When Did God Lose His Rights?

What does God have to say about the varying genders? Are we going to let him speak?

 

Very early in the history of the Christian church the charge of cannibalism was brought against Christians.  Any idea why?  Rumors spread that these followers of Jesus were eating and drinking flesh and blood.  A little misinformation can lead to some massively ignorant conclusions.  Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the “body” and “blood” were really unleavened bread and wine that Christians believed possessed a special presence of Jesus.  In the end, it made no difference to the fate of Christians – many were thrown to the lions because Christianity was considered an illegal religion to practice until Emperor Galerius signed an edict of toleration in AD 311.  Nonetheless, for our purposes today, the point remains that Christians being unjustly charged as “unloving” or “evil” because of other people’s ignorance of biblical orthodoxy is nothing new. 

So is the case in a story hitting the news in Wisconsin this week.  Feel free to check out the articles yourselves.  It goes a little something like this: 

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/article_932a56c8-36d4-11df-a17e-001cc4c03286.html 

http://www.channel3000.com/family/22924665/detail.html 

At St. John’s Lutheran Church in Baraboo, WI, the principal was asked to resign after a doctrinal disagreement over the Scriptural principle of the roles of men and women.  The principal apparently had been disseminating to school parents a paper written by his father years ago that challenged this principle.  After 2 years of working with church leadership to resolve the issue, no common ground could be found.  The principal was asked to resign.  

This was not the issue that made it particularly newsworthy though.  This is a private religious organization.  In America, any private religious organization is free to teach the doctrine it so chooses.  Why would a religious organization maintain an employee who was teaching a doctrine different from what the organization practices?  Imagine if a rabbi at a local synagogue started teaching that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.  Should his synagogue keep him as a spiritual leader despite his promoting a doctrine totally foreign to their beliefs?  Let me put this in business terminology: My wife works for Verizon Wireless.  If she were promoting to customers that AT&T were offering a better product and a better network, should Verizon maintain her as an employee?  You get the point.  Retaining the principal as a called employee of the church is not the controversial issue here.  If it is, then there’s a misunderstanding of freedom of religion. 

The issue that people are getting all fired up about – the issue that makes this newsworthy in the public’s eye are the headlines that “women were not allowed to speak or vote” at the church meeting.  Instantaneously, shouts of “inequality” and “intolerance” went up.  People question how such an outdated church could possibly exist and recommend that worshippers take their offerings elsewhere – this is precisely the message of most all of the comments left by readers at the above links.  

As mentioned, legally, the church has the right to dismiss employees for promoting teachings inconsistent with the religious body – it’s a free religious practice.  The day this founding American principle is taken away is the day that Communism, the Holy Roman Empire, etc. are born here.  Scary thought.  

The real question is, biblically, can/should a church not allow women to speak/vote at a meeting like this.  We should dig in our Bibles to figure it out rather than preach our sermons of what feels right, what’s unjust, and what should be happening in 2010.  

 A good place for us to start would be in the Apostle Paul’s 1st letter to Timothy, chapter 2.  Here, in 2:12 he says, I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”  The principle that we want to walk away with is this concept of a woman exercising authority over a man, particularly as it pertains to church and worship affairs (as the NIV heading would suggest).  So, voting in general wouldn’t rule women out.  Voting that clearly exercises authority over a man – for instance allowing him to continue in/removal from his called position – this would clearly be an exercise of authority.  The same is true when a congregation is deciding on removal of a member from the church’s fellowship.  It’s about as authoritative of a vote as it gets in a church.  So, from a Scriptural standpoint, the onus of the argument that these women shouldn’t be participating in a clearly authoritative vote rests on someone who is trying to get around 1 Timothy 2:12.  You can’t just side-step it.  

