We all like to think our culture is “the norm.” And we all tend to judge and see things differently from an outside perspective. But each culture ironically similarly looks at other cultures and finds something hard to understand. My point is it is harder to see our cultural blindness and grip of idols in our hearts and lives. However, traveling outside our environments can open our eyes not only to other cultural dynamics but also our blind spots. We all are influenced by any number of things that we treat as cultural norms, and the real question is whether they hold up to the biblical ethic and way of life for a Christ-follower.
Greetings from Nigeria, the country with the largest population in Africa! I just wrapped up my first international trip in a YEAR due to COVID. It was so good to get back out there on behalf of ServeNow, the mission organization I lead. Being ServeNow has always heavily emphasized serving in, with, and through national leaders and churches, we have been able to carry on our work without skipping too much of a beat over this last year. In fact, we served far more people in the previous year over COVID than even the year before COVID! It may have looked different, but the impact is still just as incredible, if not more so than years past.
The only word or phrasing that I think comes close to what pastors and leaders will have to deal with is the reality of an age of cultism. In my opinion, I think a case can be made that cultic like behavior is manifesting and growing more and more. At the least, which I have written about in past articles, we see identity politics influencing more and more people on both the right and left. In this article, I will briefly share some of those cult-like characteristics. However, I want to focus more on some possible solutions going forward. My fear is that violence and division will only increase, not decrease, unless a different kind of radical change happens in our hearts, lives, and worldviews. Really, at the root of it all is that of idolatry. Our hope is being misplaced. The level of fear and anxiety is disproportionate to reality, driven by much misinformation and misguided in its focus.
2020 will be a year that will go down in history as the year of COVID-19! What a year it has been. 2020 has been full of challenges, uncertainty, disrupted plans, canceled trips, restrictions, limitations, hoarding, hunger, pivots, conspiracy theories, emotion, drama, protests, politics, riots, and our rights. And all in an election year, which added fuel to the fire! In this article, I want to reflect on some of these central themes and lessons I have learned from a Christian perspective and what I hope might be a helpful perspective for you as well.
I am so excited to announce the arrival of my first book, Hope Rising: Finding Hope in a Turbulent World! In this blog post, I want to give you a little of the backstory and context for why I wrote this book, along with the Founder (Lars Dunberg) of the mission organization I lead, called ServeNow.
Take whatever challenges COVID has meant in the US and multiply that by at least 10X or more in other parts of the world. Additionally, it has officially been projected that an additional 130 million people (double last year) could be facing acute hunger (starvation) this year worldwide. In just one Asian country where the mission organization I lead serves, it is estimated that 300,000 children could die in the next 6 months. 350 million people in this one country alone are being thrust back below the poverty line of less than $2 a day.
What Jesus was teaching his disciples and us, is that when we pray, we pray not only in terms of intimate relationship personally with God but in view of our collective family relationship with one another as God’s people and community of brothers and sisters in Christ. God is not just my Father. God is our Father together. We are brothers and sisters in Christ despite our unique differences and races. In a culture that is so polarized, divided, and at odds with one another, I believe this is a message needed now more than ever! When we come together in worship and prayer, we come together diverse and different, but united in terms of who we are in Christ and with God as our Father. We come equally as brothers and sisters adopted into the family of God.
The church is no place for a “good ole boy’s” network to thrive. The church is a place for all people, of all backgrounds, to come together as a diverse people, around the person of Jesus Christ, the only one worthy of our unconditional loyalty and obedience. The age of celebrity churches and leaders needs to end if we ever hope to truly be a healthy people and credible witness again to a world that is watching with deserved skepticism.
In our need to explain God we have failed to experience God. In our need to understand the Trinity, the Lord’s Supper, Miracles etc; we have failed to receive, rest in, and be comfortable with the supernatural. We have reduced the Sovereign unpredictability of God to religious formula’s. We have replaced relationship with God with principles. We have it all figured out instead of daily admitting our need for God and trusting in him to lead us. In doing so we have lost a healthy fear, reverence, awe and dependency on God.
The Christian faith is not a blind, irrational, subjective faith devoid of reason, reality and evidence. As Christians, we should not turn our minds off and fail to engage the culture around us and questions people have. In fact, we are commanded to be ready to give “the reason” for the hope that we have. This is called “apologetics”; not because we apologize for our faith, but because we are to defend our faith with credible reasons for why we believe. True Christianity does not fly in the face of reason; rather reason supports the claims of Scripture!
Recently, I found a book titled “The Lost of Reading Nature’s Signs.” While not intended to correlate specifically with “biblical truth” there was nonetheless some fascinating spiritual insight and life lessons I wanted to write about in this blog article (and perhaps subsequent one’s), that I hope you enjoy and will find edifying!
What is your dream?
What prayers of others can you be the answer to?
What is keeping you from doing something, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem?
This is what I am seeing I often miss about the cross. I like knowing I am forgiven, but am I too willing to forgive? I like knowing that despite being unworthy, Christ shows me undeserved grace; but am I willing to extend that grace to those in my life not “worthy” of it? I like knowing there is mercy for my sin; but am I willing to show mercy when others sin against me? I find it moving to know the length to which Christ went that I might have peace with him, but what length am I willing to go to to work towards peace with others?
Moana. Inside Out. Star Wars. Lord of the Rings. Beauty and the Beast. Field of Dreams. Sleeping Beauty. Rocky. Gladiator. Pretty much all Disney movies. What is it about these movies that we so deeply connect with, resonate with and even cry over? Want to know my theory? If not…why are you still reading? 🙂Continue reading “Why You Love the Movies You Love”