Tuesday, February 4, 2014
I recently saw a blog about the movie, “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Frankly, I never thought for a minute that I might enjoy watching it. The story line, the trailers, the hype… it all added up to junk food for me.
But then this blog page came up and there was a serious question in there about how Christians should prepare to watch, or actually watch this movie and my hackles rose. But, as I read, I realized that this answered one of the questions I have about how Christians make social choices in their entertainment: Apparently if it is “culturally relevant” that makes it something that should be watched, or at least can be watched with good conscience.
Now, the blogger is not saying that: he seems to be saying that this is implied in how many Christians choose their social activities. Personally this whole idea is repugnant to me. To me the very fact that it is socially relevant tells me immediately that it is not worth watching.
Don’t we get our fill of social relevance watching the news, or many of the shows on TV? Don’t we get the idea of what is going on out there in the lives of people who act out these things right in front of us, all over the place: TV – Books – Magazines – Concerts – Reality shows – Award shows – News programs? Don’t we have enough saturation of “relevance” in our lives without attending movies that blast those things into our brains through our eyes and ears until we spin with the effects? Isn’t that enough?
Isn’t it true that God’s instructions for filling our minds is all about filling it with things that are “true – noble – right – pure – lovely – admirable – Anything that is excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8)? And yet we choose to feed on the foul things already in our minds when we eat and drink of “social relevance;” things which are presented as things to admire and participate in and even seek after for our own lives.
Consider our ancient relatives, the Israelites:
They continually concerned themselves with being “culturally relevant:” In Egypt they chose to blend in with the culture and came out of Egypt idol worshipers, even though the Egyptians made them captives. And as they traveled through the desert, they longed to be back where they had been, longing for the falsities that they remembered which had them “a part of things” in Egypt.
Time after time, the Israelites chose to turn to things that were culturally relevant, and it threw them into sin everytime. But, hey, they didn’t want to stand out as the “weird” people: They wanted to be up to date on all things social and it led them to worshiping other gods and to celebrating their social standing in the community because of that.
Is that really what we want to do? Is being able to discuss the latest obnoxious movie with “friends” at “the water cooler” really a good goal in our lives? Is “buddying up” with our co-workers or neighbors the best plan if it means we let God down in His expectations for us. Is dimming our Light for Him the reason we exist? Or are we supposed be a “bright light in the midst of darkness;” perhaps even an example of how not to fill our brains with the wrong information?
Cultural relevance is a great thing when discussing how to present the Gospel to people who resist hearing it or need special word pictures drawn for them to understand it at all. But taking part in activities known to be detrimental to ourselves as well as to those to whom we seek to present Christ is not warranted in Scripture; or anywhere else.
May we strive to discern what is true and admirable and what is not by listening to You - The Truth – and not by the activity’s cultural relevance. May we remember that, though we do not live by the law or a list of rules, we are, none the less, held accountable by the Word and words you have given us to help us understand what it is you desire of us and for us. May we be just a little more discerning about our social behavior and choices as we walk through this year of 2014; keeping alert to the fact that Satan will lie to us about cultural relevance in order to get us to veer off the path that you would have us walking.
Lord, help us to think twice before accepting something as valuable and admirable to us just because it is there in front of us. In Jesus name. Amen.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Well, this morning I am back into the Psalms: chapter 23, verse 1. Sometimes I do not get very far before I am stunned by what I am thinking.
It all started with the difference between the King James and the New International Versions: …I shall not want or I shall not be in want. I have long surmised that those extra words in the NIV were superfluous and I still prefer to quote the KJV on this.
Truth is that either way, this promise can be easily misinterpreted to mean that our lives with Christ will be a “Bed of Roses.” We will coast along with all the grand elegance of a king or queen entering a room and all will be well for us forever. Wrong.
Even if our lives can be said to be a “Bed of Roses” with Christ, we must always remember that non-hybrid roses come with lots and lots of thorns. These thorns are actually there to prevent us from fooling with them and, therefore, not cutting them and taking them into the house to die. They are meant to beautify the world around us as they are, but we have found a way to enjoy them indoors in spite of the thorns…gloves!
Meanwhile, this is not to say that we should not cut them. The roses are doomed to die on the bush if not in our vases. And taking the bloom off the bush actually encourages the bush to grow more roses. It’s a win-win situation. But many a gallant gentlemen has ended up with pricked fingers in his efforts to bring a lady a rose or two.
Our lives follow suit: If we know the Lord, we will blossom and God will use pruning to bring us to producing even more blooms. We will have thorns in our lives, but God will never abandon us to those thorns in an effort to not be hurt by the thorns when He is working with us. He will go out of his way to make sure that all that we truly need is provided for us in abundance:
Give and it will be given unto you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be pour into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38
Basically, the more of ourselves we give to God, the more abundant our lives will be in our relationship to Him.
You see, this is not about physical things or earthly gain; this is about our relationship with God, Himself, and the heavenly gains we will receive from it. Many of those gains will benefit our walk here on the earth; but all will benefit our future relationship with God and our Lord Jesus Christ when we meet them in Heaven.
Psalm 23 is all about our relationship with our Lord through a look at the relationship He has chosen to have with us as our Lord. He generously wills to provide abundant life (John 10:10); but our abundance is in our relationship with Him and what we do to keep ourselves close to Him. So long as we keep giving ourselves and all that we have to Him, He will keep providing abundance. But, regardless of whether we choose to walk that closely with Him or not, He will never abandon us. He is our Shepherd. He will keep us moving along toward a more abundant life, even if we refuse an abundant life right up to going to meet Him in Heaven.
He is our Shepherd. He the one we are to recognize. He is the one we are to follow. He is the one we must focus on every single day. He will lead us to wonderment and glorious living. No one else and nothing else can do that.
May we be absolutely habitual in aiming our life toward you, Lord, every single day or our lives. May we give so much of ourselves to you that we can be fully used of you to bring abundance into other lives, and into ours as well. May we “be still and know that You are God” and follow you to still waters and green pastures no matter how hopeless that seems to us at the time.
Lord, help us to believe that Psalm 23 can be true in our lives as we aim to follow you, and only you, in this life. In Jesus name and for his sake, Amen