5 ways to put God above the American Dream

Suburban America is the easiest place to fall asleep in our faith. The American Dream breeds comfort. And, comfort breeds complacency.

People are so busy dreaming the American Dream, fantasizing about what they could be or have a right to be, that they’re all asleep at the switch.
– Florence King

I grew up in a very affluent suburb of Detroit. It was all about the American dream. Everything around me reinforced this, the media, my school, my parents and even my church.

I felt like I needed to get an education, a job and climb the corporate ladder. I needed to make enough money so I could have a big house in the suburbs. I would get married, have two kids, and a dog named Sparky. I would work for 30 to 40 years in a career and retire comfortably at 65 and do nothing until the end of my days.

If you choose to live differently than that, you will stand out. If you live in middle class America and decide to put Christ first, you will be the weird one. You will be different.

Can God be our number one while living in suburban America? Absolutely! We can put God first wherever we are.

There are five ways to put God above the American Dream.


1. Create margin in your life

The biggest separation between my family and the culture is our level of busyness. My husband and I decided many years ago that we were not going run the rat race of life. We agreed that we would try to always have margin.

According to Dr. Richard A. Swenson, M.D., margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits.

Margin is not a popular concept in American culture. Middle class Americans esteems those who work way too much and are way too busy. We make busyness an idol. And, I don’t see the church being much different.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:41-42  

I am dumbfounded when I see people at church talking about their multiple jobs and how busy they are. And they’re not just talking about it, they’re bragging. They wear their busyness like a badge of honor.

Create margin in your life. Leave space for God to move. Notice those around you. And always remember that God is number one and people are more important than our schedules.

2. Make God the Lord over your money

If Christ is not Lord over your money and possessions, then He is not your Lord.
-Randy Alcorn

I was very much raised with the American Dream mentality. It was the mentality of more, more, more! Why wouldn’t we buy a bigger house? That would make us happy, right?!

The Bible contains twice as many verses about money as it does about faith and prayer combined, about 2,350! Does money matter? It absolutely does! Money is a tool that God can use to further His Kingdom. In and of itself money is neither good nor bad. But when it is misused, destruction follows.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”   Malachi 3:10

If God is really our Lord, we will not be focused on the comforts of this life, but rather, on our eternal inheritance. If we focus on eternal treasures, we will more likely give our money away rather than spending it on ourselves.

The depth of transformation in the lives of the early Christians was most clearly evident in their willingness to surrender their money and possessions to meet each other’s needs.   ~Randy Alcorn

3. Get out of your bubble

Speaking as someone who was born and raised in the second richest county in the nation and is currently lives in the first, I can say that it is so easy to get stuck in our little bubble. We become out of touch with the ‘real’ world.

It is so easy to become out of touch with the poor and the needy. In the suburbs, you don’t ever have to see them if you don’t want to.

When my husband and I moved to our current home, we vowed not to assimilate into the rich, snobby, elitist culture that is stereotypical of the suburbs. And with the exception of being a Starbucks addict, we have done pretty well. We are definitely the trailer trash of our neighborhood! And, we are proud of it!

Living in the ‘burbs’ can be dangerously comfortable. We must get out of our comfort zone and go to places that need the light of Christ.

I don’t deny that the suburbs need the light of Christ. Middle class Americans are some of the hardest people to share the Gospel with. How do you convince someone who has everything that they need Christ?

Get out of your bubble. Seek out ministries that serve the poor, visit inner city churches, and go on mission trips to places of extreme poverty. Seek out the different and the uncomfortable. That is what Jesus did.

4. Downsize when everyone else is upsizing

My husband and I regret upsizing ten years ago when we bought our house. While it is a typical suburban house, it is more than we need. We could have stayed in our previous house and had more money available to give to Kingdom work.

Was God the Lord of our money then? Would we have made the same decision if He was? Probably not.

Do we love our house? Yes!

Is it comfortable? Yes!

Do we have a lot of extra money to invest in God’s kingdom? Not as much as we could have if we had a smaller house.

5. Don’t worry

Last summer I was out to dinner with a bunch of girlfriends on a beautiful summer evening.  The restaurant was right on the Monan Trail and it was buzzing with activity.

After talking about jobs and kids our conversation turned to current events. (sadly, even though these were all church friends, we rarely talk about God) My friend shared her concerns about ISIS and about how safe, or unsafe, we are in this country. Than, another chimed in with her equal concern with the state of this country and the economy and the current administration.

