Monday, March 31, 2008

Winners and Losers

I watched a Saturday morning cartoon with my daughter this past weekend. It was an episode of Dragon, where Dragon and his friend Alligator were playing games together (the episode called "Dragon's New Game"). They were trying to figure out how to play games where there would be no winners or losers.

In this episode, the reason this became a problem was that whenever Dragon would win a game, Alligator would have to lose. This made Dragon's friend, Alligator, sad. And Dragon didn't like to make his friend sad. Also the reverse would be the same result too. Whenever Alligator won, Dragon would feel sad.

They sought together how to play without that happening. So they went about creating a game that had no winners or losers. The whole thing ended up where they had a rule-bound game that was just fun to play. I think a saw a bumper sticker somewhere that said that the more laws you have the more totalitarian the government. I am not sure I totally agree with that, but there is a central truth. When we try to legislate outcomes, we become a more totalitarian society.

But that is not why I am mentioning the cartoon episode. I actually enjoy the show, Dragon. And it is entertaining for my girls. But like anything we watch on TV, I always check out what they are watching and contrast the worldviews presented with Scripture. And believe me, no matter how entertaining something is, it always has a worldview, because someone created it, and there is always a presumption behind it.

In this case the subtle (or not so subtle) message was that competition is bad, because there are winners and losers.

I asked my girls, "So. Why is having a winner and loser bad?"

"Well, because there are winners and losers, someone has to be sad," they tried to postulate.

"Really? Why does someone have to be sad because they lost a game to their friend. Why aren't they happy for their friend? Or rather glad that they can learn from their mistakes?"

My girls are too young to go any deeper than this, so I pointed out the problem. "The Bible says that it is wrong to envy. We are responsible for how we handle our wins and our losses. The issue with God is our character. He isn't concerned with making sure our circumstances in life make us happy, or someone else happy. He doesn't want us to deny what we have because someone else envies us. He also doesn't want us to deny responsibility for our own attitudes and behaviors because someone else has what we want.

My daughters understood immediately. "So, dad, we should be happy whether we lose or win. Right daddy?"

"Right. But I would add we shouldn't gloat when we win either. We should act graciously and with respect either way. God doesn't like prideful winners nor sore losers."

I only wish adults would believe this too.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Will the Real God Please Stand Up?

I was listening to Christian radio and in one program the participants were discussing the critical nature of Supreme Court nominations. They wanted Christian people to voice concerns to their congressmen. On another program the discussion centered on the power the media has to shape the minds of our children away from God. They stated that Christians have abdicated their role in influencing media. Christians need to do battle with these forces to help ensure raising godly children.

These are all true statements to some degree. There are some good implementable suggestions in our effort to impact our current culture and in our attempts to bring true Christian teaching into the marketplace of ideas. But in what other ways do these statements shape our thinking?

Is God Overwhelmed?

God and Christ seem small. I don't believe this is intentional. And maybe it's just me. But evil looks for full of life, while God constantly needs our help. I hear so much how Christians do such a poor job influencing secular culture—and in some ways joins it—that this is the primary reason why things are getting so bad. All this talk seems to portray Christians as impotent and clumsy. All we have hope for is trying to influence government and courts while avoiding wicked (and growing) influences in our culture. We must seek to preserve our comfortable lives in the midst of a culture war.

Thus, God seems so small and dependent.

Time For The Real God to Show Up

Yet, I know that this can't be true. The God I came to believe in is the God of Christ the Lord. And Jesus was certainly no wimp (though he is often portrayed that way too). It is hard to hear the voice of Jesus amidst all the noise, even from our pulpits themselves!

God doesn't need us. God assigns the agenda, even if it means letting the wicked go their own way. God isn't frustrated, nor needs our financial support. He allows us to join Him in His work. This is just like my 3-year-old trying to help me fold the clothes or fix the sink. It may build a healthy relationship, and build a bond between my daughter and me. But it isn't because the work is so overwhelming for me—and she is so competent—that I need her assistance. In fact, it is better for her that she join me in the work, than it would be for me, since I would have to slow down and exercise more patience than if I worked alone.

