I was thinking back to about a year ago when I was listening to Reggie Joiner speak at Orange Conference. He made a statement that stuck with me, and popped into my head the other day. He said this, “On his way to save everyone, Jesus stopped to save someone.” I love that. In the context of what he was talking about was the story of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a man that no one liked, and he wasn’t really likable. Despite what he had done, he wanted to listen to the teachings of Jesus, and Jesus called him to be greater. God sent his son to save everyone and he started by saving someone.
We are officially in a new year. It’s a great time; we all are thinking about the past and now thinking about what we want the future to be. I know for my dear Danielle and I, we have been looking at what we want this year. Habits we want to begin, things we need to cut out, vision casting for the future. I love looking to the future, but often, I get caught up in the future and end up missing right now. There have been many moments where I want to do something, but ended up getting held back because I was not “experienced” enough. So, I strived in the past to get to the next level, do whatever it takes to gain influence. Now, for me, this never meant being a bully to get ahead, but it did mean I would get so focused on who I needed to impress and which boxes to check to move up. I was trying to speed through a game, without taking time to have fun.
What I’ve been learning is that I need to stop rushing into what’s next and enjoy where I am. I need to be present.
“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the sky. Those who lead many others to do what is right will be like the stars for ever and ever.”
We are influenced all the time. I’m not sure the actual data, but we see a ton of advertisements all day. We follow people we look up to on social media. We watch our friends for the latest “in” thing, whether it’s advice on the movie to see this weekend or the latest productivity app. The things we consume all send us messages, positive and negative. The point I’m making is that there are influences all around us, but which ones are taking root? That’s the thing with our sin, it all often comes back to a passing thought we let take root in our heart. This idea has been sticking out to me recently. It’s made me think about my life and caused me to ask two important questions that I think we all need to ask ourselves. Who is influencing me and who am I influencing? Today I want to unpack those two questions and tell you what God has been speaking to me as a way to be wise when I look at those questions.
This past week I had the awesome opportunity to go to Camp Kidjam as a leader for my church. I love camp. There really is nothing quite like it. Being out of your home in a new place with a group of kids and being able to share the love of Jesus with them. Going into camp I was really praying for my group of four, fourth and fifth grade boys that I would be leading a small group with over the days of being there. I always want to be intentional with the relationships I am in, so I was excited for what God was going to teach and show them. What I hadn’t fully realized was that God wanted to teach and show me some things about him and about my calling into full time ministry. Funny how that can happen isn’t it? We get so engrossed in other people that we forget about what we ourselves can learn. I was so focused on what they would learn, but God wanted to teach me as well. In our leader devotionals, the first day spoke to the fact that God has something for us not just for the kids you were leading. God showed me something very important, something that each of us can apply in our lives.
Culture is all around us. We are exposed to each of our cultures on a daily basis; the messages and ideas are thrown at us constantly, and we don’t even pick up on all of it. It’s so ingrained in each of us that these messages don’t even phase us anymore, things become normal. In our normalcy we become numb. I bring up this idea of culture because I study culture at my university. I am a communication studies major (not communications, you’d lose a hand if you said that to any of the professors), and in this field I am able to look at how messages are communicated to each other, and culture comes from this communication. A culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication. Culture influences us, culture changes the way we think and culture has us accept things that they are normal, but we are weird. When you become weird, you can never go back to being normal.