Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Chuck E. Cheese

Tonight we celebrated Anna Beth's 5 year old birthday with the family at Chuck E. Cheese. I've never been to this establishment as a parent. In fact, my only remembrance of this place is when I went as a child. Back in the day it was known as Showbiz Pizza. Not much has changed. There is still the cheesy knock-off "Country Bear" animitronic character show. The pizza was okay. And there was still a Pac Man game. The place is just a whole lot smaller...and lamer...than I remember.

It was cool to see Anna Beth discover skee-ball for the first time...and the thrill of amassing gobs of tickets. She had a blast. It was interesting to watch her wonderlust for tickets increase as the night progressed. I took the gob of tickets to the Ticket Muncher, which made a gravely chewing sound as you pushed in the tickets. This contraption was a lifesaver, in that it counted the tickets for you and printed out a receipt.
My only consternation was in that fact that we won all 208 of our tickets in groups of 2 and 3. So here I am feeding this ticket muncher these tickets 2 or 3 at a time. As I was feeding this machine I was thinking to myself, "All of this buzz and excitement and play and all we'll get to show for this time is some cheap-o spider ring." I was also contemplating the Catholic concept of purgatory and how it had to be similar to this experience, especially when 2 impatient teens got behind me in line with their 2,000 tickets which were all connected together from the 3 hours that they sat in front of the Token Tilt Machine.
One of the weirdest moments was watching a grown man....a grown man....fighting with his wife because she didn't want him to waste their tokens on him showing off his basketball prowess in the free throw game. They got downright huffy with each other and were making a scene in front Chuck E. Cheese, God and everybody....all over tokens and tickets! I felt sorry for the kids who have to watch that kind of stuff. This establisment is known as the place "where a kid can be a kid."...and grown-ups can act like kids.
Tokens and tickets and trinkets are part of the fun in parties like this, but they don't amount to much. It's amazing to think that we get so fixated on winning them at places like Chuck E. Cheese. Alot of people spend great quanitities of their life chasing after the tokens, tickets, and trinkets the world has to offer, too. Yes, there is a rush in earning them. There's even some pride in showing off what you've accomplished. But in the end you're like me at the Ticket Muncher questioning the real worth of what you've just spent your life doing. This Thanksgiving, ponder the value of the things you live for. Don't just thank God for material blessings...the tokens, tickets, and trinkets. Thank Him for the spiritual blessings, the intangibles, the invaluables around you. Your spouse. Your kids. Your salvation. And, for the little cheapy spider rings He has allowed you to own along the way.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Real Source of Change...

I've been doing a lot of personal study in the Old Testament lately, in preparation for a series I'm doing on O.T. Heroes. I'm amazed by the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of God's people we see in these stories. It's really easy to look at the Israelites and their struggles and accuse them of why did you make a golden calf when God is manifesting Himself to you daily in the cloud by day and the fire by night? Or how can Gideon make a pagan idol for his family right after he witnesses the power of God take out 135,000 Midianites with an army of just 300?

The other thing that gets me is Israel's desire for a king. For centuries Israel was a theocracy with the leadership of the country loosely distributed between representatives who spoke for God: the prophets, the judges, and the priests. This loose triumvirate of leadership was tricky because there were times when one or two of this group stunk it up. The elders of Israel would gather and beg for a king...

Judges 8:22-23
The Israelites said to Gideon, "Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian." But Gideon told them, "I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you."

It wasn't enough to have this idealistic, pie in the sky, God as their king. They wanted a REAL king who could speak for himself and look them in the eyes. Besides, His representatives were not God. They were failed individuals with sinful hearts and desires. Israel also wanted one person to make decisions and, consequently, to blame when things went awry. Within the prophets, the judges, and the priests there was a lot of finger pointing. But ultimately, they wanted a human king, because he would surely bring the unity, stability, and presence they desired. People crave strong, tangible leadership.

In I Samuel 8 the elders approach Samuel and demand a king because Samuel had some lousy sons coming down the pike. Samuel goes to God, upset at the demands of the people. God comforts Samuel in verse 7 by correcting who the hurt should be directed toward, " is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king." Israel's hope for real change came in the form of a man and not in God. Israel thought that a political revolution was the answer to their problems. They put their eggs in that basket...and they eventually got Saul, the crazy tyrant. How did that solve their issues?!

There is a lesson to learn here. We, as the people of God, have to be careful that we don't put all the eggs of our hope for societal change in the political basket of our society. No one, no Conservative Right Republican or Liberal Ideologue, can really solve the ills of our society. Only the Gospel will bring the change we so desperately need - change we can believe in. Many people reacted with either uber-euphoria or utter disdain when Obama won the recent election. Both of those reactions are completely wrong. A new president will not save us, change us, or redeem this fallen land. We need real change- spiritual change. We need King Jesus to be the sovereign over the hearts and minds of America. Until that happens, it doesn't matter who is in the White House. The Religious Right sinned by buying into the guise that a "genuine" Believer in the presidency would usher in a spiritual/cultural revival...(How's the past 8 years been under a supposed strong believer in the Oval Office?) The Liberal Left has sinned in thinking "the One" will spark the social justice conscience of our culture and bring about a Utopian society where all Americans are treated equal (both medically and socially). If the Church acted like THE Church, fleshed out the Gospel, and took care of the widowed, the orphaned, and the poor, there would be no need for a Welfare system.

My prayer is for Christians to see the political arena as a peripheral venue instead of our primary means of seeing real change. We can and should be involved in politics. However, we should not depend on the political system to bring the Kingdom revolution we need. Lord bring spiritual revival! Bring spiritual change, instead of political change. Amen.