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Escapism: Every Man for Himself
Scripture: Proverbs 27:17
Track 3 of 13 in the American Idols series
Running time: 19 minutes, 06 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

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Keith Ehresman Speaker: Keith Ehresman
Keith is the Family Minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

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Contemplating Culture

Once we admit we are immersed in our world, we can sit back and contemplate what's going on. Contemplation provides a means of being sure we are not only correctly assessing the culture but also determining an appropriate Christian response.

Kevin Vanhoozer in Everyday Theology suggests these four means of contemplation. I'm suggesting it will work well as a model for letting Proverbs help us.

First: Reflection (ala Proverbs 6:6). Think about things . . . slow down . . . ponder . . . ask questions. What's really going on? What's the long term effect? Can this sustain me?

Second: Instruction (as in Proverbs 4:1-4). Seek what godly people say. Remember family traditions. What does the church say?

Third: Correction (Proverbs 12:1). Be humble enough to listen and learn. Recognize the grade involved in God's discipline.

Finally: Revelation (Proverbs 2:6-8; 29:18). What does God say? Where in the Bible does it address such things?

Contemplation can lead us to understanding . . . and to healthy response. Contemplation is the opposite of escapism. Escapism wants to avoid dealing with reality. Escapism wants to do things on your own, in your own way, without responsibility or accountability.

Escapism at its best is captured in the image of Disney World. We move through the gates into a time of pleasant vacation. We don't have to deal with reality. We can even charge our expenses and postpone that reality too. We're having fun. The rest of life is "on hold," at least for the moment.

Escapism at its worst is the "tourist." They come to see and experience but never to take responsibility or to invest in any thing. Life is to be avoided. Reality rejected. I want to see, feel, smell, hear the world, but I don't want to deal with it. I'd rather move on to the next attraction.

Escape often occurs in destructive ways: alcohol and other drugs, conspicuous consumption, abandonment of family, workaholism or ultimately suicide.

Life is hard. No one is denying that. Running from it is not the answer (it's actually harder in the long run). The answer: companionship . . . company . . . doing life together.

Sermon for Sunday, June 17, 2007
Escapism: Every Man for Himself
Proverbs 27:17
Series: American Idols

Together we run, together. This world tells us that we need to escape, that we need to be men that we need to do it on our own. It's not what God intends at all. Proverbs 27:17: As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. One friend sharpens another. That scriptures packed. It says a prudent person perceives that danger ahead and takes precautions; the simpleton goes blindly and then suffers consequences. The heartfelt council of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.

If you know me at all, you know that every morning I probably wake up and there's a part of me that does pray for American; but I also have a heart for Africa. Never had one of these before, but it really really demonstrates what we're here to talk about today.

You see, in Africa it's really simple; you go into these tribal animistic areas and they put on these masks and when they put on these masks, all of a sudden they can be anything they want to be, and they can pretend to be anything they want to be.

And there is demonic influence and there is demonic power and there is deception. And for that reason I never really wanted to have one of these masks.

And yet I am convinced that we live in the United States of America and each of us each day perhaps we're not even aware of it, that Satan has deceived us and we put on the mask. And we tell people, "I'm doing fine" and "I'm doing great" and "Hey life is good," and "Hey I can do this on my own and no problem."

And yet today basically, these two friends of mine we're laying down the masks in front of you and we're just saying, they've asked to come and share what we do together and as we meet and as we journey in this life together as friends. Because each of us has learned basically that we can't do it on our own, and when we try to do it on our own, we fail miserably.

It is an incredible call that God asks us to, to let down masks. It would be much easier, we sat yesterday over coffee, and this is just not quit the same, right guys? Right, we tried to envision, we talked quit awhile about what are we going to do? What are we going to talk about? What are we going to show? Because we are not going to be like we are when we go away even when we're in a public place, we're away and you're not watching us. And you're not listening to us.

