May 20 – taking Possession of our own Soul

God, I just pray that you would keep forming my mind and maturing me. I pray that you may be expressed in and through me. Luke 21:19 could also be said to stand firm and you will win life. I don’t want to stand at the entrance gate of Christian life, I want that life that is being created and built In accordance with the life Christ has placed within me. I am all too guilty of not living the way you made me Lord. I blame things on Satan more than truly examining my life. Create in me a new nature and heart. Awaken me to the truth that I may be new. How do I kick my bad mood out of my life Lord? I am so guilty of listening and being controlled by my mood. The same with tiredness and hunger. My physical, fleshly self controls me more than I let you sit on the throne. Even in the midst of a decent day, my mood can quickly change and the whole day or night is ruined. Oh but I thank you for your grace. Thank you for loving someone like me who just listens to the wrong thing. Help me in this struggle Lord to turn to you and not submit to my mood any longer. I know it is a constant battle, but you have made me a conqueror. “The Christian life is one of spiritual courage and determination lived out in our flesh.” I don’t want to live by saying I won’t. You give me the strength to be able to do what I am unable to do. By you, I won’t submit to my mood. My soul is yours. May you be seen in me!


Encourage and build up

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

I have been thinking quite a bit about my words and the way people communicate with each other recently. As the Lord impresses upon me how I should communicate, I see my failures. I see how I need to be better. A better listener, a better hearer and a better communicator. I say these things with a caveat that I need to do them with a filter of grace.

All around me I have become more aware of how others communicate. What they say, their tone and maybe even what is their message. It seems that many will start conversations and possibly ask a question of the other but all the while, they really don’t care or are not interested in what the other has to say. Their expression and tones and even mannerisms point more to, “I am not listening to you. I don’t really care what you have to say. I want to start talking again.” So while a person is talking, they are not listening. They are focused on what they will say next. The other person could say they won a trip to Mars and are leaving tomorrow, yet the initiator is talking about them again.

Another example is when someone starts talking about normal everyday life, like food or a movie, the other person will start bringing attention to themselves and show that they have had that food or done this or have gone here. Not in a way to build common ground, but more of a way to point attention to them. This may not be clear so here is a crude example:

Person 1: “We started going to Store X to get our meat and…”
Person 2: … (interrupting) “Oh yeah, we go there all the time to get this and that. They have the best sweets.”
Person 1: “Uh, yeah they do… We really like their cookies.”
Person 2: “Yeah, their cookies are ok, but the brownies are better. We like to go there once a week.”

So, this may be a crude and bad example, but I am trying to show in a conversation, instead of person 2 asking person 1 about the store or what they like, person 2 interrupts and talks about themselves. What they like. What they go for. Person 1 is left with not really being able to discuss what they wanted to because (1) they were interrupted and (2) the other person is talking about their own self.

We have all been and probably are currently in situations, whether it is at work or family or even at church, where we gossip about people. We talk with a co-worker about how this person does their job and how it is never right. We put them down in front of others, whether they are there or not there. We do it so casually. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally but in the end it is all hurtful. But it is amazing how much we complain and then complain about others. I am not saying we shouldn’t be open and vulnerable and talk about how someone hurt us or how something is going, but that should be done in a way that doesn’t involve half your co-workers and in a gossipy manner.

I know the Thessalonians weren’t perfect, but it is amazing to me that Paul (who was never afraid to tell someone they are doing something they shouldn’t, but did it all out of love) can write to them and tell them to do something, yet also affirm them in the fact that he knows they are already doing it. It is amazing that they were building each other up and encouraging one another. They knew they had to stick together. They knew they had to build each other up. In the face of adversity and new brothers and sisters coming to Christ, they strived to encourage one another in faith. They strived to build each other up and care for one another in all the varieties of life. They wanted to be there for their fellow man. To help them in ways that the other needed. They wanted to share life with the other. They weren’t so concerned with self, but the needs of the other. That is an amazing concept. They had needs and complaints. They had struggles, but they willingly laid down self to help others. To encourage others with these rough times. They were heaven minded in this way.

