Being a “Me” addict


When I saw the news that Tiger Woods checked himself into rehab over his “sex addiction”, I immediately identified with those who said, “This is just his way of having a plausible defense hoping to absolve himself from the consequences of adultery”. Others remarked, “What man DOESN’T have this addiction?” Some of us remember this similar situation occurring with Eric Benet (Singer and former husband of Halle Berry). His marriage dissolved because of this alleged addiction. There is no shortage of celebrities that have succumbed to a veritable plethora of “addictions”.

Most of us have the natural inclination to respond to these claims with cynicism but we may be missing the real point. Even if these claims are true, this doesn’t explain what I believe to be the real root of the problem. According to Webster’s, the word addiction has essentially 2 meanings:

1. “Compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance”

2. “The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or or involved in something.”

Although we normally don’t make the distinction, I believe that the first definition is entirely predicated on the second. We all are guilty of the second definition. We are all habitually and compulsively with something, specifically someone – ourselves. Tiger Woods is a self addict. Kurt Cobain was a self addict. Bill Clinton was a self addict. George W. Bush was a self addict. I am a self addict, and you are a self addict. Don’t think so? We all are addicted to doing whatever we deem necessary to please ourselves in some way.

Some people abuse drugs and alcohol because it’s a way to escape their current anxieties, pains, fears, frustrations, etc. Others are in sexual sin because they don’t want to feel alone, or they want to feel wanted. But all these different forms of abuse are merely the symptom of a greater problem. We want to make life better for ourselves to the extent that we will disobey God (sin) in order to do so. In most cases the root of these addictions is the idolatry of self addiction.

Obsession with anything other than God: sports, work, shopping and/or acquiring “stuff,” even family or children is something most, if not all of us can identify with. There are times where I haven’t been in prayer or reading my bible/devotions because I’m too tired, but I wasn’t too tired to watch the playoff game a few days ago. Maybe we are too tired to attend a church service (not that this is the litmus test for a “good Christian”), but we have no problem going to the movies to see Avatar on Sunday.

Self addiction often leads to a myriad of problems. One person is addicted to having stuff because it makes them feel like they’ve “arrived”, so they spend money they don’t have on stuff they really don’t need. The problem isn’t just that you are lacking financial wisdom. The problem is that you are addicted to yourself to the extent that you’re willing to harm yourself financially and be a poor steward of the resources God has blessed you with. You are your own idol.

While medical professionals seem to agree on the plausibility of “sex addictions”, it wasn’t the main reason for Tiger Wood’s indiscretions. His problem was his own self addiction. For whatever reason, he wanted something for himself that carried immeasurable risk to his family, career, and image. He was willing to risk it, because of what he wanted.

For the Christian, we shouldn’t love or want anything more than we do God. We are to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5), which is, according to Jesus, the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38). We can infer that an addiction to anything other than God is sin.

God is the only thing we can (and should) occupy ourselves with habitually. To do so with anything else draws us away from Him and displeases Him. He alone is worthy of our complete attention, love, and service. To offer these things to anything or anyone else is idolatry.

Consider the following poem from Kristen Rabalais:

I am an addict,
an addict of self.

I nurse my flesh and walk in comfort.
I am an addict of self.

I am intimately acquainted with all that i think i need
and make every attempt to see those met.

I am an addict,
an addict of self.

I feed my desires the choicest of luxuries, comforts, and delicacies;
anything that will curb my satisfaction pangs.
I am an addict of self.

eat, drink, and be merry is what my flesh screams out,
and there is no fight or even resistance from within.
I am an addict of self.

deserver of comfort, earner of rights,
happiness found within my own hand.
I am addicted to self.

I will steal, lie, conquer, twist, ignore,
project, hold back, exalt, humor, massage, insult
all to protect and glorify myself.
I am an addict of self.

I beg you to tear down this monstrous idol.
demolish it and carry me away from the rubble.
consume me, break me, open my eyes, protect
me from reconstructing another idol in my own image.

