American Idols (Pt 3)

Funny thing, this morning I received a mailing from Focus on the Family.  Enclosed was a small flyer entitled “State of the Family 2010.”  Four key issues infecting our families were listed:

Unmarried childrearing, Cohabitation, Increasing childlessness, and Busyness.

Did you catch that last one?  Below the bold-faced Busyness the flyer reads: “Nearly 3 out of 5 Christians say their hectic schedules prevent them from spending enough time with God.  American parents spend 40% less time with their children than they did 50 years ago.”

But why?  Why are we work-a-holics?  Why do we work 50, 60, even 70 hours per week?  Is it because our employers demand it?  Only in rare instances is this truly the case.  I remember well working for a Fortune 500 Company from 2000-2004.  At first, having come from a military officer position (where ridiculous work hours are often routine and necessary), I logged 60 hour weeks.  I will never forget my first opportunity to get a raise.  My raise was pathetic in comparison to the hours I gave, and if I may say so, the value my work added.  My job was to save the plant money via materials cost out projects, and save it money I did! 

It was a pivot point in my life.  God came to me through those circumstances and strongly convicted me that I was enslaved to a system that was hindering my walk with Him, as well as hurting my family.  After long talks with my wife and lots of prayer, we begin making some tough decisions.  I would not work 60 hours any longer, unless there were true emergency-type circumstances.  The next three years of my work life were more pleasant, and even more financially rewarding, not to mention the turn for the better in my home life. 

But, why did I work such long hours anyway?  My wife and I had already committed to her staying home to manage the home and raise our daughters.  So, maybe that’s why I felt compelled to work so much.  We’d sacrificed the two-income standard, so the burden was now all mine.  Or, was there really another reason lurking beneath the surface? 

One word – lifestyle.  It’s the “other” American Idol that is spiraling Christian homes (and all homes for that matter) down into the abyss. 

Folks, face it, the “American Dream” still captivates us.  We work insanely hard to increase our lifestyle and to save so that we can give our kids an even better standard of living than our own.  Our parents bought into this idolatry.  So did their parents.  It appears at times that American Christians are willing to give up almost nothing for the sake of God’s kingdom.  

But, in our next installment, we shall see that our King, Jesus, has made Himself clear in this matter.  Doing home God’s way, pursuing God’s kingdom and His righteousness, requires hard choices, not the least of which is how much longer we are going to allow the idols of busyness and lifestyle to own us.

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Tiger Woods – Fighting a Losing Battle

I hate sin.  In my life.  In others’ lives.  In our culture.  In our world.  This is who God graciously makes us in Christ – haters of sin and lovers of God.  So, it has been with great sadness that I have followed the now over-exposed exploits of Tiger Woods.  While the media circles like sharks around a bloody piece of bait, his adoring fans remain shocked and deeply disappointed.  He was, and is, the world’s greatest golfer, an icon to millions of kids.  His downfall is not something to rejoice over or even to gawk at like the news agencies so want you to do.

The question I wish to address here, however, is how can we use this episode, and others like it, as an avenue for sharing the gospel with our children, extended family, co-workers, peers, etc?  Christians should not allow such opportunities to escape, for things like Tiger Woods’ escapades can really be springboards to discuss things that matter forever.

First, as Christians we ought to never be surprised by sin, whether it is in Tiger Woods, ourselves, or our neighbors.  It amazes me how many Christians have expressed “shock” over Tiger Woods’ behavior.  Really?  I mean, you have read your Bibles, right? 

“Can the Ethiopain change his skin, or the leopard change his spots?  Then you who are accustomed to doing evil can also do good” (Jer 13:23).

“What comes out of a person is what defiles him.  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality . . .” (Mark 7:20-21).      

Friends, we all have heart disease.  It’s called sin.  We are sinners by nature, in the very core of our beings.  Tiger Woods was born a sinner.  So was I (Ps 51:5).  We sin because we are sinners.  We act in character, if you will.  And, if left unchecked by the grace of God, sin can cause any one of us to do, say and think ruinous things.  Our sinful heart disease is terminal.  It controls and masters us, enslaving us from the inside out (see Romans 6-8).

Second, Tiger Woods will not find mastery over his sin via Buddhism.  Brit Hume is right.  Only Jesus Christ offers what Tiger really needs.  Buddhism is an atheistic religion, much like evolution / Darwinism (but that discussion is for another day).  It is precisely the atheistic worldview that leads people to behave like Tiger has been.  No God, no objective standard of right or wrong, no accountability, no worries beyond the grave = each individual determines what is “right for him or her.”  Tiger’s sexual exploits were perfectly consistent with the atheistic Buddhist worldview.

Yet, oddly enough, Buddhists preach salvation through human self-effort.  They strive to eliminate desires / craving via the 8 Fold Path laid out by their founder, the Buddha.  The path includes things such as Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Effort and the such.  How they determine “right” apart from an objective Law or Law-Giver that transcends all things is beyond me.  And, how do you eliminate desire in your life by desiring the 8 Fold Path?

