The Reality of Grammy Idols

I was so utterly discouraged Wednesday after my talk to nearly 150 teen girls, I couldn’t even write this article.  I couldn’t look at their evaluations of my program and I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t overcome my despair.  I was spent.

See, mid-day on Monday I began preparing for my speech to this group.   Since I am now in my thirties — can’t believe I’m saying that —I thought it might be a good idea to do a little research and figure out what’s hot and trending in pop culture to get a better grip on where most teenage minds reside.  So, I checked my DVR for the Grammy’s.  Now before you stop reading because you are thinking, “here we go, again” I hope you’ll hear me out.

I’ll admit, I primarily began watching because I really do need to understand teen culture and music is a good indicator, but if I’m honest, I also wanted to see Taylor Swift perform.  I don’t know why.  So, after a quick view of what I’m guessing was one-third of Beyonce’ and JayZ’s earth-shattering performance, I skimmed through in search of Taylor.  On my fast-forward journey I grew more and more irritated with the outfits, or lack-there-of, the extremely sexual choreography and the very dark and down right weird stuff.  I watched all of Taylor.  Her dress was gorgeous.  Her performance was what I expected and I truly wanted to jump through the TV and give her a hug when she was done.  She looked so hurt by that guy.  Seriously.  After that, I skimmed through a couple more morally disgusting jokes and performances and called it a day.  I didn’t watch most of it.

I had seen enough.

As I thought about the “show” I started to feel my reaction coming on strong.  This is MESSED UP.  I was mad.  Why are we so eager to support, applaud and give credit to these people?  Because they are famous, talented, beautiful and rich?  I guess so.  Are people really this enthralled by raunchy sex appeal?  Do we not see vulgarity as wrong anymore?  As quickly as I’m asking the questions, the answer came — yes.  Morality has no place in our culture.  Right is relative.  Tolerance and acceptance are our only beliefs and Yonce’ (as the girls I spoke to lovingly call her), JayZ, Katy Perry and the like are our nation’s most popular preachers.  Hollywood elite craft and deliver the message.  We accept. They set the standard.  We give them a golden statue and keep the cash flow goin’ so they can build their empires.  It’s crazy.  Ironically, many of their own children probably aren’t allowed to watch!

I thought about it all day Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday as I was driving to St. Louis.  I prayed and prayed, “Lord, what would you have me do?”  As I arrived at the school, I felt compelled to share with the girls how Christian Grammy nominee, Natalie Grant, left the Grammys early because it was so ridiculous.  After all, my presentation was on personal branding, image and character.  I thought the story would be a great way to conclude.

Here’s the thing; the girls totally did not get it.  It may because I didn’t communicate it well.  But, I have nine years of experience speaking to crowds just like this one.  I don’t think, in this case, I was the issue.  They cheered at my first mention of the Grammys.  Clearly, they LOVE Beyoncé.  They’ve never heard of Natalie Grant, not surprising, but you should know this was a private, Christian school.  I have spoken to over 80,000 teenagers and I’m telling you, these girls turned on me when I merely alluded to the idea that Yonce’ had been inappropriate.  They were absolutely dumbfounded at the thought of a Grammy nominee walking out.  Why?  They could not, in any way, wrap their minds around the notion that ANYTHING had been wrong at, with, or surrounding the Grammys.  They thought it was awesome.  I kept looking for faces that might show a glimpse of agreement with me.  None.

The bell rang, they handed in their evaluations and they were gone.  I was devastated.

Listen Christians; we have got to stop being gray.  We have got to stop being lukewarm.  We have got to stop allowing our children and the teens in our lives to go day-to-day thinking it is perfectly acceptable to act like a sex object, witch or whatever.  It is NOT okay.  You can call it art, you can call it performance, you can call it creativity, you can call it entertainment, you can even call it freedom of expression.  But, you, Christian, cannot call it right and you cannot act like it is no big deal.  It is profane.  It is a slap in the face of your creator.  It is WRONG.  WRONG.  Say the word.  Things that are profane are not beautiful.  Profanity is not to be celebrated, but exposed.  The church has been quiet or found ignorant while our culture has adopted, promoted and established profane idols of worship.  We’ve allowed our enemy to silence us and now I feel like an ancient prophet screaming,  “Stop the madness!  Turn back.  Destroy these idols or they will destroy us.”

This is nothing new.  This is what the enemy does.  He takes things, people, that were designed to be beautiful, created for eternal purpose and he destroys them.  The enemy perverts them.  What you saw — or hopefully didn’t see — was perversion.  Is Beyoncé talented and beautiful?  Of course!  But what God designed for His glory has been debauched.  The same formula could be said for nearly every artist that took the stage.  How does it happen?  Simple.  They — we — are born absolutely depraved.

