Fight the Tide: Consumerism

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For a long time I thought that the tensions I felt as someone trying to follow Jesus were a bad thing. In reality, I’ve learned that not having any tension is a sign that something is amiss.

The Bible says that we are “foreigners” here on earth and we ought to abstain or run away from earthly desires that wage war against our soul (see 1 Peter 2:11).

Thus, we may see how the culture looks around us, or even imitate it (knowingly or unknowingly), and then Jesus awakens us to the areas in which He doesn’t want us to look like the world, and tension is produced.

I’ve learned that these spots of tension are good. This is where Jesus is speaking to us. This is where there’s a choice presented to fight against the tide of the culture and obey Jesus, or to go with the norm.

I’m going to write a three-post series called “Fight the Tide” in which I discuss three areas of tension I’ve dealt with in my life: consumerism, debt, and purity. There’s certainly many more, but these are three that are so rampant in our culture, and it’s time that we fight the tide in these areas for His names’ sake.

Recently, something stood out to me in Colossians 3:5. Here, Paul gives a list of behaviors to “put to death.” Look at what he says about greed in this verse: “…and greed, which is idolatry.”

Greed is idolatry.

If this is true, which it is, then we have many idols.

Idols aren’t necessarily statues we erect so we can bow down to them. According to this verse, idols can be things we don’t even have, but things we want!

My whole life I’ve struggled with consumerism. I’ve become painfully aware of it in my adult years and have truly been trying to fight against the tide in this area, but it’s not easy.

Recently I needed some new clothes, so I bought some of them used and then said no to the pair of jeans I really wanted, because I would have had to go beyond the cash I had in my hand.

I’ve also been considering not buying the latest greatest phone next time my contract is up. It will save money and remind me that I can live without the newest, coolest thing.

I wish I had better answers for how to fight the tide when it comes to consumerism, but I think it’s a case by case thing we deal with while listening to the Holy Spirit. A couple tools that help:

1) Meditating on verses like 1 Timothy 1:6 (and others): “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

2) Listening to songs like Vertical Church Band’s If I Have You and Ben Cantelon’s Worth it All also help.

Wrestle with the tension of being a Jesus-follower in a foreign land. Fight against the tide of consumerism.

Jesus, please forgive us of the times we’ve followed our culture more than You. Please deepen our walk with you. Speak to us and help us to be obedient to Your still small voice, especially as it comes to fighting against greed – which is idolatry. Let us have no other gods before You, for You are Lord. In Jesus name, Amen.

An Easter Reflection

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As with any holiday in the church calendar, we have an opportunity to come nearer to Jesus. However, it’s also possible to get so caught up in the tradition of the holiday that before we know it, the holiday has come and gone and we’ve missed out on an opportunity to grow closer to the One who all the traditions stem from.

So, in the midst of Easter egg hunts and Easter baskets, I’d like like to suggest that you take a few minutes to yourself and reflect on the following questions this Easter:

1) What has been raised in my life along with Jesus? What is one or more areas in your life which were sinful that have now died with Christ and risen with Him? Where are you free where you were once a slave? Spend some time reflecting upon this and giving thanks and praise to God for His salvation and it’s impact on us!

2) What is one area of my life that still needs resurrected? Sin is powerful and even once we are in Christ, sanctification (the process of becoming more like Jesus) takes time. What’s one are in your life which you know is still sinful or where you haven’t fully let go and surrendered to Jesus? Spend some time identifying that area and praying that God’s resurrection power would come into your heart in a fresh way and transform it.

Romans 8:11: “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”

Lord, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for the cross and the empty tomb. Thank you that all of our sins have been paid for through the death of your son, the spotless Lamb. Thank you for all the ways in which you’ve made us new! Please continue to transform us – don’t let us stay the same this Easter – continue to make us look more like you Jesus. In Your mighty and matchless name, Amen.