I am an addict,
an addict of self.

Jesus, you wooed and awakened me with a touch of your grace.
my soul was stirred and reactive.
you imparted love and mercy,
you know my filth and stench,
but still you chose to sacrifice, wash, clothe me in white.

I am an addict,
an addict of self saved by the blood of Jesus.

Before we get ready to criticize Tiger’s horrible and sinful decisions, let’s also keep in mind that it’s only by the grace of God that we fellow self-addicts aren’t there. Let’s also pray that God convicts us of our self-addiction and how they may affect not only us, but those in our lives.

Abortion and Black Eugenics


This is an article that resonates with me deeply. Many of you know that I’ve long been outspoken concerning my views, as a Christian, concerning abortion. I’ve long felt that abortion is used as a self-centered form of birth control, completely and callously forgoing the rights and lives of living (by definition) being. That’s a discussion for a different post, however.

This article underscores the impact that abortion is having on black and hispanic communities. One quote from the article is quite sobering, “The abortion industry kills as many Black people every four days as the Klan killed in 150 years. Since 1973, legal abortion has killed more Blacks than AIDS, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and violent crime combined.”

What are your thoughts?

http://www.heartbeatinternational.org/lifelines/2009/Oct.htm

Michael Jackson and a Break Dancing Preacher


The Offense

When I was a boy – maybe 5 years old – I wanted to be a “break dancing preacher” when I grew up. I loved break dancing music, back then. I used to practice my “moves” on the rug of our living room of our home on Plainview, in Detroit Michigan. I guess I figured that the only way to make break dancing ok was to combine it with something uber-spiritual, like preaching! michael_jackson

One Sunday morning, after returning from church, I turned on the radio and began listening to a Michael Jackson song. Side note: Like many kids in that generation, I absolutely IDOLIZED Michael Jackson! He was the only reason I would have ever owned a pair of leather pants! Anytime his music would come on, it would strike a chord and resonate with me musically and make me feel like I could moonwalk over quicksand!

Once the music started, I yanked off my polyester clip-on tie, kicked off my church shoes, and sat my New Testament pocket bible on the vestibule table. I then ran to the living room and began displaying my dazzling array of break dancing moves. I was spinning one the floor (giving myself a bad case of carpet burn), and attempting to do the worm which ended up looking like a push-up being done by someone with advanced scoliosis. It didn’t matter how it looked though, all that mattered was the “way it made me feel”.

During my private dance recital, I was so entranced by the lyrics, beat and Michael’s voice that I flat out LOST MY MIND! For some reason, after jumping to my feet and completing my dance, I pumped my right fist in the air and exclaimed, “Michael Jackson is better than God!” Have you ever said something, and as you completed the last word you want to just grab the column of air that those words are travelling in, and shove it back in one fell swoop? Yeah….that was me. I was in such shock that I just stood there in catatonic stupor awaiting my just retribution. Mom didn’t disappoint! I don’t know if it was just my mom, but it seems that they have an elastic arm that can reach you for punishing purposes regardless of proximity. All of a sudden her Elasto-Arm came floating down the hallway with her hand landing right on my mouth ever so rapidly! Then it was Dad’s turn. Needless to say, the Devil may have literally been beaten out of me that day!

Idolatry

So many times I’ve wondered what possessed me to utter such blasphemy. Why would that flow from my lips so cavalierly? Maybe it’s not a big deal because I was just a kid. Maybe I didn’t really mean it in the same sense that it came out. Although some may view these as plausible excuses, I don’t believe either of these to be true. I believe that I, like so many others, had embraced a culture that exalts ideas, objects and people above love for and devotion to God. The Bible refers to this on numerous occasions as the sin of idolatry.

