Time, Politics and Devotion

For a couple of decades I have felt we were stuck between Statism and Corporatism, both undermine community, family, social connections, and faith activities.

Recently I was listening to a talk given by one of my favorite authors, Peter Kreeft (C.S. Lewis expert among many other things). If you listen to the whole thing, it’s quite obvious it’s pre-9/11, and I would love to hear him talk about what’s changed. (BTW, the Veritas Forum is the best place on-line for free lectures by Christian thinkers.)

So, the talk focuses on two principles: 1) The foundation of society is morality, and 2) the foundation of morality is religion. He talks about the primacy of moral relativism in the three primary “mind-molding” institutions in America: education, entertainment and journalism. He says the abolition of God from society will necessarily lead to the abolition of man (the title of a Lewis book). If a man stands in front of a mirror and then leaves the room, his image goes with him. Man is made in the image of God, so if we abolish Him we commit social suicide, in effect.

Agreed. But what Kreeft does not focus on is that the family is the foundation of society, and is supposed to be the primary mind-molding institution in that society for value formation and transmission.

Deutronomy 6: 4-9: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

What I don’t hear from conservative Christians–who feel they have to side with the GOP to stop Statism, socialism, moral relativism, secular humanism, etc., is the stand against an economy that forces long hours, frequent relocations, two incomes, continual education, and constant communication (blackberries, e-mail, video conferencing, etc.)

Adults have little time for their own Bible reading and prayer, let alone family devotions, and even less for church and community building activities. A retired pastor at our church who services on Council for the Stewardship position has been doing a series this year on stewardship of time. “The Biblical model for time spending,” he writes, “is that the first hour belongs to God.” Jesus practiced this, and it is in keeping with the concept of “first fruits” when giving a tithe.

Yet, the typical work day for many now begins at 7:30 and ends at 5:30 or later, often with at least a 30 minute commute, one way. I have to get up before 6 to get my 1/2 hour, not hour in, and if I take an Ambian, this becomes impossible. I try to do family devotions, but they quickly become inconsistent with the various schedules, often things that have to be done for just a little exercise (tennis), career development (Explorers), or community service (for college applications) or health (orthodontist, doctors.).

I recently had an exchange with a youth advisor and parent of two of our senior high. I had to keep asking her over and over in emails she never replied to if they would be here to help for Roadside Cleanup (our youth sponsor our road with the Adopt-A-Highway program), so I could let the Lutheran Men, who fix us breakfast, know how many. Finally, she replied no. One son had to be up early Friday and the other was going to prom Sat. night, so “image the reaction I got when I told them we needed to be at church at 8 am Saturday morning.”

I replied that I understood; that we are busy, too, but that we have a contract, and I scheduled it 6 weeks in advance. What can we do to get youth here in the future? (My kids often make up 35-60% on any youth activity). Her reply:

These are hard times to be involved . Everyone is so busy, parents and kids a like…Hate to say it but I’d be hard pressed to find someone not stressed out. Hate that, really do cause nothing is much fun anymore. I admit, I’m tired as well as frustrated too. Doesn’t help when parents don’t commit to bringing the kids [huh?!] but the amount of young people in the church says that. That’s extremely sad. Mine don’t go to Sunday school cause it’s the only day of the week we don’t have to rush out the door . We are too scheduled of a society. It will be our down fall I believe. I think that’s why we have such low participation . Everyone is tired of being so busy. I know what you are thinking now….we don’t have our priority in the right place and I whole heartedly agree. Shame…but you know what Bo….Thank God for for you and your family. You guys are such a huge part…with out you guys I’m not sure if we would be as involved.

If they admit their priorities are in the wrong place, and their only reaction to that is a apathetic shrug and a “Shame,” what can you do as a youth leader? This is a member of our Council and a youth advisor.

But the larger issue is how do we as a Church stand both against a society that would tell us there is no higher value than self-fulfillment, no greater truth than our feelings and no authority higher than autonomous Man, and against a system that says one’s employer should get the best of your time, talent, commitment and loyalty and that depends upon cradle to grave formal education (half of Wayne Community is adults trying to get better jobs, secure their jobs or get promotions in their jobs) and non-stop consumption to function?

I actually wrote this months ago and never got around to posting it.  Interesting enough one of today’s featured talks at Veritas is: Can Capital Markets be Moral? The Global Financial System in the Dock

(5 + 2) x Jesus = Enough 4 All

“Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ’Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?'” –John 6:8b-9

As school starts back and we approach Rally Day and the kick-off of our annual stewardship campaign, imagine if there were a way to multiply time. Would you believe me if I told you it’s possible?

The Bible is full of lessons on different types of sacrifices to make to God: a “broken and contrite heart” (Ps 51), “a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Ps 116), “of praise” (Heb. 13), our “bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12), and money, among others. In speaking of the monetary sacrifices made “beyond their means” to financially support his ministry, Paul said, of the “churches of Macedonia,” that “they gave themselves first to the Lord.”

“They gave themselves first to the Lord,” and somehow, then, were able to give “beyond their means, of their own free will, begging earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints.” (2 Cor. 2:8) Wow!

Jesus has a knack of multiplying that which we first freely give to him for His service. Take the fish and loaves, for example. When I read that story in John 6, I have to stop and think “Only a child would have given his small lunch to Jesus to feed 5000 people.” Someone, probably more like Martha than Mary, had responsibly sent her son out with a small lunch. Which of us would have given it up? I’d have thought “Why should I go hungry so that everyone else can also go hungry, because if I give up this lunch you can be sure of one thing: None of us will be satisfied.”

Not that boy. He gave “first to the Lord,” and the Lord multiplied it, not just until everyone was satisfied, but until everyone was satisfied and there were leftovers to boot! In our frantic, panicked, stressed-out, overwhelmed lives do we dare to believe He can do it with time?

I think the answer is a resounding and emphatic “YES!” I firmly believe that God gives us more than enough time to do the work He’s given us to do. Sadly, we beg for enough time when He longs to give us leftovers.

Often times in our lives, when it all gets to be too much, the first thing we neglect is our relationship with God. Our personal devotions, our church attendance, and our participation in Sunday school and Bible study (that is, our personal and corporate worship and our Christian education) suffer. Our service is often maintained, because so much of our image is dependent upon it, but it’s often done with feelings of stress and frustration rather than joy and gladness.

Lord knows (and I say that literally without an ounce of irreverence) we need to rest. He knew it when he designed us; He knew it when He instituted the Sabbath; He knew it when He called us and when He commissioned us. We’re the ones who don’t seem to understand.