A better way

I was talking recently with my friend (who’s also my oldest son’s father in law) Russell Minick about America. We were discussing some of the ugly things in our country’s past and present, how we should respond, things like that. He said the following:

“We have to come to understand that we are not King David in Israel. We are Daniel in Babylon.”

That has stuck with me, in particular as I face the increasingly likely scenario of a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton next November. Seriously, can I vote myself off this island?

Daniel was exiled in Babylon. It was not his true home, but he was commanded, along with all the other exiles, to make it a home, to do good to it.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:4-7 ESV)

There is a middle, balanced, better way between anger/frustration and apathy, between “protest” votes and staying home, between avoiding cultural engagement and the contention, bickering and partisan blindness of the political junky.

“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf”

America has never been Israel, and we Christians are not the rulers here. We’re Daniel, the blessed exile, and we should be seeking to spread that blessing to the people around us, both our fellow exiles and our Babylonian neighbors.

Fighting the Approval idol

Sammy Rhodes has written a post that is good medicine for people like me: chronic (and often unsuccessful) people pleasers: Six ways to fight your approval idol.

It’s fantastic stuff. Items 2 and 5 particularly sing:

2. The pursuit of coolness and the practice of kindness are mutually exclusive.

Being a people pleaser means even when I’m doing something nice for you it’s really about me. Which is shorthand for saying, “I want you to like me and think I’m cool.” The way out of this is dying to what you think of me so I can begin to be kind to you in the ways Jesus has been kind to me. In the words of Mark Driscoll, “You’re not cool you’re a Christian.” Because Christians have died with Christ to being cool, we’re free in him to begin to be kind. The pursuit of coolnees feeds our idolatry but the practice of kindness starves it.

Emphasis mine. It hurts to read that first sentence, because truth hurts.

5. Live FROM your identity, not FOR it.

Maybe it’s better to make the distinction between identity and image. Identity is something given, fundamental to the way you see yourself. Image, on the other hand, is something you create, and is fundamentally about the way you want others to see you. The sin of our age is to live for our image instead of from our identity. Which is why Vaughan Roberts wisely warns us that“wholehearted commitment to Christ will not be good for our image.” But we have something better than an image. We have an identity in Christ that nothing and no one can touch. It includes words like “sons,” “daughters,” “servants,” and “heirs.” In the words of Aslan,“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve…And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.” You don’t have to be someone when you are someone.

Read the whole thing. Especially if you, like me, wake up to the monstrous idol of Approval every morning. Praying for 1 Samuel 5:4.

The cell phone

Laura Winner of the webzine Boundless has some interesting – and convicting – thoughts on cell phone usage. I was particularly struck by these paragraphs:

About a year ago, I was standing in line at the drugstore. The gal in front of me was talking on her cell phone. I (naively) assumed that when she got to the front of the line, she would hang up, or at least put her cell phone down. I was wrong. Where her turn came, Cell Phone Gal stayed stuck to her cell phone, paying for her gum, magazines, and lip gloss without so much as a hello to the cashier. It occurred to me that our gal was treating the person, the cashier, like a machine, and treating the machine like a person.

. . .

I am struck by the sad thought that we are no longer ever alone. We have eroded all the space we once had for solitude. I’ve had some of my best conversations with myself, and with God, strolling across campus. Now, when we stroll, we are talking into tiny bits of plastic – and most of what we’re saying is pretty lame. (“Well, I’m about 10 seconds from the library … yep, now I’m walking up the library steps … no, okay, well here I am entering the library, I’ll see you in three seconds.”) Is solitude so scary that we have made it impossible? Solitude is scary, but scarier still is the prospect of a society in which no one has time to be quiet, to be reflective.

Food for thought . . .

[hat tip: Transforming Sermons]