Idolatry is the universal human tendency to value something or someone in a way that hinders the love and trust we owe to God. It is an act of theft from God whereby we use some part of creation in a way that steals from honor due to God. Our idolatry conflicts with putting God alone first in our lives in what we love and trust (see Exodus 20:3-5; Deut. 5:7-9). Consider Paul’s words in Romans 1:21-23, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. In idolatry we put something or someone, usually a gift or talent from God, in a place of value that detracts from the first place owed to God alone, the gift Giver. That thing or person is an idol.

If you’ve paid any amount of attention to the news concerning the death of Michael Jackson, you may have noticed aspects of idolatry. In one CNN report, the Mayor of Gary, Indiana (Jackson’s hometown) referred to Michael as the “Prince of Peace”. Many people are filling in the Apollo Theater to stare at a glove, a hat, shoes and a stool. This isn’t to imply that mourning isn’t appropriate, but the manner in which we emote, may reveal whether we’re guilty of idolatry.

I was sitting in my office when I was told the news of Jackson’s death and like many, I was sad? I have so many fond memories in my childhood that are triggered and conditioned by many of his songs. It’s difficult for me to understand, however, people throwing themselves to the ground, shaking, writhing in tears over a person – that they don’t know – dying. When Jackson was alive, many people behaved this way upon meeting him as well. I think one telling characteristic about the idolization of a human being is that you can feel some sort of emotional connection and devotion to them, without actually knowing a thing about them personally. I think this is because outside of a Godly perspective on gifts and talents, we are unable to keep ourselves from idolatry.

Anatomy of Idolatry

At creation, mankind was hard-wired to worship God. Man’s sin completely short-circuited this wiring. We all begin seeking something to idolize now, without really understanding why. Some of us turn to sex, alcohol, drugs, relationships, music, political ideology, race/ethnicity, gender, or citizenship/patriotism. Many of these things may not be intrinsically bad, but they still become idols nonetheless. Why? Because outside of restoring our broken “worship wiring”, we are unable to love and to trust the gift Giver without interference from any gift or anything other than God. It’s only then that we are able to love and to appreciate gifts appropriately, neither giving them too much power nor failing to be thankful for them. This is why we struggle with various addictions and sin. These have become our idols.

Idolatry doesn’t just affect those who idolize; it also affects the human objects of our idol worship. I believe this to have been the case with Michael Jackson (in addition to many other celebrities). My dad always told me that, “one of the worst things you can do is to believe your own press clippings”. I think that Dad was teaching me that when you start to buy into what everyone else is praising you for, you start to think you are solely responsible for it. Thus, you begin to steal away glory from God. Unfortunately, you have a very high bar that’s been set in order to maintain the level of praise and approval from your fans. That’s why many of the stars turn to drugs, alcohol, or even suicide. They can’t find solace in their fans, because these people worship them for something that has nothing to do with who the artist really is inside. Fans don’t know the artist’s real struggles. A very hallow give and take ensues between the artist and the fan. This has to be a very lonely, and depressing existence.

Although I was a fan of his music, I must vehemently disagree with Mayor Rudy Clay, Jackson was not the prince of peace. On the contrary, a close examination of his life reveals that he was desperately in need of the Prince of Peace.

Professor Paul Moser writes:

“In idolatry we fail to give proper thanks to the Giver of life and its goods. As thieves we thereby steal God’s rightful honor and sever, or at least diminish, fellowship with both God and others. The alienation from God and others comes from our hiding our theft and from our selfishly “protecting” the stolen goods. Idolatry leaves us with stolen goods that become “bads,” for they cannot sustain or satisfy us apart from friendship with their Giver. Only the ultimate Giver of goods can sustain and satisfy us lastingly in freely given friendship, the friendship of divine unselfish love. Such friendship, given our idolatrous rebellion against God, must come with merciful forgiveness toward us. Our idolatry brings us under God’s judgment, for our own good (see Rom. 1:21-32). His judgment calls us from death (our way) to life (His way).”

