3/19/2014 2 Comments
Picking and Choosing
By Eric Boothe
Several months ago we had a long conversation with some teens who attend The Barn. Largely we spoke of morals and how they exist and how we know what is moral and what is not. We never really did establish and agree on an answer, it was more a conversation than a debate. While it was obvious we all had our own opinions, strong ones I'm sure, I was encouraged by the fact we could have a civil conversation in order to better understand each other. One thing we did understand is that morals have a lot to do with relationships. It is these types of conversations that revive my soul and make me excited about hanging out at The Barn.
This has got me thinking lately about "picking and choosing." It is something we all do to a degree, even if we do not like to admit it. If we didn't we would have the complete mind of Christ and our thoughts would never be clouded. We would think clearly and truthfully about every issue on earth and above the earth. We would see things as they really are and not really even have to think hard about them. There are two things that bring uncertainty and cloudiness to our thoughts about truth, the selfishness of our hearts (or "the flesh" as the Bible calls it), and the father of lies, Satan.
Our Selfish Hearts
There are many areas in which we pick and choose. We pick and choose what news program we watch or what music we listen to. We pick and choose what friends we have and what our favorite sports teams are. We pick and choose which fast food joint to eat at and which fountain drink to consume. We pick and choose which church to go to or whether to even go to church at all. We pick and choose what we will wear or where to shop. Our picking and choosing is often influenced by the latest trends and cultural norms and our wants and desires. Sadly this picking and choosing carries over to many areas of our lives, especially when we read the Bible. We pick and choose what truth from the Bible will influence our lives. Essentially we have gotten to a point where we pick and choose what to call true in the Bible and what is supposedly false. Or we may pick and choose what to forget or pass over in the Bible. We may even pick which passage to diligently focus on while the rest goes unnoticed. The Bible has become an old history book that can be picked over. Essentially what we are saying is that it is up to man to decide. Man decides, or to put it more personal, I decide what is moral and what is not. I decide what to designate as true. I decide what is right and what is wrong. The Bible is no longer seen as God's word to man that came from his mouth as truth, but just another book.
Consumerism has preyed on the self-centeredness of the heart of man. There is an innate desire in each and every one of us to want our own way and to rebel against God's will for us. Our consumerist culture has realized this and used it for its own benefit to satisfy it's own way for personal gain. The marketing and advertising world preys on our selfishness. Ads are often focused on selling us something by making us believe that we need something in order to be successful or to feel happy and fulfilled. Take a simple slogan for instance, Wal-Mart says "Save Money, Live Better". While there is nothing wrong with saving money or living better, this slogan can prey on our desire to amass "things" in order to have a better life. It can easily create within us a money centered lifestyle in which we rely on money for our fulfillment. Our thoughts can easily become, "For me to be prosperous I have to shop at Wal-Mart!" which simply isn't true.
Consumerism is just one example of how our thoughts can become clouded and perverted. Things like our teachings (or lack of teaching would probably be more like it) on self-esteem, science, personal rights, health, security, prosperity and on, often determine and influence our thoughts and beliefs. None of these things are bad in and of themselves. In fact they are often helpful when we allow them to be shaped by the values and principles found in the Bible. The answer isn't to declare them as evil and then do away with them from our lives as we might find ourselves doing. Nor is the answer to accept these things with complacency or a sense of apathy. The Bible makes the claim that it contains truth and that it is very useful in helping us know how to think correctly about things, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17) If we really want to know the truth about science, morals, personal rights, self-esteem, health, money, success and prosperity, we must view these topics through the lens of Scripture. Quite frankly, I don't believe we can think correctly about things without listening to what the Bible has to say because our selfish hearts, as fallen men and women, will not allow us to see things without a degree of cloudiness.
The father of lies
If we believe that God is the Creator of all things, and the Bible states that He is, why do we question His existence? Is it possible that the truth has been twisted and our selfishness has led us to a lie? The Bible in Romans 1:20 makes an astounding proclamation, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." The Bible proclaims that we can clearly see that there is a God. It goes even further by saying that we can know things about God by the things that we see in creation. We can know how powerful, awesome (in every sense of the word) and divine he really is! It states that it is so clear to us that we are without excuse when we deny that He exist. So why is it often so hard for us to believe that he really does exist?
