Worthless idols

In my last post I talked about the whole Kristen Stewart scandal and her “momentary indiscretion”. I certainly do not want it to feel as though my posts are obsessing over Twlight actors/actresses, but some reactions to this event have inspired this post today.

Did you ever have a hero growing up as a kid? I’m not talking about a fictional superhero like Superman. Was there ever a person that you looked up to more than anyone else? Maybe there was an older sibling, a parent, or an adult in your life that you looked up to as a personal hero. We likely have had people like that in our lives. We want to be like them. We wish we had their life and we begin to idolize them.

There are a lot of fans of the Twilight series. There are plenty of fans of Kristen Stewart and Robert Patterson. This scandal seems to have created a greater devastation in the lives of the fans as opposed to those directly involved. One young woman posted a video of her crying out for four minutes on how devastated she was that this perfect couple had failed. Another young lady talked about how she felt their love was so pure and perfect, and now her faith in all of this was shattered because of what Kristen had done.

Heroes let us down. We set them up on pedestals and they inevitably fall. Celebrities are often victims to this, but it is not just selective to that category. Our friends, parents, significant others, pastors, and anyone we look up to will let us down sometimes. We are all human and make mistakes.

It is not wrong to look up to others. It is not really even wrong to want to be a little more like someone else who has some healthy traits that you admire. It becomes dangerous when we set that person up as the perfection of completion. There were many people that viewed this couple as the perfect couple. They want their relationship to be just like theirs. There are multiple reasons why this should be a problem including the fact that this couple lived together. The biggest problem though is that no relationship is perfect. They all have flaws. When we set ourselves up to be exactly like someone else we are trying to imitate their good qualities and their bad qualities.

We believe our idols cannot fail. Idols… That is what we make our heroes. We place them on a level next to God. We believe they will never let us down, but they do. Next thing we know we become like the girl on youtube who cries for four minutes because her world as she knows it has come to an end.

I have had the privilege of having some amazing role models in my life. Some have lasted over these years as people I continue to look up to and respect. Some are friends, public figures, and pastors. Some of these people over the years have fallen though. They have messed up and made huge blunders in their life. While my heart would always break for these people I was never shattered because of it. My faith is never shaken when an influential person in my walk falls. Why is this? It is because my faith and life are not defined by any person that walks this earth today.

My faith is defined and nurtured by the one who walked on this earth over 2,000 years ago. Whenever I try to imitate and be like another believer it is because I see Christ in them. I imitate the ways they imitate Christ. I learn to do what they have learned to do, but they are not my God. When a loving couple splits up it does not shaken my faith in love and marriage. My marriage is not defined by other people’s success and failures. It is defined by my dedication to God and my wife.

If you’re looking for a hero that will fall off your pedestal then keep looking amongst celebrities and the people around you. However, maybe you are looking for something more. Perhaps you are looking for a hero that can really satisfy. Maybe you are looking for a hero that cannot disappoint. If that is you then I suggest you start looking towards Christ.

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What a Twlight star taught me about sin.

Most know I am not a twilight fan. I am also not that great of a fan of the actress Kristen Stewart. I want to make sure that I am not coming off as though I am bashing this young woman in this post. It will be important to read this post the whole way through to realize that I am not picking on Kristen, but rather I am pointing out a flaw amongst humankind.

Kristen has gone on from playing Bella in Twilight to a bit of a creepy Snow White. It came out that she had an affair with the director of this new Snow White film. If you are a fan of this lady then you probably know she is still dating Robert Patterson who played Edward in the Twilight films. The director she developed a romantic relationship with also happened to be married.

Today Kristen and the director sent out public statements about the event. I’ll start with the directors. “I am utterly distraught about the pain I have caused my family. My beautiful wife and heavenly children are all I have in this world. I love them with all my heart. I am praying that we can get through this together.” Notice anything missing in this statement? He pulls out the old faithful “I am praying” routine, but never mentions a phrase that should have really been the first thing he said. He never said “I was wrong”. He feels bad about the pain this incident caused his family, but there is never any real acknowledgment that what he did was wrong. His statement is more of a gray arena. You can read into it what you want. It is a vague confession.

