Archive for July, 2011


Working With Passion

This is where talent and passion can get you.

Last week, in my post about how modern society hates silence, I briefly mentioned the assumption that, after a hard day’s work, we need mindless activities to distract ourselves from work.  I said that was a subject for another post; well, here it is!

At the beginning of 2010, a survey revealed that only 45% of workers are satisfied with their jobs (I know this was over a year and a half ago, but I do not believe things have changed significantly since then).  That means that 55% of the workers surveyed were dissatisfied with their work.  That’s tens of millions of people in the United States alone!  If work is an important part of who we are – and in the U.S., at least, we tend to define ourselves by our work – is it any wonder that the overall mood is is so pessimistic lately?

A year ago, I was in that 55%.  I was just finishing up an internship which was an exercise in frustration, and unbeknownst to me I was in for an entire semester of more of the same.  So, from June until about Christmas, I felt like I was in a cave, pushing against a huge solid boulder that refused to budge.  Sometime during that time, I promised myself this: I was going to finish my master’s degree as soon as possible, get a job that didn’t require too much thinking (or, more importantly, programming), and get myself out of the research field as soon as I could.  I was burned out, discouraged, and had no hope of the situation improving.  When I wasn’t at work, I was doing everything I could to take my mind off of it.

Now, things are very different.  I’m getting results.  I’m much better at programming.  My thesis topic changed fairly significantly and I find this one much more interesting.  During idle time, I find myself pondering obstacles I will encounter in whatever analysis I’m doing and coming up with solutions.  The result?  I’m no longer dead set on leaving grad school; in fact, I’m seriously considering going for the Ph.D.  Once again, I am passionate about atmospheric science.

That passion makes all the difference, I think.  Passion is what causes the scientist to ask and answer deep, complex questions about the world around them.  Passion is what drives my dad, a tax preparer who works 80+ hour weeks during tax season, to go to work before dawn six days a week for three months and still do taxes for friends and family on his (very limited) time off.  Passion is what drives someone like Michael Phelps to not just swim for fun, but to train with an intensity very few of us can comprehend in order to be, quite literally, the best in the world at what he does.

Humans are created to be passionate.  Think about it – how easy is it to be passionate about a sports team, a relationship/person, a belief system, a video game?  Work is just as much a part of our lives as  a close relationship or a favorite hobby.  It might be harder to be passionate about our work – particularly if the job is not that exciting or fulfilling – but that does not make it any less necessary.  Whatever job you are doing, you have control over whether it is a lousy job or a fun and rewarding one (I only wish I had understood this more when I worked in fast food).  It’s your choice; are you going to be in the 55% or the 45%?

Advertisements

The Bible: More than just “Food for Thought”

It’s a given fact that the act of reading has many benefits. If you know someone who is a professional writer, they will tell you that one of the greatest secrets to being a writer is being an avid reader; those who read can write more quickly, clearly, and colorfully than those who don’t read. Professional authors aren’t the only ones to reap the benefits of reading. We know that “Leaders are Readers,” as Tyler so poignantly put it in his previous post. We all have something to gain from the general practice of reading, but I think that we have much, much more to gain from the disciplined practice of reading the Bible.

I’d like to give a bit of backround upon Biblical literacy before I begin, so bear with me! The Protestant Reformation brought with it the largest wave of biblical literacy since the original authorship of the New Testament.

“That means that for roughly 1200 years, the common man was unable to read the Bible for himself.”

The Bible hadn’t been in any sort of common vernacular since the days of the translation of the New Testament into the Latin Vulgate by Jerome, which occurred somewhere around 383 AD. That means that for roughly 1200 years, the common man was unable to read the Bible for himself, and dependent upon a priest to even hear it spoken! Can you imagine the mysteriousness surrounding the Bible during those times? With Biblical illiteracy fresh within their minds, the Reformers strongly held to a doctrine known as Sola Scriptura, that is, the belief that Scripture alone contains all that is necessary for full salvation and spiritual growth. We would do well to carry their convictions. While it might be trendy or even marginally beneficial to read the holy books of other religions, we know that only the Bible will lead us to spiritual life.

