Saturday, July 28, 2012

More Church Signs of the Times

I’m probably going to be accused of not having a sense of humor. Just warning you up front before I write this post. I do have a sense of humor. I laugh a lot, in fact. But I’ve been doing some thinking and there is a time and a place in which it’s good and proper and right to be funny, and other times....not so much.
I wrote a post recently about appalling church sign finds and the little game we play in our family to spot and collect them. Here are a couple more we’ve seen since that post, and then I have something to say.
“Are you at the center of God’s worship?”
I think this is the worst one I’ve seen yet....ever. I don’t even know what they are trying to say here. Face value it is blasphemous and appalling. I can’t even think of a way to take this that is good. I better not be at the center of any worship. I better be worshiping God first, foremost and only. Are they trying to say that worshiping God should be the center of my life? If so, they mangled it. Somehow, though, in our self-actualization and contemplative naval-gazing, self-absorbed, demand and expect and think you deserve your best life now culture, I suspect it’s as bad as it looks face value. Truly terrible.
“Be friends with Jesus. Use Faith-Book, the Bible.”
As we were driving along a highway we drive quite often close to home, I happened to see the other side of the ‘cold butter’ sign I drive by and mentioned in the first church sign post. This is what was on the back. Sad to say, in comparison, the cold butter sign is better. Wowza. Thinking about this one since I saw it yesterday is what got me pondering what I want to say in the rest of this post and for which some people will probably think I have no sense of humor. So be it.
We live in a culture that increasingly shakes its collective fist in the face of God. In a time when the church desperately needs to be a prophetic voice in the midst of a Romans 1 culture of spiritual blindness, we laugh ourselves into irrelevance. The seeker-driven, best life now, felt-needs focus of the church is a foolish mess. If it makes me a complete idiot to say I believe that, then so be it. We wonder why our churches are so filled with false converts that studies show large percentages of our youth are leaving the faith, yet we scream foul and pitch fits when our culture rails and gnashes their teeth and threatens to boycott when the Bible-influenced Christian beliefs of a Chick-fil-A president are gently stated in answer to a question. Why should our culture take us seriously when we don’t even seem to take the faith seriously? “Be friends with Jesus. Use Faith-Book.” Really??? 
I grew up in a solid, Bible-believing church. It was one of the better ones in the SBC, by all accounts. And yet, as I was listening to Todd Friel the other day on a ‘Witness Wednesday’ episode where he shared some encounters he had talking with random college students as he visited their campus and compassionately struck up conversations with them, I put my head on my kitchen counter and wept. In that episode, he ran across a couple of Christian kids who, though sincere, couldn’t articulate the gospel when he said, “Say I’m not a Christian. Why should I be a Christian?” The best one kid had to offer was along the lines of, well, Jesus has made my life so much better; I see what it’s done for me to be a Christian. When Todd came back and said that his life is fulfilled and he’s happy already, why would he need Jesus, the kid didn’t have a good answer. Todd gently then suggested that what the kid had forgotten to mention was that he’s a sinner and needs a Savior. Repentance is what was missing. And the reason I wept at my kitchen counter while listening is because I realized that had Todd run across me as a college kid, I would have answered exactly the same way that kid had, and I would have been just as confused about how to properly explain the gospel. And it’s really so simple once we get over our self-esteem and self-centeredness and realize that the gospel message is not that we can have our best life now. The gospel message is that we are wretched sinners who have broken God’s law and cannot earn His forgiveness no matter what we do. But God, who is rich in mercy, demonstrated His love to us while we were yet sinners and Jesus died for us, took the wrath which we deserve as He died on that cross. And now God commands that we repent and put our trust in the One He sent, namely Jesus Christ the Lord. 
I loved Jesus, wanted to follow Him and put my trust in Him, live for Him, as a college student. But I don’t think the gospel message was spelled out for me in such a consistent way as I hear Todd Friel teach it on the Wretched Radio podcasts I listen to now. I am so thankful to my loving Savior for pointing me over the years as I’ve grown in the direction of good preachers who consistently preach the gospel soundly, biblically, rightly, and that by hearing it preached well I have come to understand and repent and fully trust in Christ alone, and that the faith God graciously allowed me to express as a child has been realized through the sound preaching of His word. I am saved by His grace alone. 
Repentance is what is missing from so much of our ‘gospel’ proclamation in so much of our evangelical preaching today. We teach a message of having our felt-needs met, having better lives, fixing our self-esteem (loving ourselves better), and though repentance is mentioned, it isn’t often enough and strongly enough stressed and fully explained why we need to repent and from what. Had someone asked me back then if I was a good person, I would have proudly said, “Yes.” I didn’t fully comprehend until much later how wretched I really am. The righteouness in which I am growing is due to the work of the Holy Spirit in me through Jesus Christ my Lord, not because I’m good enough in myself to get there on my own.
I’ve been listening to Alistair Begg preaching through the book of Amos recently. He said this in the podcast I was listening to yesterday, and it struck me in light of my thinking about these things, “Religion without repentance leaves men and women in a perilous place. It affirms them in their rebellion, and it is a very large part of much of the proclamation in our western world today.” And later in the same message he said this, “Repentant-less religion eats out the soul of our society.”
So, back to the church sign nonsense. I know that a cutesy phrase on a church sign probably isn’t the whole of the message that church teaches. But I think that we better be much more careful of the message we are sending to those who drive by and see it. That church sign is a public face of our church. If we’re so casual and silly about our Savior on the sign, are we really going to be sober-minded about Him in our preaching and teaching and what we’re passing on to our children? Sure, I can laugh about funny things, but I don’t think the Church’s face to the world is a funny thing. Our culture is more and more antagonistic to the truth claims of Christianity. We need to be about the business of teaching the gospel well - especially within the church to our children so that we and they can be salt and light by knowing and understanding and sharing the faith outside the church.  Instead of trying so hard to be ‘cool’ and trying so hard to get them to ‘like us’ because we aren’t really all that different, let’s focus on knowing and teaching the gospel well. That’s what our fist-shaking culture needs from us. Not another ‘Reclaim America’ type of rally (I have a whole other post brewing on that subject, just so you know), but a church that is in awe of our Holy God and who would fear to trivialize Jesus, who should be most precious to us indeed. Have we read Revelation?? The vision John saw of the risen Lord Jesus Christ would never have allowed him to say such trivial things about Jesus as we cutely put on our church signs. Jesus is the Friend of Sinners, but He isn’t our buddy and boyfriend. He is the Friend who is closer than a brother, but we must never forget that He is the Lamb who was slain and to whom all the Redeemed will forever sing Worthy is the Lamb for all all eternity.
Could we please rethink the cutesy, silly, irreverant and sometimes outright blasphemous church signs (not to mention the posters/t-shirts/cups/junk we see in Christian stores and on Facebook and e-mail chains that are usually followed by ‘like and post if you love Jesus’)? For the love of a world that is dying and going to hell, can we not be more serious about what we present to the world? For the love of the Savior who died to redeem sinners and make us free from sin, could we please be more careful with how we represent Him before the mockers? Is that really a laughing matter?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Our Long Night Last Night