The same formula would be said of me if Satan had his way.

God is love AND God is holy.  Everyone wants to talk about His love, but scarcely — especially in our pop culture and mainstream media — can you find anyone who wants to discuss His holiness.  The media push young people to believe that God loves everyone and therefore accepts everyone no matter what they do.  They push that since God made our emotions; whatever we feel must be okay.  OR, since there is no God, we can decide what’s good, bad, right and wrong.  Either way, we are in control.  They insist when you try to debate, discuss, reason or disagree with them, you’re an idiotic fool.  Get this: their god is not the God of the Bible.  Their god is one they have fabricated for their own comfort, ultimately resulting in the god of self.  They live to build their own kingdoms and to glorify themselves.  They DO NOT care about, nor do they know the God Christianity proclaims.

The God of the Bible, the only One who has revealed and proven Himself for thousands of years has not and will not tolerate sin. Nor does He casually overlook sin.  He never will.  God does not accept people the way they are!  Hello!?  There would have been NO REASON for Christ and the cross if that statement were true.  All people are not acceptable in the eyes of God.  Think about it.  We are only acceptable in the eyes of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  That’s it.  Unless we have been “born again” by faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, we are not acceptable.  He takes what is corrupt, does away with it and replaces it with something better, His righteousness.  He redeems.  We praise Him for His grace because we have done NOTHING to deserve that chance.  That was ALL Him.  He chose us.  While we were still sinners, messed up, Christ died for us — all of us.

Jesus came to free us from sin and the death trap that it is.  He came to give us life.  He did that.  We did nothing.  Some choose to reject Him.  They don’t want what He offers.  They prefer their sin to His righteousness.  They don’t want to surrender their life to a God they can’t see.  They don’t want to be told what is right and what is wrong by a divine creator.  It is their right to make that choice (only because God created us with a free will to do so, ironically) but the REALITY is every knee is going to bow.  Every tongue that is making money mocking the holy God of the Bible now will someday confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Mark His words, it will happen.

But in the meantime, I don’t want a whole generation of people to be deceived by the enemy because I’m too afraid to speak out and proclaim the truth.

It is time we stand together and stand up for truth.  The human body is not a sex object and sexuality is sacred.  There is right and wrong.  Our Creator defines it.  We can prove morality.  If you claim Christianity, you must stop supporting and watching things that are profane in the eyes of your maker.  STOP.  Christ lives in you and is with you.  You must grasp what it means that your body is a temple of the living God.  You must stop putting trash in your mind.  You must believe God when he says those who sow to the flesh will reap corruption.  And stop justifying it.  Stop allowing your kids to bathe in this trash.  If you think your daughter is fine, I dare you to look at her iTunes account.  Check her list of artists and songs.  Google some lyrics.   This is what she’s listening to when you’re trying to get her attention. Parents, stand in the gap for your kids!  Get your own mind right.  Teach that there is in fact a line.  It is well past crossed and we cannot sit back and act like all is well.  All is not well.  I know because I saw it on the faces of 150 girls who have no idea why they matter or if their life has value.  They have no idea who they are or who they are supposed to be.  They have no idea that their body is a precious gift.  They have no clue despair and destruction wait for them at the hand of their enemy.  He is deceiving a generation and we are letting him.

There’s hope.  Christ asks us to be that hope.  He asks us to be salt and to be light, to push back the darkness and to share the TRUTH.   Smash the idols.  I believe if we are faithful to do our part, to be obedient to His commands, He will be faithful to do His.

I’m in.  Are you?

Does your Church even matter?

My title might look like a ridiculous question, but it is one that needs to be asked by each and every one of us. So, does your church matter?

Your initial response was probably like mine: “Of course! Every church matters.” OK then, what makes your church matter?
The answer to this question is inextricably linked to another question — Is your church full of disciples who are passionately concerned with making more disciples?

If you had to honestly answer, “no” to my previous question, then what is your church doing? What’s it even there for?

If you take a look at the last scenes that record Jesus giving any kind of command in the four gospels you’ll find that in Mark He tells the disciples to preach the gospel to the whole world. In Luke you basically find the same command with the added command to wait in Jerusalem until they receive power to be witnesses from the Holy Spirit. In John, Jesus’ last recorded commands are directed at Peter where He tells him to “feed my sheep” and “follow me.” And Matthew ends with the command to “go make disciples of My all nations, baptizing them…”

Jesus’ commands did not read “go, get some people saved, build a building and make sure everyone shows up on Sunday, pays their tithes and follows all the rules.” I am not saying that corporate worship and the ordinances are not important because if in their proper context, they are vital. But if they are not explicitly part of the process of making disciples who follow Jesus and make disciples who follow Jesus, then they are not important.