Kristen’s statement does a little more jumping through hoops. “I’m deeply sorry for the hurt and embarrassment I’ve caused to those close to me and everyone this has affected. This momentary indiscretion has jeopardized the most important thing in my life, the person I love and respect the most, Rob. I love him, I love him, I’m so sorry.”

Momentary indiscretion? What does she mean when she says that? A discrete act means it is you making the choice. You are in complete control of your actions and you are knowingly performing an act. Momentary indiscretion is essentially the opposite. Kristen is saying she is sorry for the pain she caused “but”. Why is there a “but” there? Kristen is saying it isn’t really her fault. She is saying it was an accident. She wasn’t really herself. She is saying this is not me. Her friends have come out and said she is a good person who made a bad choice. She is saying I made a mistake, but do not let this be your definition of who I am.

We do this too. We refuse to take real responsibility for our sin. There is always something that escalated us towards our actions. We claim that Satan made us do it. We say that our environment has been stressful and made us somebody we are not. The truth is that we sin. We make the wrong choices. It is not just a mistake. We do not fool anybody when we say our sin was an accident. We certainly do not fool God when we say that.

We have been doing this since the first sin. God went looking for Adam and Eve after they ate the fruit. When God found Adam He asked him what had happened. Adam responded by saying that the woman God gave him had him eat the fruit. Adam put the blame on his wife and even subtly put the blame on God. God made the woman, the woman made me sin, therefore God is the reason why I sinned.

God goes to Eve and Eve gives the old “The devil made me do it” routine. God then proceeds to proclaim punishment… to all of them. He did not just punish Satan. He punished all of them. He punished them because they knew they were disobeying God. This was not a simple accident. They had sinned.

How often do you use the excuse of momentary indiscretion? This is the argument of people in the spotlight. They say they are sorry for those they have hurt, but we should forgive them because this is not who they really are. It was a mistake. They never really own up to their actions. They never take responsibility.

Why is this such a big deal? We need to take responsibility for our own actions. That is how we move past those bad choices. God forgives us, but we are called to confess OUR sins. Not the sins that Satan made us do, not the sins that happened because we were suddenly not ourselves. We are called to confess our sins. We are called to take responsibility for our actions. We are then called to move on.

Something tells me Kristen and this director will be unable to really move on from this event. It will stick with them for as long as it remains a momentary indiscretion. So far the only lesson they have learned is that they need to do a better job of not getting caught. Is that all you have been learning from your sin lately? Or have you realized that it is not just your exposed sin that causes damage? Your private sins destroy the most crucial relationship you can have. They destroy the relationship between you and God.

I need to stop making excuses for my sins and start taking responsibility for them. Anything less is worthless.

Compelling love

We believe the world revolves around us. We believe it follows our own timing. We set the standards and qualifications. Things need to be done the way we require them to be. We treat God this way. We will follow God as long as He plays by our rules. We will follow God as long as He does the work. We will follow Him, but we will not surrender all that we are.

God does not work on our terms. He does not follow our timetable. He does not cater to our every need. We forget this because we focus on God as love, but we distort what love is to begin with. Love is deeper and richer than we can imagine. You could spend your whole life studying the intricacies and contradictions that are found in love and you still would not even come close to understanding it. There is a crucial aspect to God’s love that we forget. God’s love demands something of us.

Am I allowed to say that? God’s love demands something of us. Isn’t that contradictory? Isn’t love unselfish? Love is not supposed to insist on its own way. Perhaps a better word to understand this concept would be “compel”. God’s love compels us. It compels us to action. You see God does not love us based off of our action. However, if we grasp this love then we will be compelled to carry out action.

What does God’s love demand from us? What does it compel us to do? We are called to surrender. Not just some specific area in our life, but to surrender everything that we are. Jesus died on a cross, but now it is sending out a call to anyone who will hear. Jesus is not going to drag you off to the cross. You need to go to the cross and surrender everything you have.