So, we talked quit awhile about what are we going to do? What are we going to say that anyone of you gets, that you understand, that we can relate. For me, what a powerful word for me that I'm learning about and I'm trying to understand is the word, "mystery". And it's a powerful word for me because there's scriptures that I've read that I've never noticed it and lately it's standing out to me about how Paul talks about the mystery of Christ and the love of Christ and how that is a mystery. How things are unexplainable and we talked quit awhile yesterday about what are we going to tell people about our friendship, not just the friendship, but we come to a table with certain understanding, certain expectations, certain willingness, and I think one of the key things is in this "mystery "of this friendship, that develops is risk.

We risk sharing, we risk talking about things that I'd rather not talk about, that I would rather not share with anyone. But it does me harm to not confess to my brothers.

Aaron: "I feel compelled to tell my story : My story may have started a few weeks ago when I was baptized but it also began 10 years ago when my wife brought me here to Madison Park and shortly after that I met Keith. And Keith has been inspirational to me throughout my years here. He's communicated with me through e-mail, he counseled Stacy and I prior to being married'; Keith: "And Aaron still washes the dishes, sorry". Aaron: "dishwasher broke a couple of weeks ago and I do the dishes around my house, but that was Keith's fault. But, all this time; Keith's been praying for me and hoping that I get to the point where I've been ready to make the next step and to follow Christ. We also got the opportunity to go on a retreat earlier this year and that's where I met Tim. We had been caving and we were walking back to the van, and I had already confessed to everyone there that I hadn't been baptized and I was not following Christ's call.

Tim took a risk and he came up along side of me and he said, "I don't know what you're struggling with, or what it is, what prevents you from following Christ, " but he said, he gave me some profound advice; "figure out what that is and take care of it." And so, that's what I did. Since then, I've been able to further develop a relationship with Keith and Tim that has purpose. And so, a lot of times we have a lot of friends in our relationships are driven by purpose. And so we're trying to develop a relationship that is for a purpose.

Keith: Tim touched on that word "mystery", we talked about it yesterday, I keep coming back to it. This is not an age thing, this is just not ok this is a bunch young guys, I wish I could say that about myself but I can't anymore, Tim: "he's old" Keith: "I am old but they still hang around me and it's good" Tim: "Not that old" Keith: "But Eugene Peterson that translated the message version, he takes a lot of wrath or just heat for the mystery that he takes in his interpretation of scripture. And I like how he puts it, because he said, "What he's not doing is fantasy, because fantasy is when we get self absorbed and we're trying to escape and we're trying to satisfy our own inner self and yet mystery is something that we've lost in the church . Mystery is something that we've got to seek out and we aren't maybe ever going to understand what the "this" is and what the mystery is of it.

But we need to keep following hard after the heart of God, and letting him lead in that, letting him direct in that. And when we remove the mask, its friendships and it's friendships at another level. Aaron shared yesterday; you're friend just a couple weeks ago, Aaron: Yes, certainly I had an acquaintance or actually someone I considered a friend, in one of my previous employments and I found out that he had committed suicide. What I was sharing with Tim and Keith, is that you don't know people unless you remove the mask and you know; so I'm left with that he's gone, and was there some other way that I could of reached him or helped him? I don't know; but fortunately I have Tim and Keith here helping me be accountable for the things in my life.

And so we're here today to encourage you to develop relationships or friendships which help you be accountable.

Tim: "I think that's great, I can really say anything more in regards to that. I think that's exactly what we're here for." "The verse: Men sharpen men, you know; as iron sharpens iron. Its there for a reason. Its not there to be cool, its not there to be a thing you hang on your wall, its there because it works. It's something that God says do this because it works."

Tim: "We're here to encourage you, we're here to say, I can tell you that without these guys my walk is dead, my walk is cold, and I do things I shouldn't do and I think things I shouldn't think but with these guys, with this friendship that we're working on, developing and risking; I get to bring those things to a table maybe even to an email. We email quit a bit to each other throughout the week. He lives in Hannibal, so I don't get to see him that much, so there's a lot things that go back and forth by email, and I risk sending something to him or to Keith every time I hit "send" is "what are they going to think?" Sometimes I write a paragraph that takes me an hour to write it, because it's really 4 paragraphs and I get rid of 3 paragraphs because I can't say that or I might do that and put the 3 paragraphs back in and say, "I have to do that" "I have to say this" and you know what? I'm risking that they won't get it. We're risking right now, I honestly don't know if any of you men will get this. A year ago my relationships with other men, I didn't have any apart from, "hey how are you doing?" "I'm great" "I'm fine" "Everything's fine" and I would turn away and walk away and that pit at the bottom of my stomach would say. "You just lied to that man" because I wasn't fine and I'm not great, and so this relationship allows me an opportunity to come and say, "this is what's going on". Some of it's you know day to day, I wasn't a good father, I wasn't a good husband, I'm having trouble with my wife, blah, blah, blah. I'm having this challenge at work. And sometimes it's bigger things that just day to day kind of things.

