This entry is to announce the end of Clickbait Spoilers, even though so far there have only been three. It has been very frustrating opening sites, just for you I might add, that are slow to load, crash my computer, and have lots of horrific little pictures enticing me to click more and more. I thought that maybe I was adding some value to the world by making sure you didn’t have to click on the lure of “you won’t believe what happens next,” and in doing so maybe making you laugh at the foibles that are the life and times of internet living. But the suffering was just too great. I see these clickbait headlines and just wonder why the person who shares them just doesn’t tell us why the woman cried after hearing “this” for the first time, or the two words you don’t say to breastfeeding mothers, or whatever it is these sites are trying to get us over there for. And Christians are the worst propagators of this very thing. I suppose I understand that people want more clicks on their sites because it generates revenue, I guess; I wouldn’t really know about generating money from your site. I just have felt dirty when I click on these; again I want to say that it has been just for you.
I wonder about whether or not Christ, or more specifically God, was a clickbait kind of guy. “Noah! There is a giant wooden thing I want you to build, and you won’t believe what I’ll do when it’s done.” Does it matter that Noah was obedient or was he curious about it and decided to click? “Give me five loaves of bread and two fish, and you won’t believe what happens next.” Would it be that some people just didn’t stick around to find out? Most people, in fact I might be persuaded to say that all of them decided to see what did happen next, and you know what? It paid off baby!
There was a time they didn’t stick around to find out what happens next and that is when Jesus told them that they had to eat His flesh and drink his blood in order to have life. Can you imagine what kind of clickbait headline that would have to be to drive away people today? People have this insatiable curiosity to the lure of being shocked, or not knowing, that it almost drives us to it. But it seems as if these promises of amazement leading to us shrugging our shoulders and just saying, “Meh…” adds to the sense that there is nothing incredible anymore.
I see on that one site that so-and-so has liked this story and it gives you a subtle sense that something might be valuable in clicking: I usually don’t. But when someone shares it, and doesn’t actually tell me what it is, it makes me mad, because what little value I have placed on our “friendship” leaves me to wonder why they want to lead me astray in a clickbait catastrophe. Sure, most don’t think about what they are sharing as trouble to people like you and me, as it really isn’t, but that culture of “Tonight at six we’ll tell you why this mother beat her son in public and she has been lauded as a good example of parenting,” makes me a little sick inside, especially after this foray into finding out things for you that you normally wouldn’t click on. And that is the thing, isn’t it? That it doesn’t really pay off. Maybe it might make you think, “interesting” for a second or two, but the only really, truly thing that gives us an ultimate pay off is God. His lure is not false. His promises will not let you down. If you truly know Him and give Him your life, you will know that He is no bait, but He does want to catch you and hold on forever, but for His glory and nobody else’s.
I see all these famous people who claimed Christianity for so long and we uphold them… then they deny Him and His Church and fall away. They were clickbaited by something other than Christ. I know the lure of spirituality, but it will never pay off in the end.
So long “Clickbait Spoilers,” I hardly knew ye.
Strange Confessions: I am petrified that I am being forced into a position to make another wrong choice in my life, as well as the fact that I think it might be God working in me for another major transition ahead.
Since I’ve been a Christian there have been some decisions in my life regarding a major purchase or job change or how we raise our children that I attempted to listen to what God would want me to do, but ended up feeling the pressure of a deadline or dissatisfaction or I just plain didn’t have the patience to wait for a clear picture. So I found myself in many peculiar positions of getting what I thought I wanted, yet it turned out to somehow be a cosmic joke played on me with added strain added to reveal the impertinence of my actions. I won’t go into it all now, because A: I’m not sure if I’ve already told you about some of these situations I’ve put myself in, and number 2: the stories behind these decisions is not the point.
My point is that these last two sermons I have absorbed these past two weeks have revealed in me the perilous point I now find myself in. I did not write at all week last week because of a funk I’ve been under. Let me just say it outright: I’ve been selfishly depressed.
The Perspectives course I have been taking, which started out grand, has rusted the gears in my mind because of the view I hold of myself. Who am I, that I could possibly begin a journey that would lead myself and my family to a point of excitedly getting to experience a culture that would be both a challenge and a blessing, to share our lives with people outside of the framework of our own wearisome culture? That is my thoughts my friends. Yes, don’t start convincing me of the argument that God uses the weak and the foolish and the blind, for I know all that. It is my Performance Record that gets in the way.