There is a song that is currently playing by Hawk Nelson called Words which I think is a beautiful description of just how impactful our words can be. They can make us feel like a prisoner and a criminal. They can bring us down and through all that pain again, or remind us that we are free. They can make us feel like a king. They can extinguish any hope we have and put out our fire or they can stoke that fire and be a great spark to start it. Our words can be noise or they can speak love.

As I think about it, I don’t know if I can say it any better than what is written in this song. In fact this is my prayer for us. Please read the words of this song. Pray it as well. Pray that your words will be life. That they will speak truth. That they will encourage and build up each other, Christian and non-Christian. Words can speak out against your fears and oh how we long to hear God’s voice and His comforting words. We thank God for the beautiful, Divine and perfect words God gave us in His inspired Word. May our words be life. May we speak God’s grace.

The next time an occasion comes up to gossip or bring someone down, remember how powerful your words can be. Maybe you are having a bad day and it is just miserable, but instead of trying to bring someone else down, try speaking encouragement. Try building them up. Listen to them. Start a conversation and listen. And listen with grace. Hear their hurt, pain, joy. You don’t have to solve their problem, just be there for them. Let your listening and speaking feed them instead of looking to feed yourself. I struggle all the time. I am absolutely horrible at this, but I am in it with you. God help us all!

They’ve made me feel like a prisoner
They’ve made me feel set free
They’ve made me feel like a criminal
Made me feel like a king
They’ve lifted my heart to places I’ve never been
They’ve dragged me down back to where I began

Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart
Or put it out

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don’t want to say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

You can heal the heartache
Speak over the fear
God, your voice is the only thing we need to hear

Words can build us up
Words can break us down
Start a fire in our hearts
Or put it out

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don’t want to say a word
Unless it points the world back to You
Let the words I say
Be the sound of Your grace
I don’t want to say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

I want to speak Your love
Not just another noise
I want to be Your life
I want to be Your voice

Learning through the storm

As me and my family have dealt with our devastating news, I have been trying to get some amount of good through this. I have been searching for what God is teaching me. What am I supposed to be learning? There are a few modern songs that mention this and sometimes those are great but painful reminders. There is a purpose in this storm. To follow a line from Casting Crowns, to simply praise God in this storm. From another, to be a blessing during this time of hurt and pain. It is amazing how God uses different mediums to interact with us. Take a song for instance, I can hear it many times and sing the words but then one day for some reason, I actually hear and listen to the words. These beautiful heartfelt worshipful words. I am so thankful for Christian radio and the artists who are using these amazing God given talents for His glory.

Obviously there are many ways that God communicates to us. It could be a song or a sermon or Scripture or a feeling. Any number of ways, but I am thankful for all the ways that God does teach us and speak to us.

I have found myself really pressing in to Him recently seeking Him and His comfort. He has blessed me in many ways. He has taken this hurt and pain of mine to remind me and teach me of some very important lessons. Most are basic and fundamental, but if we don’t practice the fundamentals we won’t have a good foundation to build upon. God didn’t have to teach me. He didn’t have to use this time for good. But I am thankful that he makes all things work together for my good. I think of Joseph and his brothers and the famous line he told his them from Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done…”

I don’t know what good will come from this or from any tragedy. But neither did Joseph and the eventual saving of the nation of Israel. It is amazing to look back and see God’s hand in things. It is so easy to get stuck in the trees and not see the forest. I get so caught up in this lower story that I take my eyes of the upper story (or as the business world states, the 50,000 foot view). God used Joseph and his story to protect his people from famine and other factors. He built this nation over time to be his people and send along a little boy raised in the house of Pharaoh to eventually lead them out. To one day bring along a humble young man that would slay a giant. Most notably, to send His own Son through that line to save all of us. Praise the Lord!