Giving up the selfishly willful theft in idolatry requires letting go of any possessive attitude toward the gifts given to us. We then receive the gifts not on our terms but on the terms of their ultimate Giver. This is the key to freedom in life under God, the ultimate gift Giver. Jesus tells us as much (Matt. 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24), and shows us as much (Matt. 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42). We may know all of this, but we still lack power on our own to be free from idols. We need power beyond our own. We need the power of God. Only the gift Giver loves us, judges us in love, and forgives us in merciful love. His merciful forgiveness sets us free to be reconciled to Him.

I think we need to re-evaluate whether the things, people, ideas that we are passionate about have become idols. Do any of these things steal glory from God? Don’t be too quick to say, “of course not!” If this recent election is any indication, we are all far from perfect in the area of idolatry. This isn’t an attempt to give an opinion on political parties, so don’t misunderstand me, but many of us have our political idols. Many of us hate the opposing political party (whichever that may be), more than we hate sin – especially our own! A strong case can be made that this is idolatry! The converse of this is equally true. Many of us hate a style of government, or other countries more than we hate sin. Again – idolatry. Some of us love our country more than we love glorifying God with our thoughts, behavior and lives. This is idolatry.

3 “American Idols” died last week. Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Ed McMahon are all now more certain than ever before, that their “press clippings” aren’t amounting to a hill of beans right now. The memory of our independence, like anything else can become an idol very easily. As we enter into this 4th of July weekend, I encourage you to focus on what Paul told the church at Philippi, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Sticks and Stones……


Titanic

Titanic

This Wednesday was the 97th anniversary of the Titanic shipwreck of 1912. I first saw the award-winning movie, Titanic, almost 12 years agoLike most, I thought it was sad to see the innocent lives lost. I wasn’t even a parent yet, but the scene with the mom tucking the kids in while knowing that the ship was sinking really tugged on my heart strings. While there are multiple lessons in this story, I’ve really missed the boat (pun intended) on the most important message that this story communicates. After researching this account, I’ve found myself getting a little convicted.  

I’ve been meditating on James 3 this week and verses 3-5 have really jumped out at me in lieu of this historic event. Consider what James said,

“If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.” 

James uses two analogies to illustrate one main point – like the bit or the rudder, the tongue is small but mighty. If the rider doesn’t control the bit, the horse is out of control. If the captain doesn’t control and guide the ship via the rudder, the ship is out of control.

Consider the case of the Titanic. Captain Edward J. Smith was in command of the Titanic on that fateful night, April 12, 1912. As the ship veered into freezing waters, at least 6 warnings were transmitted to radio operators on board by 9:40 PM – 2 hours before impact. Some of the messages were delivered to the captain, and were ignored in most cases.

titanic-icebergOne account indicated that 3 messages from another ship warned of a field of icebergs. The captain was downstairs having dinner, and wasn’t alerted. At this point, ice was only 50 miles away. Eventually, the iceberg itself comes into view standing 55-60 feet above the water. The warning bell was sounded, the engines were stopped, and the wheel was spun as far as it could go. This was to no avail, however, and the ship struck the iceberg. From sighting to collision elapsed 37 seconds.

James compares the tongue to the rudder of a ship. In examining this comparison, we see that the rudder is relatively small when compared to the ship. There has been much debate over whether the rudder of the Titanic was too small. The theory is that if it were the proper size, the Titanic would have been able to avoid the iceberg. According to Captain Charles B. Weeks Jr, of Encyclopedia Titanica, the rudder was slightly too small, but he believes that this had little significant influence on the Titanic’s outcome. Had the ship heeded the numerous warnings, the captain would have been able to influence and guide the ship to safety.