Appreciating the Dance in Marriage – The 80:20 Ratio

The-80-20-Ratio-The-Secret-to-760x422In 1 Corinthians 7:28, the apostle Paul says that “those who marry will face many troubles in this life.” In this passage, Paul is making a case that a single person will be less divided than a married person in their ability to serve the Lord. While he clearly states marriage is not a sin, he just reminds us that some trouble will no doubt occur for those who marry.

Thus, enter what Dr. Emerson Eggerichs calls “The 80:20 Ratio.”

Dr. Eggerichs says that in many marriages, things are good about 80% of the time. There is a 20% that is going to exist even if a couple is totally selfless and loves Jesus – this is what Paul is referring to as trouble.* Simple personality differences. Differences of opinions. If left unchecked, this 20% can overtake the 80%, and before you know it, the marriage has become more negative than positive.

If couples could realize that conflict, or the 20%, is bound to occur, they could learn to “do the dance” so to speak of working through it, and the 20% could remain at 20%, or even decrease – it may even be possible to learn to appreciate the dance as it can teach us so much.

Let me give an example of what Paul is referring to when he says “trouble,” as well as how “the dance” operates:

My wife works fairly late each Wednesday night. When she comes home, she needs to wind down which she likes to do by watching a TV show before bed. It’s a legitimate need of hers.

Meanwhile, I’ve put our son down to bed and cleaned up the house, and some Wednesday nights I just want to go to sleep, even though she wants me to stay up with her. It’s a legitimate need of mine.

Who’s right? We both are.

Thus, enters the dance. We have to talk through it, either one of us submitting to the other, or coming up with a third solution.

Or, we could allow this small trouble to grow, and this 20% moment could blow out of proportion.

This is just an example – this could be applied to big and little things ranging from finances, to parenting, to sex, to how one squeezes the toothpaste.

The point is, we need to learn to realize that trouble will come (sometimes we get mad that we are having the trouble in the first place!), and learning to “do the dance” is a must.

It’s possible, with God’s help, we may even learn to appreciate the dance as it may lead to better solutions than we would have come up with as individuals.

God wants us to be one in our marriages.

Do you find yourself getting frustrated that there are frustrations in your marriage?

Trouble is bound to come for those who are married – let’s learn to “do the dance” so we can keep 80% (or more) of our marriage good.

*Please realize that 80 and 20 are arbitrary numbers chosen for example only – for some couples it may be more or less, etc.

Popsicle Prayers

IMG_448467240As our family has grown, the pace of our life has increased, as has the tension of struggling to find space to truly pray for others. While we have rhythms with quiet time, praying before meals, and bedtime prayers, we desired to have a space where we could pray for the many friends and family we have, as well as those special requests that come along. If we say “yes” to praying for someone who asks, we not only want to honor that, but we want to lift up those things in faith knowing that God will hear and respond.

Thus, enter “Popsicle Prayers.” My wife Emily had the idea of writing down our family, friends, and those special requests on popsicle sticks and putting them in a jar. Each time we sit down to eat dinner together, we have our son Atticus pick a popsicle stick from the jar (which he loves by the way). Then, we simply pray for that person and their needs along with thanking Jesus for our food.

Some of the benefits of this exercise we’ve found are:

-It doesn’t require additional time to be set aside – we include it when we already pray before meals

-It ensures that we can truly pray for all of those we care about in some sort of rotation

-Our son is learning to pray for others

So, I’m sharing this with you because if you are on the go and desire to create a bit more space for your family to pray, this is a simple and practical way to do it. Feel free to tweak and play with this idea, and I’d love to hear what you do with it or other ways you’ve found to incorporate prayer into your family life!

Knowing God (Week 5): Truly Knowing Him

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Rather than focusing on a specific attribute for this final post in the Knowing God series, I’d like to give a final overview of the topic, along with some application.

While it is good to know things about God, the ultimate goal is to truly know God and have a relationship with Him.

