Stand Out? Fit In?

Have you ever wondered how the twelve disciples were able to turn their world upside down while today’s Church, with its millions of members, seem to have little impact on their culture? I am sure that the answer to that question is more complex than I could answer in this blog but allow me to share a thought for your consideration. 

We live in a culture that wants everyone to blend in. Everyone should have the same philosophy of life and the same values. But the Bible clearly teaches that Christ-followers live by a different standard. John 17:15-17 

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  Romans 12:2 The problem is many Christians have adopted a worldview of life that is totally opposite to the Biblical view of life to the extent that it is difficult to know the difference. 

We go to see the same movies, watch the same TV programs and follow the fashions of Hollywood. We listen to the advice of Dr. Phil rather than God’s Word. And I believe this is a major reason why the Church has little impact on the world. If you look at the people God has used, you will find they did not conform to this world but stood out for Christ.

  • Moses stood out by choosing to follow Israel rather than Egypt
  • Daniel stood out from all the Babylonians 
  • The three Hebrew boys stood out by refusing to worship a pagan god
  • Jesus’ disciples stood and fearlessly preached the Gospel

August Landmesser was a German laborer that lived during WWII.  Like thousands of his countrymen, he joined the Nazi party as Adolf Hitler began to take over Germany. When he finally learned of Hitler’s true intentions for Germany, he resigned from the party and refused to accept Hitler as leader of Germany. He became famous by standing out in a large political rally by refusing to salute Hitler and pledge his loyalty.   

Today, Acts 1:8 could read “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will “HUDDLE in the four walls of your church, you will hide your Christianity from others, no one will ever know you are following me, you will be afraid to let to the power of the Spirit work through you, you will never be a witness to those around you and you will blend in to society.”                                                                                                                                   

Christ calls us to stand out with the power and leadership of the Holy Spirit.    The New York Times reported that CVS the country’s largest drug store  will no longer fit in with society, but rather they will stand out. The company announced that as they move towards becoming more of a health care provider, that it would stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products by Octo The Company estimates it will lose 2 billion dollars in sales from customers who buy tobacco products and other things like gum.

   
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To tell the truth

Years ago there was a game show called To Tell the Truth. The show in which four celebrity panelists are presented with three contestants and must identify which is the “central character” whose unusual occupation or experience has been read out by the show’s moderator/host. When the panelists question the contestants, the two “impostors” may lie whereas the “central character” must tell the truth. Wikipedia

See the source image

“Lying” was acceptable as it was part of the game. In today’s culture lying is acceptable in most people’s lives: Children lie to their parents, workers lie to their employer, and let’s not forget our politicians! I was brought up knowing lying was wrong and honesty was the best policy.

As I was doing some work on the computer, I was listening to a news commentator commenting on current individuals who had lied under oath to a Congressional hearing. The FBI gave indisputable evidence they had lied. Result? Nothing. But apparently, some are held accountable while others get a free pass and are not prosecuted. A law to be a law must be applied to EVERYONE or it isn’t a law. But the Bible does not think lying is acceptable.

    • Proverbs 12::22 The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.
    • Proverbs 19:9 A lying witness will not go unpunished. One who tells lies will die.

What if all liars were given the death penalty? You wouldn’t have trouble finding a parking spot at Wal-Mart on Saturday night! The truth about being truthful is that everyone has a fallen nature and we struggle sometimes telling the truth all the time.  For reasons I do not understand, I grew up with a problem telling the truth. I would often exaggerate the truth. Maybe it was an attempt to make myself look better in other people’s eyes. Sometimes I would lie for no apparent reason. 

When we are ‘caught’ in a lie, people will always question if our next statement is true or not. Honesty is marked as being free from deceit or untruthfulness, being sincere. The Christian life should be one marked with integrity and honesty.

Matthew 7:16 tells us that we are known by our fruit. Let us be examples of a God of truth and life by living lives of integrity and truthfulness

Conflict Resolution – Part 2

In my last post, we saw that internal personal relationships are the price we pay for being human. Hard as you try, you cannot avoid them and as our title suggests, but they can be resolved.

One of the common places we face conflict is in the workplace. What do you do when asked to do something that is against your personal convictions or beliefs? You cannot go to your employer and dogmatically refuse to do what they want. (Unless you want to be fired!) So, how could resolve the conflict and both parties be satisfied?

In Daniel Chapter One, we have the account of four young Israelite men who were asked to disobey a Biblical teaching that they had obeyed since their childhood. The backdrop of this story is that the Jewish nation had been taken into captivity by the heathen country of Babylonia. The king searched for the wisest men among the captives. Those selected would go through a three-year training program [Daniel 1:3-5] and at the end of three years they would be brought before the king and he would choose those to be his advisors.

