Becoming Real People

May 4, 2010 by admin  
Filed under Thoughts

zI remember coming across a timely poem in my high school American literature class.  At the time, reading it was only an assignment, but for some reason it has stuck with me over the years.  It is titled Richard Cory, by Edwin Arlington Robinson:

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

I guess what makes this bit of verse so vivid to me is that it points out a significant contradiction in the way we live:  We know the futility of status, wealth and charm in themselves, and yet we crave them relentlessly.

All of us know a Richard Cory or two: those who seem to have made it and have everything.  They are rich, beautiful, successful and admired.  They drive their sports cars around in perpetual sunshine with the convertible tops down, while we blunder through the fog in our clunkers.  The Richard Corys of the world represent the ultimate goal of so many people: to make it, whatever the cost.

Yet, from time to time, we hear the unsettling news that some celebrity or jet-setter has ended his or her life, either deliberately or through some kind of substance overdose.  We hardly know what to think at such times.  This person seemingly had it all, but threw it away.  What could have caused such despair?

Thinking a little deeper might alert us to the warning this is for all who wish to trade places with Richard Cory.  The person who makes it to the top so often goes to bed with the sinking realization that everything they have is– in itself– empty.  Beauty, wealth and popularity give only temporary satisfaction and leave a long-term hunger for something more.  Hence the never-ending search for deeper pleasures, a more impressive record, an enhanced body, more extravagant vacation or just more stuff. When these things fail to satisfy as well, leaving that gnawing hunger for fulfillment, people sometimes decide that the pain is unbearable.

Fortunately, there is an antidote to such futile living.  It can be found in the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”.

In these words, Jesus gives us a piercing insight into the workings of our own souls.  He tells us frankly that earthly treasure does not last: it can be eaten up, rusted through and stolen.  He teaches us that we can diagnose the state of our soul by examining the type of treasure it craves.  When we examine ourselves according to Jesus’ words, we may conclude that we have been seeking the wrong things most of our lives. Jesus’ answer?  Acquire incorruptable treasure.  In other words, exchange the desire for temporary, shallow things for that which is ultimately fulfilling.  But how?

It starts by getting real with ourselves.  The truth is that we desire unfulfilling things simply because they make us look and feel good without inner change.  They promise that we can bypass the struggle required to actually deserve the admiration of people and the fulfillment, which comes from an approving conscience.  In other words, a focused desire for wealth and status points out our insignificance and smallness of character.  When it becomes clear that this is what we really are, then we must repent.  Repent: such a harsh and unpleasant word.  But there is no real shame in this.  It is a universal human condition.  The sooner we get there, the more quickly we may actually become something and acquire that which will really satisfy our souls.

Then we must seek from God those things, which can give us real significance and make us truly admirable.  Things like: the ability to love people; an inner contentment regardless of circumstances; joy which cannot be suppressed by the fickleness of life; and the knack of living in and by the grace of God.  The great thing about asking God for things like this is that he is very good about giving them.

Despite his wealth and position, Richard Cory never really lived because he was just a shell.  But then, often so are we.  Jesus invites us to become truly alive and truly fulfilled by drawing our life from him: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6

Michael Bogartz

Are You a Practical Atheist?

March 31, 2010 by admin  
Filed under Thoughts

Screen shot 2010-03-31 at 9.25.30 AMIt is my observation that many people are practical atheists. I know this sounds pretty extreme, but from dealing with hundreds of people over the years, I maintain that it is true.

The popular image of atheists is that they are extreme or even belligerent people. Perhaps the image that comes to mind is of a person devoted to a purely secular way of life who gets upset when religion is mentioned. Or maybe you think of an outspoken crank crusading against the public acknowledgment of God.

But atheism has more than one face.  Militant atheists –the kind who believe in no deity– are fairly rare. Most people profess some form of theistic belief. A good many actually have a fairly standard concept of God and Jesus as they are taught in the Bible. For practical purposes, however, some of these folks function as atheists simply because they live as though faith in God had little or no connection to daily life.

