Faith, Culture & The Church
"In Him [Christ] you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."
(Ephesians 2:22, NIV)
(Ephesians 2:22, NIV)
Sometimes the rest we crave doesn’t look like what we imagined it would. Sometimes our need to be refreshed isn’t filled in quiet desolate places like we’d really prefer over the noise and need of the multitude. But it was because of the multitude that the disciples got to be a part of Jesus’ miracles.
Were they exhausted?
I am certain they were.
Were they in need of some alone time?
Were they anxious for rest and reprieve?
And Jesus met them there, and so did the multitude. And Jesus then asked the tired, exhausted, ready for rest disciples to feed the crowd. And after some excuses and talk-back, Jesus took what the disciples found, blessed it and multiplied it to feed the crowd AND the hungry and tired disciples.
His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55). They are fully for our good and ALWAYS based in what we need, rather than what we want (Proverbs 16).
I don’t know about you, but this #introvert struggles with this truth a lot. I deeply desire to get away, to a mountain with Jesus. And if he could kindly leave the multitude out of my scenario, I think I’d be happier. But then I’d miss the miracles. I’d miss his invitation to go and see what little I have to give, set it in his hands, and allow his power and grace to multiply my little bit to a lot of something to feed the people around me (Mark 6:38).
Today I am preaching to myself, and reminding my soul that somedays are hard, but God has a plan for miracles that include tired tired, exhausted, worn down, and ready for rest me (and you too!). Because faith is being certain of what you hope for, and confident in what you cannot see (Hebrews 11).
We have a choice. Choose to believe. What we choose matters. So keep fighting. All things are possible (Matthew 19) .
Scripture is the only place to turn to answer this all-important question. Living a life modeled after Christ--the Truth come down to earth to reveal to us himself and ourselves--is hard to navigate in any culture, but particularly so in a culture in which Christianity and culture have been blended together. In such a culture, the lines are seemingly blurred between cultural norms and values and biblical truths and values. No doubt about it, we all wrestle to define our faith and live out our beliefs. Regardless of the surroundings or circumstances we are facing right now, we are all subject to the temptation to let cultural expectations influence our faith.
Yet in all temptation, there is a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). The degree to which we bend our beliefs and behaviors to the norms of the world largely depends on recognizing that which is a cultural value versus that which is a kingdom value. The ability to differentiate between the norms, thought-patterns, and end goals of the present and fading, versus the eternal and ever-lasting, is paramount in living an out-loud, counter-culture, kind of faith.
To live this way is, I believe, simpler than we think. By simple, I don't mean easy. By simple I don't mean without effort or discipline. By simple I mean, not complex or complicated. It is using our words [and our actions] to build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29).
Let the words we speak and write always be building others up, and also be intended to benefit those who are standing by listening or scrolling through reading.
What if EVERYTHING we spoke out loud or wrote on social media (because whether you realize it or not, social media "speaking" is the same as standing up in front of a crowd of people and stating whatever it is you have written) was first measured against the instructions of the Bible? We'd likely not be able to post things as quickly because we'd need to do some research into Scripture first. In the process of this kind of measuring, it is also likely that highly emotional responses simmer down because we'd be slower to speak. The Bible offers many instructions on words. Here are just a few: Our words are to be few (Ecclesiastes 5:2), obvious in gentleness (Philippians 4:5), wholesome (Ephesians 4:29), and pleasing to the Lord (Psalm 19:14).
What if we tested every conversation, every status update, social media comment, or blog post against these hallmarks of Biblical instruction? What if we chose to set aside comments or disengage in conversations that go against the call to righteousness that is found in the call to live as Christ and not by the world's norms or modes of operation?
It is possible that no one would notice. But God would see. He would see what you thought, what you chose to submit to him, and set aside for the sake of gentleness. He would see how you chose not to speak or write words that opposed the instructions given by the one who walked to the cross to sacrifice his life to give you and me grace and strength to deny ourselves. Because he did this for us, can we not also choose to sacrifice the desire to be right, to win battles of knowledge, or to defend our point of view? The cost, if we choose to do the opposite, is that rather than benefiting listeners' lives, we may unintentionally harm them. Or we may end up tearing others down, rather than building them up.