We had a long night last night. After repeatedly telling Rachel day after day after day to stop hugging the dog, he doesn’t like it, I know you love him but the best way to show him you love him is not to hug him when he doesn’t like it, Roscoe finally had enough of her ‘love’ and snapped and bit her in the lip last night around 6PM. I’m so thankful Drew was home and that he is super calm in a crisis, because I saw all that blood and went into panicked momma mode. Drew got her cleaned up, then calmly looked at me and said, “I think we need to take her to the doctor, you know, make sure we get it cleaned well enough.” Trying not to panic the 6-year-old. “Getting my keys,” I said.
If I ever am tempted to complain about the hospital at Ft. Knox again, I’m going to stop myself. The ER staff were wonderful - kind, compassionate, professional, and reassuring to the 6-year-old and her momma. They let us sit in a private waiting room so we weren’t out with the contagious people and, as the man who checked us in said, “So she doesn’t have people staring. She’s probably self-conscious enough already.” They got us back pretty quickly, and as scared as Rachel was, she amazed me by how brave she acted through the whole ordeal. The attending doctor looked at her lip and said that the dog took a little chunk out of her top lip and there wasn’t a way to stitch it, so she had another doctor come in for second opinion and they agreed to call the plastic surgeon at Kosair Children’s Hopsital in Louisville. As soon as she said, “It’s not really too bad, but she is going to scar, but let’s call the plastic surgeon and see if we can minimize it,” I started crying. I’d been holding it back, but I just looked at my beautiful little girl trying so hard to be brave and cried.
While waiting, I got a text from Rachel’s best little friend’s mom telling me that they just found out they are moving to Indiana, so they won’t get to be in class together this year after all. Her little friend’s heart is breaking, could they get together this week to say their good-byes? I didn’t have the heart to tell Rachel her friend is moving away with what she was going through right then. I’ll have to tell her this morning, though, and I’m dreading it. A lot.
After the call to the plastic surgeon, we were told that the best course of action was to transfer us to Kosair. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was to put my little baby girl into that hospital van and tell her I was going to get my car and follow. Drew was home with the boys, so I had to drive behind rather than in the van with her. She was scared, but she nodded bravely. My heart broke during that whole long drive to Louisville until I met her in the hallway at Kosair.
While waiting, my phone battery died, so I wasn’t able to text or call Drew with updates. Had I known we were going to be driving to Louisville I would have charged it that afternoon. Lesson learned, always charge phone once it gets to half power, because you just don’t know what the day will hold.
After a long wait and several different doctors and nurses looking at her lip and sending pictures to the head plastic surgeon on call, the decision was made to send us home with some special cream and bandages and we will be calling this morning to make an appointment for her to see the plastic surgeon on Tuesday, per last night’s instructions. 

