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30 Second Sound-Bite Christians
Q. In the middle of worldwide unfolding crisis and economic disaster all my family wants to do is watch T.V.&sports 24/7. It seems perverted to me. But, I don't know what to do about it anymore. Any suggestions?
Trance State of Americans
Thanks for your question. If the truth be told American Christians live in a 30 second sound-bite society with a 30 second sound-bite theology. It's really scary what's happening to our ability to learn or function in this quick-serve society. This is true even while disasters are occurring around the world. Probably the only thing that may shake us up is when it happens to us - in our own neighborhoods.
I would suggest that citizens puruse the reading and math texts required for students only seventy years ago, for example. Very few of us would qualify for anything over first grade - and I'm not exaggerating.
30 Frames per Second
We are thoroughly brainwashed. American Christians expect to be entertained 24/7. Our T.V. flickers with approximately 30 frames-per-second which physiologists claim induces a trance-like state in all of us.
That's why we sit in front of our television sets glaze-eyed for hours. During those hypnotic hours we cannot think our own thoughts. We are "filled" with whatever the producers wish to evoke in us.
Be Filled with What?
Scripture tells us to "be filled with the Spirit!" (Eph. 5:18), doesn't it?
But, the T.V. speaks to us in fast, colorful jerky clips which change rapidly. Loud noise is blasted at us. We are "programmed" to accept this eye and ear pollution day-in and day-out.
Consumer Worker-Bee Role
In this hypnotic state, producers are able to use persuasive advertising-techniques to get us to buy unnecessary gadgets, tools, furniture, cars, homes, fashions, and tickets to sporting events.
Please understand that in this way Americans are brainwashed to support 3rd world countries by cooperatively buying their goods or junk through outlets such as Wal-Mart. This is our "worker-bee" function in the world.
It has only been recently that we have awakened to the curse of credit-card debt. Yet, we are the ones who caved-in to relentless brainwashing techniques to buy…buy…buy.
Keeping up with the Joneses
Therefore, the networks must continue to train us to want to stay ahead of the Joneses and compete for material things. Buy, buy, buy! Don't think. Don't concentrate. Just buy!
That's what Americans are supposed to do. We must keep the global economy running smoothly. No matter what! This is why Americans were told to "get out there and spend" less than three days after the terrorist attacks on 9-11. That's scary, but it is also the truth.
Foreigner Shopping Experiences U.S. Style
If you have difficulty believing this, listen to what foreigners say about our super-markets, shopping malls, and sports stadiums. Their reaction is one of incredulousness.
"You have fifty different kinds of cereal," they mutter. "What for?" they ask. "And why do you need twenty brands of toothpaste?" "Going to Albertsons is like going to Disneyland." "You entertain yourselves in shopping malls." "You act as if nothing is more important than sports, money, and buying stuff." (Many other countries offer only one supermarket with one kind of canned goods or necessities).
We entertain ourselves with money, shopping, fashion and sports. We are programmed to make ourselves and our children "happy" by fulfilling every desire. Shopping malls are a rite-of-passage for young girls who want to be like what they see on TV. Sports events and video games are the rite-of-passage for our young males. This is the structure of our culture.
But, have you noticed something? This is changing slowly as family after family lose their homes and find their credit availability squashed.
For the Christian being a consumer clone and debt junkie is an unacceptable role anyway. The Bible says,
"I will walk with integrity of heart within my house. I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless" (Psalm 101:2-3, ESV).
What does this verse say about our television viewing habits?
Stop Loving the World
The Bible tells Christians to, "Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only the LUST FOR PHYSICAL PLEASURE, the LUST FOR EVERYTHING WE SEE, and PRIDE IN OUR POSSESSIONS" (1 John 2:15-16 NLT).
While Christians must remain in the world for a time, we are clearly not to be "of the world" as Jesus plainly stated in the gospel of John 17: 14-16. Christians are not to give-in to material pursuits as the world does.
30 Second Sound-Bite Sermons
Nevertheless, the church itself has been infected by the 30 second sound-bite mentality, too. This is apparent in the lavish decor and "gimme" philosophy of the worldly church and spiritually-bankrupt preaching that is so prevalent today.
10 Minute Sermons
Perhaps this is most noticeable in the short, palatable sermons lasting anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes. Congregants complain if sermons last any longer than this. They want messages that "tickle their ears," nothing which convict a hearer or feed his soul. Listen to this:
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths" (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NASB).
We must fight this 30 second sound-bite mentality in our homes and churches. The idea of church members demanding entertaining, short sound-bite sermons must be resisted, indeed.
This is true, spiritual warfare. Christians must work hard to encourage each other not to cave-in to our whining church members who cannot listen to the Word of God much longer than ten or fifteen minutes at a time.
Especially in this time of painful disasters worldwide, we must work hard to wake-up our brothers and sisters. Do you agree?
Antidote to Cheap Grace Theology
As an "antidote" to "cheap grace theology" we suggest a study of the book of Nehemiah, chapter eight. In part, the book of Nehemiah records a history of the Jews after the Babylonian captivity
During Nehemiah's day the Babylonian Empire in which Daniel had lived and prophesied, had been replaced by the Persian Empire. This was a difficult time for the Israelites. They had been influenced by the pagan practices of Babylon (Iraq) and Persia (Iran). They repeatedly fell into sin and idolatry.
Hearing God's Word
After Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem which then protected the Israelites from foreign invaders, Ezra the scribe took on the task of reading the law to the people (the first five books of the Old Testament).
