The Danger of Compartmenalization

Have you ever gone on a mission trip, or a retreat or Church camp?  We find that we often experience God much in these settings.  Why does that happen?  Why does God reveal Himself and interact with us when we put ourselves in these situations?

The answer is simple.  We go in expecting to interact with Him.  When we go on a mission trip, we have our quiet time regularly.  We often have a daily devotion with the whole group.  We also pray about the things we are going to do, and we are intentional about our endeavors to talk about Jesus and the Gospel and to serve the lost.  Camp is the same!  We go in expecting something different and we set aside time for Jesus.

I am in a time of transition in my own life.  I am getting married in a few months and all of the big life decisions that come with that are staring us in the face.  One thing that has been particularly heavy is the discussion of where to live.  We would like to be overseas, but will spend at least the first year of marriage in the states.  Do we buy a house and have it available for missionaries to stay when we leave?  Do we build equity and rent it out when we go?  Do we just rent and try to save money?  The housing market in Denver is insane and discouraging, to say the least.  And I found myself quite discouraged last week.


Because I was trying to make the decision based on what I want.  In college, I intentionally lived in the international dorm to be amongst foreigners.  Overseas I walked and prayed over communities and asked God to provide the exact place He would have for me to live.  But for some reason in Denver, I have started down this path in my own “wisdom” (with my fiance, of course).

Thankfully He got my attention.  And the freedom that has come since Sunday in releasing my “wants” and asking for His direction and trusting that He has a place for us has given me deeper communion with Him and has released the stress of trying to figure it all out.

Is your faith compartmentalized?  What decisions are you trying to make on your own?  What habits are established in your life simply out of normalcy?  How often do you consider your daily decisions in prayer?

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

– Col 3.17



Christians and marijuana

I had a new life experience yesterday.  With Mondays as my day off from work, I went skiing with my boyfriend.  The lines were short since Mondays are a slower day and we were ushered straight through the lift line and onto the gondola to ascend the mountain.  The gondola is completely enclosed with a small window along the top to keep the air balanced in the inside of the lift.  We had only pulled away from the boarding station when the four others in our small pod began chit chatting with us.  They were very nice people from Baltimore who come and spend a full month in Colorado skiing.  Being quite impressed, I asked “Wow, you come all the way out here to ski?” and the youngest of the group said, “And smoke marijuana”.  The eldest of the group then pulled out a joint and said, “You don’t mind if we smoke, do you?” and lit up.

If you have missed the news, Colorado made marijuana legal recently.  I am confused how it works out, as it is still illegal federally, but whatever the case, I saw it face to face yesterday for the first time.

Should, can Christians smoke marijuana?

This might sound a little extreme.  It is still an illegal drug throughout most of the United States, and as I noted earlier, even though it is legal according to the state of Colorado, the federal government still forbids it.  And we, as Christians, are commanded to obey the laws of the land.  So this might be a non-issue.

Or is it?

Christianity is not established in our culture.  Jesus was a Jew.  He lived 2000 years ago and His culture – as well as the variety of cultures and times within the Bible – are not our own.  We have traditionalized a variety of practices within our society that we consider “Christian” that are not Biblical mandates or necessary to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Let me tell you a story.  There is a tribe of a few million people in South East Asia.  All of their neighboring tribes were converted to Islam in the 13th century, but being cannibals and pig hearders, they did not convert with the majority.  In the early 1800’s, two missionaries from Boston went to engage these people and were murdered and eaten.  Then Dutch and German missionaries returned to take their place.  Seeing the care of the Christians, the tribe, by and large, came to faith in Jesus Christ.  The missionaries, however, were confused in their application of the faith to these new believers.  They built a European church building with a steeple and a cross amidst all of the existing huts.  They required these people who take their shoes off to enter every building to wear shoes into the church (a sign of disrespect and considered dirty culturally).  They told these new, tribal believers that they need to wear a coat and tie to come to church and they translated western hymns into their language as hymns are, after all, the music of the faith.

This is an actual photo of some of the tribe’s men in 1870:



This is what their houses looked like, and still look like today:




And this is a church built there:


Jesus did not wear a coat and tie.  He took his sandals off at the door when entering into a house, and had His feet washed as they would become dirty throughout the day.  Jesus did not sing hymns with a piano or organ.  These are cultural adaptations of Biblical truths that the missionaries utilized in their worship of God.

Jesus came to redeem peoples in their own cultures.  The Bible clearly teaches us that murder and cannibalism are sins.  Therefore, this aspect of the tribe’s culture had to change in order to honor God.  But building a western church building, wearing ties and shoes and singing western hymns is not mandated by God, and therefore does not have to be adopted by cultures to glorify Him.

This might seem silly to you.  Of course we do not have to make people “American” in order to be Christians or followers of Christ.  But how, then, do we handle an ever-evolving culture like our own?  Many cultures around the world are rich in heritage and slowly change.  But American and western culture has been transforming generationally since the Industrial Revolution.  Some of us love tradition and heritage and some of us love change.  The Bible tells us to remember the tradition of the past, and also to sing a new song (2 Thess 3.6, Ps 33.3, 96.1)!  To let God transform our lives (2 Cor 5.17).