This is something God has really been teaching me a lot about recently. That there is an upper story going on that is beyond my small, pea-sized understanding. It doesn’t make it any easier. But it does remind me that there is this giant unimaginable God in control of everything. He is bigger than the tragedies that surround us. He is bigger than our afflictions. Our hurts. Our pains. He is greater than highest of mountains. He is not confined by insurmountable odds. He spoke this world into motion. He intervenes in our daily lives. His presence is imminent. It is near. God is here! God is with us! The next time you look in a mirror, as crazy as this may sound, tell yourself that you are a temple that God dwells in. 2 Corinthians 6:16 says, “…For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’” God is in you. God is with us and we are in Him.

During this time, it is so easy for me to worry and get anxious. No matter how many times I see myself doing it and tell myself to stop, I still worry. Thankfully, by the grace of God, He has hidden a powerful verse in my heart. That is Philippians 4:6-7, “6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I have really had to remind myself of that the past few days. I have had to remember that it is simply out of my hands. This battle is too big for me. I can’t heal her. I can’t make her well. I can’t take the pain away. No matter what I say or do, I can’t. I can’t… So I trust this battle to the only One greater than it. Whether He decides to do a miracle or not, that is up to Him. But only He can. I can say all the fancy words and phrases until I am blue in the face, but it won’t help. I don’t trust those words or put my faith in words, I put my faith and my trust in the One that those words point to. I trust this great battle to God. God, I can’t do this. I can’t beat the odds. I trust her and this battle to you.

At the same time, God has brought me back to the basics. Essentially, do I believe? Yes. Simply yes I believe. But to be honest with you there was also a light bulb moment that God had to bring me back to. As I read from His Word, I felt this simple question reverberating in my being. I had to make a choice at that moment. I had to not listen to what this world says or throws at me, lay logic down and worship God who is beyond all comprehension. I went back and in moments of utter joy and strength I just kept saying “I believe.” I believe what God has done. Can do. Will do. I believe who He is. What He has said. To go back and say different truths about God and who He is was exhilarating. It was an amazing spiritual high. It sounds simple but as the devil attacked my belief, God used that to strengthen it.

Lastly, God has used this time to remind me of something He taught me several months ago. That is during the dark times, while we will want to focus on the storms and the hurt and the pain, I need to focus on Him. The One is above it all and sees all and is transcendent. The One who needs nothing. Who is great and who is good. I want to focus more on Him and His attributes. God is reminding me and teaching me more about Him. To know and understand more of God, well, nothing compares to that. I want to know more about who God is. A. W. Tozer writes in “The Knowledge of the Holy” that one of the most important questions we face is what do we think of God. God never changes and will never change, but what we think of Him vary at times.

This is a time of hurt and pain. Full of emotion. But God is great and great is His faithfulness. During this time, during your own time, focus on who God is. Remember the things He has done. The freedom He has given. His immutability. His need for nothing. His infinitude. The depths of His love, mercy, grace, patience. His omnipotence. His omnipresence. Look upon that cross and be in awe.

God is good
Focus on God – who He is and what He has done
Do not worry or be anxious

John Piper – passion for the supremacy of God, part 1

John Piper – passion for the supremacy of God – From the passion conference

As I listened to this sermon podcast, these were the notes I took and wanted to share with you. Over the next few posts, it will be linked to this sermon. This to me was a fantastic sermon and I can’t wait to share with you part 2. This was done back at Passion 97 but it has been a fantastic and powerful find.

Here is the link so you can listen to this powerful sermon. (You will actually find the sermon transcribed there but again these are the parts that stood out to me)

We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples is his life mission and vision of church (point 1). He quotes from Isaiah 26:8, “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.” His purpose (point 2) is to be a match set for the kindling of our joy and thrill in God. Point 3, to see from scripture the two points are the same reason. To spread a passion for God’s supremacy and be happy in God are identical. God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him is what we will hear many times during these two sermons. The more we find satisfaction in him and eat from his table the more his worth and all sufficiency is magnified.

No competition between God’s passion to be glorified and our passion to be satisfied because they are one.

