Distinctly World-Wearied

We are not just in the world, we are of the world.  I’m sorry to have to be the one to say it, but it is true.  I am myself guilty. However, I have been noticing a significant groundswell of recognition among American Christians that God designed a rhythm into the universe and we are designed to live in sync with it.  I’ve noticed quite a few books discussing this idea, and quite a few blog posts on the topic. Here’s an excerpt from one a couple days ago:

 

The great festivals of Judaism accomplish the same thing. They shape time. They bring to remembrance things that happened in the past. They focus life on HaShem and, through him, lives find their meaning. This is what Sabbath was created for: it was created to set a rhythm to life. That ‘tradition’ brought with it meaning: to remember the Creator, to remember that we are creatures, and to remember to rest physically from activity and also spiritually in God. Sabbath, like the Jewish festivals and holy days, shape and give meaning to time.

People need traditions because humans are time bound creatures and need something to bring shape and order to their time. We need rhythms in life. In one of my favorite books, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman writes, “With the invention of the clock man stopped focusing on eternity.” The reasoning behind this statement is that what shaped time after the invention of the clock was numbers and seconds and minutes and hours. Before this point time was shaped by evenings and mornings, by Sabbaths and Purims, by Shemas and Sukkots. What gave shape to time were traditions that had a meaning which pointed to our Creator.What ‘traditions’ shape your time? What meanings do those ‘traditions’ bring?

traditions and the rhythm of life « finitum non capax infiniti

What defines us? Biblical time markers or minutes and hours? Who do we work for? With what system do we cooperate, the one that cares for widows and orphans or the one that rewards the arrogant, the greedy and the power-consumed? 

Have you ever considered that something as seemingly innocent as being a slave to your day-timer, your watch or your PDA is being of the world, rather than in the world, yet distinct?  How do you measure the passing of time? It’s Q2 – 2007, it’s almost Spring Break, or it’s almost Pentecost?

People sometimes think that I’m an extremist, and I’m afraid this post may confirm that thought in the mind of some, but my hope is that it can put some things in perspective.

I’m not arguing that wearing watches is dooming our society, rather that it is a small representation of just how far away from a truly biblical mindset and lifestyle we as Christians are.  Not because watches or PDAs are evil, but because they are master over us.  We align our lives to the things of this world, rather than to God’s time markers.

God said:

“Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, Genesis 1:14 (ESV)

Why do you think Sabbath is marked from sunset to sunset?  Why did God command us to observe the beginning of each new month by the sighting of the new moon? Because our lives are to be defined by the cycle that God set in place during creation.  The word translated “seasons” in the ESV is after all, the Hebrew word moedim, which means “appointed times”, and is used in Leviticus 23 to describe the “Feasts of the Lord” that His people are to observe for all their generations.

I hope the reader will understand that when I plead for changes in our lifestyle in order to align our lives with the pattern, the rhythm, and the distinct culture that God designed and intended for His people, it’s because in most cases the manner in which the world’s system has seeped into our lives is so pervasive that we are totally unaware.

People want to protest, “Is that really necessary!?” To which I answer, “You have no idea the myriad ways in which you are of the world rather than in the world, and no idea how thorougly it is impacting your life.  Why are we not light? Why are we not salt? What, I ask, is the difference between your life and that of your neighbor?  Do you look different, eat different, observe time differently, spend your time differently, hold different priorities?  Or is the difference really just that you “believe” something different, and so your eternal destiny is different?  At least, you think it is…

Some books that may help change your perspective:

  • Out of Control by Young & Adams
  • Making Room For Life by Randy Frazee
  • Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva J. Dawn
  • The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel
  • Pilgrim Heart by Darryl Tippens
  • The Connecting Church by Randy Frazee
  • Serve God, Save the World by Matthew Sleeth, M.D.

Listen to the word of the Lord:

But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.’ Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you.  Jeremiah 5:23-25 (ESV)

In ignoring the appointed times, the cycles and the seasons that God has ordained we have turned God’s good away from us.  Heaven forbid that this trend continues.  May we turn back to God, to His ways, to His times, and to his cycles.

Believe, Think, Feel, Do, Believe

For a long time I have been a fan of the theory that what you believe, determines what you think, and what you think determines how you feel, and how you feel manifests itself almost inexorably in how you act (or what you do). (I first ran across this idea in a book by Robert S. McGee titled, The Search for Significance; a book I highly recommend, by the way.)

Believe => Think => Feel => Do

The title of this post indicates my belief that this process is cyclical.  In other words, if you think and feel, but do not act it circumvents the cycle, and the disconnect will produce cognitive (and emotional) dissonance.  This static in the process eventually causes a change in what we really believe, whereas a completion of the cycle further embeds the original belief.  So, in my estimation the process really ought to be visualized like this:

Believe => Think => Feel => Do => Believe

Unfortunately, the American mindset seems to be dominated by an implicit assumption that Christianity consists of:

Believe => Think => Feel

As if whether we feel “happy,” for example, is the goal of the Gospel’s transforming power.  As if, the Gospel can work in us mightily without extending itself into the things we do, the words we say, the way we live, the priorities we cherish, etc.  This abortive philosophy of metamorphosis has resulted in “Christian” lives that look no different from their suburban neighbors, in a world that sees the Gospel as powerless, and an overwhelming number of Christians who do not equate being a “believer” with being a “disciple.”

We can only live changes: we cannot think our way to humanity. Every one of us, every group, must become the model of that which we desire to create. – Ivan Illich, as quoted in The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch, pg 101

There is another aspect to this conversation which I ought to mention before wrapping up this post.  One can study incessantly, but there are certain truths that will never be apprehended without being practiced.  Additionally, the practice of God’s commands (the walking in God’s ways) inherently reveals truths that we would otherwise never connect.  We are human beings, not human doings, however, the act of being cannot be separated from the physical.

God understands this.  We often reflect on the message of Sabbath in relation to the need to cease from doing and rest, however, the converse message is that on the other six days of the week we are to be actively doing the good works which God created long ago for us to walk in (Eph 2:10).  If one is not doing, then one is robbed of the power of ceasing to reflect on the truth of one’s being.  The truth that we are new creations in Messiah, and the anticipation of our eternal Sabbath, which yet awaits the return of Messiah.