This Is America.

Without a doubt, the absolute coolest thing that we have seen during our brave venture back onto American soil is the computerized soda machines at fast food chains.  Yep, that’s it.  It blew our tiny minds.  Though it took us a solid ten minutes to decide what we wanted figure out how the machine worked, our taste buds were pleased and everyone’s heart’s content at our modest taste tests shoving 1,000 calories worth of soda down our gullets.  I was the only one left unsatisfied because, like a complete novice, I chose raspberry diet coke. It was gross, and I learned my lesson.  But, this is America, so I dumped it out and started over.

Our Tanzanian colleague, Apollo, came back to the motherland with us for agricultural training with my husband 100% only to try the soda machines. He is seeing everything in America for the first time and has graciously constantly teased us about how many options there are in America for every single thing on God’s green earth. He especially discovered this when joining in on a trip to an American grocery store. This experience turned me into a crazy self-loathing monster where I wanted every single item that I could wrap my greedy little fingers around while simultaneously feeling unbearably guilt-ridden at the scene of our grocery cart piling up to Apollo’s brown/red-from-shock eyeballs. He’s a great guy, so there wasn’t much judgment.  I think it was more of the regular old queasy feeling that follows a repulsive scene of this nature. Dear Apollo: Watching us indulge in such grotesque undertakings at the grocery store wasn’t fun, but watching you watch me wasn’t fun for me either.  You took all the fun out it.

We now know that the options are boundless in American grocery stores, but we also discovered that everything in the grocery stores is also claiming to be healthy…even the margarine.  Margarine claiming to be healthy is like Apollo claiming not to be a little bit scared on his first Intercontinental flight.  We can play along with you, man, but we all know it’s not true.

Just like the grocery stores, we have also been stunned by the many new brands of churches. Like all groceries claim to be healthy, all brands of churches are claiming to be Christian.

We expected to see observe partake in consumerism and indulgences in grocery stores but what we didn’t anticipate on seeing was the giant shift of consumerism in American “Christianity.”

“…the things that used to be normal to you start to shake you up a bit.”

It is just that when you have been away from a place for a long time, everything that you see upon re-entry kind of takes you off guard.  It’s not that you are above it or incapable of the same or worse sin, it’s just that you see it differently. You see things with different eyes and the things that used to be normal to you start to shake you up a bit.  Because you aren’t living inside of the culture anymore, you have the privilege of landing on the outside looking in.

I am going to admit that I am uncomfortable with some things that I see.

American consumerism has crept into the sacred beliefs of our faith.  Rather than understanding that faith in Christ means that He gets our everything, many Americans believe that Jesus is just a nice addition to their already nice lives.  We wouldn’t say that, of course, but our beliefs are exposed in the way we are living.  To be honest, this type of “Christianity” is not only disturbing, but I believe it is a false gospel that is deceitful and damning to our culture.

“If Jesus is merely an addition to our American dream, then who really needs one more thing on their plate?”

If Jesus is merely an addition to our American dream, then who really needs one more thing on their plate?  If Jesus is just a great way to help us live more moral lives, have better relationships, and good  better slightly above ogre behavior at our kid’s soccer games, then who really needs him?  Can’t Oprah help us with that?  If we think of Jesus as an addition to our lives and not everything, then we do not really know Jesus.  We are deceived.

If sermons in your church sound more like self-help, living your best life (“for Jesus” of course), or simply marital and family advice, then you need to be asking yourself some serious questions about what you are being taught.  Jesus warns in Mark that many will come to deceive in the name of religion.  They will say all the “right” things, dress in all the “right” ways, know the popular prayers and sayings and topics of the times, and they will be leading you astray from the path to Jesus.  Guys, Jesus never promised a “better life” here on earth.  Following Him is costly, dangerous, painful, lonely, unpopular, counter-cultural.  And did I mention that it’s also worth it?  *don’t quit yet, I promise I will get there.

“Don’t be fooled.”

The men and women who are teaching this brand of “best-life-now Christianity” are false teachers.  They are taking the beautiful truth of the gospel and adding it onto their god, which is their life, and their things, and all of their empty pursuits, and their created community which is more like a club of similar interests than a body of believers seeking Jesus.  I have a feeling that many Christians see the Bible’s warnings about “wolves in sheep’s clothing” in this abstract way of crazies like the t.v. Evangelists who are shoving everyone in the forehead off of their stage.  Don’t be fooled.  Satan is much craftier than that.  Satan loves to take the “truth” from God’s Word and mix it with worldly wisdom to offer temporary satisfaction to our heart’s desires.  Satan wants you to think that comfortable suburban Christianity is an excellent addition to your already comfortable life and that it leads you to Jesus.  He wants you distracted.  He wants you to find your hope and joy in things outside of Christ.

Jesus tells the disciples in Mark 8, that not only will He suffer but anyone who wants to be His disciple will also suffer.  “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel will save it.”

If you take the time to really discover what our sacred Scriptures say about following Jesus, and then really learn about the suffering that Christians are facing around the world for following Jesus, then I think you too will be uncomfortable sitting Sunday after Sunday in a sermon which focuses more on your bettering your life than on our Holy God.