Piper is here to torch a glacier in our lives. He refers to Matthew 24:12 – “lawlessness will be multiplied and love of many grow cold.” He hates the thought of growing cold. That my love for God and people would dry up yet Jesus says it is coming. The fact that Lawlessness will be multiplied and love of many will grow cold is a bleak description of the last days. In the next verse it says, “But those who endure to end will be saved”. And in the next verse, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Piper wants us to see the tension in 12 and 14. Piper reminds us it is not the cold people who will take the Gospel to the unreached people of this world. But if we look at verse 9, you will be hated on account of Jesus (summary of verse 9). Thus the tension because if we will be hated, it won’t be the cold people. It will be white hot people. As the end of age draws near, there will be people getting ice cold and those getting white hot to lay down lives to preach the gospel.

A little girl drew a picture of this imagery and it was a marvelous glacier with a hole in the glacier at the top with the sun coming down and a stick man with a torch. Many people are growing cold toward God, but nothings says where we live we have to be under that glacier. If there are enough people with a torch, a big hole can be opened up over your campus, your work, even your city.

The Foundation is: your passion for the supremacy of God in all things is based squarely on the passion of God for the supremacy of God in all things. Your God centerdness, if it will last, has to be rooted in God centerdness. God is supreme in the life of God. If you want God to be your treasure you have to see that God’s treasure is God. We may not withhold from God the highest pleasure from God which is worship of God.

The chief end of God is to glorify God. Not just the chief end of man, but the chief end of God is to glorify and enjoy himself forever.

1 Cor 10:31, “…do it all for the glory of God.” But God does everything for the glory of God and the root of my living for the glory of God is God lives for the glory of God. God loves himself more than He loves you and that is the only reason He loves you. It is easy to be a Christian in a man centered world that it buttresses what you would have done without God. You are Not a Christian if you only loved what you would have loved without being confronted by the beauty of a God centered God. If God is only a means to your self-exaltment, rather than you seeing in Him as a God consumed with manifestation of His glory than check your conversion.
God chose me for His glory. He chose us unto the praise of the glory of His grace. That His glory and grace might be praised and magnified. Your salvation is to glorify God. Regeneration, justification, sanctification and glorification is to glorify God. Is 43:6-7 God rescued His people for His glory. That He might make known His glory and power. He saved His people so that He might make known His mighty power and it spread all the way to Jericho that it saved a prostitute. Because she heard Your name and Your renown. Even as the people were captives in Israel, He saved them after 70 years, He refined them for His own sake. His glory, He will not give to another.

A God centered motive for mercy. Jesus came to this world in John 3:16. Jesus came in Romans 15:8-9 to show God’s truthfulness in order to confirm the promises and the gentiles proclaim His name. Jesus came so we might give glory for His Father’s glory. In Romans 3 he died to vindicate the righteousness of God like David’s adultery and murder. It troubled Paul that God just passed over his sins. Paul cried, “how can you do that God!” The cross is the solution to a mega-theological problem namely how can God forgive our sins. Christ came to vindicate God in saving people like us.
Why is Jesus coming again?2 Thes 1:9, he is coming to be glorified and magnified in his saints and be marveled at. We must start at that now and do the thing he created us to do. Marvel at him and magnify him, not like a microscope but like a telescope. It is blasphemy to magnify God like a microscope because it takes something tiny and magnifies it make it look bigger. But a telescope looks at something unimaginable and tries to help them look like what they are. A star is not a pinpoint, it is something big and hot. It is bigger than the earth. Your life exists to telescope God’s goodness to your surroundings.

This does not sound loving that God is God centered. If love seeks not its own but now you are telling us God seeks His own. Why God is loving and seeking His own self-exaltation: Quote from C.S. Lewis in the Desiring God book.first a background on Lewis. Lewis hated God’s vanity and was an atheist. Lewis heard God say “praise me! praise me!”. Then God came into his life.This is what he said, “We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.” If God is to love you, He must give you what is best for you and that is God. If He gives you everything that is best but not himself, He hates you. If God gives you Himself and nothing more, He loves you. I must have God for my enjoyment if God is to be loving to me.

