Saturday, January 20, 2024

How Do I Live as a Christian in This World: 10 Areas We Might Not Normally Think About

The desire of my heart is to live as a true Christian, in a world that is broken.  How do I do that?  How do I live it out during my daily life? Let's look briefly at ten areas of our lives that we might not have thought about before.  

Group Dynamics / Social Climbing - In our friend group, in the group that surrounds us at work, we may be tempted to try to climb, to try to jockey for position. That's the way of the world. Show how important you are. Quietly wage a war against someone who is a threat to you. Talk about her behind her back, gather people against her. Use carefully worded remarks, offhand, to slowly pick at your rival in the group.  These are the ways of the world. They are not the way of Christians. So you should do the opposite of these things you see others doing.  

If someone targets you for a campaign of quiet warfare, refuse to engage, simply keep being your best. Pray for them. If someone gets a promotion before you, don't get angry, just keep being a man or woman of integrity. If you see a weak spot and know you could use it against that person to drive them down and yourself up in the group, refuse to use it. See it, and refuse to use that. That is revolutionary. You will feel better about yourself, and in the long term, maybe not the short, but in the long term others will respect you more for your lifestyle. 

I used to downright hate the social climbing and alpha male stuff in groups, and by disengaging with it, and simply being myself and my best in Christ, God would often work it out in a unique way. 

Extra Tip: Stubbornly treat those who consider you an enemy with kindness and respect, it will confuse them. 

The Slippery Slope of Flirtation - This isn't just for married couples, but also for singles. Singles, hear me on this, you will have many flirtations that are a danger to your future. Before the right godly woman or man comes along, you may run into 15-20 of the wrong ones. Don't let your emotions control you in romance. Even if they're very beautiful/handsome, keep your guard up. Look deeper, to their character, and their faith walk. God will give you flags to watch for. 

Married couples, avoid at all costs the slippery slope of flirtation. I think we often act as if, well, I don't even realize what I'm doing. But if we're really being honest, we do. We may slip into it naturally. But we are humans made in God's image, so we are capable in Christ, of catching ourselves and refraining from the flirtations we might otherwise indulge in. It's life and death we toy with, with flirting. A few words, a few choice remarks, and destruction is near. 

We all know the story. A married woman has a man who begins flirting with her at work. She resists it at first. But slowly she begins to play into it. And as she begins to flirt back, the ball is now rolling downhill. We all know, it can roll very fast and pick up speed very quickly. This is why many will be in a happy marriage, but they like how the flirtation makes them feel. So they allow it. Just a bit. And slowly that door cracks open wider and wider. 

And pretty soon they are in divorce court, and wondering, how could I have let this happen?

Be very staunch. Shut down the flirtation immediately. Or just walk away. And don't allow it. 

I had a friend whose wife had a coworker, another woman mind you, who kept flirting with her. My friend didn't like it, but she kept telling him they were best friends. Big mistake. That should not be a friendship you're in. At the same time my friend and his wife were having some problems in their marriage. 

This friend of his wife kept whispering in her ear, "I'd never treat you that way. I understand you." And pretty soon she wore her down, and she left her husband for this woman. 

If you can keep the door closed on any flirtation, you can protect your marriage. If you allow the door to crack open, it can open very wide, very fast, and end in disaster. Head it off immediately, don't toy with it, even though the attention feels good in the moment, be wise, shut and lock that deadly door. 

Extra Tip: Avoid intense eye contact, it's a form of flirtation that's powerful but hard to pin down (easy to make excuses about).

Financial Stability - Something that I faced when I became a Christian was financial chaos. I had taken out too many loans. I had many bills in collections. I owed people money that I had never payed back. I had stolen money from people I needed to make amends to. So I got to work. I used free services like Credit Karma to find out about the bills in collections. I began making monthly payments on them, small amounts, $25 here and $100 when I could. I made a plan. I paid people back, with interest. I made amends to those I'd harmed financially. 

I had a credit card with $10,000 in debt on it. And I asked God for help. He sent an older church member to me and he sat me down and taught me about tithing. He said if you don't put God first in your finances you're never going to have enough. He challenged me to start tithing 10% of my income, and then slowly give more as I'm able. 

It seemed so counter-intuitive, I'm in debt! And you want me to give more? Yet I could sense the Holy Spirit speaking to me in the situation. So I said, alright, I'm going to try it. I'm going to start tithing.  

