At Odds With Our Culture


Thinking Biblically puts Christians at odds with our culture. How could it be any different? Western culture says humans are their own masters, captains of their own fate. Christianity says, God is our Master and, in fact, Lord of all.

Western society is an odd mix of democracy and equality tangled with one-upmanship capitalism. We’re all equal, which means we don’t care who we step on as we climb our way up the ladder of success. Christianity, on the other hand, has no such confusion. We are to share with the needy, give no bribes, play no favorites.

The world in which we live says we are to protect what’s ours. Build fences (which make good neighbors according to the man in Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”), construct sturdy banks, invent efficient security systems. The Bible says we are to trust God, love our neighbors, give our shirt when someone takes our coat.

Our culture says there’s a drug for all your needs. Feeling a little anxious? Try something to calm you down. Need more sleep? Take a sedative. Not alert in the morning? How about some caffeine in a cup? God says, let your requests be known to Him. Don’t be anxious. Make Him your refuge and your strength.

I could go on and on—about our attitudes toward people of different races or ethnicities, toward those in governmental authority, spouses, parents, bosses, toward discipline, money, enemies, borrowing, work, education. There are a hundred ways Christians should stand out as different from our culture.

The point is, believing God to be omnipotent, sovereign, good, all knowing, and my personal friend ought to change the way I do things. But it seems there’s too much noise drowning out God’s voice, too many activities to crowd out time with our sure Counselor.

I think the bottom line is this: none of us can think Biblically if we don’t read the Bible. Regularly. As though the answers to all the problems we face day after day are within its pages.

I remember one particularly difficult year when I read the book of 1 Peter every day for a week or more. I wanted to hear what God had to say and it seemed like that book had the answers. But as each day wore on, I found myself back with my same attitudes and worries. So I’d dig into 1 Peter again. I wish I’d been better at putting what I was reading into practice, but I hadn’t learned to pray with those things in mind.

I knew God would hear and answer prayer according to His will. I just hadn’t figured out that the Bible told me at least a part of His will. So when He said, “casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you,” I didn’t draw the conclusion that God’s will for me was to cast my anxiety on Him.

It seems rather obvious now. But my learning to think Biblical was and still is, in process.

To be honest with you, I’d prefer to be in the social center rather than at odds with society. I don’t like feeling like an outsider, a misfit, someone who doesn’t belong. I spent too many years as the new kid who’d just moved into town and had to find a way to be accepted.

Now as an adult I learn I don’t fit because my citizenship is in heaven. I have a different mindset, a different allegiance, a different hope, a different strategy, a different goal.

Part of me would like to pull in and find a comfortable place with like-minded people where I’m understood and secure. Except, then I’m not positioned to accomplish my goal or live out my strategy or demonstrate my hope or allegiance.

In short, thinking Biblically isn’t easy. It puts me at odds with my culture. And that’s actually as it should be.

This post is an edited version of one that appeared here in January, 2014.

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Published in: on January 3, 2019 at 5:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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Holy Habits


prayer handsWhen I was growing up, rebellion was the in thing. Teen angst, questioning the establishment, finding fault in every “meaningless” adult action–these were the norm.

A good number of us Christians didn’t buy into all these challenges to society, but culture seeped into my thinking regardless. One way this became apparent was in questioning the value of doing things by rote. Rather, everything was to be authentic, transparent, significant. And what was the worth of doing things over and over simply because we’ve always done them?

Significance, of course, is important, as opposed to doing something for show. Yet some things don’t reveal their value immediately. Unfortunately, my generation expected instantaneous results. If something didn’t have apparent worth right then, it was shuttled off to the side.

Note the word “apparent” in that statement. Unfortunately, if something is not perceived to have immediate value, then the conclusion is, it doesn’t have any.

When it comes to being a Christian, here are some of the things I grew up with: church, Sunday school, evening Sunday service, youth group, Wednesday night prayer meeting, Youth for Christ or Young Life, family devotions, prayer before meals twice a day (three times during the summers when we were home at noon), vacation Bible school.

Mind you, nothing is sacred about any of those things, except assembling with believers in worship, which Scripture tells us not to stop doing. Yet, there is an advantage in developing holy habits. Each of those activities I remember from my growing up years served to reinforce what I knew and was learning about God. That these activities were important to my parents said something too.

Sadly, for too many of the adults, they were simply going through the motions, or they could have answered the questions about purpose and significance their teens were asking. They could have demonstrated authenticity, had their holy habits carried real meaning.

