“I’m Not Getting Fed”:Confronting the voice of Consumer Christianity

As an American I live in a consumer culture. Just check out the cereal isle of your local grocery store and take note of how many options there are for corn flakes and that is just corn flakes! We’ve coined phrases like, “The customer is always right,” “the customer is king,” and my favorite slogan from days gone by, “Your way, right away.” We’re used to paying for things and getting what we want. Almost every industry has someone else competing to offer a better or alternative product so we are never without a choice in the matter. You have tons of options when it comes to car insurance, cell phone coverage, or even what kind of pick-up you want to drive.

i'm not getting fed

To be fair, that’s probably healthy for our economy… but when we carry consumerism into other area’s of our life it can be deadly. We’re so used to getting upgrades, new leases, and trading in the old model when something new, better, more convenient that we have let that mindset creep into our relationships. Can you imagine cutting ties with a friend because a better friend came along? Or how about filing for divorce in order to get a newer younger model? (unfortunately those phrases have been used). Consumerism can trick us into thinking we have options in places where we should have commitments.

I see it in the church too. Folks send their children to one church for it’s children’s ministry, their students go to another church for student ministry, and the parents attend a different church’s community group and maybe they all show us on a Sunday morning where they have opinions about the musical style or the preaching. Folks talk about a pastor or church and say something like, “I wasn’t getting fed” and “My needs weren’t being met,” and “they didn’t have anything for me.” (All phrases that remind me of when my children were infants by the way) And that’s the rub, Christianity for these folks is just a product to be consumed. It’s about getting their needs wants met.

While that may work for corn flakes, it doesn’t work in real relationships like marriage. Consumers quit on marriages because they are consumed with their own needs instead of the needs of their partner. They would soon discover that there is actually real joy in focusing on meeting the needs of your partner and marriages can flourish that way, but that takes commitment. It’s the same way with raising children. As a society, we remove children from the homes of parents who can’t see past their own needs to meet the needs of their children. If you’re a parent, you know that there is a real joy that comes in meeting the needs of your child and even providing some of their wants along the way (despite everything their selfishness may put you through).

That is how church is supposed to work. We are to look out for one another (Philippians 2:4) and work together (1 Corinthians 12:12-31) and meet regularly for encouragement (Hebrews 10:25) and in doing so train our children to be those who commit in relationships, not those who consume. The church is the people, not the program, not the building… the people, and that implies a relationship one to another.

If you really want to grow, do more than just absorb the programming. Get involved, be invested, participate in the life of the church by volunteering. If you have children and you think the children’s ministry could up it’s game, don’t send your kids to another church, volunteer for the children’s ministry team! If you don’t/ can’t volunteer… provide snacks, offer to help financially if you are able, find a way to invest. Find the church the Lord leads you too and get plugged in and serve. You will find there is more joy in the commitment than in consuming because church really has more to do with relationships than it does with products and programs. Ultimately it is about a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I get how God might call you to serve another church. He does this sort of thing all the time. He certainly called my family from one church to serve another, but be sure you are following God’s call and not your own consumer impulses. And as much as possible worship together with one congregation.


 

Philippians 4:14-20 (Devotional Thought)

Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:14-20 ESV)

Paul is beginning to wrap up the letter to the Philippians. He is so glad that the gospel has taken root in their lives and that it is transforming them. The church there is not ashamed to be associated with Paul. He gives us a rare picture of what happened after he had to leave Philippi in Acts 16. He travels on to Thessalonica to start another church. Scholars estimate that Paul didn’t stay the Thessalonica long before he had to leave, perhaps a few weeks. Yet, even while he was in Thessalonica a group from Philippi had caught up with Paul and brought him some money to make sure he didn’t have any needs.

This small church had only been in existence for a month, maybe two and they are already Continue reading “Philippians 4:14-20 (Devotional Thought)”

Philippians 4:10-13 (Devotional Thought)

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:10-13 ESV)

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” is perhaps one of the most misquoted verses of all time. I have to confess that as a young athlete I thought this verse was awesome because I thought that quoting it before I tried to make my free-throw shots in basketball would somehow help me become a better player.

The Apostle Paul is actually talking about Continue reading “Philippians 4:10-13 (Devotional Thought)”

Philippians 4:8-9 (Devotional Thought)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9 ESV)

We are responsible for the kind of thoughts we have. Our thoughts, or habit of thought, is something that we develop and feed. The way we think is similar to the way we enjoy food. The first time I tasted coffee I thought it was awful. However, I developed a strong taste and appreciation for coffee while in college (my parents don’t even own a coffee pot). I now drink coffee every day. I’ve gotten to where I like it so much that I drink it without cream, sugar or anything else. I have acquired a taste for coffee.

Paul urges us to acquire a taste for good thinking. He challenges us to think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, excellent, and worthy of praise. This becomes a filter to help us see how we currently think and move us toward godly thinking. How we think will ultimately determine how we act.

So for example there are a lot of things you can expose yourself to by watching TV. I have to admit that often times we look at a movie and wonder how much “bad stuff” are we going to have to fast forward through if we buy or rent a particular movie.

I remember one time when I was younger we went to the video store to rent a movie. We picked one out that we thought was cool. We got home started watching it and five minutes into the movie my dad got up, ejected the movie and put it back in the case. He said, “Hey kids, I’m sorry. We are not going to watch that movie tonight. It has too many curse words in it. As you know I don’t use those words and I don’t want you to use those words. If we had a guest in our house talking like that, I would ask them to change their tone or leave. I thought by the rating on the video that it wouldn’t be this bad, but I was wrong. We’ll take it back tomorrow and find another movie.”