The most common argument is that this is merely a cultural thing, that we’ve progressed far beyond these antiquated societal shackles.  And you know what, if this was the only passage in Scripture that attested to the roles of men and women, I might be more inclined to buy that argument.  However, it’s not.  Read through the Apostle Paul’s inspired Word on “propriety in worship” in 1 Corinthians 11 or “orderly worship” at the end of 1 Corinthians 14.  Read through God’s will for corresponding roles in marriage in Ephesians 5:22-33.  If that’s still too narrow of a timeframe, go back to Genesis 2 and see God’s motivation & operation for instituting marriage and understand that different corresponding roles were established for man/woman, notice, prior to the fall into sin (Genesis 3).  In other words, the world at that time was perfect, even with differing roles for genders.  

I think a lot of people miss the point when it comes to issues of the roles of men/women, female participation in the body of Christ (Church), etc.  It is NOT an issue of qualifications.  No one is saying women are “less” in any way.  In fact, truth be told, I have no doubt that there are women out there who are more intelligent, more compassionate, more caring, better public speakers, better organized, better communicators, and in general more “talented” than I am when it comes to “pastoral” qualities.  That doesn’t mean they should be pastors though.  It isn’t about qualifications.  Let me share an analogy.  I had a classmate in college and at the seminary who was one of the nicest and most caring individuals that I’d ever met.  He was wonderful with kids.  He was always sympathetic.  He once made me a card for my birthday when we were 22 years old!  I often joked to him how he was going to make a great mom someday.  He turned out to be a fantastic, godly husband and father.  My comments to him were obviously a joke, but the truth is, from a qualifications standpoint, he indeed would have made a better mom than many of the women that you or I have seen mothering before.  He was quite “qualified” from a talent perspective.  That does not, however, mean that it would have been wise for him to have a baby implanted into his abdomen and try to bear a child.  Clearly, that’s not the way God intended it.  We can see the obvious physical evidence of that in life, but it’s a principle (i.e. that women will bear children) that was established clearly in Scripture (Genesis 3).  

Now, I have no idea why God chose women to bear children instead of men.  Can you explain this?  Likewise, I can’t fully explain why God chose male as the gender that was created first, the gender that God would also use to exercise authority in his church.  To know that would be to know the mind of God.  To perfectly know the mind of God would mean to be God himself.  That means, for us created and flawed-by-sin humans, a perfect understanding of the way God ordains things escapes us.  

The questions that we need to ask ourselves then are: 

1) Do I believe the entire Bible is the Inspired Word of God? 

2) Do I see that Scripture clearly establishes different, but corresponding roles for men/women? 

3) Do I understand that one aspect to those differing roles is the exercise of authority, particularly in matters that possess clear spiritual connections? 

4) Do I trust that God ordains what he does out of love and wisdom, even if I don’t always understand it? 

If you can answer “YES” to these questions, you won’t have a problem with men being the sole voters in “issues of authority” in a church. 

HOWEVER (you knew there’d be a however, right?), this does NOT mean that a woman’s opinions & concerns should not be heard.  The beginning of Acts 6 might be a good illustration of this.  The widows in the congregation were being overlooked in the distribution of food (6:1).  This wasn’t right.  They let people know they were unhappy and their concerns were addressed.  Again, however, we see male leaders appointed to authoritative positions to handle the issues (6:3).  

To neglect women’s concerns in a church would not only be foolish, it’d be unscriptural.  Now, I have no idea why the women of the congregation mentioned in the above web articles were not allowed to have their concerns heard, particularly if they’d been promised at a prior meeting that they would have time to voice their concerns.  But, I’m going to put the best construction on it.  I’m going to give God-fearing pastors and leadership of this congregation the benefit of the doubt and assume I’m only hearing one side of story in these articles.  We forget so quickly that the media’s top priority is to garner readers/viewers.  They’ll pounce upon an opportunity to break a civil rights/”violation of equality” story just as fast as the Roman Empire would gladly eliminate some cannibal Christians.  And the commentors on those articles will shout for equality with the same misguided thirst that Coliseum spectators would chant for the Christians’ blood.  What I’m saying is that if we think we’re getting the full story from the media, we’re insane, and I hope we’re mature enough to understand that.  