As part of this program, the candidates were compelled to eat from the king’s table. Seems logical to feed them the very best food if they were to be healthy and intelligent! But they refused the food because it had been offered to a pagan deity. Acts 15:29 Daniel knew the goal of eating the king’s food was for the candidates to be at their best when they were presented to the king. Daniel 1:10 Daniel resolved this conflict by offering him an alternative to eating the forbidden food. Vs.12-14

Daniel proposed they only kosher food for ten days and then compare them with those eating the king’s food. By suggesting an alternative both parties achieved the desired goal.  vs. 15 So, the next time you are asked to compromise your convictions/beliefs; suggest an alternative to achieve the desired goal. 

Conflict Resolution

People today think that their circumstances/problems are unique to their generation. Surely, people 200or 300 years ago did not face what we are challenged within our age! Don’t flatter yourself. King Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived wrote, “What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun; the future only repeats the past.” Ecclesiastes 1:9

Take, for example, conflict. Anywhere you have people you will have conflict. You will have conflict in families. Conflict occurs on the job. One of the biggest problems pastors face today is inter-personal conflict. You cannot avoid conflict but you can learn how to resolve it and that is not always comfortable.  And since conflict resolution is unpleasant, we try to ignore it. We go to church not understanding that our relationship with others affects our relationship with God.

Conflict

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar [worship] and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar First, go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

Did you notice who is to initiate the reconciliation process? You are!  “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”  Roman 12:18 Care enough to confront. 

Save Yourself

“...come down from the cross and save yourself.”   Mark 15:30 NIV

If you have been a Christ-follower for any length of time; you have that life is not a playground but a battlefield. We live in a culture that is self-centered and seeks comfort, not a conflict. If you are serious about living a Christ-centered life; the following truth must be applied every day.

Image result for come down from the crossWhen Jesus was hanging on the cross; the crowd taunted Him to come down from His cross. There is no question that He could have done exactly that [Matthew 26:53] but in so doing He would be disobeying God’s will. The “flesh” is God’s code word for our deed to serve our personal desires. The flesh is man’s lower nature that is centered in fulfilling selfish desires. One of the reasons that many Christians do not have depth in their relationship with Christ is they have not understood and lived the crucified life.

The Apostle Paul wrote that we are crucified with Christ. Galatians 2:20 and that we have crucified the flesh. 

  • Any time you try to justify yourself; you have come down from your cross.
  • Any time you give into self-pity; you have come down from your cross.
  • The reason churches split; someone has come down from their cross.
  • Divorce occurs because someone [or both] have come down from their cross.
  • The reason people criticize and leave their church; because someone has come down from their cross.

We face the same temptation as Christ; to come down from OUR cross and save our SELF. Satan knows that he can not defeat you as long as you remain on your cross because the cross was his ultimate defeat. To live a victorious life you must daily choose to remain on your cross. You will always be defeated spiritually when you come down from your cross. The only way to please God and walk in the Spirit is to keep SELF on the cross.

How Much Longer?

This blog has been the most difficult blog I have created. I have struggled with this topic for days. The difficulty comes because it is a complex subject and I am not sure I can put into words how I feel. I am not even sure how to give this topic a name.

I am talking about the rise of violence and the decay of the moral fiber of our nation. I recently turned 72 years old, which means I have lived long enough to horrific change in our culture. I am afraid if I start listing examples, I don’t know where to stop. I hardly watch the news on television because it upsets me so bad I almost get physically sick. The way our elected officials treat each other is appalling; hatred, lying, deception and totally ignoring our constitution and established laws. I was taught at an early to respect and obey those in authority. Romans 13:1-5. It did not matter if I liked them. It did not matter if I disagreed with them. I was to respect and obey them.

Image result for leftist mobs

Politicians provoke people to violence because they disagree with policies that are not to their liking. Leaders inciting racial division, trying to destroy the stability of our nation. https://fxn.ws/2OFSbNg Why is it so difficult to accept someone else’s opinion?  The First Amendment assures EVERY person the right of free speech which includes the press. If a certain news channel upsets you by their opinion; change the channel!

I must stop. I know that the majority of people could care less about what the Bible says about how we should live. But allow me to share a passage that causes me to wonder how long we can go on like this.

Genesis 6:5-7 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.  So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing…”

The Bible said God saw that people were so evil; it broke His heart and He destroyed the world with a flood The description of people in Genesis 6 matches the attitude of our society. The question is how long will God put up with us?

Don’t Waste Your Pain

Do you remember the advertisement for Bowflex? “No pain. No gain.” Of course, you do. But that statement is more than just memorable, it’s true. To build muscle, there must be resistance = pain. Pain is inevitable. It is part of life.

“. .. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrow…” John 16:33 If you watch TV, even a little bit, you will see ads for pain relievers. No normal person enjoys pain. We will go to the doctor, buy the strongest medicine all to avoid pain. I am very thankful for all the advances in medicine but in our effort to avoid pain, we may be missing something.

Pain might be telling you something. Have you been listening? Are you using the pain of your past for the sake of progress? C. S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

One of the most beneficial books I have read is Don’t Waste Your Sorrows by Paul Billheimer. The author shows us how to use our pain to produce ‘gain.’ What about you? What breaks your heart? Have you heard God shout? Is there bad news that lingers, compelling you to do something?

Remember, God doesn’t waste pain and neither should you.