Work has been the other great “sign” or “challenge” or “prompt” that has given me the idea that things are pushing me to another change. Yet is it just me being more and more dissatisfied with work that I want to leave or quit or even get fired just so I have an excuse that it really was God pushing me? I really do believe that the way things are going at work, things are going to quickly come to a head and a decision is going to have to be made about what are we going to do next. Then I look at my Performance Record, and I see that maybe things aren’t as light at the end of the tunnel as they seem.
My 16-year-old daughter has been driving more and more lately, and she is very unsettled in the way it is so difficult in planning for her to work some, earning extra money for the college degree she is planning on and we have outright told her there is nothing for her from us in that regard. I failed out of the high school all my family went to, lost the grant I had in college due to selfishly staring at my navel through the drug-induced haze pouring through my mouth, couldn’t do well enough at the community college to strive and push myself into the betterment of who I always thought I could be. Then I jump from job to job, not climbing any corporate ladder I always convinced myself wasn’t for me and find myself in a managerial/design position I knew was a home run, but is drowning in the excess of poor communication and a series of managers not close enough to delve into the whys and hows of the complexities I have tried to convince them of, but find that every issue I bring up is my fault and my problem to handle, because after all, didn’t I take a class for that? I want to provide to my children the means to succeed if not the funds, but it seems that the mists of my poor Performance Record is finally catching up with me, and is convincing me that it is too late to do anything about it.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the sermon recently had something to do with a performance record of sorts. We have gotten into a series on Galatians, and last week was about the “Reversed” gospel. There were people going to the territory of Galatia convincing the new Christians that there were things they had to do to earn God’s favor. There were 4 points or acid tests that summed up the focus of the sermon, things that we had to take and see if they were true in our lives, to see if we were following a “reversed” gospel:
- Fear of man: Who am I trying to impress? Where do I gain my approval, acceptance and security from?
- Internal Power: God called you. Are you forgetting that when God speaks, action follows? Whose power are you relying on?
- Illumination: Do you truly understand what the gospel is? Where are you gaining your understanding?
- Relationship: Are you delving deeper into a relationship with the one who saved you, or abandoning it because it is a duty to serve Him, and not a delight?
When he spoke about who I am trying to impress or gain approval, acceptance, security from, I thought I don’t care about what other people think about me… but that isn’t true. I either want people to know me better from reading what I write and approving of it or, I dismiss them altogether if there is any semblance of rejection. I realize that even as people gain what they need from other men, avoiding them so that you don’t have to face rejection is another way of saying you thirst for man’s approval and not God. Sometimes it is even the case when you feel superior and reject all others as dumb or uneducated or filthy, that you might not be giving people the opportunity to reject you, and thus, you respect the opinion of man… in a roundabout subconscious sort of way.
My Performance Record is terrible in this instance.
And thus, we come to it. Yesterday’s sermon also had 4 points. We looked at the question of how do we really know if we’ve been converted. The four points in this instance were:
- Performance Record: Are you concerned more with what you are doing than who you are?
- View of God: Are we putting our idea of who God is and putting against what we see in the Bible, or are we accepting the change of view in revelation of Him. If God is a god we have created in our hearts than that god cannot change who we fundamentally are. We will always struggle with our “mistakes” rather than our sins. Paul understood that God would never become a man, that God would never cease the sacrificial system. When Jesus came to Paul, he asked the question that held it all for him, “Who are you Lord?”
- Relationship with Christ: There is no try in Christianity, there is just be one. Our failures don’t make us who we are, our relationship with the one who declared, “it is FINISHED” makes us who we are, and we should start behaving like we believe it is done instead of always trying to please Him.
- Who gets the glory? Are you taking the credit for what God has done in your life? It is the man who understands the Weight of His Glory who has been converted.
Understanding the concept of the Performance Record really resonated with me.