In two years the entire $10,000 was paid off. Not much had changed in my income or lifestyle, but God was at the head, and he guided me to pay it all off. Put God first in this area, and watch what he does.

The sense of satisfaction in financial integrity is amazing. Shoot for that, make it a goal, and get to work. 

Extra Tip: Budgeting can be extremely helpful as well. There are free services out there that can help with this, connect with them. I met with Thrivent finance early on, they were helpful to me!

Read Great Books - One of the greatest things about the protestant reformation and the birth of America was that Christians used knowledge from different disciplines to develop their personal lives, their families, their government and their economy. 

Be one of those Christians who reads lots of books. But be cautious that the great knowledge out there doesn't puff you up. It can lead to pride. So stay humble as you read. As the Apostle Paul said, knowledge puffs up. 

Read the great Christian classics, the Pilgrim's Progress, The Practice of the Presence of God, The Cross of Jesus Christ, Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ, Humility, The Pursuit of God, Mere Christianity, My Utmost for His Highest, Orthodoxy, Live Not By Lies, I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, and on and on the list goes. 

I know that after twelve grueling years of public education, learning from many teachers who hated to teach and hated their subject, I had learned to hate learning. I despised it. I had to fight through a lot of hurt and brokenness and anger to rediscover the love of learning. But when I found it again, I took off running. I hope you can find it too, if you were one left in the ruins like me. 

Process your Christian faith into how you see the World - This has been one of the greatest adventures I've been on since becoming a Christian. After becoming a Christian I realized I had been brainwashed in the modern world system into thinking many things about the world that aren't true.  

I had believed the universe was just a howling dark void that came from nothing and was going nowhere. I had believed the human race was here for no apparent reason. I had believed human beings had little value. I had believed after death came nothing. 

The adventure has been trying to slowly break out of the modernist mindset and into a truly Christian view of the world, which is simply seeing reality as it truly is. 

When I see a human being, I don't see some guy anymore, I see someone made in the image of God, who has great value. When I see a beautiful tree, I don't see a plant, I see something God invented and intended. When I see DNA I see the programming language God used to design living beings. When I see galaxies and nebula on the James Webb space telescope I don't see random phenomenon but inventions of the brilliance of God's mind. When I look at a city, I don't see just a random gathering of people, but a structure of hundreds of disciplines, from plumbing to electricity, to woodwork and architecture all inspired by God and intended by God for man to develop and live in.

Begin to try to do this, when you live your life, stop yourself, and think to yourself, I know what I used to think this was, but what does God and the Bible say about it? What does it really mean? Then slowly, you'll break free from the brainwashing of the modernity. And as you do, you'll see the world more clearly as it truly is, and you'll be able to more effectively live out your Christian faith.

All the greats, C.S. Lewis, John Wesley, D.L. Moody understood that they had to break out of the old mindset of the flesh and begin to see the world through the lenses of the Spirit. 

Several pastors met with D.L. Moody once and asked him what was the secret to his success in ministry. He took pointed to the people around them near the town square and said what do you see? And the men each gave their various insights about the people they saw. And D.L. Moody said, I see dozens of people made in God's image who face an eternity in hell without the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ. I'm paraphrasing the story, but you see the point. D.L. Moody was effective because he had trained himself to see beyond this world, to the eternal implications of everything around him. 

I don't agree with Mark Driscoll on everything, but this is something he's good at. He went to a football game once and said, "Dang, I've joined a cult!" He could see the worship of the event. He could see it was triggering something of an idolatry in some of the people present. He didn't just see a football game, he looked differently, and saw a spiritual implication. We can train ourselves to do something similar. We ask questions, reinterpret reality, and begin to see Earth, the USA, our cities, our friends, our families, and our lives through biblical lenses. 

Extra Tip: Read C.S. Lewis for help with this, he seemed to effortlessly see things others missed in regard to what reality really is. 

Value Ceremony and Tradition - I remember in my teens and twenties I looked with general disdain at events like anniversaries, weddings, family reunions, even Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, all of that stuff I thought generally had little point for me as a person. 

Why does the wedding matter? What really matters is the marriage after the wedding.  Why does Christmas matter? We just eat and open presents, the actual story behind it doesn't matter. Why should the family reunion happen? It's just old people dancing the polka. 

Even after becoming a Christian I don't know that I fully understand why it matters. But, I eventually realized that it really does matter. I was reading The Great Good Thing by Andrew Klavan, and he mentioned how he had thought his wedding didn't really matter. That it was just an old tradition. But later he realized he was completely wrong, the wedding expresses the thing, it solidifies the thing, and it makes the thing real. 

