Ernest Kurtz wrote a book about the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. It was entitled “Not-God” because, he says: the fundamental problem alcoholics have is that way down deep, they refuse to acknowledge limitation, weakness, being finite, being fallen. They tend to live under the delusion that they are in control of everything, when the truth is, they can’t even control themselves.
Thus the first step in the 12 Step AA process is to recognize a “higher power”–one that is not you. It is to say, I have weakness and limitation. I am not in control of everything in my universe. I need help from a power greater than myself.
But you don’t have to be an alcoholic to recognize the obvious. The “I am not God” illusion is not limited to someone with addiction, but is a spiritual problem that we all share. In fact, it has been around for all of humanity, back to the Garden of Eden.
When the serpent tempted Eve, he told her, “When you eat this fruit, your eyes will be opened, and you’ll be like God.” That was the first temptation. “You’ll be master of your own universe. You don’t have to submit to somebody else’s ideas; you can make up your own rules. You can be your own boss!” Like God.
That was a lie then, and it is now, and the consequences of buying that lie are often disastrous. It may lead to a life of out-of-control “control,” by medicating one’s life through substance abuse. It may be a life lived in bondage, masquerading as freedom, because we want to live without responsibility or accountability. But as the Scripture says, “Be sure your sins will find you out.” You will certainly reap what you sow.
But on the other side, it’s tremendous pressure for the average human to have to rule the universe every day. The stress of keeping all the plates spinning, of making sure everything and everyone fits your plan, of maintaining the appearance that you’ve got it all together–it is almost too much to bear. And eventually, you either come to realization that you aren’t in control after all–“Not-God”–or you lose it altogether.
The good news today is that there is a God, and you’re not him. He’s not just a “higher power” but a living person, who can be trusted. Better than that, he has already demonstrated that he’s for us, and not against us, and that he loves us, so much so that gave the life of his own Son Jesus so that we could live.
So, why don’t you take a deep breath and relax, and let God be God. Receive the fullness of his gospel, and walk with him in his grace. It sure takes a weight off your shoulders, and it will put a joy in your step as well. I’m praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.
It may be a little late to remind you, but this pastTuesday was April 15–national Tax Day. (For whatever it’s worth, it was also National Glazed Spiral Ham Day, which would have been much more fun to celebrate.) I hope you got your taxes filed in time, and that it didn’t hurt too much. Many people I’ve talked to have said they felt the pain of Tax Day this year like never before.
I think it was Benjamin Franklin who first said that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. This week we were reminded how certain taxes really are. The friendly folks at the Internal Revenue Service are pretty serious about collecting their cut of our hard-earned wages to fund our blessed government’s endeavors.
Perhaps you have heard of the new simple tax form that some have suggested. At the top of the form you write your name and Social Security number. Then there are two lines with the simplest of instructions: How much did you make?and Send it to us.
If you still are trying to get your tax returns finished, here are a few deductions that are not allowed to take. You cannot write off last year’s tax as a bad investment. You cannot claim depreciation on your wife and children. You cannot deduct health club dues as a total loss. And the IRS won’t buy the idea that if you spend it before you earn it, it’s not really income.
Really, there’s not much you can do about taxes but pay them. Even Jesus taught that we are to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But then again, we can also vote to determine who our Caesar will be, depending upon how much he or she wants to tax us. That’s a message for another day.
The good news of this season is that old Ben Franklin wasn’t as wise as he thought he was. Taxes may be certain, but death? Not so much. For believers in Christ, we have hope when it comes to matters of life and death. That’s what this Sunday’s Easter celebration reminds us, that we never have to fear death again.
When Jesus rose from the grave He defeated death–not just for Himself, but for all of us who know Him. “I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus said. “He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) .
So regardless of your standing with the IRS, the tomb is empty, and your life doesn’t have to be! I look forward to seeing you this Sunday as we celebrate the good news of the resurrection of our Lord with a great time of worship together at Shelby Crossings. And don’t miss our Good Friday service tonight, at 6:30.
