Is It Really So Bad to Be “Old-Fashioned?”

The Christian worldview is constantly being called too “old-fashioned.” But is that really such a bad thing?

Advertisements

Last Monday, I was sitting among some Christians in a church. These Christians hold very different views of dating than I do— mainly they succumb to the lie that dating is pretty meaningless, casual, and “just for fun.” I shared my views, the opposite of theirs, and they laughed.

A bunch of Christian teenagers laughed at me for having old-fashioned views of purity. That one stung a bit. This whole situation begs the question, is it really so bad to be a little “old-fashioned?” Spoiler alert: no, it’s not.

These days Christians are laughed at by the secular world for holding such “antiquated” views, like our views on the value of life, the sanctity of marriage, and the like. Our way of thinking is dubbed evil and— pretty much my least favorite word of all time— “bigoted.” These people act like truth is found only in modern times, like those who came before us weren’t as “woke” as we are and their knowledge is useless to us. Here’s what the Bible says about that—

“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching.” (Proverbs 4:1-2)

There is wisdom in the teaching of those that come before us, and just because a moral belief comes from those before us doesn’t mean that it is useless to us. Truth is truth, no matter the age. Sure, those who came before us were imperfect, but so are we. We act like we are more “woke” to the world’s problems than they were, but we’re still failing at the same things as our forefathers. No people group is ever perfect, and that’s for one reason— they’re all groups of imperfect people. Beings that have done all they can to separate themselves from God through sinning.

For all have fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

Finally, God’s truth is unchanging. While what is morally acceptable to humanity becomes less and less strict as time goes on, what is right and wrong in God’s eyes never changes. In His eyes, sin is always sin.

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that He should change His mind. (Numbers 23:19)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

… the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

If being a Christian means that my values are “old-fashioned” in the modern world’s eyes, then I’m happy to be old-fashioned. In an age where “truth” is claimed to be relative to each individual, it’s important to make sure that your foundation is on the mighty rock of God’s eternal, unchanging truth instead of the shifting sands of relative truth.

Missing Out on God’s Grand, Whimsical Adventure

After a terrifying episode involving being asked to dance by a stranger, I learned an important lesson about my “comfort zone.”

A couple months ago, I read a book that redefined how I looked at my life. I posted on it previously— A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. The crux of the book was living life like it was a story. It’s a difficult concept to explain in one or two sentences, so I’ll just link to my previous post on the subject. 

https://spencerrayart.wordpress.com/2017/07/03/its-not-about-the-destination-its-about-the-journey/

God has a grand, whimsical adventure set out for us. After reading the book, I knew I had to live differently. The status quo wasn’t gonna work anymore. I had to get out there and live adventurously. Take risks. To find God in the most whimsical situations. There was one big problem— I’m actually pretty reserved. I don’t like taking risks. I, like most humans, am afraid of change. My comfort zone is, well, comfortable. I don’t want to leave it.

This all came to a head a couple weeks ago. While on a Destin, Florida vacation, my family and I were walking through the Harborwalk Village boardwalk.

This place.

Down a ways on the boardwalk, there was a free concert going on. Two country music songwriters that had written some chart-toppers for bigger names were performing. I don’t listen to country, so I didn’t recognize the songs, and I also didn’t like some of the alcohol-heavy lyrics. So, I wasn’t having a great time. All of a sudden, a blonde young woman probably about my age got up and started dancing. She was inviting others to dance with her, mainly other girls and some 6-year-olds. It wasn’t just mindlessly dancing, either— it was closer to slow dancing. I avoided direct eye contact, mainly because I thought she was nuts. With an irony that could only have come from the Almighty, she came up to me and asked me to dance with her.

At this point, time froze. Since most of you don’t know me personally, you probably don’t know that I am not suave, and I am terrible in a sudden crisis. So, as this rather attractive young woman asked me, a single young man, to dance with her, I… froze up, and quickly shook my head no as a knee-jerk reaction. Immediately, I knew I’d most likely made a mistake. She moved on, asking my younger brother and my younger sister. They also said no. 

Now, I don’t suggest that you accept every strange offer you get, or that you accept an invitation to dance with every stranger you meet. What I was being asked to do wasn’t sinful. Again, you probably shouldn’t accept every strange offer that comes your way. The reason I felt bad is because I was too afraid to leave my comfort zone. I was too afraid to answer a call to adventure… not one that called me to something unsafe, but to something pretty harmless that would only end up giving me a good story to tell. 

So why do I talk about all this? As Christians, we can’t afford to be too shy. We can’t afford to hide in our shells. We’re called to “go forth and make disciples of all nations,” and being too afraid to leave our comfort zone will hinder that mission. Along with that, the stories of our lives can only be hindered by fear of change, by fear of leaving our comfort zone and following God’s grand, whimsical adventure. If we sit around in our comfort zones and ignore the call to adventure, we’ll never develop as characters. We’ll never change. We’ll be the same boring people we were before. When we feel God calling us to adventure, we can’t ignore it. We can’t just sit around in our nice, comfortable lives and get boring. If we hear a call, we should first pray. If you feel very strongly that God is telling you no, then don’t go. But, if you feel very strongly he’s saying yes, go for it. Adventure brings about character development. It teaches us things we never would have learned had we not gone. 
So, next time a pretty girl my age asks me to dance, will I say yes? I dunno. I’ll let God be the judge there. Will I start trying to leave my comfort zone, and answer the calls to adventure? Definitely.