Summary: To love you, He must give you what is best for you. God is what is best. God gives himself to us for pleasures. But unless those pleasures find expression in praise to God those pleasures are restricted. Therefore God not wanting to restrict your pleasure, He says “praise me… exalt me… Have a passion for my supremacy”. God’s passion to be glorified and your passion to be satisfied are not at odds.

If this is true that God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him and there is no contradiction, then the vocation of my life is to pursue your pleasure. Simply God is our pleasure. He calls it Christian hedonism. Piper will go more into it in part 2.

Not up to me, but the One that listens

​Many times over the past few days my human sin nature comes out. Actually it comes out more than the past few days, it comes out all the time but I have been particularly aware of it these past few days. During my many prayers, it becomes easy for me to think that there is something else I need to do. that there is something more that I can do. I start thinking of all of the other words or phrases I could say to God to get Him to answer my prayers. I think of all the ways I could kneel or throw myself on the floor begging, pleading for God to come and intervene.
Then, I am reminded about truth. Maybe it is a faint voice. Maybe it is the Spirit at work in me. Or maybe it is something else that I can’t even understand or know. But the basis of faith comes back and smacks me in the face. It is simply not up to me. It is doesn’t matter what I say or what I do. it is simply up to The One that listens. I could say all the fancy words and phrases we have heard throughout our lives and say the most eloquent prayers, but it doesn’t make a lick of difference. God doesn’t want those things. He doesn’t want the ritual and the words that aren’t from our heart. He doesn’t want the things we do that don’t truly seek Him. All He wants is our honesty.
The One that knows us intimately, actually knows us better than we know ourselves, just wants us to be honest with Him. He just wants to hear our heartfelt words. The things that are on our mind.
In all honesty, here I am telling God what I need. Telling Him when I need it. telling Him that I need this healing. I guess maybe, I take my eyes off of heaven and God and put them back on myself and what I can do. I start thinking about what can I do to make God answer these prayers. What else do I need to do? What more can I do? I just want this to be over. I just want healing to come and the pain to be gone.
But it is not up to me…
It is doesn’t matter what I say or what I do. It is simply up to God. Sometimes, if I am honest with you, that is scary. It is scary as I wrestle with God over control. Or in this case try to earn His favor by doing things. Most of us if we are honest with ourselves have probably prayed prayers that we made wild promises to God that if He answered we would do something or give something up. We just want those things so bad whether it is healing or overcoming addiction and suffering or something else. We just want God to answer those prayers. As we all know, sometimes God doesn’t answer. He doesn’t give us what we ask for. He doesn’t give us what we think we need. He may give us shattered dreams.
This reminds me that as we may do this in our prayer life of trying to earn God’s favor or do something to get Him to answer our prayers, it is easy to do this with our own salvation. It is easy to start down that slippery slope of trying to earn salvation. We start off with the best of intentions or sometimes we don’t. sometimes we do things out of guilt or because we feel we have to so that we can be a “good Christian”. We say long ritualistic prayers to make ourselves feel better so we can mark off a box. We volunteer but we don’t do it with pure and loving motives. We do so many different things but in the end, are we doing it out of love and thanksgiving or out guilt and obligation? I am not here to judge and criticize. Who am I to do that? I do the very things that I just discussed and I am not proud of it at all. I fall into the trap of looking at my salvation as a bank. Doing good things to make deposits and my sins as taking withdrawals. The problem is I am in terrible debt that I will never recover from.
Yet for the grace of Jesus that I can enter His place of rest. I don’t have to do any more. I don’t have to try to earn salvation. I don’t have to run my self into exhaustion. For in His land of grace, I can simply rest. I can simply let the joy and thanksgiving and satisfaction in God pour out of me into acts of service. Not because I have to, but because I am thankful for His great love that paid my debt. Salvation is not up to me. It is not up to what I do or say.
And the same goes for my prayer life. I simply need to humble myself before the Almighty, acknowledge Him as God and trust in His ways. Is it easy? No, we still wrestle for control. We still think we need to do or say something. May our faith never be in what we do or say or certain words and phrases, but in the One who listens. He knows our hearts. He knows our pain and He is sending the Comforter. Thankfully, He gave us His Spirit that helps us when we do not know what we ought to say. I hope and pray that you and I both can give our worries and anxieties to God and trust in Him and what He can do. That we trust in His Spirit to help us and depend on Him.
25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:25-27