Satan is doing his work all around the world.  Unlike Tanzania where he uses fear and witchcraft and many visual displays of his dark spiritual work to keep people from Jesus, in America, he is simply lulling us.  He is pacifying us with just enough satisfaction and just enough “religion” to keep us blinded to the true gospel message.

“A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all – and more amusing.”

It’s a battle for our hearts.  It’s a raging war against the flesh and the spirit. In C.S. Lewis’ book, Screwtape Letters, he uses allegories to shed light on some of satan’s tools in the life of Christians.  In this book, an experienced demon, Screwtape, teaches his apprentice nephew, Wormwood, the art of deceiving mankind by saying “A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all – and more amusing.”

Moderate religion takes a little bit of Jesus and then it worships created things.  It worships things meant to be gifts, small tastes, faint glimpses of the true source of complete satisfaction and joy, Jesus.

We are starving and blind citizens of the world, withered up like branches in a desert. We are desperate for help, so we follow leaders and pastors of these moderate religions (nice-looking, well-spoken, popular leaders) for the hope of being pointed to the way of salvation.  We are desperate and in need of nourishment.  But they are blinded too.  They are leading us to the only thing they see, muddy puddles.  They see glimpses of goodness, glimpses of God’s good gifts and point us to those rather than taking us to the Gift itself.  They lead us astray, and many die there without ever tasting the water that will truly satisfy.  Many die there.  Many of us are dying there.  But even if these puddles keep us alive, we are left sick and desperately searching for more.  This dirty, murky water prevents us from seeing what is promised to us; Jesus.  We are like addicts constantly searching and gnashing our teeth at the next thing offering satisfaction.  We want a taste of it all; health, youth, beauty, respect, wealth, popularity, ease, options, fun, success, rest, importance, belonging…oh “and also Jesus.”

It rescues us from our restless pursuit and brings us real satisfaction.

But the Bible tells us that anyone who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him, they will be like a tree planted by the water; the water we are all so desperately looking for and the water that we are being distracted from tasting.  When we are planted by this water, then our roots will be nourished by the stream.  This stream never runs dry.  This stream nourishes our weary souls and satisfies the deepest need; salvation and communion with Christ.  It rescues us from our restless pursuit and brings us real satisfaction.  Scripture tells us that even when the heat and droughts come (for they will come, we are promised this) that those who are planted by this stream will not fear and that their leaves will remain nourished and green.

These trees also bear fruit, which is what true followers of Christ do.  They don’t just consume the everlasting water for themselves, but they bear fruit; they live their lives nourished by and then empowered by the water.

The water is Jesus; nothing else and no one else. We cannot pursue “our best life now” and add Jesus to it. We can’t be busy running around lapping up the muddy water and also have our roots planted by the stream. We cannot serve two masters.  We cannot keep our lives and give them to Christ at the same time.

This isn’t a bitter American expatriate wanting to dust up trouble.  This is a fellow Christian, who is just as susceptible to deceit and distraction, warning and begging anyone who cares to wake up and see the deceit for what it is.  Don’t live another day being lulled to death by comfortable and convenient Christianity.  It may make a comfortable place for you to spend your earthly pursuits and your weekly church services, but our very souls are at risk.

A rich young ruler wanted to follow Jesus (Mark 10:17-31), and the Bible says that Jesus loved him.  But when Jesus put the young man’s true beliefs to the test, he couldn’t let go of “his best life now.”  He left because he wanted to add Jesus to his other great things and Jesus wouldn’t accept it.

Jesus demands our all.  In turn, Jesus gives us Himself. He saves us and then this salvation imposes upon us a condition of the heart that abandons all to follow Him.

“You must love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Duet 6:5)

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You definitely seeing us as we are and the truth needs to be spoken.

  2. Girl…you are stepping in some OK my) toes😊. This is meat not milk teaching and it would be good if we could all be shaken to the point of alert and wakeful spiritual sight. Complacency and comfort are destroying the Christian Church in America. Church is a place where many will go if the message doesn’t make them uncomfortable or aware. Thank you for these words…they are inspired! PS welcome back to the states 😎

    1. Thanks so much, Monica. Still learning and growing in this area but it is something that we should all be willing to investigate…and repent of if needed. Praying that God keeps our hearts turned towards him!

  3. LOVE IT. I have similar feelilngs of ‘WOW!!’ everytime I go back to the US. Sometimes good ‘wow’ and sometimes not so good ‘wow’. Thank you for sharing what many of us expats feel and help us to understand better why we feel that way! God bless!!

  4. Thank you for holding up the mirror of God’s Word…so we can take a good, long look…and examine ourselves…and be doers of The Word, not hearers only! Blessings!

  5. Please continue to write! I have now read your entire blog in the past two days and God has used some of your words to convict my heart and confirm things I’m learning. Katie Adams shared your blog with me. ❤️

    1. Wow. Thanks so much. Grateful to the Lord that this blog could be used to encourage you. Please give Katie a big hug from me!

  6. Beautiful. Thank you.

    Literally about to get on my knees and pray for forgiveness and help with my repentance.