Have a blessed Easter weekend. I’m praying for you.
You may have heard the story before–supposedly true– about the woman who was driving down the road with her 4-year old daughter, and beeped the horn by mistake. The little girl turned and looked a her mother for an explanation for the unexpected honk.
“I did that by accident,” Mom said. “I know that,” the daughter replied, “’cause you didn’t say ‘JERK!’ afterward.”
It’s amazing how insightful little ones can be, and how easily they can figure us as adults out. Their impressionable little minds do pick up on what we do and say in different circumstances, and that is how they learn to respond to similar events as they grow up. We can tell them all we want, but what we show them is what really counts. As the old saying goes, there’s much more caught than taught.
When you teach your children to be kind to one another, do they see that in the way you respond in a traffic jam? When you tell them to be honest, do they get the same message when the telephone solicitor calls and you’re “not home”? When you teach them about sharing, do they see you do likewise with your precious “stuff?” They will imitate you more than you know.
Even more so, when you teach them to love God, do they see your love for Him in your daily life? Does your life truly communicate the priority of a personal relationship with Christ, or is that just Sunday talk? Do the core values you say you hold dear play themselves out in your daily decisions involving people and work and time and money?
I mentioned in a recent sermon a cartoon I came across a while back. It’s a picture of a little boy, who is obviously arriving home from church to see his dad, sitting in his favorite chair reading the Sunday paper. The look on the father’s face says it all, as the child somewhat innocently asks, “Want to know what I learned in Sunday School today, hypocrite?” Ouch!
Like the old saying, “Your walk talks, and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.”
The question for all of us is, does what we say and believe and teach match what we do and who we are? We must be careful, for we are being watched–not just by little eyes beneath us, but by the omniscient, omnipresent eyes of our Heavenly Father. My prayer for you is that those who know you best will truly respect you most, because your words and actions are consistent, and your life, both publicly and privately, honors our Lord.
I look forward to seeing you Sunday.
I saw an ad last week inviting me to a new church that is starting up in the Birmingham area. One of their “selling points” was that you could wear jeans if you wanted. What a concept!
I’m surprised that would even be an issue any more, but we know how much it is. “Dress codes,” or lack thereof, are important in our decision making, whether it be where we work, where we eat, where we play, or even where we worship.
The problem is, those dress codes are relative. What you would wear in church in the Bible-belt isn’t what you’d wear in southern California. And those dress codes are always changing–another one of those “paradigm shifts” in our culture.
When I was in seminary I was told by a professor that I should never preach without a suit on–not just a coat-and-tie combination, but a full suit. And we were also strongly encouraged to always have our coats buttoned when walking into the pulpit. “A sure sign of a sloppy preacher is an unbuttoned coat!” I wonder if you’re still considered a sloppy preacher if you don’t even wear a coat.
The point is, clothes really don’t matter in how you come to God. Yes, the Bible does instruct us to be modest in our choice of clothes. But otherwise, if you were to try to come up with a dress code from Scripture, you’d be hard pressed to find any consistency.
Perhaps we could all dress like John the Baptist, who wore a Fred Flintstone-looking camel-hair suit (check out the description in Mark’s gospel and see if you don’t agree!). Or, maybe Jacob, with his goatskin outfit, or his son Joseph, with his coat of many colors, could be our fashion guides. Of course, that coat almost cost Joseph his life!
The more carefree among us might prefer to dress like King David, who did a public worship dance in his underwear (or more specifically, his “linen ephod”). Or, for the more discreet, solemn look, sackcloth and ashes are a popular choice from the Old Testament.
I prefer the Biblical admonition of the apostle Peter, on how we dress in church: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”(1 Peter 5:5) Now that’s how you dress for success.
I’m sure glad we can “come as you are” to Jesus. I look forward to seeing you in your “Sunday best” at Shelby Crossings this Sunday.