So, I repeat my assertion that many people who profess belief in God are actually atheists from a practical point of view. God doesn’t really count for anything substantial with them. He gets nothing from them in terms of what they truly value: time, money, devotion. If they throw him a few bucks now and then or give up a couple of hours on a Sunday once in awhile, they feel God should be satisfied.

Practical atheists feel that their lives are their own business and that, unless they specifically call on him, God should respect that privacy. Only when a crisis comes is there some focused thinking about God and some kind of attempt to contact him.

The Bible tells us, however, that we actually owe God our very beings. If not for him, we would have no existence. It tells us that the reason we are estranged from him is because of our own choices and attitudes. It also gives us the incredible news that Jesus came to offer us forgiveness and re-connection with God. It promises us that, far from being indifferent to our need of him, God is eager to give us restored relationship and eternal life.

Another irony I have observed is that some of these practical atheists even attend church. I can only conclude that they have fallen into a confused logic, believing in God theoretically while living as though he were irrelevant. Either the God of the Bible exists or he does not. If he does not exist then, “..eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” If he does exist as the Bible describes him, then life has no real meaning without him and every aspect of our lives must be lived in light of who he is.

Michael Bogart

A Sample Ministry Covenant

February 5, 2010 by admin  
Filed under Ministry Helps, New

free-legal-documentSome type of “contract” between Christian organizations and their volunteers is becoming a necessity in our times of legal vulnerability. The following is a sample of the type of thing you may want to do to set the boundaries for volunteers within your church or ministry. It protects your volunteers in that it clearly explains their relationship to the organization. It also provides a degree of protection for the ministry or church from misbehavior on the part of of those working within its ministries. This sample covenant can be used by churches which practice formal membership or by those which have none.

Ministry Covenant

Your Church

City, State

Having received the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and desiring to serve Him through specific ministry, I most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with the body of Christ at ________________Church of ________________, _________________.

I therefore promise, through the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, to walk together with my fellow believers in Christian love; to strive for their advancement in knowledge and holiness; to make a place in my prayers for this church and its ministries; to uphold its doctrines; to serve faithfully in discharging my commitments; and to do my part in maintaining harmony and discipline.

In the case of a difference of opinion among believers ministering together in this place, I promise to avoid a contentious spirit, and if complete agreement cannot be achieved, I will recognize the calling of the leaders to govern this ministry as God may lead them and will submit to their decisions. I recognize that if I cannot in good conscience affirm the doctrinal statement or governing policies of the church, it is my duty to remove myself from any ministry, which may be affected by my views to the contrary.

I further promise to guard the reputation of my fellow believers and co-laborers and not to needlessly expose the details of their lives through my conversation with others. I promise to cultivate Christian courtesy in all my relationships; to be slow to give or take offense, and to always be ready for reconciliation, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17. Moreover I purpose, through whatever life may bring, to strive to live for God’s glory.

I understand that this covenant is not a substitute for membership at ___________________________ Church and does not carry with it any member privileges for voting or service outlined in the church constitution.

Signature __________________________________________ Date _____________

(Attach a copy of your church doctrinal statement with signature line, to the covenant)

Composed by Michael Bogart, with acknowledgments to the Baptist Covenant.

January 22, 2010 by admin  
Filed under Missions Projects, New

Mexico flagMy JARON colleague, Kenton Rahn, and I arrived in Tehuacan on Friday, January 8 in the late afternoon after a 1:05 am departure time from Fresno.  Tehuacan is a city of around 250,000 people in the southern part of the Mexican state of Puebla, located about four hours southeast of Mexico City or about an hour and a half southwest of the state capitol of Puebla.   As you may remember, I have done ministry in this place with these people several times before.