So, there's a mystery in this that I can't explain, we tried to talk about it; Keith and I tried to talk about it and the best thing I can come up with is that we try to just be friends, and also; I try to bring basically the heart of a child to this relationship in some ways. Where I think of myself as an adult I get all the adult things in the way of the stuff. Where I tried to think of like maybe a 6 or and 8 or a 10 year old, when I was that age and I had a friend I didn't think about all this "stuff" in some ways. We just kind of said, "Let's hang out" and that's what we we'd do. There's not, he doesn't bring a you know a scripture and say, ‘Well today Tim and Aaron I'm going to express to you the answers to all of your problems." Keith: "And ask him for a 2 page report that I'll grade"

We had to work through those things because we had to develop a relationship that said, "look, I'm really not into a teacher-student relationship; that's not where I am in my life, I'm not."

So it took risks and steps along the way and you may not know how to take a risk, you may not know that you need this, you may think, "I'm too old" or "these people are too young" or "I'm too young or their too old". I don't think that's true, I think that's a deception we buy into.

I think we have a wide range of ages in this place and that's a beautiful thing and I think we segregate that because we think, "well, he's over 50 and he's under 30, they won't have anything in common." Well, they're both men, there's going to be a lot in common if they come to the table and are willing to risk it.

Keith: And what you just said, I think about my personal journey here even at Madison Park. When I came here as a 22 year old once upon a time; there was an older man here in this congregation and he was part of leadership and he started taking me to lunch and invited me to his work place. And I will go to my grave with things that he has shared with me from the depths of his heart. Because I trust him and respect him deeply, because he started mentoring me and so when Tim talks about this age division don't let it separate you. I miss that man, I miss him a lot around here and his presence around here and yet I watched him invest in young men and pour his heart and his life and his energy into his family and I remember driving the streets of Quincy a time just praying and listening and talking and it was a powerful thing that once he passed away and was gone that all of a sudden he still was taking care of me. It's just hard to explain but you have to understand, he knew me so well and there were times that I wouldn't slow down and needed retreat that he made sure his wife called me and says, "You know what? You're family is getting away because… my husband would want this….." And that's the kind of friendship I guess that I'm trying to display to you today. It's not just with these guys, but for the season we're taking it and we're enjoying it. But hopefully today it will wet your appetite to say, "Who is it around me?" And so when they walk up to me and I instead of saying, "let's do lunch" we say, "how about Monday 11:45 meet ya." And we take the next step and we take the initiative because it will sharpen us and we will become the men that God intends us to be.

And I don't want to pull an Aaron Gander away from his friends in Hannibal and out of his work place and he did a great imagery in just his email the other night on a funnel and I'm going to let you tell them that….

Aaron: I just sent an email to Keith and Tim that said if you're at the top of the funnel it's fairly easy to climb your way out, but the longer you're in the funnel, you're going to get towards the bottom and your going to go through the neck and so if you have somebody at the top who can pull you out, get you away from Satan's grip you're going to be in better shape, don't stay in the funnel.

Tim: This is the problem we have when we get together, we can talk a long, long time. You can ask out wives, so I think we're getting the "we're done" time. So, very much appreciate this opportunity and thank you.

Keith: There's one passage and then we're done. Maybe. Two people can accomplish more that twice as much as one. They can get a better return for their labor. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people, who are alone, when they fall, are in real trouble. And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other; but how can we be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back to back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple braided cord is not easily broken.

