Me-ism


Olympia_roller_coasterI was talking with a friend yesterday about the radical changes in society here in the US. We started looking at history to see if we could figure out how the earthshaking changes occurred. OK, first she related to me a discussion in a Bible study centered around Ephesians 5:16: “making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” The question came up from a Millennial, what does it mean “the days are evil”?

Well, that’s a question I think is self-explanatory. I mean, I just heard a statistic that said 90 people a day die in the US from gunshot wounds. Well, I went to verify this if possible. It’s a stat apparently Secretary Hillary Clinton has used in speeches against gun violence. On a web site that lists the numbers of deaths annually, the total they give for 2015 is 12,942 people killed “in a gun homicide, unintentional shooting, or murder/suicide” (The Trace). A little math reveals that’s more than 35 deaths a day.

Oh, so 35 isn’t 90, meaning it’s not so bad? The days aren’t really evil then? Well, 35 people would be like killing everyone (and a few visitors) in one of my classes during my teaching days. Every day! I think that’s pretty evil.

And that doesn’t begin to address the numbers of assaults, the muggings, the lies, the adulteries, the rapes, the abuse, the drunken stupors, the addiction overdoses, the robberies, the prostitution, the bribery, the corruption, the hate, the pornography, the abortions, the cursing, the betrayal. I find the evil to be overwhelming.

I mean, listen to an average news show and see what horrific things are happening in the world. The days are evil.

But this young Millennial had to ask, What does it mean, “The days are evil.”

So my friend and I began to discuss where in society is the breakdown that made this intelligent, well-educated Millennial ask for a definition of evil days. I mean, with atheism on the rise and church attendance on the decline, with terrorism seemingly unchecked, and presidential candidates who are potentially going to be indited for crimes or who have advocated for illegal action in their debates, I find it astounding that anyone would not immediately grasp the concept of “evil days.”

Thus the conclusion: something in our society has broken.

What, and when?

I suggested first, the dynamics of the home are not what they once were. During World War II and the Korean War, then the Viet Nam War, young men were not in the home, so any number of young wives were left to parent alone or to change roles from the one caring for the home to one providing financial necessities.

I didn’t mention this, but divorce also became easier to obtain and the stigma of divorce was removed. Hence, single parent homes began to increase. In short, a generation was not parented well, and they, in turn did a bad job of parenting their children who are now Millennials.

Parenting styles also changed. One difference was the determination that spanking was an inappropriate form of punishment. But there was also a surge of what my friend called “helicopter parents” who constantly hovered. I’ll add that homes became more child-centric than ever.

Our discussion ended before we reached any conclusion, but as I look at the changes in our society, I see two threads: parents who neglected their children, so they ended up growing up like weeds, and pampered children who grew up thinking the world owed them whatever their hearts desired.

Both extremes produced children who are part of the Me-ism of today. The first decided that no one else was going to watch out for them, so they had to watch out for themselves. The latter saw that everyone was taking care of them (coaches awarding participation trophies, teachers giving do-over tests, or changing their standardized test results, more recently, safe zones on university campuses where students won’t hear anything that offends them, and the like), so they expected the world to continue to center around them.

I’ll add another element. Our society has moved from one that believed in hard work and success to one that believes in happiness and safety. Our highest priority now seems to be happiness, and safety is needed to make happiness possible.

Consequently, entertainment occupies much of our time and attention. We want to have music on always. Unless we’re watching TV or the movie of our downloading choice. We read about the stars and watch “news” shows about the stars and talk about the stars. We are obsessed with the lives of people who act. Or sing. Why? Because they entertain us. And entertainment is key to happiness.

I think Me-ism is responsible for our view of truth and the push for tolerance. After all, if the most important value is each person’s individual happiness, then whatever the person wants must be good. If you want to believe in an after life, then that’s fine because it works for you. But if someone else says there is nothing beyond the grave, that’s fine too because they can be happy here and now. Because, you see, all views have to be tolerated so that everyone can be happy.

