Death by Entertainment – Living for Jesus in a Culture of Materialism

A Culture of Materialism

I recently spent some time in the waiting room at a dentist’s office.  Somehow I forgot to bring the book I was reading, and I ended up thumbing through a few of the magazines that were sitting out for the distraction of those nervously awaiting their turn in The Chair.

In all the different genres of magazines…fashion, parenting, home and garden, etc. I began to notice a common theme – materialism.  Quite likely, you’ve noticed it too – it shamelessly parades itself to us via billboards, TV, group coupon deals delivered to our inboxes, pop ups, text messages, radio, or by knocking on our doors at home while we are trying to have dinner.

In reality, it’s hard NOT to listen, because we are so constantly being bombarded from every direction.  Oh, the proffered items are different…pearl necklaces, painting classes, concerts, go-karts, luggage, kitchen remodels, designer clothing, jewelry, new windows, beautiful pools, fire pits, vacations, and dinners.  But the message is the same:

What have you done for YOU lately?” , they brazenly shout.  While we mentally fumble for an answer, they immediately follow up with “Well that’s not enough!  You DESERVE MORE!”

It kind of reminds me of the Stuff Mart rap from the Madame Blueberry episode of Veggie Tales.  In case you have never heard the Stuff Mart rap, here it is.  🙂  You’ll have to listen fast to catch the hilarious lyrics.  Please don’t call me at 3  a.m. when you are lying awake in bed and can’t get it out of your head.  Call Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki  – it’s their fault!!

And none of those things are inherently bad…I mean, we can’t walk around naked, and our houses need updating, and I for one would LOVE to have a pool in my back yard.

Death by Entertainment

But if we buy in, like we’re “supposed to”, we will spend our days pampering ourselves, going from one vacation to another, snatching up all the great deals on things we are told we deserve, and focusing on self, self, self.  Rendering ourselves as good as dead for the cause of Christ from death by entertainment.

Remember the C.S. Lewis classic, The Screwtape Letters?  The brilliant, sadly effective strategy to make Christians ineffective was not persecution, or sickness, or financial reversals.

It was distraction.  If I am so distracted by the stuff of this world that I am not making a hill of beans difference in the lives of the people around me for the Gospel, then I humbly propose that perhaps I need a wake-up call.

This life is not meant to be Club Med for Christians.  We are to be soldiers in the cause of Christ, and soldiers know how to live lives of discipline and self-sacrifice for the sake of the great and wonderful cause of their King.

Enjoying a movie (some movies…) and a great dinner is not a crime.  Neither is having nice things.

The danger is allowing our hearing to be so dulled by the constant, shrill hawking of goods and services and entertaining experiences, that we no longer hear the still, small voice asking us to die to self that others, too, may live.

 

And the danger is buying into the mentality that assures us that we deserve more and better when some have nothing at all and we no longer remember that fact, nor do anything about it.  The danger is being rendered ineffective for the Kingdom and glory of God by falling for the enemy’s ploy of distraction via materialism.

After all, what is our purpose on this earth?

Last time I checked, it was to love God, to love people, and by our fruitful lives, expand the Kingdom.

So let’s stuff some cotton in our ears and shut out the bombardment of materialism from this world that says we constantly need more and better and let’s link arms and be about our Father’s business.  Someone may stand before the Throne one day and thank us that we did.

With faith, hope, and love,

Christine signature 001

 

Are You Thirsty?

od Have you ever been desperately thirsty?

My family and I recently read aloud together the book Holes by Louis Sachar and I think our family water consumption probably doubled during that story – it must be impossible to read about people digging in the desert under the hot summer sun, and not feel thirsty oneself, even while relaxing on a sofa in the air conditioning!

When Mr. Sir, in spiteful retaliation, pours out Stanley’s afternoon water allotment onto the parched, cracked ground in front of him instead of pouring it into his canteen, I felt irrationally compelled to stop reading and go refill my own water bottle!

Are You Thirsty?In addition to being essential for life, water is also highly significant in Scripture.  Just look at these few examples of God using it to accomplish His purposes:

He can wield it as a mighty rushing flood to cleanse the earth of wickedness, and at the same time cause it to carry in safety the vessel of deliverance for the righteous remnant tucked securely inside.

He can effortlessly part it when it’s too big for you and me to cross and our enemies are closing in.

He can lead a reluctant, proud, sick man into a muddy river of it and raise him up humbled, whole, and thankful.

He would, centuries later, enter into that same river Himself in humble obedience, at the beginning of His earthly ministry.  I can’t help but think when the Lamb of God stepped foot into the Jordan, Naaman knelt in Heaven and wept, remembering his pride and stubbornness, and worshipping the Christ who came to enter our muddy mess that we might too be raised humbled, whole, and thankful.

He can turn water into something it isn’t and make it more than it was, like allowing a tiny shaft of light to escape from the folds of His robe – one minute particle of His God-nature escaping to reveal that HE is here, among us, doing the impossible, because with Him, NOTHING is impossible.

No boat?  No problem.  He can walk on top of the water as though it were solid glass and beckons to you to get out of the safety and predictability of your own boat and walk on your impossibility too, eyes on His face.