Is it not of more worth it to obey Christ and turn our words over to God's sovereignty and beat on his chest, rather than defending our position in front of those who are listening or reading?
It totally is worth it. It always has been. And it always will be. This a struggle the people of the Church have faced since AD 49, and we still face today! Perhaps the value is not obvious this side of heaven, or in our current culture, but based on Paul's words in his letter to the church of Corinth this is our calling as Christ-followers and following through on it is worth all it costs us:
"I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:2-6, NIV).
You see, as Paul's words hint at, these words we speak and write begin with the thoughts we allow ourselves to entertain. The trails we let our mind wonder on. The ideas and arguments well let brew in our minds. What we think about matters just as much as what we speak or write. In fact, perhaps more because it is out of these thoughts that our words and actions flow. Philippians 4:8 instructs us on what we should allow to remain in our thoughts.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (NIV).
And when we find our thoughts conforming to the ways of the world or not aligning with gentleness, encouragement, benefiting listeners (or readers) or pleasing to God, we have the choice (and the strength and the power) to turn from them. To not let them be planted and watered. To cast them away to be turned over to God to redeem and restore.
"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect" (Romans 12:2, NLT).
"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV).
To live like Christ begins with our thoughts--recognizing them, measuring them against the instructions of the Bible (which requires habitual reading and studying of the Bible), and shutting down those that don't match up. Renewing is an action word. Thus, renewing one's mind requires discipline and actively submitting to examining the thoughts we engage in and allow to play on repeat in our minds.
Secondly, out of the thoughts we allow to grow, come the words we speak. And in this day and age, the words we write on social media and elsewhere. If it is challenging to assess your thought-life, consider assessing the words that come out of your mouth or off the tips of your fingers. Out of the overflow of what is brewing in our hearts and minds, we speak (Luke 6:45 and Proverbs 4:23). Sometimes injuries of body, soul and heart splinter our words and actions. Yet, when we hear negative or cutting words coming from our mouths we are to turn to God and ask for healing and peace that passes understanding. Believe the truth that he is sovereign over all the earth and people in it (Jeremiah 32:27). And then move, in grace and power, and a determination to actively renew our minds to what is lovely, true, nobel, pure and admirable.
Our culture in America starkly contrasts the instructions of the Bible in regards to the simple, yet challenging, way to live as Christ. American culture admires the following ways of using words and platforms: Say what you want, when you want, how you want. Defend your point of view. You have a right to an opinion on everything. You deserve to be heard. You deserve to be right. You deserve to defend yourself. Use your words to get ahead. This one life is about you and about now.
But the Bible's instructions are different. The means to living as Christ don't align with these cultural values and norms. Yet, these norms and values bombard us every day--especially if our media intake is high. As ones who desire to follow Christ and who are called to let our light shine before all men, that they might see the truth and know he is the way to heaven (Matthew 5:16), our thoughts and words are not to be conforming to the patterns of the world. Even if no one notices we are choosing to renew our mind, to tame our tongue and finger-tips, we are still called. And in the midst of our struggle, God sees and Jesus intercedes on our behalf, lovingly and without condemnation (Romans 8:34).
I am writing to invite you in to an idea and habit that I envision having the potential to bring women closer together, by moving forward (physically, relationally, and spiritually) together.
Because I would love, love, love to see the women of the Body of Christ gaining strength and wisdom from each other. And since my life is full of all the things, I have been asking God to show me how in the world I could take on igniting togetherness among women in our church and community--in the simplest, most practical way, no frills kind of way.
And I think his answer is something like, invite others into what you are already doing. And one of the things I am already doing is using excise time to be in fellowship with others. (Don't stop reading, I am not going to ask you to run. . . well, unless you want to me, then I will!)
So, here is what I am inviting you to: (If you don't live near me, start a STIR group in your local area!)
STIR (Stronger. Together. Intentional. Relationships.) -- moving toward strength and wisdom, together.
How it works: Walkers, joggers, and runners meet up at a specified location one morning a week (same time, same place every week). A coffee shop is our go-to here because then we get some java when we are done.
Prior to meeting, map out a route* (or set a time limit for out-and-back) for each type of mover that will land everyone back at the starting point at the same time. The key: everyone starts and ends at the same time.