    My focus has been elsewhere it isn’t like I don’t know and the Holy Spirit hasn’t been reminding me, but all these comforts have made it too easy to ignore.

  7. My big question is HOW? I feel anesthetized and definitely dried up and withered–for a long time now–but I don’t know how to break out of that. I pray, but it feel as though it’s through a fog of distractive anesthesia. I’ve given up social media, which has helped, but the muddy puddles are a kind of Slough of Despond. I’m not sure how I get from here to a place of greater meaning.

    1. Hi Nina, great question and probably one that we should be asking ourselves often. I so resonate with what you said. My heart so quickly turns from the things of God towards my own selfish desires and ambitions. John 15 gives me great hope though that it is Christ who works in us to honor and glorify Him for He is the True Vine. We can’t “obey ourselves into joy” but true joy (and obediences) comes when we abide in Him and His Word abides in us. When we abide in Him, his power and strength are made perfect in our weakness. We can look at our temptation and many weaknesses, and rather than losing hope, we can glorify Him because His grace and goodness are enabling us to slowly overcome. The same blood that saved us on the cross is working within us to grow us to be more like Him. PS, love the Pilgrims Progress reference. I’m currently reading that to my kids.
      Grace and Peace,

  8. Good thoughts. Your blogs are always challenging. They challenge because they are from a real place. Real world. Real heart. Real passion. God bless.
    If y’all get close to south Florida. Give me and Lisa a holler. Would love to see you and Aaron.

    1. Thank you so much, Steve. We are actually in Fort Myer currently at doing training at the Echo farm. Would love to see you guys as well!

  9. Oh that we in Anerica would wake up and see how we are being poisoned! God must want to spew our so called Christianity out of his mouth! I dare even call myself a Christian anymore I am a follower, a disciple of Jesus Christ. God help us!

  10. Lord, have mercy on me a sinner. Forgive me for my complacency and all my sins. Please in your kindness grant me repentance and help me to willingly part with and abandon all to follow you. Please cleanse and empower me with your Holy Spirit to live an obedient life. In Jesus Name, amen.

  11. Great article and so glad it’s not just me (in a way). The broad road is just that -it’s broad so everyone can be included on it regardless of what vehicle they choose to travel home in. The narrow road is narrow because few are willing to walk slowly along it and suffer the heat of the sun and the torrential rain – but it is the only way home to Christ. When I was able to attend church I realised it had been over a year and I had not heard ANYONE even talk about Christ, let alone mention his name – for shame. Too often we depend on the promise that the gates of hel will not prevail against God’s church YET, he also said that if we refuse to return to our first love then God will remove our lampstand (see Revelations where Christs warned the church at Ephesus, which today has no church). Our society has such a strong sense of ENTITLEMENT to comfort and ease. We are trained to think this way by 24/7 indoctrination by media etc. We counterattack by 2 hours a week (tops) of Bible teaching. Is it any wonder Satan is winning this battle for our souls in our western churches? We have to ask…”Do we really believe Christ?” Is our faith REALLY saving faith? Are any of us, like Simon of Cyrene, taking up the cross and walking behind Christ in love and sacrifice? The “remnant” that God causes to endure is getting smaller every year.

    We are all profoundly unhappy (though we won’t admit this, even to ourselves). When we are reasonably content we simply keep our mouths shut and hope it lasts, no matter how superficial it is. We have been taught that all suffering is to be avoided at all costs (incl suicide, euthanasia and abortion). Satan is really clever at taking what God commanded and twisting it just enough to make it ineffective, while allowing us to believe we are still on the narrow path. We need to get back on a war footing and come to terms with the need to sacrificially love God and others if we are to be saved. We need to preach a theology of SINS because if we don’t believe we are sinners then we don’t believe we need a Saviour. We also need to read “The Cost of Discipleship” by Deitrich Boenhoffer – a classic we should all be familiar with – in both theory ad PRACTICE.

    I believe God is about to cleanse/discipline/judge his church in the west with a period of great testing and persecution. He will not abandon us completely but, like the Israelites sent into exile in Babylon to cause them to repent, we will suffer greatly until we learn that our God is a holy God and a jealous God, who will not let his name be defamed and who will not yield his glory to another.

  12. American consumerism has crept into the sacred beliefs of our faith.”

    This may be difficult to hear but consumerism has been a part of American church life for generations. I’m an ABWE MK born in the Philippines and graduated from high school there.

    I was a board member at our church, active in the missions committee, teaching Sunday school, etc. Then I saw the church budget chart. I saw it every year but this time it grabbed my heart. I saw that 75% of my “giving” was buying hired staff and facilities to benefit mostly me and other wealthy Americans. Only 25% was going beyond the givers. It was 3 times more important for us Americans to get a professional sermon every week in our life than for the gospel to be sent to those who have never heard it once and have no one to tell them. Then I saw an article in Leadership Journal that said these percentages were “normal church budgeting”.

    You are rightly concerned about consumerism. The roots of this are deeper than you realize. Check your church budget for this percentage. Sometimes it’s in the bulletin every Sunday. Let’s interact.

Leave a Reply