That is why the cross is a stumbling block to some. It is a symbol of great love, but it is of a love that requires something of us in order to accept it. We need to die to ourselves. We need to die to sin. We can no longer say that we are with Christ and still actively pursue a life of sin. Those two lifestyles cannot belong together. The cross did not just give us an opportunity to be righteously forgiven of our sin, but it also gave us an opportunity to die to our sin.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Pet. 2:24) It is interesting that after talking of Jesus death peter did not say it was so that we might just be forgiven of our sin. Forgiveness is obviously a key component to Christ’s death and resurrection, but there is still more to it. We are meant to die to sin and live a new life.

Christ’s love asks something of us. The love is freely given, but our acceptance of it means a change will be made. We think of Jesus love in letting the adulterous woman go, but that forgiveness of her sin was followed by a command “Go and sin no more.” It was not a suggestion. It was not a hopeful wish or a simple request. It was a command.

Jesus is calling us to give up everything we are. Christ did not die for us because we are the center of the universe. Christ is the center. He is simply calling us to him now. That call requires a purposeful answer. It requires a life surrendered. It requires all of us. It is a love that can only be understood if it compels you to a changed life. It is a love that will tell you to pick up your cross and follow Christ. We cannot pursue sin and Christ at the same time.

Jesus act of love cost more than we can realize. The truth is the cost of following Him in return is giving up everything we are. God is not working off of our demands and requirements. He does not let us decide how things are going to work. The choice has been placed before us. We can experience a love so freeing, but it requires a death to sin. Your life will change and it will be painful, but you will be free.

Take back your expectations

Our culture is really screwed up. There are some things that the individual inherently knows is wrong, but does not allow it to be a big deal because culture says it is the norm. Something is only wrong if you get caught in our world today. It almost seems as though the punishment for a bad act is for getting caught doing it rather than for the act itself.

As my wife and I were sitting in the airport I overheard a conversation going on behind us. There was a woman around my age expressing her frustrating about her fiancé to another woman. As this conversation went on there were other random women who were strangers to these two who chimed into the conversation.

Why was this woman upset at her fiancé? He went to a strip club with his friends and got a private dance by a woman who worked there. There were some statements in the following conversation that surprised me. For one the woman said she wasn’t necessarily upset her fiancé did that. She even said that she expected that from him, but she was upset that he told her about it.

What a sad philosophy to have. Women all over do not feel concerned if their husband goes out and lusts after other women so long as they never hear about it. As long as they are the woman their husband comes home to then everything is fine. There is more to relationships than this though. Never settle for a spouse like that. It simply is not worth it.

The advice the strangers gave equally surprised me. “It’s not really that big of a deal. He would not have been allowed to touch her, and it’s not like they had sex.” Now that is a common view in our culture today. It’s ok to look as long as you do not touch. It’s ok to get right on the edge of the line as long as you do not jump over it.

It is sickening. Why would you feel happy in a relationship like that? Culture tells us it is normal so we should not expect anything different. What if we expected better though? What if we had reasonable yet high expectations in a spouse? What if we decided we wanted someone who would remain faithful in body, heart, and mind?

There are a lot of factors to why men are pigs. I believe one of them is that they are expected to be pigs. We let men get away with this lifestyle because it is considered natural and even evolutionary. We don’t expect more so they are never challenged to rise up and be more. The same goes for women. They are not more because we do not expect them to be more.

I’m not saying your expectations should be unreasonable. No one is perfect. We all have faults. We should expect to have the kind of marriage that Scripture says is healthy though. We should expect our spouse to have those same views. We should expect more than a guy who goes to the strip bar but does not touch, or the guy who makes a habit to look at pornography. We should expect more than the woman who disrespects her husband and manipulates her relationship.

Don’t let culture define your expectations. Cultures expectations are incredibly low. Take back your own expectations.

It’s time to shut up and listen.

The world is full of distractions. We live in an age full of technology where we have instant access to almost anything we want. We are a society where demands for immediate results are expected. It can be easy to lose yourself in the crowd if you want to. We can keep ourselves busy from anything we desire. This age is a procrastinator’s paradise.