Add to this that Buddhists generally view suffering, and individual persons as merely illusions.  None of it is real.  This life is just a mirage.  Tell that to Tiger’s wife and children.  Tell it to the numerous women he treated as worthless pieces of animal meat.  I wonder if Tiger himself really believes that he himself is just an illusion with a ginormous bank account?   

Tiger does have a problem with desire, to be sure.  SINFUL desires are ruling his heart and life.  Sin masters us all, that is until Jesus breaks into our lives and enthrones Himself in our hearts.  The only solution to sin is Jesus.  Jesus experienced real suffering, bearing the real wrath of the real God in the place of real sinners like Tiger Woods, who rightly deserve God’s justice.  And Jesus rose from the grave, conquering the great enemies of our souls, sin and death, forever.   God out of His great love and mercy comes to people, convicting them of sin and their need of Christ, by the power and presence of His Spirit, and gifts them with repentance of sin and faith in the person and work of Jesus.  God offers real forgiveness of real sin committed against a real God who is really holy.  This forgiveness of sin cannot be earned or merited through self-effort.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:8-10).

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). 

Wow!  There it is!  Real power for real living.  This is what Tiger Woods needs.  He needs a new Master.  He needs the Spirit of God living in him, enabling him to fight back against the sin in his heart and life.  He needs to hear and know the truth, for the truth shall set him free.  Freed to serve and please God, being empowered by His gracious Spirit and Word.  Freed to say “no” to temptation.  Freed to repent and trust the only person who is perfectly satisfying to God – Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Tiger, like everyone else, needs to be brought into union with Christ.  He needs to be changed from the inside out.  He needs a heart surgeon whose name is Jesus.

Let’s pray God puts people into Tiger’s path who will speak truth into his life, so that He can have the opportunity to escape the snare of sin, not just now, but for all eternity.  May God help Tiger find The Way, instead of the 8-Fold Way.  Let’s share this goods news of how a holy God has made a way to reconcile unholy people to Himself through the person and work of His Son, Jesus. 

*For more information on Buddhism, visit www.4truth.net

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American Idols (Pt 2)

Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). 

Perhaps nobody lived a busier life than Jesus did during His three or so years of earthly ministry.  As I read the gospel accounts of His life, I am often overwhelmed just by the sheer numbers of people who seem to be crowding around Jesus no matter where He goes.  The crowds were so bustling and the ministry so demanding that at times we are told Jesus and His disciples did not even have time to eat!

Busyness is something nearly every Christian in America can understand.  We are purported to be the busiest people on earth.  I realized this when working for the General Electric Company several years ago.  Part of my job was to purchase materials from suppliers in Brazil, Austria, and the Far East.  With the exception of China, working with those in other countries revealed that the pace is far more laid back and stress-free in other countries.  It’s not that they do not work hard in Austria.  No, that’s not it at all.  Rather, it’s just that they are not workaholics.  They are not consumed by the American dream, and do not seem to be so enslaved by their employers’ demands.

Friends, busyness is killing our homes, not to mention the detrimental affect on our churches.  Just last week I heard yet another Christian appeal to the ever-familiar American idol of busyness to excuse away the lack of involvement in the church and her ministries.  How many times have you heard it?  How many times have you used this excuse?

Why do many churches today only have one corporate gathering per week?  Why is finding a nursery worker like pulling eye-teeth?  Why does nobody come to weekly visitation?  Why are Saturday prayer-walks attended by only a handful?  Why are parents not teaching the Bible consistently to their children?  Why no family worship?

While there are many answers to these questions, perhaps they can all be summarized with one word – busyness.  Christians are bowing down to this idol like never before.  It controls our hearts routinely.  The scenario described to me recently by a concerned grandmother says it well.  This lady thanked me for continuing to challenge young parents to teach the Bible and worship together as families.  But then she began to lament (and I paraphrase):

By the time Frank and Ilene (not the real names) both get home from work, manage to get some supper on the table, get the kids in the bath, teeth brushed, and jammies on, then off to bed, they are absolutely exhausted.  Frank and Ilene end up crashing in bed themselves from sheer mind-numbing tiredness, only to awake 7 hours later to begin the whole routine yet again.  

Frank and Ilene are caught in the vicious American cycle.  No time for family worship.  No time or energy for Bible teaching, much less for serving their community through the ministries of the church.  They stumble through life exhausted.  Bowing down, perhaps somewhat unwittingly, to the idol of busyness.  Meanwhile, their home suffers spiritually.  Their marriage is merely routine.  They do, however, manage to bounce into church every Sunday morning smiling from ear to ear, and dressed to the nines. 

But, come Monday morning, it will not be the kingdom of God and His righteousness they seek.  No, busyness will once again be in the driver’s seat.  Friends, hard work is commendable, and even commanded by God.  But, we in America have completely lost the ability to know where to draw lines.  Workaholism is a monumental American idol in Christian homes today.  And why? 

More on that in the next post . . .

For now, contemplate how it was that Jesus was so busy, yet we know He never wasted a second, still found time to rest, and never needed to appeal to “busyness” as a way out of doing His Father’s will.

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The Savior of New Orleans

Due to the ridiculous statements being made in the aftermath of the Super Bowl, I am compelled to leave our present discussion on the American idols of busyness and lifestyle to say a few things about “The Savior of New Orleans.”

