Counterculture Christian

I’ve been pondering these quotes for the past few days. They describe a view of Christianity that is biblical, but highly countercultural. What do you think?

C.H. Spurgeon“If we obey the Lord, He will compel our adversaries to see that His blessing rests upon us. … It is for saints to lead the way among men by holy influence: they are not to be the tail, to be dragged hither and thither by others. We must not yield to the spirit of the age, but compel the age to do homage to Christ.” —Charles Spurgeon


Tozer“I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame and I choose it above all things on earth or in heaven.” —A.W. Tozer


C.S. Lewis at his desk“The symbols under which Heaven is presented to us are (a) a dinner party, (b) a wedding, (c) a city, and (d) a concert. It would be grotesque to suppose that the guests or citizens or members of the choir didn’t know one another. And how can love of one another be commanded in this life if it is to be cut short at death?” —C.S. Lewis

God Sees An Indiv1dual

God sees an individualThe Bible often recounts the history of Israel. In one particular psalm the history of the Israelites sounds like one story repeated over and over:

  • But they continued to sin against God… (Psalm 78:17)
  • In spite of all this, they kept on sinning… (v. 32)
  • Their hearts were not loyal to God, they were not faithful to His covenant… (v. 37)
  • They put God to the test and rebelled against the Most High… (v. 56)

After experiencing God’s blessing, they fall away from God, experience the pain of punishment, repent of their wickedness, get restored, only to fall away again.

So what’s the use in serving God? In following His ways? In keeping His commands?

God sees indiv1duals, not a mass of humanity.

The culture may have been unfaithful to Him, but God saw ONE who was faithful and obedient. He saw ONE who loved God so deeply—“He choose David His servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep He brought him to be the shepherd of His people Jacob, of Israel His inheritance” (vv. 70, 71).

God saw the ONE man who was consistently faithful and rewarded him. God doesn’t miss a thing! He sees every ONE who keeps his or her heart set on Him. Whether in this life or the next, that ONE will be rewarded by God.

Don’t give in to the everyone’s-doing-it-so-it-must-be-okay mindset. God sees YOU as an indiv1dual, and He longs to reward YOU for your faithfulness to Him.

Links & Quotes

link quote

These are links to articles and quotes I found interesting today.

“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” —Abraham Lincoln

The “settled science” of the origin of the universe is far from settled: Einstein’s Lost Theory Uncovered

“Pastors must be students of God’s Word, continually reviewing and digging deeper into the Scriptures in order to discern what is right and true and essential for the equipping of the saints. The pastor’s study of the Word must be, first, for his own edification and enrichment. From there, he must consider the application of Scripture to the needs of his congregation and the temper of the times. The more we are furnished with the sure Word of God, the more we will grow to be like Jesus, and be equipped to help others in this same calling.” —T.M. Moore

“Jesus observed the law and fulfilled the law. He did not throw the law away, for the sake of love. For the sake of love, He threw Himself away. That’s another counterintuitive lesson He gave to us, as we all proceed together, slouching toward ‘tolerance’ and carrying our consciences along the way ” —Elizabeth Scalia. Read more of her post Jesus Might Bake The Cake, But Would He Perform The Nuptials?

Disgusting! Michigan’s ‘House Of Horrors’

“God wants worshipers before workers; indeed the only acceptable workers are those who have learned the lost art of worship.” —A.W. Tozer

Thursdays With Oswald—I Hope I Am Insane!

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

I Hope I Am Insane!

     Insanity simply means that a man is differently related to affairs from the majority of other men and is sometimes dangerous. Paul was charged with madness (Acts 26:24-25), and the same charge was brought against Jesus Christ—“For they said, He is beside Himself.” 

     Have you ever noticed the wisdom of the charge? Both Jesus Christ and Paul were unquestionably mad, according to the standard of the wisdom of this world; they were related to affairs differently from the majority of other men, consequently, for the sake of self-preservation, they must be got rid of. Our Lord was crucified, and Paul was beheaded. When we are imbued with Jesus Christ’s Spirit and are related to life as He was, we shall find that we are considered just as mad according to the standard of this world. 

