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Potholes - Symptoms of an Eroding Foundation

When we lived in New Orleans, we had the perpetual problem of potholes.  The local paper, The Times Picayune, even included a section on their website called, "Pothole Patrol" which was a place people could "discuss [their] area's countless cavernous street creatures."


The reason for the voluminous potholes is, of course, that the ground underneath the roadways continues to shift and sink.  When road crews come along and simply fill in a pothole, inevitably another one appears further down.  If you drive over a deep pothole, you know how jarring it can be to your car and your spine.  But the real problem is not the pothole.  The pothole is just an indicator that a deeper problem exists: eroding foundations.  


Right down the street from where we used to live were a number of potholes, and it got to where I memorized their location in order to veer around them like an obstacle course.  But every so often, a new pothole would appear, and I would get jarred once again.  


I'm amazed at the number of people who experience potholes in life, but rather than deal with them--and, more importantly, the core issues causing them--they simply ignore them.  They find ways to steer clear of the gaping holes for as long as they can, but then the issues become so colossal they take a nose dive in and can't find a way out.  In a wrecked marriage, finances or job, they wonder how they got there in the first place. 


A young couple early in their marriage might recognize they have some potholes, but rather than deal with them, they go around them or just apply a thin layer of asphalt and hope the cause of the pothole just goes away.  If the core issues are left unattended, however, the surface of the marriage begins to give way, leaving deeper holes and problems.  


A church might recognize it has some potholes, but if it does not deal with the systemic issues that caused the potholes in the first place, more potholes will begin to show up wreaking havoc on the spiritual spines of the church members.  


Churches, like marriages, need to be built on a solid foundation.  When things aren't going well on the surface, it's time to go below the surface and check on the condition of the core.  And what is the core?  According to the Apostle Paul, it is "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).  Paul goes on and writes, "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving" (2:6).  We are to hold "fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God" (2:19).  "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (3:2).  In another letter, Paul lays out his goal to see Christ formed in the lives of others (Galatians 4:19).  To the church in Corinth, Paul wrote, "For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:11).


Every time I make my marriage about me, I start finding more potholes.  Every time I make our church about my wishes and desires, more potholes seem to surface out of nowhere.  My primary calling is not to preach, teach, or lead.  It is to become like Jesus Christ.  Your primary calling is not to your job, your spouse or even your children.  It is to have Christ formed in you.  The Core comes first, and then we can start filling in the potholes and move on down the road.  When you and I continue to be shaped by the Spirit of Christ into conformity with Christ, we will exemplify Christ in what we say and do.  May St. Patrick's prayer be ours as well: "Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me."  Amen.

The 'No Religion' Religion

I just learned this week about a “new” religion.  It’s called No Religion.  They have a website, www.lifewithoutreligion.org, billboards, a creed, and even an evangelistic appeal to join their community of “secular humanist or free thought groups” that have “regular meetings, activities and family events.”


Now, let’s think about this.  What is a religion?  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, religion is “the belief in a god or in a group of gods; an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods; an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group.”  Basically religion is a belief system, and this “no religion” of secular humanism is therefore, by definition, a religion.  They have a belief system where they are their own gods:  “We make our own meaning and are free to create purpose for our own existence.  We decide for ourselves what we want to do with the limited time we have on the planet.”  They have their own local and universal church: “We are connected with family, friends—even people we interact with around the world who (sic) we’ve never met in real life.”  They have their own doctrine: “[We] share our values and ideals. . . .  We’re not here for some cosmic or universal purpose—we’re simply here.  But that’s a good thing, because it means we get to decide what to do with our lives.  We get to figure out what we want our purpose to be.”


And this religion is growing.  According to their website, 20% of the U.S. population identifies itself as having “no religion,” an increase of 5% over the past five years, which represents 63 million people.  What’s most concerning to me is how the percentage of those ascribing to “no religion” increases dramatically in younger generations.  9% of the generation born between 1928-1945 is defined as having no religion.  This increases to 15% among Baby Boomers (those born between 1946-1964), 21% among GenXers (1965-1980), 30% among older Millennials (1981-1989), and 34% among younger Millennials (1990-1994). 


So let me cut to the chase.  This no-religion religion espouses that humanity needs no divine command to determine right vs. wrong.  Their doctrine teaches that “basic moral rules are common to all cultures.”  Really?  Have you been to Somalia lately?  They also teach that concerning “more complex issues, especially ones that touch on public policy, we have science and reason to help guide us.  We study different behaviors, and we use facts and data to help determine which behaviors are truly harmful and which ones are actually benign.  We decide right and wrong based on real-world experience, not on tradition or what a god wants or doesn't want.”  Sounds like a direct quote out of the Nazi handbook on extermination of the Jews.  Hitler and his savage henchmen studied different behaviors, used science and reason to guide them, and used facts and data to determine which behaviors they declared truly harmful or benign. 


Call me a non-believer.  If we decide right and wrong based on real-world experience, we’re in a real-world of hurt.  Real-world experience teaches us that whoever has the political muscle gets to decide right and wrong, and it doesn’t bode well for those who think differently. 


I for one ascribe to a different belief system, one that does not place the rules of right and wrong in the hands of scientists, politicians, or philosophers.  C. S. Lewis put it this way, “The Law of Human Nature, or of Right and Wrong, must be something above and beyond the actual facts of human behavior.  In this case, besides the actual facts, you have something else—a real law which we did not invent and which we know we ought to obey” (Mere Christianity).  The One who breathed this real law into place is a Person who has placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:10).  He is the One who gives us purpose and meaning and who desires that we should seek Him, though “He is actually not far from each one of us, for `In him we live and move and have our being’” (Acts 17:27-28). 


If I have to make a choice, and I do, I’d much rather hang my hat on the peg of the Creator who has given me life both now and forever through His Son, Jesus Christ, than on the peg of a handful of people who get to make up the rules as they go along.  I leave you with this.  The choice is yours.  What will you choose?

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