle goes on.

Eventually we get trapped in a cycle that becomes our home. It’s all we know so we keep going back to it. Just like the Israelites, when times get rough, we run back to the very place that violated and mistreated us. The latest “news” becomes our Egypt.

It’s addictive

Almost everyone has no idea what’s going on.

This is precisely why Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV).

As our minds are flooded with news and images of violence, we become more prone to different forms of aggression that are the start of a pathway that could lead us to re-enact the very scenes that we have allowed to be portrayed before our eyes. The early forms of aggression may be simply insulting other people verbally or even spreading rumors about other people.1

By beholding we certainly become changed.

Each day the news is filled with stories of violence, warfare and terrible acts of destruction. The more and more these scenes become familiar to our minds, the more our minds decrease in their ability to empathize with people.2

So what does it mean to “empathize”? One dictionary defines empathy as “emotional or mental understanding of the feelings or spirit of someone.”3

This sense of empathy is lost as we are constantly bombarded with news that is filled with violence and terror. Jesus Himself prophesied of this effect on the human heart. He foresaw that, “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).

Instead of our first response being to help those in need, we tend to first look out for ourselves. We live in a cycle of fear, worrying about threats to our own selves instead of having hearts open to loving people in the way Jesus has loved us. This cycle of fear is constantly multiplied each day we watch the news. This cycle of fear can lead people to be more hesitant when helping others and less able to fully express love and empathy to people who are in need.4

Again, this is why Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV).

This fear cycle is not sustainable to live in. Our hearts will slowly close inward and lose their ability to truly empathize with the suffering world around us.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

The big question is: Why do we keep going back to these cycles of bondage?

Why do we continually feed off of fear and allow that to stimulate all our actions?

The disciple John delicately arrives at the big problem.

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15–17).

We end up in slavery because the “love of the Father” is not in us. Eventually, every individual who is in this cycle “passeth away”

and those who “doeth the will

of God abideth for ever.”

So, what is God’s will for you and me? Let these verses express it:

“ ‘For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, NET2).

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NLT).

“For everything made evident is light, and for this reason it says: ‘Awake, O sleeper! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!’ Therefore consider carefully how you live—not as unwise but as wise, taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil. For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is. And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for each other in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:14–21, NET2).

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3, 4).

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

This sounds like good news to me! These verses are only just a taste of the will of God that is found in the Word of God.

Now where does the pathway to healing begin?

Jesus revealed His master plan on how He was going to break the power the devil uses—the cycle of fear and bondage—in one distinct battle cry: “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:31, 32).

Ironically, the pathway to healing begins by beholding more violence. Except this time it’s a different kind of suffering on display. Amidst all the cycles of bondage, fear, violence and suffering, just over 1,989 years ago, we were introduced to the cross.

Hanging on the cross, displayed for all to see, is the Good News.

It’s the eternal Son of God, separated from His Father for the first time in all eternity.

He cries out in desperation, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

Why is He separated?

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4, 5).

“But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The violence ends by Someone receiving violence, not giving it.

The separation caused by sin ends by Jesus willingly allowing our sins to become His.

The cycle of bondage ends in Jesus!

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1–3).

“For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder” (Psalm 107:16).

“He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Psalm 107:20).

Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the end of our bondage!

Jesus is the change we’ve all been thirsting after. Change occurs simply by beholding with the eye of faith, the character of the One Who is the Desire and Craving of our hearts.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NKJV).

And as we behold the Holy Spirit, just like with a mirror, it reveals to us the sins that Jesus has died for. Each day as we look deeper into the glory—the character—of God, change occurs.

“And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5).

As the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, we start displaying an earnest empathy for those that are in pain and struggling in the cycles of bondage around us. This is precisely the condition in which the Holy Spirit seals us.

“And the Lord said unto [the man clothed in white linen, which had the writer’s inkhorn by his side], Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” (Ezekiel 9:4).

“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him” (Malachi 3:16, 17).

Now what does it mean to fear the Lord? It’s simple. It’s to hate the things God hates and love the things God loves.

“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate” (Proverbs 8:13).

Our beautiful Creator has given us the seventh day of each week to be reminded of this most precious redemption!

“Recall that you were slaves in the land of Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there by strength and power. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15, NET2).

When we are resting in His love, the Spirit is able to write the rest of the law on the tables of our hearts!

“He who from the heart obeys the fourth commandment will obey the whole law.”5

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Hebrews 10:16, 17).

May God open our eyes, that we may see more clearly, love more deeply, and listen more intently to that loving voice that belongs to the beautiful face of the One Whom we will see one day soon.

“Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

References:
1 Huesmann L.R., & Taylor L.D. (2006). The role of media violence in violent behaviour. Annual Review of Public Health, Vol. 27:393-415.
2 Konrath, S., O’Brien, E.H., & Hsing, C. (2011). Changes in dispositional empathy in American college students over time: a meta-analysis. , 180–98 .
3 Empathy. (1998). Macquarie’s Pocket Dictionary Third Edition. John Wiley & Sons Australia Ltd.
4 Konrath, S., O’Brien, E.H., & Hsing, C. (2011), op. cit.
5 Counsels for the Church, p. 263.