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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Teach the Children (Why C2H Pt II)

I remember well how Holy Spirit God brought conviction into my heart concerning my lack of zeal for teaching the Word to my daughters.  In the Fall of 2008, I heard Dr. Albert Mohler (www.albertmohler.com) preach a sermon at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  The title of that sermon, if memory serves me, was “How Not to Raise a Pagan.”  The text was Deuteronomy 6:1-9, which includes the well-known, but not well-practiced shema

At the time, my wife had been homeschooling our daughters for about a year, and I had functioned as a laissez-faire partner in the whole affair.  God got my attention through Dr. Mohler’s sermon!  I began to sense the overwelming task of a godly Dad, which I had shamefully been ignoring:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and who you rise up (Deut 6:6-7).

Wow!  How had I neglected so clear a command and expectation from God?  I mean, it’s even re-emphasized through Paul’s pen (Eph 6:4).  Up to that point, my wife and I were functioning much like throngs of other Christian parents in America.  We left the Bible teaching primarily to the Sunday School teachers.  Our homeschool was nothing more than a “school at home.”  That is, it reflected the state-run curriculum, only we were doing it at home!  Really almost pointless when you think about it?! 

The Lord put me at a crossroad that day.  By His grace, I began to commit myself to living out Deut 6 in my home.  But I am stubborn and my consistency in teaching the Bible to our daughters at first was mostly inconsistent!  So, the Lord continued to pursue me (isn’t He an amazing God?).  My friend Robert Williams preached a sermon in the early part of 2009, from, you guessed it, Deuteronomy 6

Then, I received a sale catalog from my friends at Ligonier Ministries (www.ligonier.org).  And what was on sale, you ask?  When You Rise Up: A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling by R. C. Sproul, Jr.  This book is based on, yep, Deuteronomy 6.  The Lord used the combination of these sermons (two oral and one written) to light the flame in my heart for good.  I have no intention of looking back! 

The blessings of God being showered on my family since we decided to take God at His word and make our home a WSZ (that’s Word Saturation Zone) have humbled us and kept us at the foot of the Cross, singing praise to our King Jesus. 

So, it should come as no surprise, then, that Deuteronomy 6 is at the very heart of Cross-Centered Homes.  We want to be used by God to encourage and equip parents to live out this wonderful text. 

As I have spoken with several Christian parents in the past year or so, I have found that many of them really do want to become what God says they should be – the primary Bible teachers of their children.  But, they simply do not know how.  Sadly, their parents (many of them Christian) did not open the Bible and teach it to them every day as they grew up.  So, today’s Christian parents have never even seen this modeled! 

We have seen the need for a major paradigm shift back to obedience to God’s Word in our homes.  For too long, Christian homes have tithed mint and cumin while neglecting the weightier matters of God’s Law – like teaching it to the children!

Church of God, rise up!  Pastors, rise up!  Church Bible Teachers, rise up!  Teach parents how to teach the Word and talk about the Word in their homes!  “Equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” beginning in their homes (Eph 4:12).  Soli Deo Gloria!              

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Why C2H?

Cross-Centered Homes (C2H) is a ministry initiative birthed out of several years of research and personal concern for the homes represented in Tar Landing Baptist Church in Jacksonville, NC (www.tarlandingbaptist.org). 

Like most local churches, our pastors and Bible teachers understand what the word of God says our homes should be like, but there seemed to be a disconnect when we took honest assessments of what our homes were like in actuality.  We know what ought to be, but we are also dealing with what is every day. 

After a year of reading books, websites, blogs, attending conferences / training events, and talking to couples in our church, God began to produce a clearer picture of how to bridge the gap between what ought to be and what is.  A few things became obvious, including:

♦Pastors / teachers had to place heavy emphasis on the Bible’s teachings on the home.

 ♦Pastors / teachers had to be bold enough to make specific applications of those biblical texts to our current culture (much more on this in future posts).

♦Pastors / teachers had to get serious about equipping spouses and parents with tools to help them obey the commands of our God.   

The more we looked into these matters, the more we became convinced that almost nothing else we do as a local church will make much of an impact if we do not first reclaim our homes for Christ.  It has been researched and proven so many times that it should go without saying – the home is the foundation of society.  Churches are only as strong as their homes.  The plethora of societal ills we see around us every day are nearly all attributable to the breakdown or redfinition of the American home.  Again, I could cite sources, but I imagine you are as familiar with them as I. 

The hymn writer / pastor George Atkins voiced our lament and prayer well in his song Brethern We Have Met to Worship:

See our fathers, and our mothers, and our children sinking down?  Brethern, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.                                          

C2H is really a heart cry to God to use us to help this local church produce the strongest, most biblically healthy homes in our city and county.  We pray this for every Bible believing church.  And, here at Tar Landing, or where ever the Lord may place me in the future, we intend to put our money / time / effort where our mouth is in this foundational matter of Christ-Centered Homes.

“If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps 11:3)

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Anon - I hope the church’s strength surely is not in our homes.

tlbcassocpastor - The church’s strength is solely in her sure foundation, the Rock, the Cornerstone, the Head, Jesus the Christ and in the Holy Spirit which He has given to those He has graciously redeemed by His blood! My point is simply that if our homes are not Christ-centered, then it is all but certain our churches will not be, either. Weak Christian homes make for weak Christian churches. Thanks for your comment!

T r u t h