Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Cross and the Bumper Sticker

This is now my 100th post on this blog. I’ve wanted it to be a memorable one, but I think now I’ll just settle for it being interesting. You see, I haven’t posted for a while. I just haven’t felt “moved” to write anything. It’s been like I just haven’t had anything on my mind that I thought other people would care to read. You might call it “writer’s block,” or it could just simply be that I really haven’t had anything to say.

If you keep talking without really saying anything, you are simply wasting everyone’s time.

Today is September 11, 2011…the 10-year anniversary of the World Trade Center attack.  I haven't watched much of the coverage.  I'm too much of an emotional guy, and I got choked up a couple of times with what little I did watch.

This morning, as we drove to church, my wife and I discussed how things had changed in our lives in the last ten years…

1. Our small girls are now grown college women

2. My mother became a Christian, and then later that same year passed on

3. Our dog Sally died, and we have two new ones

4. We attend a different church

5. My wife has a different job

6. We have a different family car

7. Some friends and family members have married, and some friends have divorced

The list could go on and on.

Even technology is different. Flat screen TVs were waaaaay expensive ten years ago, and very few people had them. Now they are everywhere…even I have one. Whoever heard of a smart phone or an I-pad? In my job, I had a desktop computer, and I carried a paper calendar everywhere. Now, I have a laptop and a Blackberry. We had Mapquest, but GPS? What was that?

In the days that followed 9/11, one of the main catchphrases that seemed to be everywhere was: “God Bless America!”

For a very short time after the attacks, many otherwise lackluster Christians turned to their faith in earnest. It was a spiritual awakening for many people. As I look back on it now, it was kind of like spinning a bike wheel. You know, when you were a kid and you turned your bike over on its seat and handlebars and spun the wheels. You’d give one wheel a good hard spin and it would seem like it would go on forever. However, as the seconds ticked by, the wheel began to slow and unless you spun it again, it would eventually stop.

In essence, for many, it seems that their spiritual wheel has stopped spinning again.

“God Bless America!” became a popular bumper sticker. However, lately I’ve been seeing another one: “America, Bless God!”

I think this new version makes a good point. We. We. We. Want. Want. Want.

“God! Bless us!” Us. Us. Us. Don’t expect anything from us, God. Don’t go looking for our presence in church. Don’t expect us to GIVE TO YOU. Don’t expect our hearts to be drawn to you. But, please make sure you continue to bless us! We are special after all. We are America!

It’s a good thing that He loves us…along with everyone else. Why else would He ever put up with our obvious pride, self-indulgence, and spiritual ambivalence?

I want to share two more things with you. One is a bit of a coarse comment I made, but it really is a comment on the state of modern Christianity. The other is another bumper sticker I saw last week.

First, my comment….

This comment was made in the midst of some very close friends that my wife and I feel very comfortable around. It was a joke, of sorts, made as we were trying to unravel a tangled gold necklace that carried a cross as its focal point. One of the group jokingly said: “How would people know that I’m a Christian, if I don’t wear my cross?”

I replied as a comment on some women’s method of displaying their “faith”….

“Yeah, I could tell she was a Christian by the cross in her cleavage!”

We all burst out laughing. It was a funny moment. It’s funny because one obviously runs counter to the other. But, then….when you think about it…it’s not really funny is it? It’s true, but it’s not really funny. It’s not funny because that symbol of our faith that should draw us back to Christ and the amazing sacrifice that he made has been relegated to a piece of jewelry that apparently means very little to some of the very people who display it.

I’m not just picking on the girls. It was just how the cross is sometimes displayed by women that brought this to my mind. As a PEOPLE…men and women, many of us simply do not take Jesus Christ seriously enough to allow his sacrifice to affect how we live our daily lives. The cross is just some ambiguous symbol on church buildings and jewelry. Should it not, rather, be a beacon that calls us, that hearkens us back to humility at its foot? The foot of the cross on which the Savior of the world GAVE his life? Should it not drive us to change? To amend our lives into conformity to God’s direction?

Now, the bumper sticker…

As we were cruising around Denver with those same friends last weekend, I saw the following bumper sticker: “Try Jesus

Now, I’m sure that the motive behind this saying is very good, and in the sense it was meant, it is a great statement to make. People are searching for fulfillment in their lives, and the suggestion to try Jesus for that fulfillment is good and right. However, it did bring to my mind another fault in our American version of Christianity. We tend to portray Jesus as the answer to every life problem. Try Jesus and your financial problems will be over. Try Jesus and your marriage problems will end. Try Jesus and your boss will love you. Try Jesus and you’ll never have a flat tire again! Try Jesus and you’ll never have another problem in your life!

In my mind that day, the saying struck me as kind of a test drive. “Take Jesus out for a spin.” “Doesn’t he just handle beautifully?” “This is the faith for you! It just fits your image!”

The trouble is, Jesus didn’t die so that we could USE him. He isn’t a tool for our manipulation. In fact, he wants us to change enough so that we can be the tool in his hands to reach others. Clearly, he never promised that our lives would be without trouble if we “tried him” out. Just examine the outcomes of the lives of the apostles and the early followers. Death and persecution followed them around everywhere they went.

However, he did die to save us. He did promise us a spiritual future that is beyond measure, and a spiritual family with God as the father, and the church as our brothers and sisters. We can have hope. We can have a purpose. We can have a mission. Like the old saying goes: “Working for God doesn’t pay very much, but the retirement benefits are out of this world!”

I guess that’s enough rambling for now. I’ll catch you all again soon.

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