Provoke: to stir to action or feeling.

I’m not sure where I am at the moment – but in the last week or so I’ve been a bit challenged about a few things. I’ve had a few big conversations – I like them.
You know, the ones that you walk away from going – yes!! I’m not the only one who thinks like this. And what do we do about it?
Well it’s pretty simple, we are meant to be provoking/stirring one another up to good works and love.. (read it here)

I suppose, it was a conversation which began with a little discussion about God and in the end you find yourself in awe. This is what our conversations are meant to do, is it not?
I think we all too often forget who our God is – that He is the God of the Israelites, the big God who caused seas to part and called the world into being. I think that all too many of us have reduced Him to a size that we are comfortable with… I’m not sure how different we are to the Israelites of Eli’s time who hid Him (the ark of the covenant) away in the temple and brought him out when things got tough. The temple had become a place where anything and everything was going on…

I’m going to personalise today – I’m not looking at churches and passing judgement. I am looking at me and trying to examine my life a little. I’ve checked if there are any areas of similarity between my life and that of Eli, and if I’m honest, yes there are.

I’m not a big fan of the “If Jesus came to your house what would you have to pack away out of his sight” idea. Why? I’m not a firm believer in guilt being used to change hearts – all that guilt does as far as I’ve seen, is cause shame and shame paralyses. (A good book about this – Tired of Trying to Measure Up)
But a few questions to consider: are there things that I would change, put away, jokes I wouldn’t tell? Would I be encouraging Jesus to sit down with me to watch the latest episodes of what I am watching?
What have I encouraged my friends to do lately? What have you encouraged your friends to do? I don’t think I’ve heard any one say – you really should read the books of Samuel again. I have heard people say you really need to go and see this movie or that movie …I have said it. Maybe we are in a bit of an “anything goes” culture at the moment. Maybe it’s because we’ve become a generation who are afraid to confront what is wrong – because in so doing we fall into the popular culture definition of a Christian as “one who judges”. Maybe we’re afraid our Christians friends will be quick to label us as Pharisees. Maybe we aren’t sure what we think about anything anymore. Maybe in our desire to avoid judging “lest we be judged” we’ve overlooked a very real responsibility we have to provoke one another to good works.

If we do say no to the recommended viewing suggestions of our fellow future citizens of heaven, I think we need to be more free in explaining why.
“I’m saying no because I’m not happy to let that content into my mind. I’m not judging you I’m just saying this is not a path I’m happy to walk. I know that I will not be able to remove that from my mind. It will not help me to be transformed, it will not help me to be renewed, it will not help me to set my mind on things above. It is not something that I consider to be true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of virtue or praiseworthy—this is not something I want to meditate on ….”
I don’t say this however because I’m afraid you will think that I’m judging you. I’m sure you do the same for me, this doesn’t help me my friends.

I think that this is a job as Christians we need to stop overlooking. We need to encourage each other in edifying pursuits.

Last week I’ve had a few conversations that have brought that to the front of my mind again. There are things about our culture that I struggle with. The entertainment industry is one of them – not because I’m super spiritual or super pious. I know I’ve watched things, been to things, engaged in activities that I would not have had I been operating in the spirit.
One of the conversations I did have this week was about the creative arts and Christianity. The fact that we are designed to by a creative God to be creative. The entrance of sin into our world certainly upset the order there. We became beings who were driven by self and the love of self. We became selfish – as creative beings we can choose to be either motivated and inspired by the Holy Spirit or by self, sin. We can make our decisions either through the spirit or through self. The difference between the two is quite stark. We can see the difference when we look in the Old Testament. The Israelites wanted a king they chose Saul, God had David waiting for them. The Israelites wanted a visible god they made the golden calf, God gave them the tabernacle. We can see it when we look at our entertainment industry. I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to engage with what is being produced … and I guess I’m starting to realise why. The entertainment that has been created by the sinful nature doesn’t feed the Christian soul, it doesn’t leave the soul full or satisfied.

As Christians we have a couple of responsibilities; I think one is to create in such a way that is obviously Spirit led. That doesn’t mean it will be cheesy, which is all too often what happens. What should happen is literature like “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”, “The Lord of the Rings”.
We should be producing the best the industry has to offer, not the most popular probably, but certainly the best.
Our music should be different, it should be the best, not too much of it is. Our TV programmes should look good, our acting should be better, our art should be the most beautiful. After all we have the Spirit within us who was present at and actively engaged in creation! We should be producing the best. We should be demanding better, we should be asking for more than we are getting.
We should be different to the rest in a good way, a better way. We should be provoking one another to produce better “stuff”.
I don’t think we should be satisfied with what the creative man can make when he is inspired by sin.
Too many of us are for some reason. Too many of us are happy to indulge in viewing and reading material that has been conceived and birthed in sinful imaginations and sin-filled minds. Too many of us are content to feed on food that indulges, celebrates, gratifies and glorifies the depravity of sinful man.
Do we indulge in this and then walk away satisfied? Why do we walk away unsatisfied? Because we are not made for here as Mr Lewis says … If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.

I’ve watched my share of junk over the years and I’ve sat through my share of sermons/ messages outlawing and decrying the content. I’ve heard it legislated against. I’ve heard the reality of my Christianity being called into question because of something I’ve watched on tv … I’ve certainly been made to feel guilty, ashamed. I haven’t heard too many messages that provoked me to do good, to be better, to be wiser. I haven’t been empowered to make better choices I haven’t been encouraged to allow the Spirit to work more unhindered in all of my decision making even down to what I view.
We should be provoking one another to do good.
I think we need to encourage each other to examine how we engage with culture and the world in which we live.

As Christians our responsibility in the day and age is simple.
We should be provoking, stirring each other up to do good and love … I think this applies right now at this moment in our history too.

I understand what marriage is. I understand who instituted it, I understand that it is meant to be a representation of Christ and the church, I understand what it is meant to be.
How many marriages do you know of that are like this?

As Christians surely this is where we get to make our stand, in our own marriages that demonstrate what it is, what God defines it as. It will not be found only in our words, nor will it be found in filling out petitions or waving banners, but in living day by day as He desires us to.
How many more souls would be won through seeing a godly marriage rather than hearing what one should look like. Live it out believers. Be different. Be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within you. Be ready to explain what makes you different. Be ready and willing to stand out as different because you are. You are a child of God, you are sons and daughters of light. Be the light, be the salt. The best way to do this is to be different not to rail against what is.

I do believe that we are meant to be preaching the gospel of grace through our words, our deeds and our actions.
We are meant to be provoking one another to good works.
We are meant to be the light and salt in the world that is on its way to destruction.

So, next time we are talking: how about you do what you are meant to do, and I’ll do what I’m meant to too?

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