Enter Jesus saying that He is The way, The truth, The life, and no one can come to God the Father except through Him. He shatters the underpinnings of Me-ism. He shakes us from the lethargy of escape to entertainment and tells us to be on the alert. Peter explains that our enemy, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Paul says to Christians

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6)

In short, we simply don’t have time to be caught up in Me-ism, no matter what our culture is about. Like the first church which broke from their Jewish friends, neighbors, family, and community, Christians need to break from the culture of Me-ism and hold to the standards of the Bible. Because, yes, the days are evil, but our Redeemer is coming back to set things right.

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Love That Tells The Truth


U_Wash_Quad__04Years ago when I was in college, a friend of mine was up for election. They posted the results on the window of the dining commons when I was in line for dinner. Inside, my friend sat at a table watching those of us on the outside cluster around to see the results. My friend didn’t win, and I made the fatal decision to go in and tell her. The problem was, she thought I was kidding. I mean, who in their right mind would go up to their friend and say, Sorry but you lost. I had to say it with some vehemence because she really thought I was yanking her chain.

I thought at the time I would have been better off to pretend I didn’t see her. At least that way I wouldn’t have been the bearer of bad news. “Don’t shoot the messenger” has become a cliché for a reason. People are apt to turn on the one who tells the sad tale even though they had no hand in creating the event that caused the sadness.

It’s awkward to tell the truth when you know what you say is unpleasant or hurtful. Telling the truth can put a relationship in jeopardy.

What’s more, we live in a society that is confused about the truth. The relativistic principle now ruling the majority of Millennials, says truth is whatever you want it to be. Lest you think I’m exaggerating, watch this short video.

These college students seem to be intelligent, yet they are unwilling to stand up and tell someone the truth—no, you’re not 6’5″, you’re not Asian, you’re not a woman, you’re not seven.

The truth is, the DMV will not go along with a ten year old claiming she’s eighteen. Movie theaters aren’t going to let a thirteen year old into an R-rated film, voting registrants still need to be over eighteen as do those who volunteer for the military. States still have a legal age for someone to drink—twenty-one in most places.

As to height, no NBA team will look at a 5’9″ man as a potential center for their team just because he is 7’1″ on the inside. Amusement rides aren’t going to change height requirements for young children just because they feel as if they are as tall as their daddy.

In other words, facts remain facts, and the truth matters. Those who love, tell the truth.

It is not loving to let someone think one way, only for them to discover that what they had believed, was not true. It is not loving to let someone turn onto a street in front of a bus simply because they thought the way was clear: “Well, I didn’t want to offend her by telling her she needed to stop.” What friend would say that?

Apparently a good number, because young people who are doing themselves harm are regularly allowed to do so by their friends. The excuse so often is, She’ll never speak to me again if I tell her to stop drinking, stop taking drugs, stop sleeping around, stop wasting so much time watching TV, or whatever the unhealthy behavior might be. We are more concerned that we keep status than that we tell the truth.

That fact extends to the truth about our spiritual condition.

I know there’s a bit of a fine line. No one likes to be bossed around or made to feel like a little kid who can’t get it together. People often push back against those who tell them the truth: Who are you to tell me what to do? Look at your own life. You don’t have it all together.

Which is why it is important that we who tell the truth, first tell the truth about ourselves.

So here’s the truth that the Millennials need to hear, that Gen-X needs to hear, that the Me Generation needs to hear, that the Greatest Generation, that the latest generation (yet to be named) needs to hear: I am a sinner. I fall short of God’s standard of holiness. And so do you. We all fall short. We are not all winners in God’s eyes. We are lost children who have run away from home. That’s who we are.

And it is the most loving thing I can do to tell this truth far and wide. If someone doesn’t know he’s a sinner, why would he want to be saved? If someone doesn’t know he’s far from home, why would he want to return to the loving arms of his father?

I can say until I’m blue in the face that God loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for you. But if you don’t believe you are in jeopardy, that statement sounds like nonsense. Why would someone die for me? I’m doing just fine, thank you very much.

At some point, if people are to believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life, they must realize they are lost, can’t figure out what is true, and are destined to die.

Christians should love in a way that is countercultural. But that love should be more than feeding the homeless, planting churches among the urban poor, translating the Bible into a tribal language, or giving shoes to poor children. True love also must say the hard things: if you continue in sin, you’ll separate yourself from God for eternity. Going your own way is sin. You need to repent, turn back, and accept God as your Lord—as do we all. I simply love you too much not to tell you the truth.