Tired doesn’t describe how we felt after two flights (Fresno/Guadalajara and Guadalajara/Mexico City) then a bus ride to Puebla and a ride by car with friends to Tehuacan. While in Puebla, we were able to make a brief visit to a main hospital there where Betty Harris Lagunes is hospitalized with cancer.  She is one of the key people on this end in instigating this JARON Bible Institute extension.  It was very good for us to see her and to visit with her family.

Saturday was a settling-in and relaxing day for the most part. Even so, Kenton and I, along with Gil Hernandez, a former missionary in this city and one of our translator/interpreters, made a visit to a local radio station in order to announce the Institute classes for the next two weeks.  We also had a counseling session with one of the students about some family issues he is working through. But, all-in-all, it was a day of recovery from the rigors of travel.  In the evening we were part of a group, which went out for “tacos arabes” at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant very near the picturesque city square.  It was a nice outing and time to be with good friends.

Most Mexican towns of any size have such a town center, or Zocalo, with the main Catholic church on one side, the city offices on another and shops of various types on the other two.  Lots of people frequent the park which is in the middle and sometimes there are sellers of various food items such as tacos, churros, candies and ice cream, along with balloons and other trinkets for the kids.  Once in awhile there is even music. It is kind of like a perpetual carnival—which is part of what gives Mexico its charm.

It was very cold while we were there: probably in the upper 40s or lower 50s–an unusual thing for that far south in Mexico.  I am guessing that the outside temperatures were comparable to Fresno in January and it rained off and on.  The problem is that almost no one has any heating system there since they would rarely use it.  So, we were cold almost all the time.  For example, one morning, I got up early to take a shower and waited maybe 15 minutes while the hot water tap was running for the water to warm up.  It never did because the family we are staying with ran out of propane, so I took a very cold partial shower.  However, I was really no worse for the experience.

After a rocky start, my Spanish rose to the occasion and even improved.  I can usually converse at a very modest level with folks, which is nice since I don’t have to have an interpreter trailing me all the time.  The food was delicious and, in some ways, very different from what many Americans would expect.  Yes, we had tacos, but they were certainly not like Taco Bell.  The tortillas are soft and the meat is either beef or pork with delicious condiments.  Other dishes included lentil stew with large semi-sweet bananas (plantains) in it; a pounded chicken breast with a marvelous sauce over it, homemade cream of mushroom soup, and of course, the best fresh tortillas in the world.  Locals boast that Tehuacan and its sister city, Coapan, are indeed the tortilla capitols of the world since experts claim that corn has been growing here longer than any other place on earth.

Sunday was a very full day.  The morning began with a 15-minute drive to Coapan, where I preached a gospel message from Psalm 112.  We broadcast the message from a loudspeaker located near the town center and the locals tell me that hundreds of people can hear what is said.  On the drive back, we stopped off to visit and pray with a woman who is part of the translation team and who had surgery the day before. Then I was invited to speak at a church called Manada Pequena (Little Flock) on transformation from the life of Jacob in Genesis 31 and 32.

Monday we began the most recent series of JARON extension classes, including:

Church History—try covering 2,000 years of Christian history in five two-hour sessions through translation.  Kenton and I taught identical sessions of each day’s material twice: first from 6:30-8:30 am in one church and then again from 7:30 to 9:30 pm in another location. I had been wondering whether the initial enthusiasm for this type of rigorous training would eventually subside, but so far it hasn’t.  During the five days of teaching there were an average of more than 100 students spread out over the two daily sessions. Even though each day included the teaching sessions in the early morning and late evening, plus counseling, jail ministry and invitations to people’s homes— our health stayed good throughout.  Thanks, Lord!

The next week our colleague, Gene Beck arrived with Wes Janca to teach five days on biblical anthropology (the study of human nature from the scriptures). The beauty of all this is that it is a group effort, including the team of Mexican believers who make this ministry possible and who carry it on all year round.

