Second Wednesday of Lent

Deuteronomy 9:13–21, Luke 21:34–38, Hebrews 3:12–19

The culture wars are over. Or are they? Just this week, the Chinese government reaffirmed its attack on Christianity, promising to root out any “Westernizing” characteristics to Chinese culture. The conference last month held by the United Methodist Church was a conflict of cultures (particularly US/Canada versus the Southern Hemisphere). Many American Evangelicals continually attack the prevailing American culture, while others embrace it. These words are not meant to start a strong cultural “conversation”. They are meant to make you realize that there always has been, and always will be a culture war. The culture wars won’t always be in your face. That’s actually the problem. It’s the little things that can lead us toward the wrong things. It is also the little things that can bring us to the best things.

Moses’ summary of the Israelites behavior (so quick to turn away from God) is a summary of many people’s relationship with God. It is first hot but goes cold quickly. While we can look at the Israelites as different than ourselves, our tendencies are still there. The Israelites may have been called into a covenant life with God (just as we are), but they still were products of a hybrid Egyptian/Hebrew culture. It wasn’t “pure”. There was a culture war in the hearts of the Israelites from the moment Moses approached Pharoah, to…well, it just continued. It never really stopped. The entirety of the Hebrew Testament is a culture war. God’s ways versus the people’s ways.

Jesus warns the disciples of this when he tells them to be on guard. Now we could say to ourselves that we don’t have a practice of carousing or drunkenness, and most of us don’t when it comes to alcohol. However, there are other behaviors that, while different, result in the same dullness of mind: overwork; exhaustion; over-consumption of internet, media, food, etc. Our minds are easily dulled. Without the sharpness to discern good from bad (long- and short-term), and Godly from not-Godly, we can make decisions that lead us away from a more fulfilling life with God.

As we turn away from God, and as the world pulls us away from God, bad thoughts, patterns, and habits can build and develop in us to further harden our hearts. When we fully participate in a Godly life, which includes (but is not limited to) fellowship with other believers, our minds should be prepared when it comes to the world. We cannot stand on our own. It would be nice to not have to rely on others, but that is not the way God wired us. We are intended to be in community. This is why the author of Hebrews uses “we”. As participants in the body of Christ, we guard each others’ hearts, and we (should be) sharpening each others’ minds to better discern the worldly from the Godly.

1) Are you participating in the body of Christ? This does and does not mean showing up on Sundays. Often the temptation on Sundays is to be a consumer or observer, rather than a participant. So, if you are participating, how is it helping you to sharpen your mind?

2) If you are participating, and your mind is not being sharpened, what can you along with others do to add sharpening? If you are not currently participating, what are you doing to sharpen your mind?

3) Have you ever experienced something similar to a “dullness of mind”? What significant decisions, if any, have you made in those times? Do you have any regrets with those decisions?

FD) Friends can have different cultures. Have you ever had a struggle with a friend because there was a cultural difference? What did you do?

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