"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Shape your culture

After standing at the base of that significant tree, I am sure those sweet, juicy bites of fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil sat like cement in the stomachs of Adam and Eve, sending up bile of bitter regret.  The irony of Satan’s lie is that he told them eating the fruit would make them just like God, yet they—the crown of creation—were already created in the image of God!  It is our sin that pulls us further from God and his image, further from what he intended us to be.  Satan’s lies will always pull us in the exact opposite direction of God’s intentions for us, yet his lies are enticing; so much so, that they often become the cultural norm.  The sweet fragrance of the vile fruit stills lingers in the air, and oh, how quickly we grasp for it!

Speaking with a high school student recently, it was obvious how great this cultural pressure weighs on him.  He feels desperately alone as he strives to live a life pleasing to God, and often wonders how he could ever make a difference in this overwhelmingly evil culture.

I’m encouraged that Jesus has used individuals to drastically change culture, pulling people back to the ways of the one whose image they bear.  Jesus tells us that just a little yeast can permeate the whole dough.  Throughout history, we have seen a few people change their world.

I have been reading an excellent book, Why not Women, by Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth with a Mission.  It’s a book that examines God’s word, and history to see how God has used women in ministry, and examines difficult texts concerning women in roles of leadership in the church.  In it, Loren shares some examples of men and women who have transformed their culture.  Here are some examples.

William Wilberforce pursued the cause of abolishing slavery in England for thirty years in parliament.  The law passed the year after he passed away. 

Though the image is absurd to us now, the pubs of England used to have stepping stools for children to order their gin!  General William Booth and the Salvation Army fought against this cultural norm.  It was Christians who spoke out against the atrocity of child labor as well.  In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, children were used in Britain’s mines to do long hours of intense work.   The reason being, if a mine collapsed, children were the cheaper beast of burden—much less expensive than a valuable horse.  Christian’s refused to allow the image of God to be stripped from these children, standing against this inhuman treatment. 

In 1819, after a Spiritual awakening in Geneva, Switzerland, Henry Dunant and some people from his church formed a group to actively serve those dying on the battlefield of war.  Before this point, wounded soldiers were left to die.  This group is what we now call the International Red Cross.

Even within the church, there have been cultural norms that needed to be changed.  A man named William Carey became convinced that God was calling him to bring the Gospel to India, yet this was not something that was done in his day.  When he told the leaders of his denomination his desire, one replied, “…When God pleases to convert the heathen, He’ll do it without consulting you or me.”  William did go to India, and others followed suit, bringing the Gospel message to many other nations as well.

As we look back over history, it is enraging to see the state of what was culturally normal.  Yet, a few people following the Spirit of God transformed their culture.  At times, we may feel we are in the minority as we stand for the Truth, but one person walking with God will always outnumber a thousand walking with lies.


The last two weeks of August, I spent camping along the North shore of Lake Superior.  Excitement filled me like a natural helium…I’m sure I was floating two feet off the ground.  But my balloons quickly popped.  Very rarely is there a convenient time to lock your keys in your car.    The first evening I stopped to buy some groceries in Two Harbors.  When I got back to my car and reached for the door handle, the door didn’t respond the way I expected it to.  No squeaky hinges opening.  It was locked—as were the other doors.  They were still locked when I walked around the car another five times to check each door again.  The simple truth is I could jiggle the handle all I wanted, but without the key, I wasn’t getting in.

Many times in life we rush towards our big decisions, but we are destined to crash into a closed door because we forgot the key.  Prayer is our spiritual key.  Perhaps we see no better example of this then in Mark 9 starting at verse 14.

Jesus was walking and in the distance he saw a large crowd.  In the middle of the crowd were some of his disciples, and the religious leaders were arguing with them.  When the people see Jesus in the distance they run to him.

“What are you arguing with them about?” he asks.

A man answers Jesus, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.  Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me” (vs. 17-19).

When the demon sees Jesus, it becomes violent; throwing the boy to the ground…he is convulsing, rolling around, and foaming at the mouth.  When Jesus asks how long this has been happening, we learn that this is a normal day in the life of the boy—he has been tormented by this demon since he was a young child.  It is such a serious situation that the demon has actually attempted taking the boy’s life by throwing him in fire and water.  The father’s plea is desperate,

“…if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (vs. 22).

Do you find yourself approaching Jesus the same way?  “Jesus, if you can, could you help me?”  Do we attempt to limit God-sized answers with human sized expectation?  Do we really believe that God can answer our prayers?

“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus responds.  “Anything is possible if a person believes.”
I think there is a lot we can learn about belief in the father’s response.
“I do believe, but help me not to doubt.”

We often associate belief with our heads—beliefs are something we think.  But our actions, behaviors and choices show our true beliefs.  Though it was hard for this man’s head to ‘believe’ that Jesus could help, he chose to trust.

After Jesus drives out the demon his disciples ask him why they could not.  They have driven out others, so why not this one?  This demon was different—it was deaf and mute.  Jesus said that this kind can only be cast out by prayer.

Just as this boy was held captive by this deaf and mute demon, Satan holds the world captive to his lies, deafening their ears to truth.  We can be captive to the lies as well.  Sometimes we choose not to listen to truth.  It's easier to believe the lies.  Prayer is the key to freedom.