Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Idolatry of Happily Ever After

Did you know that I was Prince Charming? Sure, I may have only been an adolescent boy but I was going to grow up to be the one who rescued the Princess and with her live happily ever after. Because that’s where I would find complete happiness: in the presence of the most beautiful and flawless woman I’d ever lay eyes on. I would recognize her worth and she’d recognize mine and we’d have all we’d ever need. Our love would magically provide home, health, and everything else we might want. They’d probably write books and make movies detailing our perfect love. And it would all start at first sight. One look was all we’d need and we’d be “head over heels” in love.

“That’s stupid!” These are the words I heard from a good friend as I told her about my idea of love. By this time I was a 24 year old grown man who still clung to romantic love being the end all of life. And why wouldn’t I have? Some of my closest childhood companions were Disney movies. And just about every secular song I ever heard outside of church was about “when a man loves a woman”. The fact is, our culture glorifies romantic love. Just two nights ago as Annette and I watched “Downton Abbey” (I never claimed to be a man’s man), one of the main characters was told that if she’d marry him “every waking moment would be devoted to her happiness.” Turn on the radio and I guarantee you’ll hear a similar promise within seconds. This kind of sentiment is praised as sweet and romantic. Many would probably say that this is how it should be.

The Church has even participated in this phenomenon. For example, I was encouraged to keep my virginity intact because one day I would meet the “the one” and all my dreams would be fulfilled in her. But while saving myself for my future wife was and is biblical, looking to another person to fulfill us is not. Unfortunately, this idea has wreaked havoc in so many marriages as many have looked to their spouses to deliver something impossible for them to give. One of my closest friends, a Christian, has had several relationships end disastrously because they’ve continued to look to be swept away in a fog of romantic love, where all they can see is each other.

I used to think this was beautiful. Now, I see it for what it is: Camouflaged Idolatry. It looks good, because after all, we’re supposed to love and be faithful to our spouse. But as with so many things that God creates and calls good, it’s been perverted. Romantic love has become another vehicle for stealing away our highest affection from the only one deserving of it. This is idolatry. We all worship something, and anything that we adore more than Christ has become our object of worship. Isn’t it obvious that for so many in our culture, maybe even for you, seemingly innocent romantic love has become the idol of choice?

So am I suggesting that we do away with romantic love? Not at all. I’m calling us to keep it in its proper place with proper perspective. God made marriage. He invented romantic love between a man and a woman. It’s a wonderful gift. And its primary purpose is the same as everything that God has made: to reveal His glory to mankind that we would know Him, love Him, and be in awe of Him. Paul writes in Colossians 1:16, “All things were created through Him and for Him.” In writing this in reference to Jesus, Paul declares that even our own marriages are not primarily for us, they are to be for Jesus. How so? In many ways, but let me point out two extremely important ones: First, to be a picture of the beautiful relationship that people can have with Jesus as a part of His bride (Ephesians 5:25-33). Second, to help and spur each other on to carry out Jesus’ command to all Christians to be disciple-making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).

If you’re married or plan to be, your spouse will one day stand before the Lord and give an account for their life. Have you ever thought about that? You need to be helping prepare them for that day, not simply engaging in temporal romantic idolatry with them.

After calling my romantic notions “stupid”, my close friend pointed out the blessing of marrying your best friend and having a relationship built on truth and not on fantasy. She struck a chord with me that day.  In fact, she strikes a chord with me every day. She is a very wise woman and I’m incredibly blessed to be married to her. Sometimes it’s a fine line I walk between worshipping her and worshipping the one who made her. But it’s a line that I must not cross. Not when I think about the Cross. And this is what we must do. Think long and hard about the amazing and perfect love Christ displayed for us at the Cross. He is the prince that came to rescue us. We are His bride. This is where we find fulfillment! Jesus is the only one who can truly meet our needs. He is the only one who will never hurt us. He is the lover of our souls. When we dwell on this, it shouldn’t be hard to adore Him more than anyone or anything else. With all your heart, soul, mind and strength, love Him above all else for it is with Him that His people will live happily, ever, after.  

Friday, March 25, 2016


If you haven’t heard, the State of Georgia is considering passing a bill that has created quite a stir. In fact, if it is passed, Disney has vowed to discontinue filming at the Hollywood Hot spot “Pinewood Studio’s” located near Atlanta. Marvel has vowed the same. Many actors and actresses have also publicly denounced the legislation. So what is this bill that has so many up in arms?

According to the Washington Post, “The bill protects religious leaders from being forced to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies and individuals from being forced to attend such events. It also allows faith-based organizations to deny use of their facilities for events they find “objectionable” and exempts them from having to hire or retain any employee whose religious beliefs or practices differ from those of the organization.

What is offensive about that? It’s religious freedom and it’s what our country was founded on. The only thing that might be offensive is that individual States are compelled to do this in order to protect its faith institutions from the loud, obnoxious voices of those that whine about being offended to our liberal federal government.

While I’m not entirely surprised that Disney would advocate for the side that is squelching Religious Liberty, I am saddened. They have fallen quite a ways from the beliefs of their founder. Walt Disney once wrote “I believe firmly in the efficacy of religion, in its powerful influence on a person's whole life. It helps immeasurably to meet the storm and stress of life and keep you attuned to the Divine inspiration. Without inspiration, we would perish. All I ask of myself, 'Live a good Christian life.' To that objective I bend every effort in shaping my personal, domestic, and professional activities and growth.