Published in: on April 26, 2016 at 6:15 pm  Comments (1)  
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Cam Newton And Society’s Narcissistic Make-over


Tourist_taking_selfie_with_stickMillennials, those born between the 1980s and the early 2000s, have been accused of being narcissistic, but they’re just the latest—and perhaps greatest—version of the Me Generation.

The Baby Boomers once wore the Me Generation tag, and it was appropriate. We stood in sharp contrast to the Greatest Generation who scraped through during the Great Depression and sacrificed for their country in World War II. They literally carried the weight of the world on their shoulders.

Baby Boomers? We carried the weight of our own desires.

Millennials have just perfected what we started. But does that necessarily mean that group of adults is narcissistic? In fact, what is narcissism?

According to dictionary.com, narcissism is defined as “an inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity; self-centeredness, smugness, egocentrism” (as quoted in “Narcissism and Millennials in the Digital Age.”

Some scholars have postulated that millennials are in fact more self-absorbed than other generations, and the cause is social media. Others claim that teachers and parents are to blame because of an inordinate amount of praise lavished on ordinary children:

Throughout the last few decades, there has been an increase in parental coddling and the so-called “self-esteem” movement. Parents and teachers trying to instill a healthy sense of self-esteem in children by praising them lavishly often do more harm than good. In fact, studies show that children offered compliments for a skill they have not mastered or talents that they do not have are left feeling emptier and more insecure. (“Is Social Media to Blame for the Rise in Narcissism?” by Lisa Firestone)

Firestone goes on to build a case for parental causation, not social media, citing studies that indicate a person’s personality is generally in place by age 7—prior to involvement in social media. In addition, she points out what’s behind the scene in a narcissistic individual:

Self-esteem differs from narcissism in that it represents an attitude built on accomplishments we’ve mastered, values we’ve adhered to, and care we’ve shown toward others. Narcissism, conversely, is often based on a fear of failure or weakness, a focus on one’s self, an unhealthy drive to be seen as the best, and a deep-seated insecurity and underlying feeling of inadequacy.

In essence, Firestone is saying that a child who has been told he is the greatest and can be the best at whatever he wants, develops anxiety about achieving those expectations.

The great concern, however, is that the narcissistic behavior of millennials is creating a make-over of our society.

Author and Time editor at large Jeffrey Kluger argues that the popularity of the “selfie” is just one way that our culture is becoming more narcissistic. In fact, he says, narcissistic behaviors today aren’t just more accepted; they’re celebrated. “We’ve become accustomed to preeners and posers who don’t have anything to offer except themselves and their need to be on the public stage,” he says. (“The Persistent Myth of the Narcissistic Millennial” by Brooke Lea Foster)

Of course there is debate that the Millennials are actually more narcissistic than their predecessors. In fact studies indicate only one percent of the group would fit the clinical definition of narcissistic. Society has co-opted the word to reflect “traits people deem unpleasant or unlikable in a person” (Foster).

Cam_NewtonUnfortunately, I think Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton might be one of the glaring examples of narcissistic behavior, celebrated. Newton led his team to an impressive 15-1 record in 2015, then swept through the playoffs and entered the Super Bowl with his team favored to win it all. Along the way, he picked up the league’s MVP award.

But Newton had his detractors because after every score he celebrated . . . well, himself. When asked by a reporter if he was the Lebron James of the NFL, he answered, Why isn’t Lebron James the Cam Newton of the NBA?

In fact, Newton does have some similarities with James who readily accepted the designation “King James.” Cam Newton went one better, embracing the title “Superman.”

The narcissistic traits reared their ugly heads after the Panthers lost the Super Bowl. Newton pouted through a mandatory post-game press conference before prematurely walking out. If that weren’t bad enough, he followed up the next day by embracing his behavior. He wasn’t sorry. He was a sore loser, he said. And anyone who is a good loser is a loser.

His behavior was perfectly in keeping with narcissistic tendencies, but here is this role-model athlete telling his fans and followers that the new acceptable, and even preferred, behavior after losing is to pout, be rude, and show disrespect to whomever is in your way.

The thing is, such behavior is consistent with our sin nature. We all think more highly of ourselves than we ought because our sin nature has us believing that we can be like God, that if given half a chance, we might actually be better at His job than He is.