Nonetheless, the point remains that, yes, women’s opinions, concerns, and voices should absolutely be heard.  That’s part of God’s plan for a loving Christian church just as it’s part of God’s design for a loving Christian marriage.  If you read through the end of Ephesians 5, notice how God’s exhortation is for husbands (men) to love their wives (women) in the same way that Christ loved his Church.  How much did Christ love his Church?  Well, enough to lay down his life for her.  And this wasn’t just some momentary romantic “jump in front of the bullet” expression.  Rather for him to be a perfect sacrifice for his Church and make sure all of her members would be in heaven with him, he had to live perfectly every day for her.  In short, every day of Jesus life was spent living for the glory and happiness of his bride, the Church.  Alright ladies, you tell me – if it was evident that every moment of every day of his life, your husband was living to try to make you happy and bring you glory, would you have a problem letting him lead in an authoritative role?  I can’t imagine too many women would have a problem letting a man lead if they were loved that unconditionally.  Who wouldn’t want someone living every day with the purpose of bringing them happiness?  

Sadly, many men don’t love that way (the God-intended way).  In fact, the argument could be made that the very first sin (Adam & Eve eating from the forbidden fruit) was a violation of God’s intended roles for man/woman.  Perhaps the feelings of inadequacy and inequality and discontentment were creeping into Eve’s heart and the sound of fruit that would give her knowledge like God sounded appealing.  And remember when she ate the fruit, what did Eve do?  She gave it to Adam.  Scripture makes it sound like he was sitting there the whole time, abandoning his role as the spiritual leader.  Perhaps a little laziness and refusal of spiritual responsibility was creeping into Adam’s heart.  And so it is today that you find countless Christian women around the country on Sunday morning dragging children to worship by themselves, while the “spiritual leader” sleeps in, hunts, or unabashedly just doesn’t care at home.  

What’s the point?  Don’t blame God’s rules for man’s failure.  Don’t change God’s principles because man isn’t perfect.  Scripture is very clear that God intends “authoritative” issues in the church to be handled by men as an expression of God’s created roles for men/women.  God has the right to establish and maintain these principles, even if we don’t intellectual grasp them.  He’s God.  We’re not.  He has the right to inspire Scripture.  We don’t have the right to change it.  

While maintaining the established gender roles of Scripture, we will absolutely want our women’s concerns to be heard.  If we don’t, we’re being unloving.  We will absolutely want their numerous skills and God-given spiritual gifts to be implemented.  If we don’t, we’re not only being unwise, but we’re robbing God’s Church of these many gifts.  We will absolutely want to let our women know they are just as much a part of the body of Christ as any man is.  If we don’t, shame on us, not God.

Ah, How the Mighty Do Fall

The undisputed champion of home video rentals for many years, Blockbuster now sits on the verge of extinction.

For 6 summers of my life, spanning high school and college,  I spent many a late night running returned videos back to their proper location and arguing with customers over astronomical late fees (why someone would ever keep a Brendan Frasier movie 1 night, let alone 3 weeks is beyond me).  Yes, this was the glorious lifestyle of an employee at Family Video, at the time, the third largest video rental business in the Midwest.  I loved it.  Free movie rentals and the chance to voice my movie recommendations to masses.  As far as I was concerned, I was practically “in the industry.”  And in the video rental business, the biggest competitor for us was unquestionably Blockbuster.  I didn’t personally have anything against Blockbuster (nor do I now), but at the time, they were the clear juggernaut bully competitor.  At Family Video, our whole sales strategy revolved around beating whatever Blockbuster was doing.  For us, that meant cheaper prices, which also meant a needed higher volume of sales to stay competitive, which also meant more VHS tapes & dvds for a young movie boy to have to return around the store.  Incidentally, I believe my pronounced slouching problem is a result of carrying around double-tape stacks like Titanic all summer.  I’d likely be a good 2 inches taller if it wasn’t for James Cameron films alone. 

