Can God really be kept out?

Recently I have noticed many who profess to be Christians crying out that God has been, or is being, removed from the public square.  From the comments of Bill O’Reilly, Mike Huckabee, or the Facebook posts stating that God would love to stop school violence but, unfortunately, he’s not allowed in school (never mind the fallacy of that statement) I fear we have substituted the Lion of Judah for a house cat who needs to be given permission to get on the kitchen counter.  And the one who gives permission seems to be the government.  Tell me, on whose shoulders does the government rest (Isaiah 9:6)?  And who gives the government its authority (Romans 13:1)?

A god who has to be given permission by the government is not a god over the government, but under the government.  And a god under the government isn’t a god whom the government serves, but rather a god who serves the government.  I’m sorry, but the God of the Bible is not a God who serves the government.  He is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, and the Prince of Peace.

So why would God be unable to enter the school?

Does God only go where we ask him to?  

My guess is the Ninevites weren’t begging God to show up and let them repent.  Nor were the money changes asking Jesus to come into the Temple courtyard.  Or the Pharisees and religious leaders for that matter.  Reading the Bible we see God continually show up where he was not asked to.  The incarnation of the Word of God boldly proclaims that we can’t keep God from showing up.  He will come to where we are, like it or not.  To find us.  To rescue us.  To offer us life.  To redeem and restore us.

The obvious objection to this line of thinking is, “Where was he at Sandy Hook or any of the other tragedies that occur?”

I don’t know.  And that is what makes faith in the face of tragedy difficult.  Faith, in those moments, becomes a choice.  A choice to chose life over death.  A choice to work for justice and beauty.  A choice to look for the good gifts in the midst of hard circumstances.

Faith is a constant choice to believe that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.

And I wonder, maybe it isn’t that God didn’t show up.  Maybe it is that we, the people of God, didn’t.  You know, those in whom the Spirit of God dwells.  Those who are called sons and daughters of God.  Those who are heirs to the same power that resurrected Jesus from the dead.  Maybe we sat idly by, distancing ourselves from any responsibility for the condition of the land by bemoaning and pointing fingers at those who want God removed from the various public squares all the while ignoring the fact that they can’t keep us out.  

It may seem like a small thing.  Me showing up.  I’m not God.  But it is no small thing for the people of God to show up as the people of God.  Jesus said, “And lo, I am with you to the end of the age.”  If we believe that then guess what?

If we go to the school, then Jesus is there with us.

If we sit with the homeless, then Jesus is there with us.

If we listen to the mentally ill, then Jesus is there with us.

If we go where God is not wanted, then Jesus is there with us.

And not just with us in a feel-good sort of way, but he is with us as we bring his shalom (peace, harmony, justice) to this place or to this person.  What if we believed that?  What if we didn’t just cognitively understand that, but what if we believed it to the degree that we lived that?  How might the world be different?

Might we experience the shalom of God more?

Maybe people would stop wondering where God was because they would know where he was.

He was the one looking them in the eye, holding their hand…the one with them.

Sandy Hook Deserves Our Honesty

Aside

It is difficult to put words to the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. As a father, I cannot imagine what these parents and families are going through. There is a thought that breaks my heart: No doubt, there are homes with presents under a tree that will never be opened. Our thoughts and our prayers rightly go out to all those affected.

I am saddened by what happened. But today I am mourning the loss of empathy in our society. I, like many, followed the events of yesterday on social media. Hours was all it took for people to climb on top of their soap boxes and feel the need to connect this tragedy to a heart felt cause. I’m not saying those issues aren’t important, I am lamenting our ability as a society to “mourn with those who mourn.”

I think our inability to enter empathetically into the suffering of another comes, not from our preoccupation with our particular causes, but from our emotional immaturity. It might be right to label it as our emotional ignorance. I wonder, in the face of so many posts about gun control, mental health, violent video games, and the media if we really know how we felt yesterday.

Did the person who posted about guns not being the real issue understand their post as an anxious response to indescribable evil?

Did the mental health advocate see their response as an effort to negate the choice of another by labeling it as a disease?

Did the media hater recognize their desire for a scapegoat?

My Facebook and Twitter feed filled with people blaming this or blaming that or making the case as to why we shouldn’t blame that, but very few (if any) stated the most common emotion we all felt: fear. Deep down I believe all of us felt fear.