I visited New Orleans as an 8th grader on a field trip.  Even way back then (and wow was it ever way back then), I found the city an intriguing mix of architectural beauty, cultural complexity, American dreaming and American poverty.  The jazz filled the air on nearly every street corner.  The French Quarter was glamorous and quaint.  The cathedrals were breath-taking.  Jackson Square was the epitome of American consumerism.  The Superdome was almost too big to believe.  And, the homeless and drunks and destitute were epidemic.  What a mix of the have’s and have not’s – the conundrum that was, and is The Crescent City.

Now, some will acuse me of being a band-wagon fan, but I have witnesses who can corroborate my story.  As a boy growing up in KY, we had no in-state professional sports.  Young boys had to pick a team at random to make their own.  Most boys in my central KY hometown chose the Cincinnati Bengals, sheerly out of proximity.  But, I did not like their uniforms.  Too gaudy.  So, I chose the black and gold of the Saints, who were then known as the Aint’s. 

I have wanted the Saints to succeed since a young boy.  And, when they finally did, what timing!  Just when the city is fighting to re-emerge, re-build, and rekindle hope, their team wins the Super Bowl.  It would take a callous person to ignore the significance of it all.  But, friends, we must be very cautious when we start to assign significance to the affairs of men.  Remember the Tower of Babel?  Our sinful tendency is to exalt ourselves, and ignore or altogether forget God.

How many people have you heard using the words, “Savior,” “Re-birth,” and “Hope” in reference to the football team known as the Saints?  It is as if the city of New Orleans thinks that winning a game will somehow cure all their ills.  While it may boost their economy and their spirits for a while, this euphoria shall pass. 

New Orleans, I realize it is a fat chance any of you are actually reading this blog, but on the slim odds that someone is listening – please repent of your idolatry and turn to the one and only Savior who can truly set your captives free.  His name is Jesus. 

Ironic that the city known for its decadence, drunken parties, sexual perversion, gut-wrenching poverty, and American materialism is represented by a team called the Saints.  Even more ironic that the Saints are being viewed as the Savior, when the Bible says the saints are so only because they have been saved by the Savior.  His name is Jesus. 

May the churches of the Risen Christ in New Orleans seize these opportunties to be ambassadors for the only Savior who truly saves from the curse of sin, and death, and eternal condemnation.  May the churches of Jacksonville, NC do likewise.  If people want to talk of rebirth and saviors, then by all means, let’s go talk to them!         

“According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

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Lou E. Wilkie-McWhorter - Keith really has liked the Saints since childhood; but, better yet, his commitment to Christ and the furthering of His kingdom and addition of saints to God’s role call is a far better team to support and uplift.

wpolscemamymocneseo - Man, you are a good writer. Your text is so interesting. You should do it for a living

tlbcassocpastor - Thanks, but I’m not sure anybody would actually pay me to write!

katalog seo - Not often users can find such lovely text. Good job amigo. I wish you best luck with this blog

American Idols

For the next few posts, I want to begin challenging readers to think very seriously about the obstacles that might stand in the way of growing more cross-centered in their homes (marriage, parenting, sibling relations, etc.).  After all, it should come as no surprise that if a follower of Christ makes a commitment, by God’s grace, to pursue holiness and Christ-likeness in one or more areas of life, battles will ensue.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). 

Are you aware of the battle raging for the heart of your home?  Your own hearts?  Your spouses’ hearts?  Your children’s hearts?  Your brothers’ and sisters’ hearts?  Following hard after Jesus comes at a cost (Luke 14:25-35).  We do well to consider the cost of a cross-centered home. 

Looking back on my own life, I am often sorely disappointed in how little I have sacrificed to serve Jesus and to spread His love and message to my neighbors and to the ends of the earth.  In America, Christians can live so comfortably, and never really know what it means to truly give sacrificially, of their time, money, energy, talents, gifts, mind, heart and soul.  Or, can they?  Does Jesus the Christ actually allow for comfortable, non-sacrificial Christianity?  Even a cursory review of His teachings in the New Testament challenges this notion of what we Americans have called Christianity for far too long. 

Make no mistake, pursuing Christ in our homes, or anywhere else for that matter, is costly.  Jesus makes absolute demands upon His vassals, and has sovereign rights as our substitutionary Savior-Warrior-King to do so (1 Cor 6:19-20).  The Lord is graciously teaching me more of what it means to “count the cost.”  And I am finding that for every little step of faith or sacrifice made, God is infinitely worthy of it; so much so that I hesitate to call anything I do in His service a “sacrifice.” 

To avoid pontificating at length in this post, let me just leave you with this thought, based upon observation, personal experience, and the absolute authority of the Scripture:

Two idols are epidemic in Christian homes today, and they are preventing many of us from striving by grace towards the C2H ideal.  These American idols are: Busyness and Lifestyle.  They go hand-in-hand, and they are sucking the vitality right out of our hearts, our homes, and our churches.  Consider prayerfully how these idols seek to rule your hearts each day.  We will further explore in our next post.

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