Our entire society is based around the concept of what we’ve done, and we believe it is the same with God. God reveals our performance record in the sermon on the mount. Have we killed anyone? No. But have you hated or gossiped about someone? Have you committed adultery? No. But those who have looked upon a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart. And it is about our heart, right? Not our actions. All of us have sinned and there is that chasm that separates us from Him. I look at the performance record of my life and it is the failures that are glaringly obvious. It overshadows all. Light should light up the darkness, but the darkness of failure seeps in like an oily smoke, distorting the view of all the successes, the things that should be my focus. Oh, what a terrible, tortuous thing it is to compare ourselves with others. To see friends and family going past me, the weight of failure keeping my eyes downcast, only seeing the shadows that could have been. I need a Scrooge or a George Bailey moment to see the light… no, I need a God moment everyday. I need a wonderful wife moment, a beautiful children moment, an incredible fellowship group moment, a home with a roof moment. Woe to the weeds of life that are so tall and out-of-place that the eye is drawn there, and this change that is just over the horizon makes my sorrowful performance record give weight to all the doubt, fear, hatred, dismay, discouragement and failure that is the past.
LORD, take this weight from me. Work in my life and through your word and through your people to renew the hope I know is just under the surface, waiting to sprout again. Bring about the reminder of a life that is eternal with You right now. The weight of weariness I see in the world everyday is not reflecting your glory, it is the beauty life in your people who I need to reflect on. The thoughtfulness of my wife, the joy of my children, the concern of a friend. You are in them all, reflecting the things I need to see. I know this weight is a lie. You are the truth, You are the Way, You lead me to comfort and peace. I take over and lead to failure and sorrow and You stand apart, waiting for me to look up into Your face. I love You for showing this truth to me in the way You have given me. Thank You for Your Spirit, alive and living in me. Show me Your way, that I may walk with You, and be where You are, no matter where that is. Thank You God, Thank You!
We had a two-part sermon from one of the newer members in church, finishing it up two days ago.
First one he entitled “Humble Beginnings“. Some of the things I got from this were:
God is humble in its most perfect sense – I thought about how many unbelievers would fiercely disagree with this. He took the example of Kobe Bryant. If Kobe were asked before a one-on-one game with me whether he would win or not, if we considered him a humble man, he would say that he was confident he would win. It’s not a matter that he had such pride he could beat anyone, but knowing his skill, experience and overall strength, it would be most likely he could kick me to the curb. In a way, God is like that: Everything He says about Himself, who He is or what He has done or is going to do, is complete and total truth. Now Kobe, there will be someone who will come around who will be better than him eventually, but God: that is no one who will be greater than Him, He will always do what He says.
Pride is the antithesis of humility – Pride is the thing I believe most of the world sees as God’s major attribute. After all, wasn’t it Oprah who said when she was younger sitting in church, listening that God says He is a jealous God, that she rejected this. Jealousy, at least from the human viewpoint, is a huge indicator that someone has much pride. But God, which there is nothing like Him anywhere, I mean He created anywhere, anytime, everything. His jealousy is not pride, it is that He deserves it, He deserves our devotion, our adoration, He is our all in all, for all, whether we understand it or not. Pride comes through boasting, and God doesn’t boast! What He says, He does.
We need to stop using the phrase “I am so proud…” – Since pride comes through boasting, we should be humbled in the things God, in His glorious mercy, has given us. Since God is not prideful, we should look at the way we use the word prideful. When our child does a great job in the food cooking competition, instead of saying “I’m so proud of Jimbo” we should practice “I’m so humbled that God has given me a great young chef for a son.”
Pride is always negative – Proverbs 8:13 “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.” Amos 6:8 “The Lord God has sworn by Himself, the Lord God of hosts says: ‘I abhor the pride of Jacob, and hate his palaces; therefore I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.'” Mark 7:20-23 “And He said, ‘What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.'” 1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.” Psalm 10:4 “The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.” James 4:6 “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Proberbs 11:2 “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 16:18-19 “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” Proberbs 29:23 “A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor.” 1 Corinthians 8:2 “And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.” 1 Timothy 6:17 “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.”
How to recognize pride in yourself:
- Pride feels threatened by the giftedness of others
- Pride shifts blame
- Pride says, “I’m sorry, but…” (self-justification) or “I’m sorry you took me wrong”
- Pride can’t be taught.
- Pride has a better idea.
- Pride always questions leadership
- Pride always looks to the great things they’ll do, forgetting God holds the future
- Pride knocks others down
- Pride finds solace in rules
- Pride is stubborn
- Pride picks apart what others do
Some books he suggested was “Till We Have Faces” by C.S. Lewis. For the younger crowd, “Big Truths for Little Kids” or “Big Truths for Young Hearts” I can’t remember which, but both look good.
