Friday, September 23, 2011


This week I read a stat that suggested that Canadian young people spend 7 hours and 38 minutes a day consuming media. Is this a scary thought to anyone else? I am not sure what the stats are for the rest of us, but I am sure that it is pretty high as well. The truth is that we are steeped in media and are steeped in a culture that is in many ways contrary to God's values and intentions. But perhaps recognition of this is key, as we realize that what we value and even built our lives upon may have little to do with Jesus, God or the Bible and more to do with the 100 hours of Jersey Shore we watched over the summer.

At youth group we have been talking about what it means to find our identity in Jesus. Part of a recent lesson was about being made new and how this means that we are to be different in every aspect of our lives. A key part of this discussion became about what we are consuming (not in a moralistic, you-shouldn't-watch-any-TV way) and that maybe we need to have our minds re-set in order to become who Jesus died for us to be. 

And so we came to Romans 12:2, that emphasizes that as believers that we should not just go along with the common thinking of our culture, but instead " transformed by the renewing of your mind." For Paul, what Jesus does for the believer is a life changing  thing and he is looking for this transformation to take alter the lives of Christians at the deepest level. He is looking for believers to stop conforming to the status-quo of their culture and to be the different people they are called to be. For Paul, the renewing of the mind is part of how this transformation takes place. It is a re-programming of values, morals, attitudes and behaviours. In Ephesians 4:20-24, Paul again uses language that points to the mind as being important for transformation. Here Paul tells his readers that they are not like those who don't know Jesus. Instead they have been changed and that they need to be the new people that Jesus died to make them. The old way of being is to be abandoned and they are to be made new in their minds so they can take on a new way of being. 

I think that here Paul gives us something that we who are Christians need to remember. Our minds are crucial to being new creatures. What we input shapes us, it influences us. Maybe not much at first but over time we become what we consume. Therefore it is important that we dedicate ourselves to guarding our minds from just anything going in, and take active steps to allow God to re-set, and continually influence our thinking. This means spending time purposely consuming things that shape us in Godly ways (i.e. in scripture, at church, in prayer and in the fellowship of other believers). 

One final illustration (that I can't take credit for). When I prepare a steak, I usually prepare a marinade for it and let it soak for as long as I can. The longer I let it soak, the more the steak takes on the flavour of the marinade. If I just dip in in and take it out, really nothing happens. But if I let it sit in the juices all night...WOW. Perhaps in some way our minds are like the steak (please don't take this too far), the more we soak in God's influence, the more we a take on his flavour. But the converse can also be true, the more we soak in things that are not of God, the more we take on those flavors. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

True Story

Stories are the best. They engage us in ways that propositions and stated facts just cannot. This is something that we who are Christ-followers need to remember. We need to tell stories (true stories) about how we experience God's goodness and grace in our ordinary lives. These are the stories that our friends and families need to hear. They need to understand the real difference God has made in our lives.

I love the beginning of Psalm 107 where it says "Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story..." The rest of the Psalm is about people who are in dire situations, cry out to God for help and then experience help from God. This dramatic act of God in rescuing those who cry for help, is what the "redeemed of the Lord" are called to testify to. To me this is not unlike what Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 3:15, where his readers are told to, "Always be prepared to answer everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have."  Peter wants his readers to be ready to answer the questions, "So why do you follow Jesus?" and  "What has Jesus ever done for you?"

This call to testify to what God has done in our lives is something that we need to take seriously as Christians. We live in a culture that is drawn to stories and holds experiences in high esteem. This seems to me to be the perfect opportunity to speak about our relationship with Jesus. It does not have to be preachy, but rather it is simply being honest with our experience of God with those who we share our lives with. Our God stories are not just for us but stories to be told that can help others realize that Jesus really can make a difference.