Because that could have been our children.

It could have been our son.

It could have been our neighbor.

It could have been our town.

It could have been me.

I wonder how we might respond if we moved towards our fear rather than shroud it in a brazen opinion about what may or may not be the reason for evil. Evil exists. And people make evil choices. We can try and figure out what makes a person do what they do all we want but we will never eradicate evil. No amount of legislation, medication, or anything else is going to change the broken nature of a human being. My wish, is that in the face of evil, we as a society could be authentic about what we are really feeling. Because maybe if we admitted that anyone who could walk into a school and shoot children scares us, then we might be able to embrace our humanity enough to embrace another. Maybe our mourning for others would really be mourning. Maybe we would really show compassion. Maybe grace might be extended. Maybe people would feel cared for because they wouldn’t have to wonder if they are being used by some cause. Maybe our authenticity would lead to a genuine care for each other. Maybe in saying how we really felt we would see what we would really hope for.

Maybe this might happen less.

So, for the sake of authenticity, how did you feel yesterday?

Year in Review – 5 books I found most helpful/interesting/challenging

For most of my life reading was a purely mental exercise. What I mean by that is, I would read a book and learn a bunch of new things, but those new learnings rarely translated into new practices. The ideas learned were simply fodder to be used in conversations/discussion/debates to make me look well read and intelligent. What they didn’t do was shift how I thought, and more importantly, how I acted.

Let me add, this was also my approach to the Bible. I don’t think I am alone here. I believe this to be a massive problem within American Christianity. We live at a time where information is in excess. You can get your hands on books, commentaries, sermons, lectures, or studies easier than any other time in history. And yet for all the information that is available, there is little to show for how that information has impacted American Christians to live more obedient lives to Christ.

In effort to change my practice of learning, I am spending some brief time reflecting the five books that impacted me the most this year.

To Change the World – James Davison Hunter

There is a mandate on Christians to have an impact on the world around us. This mandate was instituted in the beginning when God breathed life into the man and woman, who were created int he image of the Creator God, saying to them, “Work in the garden and take care of it.” While not identical, in our work to fulfill this mandate we mirror God’s creative act.

Since the fall, this work has taken on a restorative or redemptive nature, again, to mirror God’s restorative and redemptive actions in the world. In other words, we work to make this a better place to live as God redeems and restores. This work has direct impact on culture. Hunter goes into detail about the differing views on what culture is. For some, culture is the sum total of the values that are held in the hearts and minds of people. For others, culture is what is produced by society in artifacts, art, music and the likes. His explanations, critiques and proposals on thinking about culture were extremely helpful.

The second part of the book moves into how those on the theological and political right and left, along with the Anabaptist approach their efforts to influence culture. He highlights how both the right and the left utilize power and authority to legislate for their particular morality, and how the Anabaptist choose to withdraw from the greater culture in lieu of using authority or power.

But perhaps the most intriguing idea put forth by Hunter was his idea of a faithful presence in the world. After highlighting the shortcomings of each of the aforementioned approaches, he draws upon the incarnation as a model to approach culture calling it, “the only adequate reply to the challenges of dissolution; the erosion of trust between word and world and the problems that attend it.” Hunter’s theology of faithful presence calls Christians to “attend to the people and places that they experience directly…[it] gives priority to right in front of us – the community, the neighborhood, and the city, and the people of which these are constituted.”

I think Hunter’s work is profoundly important as we continue to live in a society and culture that is markedly post-Christian.

A Failure of Nerve – Edwin Friedman

Friedman had my attention on page two when he wrote, “[this book] is for leaders who have questioned the widespread triumphing of data over maturity, technique over stamina, and empathy over personal responsibility.” That statement says a lot about the state of leading in our society. Friedman contends that throughout America there is a rampant sabotaging of leaders who try and remain a calm presence in the midst of a toxically reactive system. Rather than seeking emotional mature leadership, we have become a culture longing for quick fixes and band-aids that make us feel like a calm has been brought to the storm, but have done little to actually calming the storm.