Anyways, times have changed.  Businesses like Netflix and Redbox have changed the way America watches movies.  Blockbuster simply failed to keep up.  Their 2005 innovation of “NO LATE FEES” ended up being a complete debacle.  The rules were confusing and Blockbuster was sued repeated times.  All toll, Blockbuster was estimated to have lost $1/2 billion dollars on the plan.  Recently, the company has reinstated late fees, but it might be too little too late.  As of latest word, Blockbuster is on the verge of filing for bankruptcy. 

If, in 2000, you would have told me that the most dominant video rental chain in the country would have been draining money and losing everything within the next 10 years I would’ve laughed and said, “No way!”  But, alas, even the dominant stumble.  The mighty enemy eventually always falls. 

Nothing in this world is permanent.  More specifically comforting – nothing in this life can hold you down forever.  Every evil giant must eventually fall.  What about in your life?  No doubt there exist “giants” or oppressing forces in all of our lives.  It could be the bully on the playground when you’re a child.  It could be the boss that cares more about business than his/her employees when you’re an adult.  Maybe your bully is more abstract than that.  Maybe it’s the cancer you’ve been fighting for years.  Maybe it’s the broken home in which you grew up in childhood that is still haunting you.  Maybe it’s you (yourself) – a self-loathing that manifests itself in perfectionism or an eating disorder or depression.  At the very least, we all experience giant spiritual enemies.  The Lutheran Catechism would state this as the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.  Satan is the unmitigating bully who tries to deceive us into believing that God is an unjust, unloving, and unmerciful ogre who just wants to shake us till we worship him (Who wouldn’t want to rebel against such a god?).  The world preaches a message of relativism and tolerance that actually condemns us as close-minded if we suggest that there might actually be true standards of “good” or “right” as opposed to making up our own perception of what is right on the basis of the way we feel.  And our sinful flesh…….well, this is exactly what the Apostle Paul talks about in Romans 7 when he says how he wants to do the right thing, but for a variety of reasons, often he doesn’t.  And the bad things he resolves not to do, those things he keeps slipping into.  

In our own way, we’ve all been bullied in life by a force that seems bigger than us.  And we’d like it to stop. 

God’s Old Testament people, the Israelites, faced their fair share of mighty bullies as well.  Granted, it was predominantly their own fault the majority of the time, but nonetheless, they were “God’s children”, why should they ever be pushed around?  One of the largest opposing powers that the Israelites consistently feared (and fiercest the world has ever seen) was a bloodthirsty group called the Assyrians.  The Assyrians, whose national mascot was a lion because they were the unquestioned “king of the jungle”, regularly oppressed the Israelites and surrounding neighboring countries and would devour nations with no concept of the sanctity of human life.  I’m not going to get into the unconscionable ways they would torture opponents, but when they would defeat countries, they’d often take their heads and stack them into sculptures to serve as trophies in their own city.  This was a wicked bully to say the least. 

Around 650 B.C. God sent a prophet to the Israelites in the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  His name was Nahum.  And Nahum delivers a beautiful message to Judah that reminds them that although their bully looks strong, God is stronger.  God is still the one who is in control.  God promises through Nahum that soon Ninevah (the capital city of Assyria) would fall.  Ninevah was fortified by a wall that was 100 feet tall and wide enough to drive 3 chariots side by side on.  It had a moat surrounding it that was 150 feet wide.  It had 1500 lookout towers for enemies and thousands of soldiers waiting for someone to challenge them.  It didn’t matter.  God made good on his promise.  In 612 BC, God’s specific promises in the book of Nahum were fulfilled.  The city was flooded, the Medes and Chaldeans came in and destroyed the “undestroyable”.  This Israelite enemy was defeated in humiliating fashion.  Just look at this quote from Nahum 3:5-6 “I am against you,” declares the LORD Almighty.  “I will lift your skirts over your face. I will show the nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your shame.  I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle.”  Sound bad?  It sounds worse in Hebrew.  But, truthfully, this is the justice the Assyrians deserved – Stripped naked and pelted with feces in front of everyone.  Disgusting.  This is what awaits the enemies of God’s people.  

