New Things Require Renewal
Wind, bone chilling cold, rain, and green—both places have that in common. Despite having lived in Ireland before, there are many things here in Northern Ireland that are very different from the big city living of Dublin. Newcastle is a small seaside town, tucked in by the Irish Sea and the Mourne Mountains. Outside the small town is farmland as far as you can see. Big farms, small farms, sheep farms, cow farms, and crops. Things are done differently here. No one is in a hurry to do anything. You can stop and talk to just about anyone anywhere; shops close at 5:00, many aren’t even open on Sundays. Your eggs come from the farm down the road, and everyone is a cousin to someone else you know. It’s like a step back in time! It’s quite pleasant and I am in no rush to leave it. But the adaptations were intentional and took effort (3 months in and they still do).
What is the key to adapting? Renewing the mind. I remember when this concept really hit me and made sense. Fortunately I got it early on and it really unlocked an ease to the process so far. I was driving down a narrow road, heading to the grocery store, and I got stuck behind a large tractor. They’re everywhere here. It’s a rare day to not see one on the road. The tractors are massive, the wheels are the height of my car, they have bright flashing lights, and they are often pulling trailers (my favourite one was bringing his Christmas tree home in one!). They don’t drive fast and they take up the entire lane. On the rural roads there is no way around them, you just drive behind slowly, waiting for them to turn off the road. I was starting to get frustrated and some not-so-nice thoughts about the country started to creep in. But then I remembered that one of the things I love most about this country is the beautiful green rolling hills, dotted with sheep and cows. You don’t get farmland without tractors! Immediately I found a value in the tractors and the patience to drive slowly once again.
While there are many things here that don’t make sense to me (like why we still don’t have internet at our house), there are many things that are just different. I found myself resisting some things just because they were different than I am used to. But when I learned to stop and look for the value in the difference my perspective changed, and I was able to adapt to and appreciate the cultural differences. This is what renewing the mind is. It’s changing your thoughts, perspective, and belief on a matter.
Americans have a bad name in many countries because of the approach many take to new cultures. “If it’s different than I am used to, it’s wrong!" This has caused a lot of hurt on the mission field as well. We were strongly cautioned to be aware of this and not fall into this pattern. But Christians can fall into this anywhere. Why is there such a prevalent mind-set that we know everything we need to know about God, his Word, and the Church? Why does someone having a different revelation or understanding of something challenge us so much? Could it be that there is more to a topic than we know already? If God is infinite, is it possible that you don’t yet have full understanding?
Whether you know it or not, God is calling you to deeper revelation of him and his word every day. Your PhD in theology doesn’t impress him. Your learning disabilities don’t deter him. Your born-again age doesn’t matter. Our upbringing, experiences, teaching, even our own understanding of the scripture can lead us to conclusions on a matter that don’t align with God’s truth. There’s always more!
The culture of Heaven looks nothing like the cultures of the Earth. There is an adjustment period for everyone coming out of the world’s culture into Gods. Take the disciples for example. They were in the world, doing their thing, running their businesses, living their life how they had been taught and how their parents had lived for generations before them. Jesus called them out of their world into his. There were different rules, words, beliefs, and practices. It took some time for them to adapt. But look at them, they took the Gospel to the ends of the known world! They forever changed nations and cultures. What if they had been unwilling to renew their mind? They wouldn’t have sent a single demon fleeing, one fever running, or saved a single soul. What was the key? Jesus taught, corrected, instructed, and empowered them. They tried new things and failed. They tried again. Failed some more. Jesus didn’t give up on them. He immersed them in the culture of Heaven. Then he left the message of the Gospel in their hands. They continued until their death to seek the “more” that God had for them. They didn’t stop pressing in. They were humble and willing to learn.
Get used to Different!
So, what is your excuse? When something doesn’t work the way it is supposed to, God isn’t the problem. What are the mindsets still keeping you from your “more”? More freedom, more breakthrough, more healing, more peace, more joy, more wonders, more fruit? God wants to take you further out of the culture of this world and deeper into the culture of his Kingdom, where every thought is taken captive, every lofty argument against God is torn down, every lie is kicked out.
Look at the story in Matthew 17, starting at verse 14. A man had brought his son to the disciples to be healed of epilepsy. The disciples couldn’t do it. “It must not have been God’s will!” Nope, Jesus simply rebuked the demon and it fled. So, why couldn’t the disciples do it? Jesus told them (verse 20-21) that it was their unbelief, and the solution to their unbelief was prayer and fasting. Why? Because in prayer we commune with the Father who reveals his wisdom to us. If we are listening, He will teach us. In fasting, we are emptying ourselves, removing the clutter of our flesh. We don’t gain more power in fasting, but we gain a stronger connection to the One who empowers us. Jesus did what he saw the Father doing, and said what he heard the Father saying. Make sure your lines of communication are clear. If you believe something contrary to scripture, how you will be able to partner with God when he wants to do that thing? Much of the reason for our fruitlessness is that we just don’t believe what he said. We are still in bondage to lies and false teaching. Maybe God is ready to do something different!
"Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth;
shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the
wilderness and rivers in the desert." - Isaiah 43:19
Different isn’t bad. It’s like the slogan for The Chosen series “Get used to different.” What is God challenging you into? What different thing does God want to do that is making you uncomfortable? It’s time to value the shift to the new culture and leave the old one behind.
Don’t get caught up in the discomfort of culture change. Let God take you to new places, new heights, and new freedoms. Don’t fear getting stuck behind a tractor or having to do your shopping before 5:00. You will eventually appreciate it!
Nancy M Olsten
1/21/2023 07:18:22 am
Wow! Such a good word and right on time for me. My challenge right now is to change my mindset about stress and feeling overwhelmed, and switching that to "did YOU ask me to do this?" If the answer is "yes", then the power to accomplish it is there as well. Faith and obedience are antidotes for the mindset of overwhelm.
1/21/2023 09:33:55 am
This was good, so insightful to the word of slowing down and trusting where God has placed you. When Caleb and I went to Hawaii the Lord told us we would be taught culture. That was so multifaceted and enriched our lives so much. Although it was a shock, it was also humbling.
1/23/2023 12:53:50 pm
You're amazing, Shannon! Learning to leave stress and fear behind is huge. That shift is going to bring some major momentum to your growth. I'm so proud of what you and Caleb are doing. Keep going after that "more"!
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John and Kelsey
Parents, missionaries, sons and daughters...we are sharing our journey, as well as encouragement from the Word of God with you!