So, apart from just holding to a view of Sola Scriptura, why should we read the Scriptures? To start with the seemingly most obvious:

  1.  It is the manner by which the God of the universe has chosen to communicate with us. For whatever reason, God chose to get his words to us in written form. That means that, whenever I open that book, on some level, the God of the universe, both through providence and through the work of the Holy Spirit, will speak to me. I may not know it, just as a plant may not feel water in its roots after every rainfall, yet, God will soften the soil around my soul and deeply, deeply change me.
  2.  Many people have given their lives to get me the book that I have today, most notably William Tyndale and John Wycliffe. So often we easily forget our history as the church. We have ancestors in our tradition who gave their lives and suffered horrible deaths because they were so passionate about the Bible – the same book that we often justify not reading because we are “busy” or “tired.” I think it is an amazing thing that there have been so many who have gone before us that have drawn the inner strength to do great things from the same book that graces our coffee tables and bookshelves. Read it!
  3. We need the words on those pages to be alive spiritually. Quite simply, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Deut 8:3, Matt. 4:4, Luke 4:4) We need to encounter God’s words more than we need food. Do you believe that?

There are many more reasons why we should read the Bible, but I hope that those listed above will prove sufficient to at least drive you to consider the amount of time you spend reading the Bible. The Bible isn’t just “Food for Thought”; it’s food for our spiritual lives.

Can you hear me now?

I promised in my Seven Habits of Highly Effective People review that I would revisit the topic described in Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.  The advice in this chapter was the easiest for me to implement and make work for me so I want to share it with you!

Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood comes in handy when having a conversation with another person.  It is placed in the “Winning Publicly” section of 7 Habits because the practice of it inherently includes other people.  The way most people go about a conversation is to start by sharing their perspective.  Running through your mind is “if I could only get them to see where I’m coming from, then they’d understand.”  What is ironic about this thought is that both people are thinking it.  Both people come to the conversation with the need to share their point of view, their side of the story.  With these two conflicting viewpoints, no wonder most conversations get no where!

To solve this clash of views, something has to give.  That is where seeking first to understand comes in.  This takes a lot of willpower!  You have to shut off your own inner voice and have a genuine curiosity about the other person’s point of view.  One of the best techniques I’ve found is to paraphrase what the person just said in the form of a question.  I might say, “So what you mean is…”  Almost every time I get it at least partially wrong!  My view is too limited to understand where the other person is coming from because we have different experience.  This paraphrased question gives the person time to reflect on what they actually mean, and clarify my understanding where I got it wrong.  What is amazing about this is that once you have clarified what the conversation is actually about, you can get accomplish something.

Imagine this conversation.  Your friend sits down at church and grumpily says, “I don’t really see the point of going to church anyway.”  This is a loaded statement, flags should go off!  You could jump in with 1,000 arguments about fellowship, great teaching, Biblical commands, etc… but instead you think it’s kind of odd that your friend, a regular church goer, has made this comment.  You ask a clarifying question, “So you think church is a waste of time?”  Your friend responds, “Not exactly, what I mean is…”  Well there goes the need for all of your 1,000 arguments!  The conversation isn’t really about church at all.  After a few more clarifying questions, it becomes apparent that what the conversation is about is that your friend’s car got hit in the parking lot on his way to church.  Who saw that one coming (M. Night Shyamalan is that you)?  I know that I would not be able to make the connection from “what’s the point of church” to “I’m frustrated about my car.”

The point of this story is that you cannot see another person’s perspective until you have curiosity to, and then take initiative to ask questions.  If you had jumped in with your 1,000 arguments you would have gotten no where, because no number of Biblical commands are going to pop the dent out of your friends car!  You have to be talking about what is actually on the person’s mind.

The second advantage of Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood is the then to be understood part.  Anyone will be more likely to listen once they have felt understood.  If they know that you have heard them ,because you paraphrased it back to them, they will be more open to listening to your side.  This allows the great two way street of communication to flow without a traffic jam!

After reading 7 Habits I picked up a book called Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen in the Harvard Business Review series.  They call Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood, “Listening From a Learning Perspective.”  I was amazed at the similarities.  Both books talk about having curiosity, discovering the two sides of the story, paraphrasing back your understanding, and asking clarifying questions when confronted with a loaded statement.  Both touted the benefits of letting the other person know that they are understood first.  My advice is to read 7 Habits first, and if you’re interested in this principle, start with chapter 5.  Then go pick yourself up a copy of Difficult Conversations because it is equally loaded with great thoughts!

“People never change without first feeling understood.” ~ Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen (Difficult Conversations)

Have you tried this habit; did it work like magic for you like it did for me?  Share in the comments below!

My God

My God…
Rap by Pastor Jason Chu, Beijing International Christian Fellowship

My God is not an old white man to be feared
With a list of rules that’s as long as his beard

He’s not a creation scientist
Who thinks if you can explain the rain that it makes it less great

My God is not a conservative Sex Ed teacher

Not a tract
not a VHS tape
not a bumper sticker
With a bogus slogan chosen for controversy
Or a candidate who managed to attract the right… wing.

