Are You Different?

One of the strongest hindrances to the Christian life is peer pressure. No one wants to be different than those around us.  Teens have to wear a certain brand of clothes. Why? Because “everyone” at school wears that brand. People will ask when invited to a party/dinner what is “everyone” wearing? Why? We don’t want to stand out in the crowd. Peer pressure sometimes causes people to do things that go against their beliefs or values; just to be accepted. 

Even people in Old Testament times faced the ‘herd mentality.’ The nation of Israel didn’t want to be different, so they asked Samuel to give them a leader. … Now we want a king to be our leader, just like all the other nations. (Emphasis added.) God warned them they were about to make a big mistake but they insisted. The Bible repeatedly gives us scripture warning us not to give into peer pressure.

  • Romans 12:2 (NLT) Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world…”
  • Psalm 1:1 “… do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners or join in with mockers.
  • 2 Chronicles 13:7 Then a whole gang of scoundrels joined him, defying Solomon’s son Rehoboam when he was young and inexperienced and could not stand up to them
  • Galatians 2:13 As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

Jesus didn’t call us to blend in, but to stand out—just like He did.

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Interruptions (?)

I am a person who likes to plan out their day but I also realize that I will probably not complete all the tasks on my to-do-list. Just as I am really getting into a task; it never fails; someone interrupts me. But as a Christ follower are they really ‘interruption? (The Lord directs the steps of the godly..”. (Psalm 37:23a)

No one has ever been busier than Jesus Christ. [Mark 6:31} But I never noticed how He handled ‘”interruptions.”

1) A man of influence approached Him with an urgent request to help his sick child. Though Jesus was ministering to a large crowd:
2) Jesus immediately saw this “interruption” as an opportunity to meet a need.
3) The ever-present crowd made progress difficult. Suddenly Jesus stopped and asked, “Who touched me?” The first “interruption” is now being interrupted by a second “interruption!” A woman had reached out in faith and was immediately healed. But why did Jesus stop? (Never that of this?) The woman’s healing had already occurred.

Jesus stopped to draw attention to her healing because she needed to realize that she wasn’t an interruption or unimportant to Jesus; she mattered. With compassion, He calls her “Daughter” and affirms her faith and sends her home.

Jesus invites us to come to Him like this woman did. He assures us that we’ll never be an interruption. ‘I will never turn away anyone who comes to me.” John 6:37a

Called Before Birth

A student of architecture entered a national contest for building design. When a panel of renowned architects awarded the student’s design “Honorable Mention,” she felt utterly depressed and defeated. She was, after all, at the top of her class. She had worked long hours on an innovative and beautiful design. She should have placed better.

At lunch on the last day of the convention, she sat looking at her model over an uneaten sandwich. She noticed an old man looking at her creation too. Not knowing who had designed the building, the man remarked, “This one, I think, is the best of the lot.” Hearing those words, the student went home elated.

Why? Although the competition’s judges had deemed her work the runner-up, one old man liked it. And that one old man was Frank Lloyd Wright, probably the greatest architect of the time.

One of the things I hated during my elementary school days was recess. The reason was we often played games that required choosing teams. Since I possessed minimal athletic skills, I was always one of the last students picked for a team. Needless to say, that did not boost my self-image.

Jeremiah felt like a loser at first, too. He felt like a second rate prophet from a small country, he didn’t think he could measure up to his assignment as God’s spokesman. But God reminded Jeremiah that he possessed a divine formation, a distinctive calling, a chosen vocation. Even before Jeremiah’s birth, God had prepared him to be God’s voice to God’s people.

God wants us to hear a similar message. He calls each one of us. Even before we’re born, the Creator sets us apart for a special purpose. In fact, the apostle Paul claims that God’s plan for us started long before we were born: “He chose us in him before the creation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

God’s calling means that we never need to feel inferior or insecure. No matter how tough life becomes, how difficult work gets, how many doubts we have—or even how far we fall—God promises, “I chose you for this, and I’ll never fail you.”

 

God’s Identity Crisis

I would imagine that many of you read the title of this blog and were shocked! Before you brand me a heretic; allow me to explain. I do not imply that God has a problem with knowing exactly who He is. Rather, it is we, His creation, that is confused concerning God’s true identity. There are hundreds of misconceptions about who God is and what He is like but I think most of them could be placed under two major headings.