The litmus test is simply this:  Does this honor God?  I heard recently that there is a strain of marijuana that is helping children who have epilepsy.  You can read the news story that accounts a young child being freed from seizures by the drug  here.  This is a legitimate medicinal use healing a chronic illness, and appears to be taking marijuana to a new level.  Opiates went through this debate and transformation years ago.

But the Bible is extremely clear that we are to be sober minded:

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit…”

– Eph 5.18

Be sober-minded; be watchful.

– 1 Peter 5.8

But Peter goes on to explain why we must be sober minded:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

– 1 Peter 5.8-9

We must keep our minds alert so that we can resist the devil and maintain a life of holiness unto God.  Lions roar to make their presence known.  They are confident enough in their strength to hunt their prey and defeat them that they can boast.  The enemy is strong and cunning, and he does not need to sneak up on us because he knows how to ensnare us.  And allowing our minds and wits to be influenced by anything that dulls our senses or control gives him an in.  We must remain in control.

We also must take care of our bodies as good stewards of the gifts that God has given, and we all know the negative effects that drugs and alcohol have on our bodies.

Therefore, I would argue that numbing our brains is sinful and even while it is culturally becoming more acceptable, we should refrain.

But every aspect of our culture must be analyzed in this fashion.  If it appears to be morally neutral and is not prohibited by God, then we must consider our motivation for participating in it:  Am I doing this unto God?  In the name of Christ?  For His glory?

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

– 1 Cor 10.31

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

– Col 3.17

Just do something.

I am finishing up a book that is speaking to Gen X’s and the Millennials’ indecisiveness and immaturity.  The author builds on the premise that the variety and vastness of options that are laid out before us only hinder our productivity and usefulness.  He suggests that Christian Millennials are so concerned about fulfillment in life, making a difference and being confident about God’s will that they are paralyzed from ever doing anything.  They are so afraid of making a wrong decision, so uninterested in growing up and so independent that they ironically never do anything, in spite of the boundary-less world in which we live.

Yes, it is true that the average age for marriage is being pushed back, that people are taking longer to earn advanced degrees and this consequently builds more independence in the younger generations.  And while I despise the normalcy our culture has adapted for the extended adolescent stage, I think there are still two types of people in our culture:  those who work hard and those who do not.  The author concludes that we do not need to have God reveal the future to us before we take action.  “Just do something” he says, once you have examined the scriptures to be sure that your decision and endeavor is morally and ethically upstanding, and ultimately God honoring.

However some of us, like me, are doers.  We like to be busy.  Give me a project or the freedom to build my own project, and I will dream, work, suffer sleep and complete the project to the best of my ability.  “Perfectionist” is the term my friends like to use.  My parents always encouraged my sisters and I to be hard workers.  Get it done, and do it well.  And thus, the advice to “just do something” is lost on people like me.  That comes naturally.  What does not come naturally is waiting on the Lord:

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

– Is 40.31

In light of this tension of admonition to the culture in general to serve God, and my personal disposition (including my desire to be serving more actively than I am) I have been reflecting on this unique command of Jesus:

“Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.'”

– Acts 1.4-5

The occurrence of Pentecost was a game changer.  The disciples had spent three years with Jesus, following Him daily, listening to His teaching and watching Him preform miracles.  Jesus had sent them out into the villages to proclaim His coming, giving them power to cast out demons and to perform miracles themselves.  But they were not yet transformed in having the presence of the Spirit within them.  Peter, the night that Jesus was crucified, denied to a servant girl the fact that he had ever been with Jesus – swearing to it even.  And that only hours after saying to Jesus:

“Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.  Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’  Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.’”

– Matt 26.33-35

Have you ever done something so foolish?

Less than two months later, with the power of the Holy Spirit now within Him, Peter preached to the entire city of Jerusalem, taught in the temple, was consequently arrested and stood up before the entire Sanhedrin (religious court) and proclaimed Jesus – even when forbidden to do so.  He was undoubtedly transformed and given the Spirit of boldness.

Jesus gave the great commission just before he ascended to Heaven:

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”

– Matt 28.18-20

But then, after He gave this command, He told them to wait.  Stay in Jerusalem and wait for the Helper, wait for the appropriate time to go out and fulfill the Great Commission.

My freshman year of High School, I was able to spend most of the summer in Croatia, volunteering and helping Bosnian refugees who were fleeing the war.  At that point, a vague interest that I had to live overseas was firmly rooted and established in my heart.  I then spent three more years of High School, four years of college and three years of graduate school preparing for that dream.  For ten years I thought, “I just want to go!”  But, it was not God’s timing.  There was necessary training, essential maturation and basic life experiences that needed to happen first.  “Stay in Jerusalem (Indiana)” was my command, until the appropriate time.

