Friday, 6 January 2017

Lies our culture tells us


I have a constant love-hate relationship with social media. The main reason I hate it is because it is filled with superficial, twee nonsense. Sometimes I gag; sometimes it gets me angry. You know the type of post I mean. The artfully created (often misspelled) quotations or axioms that make you feel good but hold little actual value or wisdom. They're superficial, often egocentric and selfish and are devoid of any nuance. However, they often reveal something that our cultures believes to be true and important. The biggest problem for me, however, is that they often go directly against Biblical wisdom, wisdom that I believe is profound, true and helpful.

So, here are some lies you can find on Facebook, and here are the Biblical truths instead.

Follow your heart

It sounds so nice, doesn't it? Don't be constrained by the world. Be free! Follow your desires and your wants. But it's all about me, me, me. People are inherently selfish, fickle and emotional. I know when I'm tired or frustrated, my heart is rank with bitterness and anger.

Yes, God has given us all passions, and yes, these should be listen to (sometimes), but there are other ways to seek guidance.

What the Bible says

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
Our hearts aren't to be trusted. So what should we trust instead? Verses 7-8 tells us to trust in the God, and then we will be like trees planted near an ever-flowing stream.

Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek first the kingdom of God. We are to set the priorities of God before our own. The second bit of this verse is an encouraging promise: then everything we need will be given to us.

We are also told to guard our heart in Proverbs 4:23, and in Psalm 51, David calls on God to create in him a clean heart.

We are to in God with all our heart (Proverbs 3:5-6). We should use his word to guide our paths.

If they don't know your value, then you don't need to know them

The first thing is the blatant double standards that people seem to miss in posts like these. It goes along the lines of "if they don't realise how good and significant are brilliant you are, then ditch them like the trash they are." Well, I'm pretty sure that this attitude negates the value of the other person. 

It plays to the innate human desire to be admired or appreciated and respected.

What the Bible says

Our ultimate model (and saviour, redeemer, creator and much more than that) is always Jesus. Philippians 2:6-8 says
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Jesus was 'despised' and 'rejected' (Isaiah 53:3). The Christmas story is all about how the God of the universe became a baby. He was later to be rejected and put to death on the cross. If the world didn't know Jesus' value (and still doesn't) then why should we expect others to know ours?

Furthermore, Paul tells us how he became all things to all men in order to win them to Christ. He wrote, in 1 Corinthians 9, how he shared in the weak's weaknesses.

We should not be looking for our own glory or for people to admire us, but instead that God should be praised.

If they drag you down, let them go

This one is relatively similar to the previous idea. However, it suggests that if people are irritating or difficult, they should be ditched as soon as possible. I know there are some extremely difficult people out there that are abusive and cause harm, but this isn't about those cases. Those cases need particular wisdom and it's not really something that can be covered in a simple blog post.

What the Bible says

A good place to start is in Luke 6. It tells us to love our enemies and bless those who ill-treat us. Then there are the many verses on being patient with one another. It's reassuring that it was obviously a big enough problem in the early church to warrant repeated mentions, but it's also important enough that it's reiterated quite a few times. If there are people that drag you down, I'd advise that you pray, bless and build them up. Remember that you will be doing it in God's strength and not your own. He gives you the power, but also receives the glory.

Let's get lost

The idea is to escape the confusion of this world, to be free spirits and to be a reed bent by the wind. Be explorers, be adventurers. Let go of your identity; forge a new self.

What the Bible says

It's all very romantic. But "lost" is our status before our salvation. We were once lost, but now we're found. This is made clear in the various lost parables in Luke 15. We are the lost sheep, coin and son. God is the searching shepherd, the rejoicing woman, and the thankful father. We don't need to get lost, we're already very much up poo creek without a paddle. But thankfully, there's a heavenly search and rescue going on. God longs to find us and to bring us back to him.

What to do with what we read

Often we read something and think, "that sounds nice!" so we stick a digital thumb up and we share it for our friends to see. But we should always be testing these words against Biblical wisdom. If they don't agree with it, then they are wrong. We should be spreading God's truth, not the worlds.

Quick Questions

  • What do you think of these quotations you find on Facebook? Are they helpful or are the dangerous?
  • What have you seen which has frustrated you?
  • What do you think is the biggest lie our culture tells us?

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Luke 5

In Luke 5, Jesus calls his first disciples, heals some people and eats with others. He also says some stuff that I don't understand.

