Tag Archives: culture

Refusing To Assimilate

When we go to Israel with our church, part of the trip is to see the sights. The other part is to get to know the people. We visit with Israeli’s, Muslims living in Israel, Christian Arabs, Messianic Jews, Jews and immigrants. The immigrants are brought in and placed in high rise apartment buildings where for a couple of years they are taught the language, the customs and the culture. Once completed, they become citizens. The process works well except for people from Ethiopia. They struggle to assimilate into a first world country. It’s difficult for Ethiopians to go from a rural, agrarian lifestyle to the high paced world of what we are accustomed to live in. They actually have their own building, farm land and a different time table to help them adjust since they don’t readily accept the culture.

In Daniel 1, King Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem and took the best looking, brightest young men of Israel back to Babylon. Daniel was among those captured. The king said, “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men. Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon” (NLT). He was trying to assimilate them into Babylonian culture. Most men were indoctrinated, but Daniel and his three friends refused to assimilate. They showed that it is possible to live and learn in a culture without accepting it and allowing it to change your beliefs.

Romans 12:2 says, “Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes” (TPT). We live in a culture that is trying to get us to change our beliefs, our way of thinking and our way of living. It is trying to get the Word of God to conform to its standards rather than the

other way around. We cannot allow ourselves to be shaped into its mold which is why we must be transformed from the inside out. We can go through all the indoctrination of our culture and still live a life that is holy and acceptable to Christ. In order to have the resolution that Daniel had, we must be empowered by the Holy Spirit and have a steady diet of God’s Word going into our mind. It’s not easy to do, but is necessary as believers to live according to God’s laws and customs rather than the world’s.

Photo by Gabriel Rodrigues on Unsplash

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Wearing a Suit at the Beach

Have you ever felt out of place? I did earlier this week. Some co-workers and I went to eat lunch at a place on the beach. After lunch, we decided to walk down a long fishing pier. The beach below was crowded with people swimming and sun tanning. The pier was full of people dressed similarly, but had fishing poles in their hands. The four of us walked down the pier in our dress shirts, ties, slacks and dress shoes. To say people took double takes would be an understatement.

It was hot. We were sweating. We kept walking all the way to the end of the pier though. As people stared, we politely smiled and acted as though we belonged. No matter how much we pretended, we just didn’t. We didn’t have the right attire on for the beach. We didn’t have the right mindset for the beach. We were business minded men in a crowd full of vacationers.

As a Christian, that’s how we’re supposed to be in this world. We are to stand out and to be different. I love how the Message phrases Romans 12:2. It says, “Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” At the beach, the culture is dress down, relax and have a good time. We were not well adjusted to that culture. Our presence was noticed by everyone.

In this world, the culture is continuing to move away from God. As Christians, it is not our job to be so adjusted to that culture that we fit in. We are to stand out, stand up and be different. We are to follow Christ even when it’s not popular. In John 15, Jesus said, “If you lived on the worlds terms, the world would love you as one of its own. I chose you to come out of the world.” He chose us to live differently. He said the world would hate us.

If Jesus said the world is going to hate us because we’re different, why do we spend so much time and energy trying to get them to love us? Our human nature wants to be loved and accepted. God’s acceptance should be more important to us than the world’s acceptance. We are called to be salt and light. Salt changes the flavor of everything it touches. Light chases away the darkness all around it. Are people changed by having me in their lives? Are your friends changed by having you in their lives?

Living for Christ in this world is like wearing a suit at the beach. You’re going to stand out. You’re supposed to stand out. In the same passage in Matthew 5 where Jesus calls us to be salt and light, He says, “Let your good deeds shine for all to see, so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father.” We’re not different just to be different. There’s a purpose to it. That purpose is to draw other to the cross. They should see a difference in our lives versus the lives that live according to the culture of the world so we can reach them.

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Your Soul Purpose

I heard the story of a rich man who was very ill. He was intent on taking His wealth to Heaven with him when he died. He cried out to Peter and begged him if he could bring his wealth to Heaven. Peter finally relented, but told him he could only bring what he could fit in a suitcase. The man bought the biggest suitcase he could find and converted his wealth to gold. As the time came near to his death, he loaded the suitcase with his gold.

When he died, he took the suitcase with him to the Pearly Gates. An angel saw him with the suitcase and stopped him. He was told he couldn’t bring anything to Heaven. He replied that he had spoken to Peter about it and assured the angel it was all right. The angel was curious what he could possibly have that was so valuable that he needed to bring it to Heaven. He asked the man if he could see what was in the case. When the man opened the suitcase, the puzzled angel asked, “Why did you need to bring these street paving stones to Heaven? We have plenty.”

We often put our value on things that are of no value to God. We forget that we are not of this world and allow our minds to be transformed into the thinking of this world. The world says, “Make as much money as you can as fast as you can.” Why? You can’t take it with you. It has no eternal value. The money you make here will be left behind for someone else to spend.

I’m not against making money. I’m against that being the sole purpose of our lives. Jesus said, “I must be about my Father’s business.” What was the Father’s business? Making sure that none would perish. Jesus spent His entire ministry helping the poor, the sick and the oppressed. He was concerned about the souls of men rather than getting wealthy. Winning the lost should be our soul purpose not accumulating wealth.

In Philippians 3:8, Paul says, “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (NLT).” Everything else. Not some things. Everything else is worthless compared to knowing Christ. This kind of thinking doesn’t make sense in the eyes of the world. In fact, I Corinthians 1:18 says, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” It is opposite of their thinking.

We need to be about the Father’s business and increase the knowledge of Him in others. In truth, a soul lasts forever, not your bank account. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” What do you treasure? Do you look at the lives and souls of others as a treasure worth investing in or do you look at the stock market and accumulating wealth as worth investing in? Do your actions show that? I’ll leave you with Romans 12:2 from the Message to think about.

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. (Romans 12:2a MSG)

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