at the helm

As we remember the words of James, I think this is a clear picture of what he intended in the aforementioned passage. James isn’t saying that the tongue controls the body and more than the rudder controls the ship. The rudder‘s or the tongue’s actions are completely predicated on its controlling influence. The rudder has to overcome multiple competing forces in order to direct the ship safely. In order to function, the rudder has to be under the control of a strong guiding hand who knows how to operate it properly. Captain Smith’s influence was very little because of the continued ignorance of warnings and red flags. Why? The crew knew that a warning was issued, but they didn’t want to bother him during dinner. At another time, the warning was written on a piece of paper and given to him. He handed it to another crew member, who just tucked it in his pocket. I’m sure there are a great number of factors that coalesced in such a way as to limit his ability to avert this crisis. Whatever they were, those factors needed to be overcome in order to save the ship. So it is with the tongue. The tongue must overcome our broken, imperfect and sinful flesh in order to accomplish anything good. Like the rudder, the tongue can’t accomplish anything by itself. It must come under God’s control.

sticksandstones

One of the most popular yet inaccurate children’s proverbs is:

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”

Usually, this is said with good intentions. My mom used to repeat it often because I had such a short temper as a kid. The truth is that words have the power to both hurt and heal. Has someone ever said something that hurt and stuck with you for a long time? I think it’s really easy to be sarcastic or critical, and not realize how much damage is being done. But in the same way, the well-timed encouragement or compliment can inspire someone for the rest of their life.

I am just speaking my mind!

We are a culture that is proud to speak its mind. A woman came to John Wesley and said she knew what her talent was. “I think my talent from God is to speak my mind.” Wesley replied, “I don’t think God would mind if you buried that talent.” Speaking forth everything that comes to mind is unwise, poisonous speech.

This is a principle that I have to keep being mindful of in marriage. It’s so easy for me to just “Tell it like it is” and begin criticizing and hurt my wife in the process. Sometimes we may speak carelessly in our criticism and disguise it as a joke. Consider Proverbs 26:18-19:

“Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!”

Compare this with Proverbs 12:25

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”

James says that although small, the tongue has tremendous power, both for good (bless God) and evil (cursing men). This shouldn’t be the case, but it often is. As I’ve been studying this, I’ve been convicted by 2 things:

1.) Words I’ve used that hurt and

2.) Hurtful words that I’ve thought and felt, but didn’t use.

Scripture tells us to bridle the tongue. James 1:26 reads, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”  I’ve been really chewing on this lately. Those who know me can attest to my alleged “gift of gab”. It’s so easy for me to just get caught up in having more to say, that I get careless. An author of one of my favorite blogs stated that he prays, “Lord let my words be few and true”. Holding our unhelpful or hurtful words is necessary to stop the “what” but it doesn’t necessarily help stop the “why”.

 Luke 6:45 states, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” The root of the problem isn’t the hurtful words themselves, but our proclivity to use them. I’ve really been searching my heart to get at the root of why the hurtful words are even there. I think the hardest thing to remember is that being right on an issue doesn’t give me license to unbridle my tongue. It’s a battle I suspect that will always be there, but the battlefield is where real growth occurs.

I’m making a point to watch my speech closely, especially when I’m upset or excited and fail to bridle my tongue. When I’m properly bridling my tongue, it’s because I really want to bring glory to God with what I’m thinking and doing. When I’m not bridling, I could easily be influenced by passionate emotions concerning politics, religion, sports, having to change a diaper after a hard day of work (had to throw that in there), etc…  What influences your rudder?

 

Worthy of Agony


My Leos

Barry Sanders

Barry Sanders

Growing up in Detroit, I’ve had the “privilege” of being a Detroit Lions fan for as long as I can remember. Every year, I would wait with baited breath to watch the Lions finally become a consistently winning team. In the 90’s, the Lions had Pro-Bowl players like Herman Moore, Chris Spielman, Robert Porcher, and of course Barry Sanders. I loved these teams and hoped and prayed (really believing this mattered to God!) that they would emerge as a respectable, winning franchise. Despite my efforts, the Lions have only won 1 playoff game in the Superbowl Era. Their ineptitude was culminated in the 2008-2009 season where they finished with an 0-16 record – the first time any professional team has gone winless.