Some exciting things include the fact that our friend Enrique is using some of our JARON class materials in the jail each week to teach the prisoners theology.  He reports that they are learning and looking forward to each lesson.  Another student, Jose, has started a radio program in which some of what he is learning at the JBI extension is being passed on to the listeners.  Others are taking what they are learning to the surrounding villages and towns to teach in churches and ministry centers throughout the region.  These types of things assure us that what we are doing twice yearly in Tehuacan is worthwhile.

I need to say a word about the fabled Mexican hospitality.  We were housed and fed by an amazing team of local believers.  Over and over we were told by those who hosted us in their homes or for a meal that it was their pleasure to do so.  If we mentioned anything that could be construed as a need, it was done without hesitation (which reminded us to be careful in mentioning anything casually for fear that it might be understood as a request).  Maybe the best way to express my personal experience is to describe the contrast between our treatment going through security in Mexico, versus treatment upon our return to the United States.  The entire tenor of addressing people in Mexico tends to be much more respectful.  For example, the security official who inspected my luggage at the Mexico City airport and frisked me down did so with apologetic comments and great courtesy.

However, upon our arrival at LAX on the evening of January 16, we were spoken to very curtly on several occasions, the procedure for moving to where we needed to go was confusing and communicated in a way which I thought was unnecessarily rude.  Even the restaurant personnel at the airport were apathetic and offered very poor customer service. I realize that this is LAX and that the security (and the nerves of people) are very tight these days.  Yet I maintain that Americans are fast forgetting what they once knew about hospitality and courtesy.  Mexico is still a wealthy country when it comes to such things.

Thanks for your prayers during the time we were there.  Not once did we feel endangered in any way and we sensed the hand of the Lord upon us daily.

Michael Bogart

Explaining Jesus’ Lack of Knowledge

December 29, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Ministry Helps, Thoughts

Jesus4Here’s a question that was put to me recently about the interaction of Jesus’ divine and human natures:

Question: Since Jesus, as the Son of God and Second Person of the Trinity, is coequal with God the Father (and of course with the Holy Spirit as well) and since God is omniscient, how can the Son not know the timing of the future in Matthew 24:36? “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (ESV)

Answer: The conventional theological explanation is that because Jesus emptied himself of the right to use certain divine attributes (Philippians 2:6ff), he therefore voluntarily put himself in a position where he limited lots of things about his divine nature in order to be truly human.

For example, he was limited to being in one place at a time, he was limited in that he had to eat, sleep, etc. It is natural therefore for him to be limited in knowledge as well, though that seems to have been periodically overridden at times when he had special insight into people’s thinking, etc.

I hope this sheds some light on the issue.

Michael Bogart

Dealing with an Unforseen Change in Plan

December 19, 2009 by admin  
Filed under New, Thoughts

Christ's BirthLessons from a familiar holiday story

Isn’t it amazing how things often don’t turn out as planned?  You think things through very carefully and get key steps set up ahead of time, with all details considered.  Finally, you are ready to go.  Then, without warning, something unforeseen changes the situation and all your effort seems for naught.  How could this happen?  Maybe it is a catastrophe affecting not only yourself, but others as well.  It may be that someone you were counting on lets you down.  Either way, your plans are no longer possible—at least in the form you intended.

For most of us, this causes frustration and depression, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  In fact, when things don’t run along smoothly according to your plans, it can be the gateway to much greater blessing that you had previously imagined.

Take for instance the case of a young carpenter.  He and his bride-to-be are making plans to settle down in a small city and begin life as a family.  They are from devoutly religious families, so their plans include a deep desire to serve God.  The wedding, the preparation of a home, their dreams for the future—all make life exciting.  But suddenly everything changes.  Before they are married, the young man’s bride becomes noticeably pregnant.  And, if this isn’t problem enough given their culture and religious upbringing, the prospective groom knows beyond any doubt that he is not the father of the child.