This book challenged many of the assumptions I had about leadership, especially leadership in the church. To see such a challenge see my blog post here

The most challenging aspect to this book is that it will not give you easy solutions or techniques to make you a better leader. To become a better leader, one must better oneself. Leadership begins with who you are. If you are emotionally reactive, you can expect the system you lead to be emotionally reactive. As Will Mancini said, “You produce who you are.” A Failure of Nerve requires the reader to constantly look at self as they move through the content, and fight the urge to “fix” those they are leading.

Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times – Peter Steinke

I don’t think I have ever met a pastor who did not have a story about a congregation becoming anxious at some point. These stories are filled with other stories about frustrating, hurtful, obnoxious, and even sinful things people do in the midst of anxiety. Steinke actually says that according to his experience, four out of ten churches will face a moderate to serious conflict in any five year period. This book helps the reader understand anxiety and how it manifests itself within the system. This allows the leader to think systems as the move through and manage conflict. Steinke provides very practical suggestions in how to ones own anxiety as they seek to resolve conflict, as well as ways in which to minimize the negative effects of anxiety on the system.

My biggest take away from this book was two-fold: thinking systems when it comes to conflict management, and understanding that anxiety is not necessarily bad. Anxiety just is. Anxiety alone doesn’t hurt the system or organization. How the anxiety is managed, or not managed determines the effect of anxiety.

The Prophetic Imagination – Walter Brueggemann

For anyone who has imagined a world that is not broken, but is as it should be, this book will fan that imaginative spark. Brueggemann looks at Moses and the Old Testament prophets efforts at creating a counter-community to what they experience in the world around them. We speak often of this in church. A world where status and ledgers don’t determine worth, but rather worth is determined by the intrinsic value of being a image bearer that all people have. We dream of a world where materialism and oppression don’t numb us to the world around, but we dream of a world where the imagination for something holy other inspires us to new living. Brueggemann encourage us to ask not whether “it is realistic or practical or viable but whether it is imaginable.”

I found the following quote to be especially challenging.

“The prophet does not ask if the vision can be implemented, for questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can be imagined. The imagination must come before the implementation. Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost nothing. The same royal consciousness that makes it possible to implement anything and everything is the one that shrinks imagination because imagination is a danger.”

You Can Change – Tim Chester

I despise, and I am not sure it is for good reason or not, books and teaching that are systematic. If something “7 steps to…,” or “5 sure-fire practices…” or “11 things to do…” I will most likely never pick that book up. That is why Tim Chester’s You Can Change was so refreshing. This is not a “how-to” or a “Step-by-step” book. This is simply looking at the truths of the gospel and living into them in new ways to experience transformation in an area of our life that has yet to be obedient to Jesus. That’s it. Every chapter ends with thoughtful questions to help the reader engage an area of their life where they would like to see change. And these aren’t your typical study questions. These are real questions that, if taken seriously, will help people experience the gospel of Jesus to a deeper degree.

Those are my top five books of the year. What are yours?

The Identity Hoax

I remember Preacher Tom clearly.  During my time at college, he would come to campus wearing a blood red baseball hat with capitalized, bold letters stating, “Don’t Sin”.  He held a large sign that would be a good four feet above his head threatening people to “Repent!” Below the call to repent was listed every sin, in its most explicit form (i.e. fornication, masturbation, etc.), that one must repent of.

Often he would stand just outside of the food court hoping to get as much of an audience as possible.  I remember sitting outside watching him interact with students who passed by and feeling anger and, if I’m honest, an almost unhealthy rage begin to to turn within me.  He would shout out “Whore!” or “Slut!” to women whose dress he didn’t approve of as they passed by.  Men would be labeled as “masturbaters” and “drunks” as they unwittingly walked by.  As you can imagine, this went over well and led to many respectful interchanges with students willing to hear Preacher Tom out (where is my raised eyebrow emoticon?)…

What enraged me about this, and I don’t think I could labeled the emotion then but I can now, is that those labels are not the identity of those who walked by.  Sure, some of them may have done some of those things, but that doesn’t determine their identity.  The sum of what we have or have not done is not who we are.  Rather, who we are is determined by the one who created us.  And the one who created us, created us  by his divine choice to be image bearers of the all holy infinite God.  This is the identity of all people: image bearers.  And to identify anyone as something less, is to deny the imago dei imprinted on their life.