Instead, those holy habits started to fade. First to go was prayer meeting, then evening church. Pretty soon, showing up for a church service once in a while seemed to become the norm. Happily Bible studies and fellowship groups have risen more recently to take the place of some of the other activities.

Through it all, I’ve learned that nothing substitutes for personal holy habits.

I wondered and questioned, more than I care to relive, the value of reading the Bible when “I wasn’t getting anything out of it.” My mind would drift when I prayed, and I felt frustrated when I found myself faced with the same requests week after week.

Yet here I am years later, with such a different attitude toward spending time in God’s word and in prayer. When did this change happen? Somewhere in the midst of the routine of pulling out my Bible first thing every morning. The change didn’t happen because of something I did, and there was no switch God flipped inside me.

Rather, the holy habit of spending time with God, even when I didn’t feel like it, had a transforming effect. Or more accurately, God’s presence in His Word and by His Spirit made the time with Him increasingly more significant.

Yes, holy habits can be routine and seem mundane, but like any other habit, the value comes with time. Establishing the habit may be hard, but enjoying it once it’s in place—that’s priceless.

This post is a re-print of one that first appeared here in December 2012—because I needed to re-read it.

The Thing About Household Chores


I’m not big on household chores. They’re just so daily! Dishes you washed yesterday are dirty again today. You no more than finish vacuuming the floor than some new piece of lint finds it’s way onto the carpet. The trash cans never stay emptied. And don’t get me started about dust!

It’s never ending. The laundry needs washing, the plants need watering, the mail needs dumping reading filing. Then there is grocery shopping and getting gas and answering email and … well, to be fair not all these things are daily, but they are repetitious. They raise their heads over and over and over again. There is no chance of stamping the job with a finished sign, and if you cross it off the “To Do” list, you just have to put it back on in a matter of days or hours.

So why do we do it? Why do we keep chugging away at the same jobs over and over? In the end, we do chores because we like life better that way. We prefer clean clothes and clean floors and clean dishes. We operate better with gas in the tank and food in the refrigerator. In other words, we’re willing to put in the time to get a known and desired result.

I wonder if the same is true about “spiritual chores.” Are we willing to put in the time to get a known and desired result when it comes to spiritual things?

I suppose first we have to determine if the result is desired. I mean how important is it that I dust the bookcase? If I’m having company, the importance increases ten-fold, so some days it’s very important, but on others — not so much. Is that the way things are spiritually? Are Sundays “spiritual days” and the rest of the week, not so much? Or are spiritual results important 24/7?

And if they are, is there actually a known result of doing “spiritual chores”? What particularly are spiritual chores? I suggest they are things we can point to in Scripture that have been commanded or modeled for us, involving our relationship with God. I’d put things like reading God’s Word in the list of “spiritual chores.” Praying would be there too, and church attendance, Bible memorization, praising God, tithing.

But that brings me back to the “known result.” Do these spiritual chores have a known result? Yes and no. There is no extrinsic reward — no “Best Church Member” sticker or “Faithful Bible Reader” club. There’s not even a promise of health and wealth if we just do our part. But there’s a definite intrinsic result. As with anyone else, the more time we spend with God — in His book or in His house or talking to Him about stuff that’s on our mind — the better we get to know Him. The next thing we know, our spiritual life is showing all kinds of signs of fruitfulness, the most easily spotted one being that the spiritual chores no longer feel like chores.

I actually have a friend who likes to clean. Seriously! She does it to relax. I’m not there, but I can imagine that the routine of doing spiritual things and seeing the desired and known results flourish can transform us into people like my friend — we no longer look at “chores” or “duties” or “responsibilities” but at the best part of the day when I get to

The thing about household chores, they are so daily. But maybe that’s exactly the way to turn them from chores to challenges to cherished moments. Some day. But honestly, I hold out more hope for the spiritual chores than I do for the household ones. 😉

This post was first published here in January 2012.

Published in: on April 6, 2016 at 5:25 pm  Comments (3)  
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Holy Habits


prayer handsWhen I was growing up, rebellion was the in thing. Teen angst, questioning the establishment, finding fault in every “meaningless” adult action–these were the norm.

As Christians a good number of us didn’t buy into all these challenges to society, but culture seeped into my thinking regardless. One way this became apparent was in questioning the value of doing things by rote. Rather, everything was to be authentic, transparent, have significance. And what was the worth of doing things over and over simply because we’ve always done them?

Significance, of course, is important, as opposed to doing something for show. Yet some things don’t show their value immediately. Unfortunately, my generation expected instantaneous results. If something didn’t have apparent worth right then, it was shuttled off to the side.