Alright, so what does the book of Nahum mean then for us today?  First of all I’d encourage you to check it out – http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Nahum&version=NIV.  It’s only a quick 3 chapters.  Nahum’s message to God’s people today is simple: whatever in life is bugging you, oppressing you, bullying you, holding you back in any way, shape, or form, it won’t hold you down forever.  God is still in control.  

It sometimes seems like the forces of this world or even evil itself is what is truly calling the shots in life.  It’s simply not the case though.  Yes, we do live in a sinful world and that involves the consequences of sin.  Yes, God may even choose to allow temporary pain or oppression for his own divine reasons – always with the goal of strengthening us in faith.  But the time is coming for believers when our bullies get publicly shamed and can’t hurt us any longer.  The start of that was when Jesus triumphed over our spiritual enemies with the unlikely weapon of a blood-stained cross.  Christ gave us the victory.  The spoils we see in heaven.  In the meantime, God promises to not give us more than we can handle, to provide for all our needs, and that he’ll be with us every step of the way.  Soon enough, every last one of our enemies will fall.  No need to fear.  They can’t hold us down much longer. 

Robbing Beauty

A wild and unpredictable moment during the "Music by Prudence" Oscar acceptance speech last Sunday night.

 

Biased and rigged as it is, I typically try to check out a little bit of the Academy Awards each year, or, at the very least, read the results the next day in the news.  This past Sunday night I happened to tune in at precisely the right moment – the announcement for the winner of the “Best Documentary Short” award.  The winning short was “Music by Prudence”, the tale of a severely handicapped young woman from Zimbabwe named Prudence Mabhena, who apparently has one of the more hauntingly beautiful voices you’ve ever heard. 

Anyways, the movies producer (or one of them, as we’d soon find out), Roger Ross Williams, literally ran to the stage when the film was announced as winner.  I thought to myself, “Man, I’ve never seen anyone sprint to receive an award before.”  Moments later, an older woman bumrushed the stage and bullied Williams away from the microphone.  She rambled somewhat incoherently about how “anything is possible” until the orchestra played the two off the stage.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was a human tact train wreck on national television during the Oscars and I’d seen it live (not to mention that I watched it twice more on my DVR).  

Check it out for yourself – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yv86nnuEEGM 

Needing to know the explanation, I looked up the information the next day online as the story had unfolded. It turns out the seemingly crazy white woman (Elinor Burkett) was also one of the producers to the movie.  She’d left production about a year ago (over the artistic direction of the film) and was in the process of suing the male director/producer, Williams, over the rights to the movie.  The two were entangled in such hostility that Williams, who initially looked like the victim here, ran to the stage to get his speech in while he had his elderly mother try to trip Burkett with her cane as she was making her way up to the stage. 

It was wild, DVR-worthy TV.  

Not knowing the entire background of the debate between the producers, I have no desire to choose sides.  I wasn’t under the impression that either of them carried themselves in a particularly upstanding fashion this evening.  But that’s their issue.  The one I felt saddened for, however, was the star of the film, Prudence.  Here she sat in the audience, her shining moment, star of a Hollywood award-winning movie, dolled up like no way she could have ever imagined……….and the cameras (and thus the moment) is stolen from her by two producers fighting over their spot in the limelight.  What a shame.  The beautiful smile on the face of the film’s star changed to a look of confusion.  The beauty of the moment had been robbed. 

Unfortunately, life is like that sometimes.  Beautiful moments, beautiful things, beautiful relationships are robbed of their beauty by greed or selfishness or pride.  Maybe there’s some moments or aspects of your life that should have been better than what they were, but the beauty was robbed by sin or its natural products.  I think we’ve all had these moments: A family vacation is ruined by someone getting sick.   A friendship is destroyed by someone betraying confidence.  A marriage exists no longer because of a brief moment of exhilaration or years of self-centeredness.  What a shame. 

