Monday, April 19, 2010

Of snooze buttons and other immoral things

There was a time in my life when I was adamantly opposed to snooze buttons. I sprang from bed each morning, alert and awake, ready to face the day. This continued through my college days (although I'll admit that there were many mornings when I rolled out of bed rather than sprang from it). Many of my friends enjoyed the snooze button. They would set their alarm to go off a long while before they actually had to get up, sometimes as much as an hour before. And then every 9 minutes they would hit that stupid button. I never understood it. "What does that extra 9 minutes really do for you?", I would ask. And then I got married. And I discovered, to my horror, that my wife was an advocate of the snooze button. I could never wrap my head around the logic of waking up, hitting the button, sleeping for a few minutes more, then hearing that stupid alarm again only to...wait for it...hit the button again. And then one day, for reasons I can't quite explain, I hit the snooze button; and I became that which I once despised.

Now in my defense, I don't hit the snooze button every morning. In fact, I don't hit a 'snooze' button at all. My phone is my alarm clock, but that's beside the point. Even though I'm now a user of the snooze button, I still don't understand why. What does that 9 minutes of extra sleep really do, other than make it that much harder for me to get out of bed? After several hours of sleep, is several minutes more going to matter? Has anyone ever said, "Boy, I was still so sleep when my alarm went off, but after I snoozed a couple times, I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!"? (on a completely unrelated note, what does it mean to be "bushy-tailed" in the mornings? that sounds to me like something you would want to avoid at all costs. but i digress). The point is, that extra few minutes isn't helping anything. In fact, it's only making me put off what I need to do-get out of bed and get started on my day. I think the only reason we hit that button is that it gives us the illusion of more rest. Those 9 minutes aren't really going to do us any good; but we think we need it. And so we hit that button.

Now that's the reason for this rambling, incoherent post? Good question. Thinking about the logical fallacy that is the snooze button got me thinking about sin. See, sin is a lot like the snooze button. I know that I should avoid it at all costs. The Bible says the wages of sin is death. And even though I'm a follower of Christ, even though my sins have been forgiven and I don't have to face the eternal consequence for them, I'm still faced with the temporal consequences. And I know this. Intellectually, I know and acknowledge the fact that sin is dangerous; that it displeases my King, it injures my testimony, and it is ruinious to my life. But there are still times when I convince myself that I need it. There are times when I think I've got to have whatever it is that the flesh is pining for. And just like I know that hitting the snooze button will offer no benefit, but I do it anyway-I know that sin will benefit me nothing; but I engage in it anyway.

Hebrews 11:25 refers to the 'passing pleasures of sin', i.e., sin is enjoyable-for a season. When we indulge the flesh, it is pleasurable-for a time. Just like when we hit the snooze button, roll over and burrow back under the covers, that's a nice feeling; but it doesn't last. And the fact remains that I've still got to get up. In the very same way, sin is lots of fun-for a little while. But the fact remains that the wages of sin is death; and when I embrace wickedness rather than holiness, I invite the consequences for that sin on my life. One of the most important lessons every Christ-follower must learn is that the passing pleasures of sin aren't worth the consequences for our sin. Our sin, no matter how much the flesh may enjoy it and revel in it, only drags us down. It brings reproach on the name of our Great King. It brings guilt and shame. It is ruinous for our lives. Though it is certainly pleasurable, that pleasure is passing-it won't last. But God offers us joy and fulfillment that lasts forever. Psalm 16:11, "In Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Now which makes more sense, pleasures that pass away and lead to ruin, or fullness of joy and pleasures that last forever?
So, got any spiritual snooze buttons in your life? The pleasure they offer is temporary; don't be deceived by them. Let's pray for one another, that we can get rid of them; that we'll arise from sleep, that we'll wake up to the holy life Christ has called us to-and that we'll embrace the eternal pleasures of Jesus rather than the passing pleasures of sin.