While this is true, the world around us works to identify us as something other than imago dei.  Our culture would have us believe our main identity is to be a consumer (there are more malls than high schools!), or an upstanding citizen, or a fill-in-your-political-party-of-choice-here.  We stand in awe of those people who can be identified as their “own person” as the exemplify the rugged individualism we Americans love.  Identity is based around wealth, position, influence, education, neighborhood, or even our kids successes on the athletic field.  Internally, people battle against the negative identities of being a failure, a hindrance, inept, or a fraud.  There is no shortage of identities shouting loudly to be the one defining us instead of the imago dei.

Granted, the imago dei every person bears has been blurred by the sin nature we each possess.  But that is why Christ came!  He came that the sin nature that identifies us as sinners in rebellion to God might be replaced by a restored imago dei offered to us when we are united to Christ.

Just look at Jesus and how often he did this.  In John 8 the Pharisees bring a woman caught in adultery before Jesus and asks what punishment she should receive.  Her identity in the eyes of the Pharisees was an adulterer.  A whore.  And according to the Mosaic Law, her punishment should be death.  But Jesus sees not a whore, but a image bearer of the Creator who needs to be restored. I think we often fail at moving people towards embracing their identity as image bearers.  In this story, many act as though we must validate her current identity to give the woman worth.  We may not do this explicitly, but it happens, almost unconsciously.  We stress her being a victim of being used by the ruling authority for their own purposes.  We point out that the man is missing from the equation and how unfair the culture was towards this poor woman.  Or maybe, more honorably, we see her as having the image of God imprinted on her soul and deserving of respect, but we don’t call her to leave behind a life that is blurring the imago dei she bears.  These are simply different identities less empowering than the her true identity, the latter being an incomplete or fractured version of the true identity.  Jesus removes the identity given to her by her accusers and calls her to live into her identity as a daughter of God by telling her to “Go and sin no more.”  The pursuit of individual holiness as image bearers of an holy God is a concept that seems to have been pushed to the fringes of Christianity in our pursuit to be relevant, accepting, and loving.

Let me be clear, I think too often in Christianity we aren’t accepting enough.  Far too many Christians focus on an identity other than image bearer for those who are outside the church.  We focus on an identity determined by the current actions and behaviors of a person rather than the identity they could and should be living into.  Accepting people may mean we allow them to continue being identified as something other than a restored imago dei.  Loving people means we won’t allow that.  The pattern of Jesus, which we should be seeking to imitate, is to dine with the misfits society has identified as unworthy, and identify them as worthy and love them by calling them to a greater identity than the one they currently bear.  He calls the thief to be a contributor.  The tax collector a giver.  The prostitute a worshiper.  The proud humble.  The weak strong.  The poor rich.

Let us also acknowledge that for some us, the identity we currently bear isn’t socially tabooed, but rather, is socially acceptable.  Being successful, intelligent, wealthy, moral, or an upright person are all socially acceptable identities.  And while they are good and right, they are not our identity. We see this in Jesus telling Nicodemus he must be reborn.  That his current identity must die in order for him to live into a new identity.  Again we see this when Jesus calls the rich young ruler to a life beyond his wealth.  While Jesus is calling him to give up so much in terms of material comforts, he is also calling him to leave behind an identity that, in all likelihood, served him well in the world.

Holding on to an identity, regardless if that identity is seen as positive or negative, other than the imago dei sells us short of the life we are to lead.  You are an image bearer.  You are an adopted son, an adopted daughter of the most high God.  You are an heir, sharing in the inheritance given to Jesus by the Father.  That’s your identity.  Go and live in that.  Let that define you.

The call to “repent” is not, then, a threat as it feels like when it comes from Preacher Tom.  It is an invitation to relationship and new identity if one would leave their old identity behind.

Lady Gaga, irrationality, and leadership

A friend once gave me some great leadership advice. Leaders need to spend time trying to understand how the world occurs to a person in order to make sense of their actions. Why? Because no one ever wakes up in the morning and thinks to themselves, “Today I am going to act in a way everyone else would think was irrational.” Rather, people act in a manner that is completely rational to how they view the world. If leaders understand how others view the world, then they can understand their actions.

I think this is great advice. Its insight is brilliant because of it’s simplicity. But it has me wondering…is there a singular rational way to live?