The Transcendent God. People see God as so holy, so powerful, so pure that He could not have a relationship with fallen humanity. It is true that God is totally above all creation.      1 Chronicles 29:10-12 ; 1 Samuel 2:2

The Benevolent Grandfather. Some people see God’s purpose is to make us happy and give us what we want. He is like a celestial vending machine; insert your prayer and out drops your answer. He is the “grandfather” who grants all our wishes. 

But I think the picture below shows the proper balance of who God really is.

jfk

This is the famous picture of President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office. Underneath the desk is his son, John Jr. President Kennedy was the most powerful man in the world. He was to be respected and honored. And yet, he was a father who loved his son.  He had a relationship with his son, so “John-John” could pop out from under his desk and speak to this powerful figure without. 

Like It or Not…

The most often asked question that a pastor is asked is “How can I find God’s will for my life?”  I have found that the majority of people who say they want to know God’s will, want to know so they can decide if they will obey it or not. It is very unlikely that God will reveal His will to people who have that mind-set.

We sing this chorus in many of our churches:

‘ll say yes, Lord, yes
To your will and to your way
I’ll say yes, Lord, yes
I will trust you and obey
When your Spirit speaks to me
With my whole heart I’ll agree
And my answer will be yes, Lord, yes

It does not say, “If I agree with it, I’ll say yes.” To know God’s will, we must be willing to obey BEFORE His will is revealed to us.

“Whether we like it or not, we will obey all that the Lord our God says.”  Jeremiah 42:6

Saints/Sinners

Years ago, my wife and I stayed in a Howard Johnson Inn while vacationing in Florida. As I was walking down the hallway, I past their lounge. I wasn’t particularly surprised that they had a lounge but what did surprise me was the lounge’s name: Saints/Sinners. Being a Christ-follower, I was taken back that “Saints” would be used in reference to a bar. I have pondered that name often but as I was reading the Gospels, that name came back to me.

I guess the name first caught my attention because of the vast contrast between the two names; they are total opposites of each other. Nowhere is that seen more clearly than the attitude of the “saints” and the sinners” of Jesus’ day.  No “saint” would ever associate with “sinners” and that was one of the reasons that Jesus was hated by the religious establishment. Jesus not only associated with THEM but He went into THEIR homes and even shared a meal with THEM.

Before we start throwing stones, have you ever been at  a party and felt uncomfortable around certain people? We tend to associate with people like US, don’t we? You can almost see the separation in the room between THEM and US.  I can visit a church and almost point out to you one of THEM. THEM will often sit by THEM-selves and you can often see they are  uncomfortable being in the presence of so many of US.

What are we to do? The “US” must take the first step in tearing down the walls that separate US and THEM. Ask if they would mind if you sat with them during the worship service. Purposely start  a conversation with that person that is being overlooked at the party. Invite one of THEM to go with you to a ballgame with you. (You paying for their ticket of course!)

Let’s US do everything possible to make THEM one of US!

Self-Worth

When it came time for my mother to give me birth; she went to our local hospital. Our hospital was considered small by most standards but they were quite capable. It just so happened that I chose a very busy night to come into the world. There were no rooms available, so they put my mother in the hall, placed a portable curtain around her for privacy and there I came into the world. [True story] Is it any wonder that I have dealt with feelings of rejection all my life?

But seriously, I have always felt that somehow I never quite measured up. I am not trying to solicit sympathy just stating a fact. In school, I never spoke to the popular kids fearing rejection. I always felt inferior to ministers that pastored larger churches. But when I read Mark 1:11, it changed my thinking about myself. God said of Jesus, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  This was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry; He hadn’t preached His first sermon or performed His first miracle, so how was the Father pleased with Him?

Most people assume that God’s approval is based on their  ‘personal performance,’ But the truth is found in the words, “You are my Son..” God found pleasure in His personal relationship with the Son. God is not impressed with all activity but He is pleased when we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

How freeing to know that I do not have to reach a certain level of performance for God to be pleased with me. God loves me for who I am, not for what I do.