The world is going to hell in a hand basket. It is, and it always has been. God warned us about how it would be in scripture, and it is all happening. Why are we surprised?

And it is not just in the world, but in the church as well.

There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.   2 Timothy 3:1-5

But, Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4)! Do we believe that?! Either we do, and we walk in confidence with God’s peace, or we don’t and we continue fretting.

We must believe God, not just believe in Him. And, we must take His Word as truth. If you don’t believe that His Word is true, than you will never have peace.

In Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love, he describes people who are obsessed with Jesus. He writes, “People who are obsessed with Jesus aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else.”

God is the God of peace. He tells us not to worry, because He is in control, He is good, and He is able. We must focus on eternity not just the here and now.


Dare to be different than those around  you. Dare to live like Christ instead of living for the American Dream. Be radical for the One who died for you.

Feeling tension with the culture is something that we should experience if we are to be like Christ. If you fit in and are quite comfortable in life, you may want to ask yourself –> Am I putting Christ first?

Does God matter? How important is a purpose driven life?

The other day I was watching a debate between William Lane Craig and Christopher DiCarlo. The topic was “Does God Matter?” Most of Dr. Craig’s debates seem to be on topics such as, does God exist? Is it reasonable to believe there is a God? Why is there something rather than nothing? And, has science buried God? 

These debates generally stay within the realm of cosmology, therefore, I was intrigued.

So, does God matter?

Everything that I am rests on the fact that God absolutely matters! God matters very much to me. And I would argue that He matters to you too; whether you realize it or not.

You can’t have purpose without God, and you can’t have life without purpose.

Do human beings need purpose? Of course we do! Does there need to be meaning to our lives? You bet there does!

There isn’t one human being on the planet that doesn’t have or need purpose for their lives. It is what separates us from the animals. We have a soul and therefore, we search for purpose and meaning.

Human beings are why creatures. We not only seek to know what, and how things work, but also, why. We want to know there is a reason. We need there to be something greater than ourselves. It’s human nature. We are not content with just the what’s, where’s, when’s, and how’s. We need to understand the why’s.

Loren Eiseley, an American anthropologist, educator, philosopher, and natural science writer said, “Man is the cosmic orphan. He’s the only creature in the universe that asks why.”

According to the AnchorsAway curriculum written by Nancy Fitzgerald, everyone has five life questions. They all seem to echo the why’s that haunt us.

  1. From where did I come? . . . . why am I here?
  2. Why is there such a mess in the world? . . . . why am I here?
  3. Is there any hope? . . . . why am I here?
  4. What is my purpose in life? . . . . why am I here?
  5. What happens when I die? . . . . why am I here?

WHY AM I HERE?!! We must have an answer! 

Those of us who have kids remember that annoying why phase that toddlers go through. No matter what answer you give them, they continue to ask why? until infinity. It is innate in human nature to want to know why.

The why’s express our need for purpose.

Anybody who claims that we don’t all need or have purpose in life is most likely someone who has easily been able to find purpose in their own life. These are the people in which things have generally turned out well and they get to live out their passion in everyday life. They may not be aware that they are living with purpose. However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t.

Then there are those that aren’t content in their lives. Things have not worked out well. They are the poor and the marginalized. They have not found their purpose in life. Or, they have not found a purpose to life. They are the sad, depressed, and hopeless people that roam the earth; often, they don’t know God.

Nothing is like hopelessness. No physical pain is like it, though it can lead to it. No fear is like it, though it can feed it. No feeling of loss as terrible as it may be, can compete with it.
~ Beth Moore

Dr. Craig, the Christian apologist, would say things like, “humans and the universe are doomed to die. The universe grows colder and colder as its energy runs out. And, eventually all the stars will burn out and all matter will collapse into dead stars and black holes. There will be no light; there will be no life; there will be no heat.”

This is the future of our universe and our planet. It is inevitable. Any scientist, physicist, or cosmologist would confirm this fact.

Sound depressing? It absolutely is if there is no God!

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.  1 Corinthians 15:17-19

To think that eventually our light will just go out and we will cease to be is a horrifying thought! How could any human being make peace with a reality like that?

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
– Macbeth, Shakespeare

DiCarlo, the atheist, would say we don’t need a God to be happy, be a good person and to have a good life. In one of his speeches, he says, “when the party is over, say goodnight.”

