Last Fall, Rodney Plunket and I team taught a lesson at White Station and I have used the book, Hyperculture, to teach a few other lessons for college students and for other churches. This material is thought provoking and I ask you to consider the following material as a challenge to slow down, live intentionally, and enjoy life with your family, friends, and your God.
Stephen Bertman starts the book off with this quote, “No man in a hurry is quite civilized.”
Bertman’s argument is simple, we are living at a speed that is too fast for us; hence the subtitle, “The human cost of speed.” This pace of life we live is called, “hyperculture” and it is fueled by, what Bertman calls, “the power of now.” He writes, “Nullifying a vision of the past and negating a true view of the future, warp speed isolates us in the present. Marooned there, floating in temporal zero-gravity, we turn to the present as our exclusive basis for fulfillment, and gratification as our sole source of security in a cosmos where all other sources of security have been stripped from us by our onrushing speed. Hurtling through time, we cling to the moment.(2)”
The power of now is fueled by three sources: technology, a loss of history, and the over-dependence of our senses.
First, we will turn to technology. Bertman claims, “Culturally, we have been conditioned to believe our technology frees us from labor. the more the technology, the easier our lives (4).” But is this really the truth?
A LOSS OF HISTORY
Second, Americans have bought into an ideal that the world is always progressing or becoming “new and improved.” We can’t wait for the newest model, like the iPhone 5 that many waited in line for. The new style is always better than the old whether that be cars, clothes, shoes or gaming consoles. And Bertman again warns that if we are inhabitants in a land ever “new” then, “we will always be exiles from time--mobile but homeless.(29)”
So, we give up on history living for the moment, this moment. The past is already done, the future is too far off to think about.
This has drastic implications for our faith, because the Bible is an ancient book, full of wisdom from past generations. the Bible tells us to live with the future in full view, understanding that the sins we commit today influences our future life. In a world where “now” is over exaggerated, the faith story is frustrating because it tries to frame the “now” in a larger journey of life and even beyond life.
OVER-DEPENDENCE ON OUR SENSES
Last, human senses fuel the power of now because every human wants to feel good and not feel bad. We desire to feel pleasure and stay away from pain and we desire that “now,” not later. But when the human senses are constantly overstimulated, then we constantly feel tired.
Bertman writes, “Our senses are limited in their ability to absorb and process information (for example: listening and taking notes). Life can be so stimulating, so fast, that our natural limits are exhausted (34).” If we are honest, we like to feel important. We like to know what’s going on and so no one has to twist our arms to receive emails or sign up for voicemail or join Facebook--anything that provides information to us for us is a good idea. Our desire to not miss out on anything, or be left out of anything, makes the decision for us.
In the end we understand the impact of “the power of now,” Bertman claims: “We have been drafted into a war--the time war--between the slower pace our minds and bodies crave and the faster tempo our technology demands. We are all combat veterans.” We must come to see that “slow” is not necessarily bad and that “fast” is not necessarily good.
A few days ago, I asked some friends on Facebook and Twitter what I should address on my blog and Ryan Head asked me to address the question that follows, and so I assured him I would try my best to do so! Ryan and his wife, Melissa, (congrats by the way) and a team minister to and disciple people in Togo, Africa. Join me in prayer for their work and that God will use them to be about His business of salvation in Togo. He commented,
Maybe something to the effect of the transition from the newness of Christian life, the honeymoon stage is past, and now I'm an "everyday" Christian.
I remember leaving in Hayley's car and driving to the airport in Pittsburgh, PA. the next morning we flew to Mexico where we spent the week AWAY from the world that was to come. We laid on the beach, took walks in the sand, took a horseback ride through the jungle, and did some scuba diving through a beautiful reef. But the next week, the next week we would pack up all of our belonging and move from Michigan to Memphis, TN. We would both begin school, Hayley at Southern College of Optometry, and I would go to Harding school of Theology. Sure, we were married during that honeymoon, but real married life hit us between the eyes when we landed in Memphis.
