Shutting Down Carnival

In April because of the col-19 virus, the Vincentian government called off “Carnival” which is a two-week party filled with many different events occurring in July. Personally I like the idea of carnival being cancelled because for many people its an excuse to get drunk, and dance with very little clothing on. To replace the normal holiday that takes place during carnival, the Government gave a four day weekend from Saturday (August 1st) to yesterday (August 4th).

I went with a friend to pick up his Aunt and Cousin on Friday, then on the way back was shocked to find traffic completely blocked up for miles.

Of course you can probably guess what happened….

people created their own carnival

Along the way home we saw

  1. Multiple people dancing in the street
  2. Three parties
  3. women loudly arguing before one threw a bottle at the other
  4. And a funeral which quickly became an after-party of people standing in the road celebrating

Seeing people act this way breaks my heart since it illustrates an unsaved persons way of life very well. They are always looking for the next party or reason to get drunk and celebrate.

While this heartbreak is good it doesn’t actually go far enough. Carnival and other parties are just symptoms of a deeper problem. They are trying to fill a God-sized hole with temporary things.

After Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden by God, they were forced to live separately from Him. While our sin-nature encourages us to always live independently from the Lord relying upon our own strength the truth is that independent life will never satisfy. There will always be something deep inside of us that we know is missing.

The normal response to this is to fill that longing with things. It may not be as obvious as partying on the side of the road, but anytime we turn to anything other than God for our fulfillment it is sin. Temporarily those things can indeed fill our deep need, but of course the emphasis there is the word “temporarily.” Soon we will be looking for our next “fix” or party to feel good again.

Because this issue is about what a person worships (do they find hope in themselves or God). It’s necessary to deal with the heart of the matter instead of symptoms.

Please understand I have no problem preaching against carnival, and things that happen there. But Friday reminded me the problem of immorality and sinfulness can’t be fixed by dealing with the symptoms of the problem (cancelling carnival). They will just find another way to party.

The only hope of ending this kind of lifestyle is to show Christ offers something better than the world can every give.

It is only through Salvation and a close walk with Christ that the heart of the problem can truly be dealt with. Only those who know the peace and contentment of having their sins forgiven will realize the foolishness of trying to make yourselves happy. Its for those who have experienced the joy and strength that comes through Christ that will see the worlds inability to satisfy, Its only those who have tasted the living water of Christ can know the worlds trash could never compare.

So we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ….

allow the Holy Spirit to convict hearts…..

And with the Lords help live a testimony before them of Godly integrity

Again this doesn’t mean we don’t challenge others to be separate from the world. But this challenge begins by explaining our idolatrous hearts will never be satisfied till our God-sized hole is filled by Christ.

Confession is Not Rpentance

Ezra 9:5   And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God,

I was recently having a conversation with a prisoner at our weekly prison ministry about why so many of them are incarcerated again shortly after getting out. It’s not uncommon to see men return in less than three-months, and last year one come back after only three weeks of freedom!

It’s a confusing situation because most of the men (I believe) are genuinely sorry for what they had done, and have no intention of coming back.

So why do they keep returning? It seems that they don’t understand the difference between confession and repentance.

Confession is being sorry for what you have done

Repentance is making life changes, and turning from those sinful actions in the power of God

Ezra is a scribe who is in the middle of building a new temple when he hears that the people of Israel had intermarried with the wicked people around them (Ezra 9:1-2). He responds to this extreme sin with great sorrow by rending his clothes, plucking hair from his head and beard, and then sitting in astonished silence. Following this time of silence however he turns to the Lord in prayer (9:5).

This prayer includes a remembrance of Gods goodness to Israel (9:6-9), detailed confession of their breaking God’s law (9:10-14), and submission to His will (9:15)

We see Ezra turn from the sorrow of confession (I arose up from my heaviness 9:5) and turn to God in humble prayer. In my opinion this is what makes the difference between confession and repentance.

That doesn’t mean we can’t try to bring repentance in our own strength. But without God’s help it becomes an endless cycle of sinning, confessing that sin, and then failing again.

It may take longer for us to fail sometimes…but the failure still comes.

This is why the sorrow of confession must lead to hands being helplessly stretched out to God

There is definitely a place for confession and sorrow for sin life. But if there is no transformation of the heart as we turn to God then we are bound to find ourselves in the same situation very soon.

Isolation Desired and Achieved

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Last weekend I read a sentence from “Unsocial Media” an article written Tony Reinke for Desiring God  that hit me like a ton of bricks.  The quote is actually by Reinke from Stephen Marche and his article “Is Facebook making us Lonely” The interesting thing is the more I’ve meditated on that statement, the more it meant to me.

“The problem is that we invite loneliness, even though it makes us miserable. The history of our use of technology is a history of isolation desired and achieved.”

That idea of isolation being desired and achieved illustrates for me the relationship many people (myself included) have with their electronic devices.

Reinke does an excellent job of explaining how technology used to be a community based thing that the family gathered themselves around, now instead it has become something only enjoyed by individuals

Isolation was made possible by advances in video. The community cinema gave way to a large shared television in each family’s home, which gave way to portable televisions, and now personal LED TVs in every bedroom.

When it comes to music, this technological trajectory is even clearer. The live symphony on a Saturday evening was, for many people, replaced by the stationary phonograph (record player) in the family room, which was replaced by a large transistor radio, which was replaced by a portable transistor radio, which was replaced by a boombox with open speakers over the shoulder, which was replaced by a Walkman clipped to the waist, which was replaced by a tiny iPod clipped to the sleeve. Music went from a social community experience, to a shared family experience, and now to a personal headphones experience.

