The Paradox of Our Age

paradoxOne time Jesus spoke to his disciples and warned about the danger of materialism. It’s easy for us to pay more attention to what we have than who we are. He told his disciples, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15 NASB)

Dr. Bob Moorehead, who preached at Overlake Christian Church wrote an essay called “The Paradox of Our Age” where he described how far we’ve come financially, but how little we’ve progressed spiritually.

We have taller buildings but shorter tempers; wider freeways but narrower viewpoints; we spend more but have less; we buy more but enjoy it less; we have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, yet less time; we have more degrees but less sense; more knowledge but less judgement; more experts, yet more problems; we have more gadgets but less satisfaction; more medicine, yet less wellness; we take more vitamins but see fewer results.

 

We drink too much; smoke too much; spend too recklessly; laugh too little; drive too fast; get too angry quickly; stay up too late; get up too tired; read too seldom; watch TV too much and pray too seldom.

 

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values; we fly in faster planes to arrive there quicker, to do less and return sooner; we sign more contracts only to realize fewer profits; we talk too much; love too seldom and lie too often.

 

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life; we’ve added years to life, not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.

 

We’ve conquered outer space, but not inner space; we’ve done larger things, but not better things; we’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul; we’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice; we write more, but learn less; plan more, but accomplish less; we make faster planes, but longer lines; we learned to rush, but not to wait; we have more weapons, but less peace; higher incomes, but lower morals; more parties, but less fun; more food, but less appeasement; more acquaintances, but fewer friends; more effort, but less success.

 

We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication; drive smaller cars that have bigger problems; build larger factories that produce less. We’ve become long on quantity, but short on quality.

 

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men, but short character; steep in profits, but shallow relationships.

 

These are times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure and less fun; higher postage, but slower mail; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.

 

These are days of two incomes, but more divorces; these are times of fancier houses, but broken homes.

 

These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, cartridge living, thow-away morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies and pills that do everything from cheer, to prevent, quiet or kill.

 

It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stock room.

 

Indeed, these are the times!

My first response is to feel a bit depressed, but then I remember that society has always marched in this direction. Christianity calls us to march to the beat of a different drummer—even if that means marching alone.

Parents Matter

Information_for_ParentsFrom 2001-2005, researches from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill set out to study the religious and spiritual lives of American adolescents. They wanted to understand what teenagers think and why they act like they do.

The results of the study surprised many in the media. If you watch TV, you’d believe that all teenagers are rebellious drug-addicts who do nothing except complain about the older generation. The researchers found quite the opposite: teens generally have a favorable view of the church. They aren’t all pluralists who believe that “anything goes.” They really are pretty decent, after all.

Perhaps the most important finding of the study was this: when it comes to faith, teens generally mirror their parents’ actions.

Here’s what they had to say:

“…parents are normally very important in shaping the religious and spiritual lives of their teenage children, even though they may not realize it. It seems that many parents of teens rely primarily on the immediate evidence of the overt attitudes, statements, and sometimes behaviors that their teenage children dole out to them on a daily basis in order to estimate their current level of parental influence.

 

Many of the attitudes and statements that teenagers communicate to their parents do not exactly express great admiration and gratitude for and readiness to listen to, emulate, or freely obey their parents. Many parents therefore appear to come to the conclusion that they have lost their influence in shaping the lives of their teenage children, that they no longer make any significant difference. But for most, this conclusion is mistaken.

 

Teenagers’ attitudes, verbal utterances, and immediate behaviors are often not the best evidence with which to estimate parental influence in their lives. For better or worse, most parents in fact still do profoundly influence their adolescents—often more than do their peers—their children’s apparent resistance and lack of appreciation notwithstanding. This influence often also includes parental influence in adolescents’ religious and spiritual lives.

 

Simply by living and interacting with their children, most parents establish expectations, define normalcy, model life practices, set boundaries, and make demands—all of which cannot help but influence teenagers, for good or ill.

 

Most teenagers and their parents may not realize it, but a lot of research in the sociology of religion suggests that the most important social influence in shaping young people’s religious lives is the religious life modeled and taught to them by their parents.”

Parents, even when your teens roll their eyes or make bad decisions, don’t forget: you matter!

“Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” (Proverbs 29:17)

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalm 127:3)

Where Do You Go?

key_to_believe_by_augenweide-d4cefwlIf I need trustworthy information about legal risks, I hire to a lawyer.

If I want to figure out that strange thumping noise my car is making, I talk to a mechanic.

If I am preparing a meal and don’t know how high to set the oven, I consult a cookbook.

If my teeth hurt, I (begrudgingly) go to a dentist.

When we want an authoritative answer to a question, we find the best source we can. A lawyer has been trained in reading and applying the laws of the land. He knows how the courts have interpreted those laws. A mechanic knows his makes and models. He has the service bulletins and the schematics to diagnose the troubles. The cookbook has a tried-and-tested plan that produces a good meal. The dentist has seen thousands of teeth before yours. He knows what’s healthy and what’s broken.

When my car is broken, I don’t consult a chef. When I’m ready for a good meal, I don’t call the dentist. I go to the right place for the right answer.

Where do you go when you have a spiritual question?

Sometimes we just sit around and try to think about it as hard as we can. We ponder our thoughts and feelings until we’re sick and tired of thinking about it. We don’t consult anyone except our own minds—the minds which got us into the mess we’re in. Maybe we get really desperate and actually talk to a friend or family member, or we turn on our favorite TV self-help guru or read our favorite author.

When we want a trustworthy answer, we need to go to a reliable source. We understand this with lawyers, mechanics, chefs, and doctors, but sometimes we fail to see it in our spiritual lives. When we have a spiritual problem, the best place to go is to the authority on the spiritual realm: the Holy Spirit. He wrote a book, you know! It’s called the Bible. If you’re having trouble finding what you need in that book, that’s exactly what our elders are here for. They shepherd us and feed us to help us find out what God wants for us.

When you have a spiritual problem—make sure you consult a spiritual source!