Merica’s gods: Greed & Consumerism

I’ve spent the last several months thinking about the utter waste in our nation. We waste resources, education, and effort on a wealth of idolatrous pursuits that are at the epicenter of American culture. It makes me sad. It is deeply sinful. And one of the saddest parts about it is that the American church has done or is doing very little to call it’s people to repentance. Shame on us.

Greed is the root of all evil. Every type of evil imaginable can be traced back to greed. Pride is essentially having a greedy opinion of yourself and wanting others to as well. Envy is the greedy instinct to desire something not in your possession. Sexual addiction, gluttony, and theft are all sinful results of greed.

In many places around the world greed takes the form of another idolatrous monstrosity known as consumerism, but perhaps no one demonstrates it as obviously as America. We don’t know how to separate want from need, and even if we did we probably wouldn’t have the self control to bother with it. We pursue possessions. Having and buying are at the heart of what many think it means to be American.

Sadly, this same mentality is too often reflected in the Church. We “shop” for places of worship and evaluate them based on ideas of what we “can get out of it” or how well “we are being fed.” It’s deeply tragic when we place value on a place of worship based on the scope of their facilities, size of their budget, or compartmentalization of their programs.

Because we consume so greedily, often there is little left from the church budget to things of incredible significance, like outreach. We spend selfishly.

What would our Church look like if we were generous, and not so self centered or glutinous in our spiritual consumption? What if Jesus wanted us to stop thinking of ourselves entirely?

More posts in this series:

Etiquette, Etican, Etican’t

Football, Athletes, and Idolatry

Mirrors, Models, and Muscles

Education

Sex

Culture Wars

Religious Tradition and Dissidence

Intolerance

Greed & Consumerism

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When Your _____ Explodes

There are days, ever so often, when I feel as if my brain explodes.  Not that it is going to explode, might explode, or could possibly explode.  But that it has actually already exploded.  The type of day that I am writing about is rarely a good day.  They actually generally come off as more-than-miserable.  And to make matters worse it is beyond difficult to begin to ascertain what exactly it might be that will potentially cause the explosion.

Of course my brain doesn’t literally explode, don’t be silly.  How would I be writing this?

I am a smart guy, with a capacity for big ideas, small ideas, and all other sorts of shapes, sizes, fabrics, varieties, densities, and frequencies of thought.  Brain explosion halts them all.  It is most disrupting.

The uniquely pitiful precipitant of brain-explosion is that often my silly heart will follow, again not in the literal sense.  Imagine if you were keen on spending a quality amount of time in thought thinking thoughts about how you might accomplish, do, create, or manage something and that beautifully sought train of magnificent ideas were derailed by a mental malfunction of dastardly proportions?  When I think thoughts I rarely do so casually as I enjoy the thinking of them.  When that stops all-of-a-sudden it is disrupting.  It makes me sad.  My heart follows brain-explosion with sad time.  That’s kind of like when you plan to spend time doing something fun, you know fun-time, but instead something sad happens, and it becomes sad-time.

What cures brain explosion?

Life in the Blue Light

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Lying here in bed I see past the dimlit borders of my iPad to a cascading forest of shadows all around this room. It’s late. We’re sleeping, well they’re sleeping. Me, my wife, my son, and one of our three cats are all piled up in our bed, bathing in the luminescent azure haze of Ethan’s baby monitor.

His teeth are starting to come in, and it hurts. So he cries, and he doesn’t understand why he hurts, so he wants mommy. So sleep only comes to him in the presence of his parents. Here in our bed where he can snuggle close between mommy and daddy, safe in the blue light.

The blue light is mostly for us. It’s a nifty little light that is part of his baby monitor. Usually we leave it beside his crib but tonight he sleeps with us, and I want the blue light here so we can easily see him if he wakes. I need it. He is mine and how can I watch him if I can’t see him? So here we are living life in the blue light.

God shines His light on you too if you let Him. Like an eternal watchman, He casts His gaze in your direction, and like the light of our blue baby monitor, the Great Father of Lights watches over you as you snuggle close. He comforts and cares when you hurt, and when you fail. You are His and how can He watch you if He can’t see you? So here we are living life in the blue light.

