Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Summer To You All!!

Summer time is here! Being that today is the first official day of summer, I thought it would be fun to examine a song that became popular during one of the most exciting summers of my high school life, the summer of 2004. The song is ‘In This Diary” by the band The Ataris.

In the song, lead vocalist Kris Roe writes about his greatest summer and the chorus featured some interesting and thought provoking lines:

“Being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up,
These are the best days of our lives,
The only thing that matters is just following your heart,
And eventually we’ll finally get it right.”

Now for years, I have been just singing along with this song every time it comes on my iPod or car stereo, but it recently struck me how unbiblical this idea of ‘following your heart’ is.

Roe, writes that in life ‘the only thing that matters is just following your heart” but one doesn’t have to look far in this world to realize that a lot of sin is committed because people follow their hearts. This is probably why God told the Israelites in Numbers 15: 39b that they are remember His commandments and to ‘not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after.” (ESV)

When we follow after our own hearts a lot of disaster can await us. Think for example about how easy it is to fall into sexual sin if you follow after your own heart. The heart will say that if you ‘love’ the person you should sleep with them. Your emotions and desires (which stem from the heart) will leave you longing for sexual intimacy, and it is only if you keep your mind focused on God’s word and immersed in his Spirit that you will be able to live your life in a manner worthy of the Christian Faith (2 Timothy 1:11). That means abstaining from all sexual immorality, which is sinful in God’s eyes (1 Cor. 6:18)

Speaking of the heart Jesus also taught us in Matthew 15 that, “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying and slander. These are what defile you” (v.19-20a NLT). Yikes! A lot of sinful things come from the heart then! I don’t know about you but I don’t think following our hearts will ever lead to us eventually “finally get (ting) it right.”

However, there are also parts of this song that are very positive in theme. Take the first part of the chorus which states "Being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up.” I can attest to this being true. Now that I am grown up and out of high school and college I can tell you that there is something special about being young and innocent of some of the evils and nasty parts that life holds. I think this is why Jesus taught that “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." (Luke 18:17 ESV). You see we need to possess a childlike innocence, and more importantly trust, in Jesus to inherit the kingdom of God! As they grow up, most children are less likely to be cynical about the world and life in general. This is the type of attitude Jesus wants all of us to have when it comes to His kingdom! The Gospel is good news, and it leaves little room for cynicism.

One other theme of the song is the concept of how spending time with friends is essential to our ability to make memories. As the first stanza states: “All those nights we stayed up talking/Listening to 80’s song/And quoting lines from all those movies that we love/It still brings a smile to my face…”

That first part particularly rings true. How many of us have had those special times where we simply talked for hours with people who were of like mind and like heart, and didn’t even realize we had been talking for such a long period of time! God intended for us to be relational people, it is why he created the first romantic relationship and marriage when he stated that “it is not good for man to be alone” in Genesis 2:18. Romance is the most intimate of relationships here on earth, but friendships are an easy second. In Acts 2:42 Luke tells us that the early church members spent a lot of time under the ‘apostles teaching and fellowship’ and in Acts 2:44-47 we are told that all the believers lived together in community and shared everything. That is pretty strong evidence that we were created for community in my view!

Thus, as summer kicks off for all of us, make it memorable! For those of you who are Christians and involved in a local Church, get out there and do an outreach. Have a barbeque or block party at your house and sit outside long into the night talking and laughing! Pray for one another and be united in spirit (Acts 2). Make memories! And always keep in mind Jesus’ words of loving others because He first loved us (John 15:12). Don’t follow your own heart, but seek what is on the heart of our Father in heaven, and allow Him to guide you!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

One Day At A Time

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”
-Romans 12:15 (ESV)

This verse may be one of the most quoted verses in the Bible. However, how many people truly take into consideration what this means and implies? Isn’t it much easier to be jealous of someone when they are rejoicing and happy? Isn’t it natural to be jealous when a friend gets that job they’ve always dreamed of and your still working at a job you hate?

Similarly, isn’t it rather easy to distance oneself from a friend who has lost their cousin to a sudden heart attack? Paul tells us that while these may be our natural methods in which we deal with such situations, it certainly is NOT the right way we, as the body of Christ, should be dealing with such matters! Paul tells us to be happy and rejoice with our brothers and sisters in Christ when God blesses their life in a special way! We are to celebrate with them and along side of them, because we are a family and families should celebrate together!

The same is true for when a brother or sister is grieving a painful loss, whether it be the loss of a parent or the loss of job or the death of a dream! We are to go to them and spend time with them. Often times we don’t need to say anything, just simply showing up at the funeral or taking a meal over to our friend is more than enough. I have also found that it is sometimes better to let the person talk and that I simply listen and give them a hug.

One of my favorite movie’s that illustrates the concept of community rallying around a hurting person is Cameron Crowe’s (“Jerry Maguire”) 2005 masterpiece “Elizabethtown.” This film tells the story of a young man whose father dies suddenly while visiting relatives in a small Kentucky town. The young man (Will) is asked by his family to fly into the small town to help and make funeral arrangements. When Will arrives in Elizabethtown, Kentucky he is met by relatives and family friends whom he hasn’t seen in years, but all whom loved his father and want nothing more than to grieve with him. They hug, tell stories and reminisce about what a great man Will’s father was. Will also receives compassion from strangers and people he doesn’t know, including Claire a young flight attendant who he met on the flight from Oregon to Kentucky. Claire views life in a unique and positive light, which aides Will tremendously as he mourns the loss of his father.

Another part about the grieving process that is so important is knowing that God wants us to take life a day at a time. We experience so many emotions throughout the process that it can be very overwhelming. However, Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:34 “don’t worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (NLT). Therefore, I don’t believe God expects us to try to tackle everything we are feeling in times of grief at once, but instead allow Him to help us through each day, one day at a time. In many ways Claire does this for Will, by encouraging him to take every emotion in and ‘experience the incredible melancholy’ that life sometimes throws at us.

I recently was blessed by both of these concepts in my own personal life. Back in April, my Grandmother passed away after a six-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. When it came time for the funeral, many of my friends completely surprised me and stopped by, just to give me a hug, and say that they were sorry for my loss. This meant so much to me, as just a simple a thing as showing up richly blessed me, and reminded me that God loves me, and has blessed me with friend who love me as well!

I also have learned that grieving needs to be taken a day at a time. Some days it is harder than others, and there is often no rhyme or reason to why I suddenly feel angry at one moment or sad at another. However, I have been able to claim Matthew 6:24 that I will not worry about tomorrow because my Heavenly Father is taking care of me, and no matter what I am feeling, He understands.