From Biblical Psychology (emphasis added)

The teachings of Jesus are not only countercultural, they are are 180-degrees out-of-sync with worldly wisdom. I don’t want to be worldly wise; I want to be called insane by the “wise” men of this world!

Later in this same chapter Oswald Chambers writes:

Read the expositions of the Sermon on the Mount today and you will find some of the cleverest dialectics that have ever been written. The writers try to prove that Jesus is not mad according to the standards of this world; but He is mad, absolutely mad, and there is no apology needed for saying it. Either the modern attitude to things must alter, or it must pronounce Jesus Christ mad. 

Holy Spirit, may I never live my life by the “sane” beliefs and practices of this world’s culture, but may I be be imbued with Jesus Christ’s Spirit and related to life as He was.

Counterculture

[koun-ter-kuhl-cher] noun the lifestyle of those people who reject or oppose the dominant values and behavior of society.

In Ephesians 4:17 Paul tells his audience “you must no longer live as the Gentiles do.” Okay, but his audience was made up of, um, Gentiles! Paul was not telling them to change their heredity, but to change their mindset.

He was asking them to live counterculture. 

If the Apostle Paul was writing to us in America today, no doubt he would tell us: you must no longer live as the Americans do.

Here is the Christian Counterculture:

  • Speak only what’s true
  • Deal with your anger quickly and productively
  • Have a strong work ethic
  • Only speak wholesome words
  • Please the Holy Spirit in all you do
  • Get rid of unbecoming behaviors
  • Be kind to everyone
  • Be compassionate toward everyone
  • Be forgiving of everyone
  • Imitate Christ
  • Remain sexually pure
  • Don’t be greedy
  • Don’t use obscenities
  • Be perpetually thankful

(You can find all of these in Ephesians 4:24-5:4.)

That’s a lot to work on! But as a Christian I want to exhibit a lifestyle that rejects the dominant values and behavior of American society.

With God’s help, I want to live counterculture.

The Next Christians (book review)

If you’re anything like me, you might feel that a lot of recently-released books and the current research results seem to paint a rather bleak picture of the church. Reading these works makes it sound like the church is in decline, it has lost its authority in the community, and people are finding Christianity less and less relevant in their lives. But Gabe Lyons has “the good news about the end of Christian America” in his book The Next Christians.

Where many Christians are either withdrawing from mainstream society, or are selling-out to it in an attempt to be accepted (Gabe calls these the Separatists or Culturals, respectively), Gabe happily points out that the next Christians coming to the forefront are Restorers. These Christians are not running away from culture, but are running to it in a way that makes the Gospel both relevant and appealing.

Gabe points out that the Restorers are defined by six descriptive phrases:

  • Provoked, not offended when they confront the unbiblical in culture
  • Creators, not critics of what mainstream culture is producing
  • Called, not just employed in “a job”
  • Grounded in Christian disciplines, not distracted by the tasks around them
  • Committed to their community, not isolating themselves from it
  • Countercultural, without attempting to become “relevant”

The Next Christians made me stand up and cheer, “Yes! This is how I want to live!” I could hardly put this book down. Now that I’ve finished reading it, I’ll be referring to these concepts again and again, both in my personal life, and in my calling as a pastor.

If you are ready to see Christians reassume their place in society like the Bible describes it, you will love reading The Next Christians.

I am a Doubleday book reviewer.

My Brother’s Keeper…

…not Finder’s Keeper.

Society has it backwards. On the playground, on the worksite, and (sadly) even in the church we tend to play by the opposite:

  • I found it, so I get to keep it!
  • Hey, I’m not my brother’s keeper!

Look at what God says

If you see your neighbor’s ox or sheep or goat wandering away, don’t ignore your responsibility. Take it back to its owner. If its owner does not live nearby or you don’t know who the owner is, take it to your place and keep it until the owner comes looking for it. Then you must return it.

My brother’s property is my responsibility. Notice that even if I don’t know who the owner is, I’m still supposed to safeguard his property until I can return it to him.

Finding something that isn’t mine makes me responsible to care for it. I am my brother’s keeper; it’s not simply finder’s keeper.

What if my mindset changed to, This is yours, but I’m going to take care of it like it’s mine until I can return it to you?

What if my values became focused on…

  • Mutual accountability?
  • Shared responsibility?
  • Genuine community?

