Boogety, Boogety, Boogety

July 26, 2011

Like a multiple-car pile up on Turn 4, thoughts rattle and crash in one’s head while listening to this prayer. The internet was abuzz yesterday with Christians wondering whether Pastor Joe Nelms took the Lord’s name in vain, whether in seeking to be “all things to all people” he went too far, whether he feels that the laughter he elicted around the track that day was a good reward. These are worthy discussions, provided they lead not to hypocritical condemnation (as if none of us ever seeks our own glory in prayer, preaching, blogging, tweeting, etc.) but to more sincere ministry by us all.

Although many of us would agree that the prayer deserved the yellow flag if not the red flag, there was one aspect of the prayer over which I want to wave the green flag: the pastor’s passionate and detailed thanksgiving for Nascar. I don’t even watch Nascar, and Pastor Joe fired me up as he thanked God, among other things, for the “mighty machines that you’ve brought before us; for the Dodges…Toyotos…Fords; for Roush and Yates partnering to give us the power we see before us tonight; for GM Performance Technology and the  ro7 engines; …for Sunoco Racing Fuel and Goodyear Tires that bring performance and power to the track.” And when Pastor Joe asked God to “bless the drivers and use them tonight” that they may “put on a performance worthy of this great track,” a hearty “Yes!” rose in my heart — and I don’t have a clue who those drivers are or what track they were racing on! (Not to mention that the race was already over when I heard the prayer.)

The reason I’m waving the green flag here is that this aspect of Pastor Joe’s prayer utterly thrashes the notion that God has little to do with the common parts of our lives. Ask any church-going evangelical whether God cares about all that we do, and the answer will be that of course he does. But press this same evangelical on details and you’re likely to hear some waffling: “Well, God doesn’t really care about this football game…. No, he’s probably not too concerned with how I do on this quiz in school…. No, watching a movie isn’t part of my worship.”

And therein is revealed a poverty in our faith.  Most of us in theory acknowledge God’s sovereign care over all things — down to sparrows falling to the ground and having the hairs of our heads numbered — but in practice we compartmentalize God’s involvement in our lives.  We have one box in our minds labeled “Spiritual Stuff” and another box labeled “Common Stuff.”  Things like reading the Bible and going to church and feeding the poor and engaging unreached people groups belong in the spiritual box.  Everything else goes in the common box, especially things like Nascar.  Consequently, when somebody jumbles up the contents of our boxes, it confuses us.  And as we’re scrambling to get each of the pieces back into the right box, we’re indignant because we think that the spiritual has been trivialized or that the common has been spiritualized.

There is such a thing as the trivialization of faith. Pastor Joe’s prayer, taken as a whole, is an example of that. I could add a couple of personal examples from my own ministry. But I deny that it was trivializing when Pastor Joe prayed with detailed passion for the Nascar event itself. On the contrary, for those with faith, the prayer transformed a common event into one in which God could be glorified. With so much that is common about our lives, we should not find this strange at all. Rather, it should be our regular practice. “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

If we can’t thank God for something, we ought not do it. On the other hand, if we can thank God for something, because it’s not sinful in itself, then we ought to thank him wholeheartedly. Certainly God is worthy of our passionately detailed thanksgivings.

So, what’s in your box of “Common Stuff” that needs to be dumped out, reevaluated, and turned into an act of joyful worship? Whether we eat or drink or enjoy Nascar, or whatever we do, let us learn to do it all with our engine running wide open under the green flag of God’s glory.

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2 Responses to “Boogety, Boogety, Boogety”

  1. Angela Says:

    What you wrote reminds me of Eric Liddel saying that he ran because when he did he felt God’s pleasure. So strange to the other competitors. I bet some of those race car guys race to feel His pleasure, like we all do certain things too. But you are right all things need to be done for His glory and to feel His pleasure. He is to be our constant focus.

  2. Ryan T Says:

    This is a great reminder just sitting here at work. So many times I categorize life in the “spiritual box” and “common life box”. One, I am reminded to be thankful for my current job, even though, I tend to have rough days with it. Also, it has brought a gratefulness for the common things like Nascar, fishing, exercise, which in turn help out with the stresses of every day life. 🙂

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