When the Choice You Need to Make Isn’t the One Culture Suggests

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Making decisions is difficult, but they become increasingly stressful when the choice you need to make isn’t the one culture suggests. In those circumstances, it’s important we turn to Scripture to seek guidance.

But know this: Hard times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self–control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people.
2 Timothy 3: 1-5

So many of the things listed in the above verses have become “the norm.” Doesn’t culture tell us to be “lovers of pleasure” (v. 4a)? In doing so, culture simultaneously and consequently tells us to choose pleasure “rather than [be] lovers of God” (v. 4b). And isn’t money held in highest esteem? Isn’t boasting, pride, and conceit traits which are encouraged amongst society?

The conflict of culture versus God isn’t anything new. Let’s consider Sarah. God promised Abraham and Sarah (Abram and Sarai at the time, pre name change) that they would have many descendants (Genesis 12:2); however, they were older and by Genesis chapter 16, Sarah was tired of waiting and thus decided to take matters into her own hands. She told her husband to take Hagar as his wife, to which Abraham did not object. What we must keep in mind is that Sarah’s suggestion was a cultural norm at the time. While we balk and gawk at this decision, having your maidservant sub in during Sarah’s day and age was anything but unheard of; in fact, it was common practice.

It’s hard not to wonder, though, what Sarah felt or thought, deep down. If she’d been honest with herself, did she feel ill at ease with this idea? Had she hoped Abraham would object to this proposition? Culture told her one thing, but God had told her something different.

Culture tells us that we can say we are Christians but continue to act in sinful ways. Yet Scripture warns of people who will be “holding to the form of godliness but denying its power” (v. 5). So what must we do to hold to the form of godliness but embrace God’s power? We must allow God to come into our lives and invade our every day. Think about when a king or queen entered a room during his or her reign. Absolutely everything changed. The room straightened. The atmosphere shifted from one of lax to one of authority. So, too, are our lives to change when we ask Christ to be our king. He is to engulf every part of our lives so that our life is completely different, as though a king has entered it. When the Risen King enters our life, nothing can be the same. Culture tells us one thing, but God calls us to something different.

Timothy is pretty forthright here. Not only does he provide a detailed explanation of how people will become, he says to avoid these people. (See also 1 Corinthians 15:33.) Timothy was warning his audience so that they would not be influenced by such acts. We are to love God and love others (Luke 10:27), but we aren’t to allow ourselves to become corrupt in the process. James chapter 4, verse 7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Being like Christ only when it’s convenient and putting ourselves in situations we know we’ll be tempted isn’t part of the deal. But doesn’t culture imply this is ok?

Sometimes in life there comes a time when you must make a decision to go the right way or the wrong one. Making right decisions is hard, and it’s hardly ever the popular route. But take comfort in knowing that this isn’t a surprise: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Have you made wrong decisions? Yes. We all have. We have all fallen short. But we are always given a choice to make new decisions. Every day we are given this opportunity. Christ gives us a chance to be redeemed, and He can redeem anything.

We can stand back and see the folly, but we have to make the decision to not be a part of it. And you can make that decision! Be encouraged that you are called to be a lover of God, and make the choice not to just know that, but to be that.

Working, Resting, and Knowing God Is Who He Says

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I’ve always been on the move. As a child, I wanted to walk everywhere, which usually turned into running everywhere with a cartwheel or ten thrown in along the way. I’m still occasionally called out for being a mover and a shaker. At a teacher orientation I attended a few years ago, the speaker picked me out of the crowd having noticed that I was shaking my foot. I remember being taken aback because I wasn’t even aware I was doing it.

I had a conversation this week with a friend about yoga. She’s really enjoying the exercise, but as I told her, I’ve always found it boring. I realize that the point of yoga is to relax, to calm, to stretch, and to center, but I’ve just never gelled with that kind of exercise. (In yoga’s defense, I didn’t even really like Zumba. I tried it, but again, it didn’t require enough energy for me.) Personally, I prefer an open road for a run or a hot studio for a high-intensity dance class.

But sometimes running is part of my problem. I go, go, go until I’m tired, worn out, and irritable. I can go on lack of sleep for a while, but eventually it catches up to me, much to my dismay.

Though you may not have moving and shaking personality tendencies, on some level we can probably all relate to experiencing a lack of rest in a spiritual sense. We forget to rest and take time to replenish our souls – the most important part of who we are.

In Psalm chapter 46, the well-known verse “Be still, and know that I am God” (v. 10) comes from a time of battles and war. God wanted His people to know that He would be “exalted among the nations.” He was reminding them that He is ruler.

Let me pause and say that God doesn’t tell us not to work or to sit back and simply hope for the best. After all, He gave us a model of working for six days and resting for one when he created the earth, and Jesus told the parable of the talents to teach that we are to use the gifts God gives us. (See Matthew 25:14-30.) Aren’t we told to work as if we are working for the Lord?  “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23). When we work, we are to work. But when we rest, how are we supposed to rest?

There are so many articles and books being published right now encouraging a message of rest. In our constantly moving, hectic, and busy world, these messages are good reminders, certainly. But most importantly, we must remember that God wants us to rest in Him. Psalm 68 says that He “daily bears our burdens” (v. 19). In everything we do, we are to please the Lord, we are to remember Him, and we are to know that He is God. One way we acknowledge Him as God is through prayer.

David was quite the pray-er. He wasn’t afraid to be honest and vulnerable in his prayers. When he felt threatened, weak, angry, thankful, or happy, he prayed. And wow, did he! Just look at Psalm 69 or read Psalm 70 to see his truthful, humble, and heart-wrenching words. These prayers are models for our own. And though David was honest, he was still respectful. He both loved and feared the Lord. Reading David’s prayers can encourage us to be just as honest but respectful before God as well. He already knows our hearts anyway, but through prayer, we rest in Him. We can gain knowledge from the Holy Spirit, we discern His will for our lives, and we draw closer to him if we allow ourselves this time.

I’m still working on prayer, and I guess I always will be. Last week, I had a prayer answered. It wasn’t answered because of what I said or how I prayed though; it was God’s doing. The answer wasn’t the exact outcome for which I’d prayed, but there were an unending number of outcomes that I prayed against. And I believe God answered my prayer. I am thankful to Him, and I give Him glory in answering that prayer. I want to be intentional in acknowledging Him as God, and though he doesn’t always answer our prayers as we pray them, we continue to be still and acknowledge that He is God. We rest in Him.

I’m better at being still than I used to be, but I still push myself too much sometimes. I want to continue to learn the importance of resting in God. I hope to continue to gain friends to rest with, too. Won’t you join me?

 

But if not, He is still good.
Daniel 3:18