Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

To divide something is not necessarily difficult. It’s easy with numbers, but when it involves the heavy stuff of living like God wants…well let’s just say, it’s gonna test everything in you.

Take Psalm 86:1-11 for instance. David recognized his poor and needy heart even while working at getting it right with God. He really trusted God, talked regularly with Him and believed God was listening to him. He even concluded in verse 10 that God alone was God. But in verse 11 David asked for the unthinkable- “…give me an undivided heart.”

What really proves that you have an undivided heart? Is it that you block out a couple of hours on Sunday for God time? Or how about opening the Bible at least twice last week?

WHAT THIS MEANS: What focus in your life would your friends say is the “real you?” What do you talk about more than anything? What do you think about when you jump in bed or crawl out?

DISCIPLESHIP THOUGHT: Becoming a maturing disciple is accomplished only by relentlessly eliminating distractions that trap us in mediocrity. Check Haggai 1:7 “…Take a good. hard look at your life, think it over.” Message translation.

How old do you have to be when it dawns on you? How far from where you know you used to be are you now? How much has the culture, like an invisible magnet drawn you to a place where you wonder what happened?

When was the last time you knew God spoke to you about something so relevant to life today that it stopped you in your tracks? Maybe a more practical question might be- has God ever spoken to you?

Genesis 17:1 is almost out of reach for many of us. God shows up and talks with Abraham when he’s 99 years old. Check out God’s conversation with him. Abe got it, and fell flat on his face.

There’s never an age or distance you and I are from God in which we are free from His outrageous love for and challenge to us to live life to the max (which is to live it as He designed it). Our sophisticated or rationalized choosing to live as we want results in erasing God from our life.

WHAT THIS MEANS: One reason we don’t want God to speak to us is that when He does, it always means something will change in our lifestyle. How serious are you about wanting to hear from Him? Be honest with yourself about this one.

Some decisions are easier to go back on than others. I am at Moxie Java in Garden City, Idaho as I type this. I could have just as easily gone to Alia’s in Boise for morning coffee. I could have changed my mind on the way to Moxie very easily. Much of the time our decisions about commitment and culture addictions seem to be written in pencil rather than ink. Some decisions reflect an unwillingness to make a courageous choice to not waver with the issues. Think about the benefits of drawing a line regarding your unwillingness to compromise a commitment or an unhealthy involvement in the culture.

Matthew 6:24 and 1 John 2:15 & 16 present challenges that give us an opportunity to write our life with a pen or pencil. We often have such a belief system that allows us to vacillate whenever. “God must have used a pencil rather than a pen in these verses” we say. Or maybe our willingness to do what he says is more written with a pencil than a pen. We can try to justify our unwillingness to draw a line on compromise by thinking “I use a pen more often than a pencil in making decisions” We can think this justifies our moving or removing the line we have drawn but we need to break the pencil in half or better, throw it away.

Isaiah 27:9 clearly shows the commitment God expects from us. Our alter stones and Asherah poles look different today but our actions prove whether we are using a pen or pencil to make our commitments.

Where have you compromised the commitment God expects with regard to living in your culture or in your commitment to following Jesus? How should you deal with this?

What does it mean to want something so bad that we will risk, practice or devote our self so completely to it that it even surprises us? If it’s worth it, we’re not going to even think about cost. We will do this for participation in or recognition in sports, music, our jobs or whatever we or others highly value.

But why do we chase the wind harder than the one who made it? We need to seriously examine our heart to see if we really want him. If we do, those hard decisions will become easier as we see the emptiness in chasing what God says will ruin us either slowly or all at once. We too easily live in ways that show that we don’t really believe God gets it.

Look at some of the words in Colossians 3:1-10: “Set your hearts, set your minds, put to death, rid yourselves…”These words indicate determination to focus on what pleases God. Paul challenges Timothy and us in 2 Timothy 2:3 & 4 to not get “sucked into the daily soap opera of normal life.” A warfare mentality gets nasty and crazy about eliminating everything that distracts from the commander’s orders.

David (a man after God’s heart and doing everything God wanted him to do-see Acts 13:22) said in Psalms 39:5 and 139:23 & 24 that our life is so brief that we should ask God to take a look at our life and tell us what he sees. This was a man whose focus was cleat and enjoyed life but put away the card games when a spear came his way. He wanted what God wanted and got rid of everything that kept him from that goal.

