The Dismantling of the Dream
The term "The American Dream" was first used by the American historian James Truslow Adams in his book "The Epic of America" published in 1931. At that time the United States was suffering under the Great Depression and Adams used the term to describe the complex beliefs, religious promises, political, and social expectations of what he thought to be a perfect world. I'm sure it's safe to say that James Adams’ “American Dream” of 1931 has been left behind. Even my “American Dream” while I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s is antiquated by those forming their own ideals today.
When I was thinking about my future, I had some very clear things in mind:
• I wanted a good job
• I wanted a good wife
• I wanted to have my own home
• I wanted to own my own car
• I wanted to have children and play with them in the yard
• I wanted to be able to go on family vacations
This was my “American Dream”, but I remember the first time that I realized that not everyone shared the same dream that I had. We were in art class and my friend Rusty drew a picture of a semi-truck with a trailer and proceeded to tell me of his dream. He wanted to be a big rig driver and live out on the road. I had never considered that someone else’s dream could be so different than the one that I held on to.
And along the way I have met many people, who have a different dream than mine:
- There are people who would love to live in a big city
- There are people who want to live off the land in remote areas
- There are even those who want their dream to be on another planet someday
That's the thing about “the American dream”. It seems to be an always fluid and changing thing. I guess, at its core, "the American Dream" is the belief of the American society that each individual can, through hard work and strength of mind, achieve everything. I know problems, horrific sins, and tragic situations have always existed for mankind since our expulsion from the Garden of Eden, but I think all of us have a time or at least a vision of what the American dream means to us. Sadly, the devil has blinded the world and the American dream. Something that should be longed for and labored to achieve has been replaced by the immediate gratification of whatever is present in people's lives. This dismantling of the American Dream has been incremental, but the devil is relentless.
For far too many in our society:
• The little white house with the picket fence has been replaced by a flop-house and the next high.
• The maturity of adulthood has been eroded by too many people never taking the responsibility that is earned with age.
• The shiny new car in the driveway is gone and the beater with empties in the floorboard is in its place.
• The happy anniversaries have been given the heave-ho because we’re still checking out the grass on the other side of the fence.
• Delayed gratification of any kind is becoming a relic in our society, because everybody wants theirs and they want it right now.
The world is like a train that's come off the tracks at breakneck speed and we don't know where it's going to end up, but we know it won't be pretty. Society is not pleased with the degradation of yesterday. It's on a constant binge for new and lower ways of living their lives. We live in a time that sin is deepening and the expanse between righteousness and unrighteousness is expanding. Sin is all around us and it is trying to lay hold on our marriages, families, friends, and the church. The devil has deftly dismantled the dream for far too many people. Sin is rampant throughout our world and beyond our belief, it is heralded, fought for, and celebrated at every opportunity. And while sin is taking center stage, righteousness is being labeled as intolerance and the church is being called rigid and hateful. But, I implore you to rehearse the words of Paul to the church at Rome again.
Romans 5:20 ... But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound
We do live in a world that deep dark sin is all around us, but it's not time that the church should tuck its tail between its legs and hide in the corner for fear of our safety.
- We still serve a God that said he would be with us always, even until the end.
- We still serve a God that all power in heaven and in Earth belongs to his name.
- We still serve a God that faced all the enemies of Israel and never suffered defeat.
- We still serve a God whose train fills the temple.
- We still serve a God who tells his people to not fear for He would fight the battle.
- We still serve a God that all of nature awaits his command.
- We still serve a God that tells the sun when to shine and hangs the stars out at night.
So even though the American Dream is under assault and fading fast, Heaven’s Dream is all well and good. Stronger than it's ever been. Hold on to Jesus with everything you’ve got and He guarantees that you and I will never regret it.
At the beginning of August 2007, I was in the closest resemblance to Heaven on Earth I'd experienced yet. Leading up to this point, it had been in my home church on 1930 Boyd Blvd in my home town of La Porte, IN. That had been the place that I had first felt God's presence and had first received the Holy Ghost. Now I was only 700 miles away from that place of so many firsts in my life, but it felt like a whole new dimension. This was the year that I went to North American Youth Congress for the first time in Charlotte, NC. It opened up a whole new world of firsts for me. First "big" road trip with my youth group. First time being completely responsible for my spending habits (of my parent's money). More importantly, it was the first time that I'd ever worshiped with over 10,000 other people in one place. I'd love to tell you that I remember every song and every sermon that I experienced then, but sadly I'm not super human in that way (or any way for that matter). I remember the theme was "To Be Continued..." and looking back over the 12 years since my first NAYC I couldn't agree more.
Just a few weeks ago, I returned from my sixth NAYC and needless to say a lot has changed since my first in 2007. Instead of being a passenger on the road trip, I'm now the bus driver. Instead of making sure I have enough money for food through the whole Congress, I get to make sure the teenagers that are experiencing their first Congress budget their money correctly. More importantly, I get to be there when they experience over 36,000 other young people worshiping the same God they do in one mind, in one accord, and in one place for their first time. I get to witness them being filled with the Holy Ghost for the first time. I get to watch them make memories and build friendships that will last a lifetime. So much has changed since I had my first NAYC experience and most of it has been for the better.
There is one part that hasn't changed though. Just like it was 12 years ago in Charlotte, the presence of God that I felt this year in St. Louis was the closest resemblance to Heaven on Earth I've experienced yet. Don't get me wrong, I believe it would be very difficult for God not to show up when that many people are praising him. Psalms 22:3 tells us that he lives in the atmospheres of praise that we produce. To be honest though, I don't think it was the amount of people. I don't think it was the amount of talent of the worship team on the platform or the anointing that flowed from the preachers behind the pulpit. The reason that the presence of God was the closest to Heaven on Earth in Charlotte 12 years ago and the reason that it was closer in St. Louis just a few weeks ago is the same reason that it felt even closer in our church the Sunday after we got back. That reason is because each and every time we come together in one mind and one accord worshiping one God there is a petition that is sent to heaven that says "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven"
It's wonderful to worship him in football stadiums and have our hearts convicted by the word of God from the anointed leaders of our movement. I love every moment of it. However, the same God that met me in Charlotte and St. Louie is the same God that met me on Sunday at First Pentecostal Church of La Porte. The fact of the matter is that as long as I'm in the state of mind that I want his kingdom to come and his will to be done, there is always going to be more to come. As long as I'm reaching higher for more of him, God's will is going to come on Earth as it is in Heaven. James put it simply and succinctly in verse 4 of chapter 8 when he said "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you." Just like it was in my first NAYC in 2007 and my sixth this year. Just like it was at FPC and every other church across the world this past Sunday. When we truly want his will, Heaven will meet Earth regardless of where we are at.
Let his kingdom come and his will be done regardless of where you are at today.