Wednesday, December 12, 2012

5 Ways Christians Waste Their Time

We waste out time in lots of ways. I am not advocating that we need to be busybodies, never stopping to rest. The ways we waste our time are often things that seem quite industrious. The problem is that  these busy, industrious activities have no eternal value. We can not follow Jesus seven days a week if we are not ready to brutally examine every aspect of our lives ad hold it up to the light of Jesus as he is revealed in the Gospel.  If you feel convicted or even irritated, take comfort in the fact that I am equally convicted and irritated by these words.  I struggle daily with wasting my time on these things as well.  Let's walk together.

1. Fighting fire with politics

Oh, the plagues of our modern era: abortion, gay marriage, high tax rates on the rich.  If only we could go back to those days when Christian values ruled the land.  Like in Puritan Massachusetts in the 17th century.  You know, when we hung witches and those suspected of witchery.  When we put people in stocks for missing church and outlawed Christmas.  They good old days.

Where did we get the idea that God's kingdom could be brought about by governmental power?  Jesus didn't infiltrate Jewish or Roman government 2000 years ago. He never tried to take it over to impose his will on them.  He could have, Satan even offered him ruler-ship of the kingdoms of the world and Jesus flatly rejected it.  He ushered a different kind of kingdom, one not bound to the rules of human politics.  This kingdom like a tiny mustard seeds grows out of weakness, and takes root in brokenness.

Somewhere we lost our way.  We started aligning ourselves with politicians that do not share our value for the kingdom of God.  They have used Christians to advance their own earthly agendas by promising to end abortion and gay marriage, and restore "family" values.  Meanwhile they have infiltrated us, getting Christians to support greed, violence, and idolatry masked as free-market economics and patriotism.

I am not saying abortion is alright.  I think in a century, people are going to look back on abortion the way we look at slavery today.  How could so many people accept such a barbaric practice and inhumane treatment of other human beings?  At least I hope it goes like that.  But, supposedly pro-life Republicans have held the office of president for 20 of the last 32 years.  Abortion is just as legal now as is was then.  Earthly politics is not the answer to our problems.  Jesus is the answer.

Politics creates a new set of enemies.  Instead of battling the principalities and powers of darkenss in the unseen realms, the  forces behind evils like abortion, we are battling children of God whose opinions differ from ours.  All we do is further alienate these people from the community of believers and keep them away from Jesus.

2. Trying to be trendy/relevant/hip or whatever the vogue word for it is

This is not a critique on style of dress, or even musical and artistic choices.  Be as hip or not hip as you want.  Wear what makes you comfortable and listen to music you like. It really doesn't matter in the eternal scope of things.  This is a critique on the deliberate efforts of those in Christians to 'reach-out' to the in-crowd by imitating them.  Rather  than look at what a God-starved world needs, we have tried to pursue what it likes.  In the process we become as fake and phony as the pop-culture the hipsters are attempting to distance themselves from.  They are not impressed with out hipster style and lingo.  People, regardless of their trendiness or hipness want to see genuine followers of Jesus actually following Jesus.

3. Trying to build a community

As churches grow, they get more and more impersonal.  People see each other on Sunday morning and that's about it.  No one knows anyone else.  Everyone is afraid to make the first move.  Mega-churches have developed an array of strategies  to make community happen.  Small home groups are the first tactic.  Put a bunch of random people together in a small group and the'll be forced to talk.  Sometimes it works.  Then there is segmenting.  Put people around those just like themselves so they have something in common to talk about.  So we divide people by age, genders, marital status, child status, occupation, addiction, hobby, musical style, and ice cream flavor.  Somehow community still doesn't happen.  Various programs, dinners, fun-nights are contrived to pull people together.  But people feel more distant and impersonal than ever.

Community is like serenity   The harder you pursue it, the farther away it gets.  Community does not come from trying to make it happen.  It won't happen in a program or a fellowship dinner, or a contrived small-group gathering.  Community comes from our common purpose, our common work together.  Community is often born out of adversity.  We have all suffered together; we have all pulled through.  Community comes when we lay aside ourselves and sacrifice for others.  All of these programs fall short because we can't make people actually love each other in the sacrificial Christ-like way.  I'm pretty sure that if we focus on  following Jesus, we will be drawn to those who are following him too.  If we love like Jesus, people will be drawn to us and our community will happen.

3. Consuming media like we need it

"Simplicity is freedom" says Christian spiritual guru, Richard Foster.  We have bought into the lie that freedom is an abundance of choices.  In reality, the more choices we have, the more enslaved we become to consumption. That is why retailers like to give so many choices to you. They know you will want to try them all, and six or seven of them will stick.

I see Christians who, like the rest of society, spend hours a day watching TV, playing video games, keeping up with the social media, and consuming media like they need it. They consume media, because they are "free" to chose it.  We spend thousands a year on the equipment and content we consume on it.  We can't imagine our lives without all this stuff, this barrage of noise from all directions.  We are enslaved to media.  In the process, we've forgotten how to think and dream, how to analyze what is happening around us and in us. We have forgotten how to listen to God.

I am not saying we should never watch another TV show or listen to music.  But we have gone so far from moderation, we don't even know what it is anymore. I've known a few people who unplug.  They don't do Iphones or Netflix, Cable TV or XBox. Not only do they save a lot of money, but they live. I think they live a lot more than I do.

5. Worrying About Things

"Don't worry about what you will eat or drink, or what you will wear," says Jewish spiritual guru, Jesus. So much of my time is consumed with just that.  The more I have, the more I have to worry about.  The guy with the junky car never worries about it getting stolen. Cheap plastic dishes don't get broken as easily as fine china. Don't even get me started about debt and the load of worries car loans, credit card bills and mortgages cause.

I am not saying it is a sin to have stuff.  I am saying it is a sin to worry about stuff. It's a lot more tempting to worry about stuff when I have it.

God has blessed me and my family with poverty. We are not truly impoverished, although I'm sure I have been considered below the federal poverty line for much of my adult life. We have always had enough.  We had a roof over our heads and food and clothes and usually a car to drive. We never had much to fall back on. Sorry, Dave Ramsey, but we've never had 3-6 months salary saved away in an emergency fund like you suggest. In spite of a lot of turmoil and changing jobs and transition periods, we have always been taken care of. You can chalk that up to some great people helping us at some key times, and we are very thankful for those people. But ultimately we chalk it up to God.  Not counting funds people gave to an organization we were associated with, we have given away more than we have received in those years.   How is that even possible?  It's the growing wealth of generosity, God's capitalism at work.  The more you give, the more you have to give.

God has shown us that he will always provide. We are learning to stop worrying about things so much, and trying to worry more about seeing His kingdom advance on earth. He takes care of all the other stuff.