How does our prayer life reflect our commitment to experience God in an authentic way? Are we willing to be brave enough to ask God to show us what needs to go from our life? How about asking someone you trust to tell you what they see in your life that proves that you are serious about following Jesus or makes them wonder about it?

Everything we do must have a point. If there is no point, life is emptied of its exhilaration. That rush of anticipation of what might come next is thrown away and life becomes a cheap imitation. This is lived out every day in every country, in every city and on every street. It has pervaded our lives and is beyond measure.

Paul addressed this masterful deception our enemy has saturated our cultures with and nowhere is it more widespread than in the American culture. In 2 Corinthians 10:12 the gauntlet is thrown down by Paul. Paul is issuing a challenge to each one of us every day. This is a  “dog eat dog” world now, as it was then. The world doesn’t fight fair. We also try everything to fit in by comparing, grading and competing. We have targeted audiences that we must be accepted into regardless of what compromise we must make or injury we might cause someone else.

As followers of Jesus we have been trusted by God to let the world see that Jesus isn’t a word of explanation used by people at athletic events or when we just feel we have been hammered by someone. Jesus stood out in His culture and when we try to fit in, the people we have the opportunity to influence have just been robbed from seeing the real Jesus.

People are really looking for someone to be real and take a genuine interest in them. Ask God to show you how to live in such a way that people will be curious and ask you why you’re not like their other friends.

Driving a car while texting can cause us to run a red light or fail to slow to the 25 mph posted speed limit or even worse… Our enemy has any number of strategies to cause us to take our eyes off of the prize. Some are so obvious like an affair, taking the change out of the tip jar or “relaxing” with the new video game for 3 hours. But he is more subtle than we imagine. After all, he has a few years on us.

So he just distracts us, and our understanding of life and how it is to be lived becomes distorted. It doesn’t happen overnight but day be day it is reinforced. Our normal seems to have changed from what we would not be caught dead being involved in to a more consistently accepted practice. The damage the enemy does today comes wrapped in deceptive packages that appear as good, right, or normal accepted ways of looking at life.

Regardless, while we become absorbed in these distortions we miss the freedom we long for and the resulting peace that comes from living as God created us when all of this started. Remember, satan was the voice in the dark alley selling a lie to our original parents. They bought it as do we much too frequently.

1 Peter 5:8 will never be found in the “upcoming events” section of the local newspaper, it will not be tweeted nor will there be a U Tube video of how he sneaks up and destroys life. And 1 John 2:15,16 reveals  a built in design flaw of satan’s strategy that is not easily seen unless we take a daily walk with Jesus.

Weapons of Mass Distraction

Weapons of Mass Distraction (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Time

Time (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn_BE_BACK_IN_SEPTEMBER)

We have calendars on the wall, on our laptops and phones. They record where and when we are supposed to hang with Bill or Claire. Our concerts, football games, kid’s soccer games increasingly take our time. Our hobbies, personal recreation time and movies all garner a high priority. The August 7-13 Boise Weekly publicatiion had at least 75 happenings for the week. I stopped counting at 75. There is nothing wrong with any of these things unless…

A focus on developing a meaningful relationship with Jesus and helping others learn how to also walk with God and how to pass that on to others allows us to have the time to do what Jesus said life is all about. To not miss the trip God promises to be better than the “Dirty Deck Party Weekend”, we have to get our “life focus” right. It doesn’t mean we can’t dance with our buds but we’re gonna make time for God and others. The problem is we like play rather than war and believe me it is a battle to really make a difference in someone’s life.

2 Timothy 2:3 and 4 in the Word on the Street reminds us to “…use your gifts God’s given you since you connected with the Liberator, Jesus…Tough it out with us…Trained combat teams don’t get sucked into the daily soap opera of normal life. And verse 17 adds “keep on track with your training. You’re convinced, so carry on focused.” The truth is we don’t really believe there is a war that our enemy wages 24/7. And if we do, it is easy to believe it is for others to fight, not us because it might alter our lifestyle.

