July 2015: Featured Post lifeseek.org is featuring a thought-provoking essay that is designed to stimulate healthy dialogue and a collective resolve to seek the face of God for answers of some of the most pressing issues of our age. Your participation and feedback is very important to us and we encourage you to leave your comments, facebook or tweet this post after reading.
I went to a Dave Chappell show recently and of course, you are not sure what he will say. The only thing you can be sure of, at least in my eyes, 80% of it will be funny, the 20% will be meant to offend. Like many of his predecessors, he aims to make social commentary while making us laugh. For what it’s worth, no pun intended, he does a great job at doing both.
But, he said one thing that really struck me and it could not be overlooked. While shadow boxing with the audience, jabbing us with his humor, Dave punched us in the gut with, “Christianity is just like Whitney Houston, it sounds good but one day it’s going to end up dead in the bathtub.” Of course most of the audience groaned out a laugh. The show continued on with more laughs and thankfully, no banana peels, but his statement stayed with me.
I started thinking, maybe Dave has a valid criticism. Not that Christ’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection could eventually be ineffective, but culturally, in America, what Christianity is, could lose its effectiveness.
To borrow wisdom from my dear friend T. Simpson, “Christianity has become more about appearances than actual transformation and deliverance.” And so often churches around the nation have been the first on the scene but have also announced when the red light was on that they were on the scene.
As a cultural entity, Christianity has done very good things around the world. Feed the homeless, provide shelters, built hospitals and schools, and appropriated what is now, the greatest holiday ever. Sounds good.
But we have also made to some effect, Christ’s church, ineffective by incorporating things that are flashy but no substance. We have conferences and concerts with lights, smoke machines, lasers, and the like that it is more entertainment than it is about God. But in the midst of all of that, some people have been lost to who Christ really is and what the purpose of the church is. The mature, who are very small in number, can embrace it as worship and praise. The rest see it as just another event or something else sociable. That leads to disgruntled people like Dave who can say what he said.
If you allow me to go to the Bible, “do not by your eating, destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil” (Romans 14: 14-15). That is what the culture of Christianity has allowed to happen. We have put on a great show and from the spoils of it, we have poisoned ourselves.
So what is the answer to this problem? One is, decide that being a follower of Christ is not [just] a lifestyle, it’s the way, and I mean the way of life. Back in the ancient times, if you put on a cross that meant you were marked as a criminal for life. The cross was not a light thing, it was serious and if you were scheduled to be crucified, whatever you did to receive that punishment you did that knowing full well it would have consequences.
So in that, we have to live with purpose. We have to reach out to the world and to our brothers and sisters, cameras or not, and say that we put them ahead of ourselves. We will always have critics and cynics but when we show genuine love, we can rise out of that bathtub, referenced during Chappell’s performance, and be who are supposed to be, servants not divas.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons. – 1 Timothy 4:1
End Times! Those two words have been on our minds from our youth up. Charts. Graphs. Timelines. Signs. Wonders. Rumors. Wars. Rumors of wars.
We have all the pamphlets and “rapture” specials to make sure we are prepared. Inserted chips, peace treaties, and the “Oh my God” legalization of gay marriage has the local church members setting their watch.
Or so I thought, when I first heard of Christ and His second coming. But as all these events take shape, along with environmental, political, economical, and social shifts in the world – these irreversible shifts are met with indifference.
I look around, and pray for my own heart that I will not fall away. Think about it, outside of Black Lives Matter and Me Too, maybe, the Church has been silent. Mainly because so many of this body, that started to build the tower, stopped building.
They left their tools and found something else to build on. Personal growth. Professional development. The local team. Finding the right one.
I contend, that where end of days movies and tribulation trails get it wrong is, “these last and evil days” will be fun. Take a chip – it’s easier to buy a snack at work. Sleep around – purity is a tad overrated. Attach magic to everything – because black girls/women need THAT TYPE of self-esteem.
Look at all the fun we are having.
But those that endure to the end; That is what our aim needs to be, the end. Keep our faith and what God continues to speak in front of us. Because He wants us to be His. But if we burn our oil on for the good times, I guess it is worth the price of our soul.
Have you ever heard the term, “Keeping up with the Joneses?” I always wondered the identity of Mr. and Mrs. Jones and I questioned how they influenced so many people to mimic their lives. The term originated from a comic strip created by Arthur R. Momand in 1913 that focused on the social climbing of the McGinis family and highlighted their daily struggle to keep up with their neighbors, “The Joneses.” Fast forward over 100 years later, in 2018 as a society we are still trying to keep up with “The Joneses,” “The Jeffersons,” “The Kardashians,” “The Smiths,” “The Carters,” and whoever else we have subconsciously awarded the great task of defining our American standard of happiness. These social idols have rocked us to sleep and subliminally planted a seed in our minds and gave us “The Great American Dream.” They have generated an infinite list of hashtags to live by such as #relationshipgoals, #fitnessgoals, #marriagegoals, #careergoals, #babygoals, #securethebaggoals, and ultimately #livingmybestlife. However, I question what should be defining our standard for living and who is really at the helm of shaping our identity?
