Posts Tagged ‘Culture’

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)

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.

A small group of people in a Bible discussion group are looking at some stuff Jesus said or what the practice of the early church was. They knew that to take Jesus at his word or believe the church was totally on target was going to alter their lifestyle both individually and as a church. So what did they do? Each one began to make suggestions about what Jesus probably meant. It became clear that no one was ready to take Jesus at his word or believe the early church could be a

Rationalizing...

Rationalizing… (Photo credit: gregoryperez)

model for how to do church today.

Slowly over the years we have deliberately minimized or explained away those aspects of following Jesus that disrupt the way we want to live or practice doing church with others. In so doing, we have depreciated what Jesus was all about. In our bent to be comfortable, we do not tolerate anything that is difficult or makes us think. Besides, we don’t know any of our friends who live like this. I mean, it is one thing to be a Christian but this is the 21st century and we have to make Jesus’ hard words fit into this culture. Really?

Does culture explain the gospel or does the gospel interpret what is right or wrong about cultureIn John 6 Jesus is intent on people knowing what he is after. He is coloring outside of their box and he doesn’t care if some are going to bail. He makes no compromises as to what a disciple (follower) is to be, what they are to do and how they are to live. Almost everyone leaves and Jesus watches them walk away. Some probably ran.

And the early church…check out Acts 4:32-35. How do we change this mark of the church to fit our lifestyle? When was the last time you saw this consistently happening?

Whatever else this all means, one thing is certain-Jesus underscores the simplicity of following him while reminding us of the cost.

Italian Job

Italian Job (Photo credit: kenjonbro)

If you saw the movie you know how wicked fast those mini’s raced through the crowded streets to escape with enough gold to open a few thousand bank accounts. There was no time to think or focus on the beach you would be laying down on later and how you would roast some shrimp and lobster with a friend.

Recently, I had an opportunity to be involved in the sequel to the original movie. Racing through traffic with 4 other vehicles, dodging dogs, cars, horses and a few people while not stopping for any red lights or glancing in a side mirror for about 20 minutes did not allow me the opportunity to think about a quiet time with Jesus. Survival was the only thought.

While that experience was out of the ordinary, our pace of life can often mimic it. And there is no real justification for the breakneck pace we become trapped in on an almost daily basis. There is an exit from this pace of life but most miss it.

Knowing the point of why God left us on this planet and consistently focusing on it will keep us from the destructive lifestyle of busyness. Mark 3:14 reveals that Jesus wants us to be with him and John 15:7 adds that he wants us to stretch out on the couch with him and enjoy the relationship with him he intended. This is not a new Apple product, it has been around a while. Just think about Hosea 6:6-“I’m after love that lasts, not more religion. I want you to know God, not go to more prayer meetings.” The Message.

What one thing will you do this week to slow your pace of life in order to spend more quality time with Jesus?

“It was just one taste”, “I was only there for a minute”, “I was  only window shopping”…and there are many other innocent ways of saying that we never intended to get trapped in the deadly pull of the culture’s distorted view of how life is to be lived. will the I Phone 6 be the last or will the  numbers keep on going? Every new phone, tablet or computer will be enhanced with features that make it really impossible to live without. Or that is what will be audibly and visually communicated to us every day.

And what about sin? We have curled up on the couch with it and it is as normal to us as going to the fridge for a coke or a beer. Compromise begins in “little” ways and we don’t recognize the changes that begin to happen to us. We’ve bought into a system that has a flawed design that sucks the life out of us.

The author of the lie does not just tickle us; he comes to eat us alive. Check out 1 Peter 5:8. And a paraphrase of 1 John 2:15 and 16 goes something like this: “I have the right to do what I want to do, have what I want to have and be who I want to be.” To think like this will pull us away from God’s best for us.

The giant magnet!

The giant magnet! (Photo credit: indigo -)

I was sitting in our living room and decided to open the blinds. Our apartment overlooks a lake on about 250 acres of a wildlife refuge. In a matter of a few minutes one of the two bald eagles dove from a tree and sped along the water at about two feet. Then it was back to the tree. But next the juvenile eagle comes and repeats the lesson. They did this twice. What if I had not opened the blinds?

Jesus’ revolutionary perspective on life often clashes with the accepted American or Christian practices. We can easily keep the blinds closed and not take a hard look at what will bring us freedom and a joy in doing and not rationalizing what he said. Jesus was known for saying “you have heard it said, but I say…” These statements introduce us to a very radical challenge. Take for example Matthew 5:27,28 or 33-37 and then there is the suffocating old law of “hate your enemies” and Jesus’ “I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies” in verses 43-48. His take on leadership in Matthew 20:26-28 is also refreshing.

Are you willing to open the blinds and act on what you see?

Perspective gourmande ~ Greedy Perspective

Perspective gourmande ~ Greedy Perspective (Photo credit: twiga269 ॐ FEMEN)

It’s not a movie, a video game or some clever title of a mission that we could come up with. It is our worst nightmare, our war from the day we first struggled for life and our greatest opportunity to participate in something that is beyond any adventure we could ever imagine. Pick up the story in Matthew 3 where Jesus walks into the lives of various onlookers. The heat is turned on in chapter 4 as our enemy crafts three desperate plots to gain the upper hand. He knows who Jesus is. “If you are…” could be translated “Since you are…” The enemy knows what’s at stake.

Jesus begins to unmask the evil in the religious life of his day as well as the culture owned by the enemy. He equips a few with the “zero dark thirty” strategy that will weaken the strongholds the enemy has cleverly introduced into life over the years. He has completed the final act on an ordinary cross and those he has equipped are prepared and then he leaves them staring into space. Look at John 17:4 & 6 along with Acts 1:6-11. The enemy will continue to fight but his defeat is certain.

The real issue for us is the role we have in this ongoing drama. Some are not aware there is a war going on at all. Just drive through a neighborhood and admire the large houses, sweet cars in the driveways and steaks grilling on the deck. But then there was the high school kid who shot another kid, and the girl who overdosed and who could forget what happened after that party. Are we aware and are we participating with Jesus in unveiling the enemy and helping our friends understand the point of life? Remember we volunteered for this war.

2 Timothy 2:3 &  4 in the “Word on the Street” version says “…trained combat teams don’t get sucked into the daily soap opera of normal life. No, the only thing that counts is the nod of approval from their officer in charge.”

The Last Enemy (autobiography)

The Last Enemy (autobiography) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)