He’s on the wrong side of the tracks – Palestines and Iraqs
He’s behind every person whose culture has turned their backs
He’s beside every divide to provide for both sides

He’s on top of the world…

…and still holds it together.

He’s the most clever

Sometimes he’s seen in Esther
Mary, Theresa, Lydia, Deborah
Rashawna, Jingyi, Eunju, Emma
Julie, Jessii, Tori, Becca

My God is not a limited release
You don’t have to line up – preorder – show up – and show receipts

He’s not a neatly produced show on stage
Or a test prep book with the answers in the back page

My God is not the Texas board of education

He’s not Jesus Camp but he’s also not The Simpsons

My God cries and my God laughs
He knows how it feels to drink cold beer in the bath
My God has a sense of humor
So he created me – an Asian pastor that raps

My God is strong enough to not need to prove himself
He’s big enough that he can fill any room in the house
He likes the little people
The hurting
The lost
The ones who lost their virginity to someone who stopped calling

He’s a father whose children didn’t listen
But he never lost his patience and lets us come home
And our room in the basement is always waiting and vacant
With fresh sheets on the bed and fresh food for the taking

My God loves weddings
He dances on the floor until long after the last guest has bounced
He doesn’t wear a crown / ring / bling / or white gown
But every head turns when he’s up in the house

He responds – to text messages, tweets, and gchat
He’s not afraid when I offer my honest feedback

‘cause he knows the shape of my eyes thighs and veins
And he loves them – even when I think I need to lose weight

He knows what it feels like to be beaten by a lover
Abandoned by a mother
Without a roof for cover
He knows what it’s like to have to stay undercover
Afraid of what others would do if they discovered

He listens to alcoholic confessions
Gives late night blessings in midnight sessions
Sometimes, keeps me guessing – but only if there’s a point to learn
He even cares when my other friends are unconcerned

He loves widows, orphans, gay people, straight

He’s crying tears of anger for every single rape

Every child hurt – every heart that breaks

Everything that aches with an unforgiven pain

And he’s there in Rwanda and he’s there in Kuwait

And he’s there shedding tears at every mass grave

And he tears off masks to expose every face

And in front of his eyes there’s no room to play games

‘Cause he’s every mother’s kiss and he’s every father’s gaze

And he’s the God of every person who’s been stood up for a date

And he doesn’t care what you call it

It’s not about the words

He just wants you

You

You

You.


My God…

Silence

Modern society is terrified of silence.  We walk into the grocery store and carefully chosen music is playing over the speaker system.  In fact, while we are driving to said grocery store, we are likely to be listening to the radio or iPod.  We listen to music while we work, exercise, and drive.  When we come home, the television is on “for background noise”.  Now, none of these things are inherently bad; listening to something while I work out, for instance, at least triples the amount of time I can run without getting bored.  But when we are used to constant noise, day in and day out, it becomes part of our reality.  If the noise is taken away, we are unnerved and even scared.

This is not just true for noise; it also holds for other mindless distractions that take us away from the important aspects of our lives.  Take, for instance, this commercial for a Motorola phone:  

One could argue that I’m reading way too much into a simple commercial, I suppose, but these things have armies of marketers behind them whose job it is to study our habits, hobbies, activities, etc.  They have determined that telling potential customers that their product will help them work more efficiently in order to spend more time playing Angry Birds is a method that works and will get people to buy their product.  What bothers me about the commercial is not what it says, but what it assumes.  It assumes that our daily life consists of work and mindless activities (to take our mind off of work, but that’s a topic for another post).  When we are done with work and have, presumably, free time, we spend it on mindless activities.  We watch TV; we play video games; we browse Facebook for two hours.

If you are at home reading this, try a little experiment.  Close your music player.  Close all your browser windows/tabs (except this one!).  If you can, turn off the air conditioning or fans for a minute.  The goal here is to make your environment as quiet and distraction-free as possible.  Wait for one minute – yes you can stop reading now – and come back when your minute is up.  Now that all distractions are gone, how are you feeling?  Anxious?  Worried?  If so, you might be relying on those distractions without realizing it.