10 Temptation Truths

Life usually doesn’t fit into nice neat little lists, but that doesn’t keep me from trying. Welcome to my Tuesday 10, where I try to fit the messiness of life into a list of ten.

Temptation is real.  We all deal with it.  Some of us deal with it poorly, and some of us think we deal with it not-so-poorly, but we all could use a little, or a lot of, help.  Temptation is like bait on a hook.  Something used by the enemy of our souls to drag us away from all that God has for us.  It’s a fight.  These ten things are some things we discussed in my Sunday School class this past week.  For more, and better, insight go read Luke 4:1-13.

1. Satan is a real enemy. We are born into a real war and he is a subtle, crafty, and sly joker.

2. Satan will hit you. He’s not going to leave you alone. He will attack when you’re physically weak whether it’s when you’re tired, hungry, or alone. Solitude is good, but isolation is dangerous.  Being connected to God’s people helps.  Sometimes we create the atmosphere for our own temptation by doing something that might not be outright sinful but puts us in a physically, spiritually, or mentally weakened condition.  Staying up too late, excessive time on the computer, time with people we would be better off not being with–these are all things that set us up for temptation, but might not be sinful in and of themselves. It’s better to be preventative than reactive.  Take measures not to get in a precarious place, circumstance, or state of being.

3. Jesus is our victorious warrior King. Society teaches us to be proud, to have esteem, because we’re all winners.  We’re not.  We’re all losers.  All of us.  Yes, you’re a loser.  We’ve been programmed to believe that we’re the best thing since gravity, but we’re not. We’re wretched sinners by acts of willful commission and/or omission.Pride doesn’t give us high esteem, it makes us a proud loser. It causes us to ignore our need for God because we think we’re awesome. We’re not our own hope. Christ in us is our hope for glory. He triumphed over Satan at the cross, we triumph over Satan through His resurrection. Condemnation is debilitating, but conviction is liberating. There is conviction in Christ, but there is no condemnation.

 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. – Colossians 2:13-15

4. The Holy Spirit is your Power. Jesus resisted temptation for 40 days through the power of God the Holy Spirit. You can live as He did, full of the Spirit of God.

5. The Bible is your counter punch.Just stop making excuses.  Read your Bible. We take it for granted.

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar. – Proverbs 30:5-6

6. Christ is your identity. Sometimes temptation is much less about sin, and a lot more about Satan trying to deceive you about who you are and who you belong to. Whatever your issue, be it promiscuity, perversion, or pride, it is not who you are.  It does not define you. Relationship with Jesus renews in you a new identity.  His identity.

7. Escape is always possible. There is always a way out. God makes the way. We have to pick whether we want the hook or the door. When temptation comes keep your senses.  Look for the way out.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. – 1 Corinthians 10: 13-14

8. Satan eventually taps out. He’s a quitter.  It’s his nature. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

9. Repent when you tap out and fight again. Repentance is acknowledging that you bit the hook instead of running out of the door. It happens.  There are a lot Christians who have let Satan trick them into thinking that’s not true. Don’t let religious pride blind you to your own inadequacies. But don’t beat yourself up about them either. Take them to Jesus, that’s where they belong.

10. Life is a battle with many rounds. Discipleship and sanctification take time. You will win against the devil. Some things that used to be serious temptations are no long even remotely an issue. He’ll bring some new temptations to the fight. He’ll find new bait. Keep your head and your heart firmly at the feet of Jesus.

10 Things Guys Can Live Without

Life usually doesn’t fit into nice neat little lists, but that doesn’t keep me from trying. Welcome to my Tuesday 10, where I try to fit the messiness of life into a list of ten.

As guys we usually think there are a lot of things we need. Most of these things are really just things we want. Many of them we can do without. Here’s my list of 10 things every guy could live without.

1. Conversation: This is pretty obvious and most guys would probably agree. When it comes to extensive conversation it’s just not necessary. Our compulsive need to speak is rarely longer than our immediate want or need.

