“Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which don’t help those who follow them. We have an altar from which the priests in the Tabernacle have no right to eat. Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.” (Hebrews 13:7–16, NLT)
I live in a time of change. It seems every three years the culture that we have become accustomed to is giving way to some other emerging culture.Our ability, as first world people, to communicate thoughts, ideas and trends faster and with more efficiency has contributed significantly to a black hole like lust for change in my life. I hate that.
I was listening this morning to Pearl Jam’s song “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town”. It’s one of my favorites and probably one of the longest song titles ever. There is a profound line in the song that my friend Brett Nedens
shared with me and if you live in or come from a small town you will understand it. Eddie Vedder sings…
“i changed by not changing at all, small town predicts my fate”.
I can’t think of a time in my short life that this has been more true. When I watch the news or follow any aspect of our North American culture from my small town mind it’s hard not to feel discouraged or overwhelmed. I can’t keep up. Who is setting the pace? I cannot live well on our collective pop culture’s energy drinks, fast food and endless busyness. I can survive but I cannot live. I would sacrifice so much of myself just to keep up.
True life for me involves evolution and change but this must happen in the deep places of my soul not the shallow. For me true healthy change must also involve a true commitment to community. I love small towns and the stubborn faith communities that fill them. Here in a small town change as a concept or way of life is not the porn that it is in the suburbs or city. Our communities don’t change for the sake of change. Change is hard work and generational. This doesn’t make a small town superior or a rural way of life better. But it makes rural life unique today and it suits me well. I can keep up here. Change is is very slow and one must fight hard for it. There is a certain amount of faithfulness to “the way things have always been” in a small town and for that reason they “change by not changing at all”.
When the author of Hebrews says… “So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace…” I am wise to remember as a Christ follower that sometimes I can become divided over “strange new ideas” like the next big book, program, lifestyle, study or Christian personality. I can actually allow odd, silly, or meaningless things to rob me or seduce me from my center identity which is in the Grace of God. My identity is not in this world’s whimsical constant stream of consciousness it’s in the new creation, the new Adam that God has made through the life and work of Christ.
“Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.”
When I read these words this morning I took great comfort in the fact that i’m pleasing God if my outdated WAY of following Jesus and living out this life of Grace in him is characterized by an unselfish good to those in need.
Change (in and of itself) for me can be such an unhealthy distraction for the way of life Christ has called me to. Am I willing to sacrificially pursue those in need and share when it means that I might not be able to keep up with the newest and next best thing? Is there a place for a culturally challenged fella like me in this race? I think so.
God help! I find that within my heart is a desire to change to stay caught up and contemporary. Forgive me God! I should be focused on the change that brings about the sacrifices that please you. I know that these sacrifices will make me more like you and a better community member. Thank you for your grace and lovingkindness it casts out guilt and enables me to change and walk farther away from the old Adam that still pulls on my heart.
The author of Hebrews says, that doing good and to sharing with those in need are the sacrifices that please God. Doing good and sharing with those in need are timeless and character qualities impervious to change. Look for ways and opportunities to do good and share with those in need today.