I can say I know Tiger Woods, but this wouldn’t be true. I don’t have a relationship with him. I know he’s a golfer who made some mistakes, and now has a lot of work to do if he wants to catch Jack Nicklaus’s records. But I don’t know Tiger Woods.

Similarly, knowing facts about God, doesn’t necessarily mean we truly know God.

Nonetheless, learning the information about the attributes of God is an important component of knowing Him better; it leads to a stirring of our hearts, which births a desire to know God better.

The prayer I’ve been praying for myself and everyone else on this knowing God journey has been what Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Eph. 1:17).

Maybe you know a lot about God, but don’t feel a deep connection with Him right now.

Maybe you know Him well but are longing to get to know Him even better.

No matter what position you’re in, ask God to give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better, and see how He responds.

 

 

Knowing God (Week 4): Got Wisdom?

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Life has a way of presenting situations in which we are unclear as to what the best way forward is.

An attribute of God that He can pass onto us when we are in Christ, is wisdom. God is infinitely wise: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).

Yet, He invites us to ask for wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

Solomon asked God for wisdom in the Old Testament and God opened His floodgates of wisdom (and more) to Solomon. Interestingly, notice why Solomon asked for wisdom here: “Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours” (2 Chronicles 1:10)?

Solomon wanted help leading in the position that God had given to him.

What has God given you that you need help with? 

Maybe (like me) God’s gifted you with a child, and you need wisdom to know when to discipline your child and when to offer grace.

Maybe you want to lead your family better, but need wisdom to know how to best carry out that desire.

Maybe you need wisdom navigating relationships at your workplace.

Maybe you’ve found yourself in charge of many and you need wisdom to lead them well.

No matter what it is, God invites us to ask Him, and the God of infinite wisdom will pass some of His wisdom on to us.

Join me today in going to Him with what you need wisdom for.

Knowing God (Week 3): Not Appointed to Suffer Wrath

WrathofGodThis week we moved on from the “incommunicable” attributes (those that reside only with God) to the “communicable” attributes (those that can be passed on to us in some measure). One attribute that we don’t hear often in church is that of the wrath of God.

The wrath of God can be defined as God’s intense hatred of sin and evil. For example, Romans 1:18 says, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”

There are two aspects of God’s wrath that I’d like to point out in this post:

1) We should share God’s hatred of what is evil. Romans 12:9 says, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” I’m not saying we should hate people and act out on it. Let me give an example. Yesterday on the radio I heard a story of a man stabbing his son over a financial argument. A deeply rooted anger and sense of injustice welled up within me that I couldn’t explain – I believe it was this thought of me sharing God’s hatred of evil. However, as Jesus tells us to love our enemies, my mind quickly shifted to praying for this man, that he might be delivered from the enemy that has him so enslaved that he would commit such an act.

2) We should be extremely thankful for Christ saving us from the coming wrath of God. 1 Thessalonians 5:9 says, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Hallelujah! I can remember reading Colossians 3:5-6 in college and being discouraged: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” I thought, man, I’m guilty of this list – God’s wrath is coming on me. I didn’t have a mature view of the cross and of Jesus’ love for me. According to 1 Thessalonians 5:9, I’m not appointed to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through Jesus. That is good news!

So, what should we do with this truth?

First of all, don’t be surprised if as you grow in Christ, hatred towards evil also grows. It’s ok. Some of Jesus righteous anger will grow in you as you grow in Christ. Just try to pray for those committing those acts so that they would receive Him.

Secondly, give thanks today for Jesus and His plan of salvation to save you from His wrath. 1 Thessalonians 5:9 is so encouraging. Let it encourage you. Also, consider listening to “In Christ Alone” which speaks of God’s wrath being satisfied on the cross and the benefits we receive as a result. Thank Him and worship Him in response.

If you would like to study the attributes of God on your own or with a group, click here and scroll down to “Knowing God” for resources.