Considering culture in balance:

Luke 10:32-11:1 Bible Museum, Washington, D. C.

Is your focus on and study of your culture out of balance compared to your study of God in His word?

Each of us must understand our context. Indeed, applying the Bible to life means understanding our context.

But across many time zones, it seems we’re so focused on the problems in our cultures, that the solution is difficult to see. It would appear that too many leaders (yes, you’re a leader) have allowed the study of their particular culture to outweigh their study of God.

Take a long refreshing drink of God’s word friend. Then you’ll see that culture through the eyes of Jesus.

“But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke‬ ‭10:41-42‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

#notALawIt’sAnOpportunity

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Declare Your Independence!

In America, today is the celebration and remembrance of the Declaration of Independence from oppression.

Today, suggest that there is a new oppression. This new oppression is bad news, angry mobs, political polarization (even among friends) and a general discontent that is seen almost everywhere one turns. It has resulted in widespread discouragement.

By the way, I speak not of an American phenomenon, this malaise crosses borders and boundaries.

It has created a kind of dark cloud of discouragement about the present and the future. There is a kind of pessimism that is inter generational, cross-cultural, and multi-racial.

And this pessimism is not biblical.

Because it focuses on the problem not the solution, the darkness rather than the light and the oppressor as enemy rather than the oppression. And the real Enemy loves it.

So, wherever you are reading this,* I suggest that you declare your independence from the malaise of discouragement, pessimism and anger.

But a declaration may well be followed by action. (Years of war followed the July 4, 1776 declaration.) So an action plan is needed. Here are some suggestions for a battle plan.

1. Look people in the eye and genuinely ask them “How are you?” Then give them time to at least realize your question is genuine. You may lift them up by simply responding positively to them, or with sympathy.

2. Make a point of smiling more. Smile at people you interact with and really engage them as you have that interaction.

3. Watch less news. Local, global, whatever. Imagine what would happen if you turned off the hourly radio news and took those 5 minutes to meditate on a Scripture verse or prayed intentionally a thanksgiving prayer for the names of your family and friends.

4. Listen deeply to people. Maybe after a hard conversation with a friend you could text them an encouraging verse.

5. When a fellow believer begins to go off on politics, remind them that our real citizenship is in Heaven and that our best strategy is to spread love person to person rather than feeding political animosity. Perhaps complement them on something to shift the conversation to something uplifting.

6. Begin your day with God, your Heavenly Father and remember that IN CHRIST, you are not condemned because God is forgiving. Remember that you have no more reason to feel shame. Remember, through Jesus’ work, you are accepted.

7. End your day with your head on your pillow meditating on the greatness of God. (A helpful method is to use the Lord’s Prayer as an outline and prayerfully think about God’s nature.)

8. Make time each week to send notes, texts, emails, or DMs to people to remind them that you are thinking of them and that they are loved.

9. Find a place to volunteer and try these suggestions where you volunteer.

10. When natural pessimism begins to creep in, thank God for something. (Your beating heart is a good place to start.) “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians‬ ‭3:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

11. Take a real day off every week and get enough sleep each night.

12. Read the Bible more than books about the Bible.

Ok, enough already. Make a choice!

Declare your independence from the common worldly malaise.

In these ways you can begin your own war on worldly pessimism and discouragement. Cultures are changed one heart at a time. So start with yours and show love to the heart nearest by. In this way, you live the good news rather than being crippled by the world news.

____________

*More of you readers are outside the US than inside, and today is just a summertime Wednesday.

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Be comforted…

Like the sunrise announces hope for a new day, I’m always gladdened to read theses words in my morning reading.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans‬ ‭8:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

In this great book of Romans in which Paul gives his thorough explanation of the good news, these amazing words are so comforting to my soul.

Meditate on this truth friend.

Fragment from Romans 4. Bible Museum, Washington D.C.

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Ascending or making my bed: a choice

In meditating on Psalm 139, I noticed that there is a kind of a choice set up for me.