Perhaps it is that new job, or a new pet adoption, or really anything new... but there is a moment in which the newness (or escape of reality) wears off and we are faced with the everyday routine, the hum drum, the very real lifestyle of marriage, work, pet ownership, and yes...even the life of faith.
I believe the writer of Hebrews addresses Christians who came out of their family religion to follow Christ and had begun questioning it. In other words the honeymoon had ended and the reality of the Life of Christ had set in. the writer tells them a few things that we should keep in mind, but the crux of the matter is this:
Hebrews 5:11 There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.
In Ryan's comment, I think he gives it away when he writes, "now that I'm an everyday Christian" I think that is simply it, we must be a Christian every day...
I don't function in my job the same way I did 10 years ago when I started as an apprentice in Campus Ministry. I have grown. I know my spouse so much more deeply know than I did in 2001 when we were on that trip to Mexico, and having children together and parenting has only made our marriage more meaningful. I have grown.
We are to grow and mature as believers. I am not the same follower of Jesus who was baptized in April of 1991. Jesus has called me to do some hard things. God has disciplined me and asked me to step some things up. I still struggle to allow the Holy Spirit control of my life. BUT - I have moved on from milk. Look at the list of things above and ask yourself what it means to be mature. Let me give you a few questions:
1. Do you actively teach God's word to others, or are you still trying to soak it in (and making excuses for not helping other people understand it like, "I don't know enough to teach others.")?
2. Have you been trained through life experience to recognized the difference between right and wrong (do people come to you for advice on hard decisions)?
3. Has your study of the faith moved past the basic teachings like: repenting from evil deeds and placing your faith in God, baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment?
4. Has your Christian walk become a disciplined walk, characterized by faith and patience as you wait for the inheritance that has been promised? (Heb. 6:12)
We could move on to Romans 12:1-2 and I could talk about how a living sacrifice differs from a one time burnt out sacrifice that some Christians seem to live - justifying their laziness or apathy with words like "I tried" or "I'm just so tired."
The Bible doesn't pull any punches, it tells us what we are in for - deny yourself and take of your cross DAILY." We are to GROW in the Lord, through the power of the Spirit, and die to ourselves every day. This is the only way we can be sustained, and it is the Lord himself that sustains us.
When the newness wears off, you are either growing and going deeper, or the relationship is falling apart...and that can be used in many arenas, but for now know that your faith is the topic at hand and I want you to be persistent in the Lord. Oh yeah... and this from Hebrews...
12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.
I remember a day when I received a call from a student who used to be a part of the campus ministry. It had been at least five years since I had seen him and he called to get some advice. He told me that he had found out that his wife had been cheating on him and asked me what he should do about it. I asked him what he thought he should do?
He went on to tell me that this relationship was not what he signed up for and that he was thinking about getting a divorce. She was unfaithful to him and so he had the right to divorce her. Then, as if he needed my permission to do it, he asked me what I thought.
I told him that since they have been married they have stopped attending church and stopped living by the teachings of the New Testament. He had not grown spiritually but had spent a lot of time pursuing other things like his music career and drugs. I told him that his wife was not the only partner in this marriage who had been unfaithful, but that they both were being unfaithful to the other in different ways.
Then here it was: I told him as clearly as I could that I was confused as to how he and his wife could live in a marriage unaffected by their faith until trouble came, and then he wanted to use his faith to justify his divorce. I recommended that he go home and become a Christian man once again and help his wife grow into the woman of God she needed to be.
I keep up with this couple, still struggling to make it work I think. They are still together, but still trying to figure out how to come together after years of hurt and unfaithfulness. They are not alone. There is a lot of talk about marriages these days. In this country, open marriages and divorces are just as common as grandpa and grandma's years of togetherness.
For me, Christians need to step it up. If we want to take marriage seriously, then we need to start with our own marriages and love our spouses and our children. God's standards for marriage are higher than our government's standards, and when Christian people fail to live up to God's desire and will for marriage, then we should not be surprised by the idea that any two people, regardless of commitment, can be joined together.