Chuck: Life is messy. I think only the naïve; the inexperienced would ever try to tell you otherwise. It's just hard to live in this world and not realize that there are a lot of things that come along that are just plain hard.

And God must have known that. Because he created in us the ability to do different kinds of things to help. I don't understand this, its' way beyond anything I have ever been able to grasp and yet I am fully aware that in our psyche, we have the ability to hide things. We can store them. We put them away. They're too hard to deal with and somewhere in there, God has made it possible for you to stick those back there and they may not ever surface.

If they do, it may only come when you have somebody who is a professional who can help you bring it out and deal with it from somewhere deep inside your past.

He gave us this little simple tool, its called amnesia. We forget. Somebody mentioned it this morning as they were talking about Lu Ann K. and the accident that she was involved in and quite honestly she doesn't remember anything. The response was, "That's probably good". I think it's a built-in mechanism that God has placed within us. At its very deepest, that's the source of multiple personalities.

Where the human system shuts everything off that is so hard and so difficult, and it brings up somebody else to live in its place because life is just plain messy. It's hard.

I think God gave us religious ways of handling that. I use that in the best sense of the word, I think there are things that God built into the system in order to help us deal with the messiness of life.

One of them is the Sabbath. It's a time of rest, it's a day away, it's to pull aside, its to be alone, its to set aside some time for just you and God in reflection. He built that into the system. In fact he built it in so much he said do it once a week, knowing that life would be messy, and you need it.

I think he built it into the religious system of…well, for example the Lord's Supper when you have opportunity to step away and to look at life through the lens of what God has already done and to discover that you're not walking this road spiritually by yourself, but Christ has already walked in front of you, and he has made a path for you and he's already been down this road.

I think he's done that for us in the very sense of the assembly together, so that you are reminded to be together, spend some time with each other. Don't try to walk this thing all by yourself.

Man has created his own set of escapes, and that's where this whole cultural mess begins to get in because on the negative side, we've got all kinds of ways of escaping. We have discovered as many ways of escaping as there are human imaginations.

Certainly we do it through drugs and alcohol. We do it through pornography. And ultimately, we do it through suicide when we just can't deal with life.

But we've got other ways of doing it that are frankly quite neutral in my opinion. They can be a negative way of escape; they can be a positive thing in our life. It depends a bit on how we view them. Work and career can be like that. Your work can be a very positive part of who you are, but for some of us, we use it as escape-we don't want to deal with what's going on in the rest of the world and so we pour ourselves into our work to the suffering of our family or our other relationships.

Leisure is one of those things. Leisure is a very good thing. Everybody needs some time for leisure. But there are some people who just simply escape from reality by spending all of their time in recreation. They don't want to deal with life.

Certainly, entertainment falls into that category. We all need entertainment. Entertainment is a good thing. But you can become entertained by this world to the place that you live in a fantasy land. In fact it's really fascinating and it would make a wonderful study, for somebody much smarter than I am to go through and look at the response on the blogs to the condemnation of some internet and computer games.

There are studies out there that suggest that those are a negative escape from reality and they're addictive just like gambling and other things. And then you read the responses and the responses are: "Oh no, those are good for us, we need escape."

It would be interesting to know what they are escaping from that would drive them to those kinds of activities. They could be just good entertainment.

There are certainly some positives things that are escapes: Vacations. I mean, think of the number one vacation place in the world: Disney world.

Talk about escape from reality, you walk through the gates, and nothing is real. You don't even have to pay for it today. You can wait until you get home. That will become real by the way.

So, what's the problem? What's the cultural issue? The issue in my mind is really simple; because it's not that escape in and of itself is wrong, it's not even always unhealthy; there are times when that is very important. The issue is my refusal to see myself as part of this picture.

Culture tells me to avoid the reality of life. Just make up my own world and live in something that I like and I can deal with and the rest of you…..well, there are swear words that follow that. Just we eliminate people. We want to create a world in which we live and everybody else is ignored, and/or rejected. And so rather facing the possibilities that in our relationships with our parent, or our spouse; we might be playing a role in that and need to do something to try to mend that relationship, we just choose to reject them. To rebel against them. To ignore them. To abandon them.