Because my parents read this, I want to reassure you and let you to know it doesn’t really look as bad as it sounds as I wrote this. The worst is right on her lip and she is doing fine this morning, but I think she’s finally learned why we’ve been so adamant about leaving the stupid dog alone.
You all probably know how much I hate driving. Well, with my phone dead, my GPS picked this, the worst night ever, at midnight in downtown Louisville on streets I’ve never driven in my life before, to decide not to work. I got turned around and spent an anxious 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get to the interstate, but finally found the signs that got me there. Then I drove home through the construction and really, really, really dark roads with no phone and a very tired kiddo in the back seat. That was scary. The good thing is, at that time of night, there isn’t much traffic out there and we got home at 1:30 AM. 
One thing that really broke my heart was when she wanted to know what she looked like with the bandage on her lip, so I took a picture with my phone before it died and showed her. She said, “Everyone is going to hate me. They’re going to laugh at me. Don’t put that on Facebook, Mommy! Get rid of it!” I assured her that we all love her no matter what, no one is going to laugh, we’re all just sorry it happened to her, and of course I wouldn’t post that to Facebook. How sad is it that she sees me on Facebook so often she would worry about that? So, no, I’m not sharing pictures here. Conviction from the mouth of my 6-year-old. Lots of things needing to change around here.
As I drove along behind the hospital van last night, I kept pleading with God to help her not to be afraid, and thanking Him for His mercy, because it could have been so much worse. He has my little girl in His hand, and I’m grateful.
God is good. All the time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Church Sign and Bumper Sticker Theology

It’s become a fun little game in our family whenever we’re driving anywhere to look for and notice church signs and/or bumper stickers....the more abominable the better to add to our growing collection of wretchedness. Some leave us scratching our heads wondering what, exactly, is meant, some leave us sad and/or disgusted by the triteness or abominable theology, and a few leave us saying, “Okay, that was pithy,” or, “Yeah, that was pretty good.”  In an effort to limp my blog along another day and share the joy, I’ve compiled a few of our most recent finds to share. If I comment, my comments are in purple italics. Some probably need no comment as they could stand alone in their wretchedness. My opinion, for what it’s worth: I think when we try to be too cutesy with our church sign/bumper sticker/T-shirt theology, it makes us seem silly and dumbs down the majesty and beauty and seriousness and importance of our message. Y'all know, I hope, that I love to laugh and I'm not against funny things. But Christians ought not to be silly about the faith. It doesn’t really make us more culture-sensitive, it just makes us silly. Like I said, my opinion.....So, having said that, enjoy. Or not.....
“Cold church is like cold butter...It doesn’t spread well.” 
What does this mean? No AC during the church meeting this summer? (That was snark, if you missed it). Yeah, yeah, I guess I understand what’s meant, but sounds goofy and makes you wonder who they're lecturing.
“America is free. So is salvation.” 
Urg. On a lot of levels. Just, urg.
“Jesus died for Myspace in Heaven.”
Yes, ‘myspace’ was one word. Blurg. In an effort to be trendy, it’s just dumb. Does anyone even use Myspace anymore? I don’t know, but the sign is dumb, dumb, dumb. Myspace, Facebook, social networks basically feed our inner narcissist, and yes, I see the hypocrisy of that comment seeing as I’ve been as guilty as anyone else about my overuse of Facebook and I recognize the temptation to get too hung up on caring too much what other people think of me that it feeds. So let’s just baptize that insidious self-centeredness with this silly sentiment on a church sign. Worshipping Jesus isn’t all about me! We are too prone to that kind of thinking. Getting off the soapbox now.....
“Laughter is music for the soul.” 
Kind of apathetic about this one. Not bad, I guess, just not sure what it means, exactly.
“Come inside. We’re prayer conditioned.” 
Doh!!!! I can’t even read this one without hearing it in a cheesy, mocking tone in my head. In fact, we have a friend from our Florida days who I just picture saying this in that cheesy, mocking voice. He was really good at it. Think Brian Regan if you’ve ever seen his stand-up comedy routine. I hear it in his voice, snarkily, in my head.
“Be ye fishers of men. U catch them, He will clean them.”
Urg. Face palm. And yes, it was ‘U’, not ‘you.’ Even my inner grammar nerd was tweaked, thanks a lot.
“Beth Moore, ‘Free’ simulcast.” 
“God reigns, the Son shines.”
We actually had to miss our turn off the highway just so we could turn around in the parking lot to see this one. Worth it? Punny, punny, punny....
“People are lonely because they build walls not bridges.”
Barf. Psycho babble AND guilt right there. If I had been feeling lonely but had NOT been building walls, not so sure I’d feel welcomed there, I’m sayin’. 
“The Ten Commandments are not ten suggestions.”
“Lost? Free directions in the Bible.”
Then there was the one my husband saw and told me about and we actually called in to a radio show, but now we think he remembered it wrongly. He originally told me it was, "You need sin screen for the Sonshine," which made no sense, but which I didn't question because we've seen so many horrible ones and that's the one we called in. Later he remembered it as, "You need Sonscreen for sin burn," equally wretched but makes more sense in a goofy church sign kind of way. I asked him which it really was, and he honestly doesn't remember, maybe he saw both. Maybe. Nothing much surprises me anymore where evanjellyfishism is concerned.