Yes, I’m saying that showing up to church and doing all the formalities for the sake of showing up to church and doing all the formalities is a waste of time.

Let me put it this way: If everyone in your church up and went to a different church on Sunday, would there actually be a negative impact in the kingdom? There are lots of churches out there, so does it really matter if your particular congregation is together, or if you all went elsewhere would anyone notice (other than the pastor)? Do not be fooled into thinking God is impressed with our good attendance and the fact that we aren’t “forsaking the assembling of ourselves.” If our hearts are not toward continually following Christ more closely and helping others do the same, then all is in vain.

If you’re not sure what discipling looks like, look at the life of Christ and the disciples. Read about Paul and Timothy. Discipling is essentially teaching people to think and act like you, but there must be a fire inside of you that motivates you to sacrifice in order to help others. The Twelve, Paul and more were willing to give up everything that would make a comfortable life in order to disciple others. This was not done out of obligation, this was done out of passion for the Lord! For them, there was no other option.

Discipleship was not something that occurred only on Sunday, it was a way of life!

Can you say the same about your own life? Is your relationship with the Lord so vibrant and real that you feel it must be shared?

Here’s my confession, I have several mentors. As a young man in ministry, several older men are definitely helping me along. And after reading this, you might think they are doing a poor job. But I’m not currently much of a disciple-maker. I need to find someone to pour into because I don’t think I have a good excuse to ignore Jesus’ clear commands.

How about you? Are you being discipled? Are you discipling someone else? If not, do you have an excuse that you would be happy to tell Jesus about?

The Curse of a “Good” Life

I’m sure your life is good.  Normal.  Your life is a perfect picture of someone living out the American dream.  Life is not perfect.  You have your ups and downs.  But, you have a family and have landed a decent job.  Fun, social events and day trips fill your calendar.  Maybe you even attend church sometimes.  Anyone observing your day-to-day activities would conclude that things are, well, good.

Tonight as I sat in my living room floor, Bible open, King Hezekiah study on my lap and listening to a young woman who attends our weekly gathering talk, I realized something.   She was right.  While I don’t think she’d mind, I’ll keep her name to myself, but she said, “I don’t think most people realize how miserable they are.  They have nothing else to compare their life to.”  She went on to explain that before she started following Christ, she thought she had a great life.  She wasn’t unhappy.  She wasn’t depressed.  She wasn’t even looking for something different.  She was normal.

I pray someone reading this right now feels that same way — good and normal.  You are whom I’m talking to today.  Have you ever considered that there is more?  Have you ever wondered why “radical Christians” act the way they do?  They commit their lives to serving a God they can’t see, are passionate about church activities and Bible study and they do some weird things.  Perhaps they go out of their way, unnecessarily in your opinion, to take strong stands on issues and you feel sorry for them when they get slammed with the “don’t judge me” card.  Why do they care so much?  You don’t get it.  You respect it, but you don’t get it.

May I challenge you with something?  What if for one year, 2014, you determined to explore what they seem to have found?   What if you joined a Bible study and went to church regularly?   Not a church where tradition reigns.  Go to one where Christ is King and everyone knows it.  Go to one where the Bible is read and taught and God is praised.  Go to one where people are focused on sharing the good news of salvation around the world.  Participate in the classes and learn the teachings.  Ask hard questions and as you grow in knowledge continue to consider  “is there more?”

What might your life be like in a year if you did that?  Is that too weird to even ask?

When my friend started paying attention to God and began to understand what it meant to be a Christian, her life didn’t really change.  Same family.  Same job.  Same social events.  But she changed.  Her heart changed.  Her mind changed and eventually most everything else did to.  She found truth, joy, peace and purposes she’d never known existed.  She learned of God’s love and began to desire His best.  Soon, the old life…you know, the normal, good one…was no longer appealing and it certainly was no longer enough.  She tried to go back, but she couldn’t.  She was miserable in the life that used to seem so good.  She had to move on with Christ.

Over and over again I’ve heard stories so similar to this one.  I call it the Jesus effect.  Having a relationship with Him changes people…. as it should.  HE CHANGES PEOPLE. The beautiful thing is that it is always for the better.

Could it be that you presume your life is good because you’ve never experienced God’s best?  Once you taste His goodness, nothing else satisfies. Every time I’ve been tempted — and I have — to abandon my faith and walk away from my beliefs, I’m left with nowhere to go.  Who can compare to my God?  What other truth can I stand on?  What else can I build my life on?  To whom shall I go?  Better is one day in the courts of my God than a thousand elsewhere.

If I sound crazy, you’ve been cursed with a good life.

I dare you to come and see.