We live in culture that loves irrationality. Chance, collage, anarchy and deconstruction are things we adore. These are so ingrained in us as a culture we have no problems swimming in the incongruity enabled by them. For example, Lady GaGa could easily be considered the poster-child for post-modernity and irrationality. She crosses gender, sexuality and race boundaries seamlessly. The art of her performances seeks to display the role culture plays in constructing our identities. At the same time she sings, “I was born this way…” This seems completely irrational and paradoxical. How can one claim that gender, for example, is a social constructed label while singing that the way one is established at the time of birth long before society has a chance to construct something?

Back to my friend’s statement.

How do people view the world? If they see the world as paradoxical in nature and devoid of any absolutes then perhaps, the irrationality makes complete sense. Who is to say whether we are socially constructed or if we are born a certain way? What if it is a combination of the two? Perhaps it just arises out of living in a world that seems full of contradiction and irrationality. We live in a world that is beautiful and ugly, complex and simple, full and empty, hopeful and despairing, blessed and tragic. A world where at times all events seemed to be threaded together by a single narrative, and other times is seemingly individual events occurring in chaotic randomness. Surrounded by all that, how does one keep themselves from becoming irrational?

In light of this, I believe the advice my friend gave me is spot on. Admittedly, I often judge the behavior of others to be irrational. But it irrational to me.  Which is simply to say that based on how I perceive the world I have determined there to be a singularly rational way to operate irregardless of the circumstances and forces impacting another persons perception of the world.

As a leader, taking time to listen and understand why they do what they do provides many opportunities to lead.  Listening communicates a concern for the person and builds relational capital.  It allows the leader to learn and gain a broader understanding of the world and how it impacts those around them.  Finally,  it provides a place for the leader to facilitate greater change.  If a leader can understand how one acts based on how the perceive the world, they can help change, not only the action, but the perception of the world.  Which is absolutely transformational.  It is the type of change that affects the whole life of the person.  It changes how they think, how they act, their attitudes, and their relationships.

And as a leader, it changes me.

Postmodernism, value, and a diamond encrusted skull

I recently read an article by Edward Docx entitled, “Postmodernism is dead” where he argued that the deconstruction occurring through postmodern thought removed previous criteria of determining if something was of value.  So beauty, aesthetics, skill went out the window as criteria used to judge the worth of work, art, music, literature, philosophy and so forth.  The resulting vacuum quickly needed to be filled with some metric to determine value.  Why?  Because we as humans are wired to ascribe worth to something (this idea is based upon the Christian belief that we will worship something.  Worship is nothing more than ascribing worth to something).  So what became the determining criteria of worth?  Money.  Docx says:

In other words, increasingly, artistic success has become about nothing except money; and, increasingly, artists have come to judge their own success that way, too. This is the reason today that we feel the genre writer’s cry “I sold millions” so powerfully, even though in truth it can say little about the art form other than “it sold millions.” Changing disciplines, if we take this commoditisation of art to its natural limit, we arrive at Damien Hirst’s diamond encrusted skull, For the Love of God (2007). Commoditisation has here become the only point. The work, such as it is, centres on its cost and value and comprises also (I would say mainly) the media storm surrounding it: the rumours that it was bought for £50m, or that Hirst himself bought it, or that he offset his tax bill by claiming diamonds as tax deductible artistic materials, or that he didn’t buy it at all, or that nobody has bought it… And so postmodernly on. The paradox being this: that by removing all criteria, we are left with nothing but the market. The opposite of what postmodernism originally intended.

Postmodern thought left us with only money and the market to determine the value of something.  “How much is it worth?  How much did it make?” are the questions hovering over art, literature and music.  The quality of music is no longer determined by the richness of its lyrics, or the use of melody, harmony and subtlety, rather it is esteemed on its ability to appeal to masses of people and bring in millions of dollars.  This valuation by earning power stems from a ubiquitous confusion as to who can assign value.  Postmodernism undermined any privilege a dominant discourse might have previously had in assigning value.  It also became politically wrong to claim the ability to assign value.  Thus, profits became the final arbitrator.

I can’t help but reflect on the financial meltdown of 2008.  After watching the documentary Inside Job, I felt sick to my stomach and wondered how anyone could be so greedy as to willfully risk company, economy and name in effort to make a quick dollar.  But it makes sense.  If money is the only thing of value, then pursing it is the highest good.  Integrity, concern for others, ethics, and reputation hold no value.  Thanks to postmodernist deconstruction, they are worthless.  Who give them value?  The individual can’t assign value because that would be conflict of interest.  Others might value ethics over reputation or vice versa.  How does one know?  They don’t.  They can’t.  And so value is evidenced by the bank account.

