Blending in with the culture

In the previous articles in this series we talked about why we do not view where we live with the same focus and intensity as we do when we go to other countries for missions because we spend all of our time focused on making this life our home.  But why do we do that?

The reason we get so sucked into the comfort of this world is because we have adopted the philosophy and ideals of our culture. In many ways we have become part of the world.  What is it we do that sets us apart from non-believers?

Every year hundreds of billions of dollars are spent in advertising; just to tell you why having those Nike’s will make you run better, why you need the latest iPhone (or Android) or how Coca-Cola will refresh you more than any other drink.  They spend that much money because it works.  We are bombarded with those images every single day while we try to entertain ourselves with television and then we get obsessed about needing the next new thing.

But in order to get all that fancy stuff you need to make more money, which means spending more time going to school for that better degree and working overtime.  You spend all this time dwelling on these obsessions and it steals our thoughts and our time away from the family and away from our mission, the gospel.

Then we get hindered even more because we don’t want to share the gospel with those we work with because someone might get offended and we will get in trouble which means no raise this year or even loosing your job.

Welcome to the American Dream.

The American Dream is a vicious cycle that we get ourselves trapped in.  We have fun with all of the latest stuff but then it catches up to us.  I got so caught up with this trap that I had to borrow money to buy more stuff because I did not want to wait a few months to get my iPad or a second car with cash.  Now I have to work just to pay off the credit cards and loans from things I purchased in the past that I do not even use anymore because I replaced them with other things I bought with yet more borrowed money.

And then we think nothing about it because the rest of the culture is the same way.  Even the culture of the church is caught in this trap.

But while you or your church and your pastor may not think much of that lifestyle, God is offended by it.  God even goes as far as calling those who do live like society enemies of the Cross.

For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. – Phillipians 3:17-19

By focusing on the things of this world instead of God you are not just failing to do what is best, but you are being an enemy to Christ, to His mission, and to the cross.  Christ came for a mission and if you are so distracted by the things of this world that you are ignoring those around you that are dying, then you have become an enemy to that gospel.

You can’t be in the middle, there is no neutral position, we are either For Christ or against Him (Luke 11:23) and this verse in Philippians 3 makes it clear that we are really seen as the enemy of the cross.

You will, of course, deny that you are the enemy of Christ, I mean, who would admit that?  Unless you are an atheist who directly opposes God you would not consider yourself an enemy of God.

But then look at the rest of the passage.  Does that describe you?

“Their god is their stomach”… Do you care more about what you eat and drink than you do about serving Christ?  Does eating and drinking consume more of your time than you give to God?

“Their glory is in their shame” really hit me.  How many times have you bragged about something and found joy in something that, in comparison to God, you should be ashamed of?

“I got so drunk last night I don’t remember what happened.”
“She’s hot. I would sleep with her.”
“Check out this new beamer I got. Only $500 per month.”
“Last Saturday we had a Lord of the Rings marathon… It literally lasted all day”

How  many of these things that we brag about would we, or should we, be ashamed of if we thought about bragging about it to God in light of our mission?

Simon Cowell at the National Television Awards...
Simon Cowell at the National Television Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, London, October 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I boasted for a while that I got to meet Simon Cowell (You know, from American Idol).  I would tell everybody that I met that I thought would be slightly interested.  “Hey there guard on the military base, did you know I got to meet Simon Cowell?  Yeah, I did! Met him in a hotel hallway, I even got my picture taken with him!”

Yeah, I was so proud of that moment…

And then God whispered to me “Why are you not this excited to tell people about me?”

None of that stuff is wrong in itself but they shouldn’t be what we are proud of or things we really find joy in.  We should be boasting in Christ because we are sinners and honestly we have nothing worthy of boasting about outside of Christ.

Next time you want to brag about something, think about bragging to God about it.  Is it something that you should be ashamed of in light of His holiness and perfection?

Then the final part of that passage I know hits me hard, and almost all of our culture as well.  “Their mind is set on earthly things.”

What is your mind set on?  Do you spend your time dwelling on things of this earth, or on God and His mission?

This ties back to the beginning of this article series.  If you are in Africa on a missions trip you are focused completely on the gospel, on your mission, on others.  When we get back home our mindset changes back to “normal” and we focus only on the things of this earth.