Ezra the Jewish Scribe
Priests and scribes were among the most educated people. Scribes were a combination of lawyer, notary public, scholar, consultant, and teacher. Ezra was a particularly gifted scribe. One of his most notable accomplishments was participating in the establishment of the Old Testament Canon.
6 hour Sermons with Standing Room Only
As Ezra read the law to the Israelites, the people listened for six hours at a time - SIX HOUR SERMONS - while standing on their feet! They wept as Ezra and the scribes explained God's Word to them.
This is because they had not heard the law as a unified group for decades. They were convicted of how far they had strayed from God's Word. This in turn brought about national repentance.
As Ezra read the law, the Levites stood nearby and interpreted and explained the sense of what was said so that the people clearly understood the message.
This may have been the first mention of a Targum. A Targum was a paraphrased translation. The Israelites had lived in Babylon and were now under the rule of Persia. They no longer spoke Hebrew. So they needed someone to translate their beloved Scripture to them.
Our Modern Day Targum
Now let's look at Nehemiah, chapter eight, in our own type of "Targum," a good paraphrase, which in our opinion includes translations such as The New Living Translation:
Ezra's 6 hour Sermon
"So on October 8 Ezra the priest brought the scroll of the law before the assembly, which included the men and women and all the children old enough to understand. He faced the square just inside the Water Gate from early morning until noon and read aloud to everyone who could understand. All the people paid close attention to the Book of the Law. Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform that had been made for the occasion" (Nehemiah 8: 1-4)…"Ezra stood on the platform in full view of all the people. When they saw him open the book, they all rose to their feet." (v. 5).
"Then Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and all the people chanted, 'Amen! Amen!' as they lifted their hands toward heaven. Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground." (v. 6).
"Now the Levites…instructed the people who were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage" (v. 7-8).
"Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, 'Don't weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God.' All the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the law" (v. 9).
Applied to Today
What can we learn or observe about Nehemiah, chapter 8?
1. Ezra stood for six hours reading to all who could understand him. We need to thank our heavenly Father that there are preachers who stand up and consistently preach God's Word to us. Thank God that we are allowed to worship in a church at all. Many in our world are not allowed to practice their faith.
2. Let's thank our heavenly Father for His Word. We are fortunate to have access to a Bible. Someday we won't. Listen to this:
Amos 8:11-12 tells us, "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land - not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it" (ESV).
Cherish our Bibles
Give thanks for your Bibles. Praise God that we are allowed to own Bibles. Many throughout the world are jailed or killed for possessing a Holy Bible.
Concentrate on what the Word Says
3. All of the people listening to Ezra the scribe paid close attention to every word. They hungered after God's Word. They were grateful to hear it. They wanted to know how to please God.
On the other hand, church members today can't wait for the service to end. They want to go home and watch T.V. or attend the football game. We must repent of our callous attitude toward God and church.
Respect God's Word
4. The congregation showed great respect for God's Word. They rose to their feet when Ezra opened the Book. On the other hand, we groan at having to stand up and sit down during a service.
Today we even groan when the pastor pulls out his Bible. We simply "tolerate" the reading of Holy Writ. We need to repent of our disdain for the reading of God's Word. This is a grievous evil we have committed.
5. As Ezra praised God the people chanted, "Amen! Amen!" and lifted their hands toward heaven. They were very engaged in worshiping God in an active manner. They emotionally responded in a heartfelt way. We, too, need to do the things which will bring us back to appreciative worship: daily reading of God's Word, prayer&prayer-diaries, and consistent fellowship.
Have a Submissive Heart
6. Then the people bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. The congregation became submissive to God with a servant's heart. We, too, need to learn to submit to the Lord's will for our lives. We all need a servant's heart in our pagan, materialistic culture.
We can learn to be submissive to God's Will by studying God's Sovereignty in our lives. Beginning a study of the classic writings by the Puritans, or of books such as Jerry Bridge's Trusting God. This is a good place to start.
7. The congregation wept as the Levites explained God's Word clearly to them. They knew they had failed God. They were penitent and humble. They were sorry for their sins. We need to re-introduce ourselves to the reality of our own sins, too. We need to learn humility and penitence.
A Fighting Church
The Mom who wrote about her frustrations to us should not have to handle all of this cultural brainwashing by herself. Instead, we suggest that parishioners openly explain to their church members how it is that members have been brainwashed NOT to think or to concentrate on God's Word. Tell them they have been conditioned to consume, buy, spend, and charge-it!
How can parishioners help? Call the Dads at home. Sunday School teachers can invite the kids to special events at church. Encourage families to quit living passively and to participate in real, live events.
Evil spiritual powers and world forces do not want Americans to think through what they do or why they do it. They want Americans dumbed-down and submissive to hostile forces which would keep them "stupid" and enslaved to money.
These spiritual forces certainly do not want Christians effective and trained by the powerful Word of God. Instead, evil spiritual powers and world forces want 30 second sound-bite Christians listening to 30 second sound-bite sermons!
Please, Christian brothers and sisters, Fight it!
1. Study your Bible daily
2. Pray. Keep a prayer diary.
3. Fellowship with other believers
& attend church, Bible Study groups,&family events.
4. Renew your minds with Scripture through
memorizing verses and studying diligently.
5. Resist becoming a consumer-clone. Make the
Bible your "hobby," not sports or shopping!
Go for it!
Authors Valorie Mays Emilio holds an MA in History from UCLA focusing upon early church history. Ken received the MA in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University. They know they are just a "vapor" that appears for a little while and must make the most of days remaining (James 4:14; Eph 5:15).
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