We are a society with little time to read, reflect, think, or meditate. Increasingly, our dialogue with one another is limited to whatever one-liners we can fit onto a Tweet, a text, or a Facebook post, and while I love a good one liner as much as anyone (“The only thing money gives you is the freedom of not worrying about money” — Johnny Carson), I recognize the pitfalls of living by them.
Within a half-century plus a year, I have adroitly managed to avoid attending any sort of seminar — an accomplishment I hope to continue into the second half-century — but it’s hard not to spend 15 minutes on the Internet without running into seminar speakers through blogs, articles, social media, and book advertisements. My first thought is always, “People pay money to listen to these you?”
What Are They Saying That Is So Profound?
IMPROVE yourself! EVER DAY! In EVERY WAY!
Of course, they phrase it with more sparkling wit than I do, but the essential message is the same:
Do this. Don’t do that. And you’ll succeed. It’s that simple.
Some of what they say is common sense, which works sometimes and doesn’t others, along the lines of, “Work hard and you’ll succeed.”
And while this sounds good, it isn’t necessarily true, because there are lots of people out there working very hard who aren’t succeeding in the way that they hope. Their stories are most tragic when they pay money to be fed one liners, and the only one succeeding financially is the guy behind the speaker’s stand who’s written the book.
Christian Superstars Telling Us How to Make a Million
When these one liners are tossed out in a business climate that’s one thing, but when they are dropped from the pulpit, in the form of Bible verses and subsequent misinterpretations, that’s worse, because we’ve gone from the concept of making money to the innermost core of our spiritual being.
“When you follow JESUS you WIN! You’ll never reach your full potential if you’re not reaching up to God!”
Well that sounds great, and while it’s sort of technically true, it promises more than it delivers, with the understanding that — if you don’t get where you think you’re supposed to be going — then it’s your fault, somehow, because if you knew how to tap into the power of God, nothing could stop you.
But God isn’t an electrical outlet, and following Him isn’t a matter of stringing together a series of witticisms or carefully chosen, out of context Bible verses that say what we want to hear:
Out of Context Bible Verses
“Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete,” Jesus tells us in John 16:24. If we’re not getting what we’re asking for, then we’re not asking right, some speakers tell us. But in the same chapter, John 16:33, Jesus also says,
“I have told you these things, so that in me you my have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
That burdensome “trouble” word implies that when we ask for a new car, we may not necessarily get it, and in the back of our minds is the disturbing suspicion that getting what we ask for may not be as easy as the keynote orator promises.
I know, it’s frustrating. Following God is not and never has been easy, and it involves far more than a two-hour presentation with the bonus workbook and activity sheets. Following God is a day by day, moment by moment, never-ending process that requires us to think, meditate, read, reflect, analyze, ask, trust and — this is the big one — wait, because regardless of what anyone else promises, God is not a seminar speaker, and the book He wrote is not a series of one-liners.
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