Add onto all of that the fact that we can simply be a distraction to ourselves. We can keep ourselves from focusing or wrestling with an issue that needs to be dealt with. As Christians we are really good at this. We distract ourselves the most when it comes time to listening to God.

There are many reasons that keep us from listening to God. I was talking with Karch about this issue and he brought up how our lack of discerning God’s will with what we wish God’s will to be shows how selfish we truly are. It shows how distant we are to God. This really struck a chord with me. I realized I had been avoiding having a true heart to heart with God on some issues because I was afraid I would have trouble discerning God’s will. This would show me how far away I really am from Him.

What do we do then? We hide from God. We avoid the conversation as best we can. We fear what some of the answers may be in the discussion. The more and more we distract ourselves the less we act like who we really are. We put on a mask just to avoid the inevitable for a little bit longer. It is time to get somewhere quiet.

I was on vacation this past week. I was able to get some opportunities to just be still and listen. I will be honest in saying that it hurt. It was painful to realize that I had been avoiding some crucial issues in my personal life. As much as we want answers we never seem to like them once we receive them. Getting real with God is painful.

Reality is painful. We do not want to face the realities in our life. We would rather wish them away, and hope God magically fixes them. That is what we really want isn’t it? We wish for God to wave his magic wand and for all of our troubles to cease. We want to avoid doing anything difficult or messy. We want to avoid inconveniences of change or growth. So we wait and hide until God waves that magic wand.

The wand is not going to wave past you though. Sometimes we need to look up and realize it is time to come to God fully exposed because it is the only way we can see what is in our own heart. Maybe you feel God is leading you on a dangerous adventure and you can only see it ending with a gruesome crash. Maybe you are simply wondering where God is in the midst of your strife.

When my wife and I flew out to North Carolina I looked down at the ground when it was dark. I saw to cars speeding towards an intersection. As I looked down in horror I noticed that neither car was slowing down. They would inevitably meet in the middle of this intersection and proceed to cause a huge pile up with other cars traveling behind them. I witnessed them reach the point where they would meet and supposedly crash, but they both passed safely. What I did not realize from my angle was this was not an intersection at all. One road was a bridge above the other. The cars were never going to crash into each other.

That is how we are sometimes. We look at our life and think that no matter what we do it will lead to a horrible crash, but God sees all the angles. He knows what is really taking place. Sometimes I avoid God because I know I will have trouble trusting Him, and that is painful to come to face with. The time for hiding for me and any of you reading this is over. It’s time to realize we are only seeing life from one angle.
Here is the hard part. I still am not certain what God is doing. I’m not sure what all the answers are yet. However, I’m no longer avoiding the one who has those answers. It is time to draw closer to God so that I can understand those answers. It is time to realize my vision is imperfect so I can boldly drive through that intersection that looks like a death sentence. It’s time to shut up and listen.

Delight in worship

Have you ever felt like you are not in the mood to worship while singing some songs during church? Sometimes I can be in a worship service and am just not feeling worshipful. The mood feels off to me. Maybe I am not a huge fan of the song. Maybe I just find it to be a little boring today. Maybe I am sitting next to someone who is singing off key. Perhaps I am distracted by something else that was going on earlier in the week. Sometimes I am just frustrated at life and God.

I find I focus on myself a good deal when worshiping God. My worship time easily revolves around how best to work around my needs and emotions. I say the word, but my heart and mind are somewhere else. There is no feeling or passion. There is a lack of genuine worship taking place.

“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matt. 15:8-9)

Do my words to God match up with my heart? Who am I focusing on when I worship? I can be so selfish in my time of worship. I worship when I feel close to God. I worship when I feel like He is there for me. I worship to make myself feel good. I want an emotional high. I want to feel connected to God. Rarely is it ever about giving Him honor and praise.

When was the last time you worshipped God, and just told Him how worthy He is? God is never unworthy of our praise. You can never give God more praise than He deserves. God does not just want us to say the right words. God is calling us out on the heart issue. He wants us to be worshipping with our hearts.