I’m sure I could enumerate every failure of this organization (and I’m sure many won’t hesitate to do so in their comments here), but for the sake of brevity I won’t.  Just know that despite the tragedy that is the Detroit Lions, I still begin every season with great expectancy and anticipation. I believe if you were to cut me, I would bleed honolulu blue and silver.

This unabashed loyalty wasn’t really a problem while in Detroit, but when I joined the Air Force, after admitting to being a Lions fan, I never heard the end of it. “Why do you still root for them?” “Do they still have a team?” “Aren’t they a college team?” “Didn’t they change their name to the Lioness’s (weird word to make plural)?”

After being in the military for 7 years, I can count on one hand, how many Lions fans I came across. I soon discovered that trying to argue for the Lions, was analogous to Linus trying to convince Charlie Brown that the Great Pumpkin was coming. I also discovered more Cowboys fans than any other team.  Everywhere we were stationed, there were Cowboys jerseys, including overseas. There couldn’t be 2 teams more opposite than these two.  One has a history of winning championships and being competitive with a very involved (albeit too involved) owner. The other has 0 Super Bowls, never really been competitive, and has an owner that most people believe has already been lobotomized.  However, these fans finally gave me something to defend – Barry Sanders.

Most of these fans were die hard Emmit Smith fans, and couldn’t wait to tell me how much better Emmit was than Barry. I was to the point where I would agonize over the perceived dominance of Emmit’s career over Barry’s, which led me to intensely research and study of both of their careers (By the way, it’s easy to see that Emmit couldn’t tie Barry’s shoes, but this isn’t the point).

Truth

While this is probably a silly example, I think it illustrates a greater point. We agonize over the things/people we value and are loyal to. When those are attacked, we can’t help but to want to defend them. The Bible commands us to do this when it comes to truth.

Jude 1:3

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (ESV)

2 Peter 2:1

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (ESV)

The phrase “contend for the faith” has been quoted countless times when discussing defending our faith and beliefs. Growing up in the church background that I did, I never grasped the meaning of this scripture, nor was it taught on very much. Many of the churches we attended were riddled with doctrinal ambiguities at best, less than stellar moral character, and a heavy reliance on experiences that were exalted above scripture. False doctrine was commonplace, but few people were aware (you must first know sound doctrine in order to identify what is false).

Remember 300?

300

In my VERY layman’s study of the Greek, I discovered that the word translated “contend” is the word AGONIZOMAI, from which we get the words agony or agonize. It literally means “to strive, fight, labour fervently”. The origin of this word has it’s roots in the culture of the ancient city-state Sparta.

Infant males who were permitted to live after birth were separated from their families at the age of 7 and put into warrior training in the wilderness under an experienced mentor. One of the exercises pitted two boys against each other in a contest called the “agon”. They were stripped bare, slathered with oil and required to wrestle to the point of utter exhaustion in the broiling Mediterranean sun. We derive our word “agony” from the name of this ritual.

This is a picture of the Greek Olympian sweating and bleeding to achieve the gold medal. This is a picture of the football player, fatigued, yet still pushing up that extra rep in the weight room. This gives us an incredible picture of the fervor, and intentionality we must have, when it comes to not only defending against false teaching, but in actively pointing out those that are promoting it. 

Jude, in choosing this particular word, is teaching that agonizing over sound doctrine is more than just a hobby, or something we do in our spare time. It’s not something we do if and when we get around to it. This is something we should be passionate about. We should be willing to give everything we have to contend or agonize for the faith.

During my childhood, I was heavily influenced by the Word/Faith movement. As I began to grow and study the Bible, I began to question a lot of things that were taught. Many things I was being told weren’t matching up at all with scripture. It was then, that I began to understand the need for sound doctrine, and the vigilant defense for it. It is a passion that I have, and I always looked at it as just that – my passion. But Jude seems to be telling all of us that apologetics (study of defending our faith) isn’t just for those that are “gifted” in apologetics. It’s mandated for all believers to engage in. What things do you agonize over? Are they worthy of agony to you? Are they worthy of agony to God?