Simon's obedience

Jesus is doing some preaching, then afterwards tells Simon, who has been a fisherman all his life, how to fish. If some upstart preacher from Galilee came and told me how to do my job, I'd be very annoyed. Simon, however, does what he says. Simon says that he hasn't caught anything all night, but because Jesus asked him to put down the nets, he will do it.

Then they caught what I expect was the biggest load they've seen in their life. So much so, that it is seen as miraculous. At this point, Simon recognises Jesus' authority. It's interesting that Simon, in response to this, recognises his own sinfulness and failings. Jesus then calls Simon and his friends, James and John, to be his disciples. They simply follow.

The first question that popped into my head after reading this was, "What happened to all the fish?" They've just caught a huge amount, which could probably sell for a considerable amount, and they walk away from it. I wonder how many of us are that willing to walk away from what we have to follow Jesus. Without Jesus they would never had the fish; without Jesus we too have nothing. And yet we refuse to recognise it for what it is and we cling onto it.

Saints and Sinners

In Luke 5, we almost have two opposing sides: the sinful and the Pharisees (who were regarded as the saints and the holy people of their day). Simon started the theme of being sinful with his words, and this carries on through. Perhaps conventional wisdom would place Jesus on the side of the saintly, but that isn't the case. Jesus is very much on the sinners' side. He heals a leper (who would have been an outcast); when healing a paralysed man, he forgives him of his sin; and he eats with the sinners.

This verse is pretty famous, but it's so important to remember, I think.
Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’
Of course, a Christian is a sinner who has been made a saint through the sacrifice of Jesus. But, is the church good enough at proclaiming that it is there for the sinners, not the saints?

Wineskins

Jesus tells a parable about the old and new cloth and the old and new wineskins. I understand the practicalities of what he's saying, the figurative part is what I'm missing. If someone could let me know, please do.

Quick Questions

  • What do you find difficult to leave behind when following Jesus?
  • Where do you most often find yourself, with the sinners or with the saints?
  • What is the wineskin thing about?

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Luke 4

In Luke 4, Jesus gets tempted by the devil, preaches in Nazareth and gets rejected, and casts out two impure spirits.

The Holy Spirit

He's still about. I haven't noticed how active the Holy Spirit is in the gospels and how often he gets mentioned. But he's still there doing his stuff.

I found it particularly interesting that the Holy Spirit was there when the devil was testing Jesus. In fact, the Holy Spirit led him to the desert where he would be tested. We know that Jesus was filled with the Spirit during the whole time, because, afterwards, the Holy Spirit is mentioned again. 

I often forget that the Holy Spirit is still with me during times of testing. I often feel abandoned in a desert, but this isn't the case. I also wonder how much the Spirit was involved in giving Jesus the words to say to the devil in response. In Luke 12:12, the disciples that when they are bought before the synagogues and leaders, the Holy Spirit will teach them what to say. So, it's possible that the Holy Spirit was doing the same here. It's bizarre to think that I have the same Spirit in me that Jesus did. When Jesus was preaching and healing in power, when he was responding to the devil, Jesus was doing so with the same Spirit now in me. It's not as if Jesus got a bigger portion of the Spirit or anything. Same Spirit; same power.

Powers of darkness

In this chapter, we see activity from the devil and his dominions. A few things about this struck me. First of all, the devil knew his Scripture. He quoted it at Jesus. Fortunately, Jesus knew his Scripture too, and was able to respond in a proper manner. It perhaps go to show why knowing your Scripture is so important.

I also noticed what it said in verse 13. The devil left Jesus "until an opportune time". This really suggests that the battle wasn't over. I don't know if that means that the devil was often present during Jesus' ministry or whether he had to wait until much later.

The impure spirits recognised Jesus for who he was: the Holy One of God. They still rejected him. I wonder how many people live their lives like that also.

The people of Nazareth

The people of Nazareth also recognise Jesus, but this time as the child of Joseph. Jesus says some things that upset them and they try to throw him off a cliff.

It did make me think if we are in some ways like the people of Nazareth too. Does our over familiarity with him in the west mean that we often fail to listen to his message, or to not accept him (but metaphorically chucking him over a cliff). 

Quick questions

  • What surprises you about Luke 4?
  • What passages of the Bible do you know off by heart?
  • How important is knowing the Bible to you and why?
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