Perhaps the most insidious outcome of this removal of value is what it does to the person. If art, literature, music and philosophies have no criteria other than money to judge their value, then what about the person?  Can a person have intrinsic value?  How do they know their worth?  Who determines who is worth what?  Or is a person’s value tied to money, or the ability to earn money?  I fear we are becoming a culture so impacted by postmodernism’s devaluation of anything but money has crept in to how we treat one another.

To see the truth of this, one has to look no further than how we view the poor.  Many view the poor as the 50% who “have no skin in the game” in terms of paying taxes.  They are labeled as moochers, free riders, and lazy.  Why?  They contribute nothing to the economic system.  They would be more valuable if they paid taxes, if they contributed.  Value has been divorced from humanity and married to bank account.  A day after I initially wrote this, I came across this article “The New Resentment of the Poor.

Docx gives hope at the end of his article.

We desire to be redeemed from the grossness of our consumption, the sham of our attitudinizing, the teeming insecurities on which social networking sites were founded and now feed. . . . If the problem for the postmodernists was that the modernists had been telling them what to do, then the problem for the present generation is the opposite: nobody has been telling us what to do.

The Christian hope is that humans are valued because they are made in the Creator’s image.  Humanity, with all its flaws, short-comings, and brokenness has value because the “Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  The incarnation cries out to the universe that humanity has value.  That there is intrinsic worth.  And that worth is not tied to bank accounts, or buying power, or contribution, but worth is derived in being image bearer’s of God.

Perhaps the most inspiring thing about this idea: there need not be any confusion about who assigns value.  For it is not determined by other humans, but is assigned by the very one who created them.  Our worth comes from the one who is supremely worthy.

Captivated

I am captivated by extreme skiing.  I have skied my fair share of steep mountains, but when I watch skiers bomb through a narrow chute from the top of a mountain, or ride off the edge of a 30 foot rocky cliff I become memorized by what these people do.  The courage it takes to point your skis down the mountain.  The trust in your ability to hold an edge on a 50+ degree slope.  The reckless abandon necessary to launch yourself in the air.  All of this captivates me.

There is a big difference between being captivated by what someone can do, and by being captivated by someone.  I am captivated by what these skiers do.  But I have never once been captivated by them.  What I mean is, I have never sat and watched footage of a guy bombing through a chute and thought, “I wonder what makes him tick?”  “I wonder what drives life?”  “I wonder if his parents loved him?”  “I wonder how he treats others?”  These questions never enter my mind.  And the reason is simple, I’m not very interested in the person, I’m interested in what the person can do.

So here’s the question for us Christians, “Are we captivated by God, or are we captivated by what God can do?”

If we were able to get very honest with ourselves, I think many of us would have to admit we are more interested by what God can do than in God himself.  We are taken by the idea that God can save us, but we aren’t so taken about what that says about God.  We are in awe of God’s power, but aren’t interested in learning why he uses it the way he does.  We love that God saves us, but don’t really care about knowing him.

I think of the quote by John Owen.  “O to behold the glory of Christ. . .Herein would I live; herein would I die; herein would I dwell in my thoughts and affections. . .until all things below become unto me a dead and deformed thing, no way suitable for affectionate embraces.”  I don’t know that I have come across an expression of deeper longing for Christ himself outside of the psalms.  Owens quote forces me to examine myself.  Am I more captivated by God himself, or what God can do.  This can be measured if we use the quote.  “Until all things below become unto me a dead and deformed thing.”  What Owen is saying is that he desires his longing for God to be greater than anything here in this life, no matter how good those things are.  So when I examine my life, has my family, my success, my friendships, my house, my experiences, my sitting on the back deck watching a summer storm roll in, my standing on a mountain top, my enjoying a glass of wine become a dead and deformed thing in comparison to knowing Jesus more intimately.

Let’s be clear, those things are not bad.  In fact they are very good.  Blessings given by God to be enjoyed.  But they are not better than him.  And to be captivated by them is to be captivated by what God can do for me and not be captivated by God.

Psalm 63:1-4

1 You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.