The Culture and the Christian: Regrets

I’ve wished I were in a movie many times before.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could wake up, hit the alarm, sigh, and then cut to you walking down the street to wherever you’re going?  You could completely skip the agonizing act of getting out of bed and going through the morning routine that you just went through in that very realistic dream.

Some of my favorite movies, though, are ones that let you go back in time.  One TV show features a character who constantly go back in time to relive, and sometimes fix, her greatest regrets.

After watching one too many episodes, or watching one too many back-in-time movies, I often wish I could go back in time… and fix that mistake I made, or make the clever remark that I thought of hours after the conversation, or talk to that person more…

I think that maybe I’ve messed up somehow and wonder what I would go back and change.

We’ve all made mistakes and we’ve all been frustrated with some of our decisions.  I often start to wonder, what if I’d wound up going to such-and-such college?  What if I’d become better friends with so-n-so?

“We can never know what may have happened, Lucy,” Aslan tells Lucy when she regrets not making the right decision earlier in the film Prince Caspian. “But what will happen is another matter entirely.”

I think that instead of focusing on all of the mistakes that we’ve made, we should focus on the truth that’s going to last forever– that God is righteous and loving and that His blood has covered and forgiven all of those mistakes.

We can certainly learn from our mishaps and all of the things that we would change, but then, we should turn our attention to what will happen; what we, as wiser, stronger Christians can do today, tomorrow, and for the rest of our purposeful lives here on earth.

“He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart,” says Ecclesiastes 5:20 (NIV).  The New English Translation reads the last half of that verse as “God keeps him preoccupied with the joy he derives from his activity.”

There’s so much to do right here and now.  Let’s not get stuck trying to relive a negative past the “right” way.  I believe that God knows exactly what’s meant to happen every second of our lives, and that He doesn’t make mistakes.

Let’s press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of us- let’s be preoccupied with joy.

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The Culture and the Christian

It was a little hard for me to get back in the swing of things after winter break, which ended a while ago, and watching all of that free time slip through my fingers.  I had making decisions about how to use the new, more minimal free time that I have once a semester starts.

Two of the biggest things I have to give up are T.V. shows and reading opportunities.  But taking in so many shows, movies, books, and magazines over the break got me thinking… what exactly is popular culture trying to tell us?

We give up hours and hours of our time to watch our favorite shows, or to read the new popular novel, and I think it’s impossible to read or watch something without getting something from it (even if that “something” is annoyance or boredom).

My extensive show-watching and reading made me start wondering about how Christians and/or Christian principles are or are not portrayed in the media.  Sometimes, I would be incredibly annoyed.  Other times, I’d smile because someone seemed to finally get it right.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to write a series called “The Culture and the Christian” and just look at how, as Christians, we relate to the ever-accessible popular culture around us.

We’re told to be in the world, but not of it, though I don’t believe that exact saying is in the Bible.  Rather, Jesus prayed about His disciples, “I have given them Your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them form the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”

Jesus came to this earth with a very specific purpose, and we too have a purpose- to glorify God and to radiate His Son.

Still, we’re in this very awkward spot.  We’re in the world, but not of it.

It’s like when you go someplace that you know you just don’t belong, but you have to be there.  It’s sort of like a younger sibling’s birthday party.  You’re at home because you couldn’t make any other plans, but you are definitely not into the conversations that you had years ago when you were that age, simply because you’re not of one mind with that lifestyle and those people anymore.  You’re in the gathering, but not an engaged, belonging part of it.

The wonderful C.S. Lewis once wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

As Christians, we, quite frankly, are not (or should not be) of one mind with the rest of each world.  While they’re focused on achieving other goals, noble as they may be, we’re specifically charged to love and bring glory to God.  Our entire purpose- our greatest desire- is different.

The next few weeks aren’t meant to be about insulting popular culture- there’s definitely some aspects of it that I enjoy and I think that you can learn a lot from different movies and shows, though not all of them are necessarily worth watching.

What I do hope the next few weeks will be about is exploring how popular culture impacts us as Christians and how we should react as people in the world, but not of it.

Let me know what you think!