He can command it in the midst of a wild, wind-whipped frenzy of lashing waves, and it will obey the voice of its Maker, instantly becoming meek and calm as bath water.

He can start a conversation around it with a rejected woman and use it to address her deep soul thirst for truth and acceptance.

By causing rivers of living water to flow out of us by His Spirit so we can offer the water of life to a sin-scorched generation, He lifts our little lives and gives them beauty, meaning, and significance.

Two questions:Are You Thirsty?
  1. Are you thirsty today for more of Him?
  2. Who do you know who needs the Living Water that you can offer them?

 

If you are thirsty today, if you are weary of your struggles and need the refreshment of the waters of life, Jesus’ invitation in Isaiah is for you:

 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters…”

Put your name in the place of “all you who are thirsty”, and read it again.

There are many ways we try to quench our thirst for beauty, for significance, for power, for love, but as Aslan the lion told a terrified Jill in C.S.Lewis’s book, The Silver Chair, “There is no other stream“.  We must brave the Lion to come to drink, and when we do, knees knocking, we are undone when we find that the One we so greatly feared looks at us with love in His eyes.

My prayer for you today is that you will come to the water and be filled afresh, the life-giving water bubbling over to wash away all the hurt and disappointment of the past, cleansing and refreshing you in His presence, and filling you with His joy.

Then, dripping and satisfied, we must climb the banks of the Jordan and go back to our lives, but as we go we offer to those around us a drink of the same Stream.  Who do you know who needs to hear that they don’t have to live thirsty?

With faith, hope, and love,

Christine signature 001

 

 

 

 

The Surprisingly Good News About Trouble

Odd how life-altering changes can come so abruptly, with no warning.  One moment, life is as it has always been, and the next, everything is forever changed. Trouble doesn’t take the time to call before ringing the doorbell.

I was blessed to spend some time with extended family yesterday. While visiting with my sweet sister-in-law and her husband, I heard an update on their friend Gerry who is suffering from ALS. There has not been much time between the initial shock of the diagnosis and the current new “normal” that can never seem normal of wheelchair confinement, a hospital bed at home, and having to be fed every bite of food he takes. Not much time, but surely many losses in that short period, with more on the horizon. No more golf, no more trips. No more of many things that were just a regular part of life, pre-ALS.

the surprisingly good news about trouble

I thought of Gerry this morning as I read 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” There’s a little mental game I play sometimes when I’m really struggling to be thankful. As silly as it sounds, the “what if” game has pulled me out of many a downward spiral by facilitating a desperately needed attitude adjustment. When our A/C was out for a week in the hottest month of the summer (and folks, we don’t live in Alaska), I asked myself, just for fun, “What if for every minute we have no A/C, $1000 was being added to our savings account?” I could imagine our excitement as we cheerfully mopped sweat and counted the seconds down together, “58…59…60!!!”

“KA-CHING!!!”

The really amazing thing is, according to 2 Corinthians 4:17, the “what if” game is a reality for those who know Christ. Picture a balance scale with me.

Now, on one side of the scale, load your troubles. You know what they are. Don’t be shy – load them all on…it’s a big scale. Sickness? Financial trouble? Relationships? Legal issues? Job? All there? Good.

Now, those “light and momentary troubles” (“easy for Paul to say”, we may be tempted to mutter bitterly) probably just made the empty side of the scale shoot upwards so fast its trajectory couldn’t be tracked by the naked eye, right? But hang on – the good part is coming.

What Weighs More?

While you are patiently enduring those troubles, they are actually working for you. They are performing an amazing, incredibly valuable function that is guaranteed to make you one day thrilled and grateful to have had every single one of them! They are “achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”.

KA-CHING!!

Now a supersized, overstuffed, overflowing bag of eternal glory comes slamming down on the empty side of the scale – BAM! It doesn’t just gently tip the scales in the other direction. No, it “far outweighs” the junk on the other side! In comparison, the troubles seem like nothing compared to the surpassing greatness of the reward.

Why does this matter? What good is a huge load of eternal glory when it doesn’t make my current problems go away?

The answer to that is in the next verse.

“So we fix our eyes on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

So are you, my friend. Eternal, that is. And eternity is a heck of a lot longer than your life here on this tiny revolving ball of dirt and water we call Earth.

Sure, life here seems like forever. That’s why we have to “fix” our eyes on the eternal. Keep them there, and put blinders on if necessary! Our eternity is greatly impacted by our patient endurance here. Our moment-by-moment choices to honor God in the hard times matter more than we will ever know, this side of Heaven.

So what weighs more on the great balance scale of life?  “Light and momentary troubles”, or the eternal glory gained by them?  Don’t be fooled by the way things look now.  What you gain FAR outweighs what you suffer, and THAT’S good news!  It’s true for Gerry, and it’s true for you if Christ is the Lord of your life.

 

 

And if He isn’t, wouldn’t this be a great moment to change that?