Going along with that isolation idea today media (especially on our phones) are used as an escape from reality .

In a way individuals can escape the world filled with stress, pain, and conflict in favor of one they have complete control over.  A world filled with Netflix queues of favorite programs, personalized music playlists,  facebook posts that make us look awesome, and Instagram feeds with perfectly timed photos.

There is something enjoyable about having a part of life that we can totally control.  However once the isolation we long for so much is achieved we will inevitably realize it won’t satisfy.

Sources Cited:

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/unsocial-media

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/is-facebook-making-us-lonely/308930/

 

There is No Safe Place

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This morning Heidi Carlson wrote an article entitled “Where can we be safe?” that spoke to my heart.  In it she describes bringing her children to a new park only to find a group of kids videotaping little girls fighting

A group of about 20 school-aged children were laughing and goofing around on the grass. How refreshing, I thought, seeing children outside playing—a sure sign of strong community. While my daughters flew down the slide, the gaggle of children transitioned to the adjacent field and began cheering. Several of the older youth held up cell phones, recording some interaction taking place amid the group. I took a closer look and noticed two smaller children on the ground, gripping each other in the fetal position, grasping each other’s hair in their fists. They were fighting.

An older gentleman saw the interaction and called to me from the sidewalk. “What’s going on?” I explained what I’d seen, and he confided he’d recently seen a story on the news about children fighting, recording it, and posting it online. Some were seriously injured participating in this “game.” I hadn’t heard of the phenomenon, though I wasn’t shocked. “Did you hear the shooting around the corner?” he asked. “The police have it all roped off. A lady was shot an hour ago.” That was about 15 minutes before I’d arrived at the park. “It’s not safe,” he continued. Before he walked to his home around the corner, he urged me to head home while there was still light.

Carlson continues to explain how a place being unsafe should draw Christians TO IT with the Gospel instead of away from it.

God’s call to “go into all the world” isn’t just answered in the jungles of the Amazon or the polluted cities of China, but also in the poverty-stricken housing projects of the American inner city, the immigrant London neighborhood, the neighborhood in a “bad” school district one mile from home. Christ’s followers know such places need his witness, but we are reluctant to go because it’s not safe.

Crime statistics, school ratings, and online reviews all have their place, but they ought never overshadow the Spirit’s call to penetrate dark places to be a light for Christ’s kingdom. Yes, this perspective runs counter to the world’s modus operandi, which says, “If it isn’t safe, make every effort to get out.” But for the Christian summoned by the Spirit, the call is to go and be a tool in God’s hands for spiritual transformation. This doesn’t mean recklessness or foolishness, but it does mean the ideal of safety must never stand in the way of humble confidence in our true safety, Jesus Christ.

On a personal level this spoke to me because there are fewer and fewer people willing to enter the unsafe places of the world with the Gospel of Christ.  May God raise up a generation who will realize there is no place truly unsafe apart from His presence.

Articles Cited:  http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/where-can-we-be-safe

Thoughts on “my story” and it’s power in Social Media

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As someone who loves social-media and is concerned about its affects on our lives I was interested in an article by Samuel James this morning entitled “Breaking Free From My Story.”  In it he described how online accessibility of information have created what’s been called an “end of expertise.”

But this “flattening” of knowledge also comes at a cost. Nichols (Tom Nichols who wrote an article on this in the Federalist) notes what he calls the “end of expertise.” The ease and immediacy with which everyone can access the same information and share their interpretation of it has fomented notions of an intellectual hyper-egalitarianism, in which everyone’s opinion and perspective must be of perfectly equal importance.

The result is a generation who finds qualification not in education or skills, but their story

A person can be “informed” if he’s read the Wikipedia entry, or can “speak to an issue” through a free WordPress blog. The result is that what counts in this “intellectual marketplace” is not one’s skill, certification, or merit (things that can be fairly compared and measured) but one’s narrative, story, and voice (things that cannot be compared and measured).

Obviously I’m often forced to yield to the authority of others, but this is mostly because of the demands of reality, not the desires of my heart. When the room empties or the lecture ends, my natural inclination is to be convinced that my 25-year-old self is just as qualified, just as seasoned, and (therefore) just as entitled to authority and respect as anyone else.

This focus on a individuals story a their identity has led to what has been called “the coddling of the American mind

Recently The Atlantic featured a cover story on the “coddling of the American mind,” a movement within American higher education that seeks to cater to students’ emotional mores through academic (and sometimes legal) intervention. From demands for “trigger warnings” before lectures to well-intended but bizarre “safe spaces” where students will not be argued with, many cultural commentators are concerned American colleges are producing a generation of young adults who feel they have an inalienable right to not be provoked. These students are genuinely unable to process the stress and epistemological labor of learning and being in a context that isn’t immediately friendly to their stories. They cannot go forward until they’re reassured that who they are is who they are supposed to be, and that nothing and no one can ever legitimately challenge that.

James ends with the awesome truth that things aren’t really about our story at all…but the story of Christ

Where culture dictates that we must know ourselves, the gospel invites us to know God. Where culture insists that reality bend to fit “my story,” the gospel points us to Jesus Christ, the one who is the meaning and purpose of all history. Where culture invites us to retreat into our sense of individual autonomy, the gospel throws open the doors of the church, where we know and are known by people in whose lives we have a real stake.

May God give us more timely warnings like this encouraging a younger generation to find their identity in the gospel

Works Cited:

  1. http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/breaking-free-from-my-story
  2. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/
  3. http://thefederalist.com/2014/01/17/the-death-of-expertise/