Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"I Had Fun"

Stephanie and I have noticed in recent days how much our culture--including us--throws around this phrase "I had fun." It's almost as if all anyone ultimately cares about in any given situation is if they "had fun." I hear this from sports figures all the time. When asked about a difficult loss or even a win or how they pulled together to accomplish something, you'll hear them say something about "having fun" out there and how that is all that matters. When we have our kids play in little league games or participate in other activities, we typically will ask them if they "had fun" rather than focusing on anything else. Even blatantly wrong behavior can be written off as just "having a little fun."...I've even noticed this at church. When I'm talking to kids, I'll ask them if they "had fun" more than I'll ask them if they learned something or how they were challenged.

Seriously, try to pay attention to how much we throw this phrase around all the time. It might seem innocent at first, but I think that it reveals something a bit deeper about us as Americans. We are a people--myself included--who are now sucked into this idea that everything needs to be "fun." Life is about entertainment and pleasure more than about doing what is right.

I think that as Christians, we need to be particularly careful about making things in our church, homes, and personal lives too much about "fun" and not enough about being obedient to Christ....Does God want us to "have fun?" In some sense, yes. Christ's death and resurrection in our place makes it possible for us to have life--and life to the fullest. He wants us to have joy in our hearts no matter what happens. But His ultimate goal is for us to be conformed to His image. Being obedient will be difficult at times; putting sin to death is not always pleasurable at first. Suffering might be part of obedience.

So let's just be careful about elevating "fun" above godliness.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"Young and Stupid"

I've heard this excuse one too many times in recent days--most notably by famous athletes Michael Phelps and Alex Rodriguez. For those who are sports fans, I'm sure you've heard these stories already.

Michael Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals just this past summer at the Olympics, was photographed taking a hit from a bong a few weeks ago. And when he addressed the public about it, here is what he said: "I’m 23 years old and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way."

Alex Rodriguez, arguably the best baseball player of our generation, recently admitted to using steroids to improve his performance from 2001-2003--something that is illegal and a blatant method of cheating. His response in an interview with Peter Gammons? "I was young, I was stupid, I was naïve."

These guys were 23 and 25-ish when they made these terrible decisions. And they still want to pass off their behaviors as those that are just typical and to be expected for someone their age. I can't slam these guys too hard, because I used to try to pass off my sin as anything other than sin and blame it on anything other than my own choices. But their excuses tells us two things about our culture: 1. We have very low expectations of our young people; and 2. We rarely take responsibility for the sins we commit.

As Christians, we need to make sure that we place high expectations on our children and teach them to take responsibility for their sins. Age is never mentioned as an excuse for sin in the Bible. In fact, the opposite seems to be true. We see young people consistently presented as examples of obedience and spiritual maturity. In Proverbs, high standards are placed before young people for their behavior...And we also are taught that when we sin--no matter what our age--we are to confess it and own it as ours, rather than blaming it on something or someone else.

So teach your children or those you minister to at our church to not give in to society's low expectations. If they have the Spirit of God as a believer and have put their faith in Christ, they can be set free from sin and live obediently regardless of age. And teach them to take responsibility. There should be no fear in this, because if we are believers, the shame and condemnation for our sin have already been placed on Christ on the cross. It's only when we openly confess and own our sin that we can truly understand God's forgiveness and be set free from the chains of sin.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Robbery and My Attitude

Yesterday morning I walked into church only to find that we'd been robbed. Someone had broken in over night and taken a lot of valuable items--including my laptop computer. It was a strange day to say the least. And it's tempting for me to be angry and want to get revenge on whoever this person was. It's easy for me to think and say how awful a decision this person (or these people) made and how God must be so angry with them. It's tempting to think I'm better than this thief. But I have to remind myself that I am not.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:1-5
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—-among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—-"

Did you catch what he's pointing out to these Christians? He's saying that all mankind is equal when left to our own devices. Even the most godly of Christians once was dead in sin, following Satan and letting his/her sinful passions and desires reign supreme. All of us are "by nature children of wrath." On our own, we are no better and no more godly than any other individual we will ever meet--even those who do wrong against us.

The only thing that is different for us as believers is that God, rich in mercy, has changed our hearts and made us into new people. Through the death of Christ, He's forgiven us and set us free from the sin that we used to be slaves to...So I have no reason to look down on whoever this thief is. I am no better than him/her. Left to my own devices, who knows what I might have become.

So when I think of this robbery, I am sad for the thief and hopeful that through the legal process that follows that he/she will hear the gospel--even from me if I'm given the opportunity--and that God will change their heart and give them new desires....I think it is still appropriate and probably necessary to press charges as a church; we are not simply to be a doormat. But more than that, we need to show this person that because of Christ's death and resurrection God is willing to forgive them and make them new!