Friday, November 16, 2012
It's Only... It's Just...
It's Only... It's Just...
article by Lorelei Nettles
They are used again and again in our own lives. Our children especially use them, and we only hurt ourselves when we allow them to control us. What are they?
There are words we may tend to use regularly, whether saying them aloud or only to ourselves. They are words like: “But it’s only,” “I know the difference,” “Others do it,” “It won’t hurt me” or “It’s not real, so what’s the big deal?” We use them when we are making excuses for what we are allowing into our life and minds; making excuses for things we might openly accept as wrong.
The mind cannot compartmentalize the real from the fantasy.
A mother related the following story after a conversation with her son: “One day I walked into the room while my son was watching a popular television program that I don’t approve of. It’s not a terribly horrible program, but I feel it gives a bad impression of the family. When I expressed my disappointment at him watching the show his reply was, ‘Mom, it’s only a cartoon.’
“I explained to my son that what we allow into our minds affects the way we think about things; that what seems innocent can really be making certain things seem acceptable to us when they really are not. We continued to talk about it for a minute or two when he suddenly told me that there should be a sermon on the subject. That’s when I knew he was beginning to understand the importance of what I was saying.”
We can all make similar excuses for what we will allow into our lives and minds. We can be so willing to brush aside objections to what we know not to be right or wholesome solely because of the way in which it is presented. We often make excuses without even thinking about it. We might say things like, “Well, other people at church watch this program,” “My friends watch this and I want to discuss it with them” or “I know the difference between right and wrong, so it won’t even affect me.”
There are several television programs and movies out right now that are about the occult, the dead being alive in one form or another, wolves, vampires or very sexual or mystical characters. Some are presented as very innocent or even humorous, which often leads us to disregard their underlying messages. Not all programs are bad, but we must be wary of what we are allowing into our minds.
An ancient issue
Similar things were happening in Moses’ day. Without really thinking about it, Israel returned to idolatry and turned from God. Did it happen quickly and did they do it with clear minds? Not likely. God had warned Israel to steer clear of those who worshiped other gods, but they did not listen and soon allowed pagan foreigners back into their lives. With them came their idols and idol worship (see 2 Kings 17:7-12  For so it was, that the children of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods,
 And walked in the statutes of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made.
 And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the LORD their God, and they built them high places in all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.
 And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree:
 And there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the LORD carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the LORD to anger:
 For they served idols, whereof the LORD had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing.
See All... and Psalms 106:35-36  But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works.
 And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them.
By allowing pagan worship and rituals to be practiced among them, the Israelites slowly came to accept them. It began to seem normal and everyday after a while; nothing to get upset about. Then gradually over time, they started to adopt more and more of the idol worshipers’ ways, adapting them into their own culture. I am sure that in the beginning they told themselves it was no big deal; it was only something those other people did. It didn’t affect how the Israelites ran their lives. To them it was just an innocent acceptance. They probably thought things like we do today: “How can we dislike them for what they believe? They have always been that way. It’s not their fault, it’s just not fair to separate ourselves from them.” How easy it is to delude ourselves into this way of thinking.
The problem areas
The Internet is another issue that needs to be addressed. There are sites that are set up solely for the purpose of posting videos that too often share more than one should see or hear. Sexual content has become common and vulgarity disguised as humor is the norm. Trying to get a reaction is often the goal and getting caught up in all of it can come so easy. Voyeurism has also been linked to dysfunctional relationships and even violence towards women.
People can find themselves glued to computer screens for hours on end without anything to show for their time at the end of the day. What a waste! While the Internet can be a good tool, we must be careful not to let it overtake us.
Video games can either be a fun activity or create a mind that is numb, especially to violence. Games that are about stealing or killing do little to build our minds. I have heard this argument for one such game, “It’s not killing if they aren’t people, they are only aliens!” Does that matter? Is taking a life any different within your brain? I wouldn’t think so. If the creature walks upright and looks similar to a human, can your brain differentiate between them?
The mind cannot compartmentalize the real from the fantasy. The mind learns to adapt to the sight of continual killing and can become silently compassionate and/or tolerant to a theft or a murder. How many movies have you seen where you find yourself rooting for the bad guy and how many games have been played where the character (you) is stealing or killing?
Questions to ask ourselves:
* Are the characters I see or use acting in a way that God would approve of?
* Do I find myself making “It’s only...” excuses?
* Is there a message here that is detrimental to my family, spouse, children or friends?
* Is there a chance that I am allowing my mind to be gradually changed in ways that might harm my character and my resolve to follow God’s ways?
* How will this affect my mind in the long run?
Not just visual
It is not only what we watch that can change our way of thinking, but also what we listen to. Have you ever been listening to the radio and become excited because an old song you love was coming on? You may be singing along with it, when suddenly and maybe for the first time, you actually listen to the words and realize that the message is horrible. It is not something you should be listening to at all!
…what we allow into our minds affects the way we think about things; that what seems innocent can really be making certain things seem acceptable to us when they really are not.
At this point, you have a choice. Will you listen or will you stop? It often comes as a surprise to me, that what I once thought to be great songs have often turned out to have very bad messages. While I have become more discriminating over the years and have chosen to stop listening to such music, I am also sure that I have allowed some of it to slide by. The song starts and I drive down the highway, singing along with an old favorite without a thought. In time, I am sure that I will weed these out as well, but it takes a conscious effort.
Satan is a master with music and we can see his influence throughout the industry, whether it is rock, country, rap or jazz. We need to be careful what we allow into our minds. “But it’s just music, it can’t influence me.” It can and does! Some of it is blatant and rebellious, while in other songs we may not even notice the subtle messages coming across.
I remember being at a church campout once. Everyone was singing around the campfire and the atmosphere was festive. It was quite fun until the songs seemed to turn and suddenly we were singing very unchristian lyrics. When I complained, I was told it was only a song and that I was being too serious. But in my mind, I pictured campsites nearby overhearing our song and never thinking us to be Christians. It’s something to think about.
More times than not, the music we listen to is very beautiful, has a good beat and or makes us want to dance. It’s this catchiness that attracts us and hooks us. Sometimes the verses are written in such a way that we may not at first understand their meaning. We often don’t even hear the words at first, even if we are singing them. Satan is cunning. He is very aware that music is a beloved part of almost every culture.
Satan is a master with music and we can see his influence throughout the industry, whether it is rock, country, rap or jazz.
There is music that leaves me feeling aggressive and tense. Many young people enjoy this style of music, but those who do often display these same characteristics. They are aggressive and angry. I saw this happen with my son when he was quite young. He was an active toddler, but I noticed that music affected the way he acted. Calmer music settled him down, while a screaming style song or music made him very hyper, even if exposed to it for a short time. There is much talk of the effect most classical music has on young children, and while I am not sure of its effect on the brain as far as intellect, I do know that when my family and I listen to it, there is a calming affect on us all.
Even grocery stores and restaurants know this to be true, playing soft rock or other calming music to get you to spend more time and money. They know that harsh music will make you want to leave and not spend extra time in their establishments.
The questions to ask ourselves:
* Do the lyrics speak positively, or do they speak of sin or sinful acts?
* Do I physically feel good when I listen to this?
* Would I listen to or sing along with this music with Jesus?
* Do I find myself saying things like, “But the music is so beautiful; what’s the harm in listening to the lyrics too?”
* Am I allowing Satan a foothold into my life?
We make daily decisions on what we watch, hear and engage in on the computer. The question is will we later find ourselves making excuses for those choices? Will we be saying, “It’s just… It’s only…”?