The beauty of the marriage relationship is one that I’d like to pursue a little further, except not the one between man and woman, but the analogous one between Christ and his church (as explained in Ephesians 5).  Numerous pictures in Scripture are given to describe the relationship between God and his people, Christ and his church.  Prophetic literature of the Old Testament pictures it this way.  The entire book of Song of Songs illustrates the intimate love between God and his people.  And that’s the way it’s pictured in the End Times as well – Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready (Revelation 19:7).  How much more beautiful of a picture can you get – wedding pictures between the Church and Christ.  

Sometimes in this sinful world, even in Christ’s church, that beauty can get robbed though.  Every time a visitor is unwelcomed into our church, a spill is made on that beautiful wedding dress.  Every time gossip or slander coming from brothers and sisters in Christ is told, another spill.  Every time unconstructive complaints are spoken, another spill.  Every time someone believes that act of service or kindness or love is someone else’s job, another spill.  Every time apathy towards God’s Word or God’s worship is expressed, another spill.  Every time our meetings become more about church politics and budgets at the expense of being about Christ’s deliverance and our liberation, another spill.  After awhile that beautiful dress could become barely recognizable as a wedding gown.  Even the unbelieving world can pick up on that hypocrisy from Christians.  And when ministry gets more about finances and agendas than winning or nurturing souls, well, it’s saddened and depressed times like this that I wonder if I got into the right line of work.  And please by no means think I’m excluding myself from this.  If our church doesn’t seem like a beautiful bride 100% of the time, it’s our own personal make-up we should probably check first in the mirror.  The truth is, in our lives in general, we all have probably lost more sleep worrying about finances and projects more than care of souls.  What a shame.  Father, forgive us. 

It’s at this point that we’re wise to dry our eyes over our occasionally ugly dress and look again to our groom — Jesus himself.  He said “I do” not because we were lovely, but because he was loving.  And he said “I do” not to the church building or institution, but to us personally – flaws and all that he was willing to pay for and love us despite.  And so we’re reminded that a Christian Church is not a collection of perfect people, but a collection of people who realize they’re not perfect, but also realize they have a perfect Savior in Jesus who wiped the running mascara from our sobbing eyes and the wine spill from our stained dress.  More bluntly – he forgives our sins and we can rejoice.  Satan would love to rob beauty from Christ’s church by cultivating ugliness and sin.  But Christ forgives us and we forgive one another.  We continuously work to build one another up in the body of Christ.  And we toast to the health of our eternal union.

What All the Fuss is About

"Ilanaaq the ikshuk" was the main mascot for the '10 Winter Olympics.

"Ilanaaq the ikshuk" was the main mascot for this year's Winter Olympics.

I’m not even going to pretend that I understand the Winter Olympics.  I’ve honestly tried.  I can see the appeal in some winter sports.  I had a lot of friends who loved hockey.  Personally, I could barely stay upright on skates, so it wasn’t really my thing, but I can see how some people like it.  Skiing for speed I guess I could kind of understand.  Maybe.  That’s about it though.  The drama doesn’t get to me – turned the dial every time I heard something about Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso arguing over who was more popular.  Patriotism I get, but not when we’re dominating Ethiopia in freestyle skiing.  And I flat out absolutely do not get the “skeleton”.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ld9NkqCN1KI Apparently 48 people on the planet were insane enough to agree to do this, making them, by default, “the best in the world.”  I guess I fail to see how this should be a part of the prestigious Olympics any more than “snow ball fighting”, “snow angels”, or “shove your younger brother’s head into a snow bank till he screams for mom”. 