I should point out here that I live by myself and don’t have cable.  There is a LOT of quiet time in my apartment, so it doesn’t cause me anxiety any more.  But when I lived with people, I always wanted them around.  Being alone in a quiet room, even if it was only a dorm room, was a little bit unnerving to me.  Now that I have a bit more control over my environment, I find that I am more able to deal with quiet and distraction/free environments when my life is generally going well.  If I’m stressed out and/or anxious about anything, my ability to tolerate silence becomes almost zero.  Those are usually the times when you can find me playing random Flash games online.  It comes down to this: when it’s quiet, I am alone with my thoughts.  Sometimes I don’t like what I find there, so I try to block it out by distracting myself.

So if you tried my experiment and found yourself becoming more anxious without the constant noise and distractions of daily life, ask yourself why.  Are you trying to hide something from yourself?  Is there something on your mind that you would rather ignore and not think about that needs to be dealt with?  Or are you just so used to constantly being subconsciously distracted that you don’t even notice?

Full disclosure: About halfway through writing this post, I closed down everything else on my computer.  I even shut off my fan – and it’s 85 degrees in my apartment.  My problem is not so much noise but the Angry Birds-type mindless game distractions.  If I don’t have three or four windows open at any given time, I worry that I’m missing something.  That’s what I found from this experiment, and now I hope to fix that.  

Expand Your World

When someone asks you about the most significant part of your faith as a Christian (if you happen to be one), what comes to mind first? I think at least the majority of us, if not all, would point to our quiet time with God. To be a Christian seems so innately tied to that time when you can be alone with God – reading the Word, listening to praise music, praying, journaling – whatever it looks like. Is that it though?

Recently, I read a blog post by a guy named Tullian Tchividjian (whew, what a name!) on the Resurgence Blog, titled “Spirituality isn’t Inward.” (It’s a great post, so go give it a read!). This post rocked my world. I totally hadn’t even thought about the idea that the truest form of spirituality isn’t what I do in my quiet time with the Lord, but how my faith impacts and interacts with others. In the post, he references James 1:27, which states:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world”

Woah. So God views my actions towards others and my actions with regard to sin to be the most “pure and undefiled” expression of my religion.

Tullian raised the point that “Sin turns us inward, the Gospel turns us outward.” Isn’t that so true? As I focus more and more upon myself and the inward pursuit of conquering sin and “growing” in my faith, I actually cease to “grow” and my world shrinks around myself. Jesus came and didn’t call us to a faith that causes us to be obsessed with ourselves and our inner triumphs and failures. He called us to a faith that actually does something. A faith that interacts with others, not just between myself and God.

Matthew 5:14-17 says: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Could it be said better than that? Don’t “put a bowl” over your faith, but let your world expand to include the lives of others. Don’t just focus upon yourself to the point of shrinking your world, but focus upon the lives of others as well, allowing your world to grow as you shine the light of Jesus to others.

Pumpkin Passion!

Every so often I like to spice up my blog a little bit and share an interesting story with my readers. Most of my friends and family know what I have been up to this summer, but I have yet to enlighten the blogging world. These past few months, I have set out on a mission to grow a GIANT pumpkin. It all started in 1998 when my dad grew a 294lb giant and won first place at the Morton Pumpkin Festival. 294lbs is heavy for a pumpkin, but the world record stands at 1,810.5lbs!!!  This is where my story begins.

I may not be breaking the world record this summer, but I am certainly setting out to grow my first GIANT pumpkin! Before I arrive at my reasoning for writing this post, I want to share what growing a giant pumpkin entails. At this point, I believe I could come close to writing a book on the art of growing giant pumpkins, but I will keep my idea in a nutshell. In April of this year, I ordered my giant pumpkin seed online from P&P Seed Company. Because my funds were limited, I purchased one seed and put all my faith into that little guy! I first planted my seed inside and created ideal conditions for pumpkin germination. On May 15th, I transplanted Hublee (the name of my pumpkin plant) into the ground. Since that day, Hublee has emerged into a massive plant almost consuming all of his 30×30 foot square. It is amazing to watch how a seed, the size of a quarter, grows into an enormous green giant. I will also add that Hublee’s seed came from a 994lb pumpkin!

As Hublee continued to grow, small baby pumpkins started to appear on his vines. The key to growing a giant pumpkin is to choose one baby pumpkin and cut all the others off.  This way, all of the plant’s nutrients go into this one fruit. On July 5th, I chose the pumpkin I wanted to keep and began cutting the others off. As of last night, Judy (the name for my pumpkin) is the size of a beach ball. She has nearly tripled in size this past week! My goal is to enter Judy in the Morton Pumpkin Festival Weigh Off on September 13th. Some people ask me why I chose to grow a giant pumpkin this summer while trying to balance school, work, and life all at once. For one, I am fascinated at how one small seed can turn into a 1,000+ pound fruit. At the same time, I have taken another view on growing giant pumpkins.