Upon arriving, each person is given an “intentional conversation” card to STIR up conversation with a fellow walker, jogger or runner. Then everyone heads out in pairs on the route that is fitting for them. (Those wishing to stay for more fellowship can grab a cup of coffee post-exercise.)
Why: Because we need each other to run the race marked out for us.
Example routes: (Note: the below distances work well for a 35-40 minute STIR meet-up.) Mapmyrun.com is an excellent tool for creating maps for your STIR group.
*Using the same route each week keeps all of this in the simple category.
If you live in the Alexandria Area, you are invited to join us:
As I read and reread these verses at the close of Ephesians 6, (immediately following the instructions for putting on the Armor of God), I took note of this prayer request from Paul to his readers. It struck me. I paused and pondered.
Then I wrote in the margin of my Bible, "pray this for every Christian leader and teacher you know." Next, because I am a very forgetful person, I wrote it out on a post-it note to be used as reminder to pray. There is just something miraculous about using a pen and a piece of paper to rewrite Scripture that also helps me to cement truths in to my mind.
In the process of reading, recording and commissioning to memory to pray these verses over others, I realized just how much I would love for others to pray this prayer for me too. Which led me to consider that perhaps all of us would love to have these words prayed of over us.
"You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."
I began to wonder and imagine what would happen if each of us prayed this prayer over one another. Consequently, I went looking through my photos for a picture that would work for a backdrop to create an Instagram image to get the verses and the challenge out there:
What if this was our prayer for one another every day? What if this is what we asked others to pray over us?
Can you even envision the impact we would see in our words, our conversations and the influence of the Body of Christ on the culture around us?
Let's start praying this and find out.
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
Does your heart ever just gaze out at the world and then become stirred with lists of questions? Do you ever find your soul engaging in a battle to win understanding, wisdom and hope?
From time to time something hits me and it sends me down these inquisitive paths that reveal my desires to understand the brokenness around me, rise up and speak Truth into the hurts, and see people’s hearts, souls, and minds set free in Christ.
In recent weeks I found myself pacing down these question paths:
These questions led me to write this prayer for all of us living in this generation:
“Please, show me what you are stirring up in me right now. Show me if there is any waywardness in my heart. And if there is, please, come and set me free so I can live in freedom and truth. Then let your light shine without the threat of pride or a spirit of offensiveness getting in to snuff it out.
Let me love and pursue correction and a contrite heart that I may not stumble in the dark, mistake my emotions for something they are not or harbor bitterness over the thing your blood came to set me free from. And if taking offense to a word of Truth is a result of believing a lie from the enemy, give me the courage and power to tear it down, take it captive and make obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Let me desire you more than I desire to be right by cultural standards. Let me desire you and your wholeness of heart more than I desire comfort. Let me not confuse conviction for offensiveness. Let me believe your Truth illuminates my way and that walking in it may feel uncomfortable at times but that I need not blame others for my discomfort. That instead, I would turn to you, the source of ALL wisdom--the one who knows my innermost being, who created my calling by the way you constructed my life, relationships, gifts, and personality--asking you to reveal to me the necessary role conviction plays in my sanctification and freedom.
Help me to desire your freedom and comfort of soul and mind over the false freedom and comfort our culture offers. Give me wisdom, discernment, conviction and faith to know the difference. ”
This is my prayer for my own heart. I wonder, would you consider making it your prayer too?
I don’t want to just be another voice out in the noise of the world, clamoring and vying for attention. I want to live by the Spirit. I want to live for the eternal reality that I believe in. I want to know that when I get to the finish line on the other side of the gates, that I will fully and completely recognize my savior because I have known him intimately on this side. I won’t be able to do that if I spend most of my life looking side-to-side, up and down the street, or at my own selfish desires.
Because I can only see Him if I am looking to Him to provide my freedom, define my identity, and be my source of Truth and power. I won’t see what the author of salvation, freedom and my story has for me if I am looking around and not up for my knowledge, wisdom and understanding.
The freedom that my soul desires, the peace that my mind longs for, and the hope that my calling rides on isn’t found with secondary sources. My freedom, peace and hope derive their existence from the Primary source of all things, God. And if I have access to the primary source, why am I settling for secondary source materials?