Perhaps I’m just bitter.  While growing up, the Winter Olympics to me meant 2 straight weeks of nothing but figure skating on TV.  My mom LOVED the Winter Olympics.  Most of all, my mom LOVED the opening and closing ceremonies, which I always found more bizarre and terrifying than intriguing (still do) and figure skating (I knew way more about Brian Boitano and Viktor Petrenko than I’d asked for).  So, today, the Winter Olympics still mean about the same thing — loss of quality tv programs, events I don’t understand, and a lot of fuss about nothing.  In fact, the only thing that I’ve ever truly enjoyed about them is the late John Candy’s 1993 tear-jerker Cool Runnings (man, that’s what movies are all about).   

Even the Vancouver Olympics 2010 mascot seems symbolic to me of a waste of time.  “Ilanaaq”, which means “friend” in Inuit, is supposed to be an emblem of an ikshuk, which were massive stone guideposts that early Canadians set up for navigation purposes.  I’m not sure why convenient wooden signs that would have saved many Inuit backs wouldn’t have done the trick. 

I can see some of the appeal to the Olympics.  We all have our own specific and particular interests.  It’s one of the things that makes humans so fascinating.  But, am I the only one who feels that the Winter Olympics, to some degree, is WAY overhyped and for that matter, WAY over prepared for? 

While questioning the overall value of the Winter Olympics, the preparation and dedication of the athletes is something that I don’t question.  When you hear stories about Olympians having no social lives growing up – not having friends other than coaches, not going to prom, not ever sleeping in on a Saturday, not ever eating a donut because it doesn’t fit into the training regimen – you don’t really question their dedication and work ethic.  That commitment, indeed, is admirable.  What I do question, however, is whether or not it’s truly worth all the fuss.  Your event comes once every four years.  Maybe you’re good enough to make it to the Olympics, but most aren’t.  Even the best athletes can compete at maybe a max of 3 Olympics.  Was that really worth giving up so much of life for?

The thought of being so narrowly focused on one thing to the exclusion and avoidance of other things leads me to an important spiritual understanding.  Many in the world feel that the Christian faith is just too confining.  At the very least it often means giving up several hours of sleep on Sunday morning and with it, perhaps some subsequent partying on Saturday evening.  It also might mean financial loss.  “After all, don’t those people in the Bible give up 10% of all their income to God?”  It might mean some loss of wild promiscuity, debauchery, entertainment, and in general, some “good times.”  Finally, perhaps most difficult, it would mean the loss of who ultimately calls the shots in my life.  I’m now playing by someone else’s rules, not my own.  Does so much dedication to such a narrow thing really seem worth it?

To the person that feels this way about Christianity (even though they more often than not won’t verbalize it like that), I guess I’d ask the same question back in return – is it worth all the fuss?  This life, that is.  The Bible suggests that this life is 70 or 80 years, but that the next life (whether in heaven or hell) is eternal.  Think about that timeframe comparison.  This life is a blink in a movie, it’s an atom in a galaxy, it’s a tear in an ocean compared to the next one.  Don’t get me wrong, this life is important, but if the Bible is right about afterlife, then the most important thing for me in this life is to responsibly prepare for the next one.   And the laws of wise investment suggest I should not put all my eggs in this troubled and temporary world’s basket.  Does so much dedication to happiness at all costs and “living in the now” really seem worth it in the big picture of life, when you properly include the notion of eternal existence?

Jesus makes a strong statement towards dedicating ourselves to an eternal perspective in Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Jesus is essentially saying here, “This place (earth) is so temporary.  And it can be painful, disappointing, and disenchanting.  Is this really all that you want to live for, especially when living in it leads to eternal sadness?  Follow me and I’ll show you what life is all about.  We’ll live like kings in the treasures of heaven.”  And how do we go about “storing up” these heavenly treasures?  A good starting point is probably to start dedicating ourselves to not worrying so much about the earthly ones.  Think bigger.  Think better.  Believe that Jesus took your sins away on the cross.  Allow his love and will to have a home in your heart.  Know that gold medals are earthly glory, but that a Golden Jerusalem, heavenly glory, is what God has in store for you.