I recently went to the supermarket and there was a long line that reached almost to the back of aisle twelve. Nobody in the line had any groceries, not even a gallon of milk or a small bag of fruit. The line was growing as the chatter of the people grew louder with anticipation. Everyone was waiting with at least two dollars cash to chip in on the dream of a lifetime. They were hoping for a payout that had soared to almost one billion dollars. The odds of winning were very slim; nevertheless, the potential prize was well worth the risk of playing the lottery. I heard one woman say, “If I just had one million dollars, all of my problems would be solved, and I would be happy!”
I left out of that supermarket with a burdened heart. I thought, “Is money what defines us as individuals?” Could having an abundance of riches make us truly happy or would it only foster an environment for more problems? I pondered how many people I know personally who eagerly strive to live outside of their financial means and aspire to exceed past their peers socially and economically. The lie that has been passed down over the years that, “The Joneses have it all,” has tricked many people. Nevertheless, the truth is that many millionaires are not exempt from being very unhappy, depressed, or even suicidal. While as a society, many aim to have a spouse, great career, a white picket fence with a dog and perhaps a cat, 2.5 children and a “happy life,” they are confronted with the reality that ultimately there are some things that money cannot buy, most of which are intangible such as friendship, joy, peace, hope and love.
I am convinced that my identity is influenced by something outside of myself. I contemplated what or even who was shaping what I believe to be the standard for living. How do I develop a value system in the midst of so many external opinions and social influences? I no longer filter my identity through the achievements of others, because I am confident in my belief system. I am assured that my identity is shaped through the word of God. My aspirations should mirror the principles set in the living document entitled, “The Bible.” It is my compass that orchestrates my journey throughout life and helps cultivate the decisions that I make from day to day.
Who we become is determined by what we believe, therefore, we should be clear of the principles of our faith and the foundation that we base our life upon should be centered around the word of God. I no longer identify with “The Joneses” and the quest for millions is not life’s finish line. My dreams are defined by the desires that God has placed inside my heart that align with His word and my hashtag goals should be a representation of a life fully submitted to Christ. The fruits of my life should be a display of the intangible things that money cannot buy and the results that linger should represent love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and self-control. Happiness is a temporary condition, yet the love of God is eternal. It is a priceless intangible gift that cannot be purchased, which is given freely from God so that we could all have a life full of purpose, unlimited joy and peace. Many will still strive to keep up with “The Joneses,” but my goal is to keep up with Christ. My identity is defined by him so I can live a life that surpasses any American dream.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done…” How did Tuesday, November 6th go for you? Or perhaps the better question is; how did Wednesday, November 7th go for you once a different reality set in? How did the first Tuesday and Wednesday in November go for you two years ago? You may have been ecstatic, thinking some politician you voted for will be the catalyst for solving all of this country’s problems. Or you may have been extremely disappointed, thinking that some politician that you didn’t vote for will allow the country to go down the path to its own demise. It seems that there is no middle ground anymore, each election increasing in importance, until we are told every two years that the current election cycle is the “most important election of our lifetime.” But should we really believe that as Christians?
“Your kingdom come, your will be done…” The prophet Daniel didn’t live in a time of elections. In fact, he was forcibly taken from his own country and made to serve in the government of the king who conquered his nation. He had no choice in the government that he lived under, yet he did have a choice in his own response and as to whom he would ultimately serve. Daniel served under four pagan kings, and he served them well, but Daniel’s first allegiance was always to his God in everything that he did. Remember that time he ended up spending the night in the den with some hungry, then not so hungry lions? He was there because he refused to bow to the god of the politics of his time, the king of Persia; who literally thought he was a god. He would only bow before the God of the Hebrews. Remember the dream that King Nebuchadnezzar had about that weird statue? Do you remember the interpretation that God showed Daniel? “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever” (Daniel 2:44). God was speaking to the Hebrew prophet through the dream of a pagan king about the time of the Roman Empire; in which God in human form makes his entrance into human history and establishes a kingdom outside of and superior to any earthly kingdom before or yet to come. The King of Kings, the same one Daniel served, is the one whom we serve. His kingdom is greater than Babylon, Rome, even the United States.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done…” The twelve apostles walked with Jesus, they learned from him, they watched him die and come back from the dead. Of all people, they should have understood what the Kingdom of God was about, but even they missed it. After His resurrection, they asked Him on one occasion, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” They were still anticipating an earthly political kingdom with borders that met their expectations, which had been handed down to them for generations. They wanted to be out from under Roman rule. From Acts chapter 2, they realize that they are not under Roman rule any longer, but not in the way that they expected. You see, once they understood the King and Kingdom that they served, Rome didn’t loom nearly as large any more. Earthly politics took a back seat to heavenly allegiance. They understood as Cornell West once said, that, “every flag is subordinate to the cross.” Even Rome’s power to take their lives couldn’t hold a candle to the promise of an eternity with their King.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done…” No matter what happened on the first Tuesday of November this year or in years to come, our King is still sovereign. His kingdom is outside of and bigger than Democrats or Republicans, progressives or conservatives, Trump or Obama. Perhaps you will sleep better tonight knowing that our King’s purposes will be accomplished no matter who resides in the Oval Office, who holds the majority in the House or Senate, or which way the Supreme Court leans ideologically. Only one kingdom endures forever, and we are friends of that King.