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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Question of Fear

Today I tore up the 40millionth credit card offer I have personally received since coming home from college.  Who knows how many my parents tore up for me while I was gone.  As I watched the words on the page become ragged edges in the trashcan, it struck me that I just saved myself a lot of stress.  And I smiled.

Isn't it great to live in a country where you can have everything you can afford...and then everything you can't afford!?

Don't read me wrong.  I don't think credit cards are a sin.  And I am no socialist.  My blood runs red, white, and blue; I have more family members in the military than there are recruiting stations in Virginia.  But I think we have seriously forgotten what the American Dream was meant to be.  It wasn't the big house and the picket fence and the neat little families of one boy and one girl skipping merrily off to school wearing the nicest clothing and getting picked up in the latest model of whatever new car matters to come home to the biggest television set on the market and tickets to Disneyworld tucked safely away in a mahogany desk in a rarely-used study with the best new computer atop its expensive surface.

The Real American Dream had a lot more to do with who a person was than what a person possessed.  It was rooted the longing to be free to worship God and raise a family without the government interfering in these vital, biblical mandates.  It was so much more about how a man could serve God rather than how a man could be served.  I'm not saying the founding fathers were all saved men.  I am saying that our priorities have shifted drastically.  We are, in the words of a phenomenal author, "Amusing ourselves to death" while the masses pass by ignorant of the life they could have in Christ and we ourselves give up the best for some secondary dream.  A "lesser light."

One amazing fact about being a follower of Christ is the lack of need for all that fluff that we've come (very wrongly) to term the American Dream.  My own love of comfort and desire for stuff is a startling and scary fact.  We live in a culture that has exchanged the glory of the One God and set up a high-profit market in designer idols.

It's weird what happens to our race of Image-Bearers when they stop practically bearing the Image.  I became aware the other day that some people actually have addictions to things like eating pottery or household cleaner.  Does that strike anybody else as being extremely disturbing?  What has gone wrong in a society like ours?  People who have everything find out that it's not worth their worship so they turn to...self-destruction.  Isaiah was right in chapter 50 when he states that walking by our own lanterns and trying to live by our own light will lead to destruction.  And that makes me sad.  I know that (being the extremist that I am) I could just have easily turned so something self-destructive if God's grace had not built a high and sturdy wall.  Even as a believer, I'm dense enough to try to scale that wall sometimes.  But my Father does not let me.  What about those people in those strangely-shaped prisons?  Maybe it's contoured to look like a Mercedes-Benz.  Maybe it's got the same lines as a human being. Maybe it's as innocent looking as a plate of food.  My own designer idols come in so many shapes...I get pretty creative with my sin.  But Lewis was right either way.  Hell doesn't know how to make pleasure, so its best attack is to twist the pleasures of God until they don't look like Jesus anymore.  How far we have fallen!  Even our plastic joys form the strongest chains that keep us from enjoying Christ!  And yet He is merciful!

Three days into the New Year.  Last year is fixed and unchangeable.  This year is an empty journal.  As another author says, "He did not give us options to consider; he gave us commands to obey."  And in the scattered exaggerations of my existence where mankind looms with power and Jesus cowers in the shadows, something has to change within me daily.  In the twisted lies of my sinful heart these words shatter the despair:  "Why do you fear man in whose nostrils is breath?" "Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies?"  What I fear controls me.  Do I fear Him?    Will I choose to see Him as the undying El Olam, the Giver of life and therefore above all?  He is the Almighty who measures the ocean on his palm and stretches out the vast universe like a sparkling curtain.  My only correct response is to worship Him.

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