Not of this World

I’m well past mid-life and I’ve come to realize – I have no clue how to be “not of this world, but sent into it.” For context to that reference, see the Bible – John 15:19, John 17:11-16; Romans 12:1,2; 1 John 2:15-17.

I live in and among a culture of excess and self-indulgence…it is a gluttonous, consumeristic and voyeuristic culture. I’m not talking about those who are evildoers, don’t know God, reject God or ignore God…but those who claim they belong to God. I’m not just talking about other professing believers…I’m talking about me.

We live in our sterile, suburban neighborhoods, with our two cars, sculpted lawns and dwellings stuffed with modern conveniences, luxuries and technology, not to mention adorned with tapestries and images that project the things that we value, collect and elevate. We send our children into high-ranking educational systems and enroll them in extra-curricular activities and arts that cater to their desires and drives and our desire to see them recognized for such, SOMETIMES satisfying our need to live vicariously through their success OR give them something we feel like we missed as children. We work multiple jobs to satisfy our cravings for more or to pay off the creditors who already allowed us to indulge in our need for more.

Some of us worship our body, the temple, in one of two ways – we spend hours in gyms, gazing into mirrors admiring our hard efforts, trying to counter the extra hours that we spent in chairs at jobs to be able to afford the lives we’ve carved out for ourselves OR we spend time debating over restaurants and meals of excess that we cram into already obese bodies…many times due to the stress of the extra work we do to make the money to afford the lives we’ve carved out for ourselves. I don’t recall the last time, if ever, I’ve prayed “give us this day our daily bread” when I didn’t have a wealth of leftovers, packaged snacks, canned and boxed goods, frozen meats, etc. cluttering our cupboards, shelves, refrigerators, freezers and extra-freezers in our garage.

We don’t know how to engage our community and/or family in conversation or find entertainment/joy in our lives without exchanging commodities to do so…be it movie theaters, expensive meals, sporting events, concerts, gaming systems, Netflix or phone apps.

And then we dare to claim that God has “BLESSED” us with all of this. Two reasons that this just sickens me about myself alone:

1. There are tens of thousands of people around the globe that love God, love their neighbor and love the mission for which He has called them and they have little to none of the excess that we claim that God has blessed us with. They don’t have one piece of furniture even remotely similar to the 20 to 30 pieces of furniture in my home, one refrigerator (much less two), one car or even a corrupt educational system, much less a high ranking one. Does this mean that they are not blessed? Does this mean that God is somehow looking down on my little American community more favorably than the one in Mogos, South Sudan?

2. Many of the things I mentioned above are my greatest distractions or hindrances to fulfilling the mission to which God has called me. Managing and maintaining my standard of living is more often a distraction to my calling rather than enabling or empowering my calling. Is this really a blessing or a curse? Heavy question on my heart…one that I can really only answer for myself.

I know that I’m a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, inside a conundrum, sealed in a paradox. I live in a culture that I hate (read Luke 14:26, Matthew 19:29) and want to run from but within moments of realizing that, I find myself engaged in the race to acquire more, do more, eat more, entertain and be entertained more. In one thought I want to abandon all the comforts of our cushy little suburban, Judeo-Christian life and move into a simple concrete box in the heart of a 3rd world country and in the next, I’m angry that the dog soiled our brand new carpet that God entrusted to us to steward well…carpet that’s worth meals for months to a small village in some countries. In one thought I want to destroy all social media, Netflix and cable accounts in my home and life and in the next want to post this rant to every social media outlet and use it as a platform for transformation. I want to use my culture to win my culture, but I fear that instead of using it, it consumes me. Maybe it’s because God never intended for us to use our culture to win our culture…that’s OUR mistake and we get caught up in it because it’s a tool of the enemy.

We don’t win our culture by condemning it. But I’m afraid that we don’t win it by immersing ourselves in it and becoming part of it either. We are sent INTO the world, we are not OF it. This is a TRUTH that we often suppress by our unrighteousness. Claiming to be wise…we become fools and exchange the glory of the immortal God for IMAGES resembling mortal man…Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity…because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature (and/or creation) rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!” Romans 1:18-25

I don’t know the answer and I sometimes don’t even think I know the question. I just want my life to count for His glory. I don’t want to leave a legacy. I don’t want to be a legend. I just want to hear “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Between a dear friend coming home from a 3rd world country, spending time with a leader of a multi-cultural, inner-city ministry, seeing our kids go off to school (immersed and sometimes drug into the cultures where they are), reading Romans 8 multiple days in a row, spending time with our parents in this stage of their lives, reflecting on my own struggles. Then I read this – http://frankpowell.me/church-approved-sins-plague-lives and see so much truth in it.

I LOVE the people with whom I do life, but I do not LOVE the life that we often get caught up in living, choose to live or are forced to live because of the people that we choose to live it with.

Praying for wisdom and discernment…for boldness and confidence…for humility and meekness.

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