These next ones aren’t church signs, but they fit here somehow, too:
Saw this sign on a roadside Fireworks Tent before July 4th: “Church Fund Raiser,” and my husband and I started laughing so hard, and I don’t even know why it was so funny. It just seems like an odd thing for a church to sell for a fundraiser. 
And I saw this today, (In case you can't see it well, it says, "It's the God in me."):

Not exactly sure what it means, but it’s got a New Agey, Oprahific kinda feel that made my eyes cross and I just had to take a picture. Shudder.
And now I’ll end with the few church signs we’ve seen recently that weren’t abominable or wretched or puke-cutesy:
Any sign that simply listed the service times, we liked a lot. Simple, informative, good stuff.
“We love because He first loved us.”
Nice. Biblical, even. (1 John 4:19)
“Jesus is King of Kings.”
“Hebrews 13:15-16.”  
Of course, then I had to look it up to see what it says: ‘ Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” 
“No man ever spoke like this man. John 7:46.” 
I liked this one best of all the church signs we’ve seen recently.
And there you have it. Happy Tuesday, y’all.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thankful Thursday

I seem to have forgotten that I have a blog, and that I enjoy writing it, and that I enjoy reading other blogs. Or maybe it’s just been summer. And a HOT one at that.
Seeing as it’s Thursday, how about I write a Thankful Thursday post to remind myself that I have a blog and enjoy writing here?
I’m thankful for pomeganates. What an interesting and delicious and beautiful fruit it is.  My mom taught me how to cut and eat one last Thanksgiving, and I’ve been searching the grocery store ever since in the hopes they might some day have them in our produce section. Yesterday they did! I was tempted to do a dance of joy right there in the store. My boys were excited to see the pomegranates come home, too. They LOVE them. Here’s some pictures of my pomegranate fun: 

Such a pretty fruit, don't you think?

All those yummy little jewels!

I’m also thankful for air conditioning. It’s been over 100 degrees here several days during the past few weeks. Whew. Our upstairs AC unit, on what was supposedly the hottest day of the year, decided to quit blowing cold air. It got HOT, HOT, HOT upstairs. I’m thankful we have two units and the downstairs is cool. We’ve been calling for a week now and finally have an appointment tomorrow to have the upstairs fixed. Long story, not going to complain here, though. I’m just thankful we have any AC at all. In a world where there is so much poverty, I really feel selfish complaining when we have one working unit in the house. That’s an inconvenience, not a crisis.
I’m thankful for the ministry of Truth for Life, Grace to You, and Wretched Radio. The teaching I hear daily from these resources has been precious to me. I really appreciate the instruction I’m receiving in the gospel, and words just can’t express how thankful I am for the impact it’s having on my own life and on how I’m growing in teaching my children. 
I’m thankful for an app I found for my iPhone called Run5K. It was an 8 week program that helped me to learn to go from a non-runner to being, well, more of a jogger than I ever have been in my life. I finished the program, heat and hilly neighborhood notwithstanding, and I’m trying to get into better shape. All this hilly running is even helping me to strengthen the muscles that are helping my knee to not hurt quite as much as it has for the past 3 years. Nice. Now if I could just see some of the weight come down. You’d think with all this jogging I’d lose a few pounds, wouldn’t you? But I’m thankful to be feeling healthier, and to have reached a goal I’ve never been able to reach before - being able to run (slow, but more than I've ever done before) for exercise outside. My husband likes to run, and he’s really patient and slows his pace to run with me once in a while and is very encouraging in my effort to learn to do this hard thing.
Most of all, I’m thankful for the gospel and that God delights to save sinners, of whom I am a most wretched one who is most grateful and joyful to be saved by His grace. I am thankful that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and He ever intecedes for His people. 
Romans 5:8
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”