The cynical kid in me couldn't see the value in remembering. But that's the purpose in all these events, is to remember. Because we as humans so easily forget. We drift into our daily patterns. We rest on our past accomplishments. 

The holidays, the family get togethers, the special events, the weddings, the anniversaries are all infusing meaning into our lives. They are reminding us what really matters. They are reminding us that marriage should be celebrated. They are reminding us thankfulness matters. They are reminding us the birth of Jesus changed everything. They are reminding us that the resurrection of Jesus brings us eternal life.  Traditions are vital. They are important. And the Bible is full of stones of remembrance, yearly festivals, events, meetings and calls to remember what God had done in the past. It's vital. 

Extra Tip: We lose something huge when we miss church, or view online only, we need the human gathering, it does something that can't be replicated on the internet by watching a sermon on YouTube.

The Eye Gate - cursing sprees? sexualized content? Imagery that provokes you toward lust or pride or greed? Be cautious what you put in front of your eyes. I used to be obsessed with zombie movies. Today I don't watch zombie movies at all. I love sci fi but a lot of sci fi movies end up being plain demonic. Check the rating on the movie. If something in your spirit disturbs you about what you're watching, turn it off. Switch to something else. Let God guide what you put in front of your eyes, when in doubt, pray it out. Ask God. He will help you. 

Extra Tip: Avoid making excuses on this one, we want to watch something, so we make excuses and rationalize it. Simply make the hard call to shut it off. Split the disc. Move on. 

Develop Spirit-centered Witnessing Radar - Something God has developed within me is a sense of radar in witnessing. Learn to listen for the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will nudge you to speak to someone, or call someone, or pray for someone. 

We can develop a pattern of listening for God and following the leading of the Spirit. We won't always get it right, but we can slowly develop a pattern of simply knowing when God is calling us to speak to someone or pray or act on someone's behalf. 

Extra Tip: Don't lean too much on emotions in witnessing. God can use emotion, but if allow our emotions to be the sole guide, we'll get burned. Be prayerful, contemplative, and listen quietly. Don't get obsessive. 

Drink Deeply of the Evidence for God's Existence - As a guy I tend to be skeptical. I tend to think someone is probably trying to scam me or take my money, because in American capitalism, that's usually the case. If they invite me over, it's just as likely they want to be friends as they want to inculcate me into their pyramid scheme get rich quick scam, essential oil sale service, or Tupperware party (it's happened to me before). 

I'm skeptical. I need to see the evidence. If someone tells me a product is good, I go look it up. I read the reviews. I don't just accept what I'm being told. 

That's why I think it's so important to be well read on Christian apologetics. I want to see the evidence for God's existence in science, history, archaeology, and I want to know about the Bible's ancient manuscripts. 

It helps me in two ways. First, it helps me internally, if I start to get led astray by the world system telling me there is no god, I simply remind myself, "Where did the universe come from?" God made it, obviously. Look at all the complexity in nature, immutable laws, DNA in our cells, and I quickly remember, yeah, it's obvious that God made all this. If I don't have that information in my head, I could start to be led astray and think that there is no god. The enemy is always trying to lead us away from the Lord. Apologetics has kept me strapped in tight with all the facts surrounding the life of Jesus, science, history, and the impact of the church on the world. 

The second reason it's helpful is so I can witness to someone who has questions. If someone tells me that the Bible isn't reliable and has been rewritten, I can explain to them why that's not true. I can point to the dead sea scrolls. I can talk about the manuscripts that date back to within 50 years of the life of Christ. I can talk about the persecutions the early church endured before the canon was established. I can witness better with apologetics in my back pocket.

Extra Tip: You can read great books like The Reason for God by Keller or The Language of God by Collins, but if you struggle reading, just subscribe to some of the YouTube channels of people like Frank Turek, Os Guinness, Ken Ham, Greg Koukl, William Lane Craig, and listen to their videos/podcasts. You'll absorb the information as you listen to it repeatedly. 

Little Things In Life - there are a million little things we do throughout the day, laundry, dishes, paperwork, yard work, running errands around town, ordering stuff online, and we should try to remember to do it for the glory of God. Even just speak that out loud. Nothing is secular, all is spiritual. Do it for God, do it to God's glory. 

Extra Tip: Even the most basic tasks in life can be done to God's glory. Sharpening your pencil? Do it to the Glory of God!