He ended up by sharing the story from Luke 7:36-50, about the woman who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. A Pharisee said that Jesus wouldn’t let her touch Him if He knew who she was. Jesus told a story that revealed how much someone may love the one that forgives. The point was, is that the woman said nothing. She didn’t justify herself or argue, she was humbled enough in His presence to let Him reveal her love for Him, and that is what we should do: Not fight or justify ourselves, let God fight for us, for it is already won. It won’t always be easy, but we are not to fight for ourselves because the battle is won and Christ in the victory.
This last Sunday’s sermon was called “How Does Royalty Roll?”
He started out by showing where the “Gods” dwelt in the time of Jesus:
A little hard to connect with, right? These creations of humans were magnificent. Even today, royalty are like the gods of our days. The number one search for Yahoo in 2013 was “royal baby”. Here is what the newly born price in England has as an inheritance here on earth:
God doesn’t want us to have things or places built in His honor. In fact, when God gave the blueprints to Moses of the place where they were to meet with Him, the Jews may have been a bit disappointed. After all, look at what happened immediately after Moses showed them the plans: they built a golden calf, a symbol of God. You can imagine them saying, “This god needs our help, he needs something of honor and richness to represent him.” God is uncreated, so He cannot allow something created to represent Him. The Jews may have been those who helped build those Pyramids. They had over a million people in their group, who had taken all the Egyptians goods that God have them give away. And this is what God wanted them to build? A tent?
It makes much sense. We want to make magnificent things in God’s honor, but all He wants is our life.
And so this is how the True God came into this world:
You know, it is hard to find a “humble” nativity scene. Either the baby Jesus is glowing like a star or some magnificent light is shining down on him, stars glowing brightly, lights all around, maybe they are in some structure or such. But the truth is, He started out in a dark, stinky, lonely, scandalous cave. “Scandalous?” you say… Perhaps. The speaker made a point in saying that if we had to go back to our town for the census, we would know someone, we would be among our people, and even more so with the Jewish family back then. There would be a place for us, especially if our wife was due imminently. But scandal surrounded this couple, this birth, this humble beginning.
This God, this single, one and only, true God reached down out of eternity to touch us. The grandness, the magnificence, the beauty, the mystery keeps people away. God came in a cave. He touched those who had to call out “unclean!” He humbled Himself for us. We are His temple. He has chosen to tabernacle with us today.
God bless you, and Merry Christmas
Question One, inspired by this article.
University of Chicago
“Have you ever walked through the aisles of a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club and wondered who would buy a jar of mustard a foot and a half tall? We’ve bought it, but it didn’t stop us from wondering about other things, like absurd eating contests, impulse buys, excess, unimagined uses for mustard, storage, preservatives, notions of bigness…and dozens of other ideas both silly and serious. Write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard.”
There is a place in the world for people to ride on bikes, backwards, down a San Francisco hill, toward a pier leading out to an open ocean full of sharks and blood, for the fun of it. But, that part of the world is not one where I would fit in well. This world, in this era seems to be a point of excess never seen before. That may sound cliche, and possibly not very true, but in my time and my world, it’s the truest you’d ever know about me. The most challenging thing I’ve done lately is eat a tomato when the doctor told me not to, and the last time I had one, I suffered excruciating pain for three hours. But, it is also not to say I wouldn’t take up a challenge worth training for. I mean, I wouldn’t just grab a two gallon vat of mustard and enough corn dogs to dunk, twist and swirl my way to the bottom, gagging down the meaty-corniness and vinegary yellow heaven, without at least two months of training on ham, shrimp, and balsamic vinegar sandwiches! Who would? I wouldn’t take the risk without the training.
Yes, I understand you see the difference between eating a sink full of mustard with a bushel of corn-dogs and walking a high-wire across an immensely amazing canyon. But, if this amazingly brave, and stupid man had not thanked Jesus, what difference would it have made to the world? Nothing perhaps. But my God is bigger than that, He can do anything He wants through whatever idiots He wants. Even if I wanted to eat mounds of mustard with stick-fulls of deep fried corn bread surrounding mysterious pink meat products, He would fulfill His purposes whether I thanked Him or not. But, as I am so thrillingly reminded by the word, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” And, yes I can see that perhaps if I took on something as unhealthy as I mentioned multiple times it may not be as glorifying to my God as I may think. But, you never know with, my God.