Were you in Destin on the night of July 12th? Are you as scared of dancing as I am? Comment below!


Retaliation, Vengeance and VeggieTales

How do we respond to those who mistreat us? With vengeance? With love?

I posted recently about my experiences with bullying and why Christians should build each other up instead of tearing each other down. I stand by that post still, but there's one part of the story I mentioned, but I feel deserves an extended look. Today, I'd like to talk about retaliation (or taking revenge). 

I'd like to direct your attention to an episode of VeggieTales. I can't help seeing the comparison here— I grew up basically addicted to the show (though not understanding the lessons until much later). The episode I'd like to refer to today is Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Samson's Hairbrush

This episode was a parody of Indiana Jones (obviously) and it even had a theme song performed by THE CHARLIE DANIELS. No joke. https://youtu.be/CVoIkzGMnwM

In the episode, Larry (or Minnesota, I guess) tries to get back at his jerk nemesis, Professor Rattan, by bullying him back. He learns that if you bully a bully, that makes you a bully. When you say something mean back or hurt them back, you're stooping down to that level. You're now no better than them. It's the same reason Batman refuses to kill— it's crossing a line, and it means you're just as bad as those persecuting you. It's pretty meaty stuff for a VeggieTales episode, and I recommend you watch it.

When we're on the receiving end of abuse, our instinctive reaction is to retaliate. We start shooting back. When kids would pick on me, I'd pick back harder, and then I would get in trouble. Granted, the teachers weren't doing anything to help the issue (just perpetuating more by turning a blind eye to the cause of the issue), but they were right to get onto me for what I did. I can't remember where I heard it from, but I learned recently that we can't control our surroundings or what happens to us. The only thing we can control is how we react to those things. I'm not victimizing myself here— wrong was done to me, but I'll be the first to admit I wasn't innocent in the situation, either.

Back when I was being bullied, my hands weren't clean. I had even been a bully to others who didn't attack me first. Once you have a mindset of vengeance and retaliation, you begin to just attack everybody. Lines are blurred, and eventually you're picking fights with people who didn't really do anything  to you. Going back to the Batman analogy, it's a line you cross. Once you cross the line one time, it gets easier to cross the next time. And then easier the next time. And the next time. You get the picture. 

I read recently in Bob Goff's book Love Does that it's much easier to get defensive if you live with clenched fists. He offers that we instead lives with our palms up, because it's much harder to get defensive with your palms up. As Christians, we are supposed to be a light in the darkness. If we use Satan's tactics and try to get vengeance on those who wrong us, we're no better than them. What should we do instead, you ask? Kill them with kindness. Proverbs 25:21-22 says:

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. 

If you react lovingly and nonviolently, your enemies will see that there's something different about you. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies. How about we start now? Two wrongs never make a right, but if you choose to do right to those who do you wrong, Christ's love and light shines through you. 

It’s Not About the Destination— It’s About the Journey

Can we apply rules of good storytelling to how we live our lives?

Think about it. You've seen it a thousand times in the movies— somebody's living a boring, normal life until something happens that calls them on a great adventure that changes their lives forever. That's the beginning of most stories we humans have ever told— normalcy, call to adventure, character development. It's a great basis for a story, which is why we use it for every one of 'em we tell. 

Except for our lives. 

The most important story we tell is the story of our lives. Yet, in life, we don't tell the best story we can. We settle for staleness and ignore the story God has called us to. He's got a grand adventure planned for us, but we'd rather just sit around and eat Doritos. 

Where is this all coming from? I read a book recently that changed how I think about life— Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. In the book, Miller shares the lessons he learned while turning his life story into a movie. It's a great read, and throughout the book he teaches principles of storytelling and tells us how we can implement them in our life story. After reading the book, I began to think. When was the last time I answered a call to adventure? When was the last time I got out of my comfort zone? I shocked myself when I realized that it had been a very long time. Like seriously, I couldn't remember the last time I'd done it. It startled me. So, I began to think, 'What adventure does God have planned for me? Why am I ignoring the call?" 

Think about Finding Nemo. It's one of my favorite films, but think about how boring the story would have been had Marlin just given up after Nemo was taken. The whole movie is Marlin being forced out of his comfort zone. When he finds Nemo and returns home, he's changed forever. He's no longer constantly in fear and worry, and he no longer wants to hinder Nemo and keep him inside. If he'd never gone out in search of Nemo, he'd never have changed. He'd still be the same character. 

The journey is a time of refining and change. Going on the adventure God has planned for us won't leave us the same once we come out on the other side. If we live without changing or without undergoing character development, we're not living a great story. 

