This past week brought tragic news of a land slide in a local St. Paul park.  It found a group of fourth graders who were on a fossil finding field trip completely by surprise.  In the end 2 boys died in the slide and 2 were hospitalized.  Many were traumatized by those events.  I imagine it will take a while before groups travel that area of the park. It will be a while before many of those who were there are willing to venture into similar areas.   My prayers go out to the families who lost two sons so very young, and to the two families dealing with the trauma of hospitalization.  I pray for the teachers and field trip leaders who found themselves in a completely unexpected event.

I know how unsettling it can feel even just to walk on the bank of a shallow pond and have the ground beneath you give way.  We like it on solid ground.  We like the stability who assures us that our next step is sure. I even remember recently moving from one split entry house to another.  Our new home has one extra step down to the lover level from the landing.  What a terrible feeling it is when you are certain your next step will be on level ground and you were wrong.

These are the days our culture and country are in.  This is how it must feel for youth when it seems the number of steps changing every day.  I began this article with the title “The Downward Spiral of Culture” with some great photos of seemingly bottomless spiral stair cases.  I soon discovered that was a poor analogy for what is happening in our country.  I see nothing as simple as taking a few steps back up to correct and change corse.  This is going to take a huge effort, the changes needed are foundational changes. It will take earth movers, retaining walls, and massive labor just to slow the slide.  I can not even begin to imagine the effort to put it back the way it was before the slide.

In the last 24 hours we all learned that  the Boys Scouts of America are changing course and allowing openly gay youth in their ranks.  I have been a long advocate for scouting but this is a slip in a dangerous direction.  Even if It were not a matter of right and wrong in the gay lifestyle, (let me be clear on my position, it is wrong) the danger lies below the actual decision.  This decision opens the doors for demanding voices to tell a private organization how they can and can not choose to operate.  Soon I fear the slop will bring the BSA to allowing openly gay scout leaders.   How can what was once fundamentally wrong with in an organization suddenly become right.

Now it calls other beliefs long-held by the scouts into question. Is loyalty and bravery really important ? how about reverent? Aren’t these outdated ideas as well.  Just because they were good in the past….

What about your congregation, are you free to hold faith issues and beliefs that seem contrary to the culture?  Will your hiring standards be open to challenge from those who think differently?  We have already been told that we must fund procedures in our health plan that are contrary to our sacred beliefs on the sanctity of human life.

I think the christian community in America has sold out for lie.  It is a subtle lie, from the lips of the deceiver himself.  This lie seems even nobel of us.  The lie is “We are to live lives different and apart from the world.”  Why it even sounds like something the Bible might say.  It has become the basis of self judgement, to see if we are holding our own in a world that is falling apart.  We seem to hit the mark yet of being different, even noticeably different from the world.

We are not called to be different than the world.

We are called to be like Christ.

I know some of you are calling me a nit picker, saying I’m just going off about words. It’s not just a battle of words, it is a shift in the way we think. It is seeing through the lie that Satan has sold us all.

If we simply are different than the world we can just follow their decline and keep a safe but ever shrinking distance.  After all it is easy to be different, to even convince ourselves that we are “better.”  After all we don’t get as drunk as they do.  Sure we might lie once in a while, but we are not using God’s name in vain.  Our hatred is “righteous anger.”

If we are called to be like Christ we are not after a moving target.  Christ is the unchanging God, his standards and image do not change or shift.  They are rock solid.  His example is not unclear or hidden.  His desire for us is spoken plainly through His Word.

Follow the example of Christ:

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
John 13:14-16

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1

Follow the unchanging example of Christ:

God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
Numbers 23:19

Follow the unchanging example of Christ and we will be different, for we are!

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9

Let us not be people after a safe distance apart, but people after the very image and likeness of Christ.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:1-11

<>< Craig

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