Faith informed his activities. His legacy, Walt Disney Studios, is trying to make that impossible for me and other people in a position like me. They would have me put my faith in the backseat and be driven by the ever-changing winds of public opinion. I can’t do that. I won’t do that. Walt Disney himself didn’t do that.

So what? What should Christians do about it? Am I advocating boycott of Disney? Do I suggest we use Social Media to protest loudly and incessantly?  Or what about picketing in front of various Disney headquarters? First, the short answer to those questions: No. Now, the long answer to those questions: Noooooo! There is a much more important way to spend our time and resources, which I will get to in a moment.

Disney’s about-face should be seen as a sign of the times. We are living in a country that has traded its foundational principles of religious liberty for secular slavery where the only truth is how one feels and tolerance is the highest virtue. Thus, if you dare object to the immoral actions of some, your intolerance becomes intolerable and you are condemned as a bigot (so much for being tolerant) and become another causality of postmodernity.  But why? How did this happen? Because we DO NOT live in a Christian nation. I hope by now you see this.

I also hope that by now you’ve realized that the way to change things isn’t through politics. If we read our Bible’s, we should know this. Think about when Israel wanted a King.  That made everything better for them, didn’t it? Of course not. Saul was the first of many King’s that would help destroy Israel from the inside out. But the solution, and what I believe the Bible makes crystal clear, does involve a King. The way to true change in our country and our world is to introduce people to the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the one and only who can transform hearts and minds. No matter how hard we try, how loud we yell, how much we legislate, we cannot do it. Stop expecting non-Christians to act like Christians. But Christian, do expect yourself to act like a Christian.

And what does a Christian do? Make disciples of Christ. Ephesians 4:12 makes it clear that YOU are to do the work of the ministry! Pastors and such are here to equip YOU to make disciples. Stop merely coasting through your comfy lives, watching your “christian” movies, going to your safe and secluded bible studies, hiding behind the four walls of your home and get out there and tell someone about Jesus! Disciple a young Christian! Bring the widow across the street from you dinner. Invite her to celebrate the Resurrection with you this Sunday. Stop making excuses. Do something now! (Know that I'm preaching to myself here too). 

Disney may be a lost cause but that’s okay, I’m more concerned about the people that make up Disney. And there is a lot of hope for them as I guarantee that every one of them knows a Christian. Let’s pray that those Christians and all Christians (including you) start talking up Jesus. Imagine if every Christian planted a few seeds every day! We may never see an about-face in our country or in Disney, but we just might see an about-face in our neighbor or our coworker or our friend at the gym. But it starts with us making an about-face and obeying the command of our Lord to “Go...” So let’s go. Are you with me?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Where are you Jesus???

“Where are you Jesus? I feel so distant from you!” Have you ever said words similar to these? I know I have.

As I prepared for this past week’s Sunday morning marriage class, I was startled with a truth pointed out in Francis & Lisa Chan’s book, “You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity”. Their point had nothing to do with marriage but everything to do with mission. As you probably know the last command Jesus gave while on earth was to “go and make disciples…” But did you know that the very last thing he said was “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”(Matthew 28:19a & 20b) Amazingly, right before Jesus leaves, he promises to be with His disciples! Talk about a paradox! But the truth that Jesus was with them would not have been lost on these first disciples. Think about it. They had just been given a mission, to “go make disciples of all nations”. What a daunting task! How thankful they must have been for his statement of continual presence. 

Yet Jesus’ reassurance that He was with them was given in the context of them carrying out the mission He had called them to. Think about that! Jesus was saying that He was with them as they went out to all nations. He came to save and He sent out His disciples to make more and better disciples. Jesus is in the business of saving people. And so Jesus was with them when they were making disciples. He was with them when they were baptizing new disciples into Him. He was with them when they were teaching those baptized into Christ.

We may not like it and many of us may not do it, but all Christians have been given the same mission as the first disciples: To make more. We’ve all been enlisted for the same thing. We are in a battle for people’s souls. Jesus wants to save them. And so I believe that Jesus’ power and presence are most experienced when we are on the front lines doing what He said to be doing. Unfortunately, I fear that 99% of the time dear Christian, you and I are on furlough getting some R&R. This has to change!

I had a good conversation with a visiting Christian woman on Sunday morning. She is trying to figure out the best ways to get Christians connected with non-Christians. She believes this is the most crucial element we must focus on in evangelism. While I too believe this is vital, I think the bigger problem is this: using the connections we already have to introduce Jesus! I mean ask yourself, “When was the last time I told an unbeliever about Jesus?” My guess is that you’re glad your answer to this question is private. But is it really? Jesus knows.

Please understand, I’m not trying to guilt trip you here. Not at all! I’m trying to remind you of a glorious blessing! Jesus is with us! And I believe He is most with us when we are consumed with Him and His mission to save!  So out of your love for Him and this amazing truth, join Him in this most sacred and imperative mission. Plant a few seeds today! Have Jesus on your lips! 

And the next time you find yourself asking, “Where are you Jesus? I don't feel your presence in my life!” ask yourself, “How engaged am I in making disciples?” That very well could be your problem.