Let's Settle The Matter

Perhaps we Christians should spend more time realizing that God would rather we trust Him instead of taking matters into our own hands. Let's not fret or envy the wicked—it leads only to evil. God wants us to be patient, while we do the work he has prepared in advance for each of us to do. Be engaged with the culture not to affect change, but to glorify God in all we do. Help the poor and needy not to end poverty or make the world a better place, but to honor God and bring honor to Christ. Protect our families from bad influences not to make our lives safer or more comfortable, but build a lasting legacy of faith, hope, and love—preparing a generation to be equipped to prepare successive generations for the kingdom of God for the glory of God.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Real Dream Real Hope

I had a strange dream last night.

I was one of the Apostles witnessing the death of Jesus. Except I also witnessed his resurrection from the grave. He came out as if nothing had happened to him.

Jesus rejoined all of us to show us that it was really him. We all found it hard to believe. But he showed us his scars. He showed us his hands, feet, and pierced side. We slowly accepted the truth over time.

When we finally understood what had happened, Jesus left us to spread the news everywhere. I felt like something incrediably wonderful had happened. We begin telling everyone we could what we experienced.

Many Believe, But Not Everyone

What was interesting, was that many people believed just from our testimony and sincerity. Some people needed convincing, but being eye witnessess made it easy to be emphatic and convincing.

Some people said that I was delusional. But I explained, "That could be true if I was the only one who witnessed this. But I not only saw him, I touched him and ate with him. And many others did as well. We can all testify to this."

I went on to explain in detail how Jesus died. And I asked those who were listening to me to investigate the matter themselves. "Jesus suffered fatal torment and death on a cross. The Roman soilders put him to death! He was beaten severly even before being crucified. So, he really died. I saw it. And the fact that he is alive and well is a great miracle. This gives us great hope and assurance that God did indeed visit us and gave us a way to know the way home to our hearts desire."

Confirmation From God

Many people were compelled by our witness. But then I ran into very skeptical people. So I looked intently at a woman who was sitting there with them and placed my hands on her. I said, "In the name of Jesus the Christ, you are healed of your chronic illness and pain."

Immediately she stood up surprised. She began praising God loudly where many other people came over to see what the commotion was. When everyone realized that I had healed her, many were requesting to be healed.

I told them that it was not my power that healed her, it was the power of God that had touched her life. The message I bring is true, and this confirms it. The Messiah has arrived and we can be free of death. There is a real hope that circumstances can not touch.

I awoke full of faith and awe of what we have in Christ. This is real. So real.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Time Management Versus Discipline

Often we discuss the busy-ness of our lives as if it's a time-management issue. We look at dividing our lives into neat little pie charts of time. We have so much for work, so much for family, so much for personal time, and so much for spiritual pursuits (if we value that).

When life gets complicated or stressful, we seek to either rework the pie chart, reorder priorities, or assign new time slots for rest and relaxation. When new responsibilities or tasks demand more of our time, we try to jam them in without disturbing the other priorities of life. In reality, we see our life as a never-ending cycle of juggling and staying afloat.

We do this to avoid stress as much as possible. But what do we do when two of life's priorities and responsibilities collide with no solution.

Collisions mess things up.

Suppose we want to honor our divorced parents, but they each expect you for Christmas dinner at the same time? What if our two children have sports events at the same time, and we believe being a good parent means being there for all their games? How about having a very sick friend in the hospital, and we need to resolve a major issue between our spouse at the same time? What takes priority seems to get murky.

What is also wrong with seeing life this way is that we rarely can account for time with God. That will take the back burner as long as other more immediate issues need to be addressed. And for me personally, rest and relaxation seems to get in the way of more important duties. In fact, everything becomes a duty. This is not good.

The solution may be no more simpler than being disciplined. What I mean is that I just need to say "no" to certain things in order to say "yes" to what's really needed.

What's the difference?

That's a good question. The best way to answer that is to ponder what it means to listen to Jesus as the most important voice in our lives. Then to ponder what it means to follow Jesus, even above those we love, including ourselves. If we can get our minds around the implications, life becomes very simple. Do what we know Jesus wants us to do, in a timely manner, and even against our emotional desires. Then we will do what is needed.

Will this approach to life make life less stressful? Probably not. In fact, as we go against our own wills, life will get pretty stressful. Will it make life a little easier? Depends if we mean our circumstances, or our peace with God.

What good is it to lead a life like this?

It means our souls will be preserved. It means our character will develop into godly manifestations. It means that we will come closer to the heart of God and identify more with Jesus. It means that we will begin to live life on purpose and with ultimate meaning.

It's a choice between the pursuit of ease—which really doesn't exist—or seeking a life of meaning and eternal rewards.

How do you see it?