Wednesday, April 13, 2011

American Idol Part Six: Tiny Wings Kingdom

Anyone with a phone has most likely seen or is battling an addiction to the number one selling app game, Tiny Wings. As the game begins the little bird awakens in his nest precariously perched hill-top at the dawn of a new day. Your job is to help him soar over the hills and valleys, stretching his tiny wings, squawking "Yoo-hoo!" ever gaining new heights, scooping up coins and speed boosters along the way to the next island before the sun sets on Tiny Wings and his kingdom. As much as I hate to admit it, the game is fun. And even worse, my five year old grandson is my tutor for phone games.

The more I think about it Tiny Wings is such a great illustration of our idolatry of time, work and works. Think about it. Here's this little bitty bird greeting the dawn of each day from his brightly feathered nest. With the swipe of a finger he bursts forth into a world of hills and valleys furiously flapping his wings to soar higher at greater speed, to accumulate wealth and to achieve even loftier goals before the sun sets and the screen reads, "Game over for today." Sounds like my life. I'm steady flapping those wings until the sun has gone to bed.

When the control of time and schedules (those of our own and of others) becomes an idol we morph into manipulators, experts in avoiding the "time zone" of any who would thwart our plans. We are prone to think that God's grace is not as big as our schedule. It's what Paul Tripp calls" little kingdom living" in his book A Quest for More. "Inappropriate or idolatrous demands and control of time and plans shrinks the Kingdom down to the point where there is room for only one. Me." That's what Eve believed in the garden. I can have what I want in my way on my schedule. Her demand was not only for something she deemed greater, but a demand for it on her timetable as well.

James nails us in chapter four. "Come on now you who say today or tomorrow we will go and do such and such in a place and gain something to show for our work. Don't you know that in the scheme of things you and your life are as a vapor? Shouldn't you be saying, "If the Lord wills, then we will do thus and so?" It is outrageous presumption upon the goodness of God (hubris) to demand that God join me in my plans instead of the other way around.

In Psalm 90 Moses prays for the wisdom to weigh the eternity of God against the frailty of man. "Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." One of our pastors offered these questions in light of Moses' prayer:

1. Time is short but eternity is forever. Help me to live intentionally and wisely in light of this.

2. Am I controlling, wasting, or using time to seek the Kingdom and God's righteousness?

3. How concerned am I to do all that God would have me do instead of all I want to do? 4. Are His wants my wants? Is His agenda my agenda?

5. Are my days, weeks, months and years generally lost or redeemed?

And what about our work? Why do we work? Because we are made in the image of a working trinitarian God. Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. He has always been there superintending all that was, is, and is to come. 1:2 The spirit of God was hovering over the is the moving of the Holy Spirit that breathes life into all that is alive. John 1:2,3 In the beginning was the Word...all things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made. We work because we are made in the image of a working God. 2 Thes. 3:8 We do not eat any one's bread free of charge, but work that we might not be a burden to any. This is a very practical aspect of work. Eph. 4:28 ....that he might have to give to those in need. A merciful aspect of work. All of our work mirrors (or can and should) the nature and character of the God in whose image we are made.

So what's the problem? Just like tiny wings we live in a performance based culture. Instead of worth and sense of purpose coming from God, we often try to find our worth in what we do. How high up the ladder we have climbed. How many tiny wings gold coins we scoop up in our beaks. Tim Keller says in Counterfeit Gods "You must be on top to show you are among if not the best. To be the very best at what you do, to be at the top of the heap means no one is like you. You are supreme." And if you're not feeling bad enough already, just think about how we teach and promote this very lifestyle to our children. We are turning them into what David Brooks calls "achievatrons," rearing them in the pressure cooker of competition to prepare them for the job that will offer them the greatest opportunity for advancement in the shortest amount of time, the greatest amount of money and sense of security, and the best vacation policy. Whose kingdom is this? Mine.

God's kingdom instead asks this sort of question:

1. How would this job or vocation reflect or best use the gifts and talents that God has given me?

2. How can God use me to advance His Kingdom in this career?

3. How could this activity reflect or enhance the values of a Christian family in a post-Christian culture?

4. How can my work be more about Him and less about me?

And while we're parked here on the me subject, we may as well consider how the acceptance, approval and applause of others is an unquenchable thirst. While I was preparing this lesson for our MOMs bible study this popped up on Facebook: "More than rich, more than famous, more than happy, I want to be great." And just whose declaration of greatness will be sufficient to quench the thirst of that man's soul?

This Easter week and every week the answer is Jesus. He is both the Satisfier and the Satisfaction of every believer who trusts in Him as He is presented in the Gospel. Jesus is the Satisfier of divine justice. Jesus' perfect life lived for those who come to Him in faith along with His sacrificial death on the cross satisfies our holy God's demand for payment of sin. That's what Romans 3:23-25 is about. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely (declared not guilty) by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God sent as a propitiation (a covering or satisfier) by His blood." God's demand for justice is satisfied through the blood of Jesus.

But He is also the Satisfaction of the believer. Satisfaction in Jesus is what replaces our idols. "Listen! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters! And you who have no money, come, buy, and eat. Yes, you! Come buy wine, and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread? And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Turn your heart toward me and come to me. Hear and your soul shall live." Is. 55:1-4 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." Matt. 5:6. Why spend a life flapping tiny wings when through Jesus we can soar on wings like eagles?

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