“If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” (Psalms‬ ‭139:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

The context of the verse is David giving great glory to God and describing that glory. Back when I taught the attributes of God to my students, this Psalm was a key place of study. Roughly speaking we may see the all knowing nature of God (omniscience) by considering verses 1-4. We may see His omnipresence (He is everywhere) from 5-10. Then beginning about 11 through 15 (and beyond) we see His work in our creation. This reminds us that He is all powerful (omnipotent).

This is a Psalm of comfort because it reminds us of the nature of God and therefore I should be encouraged (rather than fear).

Yet, nestled in verse 8 is an interesting and comforting contrast. Whether I am ascending to heaven or making my bed in Sheol, God is there. (Thanks be to God for His omnipresence).

My application is that every morning I get to decide to ascend or make my bed.

I can run up the stairs of my Father’s throne by soaking up His word or I can make my bed in the circumstances of this life.

Yesterday I read the pastor’s note in the bulletin of the church we attended. The pastor urged the people to use summer as a time to renew their Bible reading. He noted that as a young believer he was urged to have “Bible before breakfast.” He suggested this to his church. He noted that this “…it’s not a law, it’s an opportunity.”

This seems a good application, the opportunity to ascend the stairs to the throne of grace (reading Scripture) to know Him better and to prepare my heart to pray, in His loving, merciful, and accepting presence.

Ascend, friend, don’t lay in the bed of anxiety.

Consider the words of Paul: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians‬ ‭3:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

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His steadfast love…

Recently I’ve been looking back and in so as to prepare to look forward into the new ministry year. I just finished a week of vacation at the beach (holiday on the shore) and an additional week of unplugged time from most screens and most ministry related conversations (essentially, a second week of rest). I returned with enthusiasm to my inbox and conversations with fresh heart and mind after two weeks of investing in my own body, soul and spirit.

Upon my return, what I heard was an interesting common theme from many time zones: “I’m struggling.”

This is NOTHING new. Sadly. There is a widespread malaise among Christians that is steeped in fear, anxiety and doubt. If you’re in this boat and are drifting, trust me, dear reader, you are not alone.

As I read or listened, I noted an underlying need.

We need to enlarge and raise our view of God!

“Okay. Maybe.” You might reply. “But how?”

Here’s a specific how.

Psalm 136.

Invest a week or so marinating in Psalm 136 first thing. Then you will see if God enlarges your view of Himself as you meditate on Hos word. Don’t study it, just read it, slowly, repeatedly, for a week or so.

Bathe in God’s word.

Copy it down in a notebook, phrase by phrase so as to slowly soak it in. You might even try what I do each morning, listen to a recording of the text and read along. (YouVersion has several audio Bibles built in.) Three times.

Then after a week or ten days go to Psalm 139 and repeat the process.

This discipline should be a supplement to your regular Bible reading and prayer not replace it. I think, I hope, I pray it helps. It helps me.

“It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever;” (Psalms‬ ‭136:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

It is true, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

We need less reading about the Bible and God, written by well meaning people, and more listening to God through His own word.

Don’t have time? Turn off this screen and open the Scripture.

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Frequent logging

As I read the familiar word’s of Jesus about getting the log out of my own eye, I thought of the importance of daily confession. Self examination is an important, and often neglected, aspect of our own spiritual development. It’s important to have a plan to examine our hearts and minds.

“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?” (Matthew‬ ‭7:4‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

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Ridin’ that train, day after day…

Codex Vaticanus (350ish AD - facsimile in Bible Museum, D. C.)

Just finished this year’s ride on the M’Cheyne Train (M’Cheyne Bible reading plan on YouVersion). I was struck two texts, first:

“But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” (Malachi‬ ‭4:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬) And this verse at the end of Revelation: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”

‭‭(Revelation‬ ‭22:21‬) These are wonderful closing words. One discipline that is helpful to keep that Grace going is to soak up Scripture each day. So tomorrow I’ll punch my ticket on the M’Cheyne train for another yearlong journey.

Check it out here: http://bible.com/r/O

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