Note the word “apparent” in that statement. Unfortunately, if something is not perceived to have immediate value, then the conclusion is, it doesn’t have any.

When it comes to being a Christian, here are some of the things I grew up with: church, Sunday school, evening Sunday service, youth group, Wednesday night prayer meeting, Youth for Christ or Young Life, family devotions, prayer before meals twice a day (three times during the summers when we were home at noon), vacation Bible school.

Mind you, nothing is sacred about any of those things, except assembling with believers in worship, which Scripture tells us not to stop doing. Yet, there is an advantage in developing holy habits. Each of those activities I remember from my growing up years served to reinforce what I knew and was learning about God. That these activities were important to my parents said something too.

Sadly, for too many of the adults, they were simply going through the motions or they could have answered the questions about purpose and significance their teens were asking. They could have demonstrated authenticity had their holy habits carried real meaning.

Instead, those holy habits started to fade. First to go was prayer meeting, then evening church. Pretty soon, showing up for a church service once in a while seemed to become the norm. Happily Bible studies and fellowship groups have risen to take the place of some of the other activities.

Through it all, I’ve learned that nothing substitutes for personal holy habits.

I wondered and questioned, more than I care to relive, the value of reading the Bible when “I wasn’t getting anything out of it.” My mind would drift when I prayed, and I felt frustrated when I found myself faced with the same requests week after week.

Yet here I am years later, with such a different attitude toward spending time in God’s word and in prayer. When did this change happen? Somewhere in the midst of the routine of pulling out my Bible first thing every morning. It wasn’t something I did, and there was no switch God flipped inside me.

Rather, the holy habit of spending time with God, even when I didn’t feel like it, had a transforming effect. Or more accurately, God’s presence in His Word and by His Spirit made the time with Him increasingly more significant.

Yes, holy habits can be routine and seem mundane, but like any other habit, the value comes with time. Establishing the habit may be hard, but enjoying it once it’s in place–that’s priceless.

Published in: on December 5, 2012 at 5:26 pm  Comments (2)  
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Putting The Bible Puzzle-Pieces In Place


Once upon a time, I was a child. 😀 Not startling news, since we all were. But I remember as a child, then as a teen, being told that I should read the Bible every day. I tried for a little while and was actually quite surprised at how interesting Genesis was. And the beginning of Exodus. It bogged down in the middle chapters of that book, then came Leviticus. Need I say more?

I was in college when I actually had to read the Bible through for a class. We were quizzed over it every day without fail. Still, there were passages that … you might say, I didn’t stay awake well as I was trying to dash through them late at night, nor did I exactly pass those quizzes with flying colors. 😕

Fortunately, after college I became a teacher in a Christian school where I was required to teach a Bible class. Fortunately, I say, because I had a principal who laid it on the line–how could we teach the Bible if we ourselves weren’t reading the Bible? It made sense to me.

A fellow teacher told me she read the Bible through each year and had been doing that for ten or so years. I was impressed. She gave me the schedule–three chapters a day during the week and five on Saturday and on Sunday.

I started out, convinced I should do this, equipped with a method to do this. As before, I was pleasantly surprised by stories about creation, the fall, the flood, Abraham and God’s promise of a son, all the way through to Joseph and his forgiveness of his brothers. Exodus followed suit for the most part, but then came Leviticus. It was still there, like a roadblock, bringing my resolve and good intentions to a halt.

Slowly I pushed through, but one thing became clear: I was no longer on the path to finish the Bible in a year.

This scenario repeated itself a time or two before I realized that reading the Bible through in a year was not mandatory. I could go at my own pace. No one was holding a gun to my head. If it took me a year and a half, two years, so be it.

Suddenly I wasn’t feeling quite so beholden to a method.

Not long afterward, I also came to the decision that I didn’t have to read the hard passages–starting with Leviticus. What a burden came off my shoulders. Genesis, most of Exodus, parts of Numbers, all but the begats in Deuteronomy … that became my pattern.

I can’t even tell you when it began to change. I know I fell in love with Deuteronomy. Yes, Deuteronomy. And I even stopped skipping the begats. Eventually I started looking for ways of understanding the hard parts. How was Leviticus organized, what benefit or protection did all the laws give the Israelites, that sort of thing. Before I realized it, I had begun to study the hard parts, and gradually they stopped seeming like they actually were hard.

Why do I detail this process? Yesterday in “The Bible Puzzle” I made a case for looking at the entire Bible, without any missing pieces, so that we can see the entire picture.

