Watching the devastation in Japan brings me back to a religious thought that's been brewing for quite a while. Where's the beef?
In 1984 Wendy's aired a commercial titled "Fluffy Bun". Actress Clara Peller and two other elderly women are investigating a massive burger bun from a fictional competitor which uses the slogan "Home of the big Bun." In the middle of the big bun is a minuscule piece of meat. They poke at the meat and look at it from all sides causing Clara Peller to say, "Where's the beef?". When there's no answer she gets louder and louder. "Where's the beef!?!"
The other two ladies poked at it, exchanging bemused comments ("It certainly is a big bun. It's a very big bun. It's a big fluffy bun. It's a very big fluffy bun.") before being interrupted by Peller's outraged, irascible demand. Sequels featured Peller yelling at a Fluffy Bun executive on his yacht over the phone and approaching fast food drive-up windows that were slammed down before she could complete the line.
The catch phrase was repeated in television shows, films, magazines, and other media outlets. It became the catch all for anything fake, not living up to it's promise or being a complete disappointment.
What does this have to do with religion? I find myself asking the question over and over....where's Jesus - the substance - the meat of our faith? We have big churches in this country, big mega star pastors and big programs designed to do everything except teach deep spiritual truths. We have big concerts and some church buildings are even desecrated by allowing secular programs and shows to take over. It seems that most pastors are more consumed with "getting people to attend" than they are with "getting people saved." And while the church worries about marketing, our country is falling apart and faith values are slipping away. Out of the 4 divorces in 5 marriages in this country, 3 of them claim to be Christian homes. Something isn't right.
In Hebrews 5, the author is talking about the Superiority of the Priesthood of Christ. He's discussing the trend of people to discredit Jesus. Finally in the 11th verse, he's had it. He realizes that it takes maturity and a deeper knowledge to understand the truths he's trying to explain.
Hebrews 5:11 "We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
6:1-2 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment."
This scripture and a silly Wendy's commercial keeps me scratching my head and wondering why this generation of churches is moving so far from the true - deeper message of Christ. Why would any Christian or church body buy into the false teachings of people like Rick Warren and other religious super stars? Why would we want to infect the message of Christ with an addictive desire for money and fame? Rick Warren teaches that the church is just a business and should be run as such. He goes on to teach that adhering to the teachings and demands of our faith isn't as important as filling the pews. Marketing and giving the people what they want is more important than insuring that they make heaven. Unfortunately, that's nothing like the Bible. The entire message of the Bible is based on the simplicity of the salvation of Christ. We should be 100% involved in the responsibility for teaching others to "mature" in Christ so they will make Heaven.
The simplicity of the son of God dying on a cross has been distorted by the message of "come here and we'll make you feel good."
I just shake my head and think, "Where's the beef?" Where's the meat of the word? Where's the anchor that you can hold on to in the time of a huge disappointment or a huge problem.
Japan was hit with a 9.0 earthquake. I watched in horror as homes - probably filled with unsuspecting residents - were swept away in the following Tsunami. I couldn't watch the videos and heartbreaking pictures as if I were comfortably watching some movie. Each picture, each destroyed home or car held an individual and if that individual did not survive - he/she met God at that moment!
The thousands of souls that appeared before a righteous and holy God didn't need a watered down, happy go lucky, I feel so good faith! They needed the meat of the word. At the moment of intense pain, or sorrow, or fear or death....they needed a Savior. At that moment they didn't have time to do research on the strength of God. They didn't have time for a recall of their lame pastor. They didn't have the ability to throw up their hands and ask for a two day stay until they could get their spiritual lives together.
In that moment they needed to "instantly" know, understand and cling to the verses of the 23rd psalm. "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me."
When only devastation and ruin lay around them; when they had no water and no food...how comforting to cling to the verse, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."
How in the world can your cup overflow in the middle of such a tragedy? I can't explain it to you unless you can eat the meat of God's word. If you have grown up in a watered down, flimsy, where's the beef kind of church - you can't possibly understand the maturity and strength that a Christian feels when he has matured on the meat of God.
The commentary of my NIV Bible explains that Hebrews 5:14 makes a clear point....Christian maturity involves time. It involves growth in the knowledge of the Word of God and experience in the use of the Word in discerning between good and evil. In other words, it doesn't come overnight. It probably won't be a lot of fun to sit and study or to learn to trust God when life is uncomfortable. It doesn't come through contemporary music, it's not about feeling happy or good or getting everything you want and it doesn't come through signing a membership card. It comes through knowing your Bible, learning to lean on Jesus and discerning between good and evil.
I remember old saints talking about the huge economic, food, weather and personal pain associated with the pre and post depression times as well as the pain of WWII. They cupped my small face in their hands and with strong but tired eyes said, "You hold on to God. Learn all you can from Him. Never fight the bad times - they will teach you how to be strong. Then you too will know how big, how great and how comforting is the love of God." I watched those saints live out a Godly life of strength and maturity. It was amazing to watch God working in their lives. None of them were financially wealthy but they were rich beyond my wildest dreams - rich in the strength of life and in the things of God.
You will never truly experience the greatness of God by limiting your knowledge of him to a contemporary non-theologically based "I need to feel good" fluffy bun church. You will never learn how to be a strong Christian if your Bible is kept in the closet or collects dust on the nightstand. You will never learn the power we have in Christ if you are not pushing yourself to obey each and every commandment.
The greatness of God is learned. It's learned by reading and studying the scriptures. It's learned by striving to do the righteous thing even if it hurts you. It's learned by obeying all of God's commandments - not just the ones you like. It's learned by going through the tough times and learning to lean on Jesus. It's only then that you will know that Jesus is all you will ever need. Jesus is the beef!
God loves you,