In general, we do not accept the finality of death.

Most people groups since the beginning of time have adopted religions that include an extension of life beyond death. Human beings cannot accept that we have an end.

Some believe that when you die, you become an animal and live on in nature. Other religions or worldviews believe in reincarnation and eventually becoming one with the universe. Most religious groups, cultures, tribes, and nations believe in life after death. They must. They are human.

God does matter. And because He matters, we matter. Thank you God for giving me purpose, and making my life matter.

Freedom for People Pleasers

“I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”
~Ed Sheeran

Recently, I challenged a friend of mine to brake the chains of the ‘shoulds’ in her life. She, like most of us, was overcommitted, overwhelmed, and stressed out. Most of her time was spent on others; taking care of her kids, being a good wife, taking care of the house, and volunteering for things at church and school. She rarely, if ever, did anything for herself. Guilt and obligation enslaved her. She was missing the joy of freedom that living in Christ has to offer.

I gave her homework one day after bible study. The homework was that she had to say breaking_free_by_obscurelilium-d7u0xvyno’ to something that she didn’t want to do, simply because she didn’t want to do it . . . . OR, say ‘yes’ to something that she wanted to do, simply because she wanted to do it. And, she had to do this 3 times before the next bible study.

There was only one rule; there couldn’t be a logical reason to say ‘no’ like a schedule conflict, or she was sick, or because she was just too busy. She had to not do something simply because she didn’t want to do it. Sound selfish? For the Christ follower, its called living in God’s freedom.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  Galatians 5:1

Blessings abound when we walk with Christ. It is the blessing of freedom. Christ died to set us free; free from the yoke of pleasing other people; free from the yoke of doing everything that people ask us to do; free from the yoke of being responsible for other people. There is nothing greater than freedom in Christ.

I was a people pleaser most of my life.  Never having been shown my true value in Christ, I grew up thinking that it was my job to take care of everyone else. We all had a lot in life, and this was mine.

problem pensive girl at window profile sad black and whiteI had to make people feel comfortable and at ease at all times. I was to keep the peace even when peace was not possible; even when peace was not appropriate. And, it was often at my expense. But, I truly believed that I was expendable. Just take one for the team, I would tell myself . . . . again!

Satan had me right where he wanted me; feeling worthless and being useless. He had me thinking that my only purpose was to empower others. He had been feeding me lies and I was ever so eager to believe them.

I am so grateful that God has set me free by setting me straight! He made you and me for a specific purpose in the Kingdom; something more than catering to the comfort of others; something more than just being a loving and supportive spouse; something more than raising children.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”  Galatians 1:10

My walk with God in the last 20 years has taught me how high and wide and long and deep is His unfailing love. He has been replacing the lies that I believed for so many years with His Word.

Can we say no to our mother? . . . . when the bible says this . . . “Honor your mother and father.” Exodus 20:12

Can we say no to a ministry? . . . . when the bible says this . . . “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Luke 10:2

Can we say no to our church?  ” . . . . when the bible says this . . . “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God ” Ephesians 4:12-13

Can we say no to our husbands? . . . When the bible says this . . . “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands.” Ephesians 5:22

Yes, we can!

So, who do we need to please? . . . . God.  Who is the only one that we always need to say yes to? . . . . God.  God is the only one that we need to please, and He is already greatly pleased without us doing one single thing!

He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.  Zephaniah 3:17

That doesn’t mean that we can say ‘no’ to those things all of the time. If we are to be obedient to God and His Word, than we must do these things some of the time. But, we are certainly not obligated to do them every time.

People pleasers just want to do the right thing. They are usually caring, selfless people. However, the right thing might be to say ‘no’. We need to be regularly in His Word to be able to discern.

 

Relationships, if they are true relationships, demand judgement and confrontation . . . . to faithfully live our life as a human being–to live as we were created to live–is to live in an open-and-closed relational connection to another.
~Andrew Root

God delights in us. And, He loves us with unfailing love. It doesn’t matter what other people think of us, or what we do. It’s who we are in Christ, or rather, it’s who He is.

My Bible study friend whom I gave the challenge to came back the following week and was eager to tell me what she did. She was like a kid in a candy store, with a grin from ear to ear. She beamed with the glow of freedom!

Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?   Isaiah 2:22