a clarification about my perspective on the American Dream

Over the course of the GIVE UP series, we have mentioned often the status quo of the American Dream. We have even gone so far as to say that I cannot follow Jesus AND follow after the normal pursuits of the American Dream. Now, this is not a statement about “America.” Simply a statement about what is commonly called “the American Dream.”

For today’s devotional, I wanted to share with you a brief clarification with regard to my perspective on the American Dream, as well as a brief encouragement to you as we continue to learn and live the ways of Jesus together. Here is what I shared this past Sunday morning:

If anything, the GIVE UP series challenged us all that the status quo pursuit of the American Dream is a contradiction to what Jesus intended for His followers. Following Jesus means denying myself, taking up my cross, and loving my neighbor as I walk daily in love relationship with Him. The normal pursuit of the American Dream means advancing myself, taking up more stuff, and being so busy I don’t even know my neighbor’s name and am so distracted I have difficulty hearing Jesus. The challenge is not one of being poor or even surrendering wealth. The challenge Jesus gave to people over and over again was one not centered around having much or having little, but centered around the fact that He is enough.

To surrender the American Dream and take up your cross is not necessarily a surrender of wealth (unless that has become your idol). It is a surrender of pursuit. It is a surrender of traditions. It is a surrender to have sabbath so that we can hear Him. It is a surrender to confessing that Jesus is enough, and then daily listening to Him, loving Him, and giving His love away such that life blossoms in others. Then, He will change “life I’ve always wanted” from being “the American Dream” to being life in relationship with Him and life given away into the people “in my way.”

The people “in my way” – what does that mean? Well, tune in for Thursday’s devo in two days to dive into that thought.

Meanwhile, I wanted to encourage @WestpointChurch (our church family) with Romans 12:

1 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 2 Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. 3 I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

4 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. 5 The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, 6 let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; 7 if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; 8 if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

9 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. 10 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. 11 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, 12 cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. 13 Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. 14 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. 15 Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.

16 Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. 17 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. 18 If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. 19 Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” 20 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. 21 Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

I am so thankful for the most loving and willing to give it all away church family on the planet!!! Thank you for your willingness to keep listening fully to Jesus. Thank you for being open to His teachings transforming even the most dear traditions and customs of your families and lives. Thank you for how you already are living sent, giving yourselves away. Thank you for all you are teaching me as a follower, a husband, a dad, a friend, a leader, and a servant.

PRAY_Lord, please continue to unite us in togetherness around Your love and in sentness to be Your love letter to our culture.

LIVE_love one of your neighbors and one of your co-workers this week in some very specific way. Expect no praise. Expect nothing in return. But give friendship like it has a limitless supply.

I love you so very much. Excited about what this summer will bring. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for our next series, which will kick off June 27th – SUMMER LOVE.