And picture it is–God’s word-picture showing us His character, His plan for us and the world, His work. But it is a picture that is layered and it’s not presented entirely in sequential order. Poetry is interspersed with history, letters are bumping up against prophecy. And then there are the begats, not to mention the laws and the sacrifices and the feast days and the parts of the tabernacle and the order of marching in the wilderness and ….

Quite honestly, a jigsaw puzzle is an apropos comparison, but so is putting a jigsaw puzzle together, at least how my family worked puzzles when I was growing up. We first started by finding the edges, especially the corner pieces. Once we had the edges fit together, we had a frame for the picture. Then we could start gathering similar colors.

The point is, we started with the easiest part first and gradually worked our way through to the harder sections–the field of grain or the solid blue sky. But by then, the part of the puzzle we were working on was much smaller and we could concentrate on shapes, since the colors were so similar. In the end, unless we’d lost a piece, we always finished our puzzles.

To complete the analogy, a Christian’s goal should be to complete the picture God has given us. He wants us to see how all the pieces fit together. But it’s not a bad thing to start with the edges. It’s not shameful to wait to do the sky last. In the grand scheme of things, it is much more important for us to start and to make progress toward the goal of understanding God’s revelation than it is to declare it too hard or boring or irrelevant, and stick with the favorite parts we think we can solve even without the edge being in place.

Anyone might be able to put together the snow cap, but does it fit into the picture as part of the mountain or part of the reflection of the mountain? If all you have are parts of a puzzle then you have a distorted picture, not a complete one. So too with the Bible.

But we may take some time getting all the pieces in place, and that’s OK.

Published in: on July 19, 2012 at 5:47 pm  Comments (6)  
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The Thing About Household Chores


I’m not big on household chores. They’re just so daily! Dishes you washed yesterday are dirty again today. You no more than finish vacuuming the floor than some new piece of lint finds it’s way onto the carpet. The trash cans never stay emptied. And don’t get me started about dust!

It’s never ending. The laundry needs washing, the plants need watering, the mail needs dumping reading filing. Then there is grocery shopping and getting gas and answering email and … well, to be fair not all these things are daily, but they are repetitious. They raise their heads over and over and over again. There is no chance of stamping the job with a finished sign, and if you cross it off the “To Do” list, you just have to put it back on in a matter of days or hours.

So why do we do it? Why do we keep chugging away at the same jobs over and over? In the end, we do chores because we like life better that way. We prefer clean clothes and clean floors and clean dishes. We operate better with gas in the tank and food in the refrigerator. In other words, we’re willing to put in the time to get a known and desired result.

I wonder if the same is true about “spiritual chores.” Are we willing to put in the time to get a known and desired result when it comes to spiritual things?

I suppose first we have to determine if the result is desired. I mean how important is it that I dust the bookcase? If I’m having company, the importance increases ten-fold, so some days it’s very important, but on others — not so much. Is that the way things are spiritually? Are Sundays “spiritual days” and the rest of the week, not so much? Or are spiritual results important 24/7?

And if they are, is there actually a known result of doing “spiritual chores”? What particularly are spiritual chores? I suggest they are things we can point to in Scripture that have been commanded or modeled for us, involving our relationship with God. I’d put things like reading God’s Word in the list of “spiritual chores.” Praying would be there too, and church attendance, Bible memorization, praising God, tithing.

But that brings me back to the “known result.” Do these spiritual chores have a known result? Yes and no. There is no extrinsic reward — no “Best Church Member” sticker or “Faithful Bible Reader” club. There’s not even a promise of health and wealth if we just do our part. But there’s a definite intrinsic result. As with anyone else, the more time we spend with God — in His book or in His house or talking to Him about stuff that’s on our mind — the better we get to know Him. The next thing we know, our spiritual life is showing all kinds of signs of fruitfulness, the most easily spotted one being that the spiritual chores no longer feel like chores.

I actually have a friend who likes to clean. Seriously! She does it to relax. I’m not there, but I can imagine that the routine of doing spiritual things and seeing the desired and known results flourish can transform us into people like my friend — we no longer look at “chores” or “duties” or “responsibilities” but at the best part of the day when I get to

The thing about household chores, they are so daily. But maybe that’s exactly the way to turn them from chores to challenges to cherished moments. Some day. But honestly, I hold out more hope for the spiritual chores than I do for the household ones. 😉

Published in: on January 26, 2012 at 5:30 pm  Comments (2)  
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