A friend of mine, Roland Filbrun recently wrote this:
A truth that God taught me about lies is this: a lie is nothing more than elements of truth twisted together so you cannot see the whole picture. There is not one element in the entire universe that Satan created. As the father of lies, his profession is none other than taking different parts and pieces of God's creation and presenting them in a different manner than God intended.
We often think of a lie as an untruth that we tell or a story that we make up. Satan's tactic for telling lies is often more subtle and involves twisting elements of truth together to form a lie. This is dangerous because Satan's lies are nothing more than a little truth (never the whole truth it seems), presented in a form that is deceiving and manipulative. Instead of the creation revealing God's glory, we begin to question if God really even exist and begin to believe the creation came into existence through the chaos of a big bang. Instead of humanity displaying an image of God in love and kindness for one another, we resort to survival of the fittest. Instead of man and woman being the highlight of God's creation, we evolved from apes. Instead of being stewards of our planet and its resources, we rape it and destroy it.
I believe one of the most important things in creation, if not the most important thing, are our relationships. Our selfishness and satan's deception can be very detrimental to relationships. God has created us as very relational beings. God himself is relational as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Man and woman as the highlight of God's creation was meant to be a reflecting image of this. Seeing marriage as something that God has created as a reflection of his glory and relational characteristics is proof that God exist. Our marriages and friendships that we have with one another are something that God sees as very important and he cares about them a lot! God does not see them as something disposable, as our "picking and choosing" minds often tell us they are.
The Bible has a lot to say about our relationships, and I believe that relationships are something satan is seeking diligently to destroy. Ephesians 4:26-27 says, "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." We must work hard at our relationships. It is easy for our selfish hearts to be easily angered (or jealous, envious, lustful, etc. I think many emotions apply here) when we don't get our way. If we let these negative emotions consume us we are giving the devil a foothold in our lives. He can distort the truth through things we hear and the actions of others until we have come to believe something that isn't true. This only get's worse the longer we let a relationship go un-reconciled. It's at this point the foothold of destruction can come to a relationship. We must be diligent in seeking understanding and reconciliation to any hurt relationship. God, as creator of relationship, is the only one we can seek understanding from if we want to have healthy relationships with one another.
I have had people ask me before why we "push" Jesus at The Barn. My short answer is: because it's who we are. May I ask why not Jesus? Seeing the universe through Jesus brings answers and understanding to a whole lot of things. Jesus just makes sense! For that to happen we have to first admit that there is something wrong with the world, and even more personal we have to admit that there is something wrong with our own souls. The truth is we look at things in a perverted, clouded and illogical way many times. We have taken a look at how our flesh (or selfish hearts) and satan are sources of this cloudiness. Ephesians 2:1-5 says,
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved.
The Bible makes a clear distinction in the life of a follower of Jesus. It states that we have an old self and a new self (Ephesians 4:22-23). We have a new identity when we believe in Jesus. We are born again. We are no longer an object of wrath, but are made alive. We cross from death to life. This is not something we do ourselves, it's something only Christ Jesus can do and has done. He did it when we were still dead in our transgressions. Why Jesus, because we have all "lived among them at one time gratifying the cravings". We have experienced the old self life and the new self life. The new self is WAY better!
The new self makes sense, it gives us hope, gives us joy, gives us love, gives us forgiveness, gives us vision, gives us purpose, gives us mercy, gives us compassion, gives us perspective on life, gives us hope in the direction of the world, gives us a reason to celebrate even when life is hard, gives us clarity of thought when cloudiness is all around, gives us a way to think logically, gives us a logical explanation how we came to be, gives us a reason to press on when we mess up, gives us a way to overcome our selfish hearts, gives us definition to prosperity, gives us a way to live better, gives us security, gives us purpose and direction in our relationships, gives us reconciliation, gives us an eternal perspective, most of all it gives us a victor over death, satan, and wrath. Jesus gives what no one else can give. Today I pick and choose Jesus because he first picked and chose me.
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