She has told him and her parents a far-fetched story about being visited by an angel and told that God is going to give her a supernaturally-conceived child.  But who would believe such a story?  Most people would draw the natural conclusion that she is either a liar or somehow deranged in her thinking.  So, scratch one wedding.  But then, the prospective groom is also visited by the same angel.  He is reassured that his fiancée’s story is true.  The wedding is on again, but under much different circumstances.

The plot thickens.  As the time draws near for the birth of the child, there is another drastic change of plan.  The government of the nation which has conquered and occupied their people has ordered a census.  This is to be carried out by mandating that everyone return to their ancestral towns to be counted.  So, late in Mary’s pregnancy, the couple makes a hasty and extremely arduous journey to a distant city where they have no connections.  This would be like asking all of us to return to the place where our paternal ancestors originated generations ago.  In my case, it would involve traveling back to a small town just south of Rotterdam in Holland.  Few of us would be more than outsiders in such places.

Upon arrival, the carpenter and his young wife find that Bethlehem is swamped with visitors.  This is because the family of their distant ancestor, King David, was a large and prosperous one.  Therefore, lots and lots of their remote cousins have also been forced in this journey.  That is why every available room for rent as already been taken.  We don’t know how long Joseph and Mary spent asking around and receiving no help, but it must have been a relief when some kind-hearted person offered a stable where the desperate couple could shelter.  It was in these less-than-ideal circumstances where Mary gave birth to the baby who would change the world.

Plans change; lives are dramatically affected; and yet God is sovereign.  I often wonder why God asks people to do amazing and difficult things and then, seemingly, gives few details about how the plan is to be carried out.  The Bible is full of such cases.  Undoubtedly this requires living by faith, but I’m sure that Mary and Joseph would have appreciated at least a rough outline of what they would have to face along the way.  In my study of the Bible, I have found that God typically gives the overall direction and the promises to go along with it.  But he leaves it up to us to navigate our way through the details of fulfilling that objective.  And, when it all seems impossible, he steps in at crucial moments to orchestrate circumstances and motivate people to make possible the fulfilling of his plan.

If you are experiencing a major setback in life or a significant re-arrangement of your neatly-ordered future, it may be well to remember this record of some people who experienced much the same thing.  Mary and Joseph trusted God.  They accepted his plan in their lives and believed that, if he called them to fulfill a certain purpose, he would also provide the means to do so.  In their faith and obedience, they experienced blessing themselves and were the means of unimaginable blessing for the rest of us.

So, trust God: he will never let you down.  He may not give you the detailed road map you desire as you follow him through the twists and turns of your journey, but he will see to it that you arrive at the destination.  Of course, ultimately, the true destination is home, not to the inadequate city of a remote ancestor, but to the eternal and unspeakably wonderful city of God our Father!

Michael Bogart

Holidays or Holy Days?

December 13, 2009 by admin  
Filed under New, Thoughts

HolidayAre you ready for the holidays? There is shopping to be done, cards to send, meals to plan and a thousand preparations to make this time of year. The month of December is usually a very happy time of year. But amid all the flurry of activity, what exactly is this thing we blithely refer to as the holiday season?

With just a little examination, the term holiday itself reveals much of its own meaning: holidays are holy days. These seasons are times we have set aside for certain sacred purposes. For instance:

Family. God has ordained the family as the basic unit of society. Families exist for the purposes of loving, nurturing, encouraging and accepting their members. Because they were created by God, for these vital functions, families are sacred, and therefore figure heavily into any holiday celebration.

Rest. What is holy about rest? In the Old Testament portion of the Bible, God himself prescribes regular times and seasons for the cessation of labor and the keeping of festivals. Because God designed human society for both productive labor and restful celebration, to stop our working and spend a few days in relaxation and enjoyment is a sacred activity.

Worship. Obviously, holy days imply a renewal of our contact with God in some way. Many churches hold special services during the holiday season. Family worship is also a highly appropriate way to express our devotion and gratitude to our Creator. Personal worship, including a time of Bible study, reflection and prayer can go a long way in this regard.