Here is what secondary source living will get me: confused.
Do you also see a whole lot of confusion out there in our little world?
Why is this so?
Because our heads are spinning trying to keep up with what and what not to be offended by. . . What or what not to defend. . . Where to draw the line. . . Building walls and living by comparisons. . . Setting our measure by the world’s goals and not the Bible’s promises.
John tells us in the world we will have trouble, but to take heart because Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33). So, yes, life down here is going to take some strength, perseverance, and faith. But it doesn’t need to be confusing.
If you and I spent more time with our eyes in the Primary source, our lips speaking promises and blessings directly from that Primary source, and our minds thinking in patterns of power instead of fear, I believe confusion would cease. Because we would be keeping our eyes on the Truth and the Truth [He] would be setting us free (John 8:32).
And in order to be free, some chains gotta’ go. Some darkness needs to get lit up. Some habits have to submit to the power and self-control provided through Jesus Christ. So, it won’t be a cake walk, this life lived in the Primary source. But it won’t be debilitatingly confusing.
I believe that if we can set our hearts and eyes on Scripture and daily invite in the Holy Spirit’s presence in to our thoughts, words and actions, we will no longer be confusing conviction and offensiveness. And when we live without being habitually on the offense, we will be able to see clearly who we were made to be, the inheritance that is ours in Christ, and the powerful calling that is placed on each of our lives to go in to all the world loving God, loving others and making disciples of all nations.
When my mind starts wandering the paths of questions, I know I need to pay attention. It often takes me several days or weeks to walk around with them before I know what to do with them. Most of the time, I don’t get answers, but I do find clarity along the journey. It’s like the questions without answers drive me back to Jesus, drive me back to Scripture, and humble me by reminding me how little I know and understand.
These questions, they both put me in my place and raise my eyes toward heaven because they turn my soul back to remembering that the Primary source holds all the answers in His hands. And he holds me too. And when I let myself rest in the Truth of who He is and who I am in Him, then I can confidently believe that what I see in front of me each day isn’t how it was all meant to be. But one day, it will all be set back right: The world and my heart.
It will be a fight to the finish. And not one of us is getting out of here alive. None of us. So, won’t you join me in living in pursuit of knowing, believing-in and living-out the plan and the purposes of the Primary source? Will you join me in considering that perhaps the emotions that are quick to tell us we are offended might actually be trying to lead us to conviction and healing?
What if we chose to be offended less often? What if we chose conviction more often?
I believe it would be a culture-changer. Jesus came to shift culture and we are tasked to do the same.
Do you want to see change in our world?
Then sit down and ask that it start right now in your heart and in mine. Change, true change that is rooted in freedom and power, is only attainable through the power of the Holy Spirit. And He works inside heart and soul, mind and spirit--knowing exactly and precisely what each member of the body needs and is capable of for this life and the next. Look to Him, acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight (Proverbs 3:6).
To choose to be offended, or to be convicted: that is the question. Which will you choose? Your choice could make all the difference in you and to the world around you.
Why write about faith, culture and the Church?
I wear many hats, but the ones I have worn the longest are daughter and Christian. I am a daughter to amazing, Godly parents, and I am daughter to the King of the Universe. I am a Christian who depends on grace and passionately loves the Church. One of the heaviest burdens my heart carries is for the Body of Christ. I desperately desire to do all that I can to build up each member of the body and to see God's power come and settle in to the hearts of his people.
I am also keenly aware of the culture (the way of life for the American people): How it so often clashes with the mission of heaven and is jam packed full of brokenness. And I want no one living in it to miss out on the truest freedom and the greatest hope, neither of which can be found in government nor circumstances.
So, I write. I write about what I know from the Bible and what I see happening around me. I write in hopes that in fleshing out the burdens in my heart with the Word of God and the understanding of the human condition that I can create word pictures, analogies and statements that resonate, speak truth, build others up and point hearts to the path of the one and only Savior King.
That is what you will find on this page (Faith, Culture & the Church): thoughts, questions, and writings that reflect my musings with understanding the Bible, culture and living faithfully here with heaven in mind.
More content for this page coming very soon. Stay tuned...