That shouldn’t be.  Our minds should always be on Christ and on the gospel, on our mission, nothing else matters even a tiny bit in comparison.

Am I saying that you are not allowed to have any fun on earth at all, and that our life needs to be nothing but witnessing on the streets, going to church, and living with the bums on the street and if I sit down to watch one movie I am being an enemy of God?

Well….

Find out in the next article on this series. 🙂

Radical book review

Radical: Taking back your faith from the American Dream

Radical is one of the toughest, most challenging books I have read in a long time. The book is fairly short, only about 200 pages, but in those pages you will be challenged like never before.

David Platt, the author, challenges its readers to look at their lives and see if they are living their life in radical obedience to Jesus, or if we are too distracted by our pursuists of the American dream to really give obedience to Christ any serious thought.

In my first book, Radical, I explored how the biblical gospel affects individual Christian lives. Simply put, in a world of urgent spiritual and physical need, gospel-believing, God-exalting men and women do not have time to waste their lives pursuing a Christian spin on the American dream.

David Platt compares his life starting out as a pastor of a mega church with pastors of underground churches in Asia just a few weeks earlier which starts him on his journey to see if he really is following and obeying Jesus.

But as a new pastor comparing the images around me that day with the pictures still fresh in my mind of brothers and sisters on the other side of the world, I could not help but think that somewhere along the way we had missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable. We were settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christanity is actually about abandoning ourselves.

At the end of this book is a one-year challenge. What you learn in this book will challenge your faith and your way of life, but hopefully through reading it you will decide to forsake the American dream for the sake of the gospel.

This is a Must Read for every Christian.

Are distractions keeping you from being as close to God as you could be?

“Our blessings have become a curse. They attract us. They take too much of our time and concern.” – Leonard Ravenhill

One of the most powerful tools Satan is using to attack the church and keep Christians crippled in America today is distractions.

Let’s face it, life in America is distracting. We have TV and xbox and iphones and the latest gadgets, cars to repair soccer practice to take the kids to, work. We try to squeeze spending time with the family in there, but even that is mostly taken up by staring at the television together.  None of these things are that bad, but they tend to distract us from what truly matters; our relationship with God.

We have enough free time to spend a couple hours watching a movie a couple times a week or just vegging out in front of some mind numbing sitcoms and playing Black Ops to all hours of the night, but we struggle to give God just fifteen minutes of our week according to the Barna Group’s research.

What are you going to do when you get to eternity, if you can’t stick in an hour with God down here? In God’s name, what are you going to do in a million years in God’s presence? Expect some reports from earth about football or something? – Leonard Ravenhill

If something is preventing you from being as close to God as you should be it needs to be removed. Fat keeps a runner from running as fast as they could, so runners work hard to trim off the fat. This fat trimming increase their speed and makes them healthier which makes them a better runner.  Likewise we need to trim off the fat of the American dream and the fat of distractions in our life so we can run the spiritual race as best we can.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. – Romans 12:2

Starting today I am taking a 40 day challenge to cut TV out of my life. This includes Netflix, xbox, or even youtube on my iPhone. I will replace much of that time with reading and praying and listening to praise music. I will provide periodic updates to let you know my progress during this challenging time, and hopefully it will encourage you to take up a similar fast for God.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. – Psalm 119:15

Exceptions

So nobody accuses me of cheating I will have just a few exceptions here.

  • My wife and I started a tv show on netflix, we have about 15 episodes left and Netflix is getting rid of it on June 1st, so I will finish the series with my wife (only that show and only when watching with her)
  • Xbox just for working out – using the game Your Shape: Fitness Evolved
  • Sermons on Youtube – Many of the sermons I listen to are provided on youtube, but that is all I will watch there

Start the Countdown

So now I start my count down, forty days of no television, netflix, xbox games, or watching videos online. Forty glorious days of drawing closer to God with one less distraction in my life.  On June 26th I may not even want to go back to watching TV. 🙂

“No man is greater than his prayer life.” – Leonard Ravenhill

Will you join me with your own challenge? Is there something God has been tugging on your heart to get rid of?  Comment below and let me know what challenge you want to take on.