In our lives, we need to get out there and live. We need to continue using our brains and following our morals, yes, but we need to start living great stories. 

Here comes the challenge. I took it upon myself to make a list of fun little adventures I'd like to go on. Not a bucket list. That's too confining. Once this list is complete, I want to start another one. I picked 24 items (you don't have to do that many), including poke a live fish, grow a beard, play bagpipes, learn to juggle, and many more. 

Start an adventure list to start tackling with your loved ones. Make some memories you'll regale others with around the fire twenty years from now. As stated in the movie Up,  "Adventure is out there!" Go find it. Go grow as a character. But still use your brain and your better judgement. God's calling for you probably isn't to die like that hairy El Macho guy from the second Despicable Me movie. 

Lift People Up Instead of Tearing Them Down

In elementary school, I was bullied pretty hard. I was convinced that I was not good enough. That I was a failure. I was too short. I was too weak. I’d try to tell my teachers what was going on, but they didn’t care. Saving my sanity and my soul wasn’t part of their job description. So, they did nothing. The bullying continued. Just about all of my friends left. Those that didn’t— well, let’s just say they weren’t good company. They made disgusting, perverted remarks all the time, and I knew something was wrong. So I walked away.

The problem now was that I had nobody left. So, I began to sit alone at recess, with a clipboard and piece of paper. It was then I began to draw seriously. God used that dark time for good— I became serious about drawing. I’d always drawn growing up, but now I began to imagine whole worlds and stories. This was an important beginning. Back then, I didn’t see how God was using this situation. All I saw was that I was reviled and hated. So, I sat alone in the playground. Nobody told me there was a God I could turn to. I was in church, but I didn’t really hear what they were saying.

The bullying put me on an emotional roller coaster. I began to lash back at them verbally. My teachers only saw that, so I began to get into trouble. What I’d told them about what the other kids were doing didn’t matter. These teachers would act like they cared for me, but when I needed them they turned their backs. These weren’t bad people, but they had better things to do at the time than worry about one of their students going through hell on their watch. I quickly became a trainwreck, thinking that nobody really cared, and anything even slightly demeaning (even if it was just a joke) put me either in a defensive rage or a tearful meltdown. Even mild rudeness would push me over the edge. This happened throughout 5th and 6th grade. 

Last night, at a church event, somebody said something that made all these memories flood back this morning. What this person said was unprovoked and was very rude and offensive, as this person attacked my appearance. This wasn’t the first time it happened either— it’s a pretty regular occurence. I came home confused and offended. I forgave the offender, but I was confused. This person is a Christian— don’t Christians know better than this? 

Jesus commanded us to love one another. What this person said was hurtful. If we are to follow His commands, we must stop treating others like they are yesterday’s trash. We must stop saying intentionally offensive things to others. You can’t be a Christian bully. Build your siblings in Christ up— don’t tear them down. Words can either bring life or death. Choose to use your words to bring life. If you say you’re a Christian, and in the next breath put somebody down, you’re showing the opposite of God’s love— you’re working for the Enemy’s purposes. Show God’s love in all you do and say. Watch what you say. Build others up instead of tearing them down. 

Some Things I Learned From Being a Church Camp Counselor

This week, I volunteered as a teen counselor at a Christian church camp. What’d I learn?

So, my church puts on a very large 5-day church camp each year, and because I’m a foolish man, I signed up to be a teen counselor. I’d done it previously last year, and apparently I thought it was a good idea to do it again, and volunteered to work with 5th graders (boys, of course). Little did I know, this week would be much more life-changing for me than it seemed to be for the kids. I thought I’d share what I learned (and tell you what you can do with it.

1. Show love. It’s what Jesus would do.

I volunteered with fifth-grade boys. I’ll give you one guess how they behaved the first couple days. Yeah, it was bad. One kid especially quickly became the bane of my existence. 


Nope, not that Bane. Pretty close tho.

This kid rebelled in every way possible. Everything I said, he argued with it endlessly and did the opposite. He refused to do just about anything both me or the two adult counselors in my group told him to do. I won’t burden you with the details, but needless to say— he was a handful. Not only him, but all the other kids weren’t behaving well either. Instead of showing mercy and love (but still being authoritative), I focused only on dealing out punishment. On Wednesday (day 3) afternoon, the woman onstage teaching the kids said that “leadership wasn’t just bossing people around.” This changed my world. You can’t just tell them what they can’t do. You have to be encouraging. You have to be loving. You can’t focus on being God’s swift-and-terrible sword of judgement. While discouraging bad behavior is part of the job description, encouraging good behavior and being loving to the people you’re leading is, too.

2. Don’t try to do things on your own power. Turn to God when things get hard.

When I was having the most trouble, I would sit and complain about it or try to fix things by my own strengths or abilities. Therein was the flaw that kept any change from happening. I was trying to do it with Spencer’s (mine) power, not God’s. That whole time, I could have prayed for the situation to get better,  but instead I got bogged down in the frustration and didn’t even think about it. Pray to God when things get hard. It’ll do ya good.