We need to take marriage seriously. Some of my students don't even want to get married because of the turmoil they have experienced in their families. This generation is referred to as the "fatherless" generation because of the lack of fathers. Our marriages must be a commitment, and that commitment is first to our God, then to our spouse, children, extended family and community. (The government wants you to sign a contract, not make a covenant.)
I hope and pray that our faith in Jesus changes and challenges us to live differently from the world around us, and as we think about and participate in marriage, I think it should look different, be different, and the goals of a Christian marriage should be what Paul wrote, "to present her before the throne holy and blameless before the Lord." (that's just a plain scary call to responsibility). Maybe we should see marriage as that - a plain scary call to responsibility in this world! Sobering, but faithful to the standards of God.
I have been reading about what seems to be discipleship. By discipleship I don’t mean a process of strategic growth or a 12 step program to becoming like Christ in 90 days or less. By discipleship, I mean allowing God to transform us into “mature followers” of Jesus, who live like Jesus, and who care about what Jesus cared about (candidly I’m still confused about what a mature follower really looks like, but I am convinced that no person, generation, or contemporary discipleship book gives us a full picture).
Interestingly enough, college students are prompting most of my reading--Books like Crazy Love, Radical, Not a Fan, and to make matters more challenging even a book on financial development for non-profits entitled Coach Your Champions tell me I am not just called to help train and grow college students, but I am also called to help train and grow donors who just want to write a check to Soma, or just do their small part, so they can feel good.
All of this really prompted me to think about the way the church represents Jesus to the larger world. You might know that David Platt received criticism recently at the Southern Baptist Convention for speaking out about the spiritual shallowness of the sinner’s prayer:
"I'm convinced many people in our churches are just simply missing the life of Christ and a lot of it has to do with what we've sold them as the Gospel, i.e. 'pray this prayer, accept Jesus into your heart, invite Christ into your life,'" he said. "It's modern evangelism built on sinking sand and it runs the risk of disillusioning millions of souls."
This modern evangelism, while effective in dealing with mass groups of people all at once, seems to be distant from the Gospel that Jesus and the apostles taught. Kyle Idleman writes in his book Not a Fan,
“The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them...” He continues, “There is no way to follow Jesus without him interfering with your life. Following Jesus will cost you something. Following Jesus always costs something.”
And before we hear the word "cost" and think we are talking about money, in the book Coach Your Champions, Eric Foley boldly asserts that Christians all over the USA think they are doing the work of God by writing a check, often escaping any transformative work on who they are as followers of Christ, and what they are responsible to do. He writes concerning leading a non-profit,
“The real transformation happened when we stopped putting donors in categories by the size of check they write, and started categorizing them by their level of involvement with the cause...”
So as I think about the church as it moves forward and tries to reach new people and a generation who thinks that church is just another institution of which to marginally belong, I want to be completely authentic and share my concerns:
My brother-in-law sent me an article. (The article also covers asthma)
These so-called allergy capitals are ranked based on pollen levels, use of allergy medications and the number of board-certified allergists in the areas, according to a foundation statement.
Everyone in the United States can expect their allergies to be worse this year, thanks to an unusually wet winter, the foundation says.
"Severe weather patterns can bring higher temperatures, higher pollen levels and increased exposure to mold, resulting in spring allergies that can peak stronger and last longer," Dr. Bill Berger, a California allergist, said in the statement.
Here are the top 10 worst allergy cities for 2013:
1. Jackson, Mississippi
2. Knoxville, Tennessee
3. Chattanooga, Tennessee
4. McAllen, Texas
5. Louisville, Kentucky
6. Wichita, Kansas
7. Dayton, Ohio
8. Memphis, Tennessee
9. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
10. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
What do I take from this? (besides allergy shots?)
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Suffering from allergies produces the perseverance to go on among daily annoyances
Persevering through allergies builds character by controlling my anger and feelings of "WHY ME"
Character then leads to the hope of living in a pollen free place
Hope will not disappoint - No Allergies in heaven, but not there yet!
Memphis in the Spring should remind us that we long for a better place, where creation and humans do not contend with each other. My exegesis might be suspect, but the application is right on!
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.