25 November 2008

End of the Satire (Finally): Selfishness

I have finally arrived at the final stanza:
Yes, I am suffering.
Remind me of Hebrews 12:4

And it makes me happy,

Since I don't have it too bad.

Cause only Jesus had it worse than me.

If you remember, the whole main idea of this satire thing is to take any woeful feelings and exaggerate them to suffering, thereby exposing how ridiculous such feelings are. Along the way I have attempted to weave in concepts of simple living, because at the heart of both feeling sorry for yourself and of simple living is the issue of selfishness. I have argued that to seek simple living is to embrace love for God and love for neighbor, as one whose mind is focused on God and others (not self) will naturally have no desire to gather up earthly stuff or live luxuriously.

Now I come to another aspect of the problem, but at the heart the culprit remains selfishness. In this stanza I am talking about a tendency I have had. It's a tendency I believe many Christians fall for far too often. In our sad times, when life is difficult, we find comfort in the life of Christ; that our Savior is one "who in every respect has been tempted as we are" (Heb 4:15). God became man, and so identifies with the struggles of humans. Mainly this refers to our temptation to sin, but it goes further. I believe it is proper to find comfort when camping in a tent with a dew-frosted sweatshirt for a pillow to remember that my Lord had no place to lay his head. And so when I am sad and remember that Jesus shed his blood for me, I realize I have suffered no where near what he did, as Hebrews 12:4 suggests. Again, I think this is proper.

So where am I going with this? That final satirical line, "Cause only Jesus had it worse than me." You see, the tendency I refer to is to find comfort in Jesus' suffering and then end there. Feeling better about myself is not the end goal. This is where the selfishness creeps in. I must remember that there are in fact other human beings right at this very moment who literally have no place to lay their heads. So, yes, Jesus had it worse than me. But I have it far better than most people.

By no means do I wish to belittle the issues in your life. But for myself, I'd rather not request your prayer over my tight-scheduled, long-hour work week as I think it's selfish to feel that such a situation is all that bad. My attitude ought to be of extreme gratitude for even having a job. And it must be more than lip-service. Are there any in my community of believers without a job? If I am truly grateful, how will I reach out to them?

I will, Lord willing, continue to address these topics, just without the framework of the satire from now on.

16 November 2008

Have Fun!

It's about time I get back to finishing that satire commentary. So hold on to your saddle horns, folks.

I am suffering:

What is there to do? With whom?
I know I'll soon be happy
Come game time, showtime, weekend.

As long as I have fun.

I do not think I exaggerate in saying we live for fun. Consider those without salvation--without hope; what is life, but a day-to-day desperation for pleasure and any possible form of enjoyment? Now consider yourself, if you find yourself in Christ. Aside from maybe some activity in a church, does your daily life look like anything more than a desperation for enjoyment?

"What are you doing this weekend?"
[insert activity]
"Well, have fun!"

"Did you win at your game?"
"Well, did you at least have fun?"

Because all that really matters is if we have fun. Dead or reborn, we live for fun all the same. Should it be so?

The world's lie is that if you aren't having fun then you are missing out. You are missing your purpose or your opportunity. Boredom is suffering. Happiness comes when boredom goes. So, in hypnotic obedience to the lie, we live for the weekend, for the latest movie, for the television, for sports, for You-Tube. Anything to be entertained. Just don't let me suffer with boredom!

I don't think I have anything real profound to say about this. I just wish we'd have less pride in the manner of our fellowship, that it would be marked by "addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all [our] hearts, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," Eph. 5:19-20.

Workers in the Kingdom should never be bored. That same passage from Ephesians 5 says:
Eph 5:15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
Eph 5:16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
Eph 5:17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Construction workers sometimes have a reputation of laziness since building projects often get drawn out far beyond the planned timeline. In the same way, building up of the Church often goes dormant when the workers get lazy. The first failure is neglecting our duties to love God and love our neighbor and then getting bored. The next failure is filling that boredom with worldly entertainment. The final failure is the resulting sin from the worldly entertainment's lingering effects. I strongly believe that the biggest influence Satan can have on a child of God is through entertainment. We leave the door wide open to him in renting a movie, flipping channels, or surfing the web. Don't get me wrong: all these things can be very good and God-glorifying. But we are commanded to "give no opportunity to the devil" (Eph 4:27). We ought not be outwitted and ignorant of his designs (2 Cor. 2:11).

Just consider if your thoughts and conversations are dominated by the movie you just saw versus by God's Word.

I suggest that we toss out "have fun" language. There is Biblical precedent to change our manner of colloquial speech:
Jas 4:13 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"--
Jas 4:14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
Jas 4:15 Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."
Jas 4:16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

It does not say, "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, have fun!" Rather, we are to do all things, whatever we do, "to the glory of God," 1 Cor. 10:31. We do not need to get legalistic about this and avoid all forms of enjoyment. To the contrary, we need to embrace the truth that fullness of joy flows from fellowship with God. We must approach time of leisure as an opportunity to live to the glory of God. Not for the shallowness of fun.

"What are you doing this weekend?"
[insert activity]
"Well, live to the glory of God!"

05 November 2008

Obama the Icon. Jesus the Christ.

"God is still on the throne."

These are the words of a black minister in the southern U.S. upon the announcement of Obama's victory. It's amazing how we can look at a situation from completely different perspectives and come to the same conclusion.

Obama had two things going for him: he's (half) African American and he's Democrat. I sat watching my television last night in dumbfounded amazement over the celebrations and couldn't help but think that so many of these people voted for him just because he's (half) black, and that millions more Americans voted for him just because he's Democrat in a time when Bush and Republicans are scape-goated for the worlds ills.

Now, don't read in to me here. The point I want to make is that Barack Obama is not seen as a person. He is an icon. He has been reduced to ideals.

Oprah said last night, "There's a wonderful Bible passage that says, ' What does it, ah, do to gain the world and lose your soul?' And I knew that in this moment in time, in my lifetime, I would have lost a piece of my soul had I not stood up for him."

That's right, folks. Obama saves souls. Jesus was in desperate need of a replacement. Now we have hope!

This shouldn't be surprising. We ought to know that those without salvation in Jesus are without hope, and that they would be eager to try to find some in a president. Actually, their hope is not in Barack Obama but in an icon called Barack Obama. And that's why Obama the person will fail their hope.

Jesus, a person. Jesus, God. God is still on the throne. Jesus is King! Let's get excited about him instead!

Rom 15:11 And again, "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him."
Rom 15:12 And again Isaiah says, "The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope."
Rom 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

California Propositions 2 and 4

Prop 2 creates a new state statute that prohibits the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.

Prop 4 would prohibit abortion for unemancipated minors until 48 hours after physician notifies minor’s parent, legal guardian or, if parental abuse has been reported, an alternative adult family member.

Prop 2 passed and prop 4 failed. Go figure.

I understand that there are details to each proposition that I'm overlooking. But consider with me the principle. Compassion for animals is championed while technicalities are questioned over the murdering of humans. Has anyone realized that aborted children are killed before even getting a chance to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs?

Or are we to count limbs fully extended when they go limp?

This is incredible. It's horrific, I know, and I can't stand it anymore.