In life, I often see and hear stories of how people waste their time with video games, the internet, television, and other consuming activities. Through my pumpkin story, I want to encourage you to seek out one of your passions or hobbies that can add value to other people. At first, I was growing this pumpkin for myself, in hopes of beating my dad’s record :). As I began sharing my story with others, in a way, I created a small community of people. Every week, I send out pictures to family and friends of Judy’s growing progress. Whenever I have the opportunity, I try to take a new person down to see Hublee and Judy. Whether I am out at work or in school, I attempt to bring up my GIANT pumpkin story and always manage to get a chuckle out of people. After the pumpkin festival, my ultimate goal is to donate Judy to a ST Jude family so they can carve her out for Halloween. From this story, I want to encourage readers to be creative with their passions. Your ideas could range from growing GIANT pumpkins to building a pumpkin catapult! (ask Tyler about that!) In the end, seek out something you enjoy and find a way to share that joy with others.

“This is one small step for pumpkins and one giant leap for pumpkin-kind.” – Anonymous

One more thing, if you would like to see Judy and Hublee for yourself, do not hesitate to ask!

Leadership Defined

insert picture of dictionary open to the word leadership, those little pegs that no one really knows what they are, or penguins jumping off of an ice berg here.

I love to define words; I would call it a hobby.  My friends can tell you that I am always specific with which words I choose and I’m always looking up new ones.  I believe words have power and that different words communicate different things.  “I meant to say dislike not hate!”  I especially enjoy complicated words like love, hope, or leadership.  I think I like definitions because it gives people a language to communicate consistently.  If you and I understand the same definition, we can exchange complex ideas easily.  Definitions are revealing to me, I hope that they can teach you something as well.

A lot of people have tried, and will try to define leadership.  In fact, there are plenty of bad definitions of leadership:

  • You cannot use a word to define itself: The activity of leading a group of people or an organization, or the ability to do this. (Business Dictionary – lol, how can these guys get it wrong?)
  • I like this one but it is trying to incorporate too many ideas into one sentence:  “Leadership is the professed desire and commitment to serve others by subordinating personal interests to the needs of those being led through effectively demonstrating the experience, wisdom and discernment necessary to leverage trust & influence to cause the right things, to happen for the right reasons, at the right times.” (Blogging Innovation) Confused yet?
  • This is just incorrect, most modern leadership theory will tell you leadership is not a position“The office or position of a leader.” (Merriam Webster)

Phew, now that we’re done laughing, let’s look at some definitions that I like.  I do not think that leadership’s entire essence can be easily contained in a single definition, so I’ve adopted the stance of having a few.  Here are my top five definitions for leadership, in no particular order:

1.  “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~ Mark 10:43-45, Matthew 20:26-28 (NIV)

2.  “Leadership is influence; nothing more, nothing less.” ~ John C. Maxwell

3.  “Leadership is seeing an opportunity, responding appropriately, getting others to follow in the process, whether you want to or not, without being asked.” ~ Fran Kick

4.  “Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.” ~ Stephen Covey

5.  “Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” ~ Peter Drucker

These definitions cover a huge amount of thought.  So leadership involves service, humility, influence, taking initiative, having followers, communication, valuing people, casting vision, and on and on.  Each of these topics could have a couple blog posts each, but these do not cover everything!  Where are the thoughts on organization, character, integrity, love, and on and on?

Ultimately, my advice is this: do not get caught up in a single definition of leadership thinking it covers everything – keep an open mind and continue to search for other definitions and ideas.  That is why the picture is white!  Be able to talk about leadership using a mash up of the current ideas.  Define complex words using a paragraph because different definitions will appeal to different people.  Different situations will call for different roles to be taken by a leader leading to different definitions.  Maybe someday we’ll have the perfect paragraph to describe leadership.  Until then, do you have a favorite definition?  Share in the comments below.

Great Success?

