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?

Am I enough?

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“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 4:19

This past year the theme of the youth ministry at my church was ‘He is enough”. What a simple concept. Yet, it is so profound. Understanding those 3 simple words can give life and freedom and hope to a lost world.

The Christian faith often comes down to such simple principles. God doesn’t expect us to  bring much to the table. He is enough . . . . period. All we need is faith and a willing heart.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”   Hebrews 11:6

He is enough. How many of us truly believe that? How would our lives be different if we lived as if that were true? Would worry and fret plague our lives as they do now? Oh, the freedom that could be ours if we believed that He is enough.

“My grace is sufficient for you”   2 Corinthians 12:9

 

Am I enough?

The other night my family and I went to a graduation open house. Tis the season! The house was bustling with high schoolers, family & friends. My cousin (the graduates mom) joked that it was like “a happy funeral” because all of their sets of friends and family that don’t know each other were there. We had a good laugh.

When we got home, my husband and I were talking about the other open house we had coming up. Most of our friends’ kids are not graduating yet, so we only had a couple to go to. It was for the son of a good friend of ours. I had been looking forward to it for months. My friend had been stressed about it for a while so I had been praying for her.

“When is the other open house? my husband inquired.

I thought that it was this coming weekend, but I couldn’t find it on my calendar, so I looked at the invitation on the fridge. June 1st. I had missed it. My heart fell out of my chest.

bigstock-Stressed-Woman-With-Worry-1133599-e1371150029807How could I have missed it?! What kind of friend am I? How could I have let this happen?! Everybody was probably there except us . . .  the losers that can’t keep their schedule straight. After I had sufficiently berated myself, I started to wonder as I often do if ‘I am enough’. I certainly didn’t feel like it at that moment.

I can’t tell you how often I have felt ‘less than’, or ‘unacceptable’. More often than I would care to admit.

Many of us suffer from feelings of inadequacy. As a woman and a mom, I tend to feel like I am  never enough. I am not enough of a good wife, not consistent enough as a parent, not in The Word enough, not serving enough, not going to church enough, not accomplishing enough, not praying enough, and the list goes on. I am never enough.

I also know that my husband along with many other men and fathers feel inadequate as well. I don’t make enough money, I am not enough of a spiritual leader, I am not enough for my wife.  Most of us from time to time suffer from feeling ‘less than’. . . . feeling like we’re not enough.

Why do we feel this way? “I don’t have anything to offer” you might be thinking. Not true. God can use whatever you have. No matter what it is. God needs very little from us to fulfill His work in us.

“He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”  Philippians 1:6

And the truth is, we aren’t enough without God. We were made with God shaped holes in us. Without Him, we are incomplete. But once those holes are filled with the power of Christ, we become strong and mighty warriors!  Whom shall we fear (Psalm 27:1)?!

“you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”  Colossians 2:10

With Him, we are more than enough. God has shown us in His Word that it doesn’t matter how much or how little we have . . . . because HE IS ENOUGH!

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”  2 Corinthians 9:8

Take the story of the widow and the oil in 2 Kings. A woman’s husband had died and she was goingjar-of-olive-oil to lose her children if she didn’t pay off her debts. All she had was a single bottle of olive oil. The  prophet Elisha told her to go to her neighbors and ask for empty jars . . . . lots of empty jars. So she did what he told her to do and they took the jars home and started to pour the bottle of olive oil in them . . . . .

“When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “bring me another one.” But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.  She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.” 2 Kings 4:1-7

God proves to us over and over again in His Word that He is sufficient. Whether its turning water into wine or feeding 5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44,Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15), He is enough. He is always enough. There is no ‘need’ that he cannot fill.

 

More than enough

Not only are we enough with Him, we were made for greatness with Him. Not just for goodness or righteousness or humbleness. And, yes, we were made for those things as well, but, we were made for GREATNESS.

We often look at the pastor of a mega church or a popular Christian singer or author, and think, wow, God is really using them! Billy Graham, Chris Tomlin, and Beth Moore are some of my favorites. I have caught myself thinking, now THEY were made for greatness. However, we need to realize that you don’t have to appear great here on earth to be used greatly by God. God has greatness for every one of us.

However, we can not achieve greatness on our own. Because of our humanness, we need Him. To be great without God is impossible. Take Naaman for example, who was the commander of a mighty army and a great and honorable man. So, what’s the catch? It says . . .

“he was also a mighty man in valor, but he was a leper”   2 Kings 5:1

The catch is that he was a leper!  That’s a big catch if you asked me!

According to Beth Moore’s study of this scripture, each one of us can be a mighty man or woman of valor. However, we also have a ‘but’ in our statement of greatness. Your’s might look like this . . .

She was a mighty woman of valor, but she lacked confidence and was plagued with doubt, or,

He was a mighty man of valor, but suffered from loneliness

How many people in Jesus’s day would have considered His disciples great? Many of them were fishermen. Could they have doubted if they were enough? Absolutely! And they probably did at some point. Yet, look at how greatly God used them!

Each of us has an affliction that makes us need a savior. I am so inadequate without my savior. I seriously fall short. I can’t quite seal the deal on my own. But when you add a savior to the mix, I am great and powerful! No hesitation . . . I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! (Philippians 4:13)

 

Strength made perfect in weakness

The idea of greatness sounds pretty good to most of us. If there was a sign up sheet to obtain greatness, it would fill up pretty quickly! I would be first in line! However, greatness can only be achieved by walking in humility first.  Greatness and humility go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. One could say that humility leads to greatness.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”  Matthew 5:5

Even Jesus started His ministry on earth with quiet humility. If the Son of  God, who is without weakness, started humbly, than how much more should we expect to do the same?

To be great in the kingdom of God, we must bear the fruit of humility, and realize that we aren’t enough in and of ourselves. Humility is the act of acknowledging our weakness or need. Weakness is part of the human condition. There isn’t a man or woman alive that doesn’t have a weakness. Only those that acknowledge their weakness can be great.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.”     2 Corinthians 12:7

So, Paul had a thorn in his flesh. He asked God to remove it, but he didn’t realize that without it, God couldn’t fully use him.

“Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:8

I cannot tell you how overjoyed I am at these things! God says that someone as lowly as me, can do great things! I may never be great in this world, and I am ok with that.  Being great in the kingdom of God is far better.

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 1 Corinthians 1:27

So, am I enough? Do I have what it takes in me? With the power of Jesus Christ in me, I am more than enough!  And so are you!!