Now, that does not mean that I squandered my time while waiting.  There is always opportunity to serve God.  And we must live each day purposefully asking God, “How can I honor you today?” and “What do you have for me to do today?”

There are times that we need to wait on the Lord.  It is by waiting on Him that we gain new strength.  It is by waiting on Him that we are blessed and given the strength to run without growing weary, and to walk without fainting.  There are times that life will be unfathomably difficult, and waiting on the Lord will give us the strength to put on foot in front of the other, without fainting.  If we try to work or serve in our own strength, we will get burned out.  We will not honor God, and we will fail.  We must wait on the Lord, for His leadership, guidance and for the Spirit to be the one working through us.

There are also times when we need a swift kick in the pants to action.  Are you involved in your local church?  Are you serving Christ’s body?  Are you tithing?  Are you seeking for how to honor God today?  Or are you paralyzed by fear of making the wrong decision or failure?  God’s will is our sanctification (1 Thess 4.3).  God’s will is that we exemplify the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5.22-23).    God’s will is that we make disciples of every nation (Matt 28.18-20).  God’s will is that we store up treasures in Heaven and not on Earth (Matt 6.19-20).  God’s will is that we love Him with all of our hearts, souls and minds and that we love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt 22.38-39).  The ways to do all of those things are countless.  So let’s do it:  in our big plans and in the mundane.

“Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe…”


Would Jesus be out at bars?

In the 1990’s there was a fad phenomenon amongst the Christian culture wearing bracelets with the letters “WWJD?” standing for “What Would Jesus Do?”.  We have all seen them.  You probably wore one.  I did.

I went to a State University that was exceptionally secular.  They are renown for their school of evolutionary research (putting me, a biology major, in the vast minority believing in intelligent design), religious studies program (in fact, the Dalai Lama’s brother lives in town and he himself comes to speak on campus regularly) and school of liberal arts.  On a campus of 36,000 students, there were maybe 1,000 students involved in campus ministries weekly.  In fact, my freshman year on campus we were voted the #1 party school in the nation.


I found myself regularly in conversations with people who wanted to walk the line of sin, and an argument made by many-a-friend was “If Jesus were here He would be out in the bars”.  WWJD?  He would go to the bars.  I have asked many of those friends who make that statement why they believe that, and this is the closest to an answer I could find in personal study in Scripture:

“As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’  And he got up and followed Him.  Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, ‘Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?'”

– Matt 9.9-11

“After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’  And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.  And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them.  The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?'”

– Luke 5.27-30

Usually when we see Jesus interacting with so-called sinners, he was in people’s homes.  In this situation where he was specifically and verbally questioned by the religious leaders, he was in Levi’s home.  When the woman washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and they questioned him interacting with sinners, he was in Simon, the Pharisee’s, home (Luke 7.36).  When Jesus interacted with the Samaritan woman, he was at a well (John 4).  But everywhere Jesus went, He was teaching and exhorting people to leave and abandon their lives of sin.  “Go and sin no more” (John 8.11).

Jesus came for sinners.  He came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19.10).  He came for the sick (Matt 9.12).  And we know that we are all sick as there is none righteous, and none who seeks after God (Rom 3.10).  And all have sinned and therefore all deserve judgment and damnation (Rom 5.12, Rom 3.23, Rom 6.23).  Jesus came for us all.

But Jesus did not love the things of the world.  “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4.4).  Jesus did not go out and get drunk.  He did not go out and party.  He went out and drew sinners in for teaching.  He was always teaching.  Every interaction we see of Jesus is teaching “sinners” or religious dogmatic leaders or slipping away for personal prayer time with the Father.  Friendship with the world, living in the lusts of the world is enmity towards God.  Enmity!

Jesus ate with sinners.  Jesus called sinners.  Jesus interacted with sinners.  And he was not ashamed of what that would look like to anyone else.  But the sinners came to Him.  And He did not partake in their worldliness.  Rather, He invited them to abandon everything and follow Him.

Therefore I think what we need to examine is our heart and motivation.  “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2.15).  Are you going to the bar to talk to people about Jesus?  Or are you going to the bar to drink and/or get drunk?

Now, I know that these types of self-examination can be misconstrued as legalism.  My intention is not to discuss bars.  My intention is to discuss the passion that drives every action of our lives.  And I would argue that Scripture compels us to do everything to the glory and honor of God.

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10.31).

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Col 3.23).

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4.29).

“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Eph 5.3-4).

Do you go to the bar for the glory of God?  Do you watch TV for the glory of God?  Do you work and spend your free time for the glory of God?  Do you care for your body to the glory of God?  Do you eat and drink to the glory of God?  Do you speak to the glory of God?  Those Ephesians passages are convicting for me:  no silly talk, no unwholesome word.

Let us not ask ourselves if such-and-such an action is permissible.  Let us ask if it is best.  Let us not flirt with sin, but let us live under grace to bring glory and honor to God.

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal 5.13).

“Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God” (1 Peter 2.16).

Jesus’ intention was to save sinners.  Not to be like them.