So, let’s enjoy the holiday season! Spend time with family if you can. Relax and change the pace of life for a few days. By all means make it a point to come into God’s presence through worship. May your holiday season be bright and joyous.

Michael Bogart

The Christmas Focus

December 11, 2009 by admin  
Filed under New, Thoughts

santa and jesus1(Santa is No Substitute)

I am not one of those people who are opposed to Santa Claus, the Christmas tree or the yuletide spirit. Personally, I think that it can be a wonderful thing when families and friends enjoy the American and European traditions of Christmas at this time of year. Our family has always had a tree in the house in the weeks before Christmas Day, and it would be a yearly event to decorate it and the rest of the house with all sorts of festive nick-nacks. Over the years, my kids enjoyed waiting for the coming of Santa on Christmas Eve and, on Christmas morning, opening the gifts left under the tree in his name. It is my belief that traditions are hard enough to come by as it is in early Twenty-first Century America.  It would be a pity to lose these types of happy memories and excitement during the Christmas season.

However, it should be remembered that, for followers of Jesus, the focus of the season has always been the incarnation of the Son of God. The Christmas season is meant to be a strong object-lesson in God’s personal care and love for each of us since he made the unfathomable sacrifice and took the immense trouble to take on flesh and blood and live on this globe just as we do. The manger, not the fir tree, is the central symbol of what we celebrate.

Though the mixing of Christian and traditional elements in the same holiday is confusing to some, many people can maintain this dual celebration without much effort. The trick is to enjoy the trimmings without losing the focal point. So, let’s sing Jolly Old Saint Nick and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Let’s feast, send cards and decorate the house. But let us never forget to bow our knees in awe and with a deep sense of gratitude for the birth of God’s Son into the world. Without that, we would indeed be lost and hopeless. No amount of Yuletide cheer could ever substitute for the birth of the baby in Bethlehem!

Michael Bogart

Living in Fast Forward

December 5, 2009 by admin  
Filed under New, Thoughts

fast forwardIf I have any regrets related to the years in which my wife and I were raising our four children, the biggest would be that I was not paying attention. Melinda has asked me several times in the past couple of years if I remember one incident or another in the lives of our children when they were small. My answer has sometimes been, “No, not really.”

Of course, she was much more focused on their day-to-day upbringing than I was. I was a busy solo pastor of a smaller church, trying to care for and build a congregation in the midst of acquiring property and constructing buildings. The truth is, I do remember many things about my kids from those days. They were cute and funny and we had some amazing and sometimes hilarious times. But my memories are in the form of snapshots, not video, and it is difficult for me to reconstruct some of what went on more than twenty years ago.

I was always focused on the future–the next Sunday’s sermon, the upcoming business meeting, the next step in the building program, dealing with someone’s urgent concerns, etc. The actual “now” was almost always sacrificed on the altar of the near or distant future. I suspect that my situation as a pastor is not all that different from many people whose lives are goal-oriented.

Recently, I have been in a minor crisis about God’s will for my life. For the past several years I have made my living as a part time adult ministries pastor, part time missions executive and part time college instructor. Talk about fragmentation! In all of this multi-tasking, I have begun to seek God’s will for a more focused future. I have prayed, “Father, which direction should I pursue? Where should I be five years from now (if you permit me to remain on earth that long)? What is the best use of my training, talents and experience?” Through months of prayer, I have received the same types of answers most sincere believers receive: impressions and difficult-to-interpret circumstances. This has led me to ponder the bigger question of what it means to live by faith in a providential God.

In this quest for personal direction, it has dawned on me that my need for more specific guidance is heavily influenced by my American culture. We Americans and other Westerners have come to believe that we have a certain right to know what is happening to us so that we can make informed choices affecting the outcome of our lives. After all, if we are going to be pursuing life, liberty and happiness it is important that we have at our disposal as much information as possible about what may lie ahead.

