Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How Oprah Became a Messiah

Blog posting by Kathryn Lofton, author of "Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon" - special to CNN
In an era in which religion was increasingly portrayed as either idiotic or extremist, Oprah plotted a middle way in which her viewers could be both believers and critics, both consumers and missionaries. She criticized religious institutions on her show but she encouraged spiritual practices. She encouraged everyone to buy her favorite things but also to offer the gift of themselves to the world.

To be sure, Oprah’s message focused on a particular audience. Women disproportionately found comfort in the set of problems Oprah introduced as hers (and, therefore, yours).

Yet it is important to note that her corporate makeover increased not only her spiritual consequence for women around the world, but also her profit margin. Beyond the show’s new look and focus, she began to develop her brand, including, eventually, her book club, magazine, web site and her Angel Network. Her spiritualization enhanced her media incorporation. . . .

Over time, Winfrey developed a careful programming slate that seemed less overt in its converting ambitions. She invited fewer and fewer spiritual advisers, for example.

But as the star of her own spiritual transformations, she was eventually able to provide any answer to any problem. If contemporary authors caused her troubles, she turned to her bookshelf for classic authors to discuss. If American students seemed disinterested in her uplift, she turned to Africa to start a school. Her spirit became increasingly articulated as a global phenomenon. . . .

Oprah represented humanity’s ceaseless interest in spiritual responses to personal problems. We now live in her world: one of first-person confessions, required makeovers, and spiritual consumption.

The measure of her consequence will be not in whether or not she mattered to you, but whether the world you occupy looks more like hers than you know.
To read the full blog-posting click here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Still Waiting for Jesus . . .

"Beyond the shadow of a doubt,
May 21 will be the date of the Rapture and the Day of Judgment."
Harold Camping
"Many false prophets will arise and lead many astray."
Jesus Christ
(Matthew 24:11)

Living in the Light of Eternity

The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalms 90:10-12)

Excerpt from “Prayer of Surrender for the Life of God” – 2011-05-22
Though we are saved by the sovereign grace of God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from eternal death - we still will face physical death in this life. Death is a reality of life. The mortality rate for fallen, sinful human beings is still 100%. And this is where we who claim Jesus should shine. But way too often we do not. If we truly believe heaven is the most glorious place in the universe, then we should not see death as such a great tragedy. J. I. Packer says that in every century before us, Christians saw life on earth as a preparation for the eternity to come; followers of Christ used to believe the axiom that it’s “only when you know how to die, can you then know how to live.”

I not so sure we believe that that anymore. We have lost our grip on death; the materialistic culture we live in has taught us that this life is the only life worth enjoying - and we are so busy with our life here on earth we have lost our natural God-created sense we were really made for eternity. Don’t take me wrong here; I am not advocating we should be pursuing death. Death is our enemy. It is not romantic, glamorous or heroic. We were not created to die. But death has been defeated by Jesus. Physical death is the outward sign of the eternal separation from God that is His judgment – God’s “wrath” - on our sin. But for those who have fully surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ, death’s sting is withdrawn. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 tells us: "When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." While we do not know when Jesus will come for us – by death or by rapture – we are to live our lives in preparation for eternity. In the words of the Puritan Prayer: “May I speak each word as if my last word, and walk each step as my final one. If my life should end today, let this be my best day.”

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Praying Through Logs for Correction

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
(Psalms 139:23-24)

Excerpt from “Prayer of Wonder for the Sovereignty of God” – 2011-05-08
We all know how easy it is to recognize sin and evil at work in other people - and how hard it is to recognize when sin and evil are at work in our own lives. This is what Jesus was talking about when he said: "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye" (Matthew 7:3-5). When David asked God to “know my heart . . . and know my thoughts” he was not merely asking God to examine him and then tell David what He had found. David was pleading for God’s correction: “lead me in the way everlasting!” This should be our prayer too. The truth is we almost always pray that God would correct others - because our own need for God’s correction is blocked from our view by the three story log home that we’ve built on the foundation of the sinful pride of our fallen hearts. We are all deeply in need of God’s correction.

Immersed in the deep waters of the all-knowing, ever-present, all-powerful, most holy character of God – David realized he was drowning in his sin; so he prays God would “know” him and “lead” him to walk in “the way everlasting.” That “way” Jesus said is his “way” - the “way” of the cross. Jesus said: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matthew 7:13-14). It’s not by coincidence that Jesus said this just a few verses after he spoke about specks and logs that can get in our eyes when we look at others rather than ourselves.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Fear of God and the Inheritance of Faith

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him. (Psalm 103:17)

Excerpt from “Prayer of Praise for the Steadfast Love of God” – 2011-05-01
While our bodies are made out of dust and our lives may be brief like the grass and flowers – “the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting . . . Bless the LORD, O my soul!" But again we hear the same condition attached to God’s khesed “on those who fear him.” Yes, we are fallen and sinful, frail and fragile; we were dust and we will be dust. And so our only hope is in the character of God and the glorious wonder of His “steadfast love” - His loving, faithfulness in who He is, to all who “fear” him. “And his righteousness to children's children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.” God has no grandchildren. We do not genetically pass on our faith in Jesus Christ to our children; saving faith does not naturally rub off from parents to offspring. Each and every man, woman and child in this world will stand before God on their own to answer for their choices, thoughts, behaviors, and activities in this life. Whatever age, God’s “steadfast love” in our lives is to be rooted in our “fear” of God: an awe, respect and reverence “fear” of God – and a dreadful, deadly, terror-filled (what could happen to me without God) “fear” of God. And the place we are to live out that “fear” of God, is here on earth – between the dust of creation and the dust to come. It is here that we to “keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments” – by showing respect and reverence for each other, and for those whom God has put in authority over us; and by not taking God’s “steadfast love” for granted, considering what would happen to us without God.