How in opposition is this position to Scripture:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. (Pro. 3:5-7)

Rather than putting ourselves forward, we are to acknowledge God. Rather than following our own wisdom, we are to trust the LORD. Rather than depending on our own perspective, our own plans, our own desires, we are to reverence God.

The two worldviews couldn’t be more diametrically opposed.

Selfism or Narcissism is taking firm root in the hearts of people in our society, not as something we need to grow out of but as something acceptable and celebrated. Thank God that He still gives new life to those who turn to Him. That He still rescues us from the dominion of darkness. That He still makes it possible for us to lay aside the old self with its evil practices.

But I have to wonder if narcissism doesn’t make it harder for a person to see himself as a sinner in need of a Savior.

Leaving Church Is Not OK


short term mission groupThere’s been some buzz on the Internet this past week because of an article at CNN Belief Blog entitled “Why millennials are leaving the church.”

The idea is, church is this way and it really should be that way, but pastors aren’t getting it, so millennials are leaving. There have been articles rebuffing the conclusions, notable from
Trevin Wax
via the Gospel Coalition and posted at ChurchLeaders and Brett McCracken at the Washington Post.

Last I checked Scripture, though, severing an arm from the body would only make things worse, not better. So why are millennials leaving the body to which they belong? Are they so selfish that they have no interest in fitting their gifts into the whole or have they been so poorly taught that they don’t realize their withdrawal is harmful to others and to the whole? Or are they not actually part of the body to begin with?

I suspect it has more to do with teaching than anything else. I suspect there’s a certain portion of the millennial exodus that is nothing more than fad chasing. At one point the author of the original article said “church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular,” then she explained that liturgical services are more authentic.

Excuse me? How does that make sense? What is more performance oriented than a scripted service with everyone playing his part? But if the conclusion is true–millennials are choosing liturgical worship over evangelicalism and calling it more authentic–then I suspect it is little more than following a fad.

According to the author, millennials want an end to culture wars, but she also says they feel their church makes them choose between compassion and holiness and that church should be a place where their gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender friends feel welcome. In other words, millennials don’t mind choosing between compassion and holiness if they get to choose their version of compassion.

What millennials need to hear is that it is not compassionate to allow people to live according to the dictates of their own heart rather than according to the standards of our sovereign God. What millennials need to hear is that God has answers to their questions and that they need to search the Scriptures to see what things are true. What millennials need to hear is that believers form a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession so that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

The Church is not a club you can quit. It’s a family, a body, a temple, a bride. We have a head and we have a a role we are to fulfill. We have gifts we’re to use as good stewards to build each other up.

Quitting? Do Marines quit because they don’t like military food? Or the Sargent in command over them? Or the soldier lining up next to them? Or the early hours they must keep?

Millennials are not children. They can decide, just like any generation, whether or not they will take up their cross and follow Jesus. If they don’t see other people in their local church following Jesus, perhaps they can be the trail blazers. But leave the Church?

That’s simply a way of saying God has messed up. His plan to put together a people to represent Him on earth isn’t a good one, and we are going to go it alone instead.

Does Church have to follow a certain Western model? Of course not. The Church existed in the East before it existed in the West. And it exists in the Far East today where there is no freedom to worship as we can in the West. What does the Church look like there? Not much like gatherings of believers in the US, I’ll bet.

Is one right and the other wrong? Not at all. Church really is about substance, not style. That’s something the author of the article got right. The substance, however, includes Christ living a sinless life, leaving us an example to follow in His steps. So the Church is tasked to be both compassionate and holy. It’s not an either/or proposition because Jesus wasn’t compassionate and not holy. His example was both/and.

In the end, millennials need to be told the truth. If they have been rescued from the dominion of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of God’s dear Son, if they believe with their heart and confess with their mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He died once for all, the just for the unjust, that God raised Him from the dead, and as a result that Jesus nailed their certificate of debt to the cross, then they are living stones being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices, well-pleasing to God through Jesus Christ.

In other words, they’re in.

If people are leaving, they need to be evangelized, not accommodated.

Published in: on August 5, 2013 at 7:06 pm  Comments (16)  
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