So what's the Biblical answer? "Together." Proverbs 27:17: As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

We do it together. But understand something, I don't know much about much; I do know this: Files are abrasive. That's how they work. Iron doesn't sharpen iron unless it creates abrasion and sparks.

Things fall. It hurts. And that is the only way that we can collectively together in relationship take and move forward. If one man is going to sharpen another then there has to be some form of risk taking where I put myself in a place where I can be hurt. And probably will be. But it will be the kind of hurt that produces something positive.

As you're reading through the bulletin insert this week, you're going to notice two references to the apostle Paul and they are both around this idea of being together.

One, the first one is such a positive experience. When the Apostle has been brought back to Jerusalem, he's a brand new convert; you can imagine Saul of Tarsus coming to the church and them saying, "We don't want anything to do with this guy. He persecutes Christians. Why would we let him in the assembly?" And Barnabas comes along and encourages the church to accept him as a brother.

The second reference you're going to see is when Paul is preaching in a situation where there are gentiles and Peter comes from Jerusalem and he does fine for a little while eating with the gentiles, which was a major problem for a Jewish believer; and then people from Jerusalem show up and Peter stops eating with them. And the text has one of the most powerful statements. It says: Paul confronted him to his face. It was a nose to nose confrontation. Peter; you are wrong. That's also iron sharpening iron.

What we're trying to suggest to you today is that Disciples, being a Christian; being a follower of Jesus, implies that you are not walking alone. Even though the culture would say escape your responsibilities, escape you accountabilities, live in a fantasy world,; and don't worry about what goes on in somebody else's life. Scripture teaches by the very name "Disciple" that you are in relationship. Because Disciples are only Disciples if they have a teacher. That's what a Disciple was. A learner. And being a learner meant you were following somebody. You had a mentor. You were under someone else's leadership. You were engaged in a relationship.

In the very act of becoming a Christian, you adopted Jesus as your Discipler. And it's interesting isn't it? When Jesus is preparing to leave, the one thing he says is, "It's good if I go away, because if I go away, I can send one to go with you." And the one who comes with you literally, according to scripture the Holy Spirit; walks beside you. Takes up residence and is your eternal mentor.

But the expectation is you would never do this, it's just you and Jesus or just you and the Holy Spirit. The expectation is you would always have brothers and sisters in your life helping you be responsible and holding you accountable.

I speak to you from personal experience. We do not make it well on our own. I've tried. And failed.

I read a story this past week; it was intriguing to me for a lot of reasons. It's the story of Carrie Humble. I hope none of you recognize her name. It's not a good sign if you do because she' a porn star. Well, was. She walked into church and set down in the second row, she sat there for several weeks. Lynn Johnson one of a number of people at The Church On The Rock; who had been praying for those people who had been involved in the porn industry; noticed her there and decided she would talk to her. Lynn walked up and Carrie's first remark was; "My name is Carrie, I just retired from the porn industry." You talk about risk. "God bless you, we're glad you're here." But for two years Carrie maintained a relationship with her boyfriend who was a part of the pornography industry. And to tell it in her own words. "she would not have survived were it not for Lynn."

The statement was, "She's found it difficult to totally distance herself from the past. Until last summer she held onto a porn star boyfriend, a relationship she felt God didn't approve of…" I want you to hear this, "But with the help of people like Lynn Johnson…" Do you hear it? "With the help of…"

That is the challenge. To be willing to recognize and to understand and to admit you don't do this on your own.

And so, like the guys have said, we're calling you to seek out relationships with people who will hold you accountable and who will encourage your life. Because we want nothing more than for you to hunger after God. To have a deep yearning desire to be in relationship with the Father.

But that will never happen effectively and successfully if you try to walk this road by yourself. So, as one man to another, as a brother to brothers and sisters, I want to encourage you to get into a relationship with God first and foremost. To hunger after him from the depths of your soul. But don't try to do this alone.

And I just feel really comfortable in making you this promise: If you hunger after God, God will satisfy your need for him. And I am absolutely confident that in this body of believers, if you hunger after a friend who will walk with you, there's somebody here that will do that.

[Transcribed by VW5]