Ambition is a sneaky thing. It’s one of those words that seems to have both a positive and negative connotation. As I think about my life, one of my greatest prayers is the request that God would simply show me the calling that he has waiting for me. What is it that he wants me to do? Where do I go next? There is a whole wealth of christian literature out there that strongly promotes a mentality of working hard and achieving great things for God’s kingdom in one’s life. Immediately what comes my mind are the books Don’t Waste Your Life and Do Hard Things by John Piper and the Harris brothers, respectively. Though these influences play somewhat of a role, I think it to be interesting that the strongest thing that screams into my ear “DO SOMETHING!” is not a christian source, but the world. Within that question, “What’s your major?” lies a whole world of meaning. “What will you do with your life?” That question scares me. One of my deepest fears is being pigeonholed into a job. On the one hand, I desire to be a provider for my family and seek stability. On the other, I can’t bear the thought of reaching the end of my life and having missed out on some grandiose calling and adventure that the Lord had for me. I want to do something big.

But where is the calling? “Just show me, Lord, and I’ll do it!” I say. quietly, the Lord responds: “If I gave you a calling, you would forget the caller.”

 

Oh.

 

You see, God isn’t in the business of giving us idols. If my future could be an idol, He will teach me to say, “All my hope is in you, not my future.” Think about Matthew 7:23, where Jesus says the the evildoer, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” At the end of time, what matters isn’t what I’ve achieved but who I know. Do I believe that God has a great, awesome calling for each one of us? Absolutely. Do I believe that he has placed some call upon my life? Certainly. I do know that he wants me to get to know him and to spend time with him.This is the most important call upon our lives; to know God.

To paraphrase Os Guiness, “As we fulfill our calling, we do not tire, for we get closer and closer to the caller.”

Knowing God comes first. If we try to find significance in what we do with our lives, we will fail. Our significance must come from an inward relationship and connection with the very person who created within us the need for significance. On our deathbeds, we will only be able to say, “My life was a success” if we have realized our true, primary calling, which is to know and to love God.

 

“A whole new generation of Christians has come up believing that it is possible to “accept” Christ without forsaking the world” – A.W. Tozer

Every Sunday night I have the opportunity to sit down and fellowship with my awesome youth group. I always look forward to this time together because we share our stories from the past week, talk about challenges or obstacles we may be facing, and also read and discuss stories in the bible. Lately, only my youth group leader and I have been meeting on Sunday nights. These past few weeks he has given me the challenge to read more of my bible. With the combination of work, summer school, and other personal obligations, you will find me buried in my microbiology book more than my bible!

This past Sunday night, my youth group leader Paul and I met together. He asked me how my daily reading of the Word has been going and I explained to him my busy schedule, at least what I thought was a busy schedule. Paul understood my circumstances with school and work, but he also wanted to teach me a valuable lesson, the importance of reading the Word and my relationship with God.

As a relatively new Christian, until Paul and I talked, I failed to realize how crucial the Word is to my personal growth. Even though life can be busy, I need to remember who I put first. In the heat of school, work, and life, I need to remember my relationship with God. He is the one who can give me the strength, courage, and hope that I need to make it through my day.  Recently, I have found myself pursuing a relationship with God that I want. In the book, The Man in the Mirror, the author Patrick Morley describes this idea as Cultural Christianity VS Biblical Christianity.

Here is his definition of  Cultural Christianity:

Cultural Christianity means to pursue the God we want instead of the God who is. It is the tendency to be shallow in our understanding of God, wanting Him to be more of a gentle grandfather type who spoils us and lets us have our own way. It is sensing a need for God, but on our own terms. It is wanting the God we have underlined in our Bibles without wanting the rest of Him, too. It is God relative instead of God absolute.  

Even though I have been busy these past few weeks, I still need to set time aside to read the Word and be with God. Who is number one in your life? Do you see yourself as a Cultural Christian, pursuing the God you want, or do you see yourself as a Biblical Christian, pursuing the God who is? Take a look at the sower parable. Morley describes four groups of “Christians” that exists in today’s society:

Group 1 – The Non-Christian:  Those along the path are the ones who heat, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved (Luke 8:12).

Group 2 – The Cultural Christian: Type “C”: Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away (Luke 8:13).

Group 3 – The Cultural Christian: Type “D”: The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures, and they do not mature (Luke 8:14).

Group 4 – The Biblical Christian: But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop (Luke 8:15).

Can you identify yourself within one of the four groups listed above? Maybe after reading you realized that you are more of a Cultural Christian than a Biblical Christian. If so, Morley shares a few ideas that can help you seek a Biblical Christian lifestyle. To begin, examine the influences you expose yourself to (friends, music, movies, books, internet) Look at your set of values, are they biblical or cultural. In the end, be patient with yourself, pray about your struggles with God, and remember, “The man in the mirror will never change until he is willing to see himself as he really is, and to commit to know God as He really is.”