My worship needs to stop being focused on how good I feel. It needs to stop being about the type of music I personally like. It needs to stop being about me. We have taken over worship and made it about us. It is not just the big band that performs a show with lights and smoke. It is found in all kinds of churches. It is found in the small country church that just has the woman leading in some hymns. It is found in the church with the full band. It is found in the church that opts out of the “traditional” form of worship through music. No matter how your church worships you will struggle with this.

How do we make worship about God and not us? Recognize Him for who He is and what He has done. Worship Him for how He has blessed you. Admit to Him that anything good that comes from you is because of Him. Cast your burdens at His feet. Sacrifice your time with both body and mind.

I love the story of the woman who broke the expensive bottle of perfume and washed Jesus feet. His disciples rebuked her. They thought the more “Christian” thing to do would be to sell the perfume and given the money to the poor. They claimed it would have been a more worthy cause. Jesus tells them to stop. He says that she made the right choice because she saw the bigger picture. She understood what Jesus was about to do. She did not just proclaim to love him, but performed an action from her very heart to show her dedication.

Sometimes we can get caught up in being a “Christian” that we forget to worship. Sometimes I get so caught up doing ministry that I forget to worship God. I get caught up in teaching Scripture, reaching out to those in need, even sharing the gospel, but I forget to pause and worship God. Sometimes the most Christian thing we can do is stop and show God that we delight in who He is and what He has done.

Musings from childhood: Blind at the zoo

There is a 16 year age gap between my brother and I. I always looked up to him as a little kid so my excitement was pretty high when he and his wife took me to the zoo one day as a special outing. We all had a great time. There was a problem though. When you think about a zoo you think of all the various animals you see. Some of them hide in different places and almost seem to blend into their surroundings. This issue can be magnified when a young boy is in need of glasses, but is not yet aware of it. There was a large portion of things that I never saw at the zoo that day. The funny thing is that I was not upset about it. I was thrilled by what I did see which essentially amounted to a squirrel that was not even part of the zoo. I didn’t think I was missing out on anything. I didn’t know that there was something better.

We often go through life like this. We do not realize that life can be better than it actually is. We do not see it because we never realize what it is we are missing out on. So many of us are missing out in life. We think we can get the most out of life by living off of our personal pleasures. There is so much more to life than this.

“Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:10-12)

My sin keeps me from living a better life. It keeps me from living a life to the fullest. I often do not even realize what I am missing out on. Sin blinds me from what a better life could be. It convinces us that this is as good as it gets. Sin keeps us from craving more of what is good. Peter tells us that a life worth living is one where we break away from our sin to seek personal pleasures.

This is easier said than done though. We want to indulge in the desires of our flesh. We have convinced ourselves that giving in will give us the pleasure we crave. We fail to see that there is better. Sin in the moment keeps us from knowing that there is better out there.

Culture even thinks this is so backwards. Christianity is a list of rules to the world. It is a giant list of things you cannot do. They look at Christians and believe that we are held in captivity to our delusions. There are rules in Christianity, but there is also freedom. We never talk about the freedom in Christ enough. I’m not talking about the fake kind of freedom where people say we can do whatever we want because God loves us. I am talking about freedom from sin.

It is sin that holds us in real captivity, but we never notice it. The guy who indulges in his sin thinking that is the best life has to offer is like me when I thought a squirrel was the best the zoo had to offer. I was missing out on so much, but I never realized it until I got to experience it later on. How do we break out of the blindness of sin?

Look up and open your eyes. Read God’s word and allow it to pierce into your heart. Don’t be afraid for your sin to come into the light. You need to be willing to admit that your sin is what it is. That is so hard. I do not like to admit when I have let pride take hold of my heart. I think it would feel better to hold bitterness towards someone rather than give it up to God.

Listen to what Peter says. Do you want to live a life that is worth it? Then realize sin isn’t the answer. Sin is true captivity. Life is full of so much more than squirrels.