Father, thank You for grace. Thank You for being patient with me, and for not giving me what my sinfulness has earned. Thank You for clothing me in the righteousness of Jesus. Forgive my sins, help me to hate sin as You do. Help me to run from it, and run to You. Help me to cast aside everything that slows me down, and the sin that so easily entangles me, and help me run with perseverance the race You've set out for me. And help me to do this for Your honor and for Your glory. Amen.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

When is God Worthy of Praise?

So this morning started out pretty well. It was a gorgeous morning-sun shining, birds singing, all the cliches that you need for a great day. Lily and I even left a little early, which NEVER happens. I got her to school, walked her in, got my goodbye kiss and headed out. On my way to the car I got to visit with a couple church members, pick on a few kids, and just generally engage in activities that put a little spring in my step. I get to the car and think, "This is going to be a great day." All the way to the office I'm thinking about the Lord, how good He is to me and my family; I'm thinking about my text for Sunday's sermon, praying about it, etc. All in all, things are going fantastically well. And then, as I was about to turn left at an intersection, I happened to look back to my left and see a car coming over the hill, a car that wasn't there the first time I looked. Fortunately I had plenty of time to wait for them. As I made my left turn (after looking 3 or 4 additional times) I thought, "That could have been a little messy." And I couldn't help but think how differently my morning would have gone had I pulled out in front of this car and gotten T-Boned. Now understand, the other car was moving at a pretty good clip; and I wasn't wearing my seat belt (I know, I know, save your comments; I promise to wear it next time). Had I gotten hit, it would have been directly on my door, with the other car probably going about 50 miles an hour. As I said, would have been a little messy. And as I rolled that thought around I was struck by another thought; had I pulled out in front of the car and gotten hit would God be any less worthy of praise?

Important question, isn't it? Because it gets to the heart of what we believe about God. Is God worthy of praise only when He does good things for us? Should we praise Him only because of what He does? Or is God worthy of praise regardless of what happens, i.e., should we praise Him because of who He is?

Very important to consider. Our answer demonstrates what we believe about the worthiness of God. And maybe the best illustration of how we should respond is found in the life of Job. We remember his story well, but the problem is that we know it so well we sort of gloss over it. We read about him losing everything without pausing to consider the implications of that. He lost everything. The Bible records that in rapid-fire succession, Job was informed that he had lost his fortune and his family. Now put yourself there. Your day stars like any other. Maybe you're having a cup of coffee at the local diner. And you see a friend's car pull up, skid to a stop and your friend gets out of the car running; he comes to you as fast as he can and breathlessly announces that he just came from your house and it had burned to the ground. While he's talking another friend runs up and says that all your investments have just failed and you're left with nothing. And while he's still talking another person runs up, tears in his eyes, and tells you that all your children were just killed in a freak storm. Now let all that sink in. What emotions would you feel? What would you want to say to God? We know what Job said. He tore his robe and shaved his head (both signs of intense mourning), and then said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away: Blessed be the name of the Lord."

I could imagine I would want to say a lot of things if I received such news; but "blessed be the name of the Lord" isn't at the top of the list. But why shouldn't it be? According to scripture, God is worthy of praise; that means He deserves it. Not because of what He does, but because of who He is. His nature is praiseworthy; who He is demands our adoration and praise. One of the hardest lessons we have to learn is that God's worthy isn't dependant on our circumstances. God is worthy of praise whether the sun is shining or it's cloudy outside. God is worthy when I've got money and when I'm broke. He's worthy when good things happen and when bad things happen. God is worthy. No matter what happens in my life, He deserves the honor and the glory and power and the worship, forever. Today, remember the worthiness of God; and praise Him regardless of what happens.

Father, thank You for being worthy of praise. Thank You for being so majestic, so awesome, so incredible and incomprehensible that you are worthy of praise regardless of what happens in my life. Help me to see beyond myself, take away my selfishness and help me to see Your worth. Help me to praise you in all things. Help me to join with Job and say, "Blessed be the name of the Lord." Amen.