Listening and God bringing out our best

I mentioned listening in a previous blog being a key theme in my life right now. As I struggle with writer’s block, I felt God leading me to write about other things. So with renewed commitment and praying for more awareness of God speaking to me and leading me, I am trying to do better. It is what caused me to go to the doctor and write these few blogs.
On my way home yesterday I was reminded of the various ways God speaks to us and just how big God is. Also, how He wants to show us just what He can do and how He can use us. One of the ways that God uses to talk to us is through people. My hope is that I am not stubborn and start listening better. I feel like I struggle with selective hearing as well, meaning that I feel like doing God’s will when I want to which obviously is not the right attitude.
As I drove home listening to the radio, a Christian radio station was interviewing an author, Bob Goff, about his upcoming book. In the book he talks about an amazing story of how God can show up so big. The story goes that there was a Ugandan boy named Charlie that was abducted by a witch doctor. Charlie had parts of his body taken from him by this witch doctor. Somehow though Charlie didn’t die. The authorities found this witch doctor and arrested him. No witch doctor has ever been taken to trial for human trafficking and taking body parts. This was the first conviction ever for a witch doctor in Uganda. It sent a huge shockwave around country because many look at these people as having all the power. Incredibly thousands of miles away, a doctor was taking a flying lesson when his instructor told him about the story. The doctor calls up this author and tells him he can fix him. The author tells him you don’t know what happened to the boy and how there was so much taken from him. The doctor persisted and told him he was chief of surgery at Cedars Sinai and he can fix him. So, the author flies to Los Angeles to talk to him and they discuss what can be done. The author asked how much it would cost and the doctor said it would be staggering but he will do it for free. Cedars Sinai writes a $50k check for the boy to get this procedure. They go get the boy to bring him back to the US for the surgery. During a stop-over in London, Bob begins to check his email when he sees an email that reads from the White House. The author thought it was a joke but it was for real. The boy who was standing in the Congo 2 days before is now standing in the oval office. They took him to the hospital and got him all fixed up (which is a miracle in its own right). He was brought back to Uganda and he and his mom have tea with the first lady.
God is showing so much grace and how good He is. How he wants to use and can use us, if we let him. Bob Goff finishes the segment with this, “Do whatever it is that you are good at and see how God will bring it into focus.”
Over the past few months, I feel God keeps reminding me of the big ways He can and has worked. It is very easy for me to try to confine God instead of full out trusting Him to work. I keep being reminded of stories like the Israelites marching around Jericho and blowing their trumpets or so many battles when the Israelites were completely outnumbered by a huge amount, yet God did these things so that when there was victory, they knew it was only because of God. That all glory belongs to Him.
So while there have been some pretty amazing things happen the past few months with healing and finances, God was showing me He is in control and how He still does big things in our lives. It didn’t have anything to do with doctors or my talents or abilities or anything that I did or what others did. It all came down to what God did. All glory is His.
Going back to the story, it comes down to listening to God and letting God use you. We don’t always know what our passion is or what we are good at, I for one still struggle with the talents, gifts and abilities the Lord has blessed me with. But in those times where God calls us to do something, to reach out in some way, to take action, that is when we need to. Sometimes I think “if I do this, will anything even happen?” but the thing is, that is my way of not letting God use me and confining Him in my life. Who knows how God can use something so simple or small or seemingly unimportant and use it for something big.
I was left with this a few moments ago. I was checking my Bible app for a verse when the verse of the day came up, Romans 12:2. It spoke about what I was trying to get at. Be open to what God calls me to each day and just see how He will use me. Listen. Simply listen and obey.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:1-2 (MESSAGE, italics mine)