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Abnormal.


There was a time when living the Christian life was considered normal. You know, the retail world had it's blue laws limiting sales on Sunday. Classrooms opened with daily prayer and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Extra-curricular pursuits like scouting, little league sports, piano and dance lessons, party time, and many other involvements adjusted schedules to permit Wednesday evening church participation. Cars pulled to side of the road in respect to passing funeral processions. People went to church, carried Bibles, asked blessings over meals, and voted their Christian ideals. Who can forget when President Ronald Reagan said, "If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under", in 1984, thirty-five years ago. It was just who we were then.

Of course, this is now, and cultural norms change. And, I know, whine, whine, whine about change. Don't misunderstand. I'm an advocate of change: own a tablet; MAC; iPhone; write a blog; wear a FitBit; watch YouTube; listen to Serius radio; have FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts; shop at Amazon; have a Ring doorbell; receive GrubHub delivery often; and prefer contemporary worship. Being old hat isn't my thing. Knowing the truth about God's creation of time and space I know going back there is only in our dreams. I mean, angels are standing guard over the entrance to the Garden of Eden. Just as surely, unless there's a significant worldwide revival, which I pray for several times a day, the spiritual state of the nation will continue a downward trend. With velocity being one of the marks of exponential times what was normal in the last breath won't be normal in the next.

My thing is learning to be abnormal, that is, to live a life that is distinctly different from what is considered normal these days. And, there's another rub in the idea of abnormal too, beyond being different. Abnormal does imply deviation from the norm. Even more, it carries a negative connotation, that of being aggravating, or undesirable. Living this abnormal life is more than taking another path or choosing values and ideals at odds with cultural standards. Living abnormally is doing so with the expectation of receiving some blow-back as a result. That's why, I suppose, these things are called culture wars. It's the scenario when cultures collide.

That's a strong concept for believers, culture wars. For generations these battlegrounds have been familiar territory in politics, education philosophy, the sexual revolution, and gender equality, to mention a few. In modern times people of faith have typically taken flight rather than fight. With spiritual fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control fight just doesn't resonate with faith. But, fight and flight are cultural norms anyway, how the world deals with conflict. Neither really fits the abnormal setting.

Living abnormally requires spiritual discipline as well as spiritual fruit. Two spiritual disciplines provide the character for this kind of life---steadfastness and endurance. The Apostle Paul explained the ideal of steadfastness in his letters to the churches. He wrote---

"...until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to

mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may

no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of

doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Ephesians 4: 13-14, ESV

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work

of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15: 58, ESV

Being steadfast is knowing what we believe and standing firm in it even when it promises being at odds with cultural norms. It is the immovable character to resist being carried about by every wind of doctrine.

We must only look to the example of Jesus Christ when considering endurance. The author of Hebrews wrote---

...looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set

before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the

throne of God.

Hebrews 12:2, ESV

Endurance is continuing Christian commitment in the face of difficulty. It is remaining steadfast in even the hardest circumstances.

At one time living the Christian life was the cultural norm. That is no longer true. Even though a majority of Americans choose the Christian option in identifying religious preferences, fewer and fewer are identified as convictional in our beliefs and lifestyle. The Christian life is no longer the norm. So, we must learn to live abnormally, different than those standards so prevalent around us. It also means expecting some negatives as we do so. And, that will require steadfastness and endurance as sources of spiritual strength.

Lord, teach me to live abnormally.

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