Valentine’s Day!

Oh, Valentine’s Day.  Some people hate it, some people love it, some people don’t really care.

I’m definitely in the “love it” category.  I think it’s so sweet to see people receiving roses, hear people proclaiming their love for one another, and just setting aside a day to celebrate one of the greatest gifts you can give.

I can understand where the anger at the holiday comes from, though.  A lot of money gets spent buying little cards to hand out at school, little candies that will start leading to stomach complaints when you’ve had too many, and all those other little trinkets that get sold simply because they’re pink, red, and/or white, or have hearts on them.

But I think a measurable amount of the frustration towards Valentine’s Day comes from the feelings of jealousy and being unappreciated.  It’s hard to sit and watch everyone, or so it seems, get a flower or a sweet card except you.  It’s hard to watch and know that the adorable scene you’re witnessing isn’t happening to you.  “Valentine’s Day – noun: a holiday made up by Hallmark to make single people feel bad about themselves,” a bumper sticker on Facebook explains.

The thing about the hardships mentioned in those last two sentences, however, is that they both feature “you” or the self.  If I focused on myself and my lack of something that someone else has, I’d have a pretty awful Valentine’s Day every year, too.

After I went through a quite the pity party a while ago, I started to realize that I really had nothing to complain about.  God has blessed me immensely, and it really comes down to the fact that I have joy. And I am so thankful.  I have joy.  How sad to go through life bitter and jealous when you can have true joy.

“Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work- this is a gift of God.  He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart,” the author of Ecclesiastes says.

Regardless of your relationship status, try to spend a little bit of your Valentine’s Day counting your blessings from Christ.  Married?  Congratulations!  In a relationship?  Yay!  Single? Great!  They’re all gifts from God.

“The emphasis is not on the gift itself but on the grace that so endows it.  So like every gift that we see in Scripture, it’s not about you– it’s a gift for the body of Christ…  Your life is to stand up for the glory of Christ and you are called to invest in His bride, the Church.  And you have other spiritual gifts to invest in other people as well, and that’s why Scripture says it’s good,” Candice Watters said in a radio interview on Focus on the Family with James Dobson.

“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends… This is My command: Love each other.” John 15: 9-13, 17

Happy Valentine’s Day!

p.s. If you’re still feeling a little down in the dumps, or would just like a laugh, check out Family Force 5’s tribute to Valentine’s Day at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxcJPefRW44.

Good News!

“Gospel” sometimes seems like such a misunderstood word.  When I think “gospel,” I don’t automatically start thinking of the “good news” that it actually is.  I think of gospel music, extremely enthusiastic evangelists, extremely turned-off non-converters, and then eventually I’ll make my way over to its original meaning.

So let’s go back to the good news. I think that way too often, we feel like remembering and rejoicing that God loved us enough to give someone else, His Son!, the terrible punishment of death that we deserved, is just for beginners.  It’s the sort of thing you discuss when you first become a Christian.

But the gospel should be radiating through our everyday lives. Why am I striving to be in the world but not of it?  Why am I striving to please my Lord?  Why is He my Lord?  I think that for me, the answer is “because I love Him,” and then it ends there.  Well, why do I love Him?  Because He first loved me.  How do I know that?  He took my punishment so that I can be forgiven and so that I can have fellowship with the King of all kings for all eternity.

That’s pretty huge.  But somehow we forget.

Certain things will make me super happy no matter how many times I’ve heard or seen them.  Shouldn’t the gospel be one of those things?  It’s truly the best thing I’ve heard.

“I love you- I’ve always loved you… I just forgot.  But I know I’ll never forget again,” a character in a popular movie once said.  He knew that he would never forget again because he had almost lost the one he loved, and he was given a second chance.

We too, have been given a second chance.  God loves us, and He doesn’t forget.  That’s pretty good news, don’t you think?

So let’s remind ourselves often of the best news we’ve ever heard.  Let’s never forget the source of our love and our hope.

Feel free to take a look at my “Good News” tab in the upper right corner, or find your own way to preach the gospel to yourself, or rather, to cheer over what is truly the best news in all of history and eternity.