 

With faith, hope, and love,

Christine signature 001

Hold On Tight

 

I remember it like it was yesterday – the roadside carnival my best friend and I visited.   We were old enough to be driving around by ourselves and enjoying the wonderful freedom of sudden financial affluence from that American teenage institution, the First Job (I think I may have made a whopping $5/hour for rendering my expert services at an animal hospital, which included nearly fainting during a procedure my first week there) combined with the unparalleled excitement of the First Car.

Now it must be understood that when I was born, babies were still coming home from the hospital in cardboard boxes.  The current 10 gazillion dollar industry in baby safety products had not yet been unleashed on an unsuspecting public.  Apparently, traveling roadside carnivals had not yet undergone their safety revolution either at that point in history (if indeed they have had one).  My friend and I picked a ride and climbed into our seats, giggling and giddy.  Thin metal lap bar in place, we began to sail upwards towards the sky.  Once our car began to tip and sway, we realized with horror that our lap bar would not latch.  The attendant who checked to be sure everything was okay before starting the ride must have been so dazzled by us (I’m sure that’s what we told ourselves) that he completely forgot to perform his safety checks.

Mostly what we remember from that ride is bracing ourselves and hanging on for dear life.  Presumably,  the operator of the ride paid no attention to all our hollering because screaming people are the norm on carnival rides. When our car began to flip upside down, things really got tense.  Thankfully, we did not fly out of our seats and we lived to walk out on shaky legs, as we pledged to each other to NEVER visit another roadside carnival, and NEVER tell our mothers what had just happened…at least not for a long, long time.

The story I just shared was brought back to mind today as I read the Apostle Paul’s words, “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” (I Cor.15:2, emphasis mine)

There’s something exclusive about holding firmly to something.  On that ride, if Lara and I had been eating funnel cakes when we got on (who knows- eating on rides was probably allowed back then!), as much as I love a good funnel cake, that cake would have turned into a Frisbee as soon as I realized my hands were needed if I wanted to walk back to the car and not ride off in an ambulance.

To hold on firmly to something, we have to be willing to let go of something else.

The question we must ask is, are we holding firmly to the Word – the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us – or are our hands too full of other things to get a tight grip?

I am the notorious Queen of One Trip…trying to get everything from the car into the house in one load…and I can tell you from repeated experience – something usually gets dropped.

Are we hanging on for dear life with both hands, or do we just have a finger hooked on to the Living Word while we also fumblingly attempt to clutch ____________ (you fill in the blank)?

I certainly don’t want to have believed in vain.  There’s no addiction, no habit, no relationship, no prize of this world that’s worth it.

If there is something today that’s keeping you from holding on firmly with both hands, may I encourage you to lay it down?  I know the One who waits, love in His eyes, hands extended.  He IS worth it.  Don’t have believed in vain.

With love,

Christine signature 001

 

 

The Gift of Emptiness

There are so many things I ask God for.  Health, safety, blessing, patience, wisdom, patience, direction, patience.  Did I mention patience?

But sometime over the course of the summer I realized that IT had happened again.  In the course of the busy living, and the asking for all the good things we all want, and the basking in the good things God graciously gives, I had unconsciously slid into the “I’ve got this” rut.  Or maybe “pit” would be a better term.  The subtle shift from desperation for God to Professional Christian.  Yuck.  I definitely do not think the world needs more of those.  Because lurking in that pit are ugly things like smugness, self-sufficiency, and critical attitudes all slithering around their Big Daddy, Pride.  Not the kind of things nice Christians confess on any given Sunday morning.

Then one morning in my Bible reading, I encountered Jesus saying that without the wood-interior-doorFather, He could do nothing.   Not just “not as much”, or “not as many” or “couldn’t walk on the water quite as long”, but NOTHING.  That comes from a Greek word that means “NOTHING”.

If He couldn’t, what makes me think I am sufficient for anything at all on my own, either?  When did the speck in my eye grow into a 2 by 4?  When He said “blessed are the poor in spirit”, what did that mean?  Somehow I don’t think it meant smug Christians who are impressed with their own righteousness.

Do I know what it means to be poor in spirit?  To need Him?  To be aware of my great, cavernous need of Him? Because whether we are willing to recognize it our not, we all need Him.  Blessed are those who know it!

So instead of asking for things – however good they may be – I am asking for the gift of emptiness.  Sounds like a strange gift to ask for, doesn’t it?  But the great gift of emptiness is that vessels that are empty of the things of this world are ready to be filled with the glory of God.  Isn’t that what those of us who are Christ-followers want?  Just Him…more of Him.

Because I can’t heal a sick child, but He can.  I can’t comfort a grieving friend, but He can.  I can’t take a horrible situation and miraculously redeem it into something beautiful, but He can!   I can’t even be the godly wife and mother I want to be without Christ in me, the hope of glory.  And to have more of Him, there needs to be less of me.

So right now the gift of emptiness is looking mighty good…not for the sake of remaining empty, but in the promise of being filled to overflowing with the Presence of God.

Will you join me?  Drop me a comment and tell me what that looks like for you, and I’ll pray for you as we journey together.

With love,

Christine signature 001

 

PS – empty room photo credit: Photo via Visualhunt.com