At the time I was totally furious with my dad. I was hooked. We had watched five minutes of the movie and I was being entertained! Now I look back and realize that my dad was trying to guard our thoughts… By-the-way I’ve since come to really respect my dad for that day. He was being a good dad!

It’s not just staying away from bad thoughts, the actual command here is proactive. We are to think about good things. We are to be the kind of people that intentionally focus on the things for which we can praise God. I think this involves filling our mind with the scripture, singing worship songs and hymns, surrounding ourselves with people who will encourage us in the Lord, participating in the life of the local church, telling others about Jesus, and so much more.

Paul offers his own life as an example for the church at Philippi to follow. Who is a godly person in your life that as best you can tell models what it is like to focus on good thoughts?

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Philippians 4:6-7 (Devotional Thought)

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)

Anxiety is a big deal. Odds are that you’ve wrestled with it. It is that feeling you get about uncertainty over the future. You get nervous, scared, maybe even unable to think or move because of what might happen. You might fail a class and have to repeat it. You might have to move. You might not ever make any friends at your new school. Someone might pick on you mercilessly at school tomorrow. Your teacher might call on your in class and you have no clue about what you are studying.

What are some of the things that you have been anxious about?

It can be tough to hear Paul say, “Do not be anxious about anything.” But think for a moment about his life and his circumstances. He was chained next to a Roman guard when he wrote this. He was about to stand trial before Cesar (possibly Nero). It is very possible that he would be executed. Any day he could get called up for trial. He of all people has a lot of reasons to be anxious, but he isn’t… He has found something that puts anxiety to sleep.

Paul says to pray about everything. So if your math class is giving you anxiety. Do you’re homework and pray. Tell God that you feel anxious when you see the letter “X” where a number should be and your teacher keeps repeating “Solve for X” because you have no clue. Tell God that you are concerned about what other people might think of your tennis shoes. Tell God that you felt like you were left out and abandoned when you found out that all of your friends got together to go bowling and you weren’t even invited. Tell God everything.

Somehow the practice of prayer allows us to confess our dependence on God. We recognize when we pray to the Father that He is in control. He holds the future and nothing happens without His knowledge. When we spill our guts about what might happen, He already knows the outcome. We can trust Him because He loves us, He walks with us, and nothing is beyond His grasp.

When we pray about everything, we find the peace of God. We can rest knowing that the events may not turn out like we would want them too, but God is definitely in control. What is amazing is that Paul can offer us God’s Word because he is living in the midst of it. His heart and mind are being guarded daily by Jesus as he lifts everything to Jesus in prayer.

What are things that you need to lift up to God in prayer today?

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Philippians 4:1-5 (Devotional Thought)

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; (Philippians 4:1-5 ESV)

The Apostle Paul reminds the church at Philippi that the loves them. He wants to be with them. That’s part of why he wrote this letter. He couldn’t be there, but he could still encourage them by writing. He wants them (and us) to take what he has written seriously. This is God’s word to the church. He challenges believers in light of everything he has written to “stand firm.”

I grew up in Montana. The Rocky Mountains range was just an hours drive from our house and so often we would go explore various parts of the mountains. I remember one time we set out to cross a broad river. It didn’t look intimidating because it wasn’t very deep, but the water was ice cold (it was fed from melting glaciers) and at the time the current was very strong. When I entered the river I panicked because I didn’t expect so much pressure from the current but after a while I was able to get my footing and cross the river.

When Paul says to “stand firm” it’s like resisting that current that I came across in the river. It requires diligence and attention. You can’t just read the scriptures and hope that’s enough. We now have to be intentional about trusting God through the middle of our lives. Their will always be a strong current of popular opinion, feelings, or other ideas about how we should do things. We will feel pressure to give in and go another route and that’s why Paul encourages us to stand firm in the “Lord.” We need his strength to withstand everything we are facing.

Paul makes an immediate practical application. He talks about two women there in the church “Euodia” and Syntyche” who have apparently had a serious disagreement. It would be easy to let the disagreement separate them. Indeed all over the world people get upset with one another for various things and friendships die everyday. The difference for these two women is that they both love Jesus. They’ve both partnered together for the sake of the gospel. So when conflict arises and it seems like they can’t work it out between themselves, Paul calls in reinforcements to help them work through their difficulties. Sometimes it takes a third party to help things work out.

In our culture we don’t like to seek people out and make amends. We somehow think that if enough time passes or if we start smiling like nothing was every wrong then the broken relationship will mend itself… seldom does that ever work.

One of the best conversations I’ve ever had was approaching someone who was mad at me. I was so nervous about talking things out because I already knew how they felt. Yet, when we sat down to talk and I expressed a desire for Jesus to be lifted up more than a desire to be right, we had a great conversation. I ended up confessing my sin to them and they confessed sin to me. We forgave each other and became better friends in Jesus because of it.
Do you have a strained relationship with another believer that you need to straight?

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Philippians 3:20-21 (Devotional Thought)

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21 ESV)

When Paul wrote the letter to the church at Philippi, being a Roman citizen was a big deal. Rome ruled the world. Roman citizens had free reign to travel the empire and had a special status. If a Roman citizen were accused of a crime, they had a right to a trial before Cesar if they wanted one (not everyone was lucky enough to even get a trial back then). The church at Philippi probably had a firm grasp on the perks of being a Roman citizen because their city was built as a Roman outpost. It was “Rome away from Rome.”

The Apostle Paul was a Roman citizen. It’s what ultimately allowed him to have a trial before Cesar. Yet, even as he is waiting for a trial that his citizenship guarantees, He can’t help think about a more important citizenship. He is a citizen of Heaven! He has a different king than Cesar, Jesus is his king!

Let’s pause for a moment because we don’t live in a country with a king. Continue reading “Philippians 3:20-21 (Devotional Thought)”