2. Doilies: Many men will read this and think What the heck is a doily? It’s that frilly, lacy, flowery patterned thing that your mom and your grandma put on their dining table where the plates are supposed to go. Yeah, men don’t need those.

3. Consuming hobbies: Sports, Video games, and other consuming hobbies: pretend war, fake conflict, and the endless time sink are poor replacements for meaningful engagement, a worthy cause, and good–responsible time management. Put down the controller, turn off ESPN, and do something that will still matter tomorrow and the day after.

4. Pride: So many times we cast around for something to be proud about. Many times it has to do with our consuming hobbies, but not always. Pride is a catalyst for a lot of unnecessary conflict.

5. Image: This is just barely different than pride, but it is different. Concern for your image revolves around the meticulous cultivation of self-worth derived from others based on flawed values.

6. Furniture: Have you ever been to a bachelor’s house? Remember that “chair” made out of cinderblocks and a milk crate? Guys don’t really need furniture.

7. A Girl: No, I’m not advocating homosexuality. I’m just pointing out that some guys think they always need a lady on their arm, and they are wrong. Some of the most meaningful growth and maturing takes place in many men during an extended period of singleness.

8. Laundry Baskets: We typically prefer our clothes to be moved in piles. I’m pretty sure a woman came along and invented the laundry basket to make the piles easier to move.

9. Dancing: nothing good ever came from a man dancing. You know it’s true.

10. Violence: many things we enjoy as men involve violence. Most of my favorite movies involve explosions, gunfire, or battle of some kind; but the truth is that we could live completely without viewing, consuming, or participating in violence.

Merica’s gods: Intolerance

I’ve spent the last several months thinking about the utter waste in our nation. We waste resources, education, and effort on a wealth of idolatrous pursuits that are at the epicenter of American culture. It makes me sad. It is deeply sinful. And one of the saddest parts about it is that the American church has done or is doing very little to call it’s people to repentance. Shame on us.

When I was a little kid my brother was an even smaller kid, and there were plenty of times he would do something that would make me want to slug him. Sometimes I did, which was quickly greeted by a parental reroof, but more often than not I simply tolerated whatever newly contrived annoyance he had come up with.

Our culture’s working definition of the word tolerance is broken. Tolerance is a beautiful thing, but in recent years there has been a steady shift in just what that word means. No one really thinks of tolerating something as putting up with something you don’t like anymore. Or at least that’s not the way it is discussed in popular media.

We’ve sort of collectively replaced the definition of tolerance with the definition for acceptance, especially in terms of cultural squabbles. No longer when two parties disagree is there a mutually held respect, accompanied by a venerable tolerance based on the opposing side’s inherent human dignity. Politically, socially, economically, and religiously, when someone inevitably disagrees with our ideas we label them as being intolerant.

We are so silly sometimes. By its vary nature, it is impossible to show tolerance for an issue unless we disagree with it. Christians should be the most tolerant people on earth. We should understand all too well that you don’t, can’t, and shouldn’t attempt to force your beliefs on others. Of course we will regularly be at odds with practically everything about current trends in morality. But that doesn’t mean we simply start demonizing everything and everyone. No, we don’t have to remain silent in our disagreement, but we can voice our opinions without turning into crusading moralistic bullies.

The other side has a problem with this too. Often the far left labels Christianity as an incredibly intolerant faith because the vast majority of us refuse to sway from our historical core beliefs about God and moral issues. The truth is that our refusal to budge from our stalwart moral position, while still acknowledging the dignity and worth of those belittling us, is actually what proves the level of our tolerance.

Both sides of this issue of intolerance need to wake up. The level of vitriol and hate mongering that goes on today is disgusting. It’s beneath us. We need to pull intolerance down off of its thrown and listen to what our neighbor has to say. It could be that taking the time to learn their opinion might give you insight into their basic human decency, even if you don’t agree with their position.

More posts in this series:

Etiquette, Etican, Etican’t

Football, Athletes, and Idolatry

Mirrors, Models, and Muscles

Education

Sex

Culture Wars

Religious Tradition and Dissidence

Intolerance

Greed & Consumerism