But as I have thought about it, there is really nothing in scripture which supports this assumption. On the one hand, in several places Proverbs teaches the wisdom of at least tentative planning. Yet on the other, James 4:13-16 plainly says that we are not to be presumptuous about either the ultimate wisdom of our plans or our ability to carry them out,“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.”

Scripture teaches that, though the making of goals is wise, goals should be made with enough flexibility so that God may direct us in ways we do not have the wisdom to plan for. Practically, this means that thinking about the future should never overshadow living in the present. The truth is, we do not know enough about God’s specific purposes for our lives to do that much advance planning. But we do know enough about God’s will to live full and abundant lives. Some things the Bible teaches very plainly and simply: we must honor God with the “now” each of us is given. We must love and bless people around us. We must fully enjoy God’s good gifts–family, friends, experiences, possessions. And any planning we may legitimately do for the future should be done with these very types of things in mind. In other words, we should get our neurotic fingers off the fast forward button and hit play.

Michael Bogart

The Dangers of Missing Out

November 16, 2009 by admin  
Filed under New, Thoughts

Screen shot 2009-11-16 at 4.06.51 PM

If there is something which is almost guaranteed to horrify people in contemporary society, it might be the fear of missing out on some significant life-experience.  The thought of going through one’s years without something which many others enjoy is a highly disagreeable one to most North Americans and Europeans.  As a result, there is a frantic rush in our society to do all those things which are commonly accepted as making life worth living.

Parents, for example, are concerned that their children not miss out on the commonly accepted activities of childhood.  As a parent myself (and now grandparent as well), I have always wanted my kids to have as many positive experiences and helpful tools as can be provided.  Many parents share this seemingly legitimate desire.  Hence we enroll our children in a myriad of sporting events, music lessons, clubs and enrichment activities.  We take them to fairs and outings and spend a significant amount of money on vacations and educational events.

Or what about all the material possessions on the “must have list”?  The newer car, the larger home, the more fashionable clothing, the more exotic vacation are always topics of conversation and comparison.  For many people these things truly dominate mental activity.  I also have experienced the gravitational pull of things on lists like this.  I certainly wouldn’t make the claim that the things on such a list are necessarily wrong.  Nice things are just that: nice things.  To acquire some of them can be quite legitimate pursuits.

Even so, I am wondering whether this fear of missing out on something is in itself the cause of losing other, more lasting benefits.  In our frenzy to acquire a chunk of the “good life” we may have lost sight of some of the things, which make life truly good.  Consider this:  The generations now coming into their own such as GenX (born after 1965) and the Millenials (born after 1985) have clearly had more advantages than any previous groups.  At the same time, they are also the generations with the least amount of religious training of any kind.  I should know: I have taught young people from these generational groups on a college-level for the past two decades in courses such as philosophy, world religion and western civilization.  These younger people certainly have plenty of opinions.  It is just that many times, they lack the factual framework and formal religious training on which to base a valid opinion.

I have also wondered whether there is any link between the trend away from religious training and the rising rates of teen suicide, drug use, sexual activity and alcohol abuse by these same generations.  Or what about the broken marriages and disjointed lives, which are so common? How about the staggering numbers of lawsuits and the flood of recent legislation designed to ensure that people get what they believe they rightfully deserve?

Now contrast this picture with the profound inner peace, simplicity of lifestyle, and clarity of life-focus which are promised in the New Testament to those who fully put their trust in God.  There is also the sense of relaxation about having the things needed for daily living, the ability to weather the storms of interpersonal relationships and the ability to bravely face the uncertainties of life.  All of these things are offered to those who take up their crosses and follow Jesus.

Many people are missing these very things because of their desperate desire not to miss out on the “good things of life”.  It would seem that the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24 turn out to be right: A person cannot serve both God and mammon (riches).  He or she will end up loving and serving one or the other, but not both (my paraphrase).

Missing out?  The comparison of these conflicting pursuits begs an important question: Who is really missing out on things which are of true importance?

Michael Bogart

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