But if God always has our best interest in mind and loves us and Jesus always told the truth, to not enlist in this battle means we will miss the most significant trip of our life. We’ll have to live with knowing we poured our life down a rat hole if we don’t make time for what really matters.

Perfect match

Perfect match (Photo credit: emme-dk)

The guy on the street, the clerk in the store, the lawyer rushing off to build a winning case and everyone else in any profession is looking to make sense out of life. There are so many traps, dead ends and detours that most throw up their hands and forget the search and live a life that blends in with everyone else. They know there must be an answer to the ongoing riddle of what life is about. They have seen religious zealots carrying a Bible and shouting stuff that makes no sense as well as good intentional people do something on Sunday morning that really does not connect with their deepest needs.

But then one day they meet a guy or gal in a coffee shop or a bar who strikes up a conversation that makes more sense and they are curious. Over the next few weeks their curiosity goes to the next level as they hang out with this person over meals, on the golf course, and hiking in the mountains. They discover that this person’s belief and lifestyle are a perfect match. They are more than curious, they want what they see.

Our life either crosses out what we say or it underscores what we actually believe. It’s our choice but our neighbor, our co-worker, the guy in the bar or the waitress are all waiting to see if this stuff actually makes sense.

More match making thoughts can be found in: Ecclesiastes 3:11; Daniel 6:4 and 1 Corinthians 15:34.

Contrasting Realities

Contrasting Realities (Photo credit: Aaron Dieppa)

Most people in America prefer a life that is safe, comfortable and free from danger. Is there anything wrong with this? That depends on what God has to say on the topic. For instance, as you look at how Jesus did life, it is painfully obvious that he seemed to challenge the status quo and accepted cultural norms every day. Of course those participating in the various “self-centered” clubs of that day not only discouraged others from checking into Jesus but threatened them and Jesus in various ways. They might kick them out of their self-imposed “religious zones” they had created (the only places where God could be worshiped). Or worse they might have them removed from the planet.

To associate with Jesus was to be ready for whatever and it usually was not the picnic in the park by a lake watching swans. But on the other hand, since he had all the authority over life, it was the safest place to be. A want ad in the Nazareth Times might read “wanted: men and women willing to take a journey of a lifetime. Everything provided for an adventure filled with beautiful sights and consistently life-threatening events. Look for Jesus and follow him.”

Philippians 3:10 gives a glimpse of one who answered that ad. Paul said “…I’m up for showing solidarity with him (Jesus) by going through tough times, getting inside his head by facing death…I want the whole lot. I want to know him. Deep. The Word on the Street. And there is 2 Timothy 3:12 which stops many as it clearly points out that to really follow Jesus means you’re in for a lot of trouble. The encouraging word from Jesus himself in Matthew 28:18-20 is that he is with us 24/7.

Danger and safety-ready to respond to the want ad?

change

change (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I remember a time in my life when I would drive into the gas station and an attendant would come out and I would say “fill it up.” The attendant would proceed to fill my car with gas. Most of us can’t remember ever saying that.

Our culture increasingly entices us with the “must have” or “next thing” to fill or complete our life. We find ourselves saying without words, “fill me up.” Maybe we are fearful that if we spend more time thinking about God or reading the Bible He will do something in us that will change the lifestyle we have concluded is really normal and comfortable. So, without reservation we continue to buy in to the next gadget, something that will improve the appearance or our home or the latest fashion that is sure to turn eyes our way.

However, God is more persistent than we can imagine to continually pull back the veil from our eyes so we can see who He really is, what He expects and what is best for us. But just like a kid who challenges their parents who seem to have “unreasonable” expectations of them, we pursue what our culture presents to us in such an alluring way and we are not really convinced God is telling us the truth.

Psalm 46:10 and Isaiah 66:1 and 2 are a couple of verses that most of us might wish were not included in the Bible. Who has time to “be still” when “Widespread Panic”, “Sun Valley on Ice” or the endless Casino events are a short drive away. Oh, and the golf course is almost always open. Whenever God speaks to us something is going to change and we will avoid that by chasing something else that captures our focus. A lasting truth that has helped me is to realize that God always loves me and has my best interest in mind. Jeremiah 29:11 is still in the Bible.

Don’t tack on time with God, but build time with Him into the fabric of your schedule. It will change something for you but God knows what He is talking about.