I must be the change I wish for our society. I need to care for others’ property as much as I care for my own.

Would you join me in changing your community away from Finder’s Keeper and toward Brother’s Keeper?

A Man Named Jonadab

What an incredible family line! Moses’ father-in-law Jethro was the ancestor of the Kenite family line, and from this family tree came a man named Recab.

The Recabite family was of immense help to the Israelites. They served as scouts for them, and they joined in the battle to defeat the Canaanites in Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron. Years later a Recabite named Jonadab was with King Jehu when he ridded Israel of King Ahab’s evil influence of Baal worship.

Jonadab called the Recabite family to follow him in living a holy lifestyle. He set some incredibly high standards for them, but for the next 200+ years the Recabite family held to these standards. Even as the nation of Judah was carried into captivity because of their gross sin against God, the Recabite family stood solidly for God, never getting caught up in society’s pull toward sin.

Their fidelity toward God wasn’t without notice. Here’s an incredibly powerful statement: God said, “Jonadab son of Recab will never fail to have a man serve Me.”

Think about that. A family line that is always serving God for generation after generation after generation. That’s what I want. It took Jonadab making a dramatic counter-cultural stand for his faith in God, and then passing that on to his family. Wow!

For the sake of never failing to have my descendants serve God, I am willing to make a stand. I am ready to live counter-culturally. I’m going to stand strong. Will you join me?

Just One

DSCN0821“If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city” (Jeremiah 5:1).

Through just one person’s pursuit of righteousness God will save an entire city! One person. Just one.

Just one who decides to not give in to sin. Just one who is a radical counter-culturalist. Just one who fears God and is not afraid of man’s reaction. Just one who deals honestly. Just one who seeks God’s truth.

Just one.

“When I was young and free my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it, too, seemed immoveable. As I grew in my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realized: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed my world.” —Written on the Westminster Abbey tomb of an eleventh century Anglican bishop

God is looking for just one in your family. Will you be that one?

God is looking for just one in your city. Will you be that one?

It takes just one for God to do something amazing… just one. Please, be that just one.

Choice Four-Letter Words

Have you ever been “cursed out” by someone? I mean had a stream of four-letter obscenities hurled at you? What happens inside you? Isn’t your natural reaction to strike back? To begin to counter-attack with a few choice four-letter words of your own?

It’s natural to feel this way… it’s a very human response.

On the other hand, have you ever been “blessed out” by someone? Had someone shower you with niceties and accolades and compliments? What happens inside you this time? Isn’t your natural reaction the complete opposite? Don’t you want to say, “Well, I think you’re pretty special, too”?

It’s natural to feel this way… it’s a very human response.

But Jesus commanded us to do something counter-cultural… something which requires a spiritual response: “Bless those who curse you” (Luke 6:28). Paul amplified this thought: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14).

These words curse and bless are challenging for me. Curse means to hope for someone’s downfall; bless means to say good words to or about someone. Cursing can be done internally or verbally; blessing has to be done verbally. Eugene Peterson captures the essence of this in his paraphrase of Romans 12:14 — “Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.

If my natural response is to match curse for curse, obscenity for obscenity, then to respond in a Christ-like fashion is going to take a change of character. To respond with the right four-letter words, I have to do the opposite of my natural response.

In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for bless carried the understanding that it all hinges on God — He is the focal point. All of the definitions of this word involve a close relationship with God: (a) bless God; (b) bless men in the name of God; (c) ask for divine favor for persons or things created by God; or (d) salute someone because we know God has saluted us.

In the New Testament the Greek word for bless makes it clear that this has to be done verbally… out loud. It is impossible to bless under your breath. In the Greek bless is the compound word eulogeo = eu (good) + logos (words) → saying good words out loud.

Only God is good. So only a closer relationship with our good God will help us say good words to others; especially to those who curse us.

The right four-letter words to use — the un-natural words to use — are: Good words.

I’m challenging myself today to bless others… especially those who curse me. I only want to say good to and about others today. I’m attempting to live out Ephesians 4:29 —

  • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up (New International Version).
  • Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others (Amplified Bible). 
  • Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift (The Message).
  • When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need — words that will help others become stronger (New Century Version).

How have you learned to say the right four-letter words to others? What challenges you about this?

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