Friday, April 10, 2015

Are You Willing to be Different?

Fact: God calls His people to be different. He calls them to live a different lifestyle from the world and to keep themselves free of tainting influences.

Of course, being different can be difficult. It can also make others uncomfortable around you. For instance, in Russia one Christian friend was once told by an unbeliever that he didn't like Christians because they wouldn't smoke and drink and do all the things "normal" people do. (In my younger days, I believed people who actually talked about God and cared about Him were weird. I didn't dislike them, but neither did I want to get trapped in conversations with them. Little did I guess that one day I, too, would become a follower of God. But that's another story!)

Some believers don't like this idea of being different, of standing out from the crowd. They would rather blend in, to go with the flow, to not make waves in order to get along with everyone. But that's not God's call for how to live. Consider these motivating verses:

Jesus said, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid" (Matthew 5:14).

"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar [not screwballs, but different] people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12:2).

Often, the most memorable characters in God's Word are those who understood the importance of being different, of living by a different standard. Would we today know the name Noah if he had lived like everyone else and gone with the sinful flow of his day? Would we know of Joseph if he hadn't kept his impulses in check and fled from his boss's wife when she invited him to her bed? Would we have heard of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Elijah, Elisha, the apostles, and a host of others who stood out because they took seriously their relationship with God?

If you love God, chances are good that forces are pressuring you to tone down that truth. They want to dim the Gospel in your life and get you to be like everyone else. But what good is a light bulb in a dark house if you don't let it shine? What benefit is there if the good bulb is turned off to resemble a burned-out bulb? As for going with the flow... even a dead fish can do that. Are you no better than a dead fish?

If you're a child of God, don't be pressured into dimming your light. Be willing to be different. Shine for the Lord!

"The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe" (Proverbs 29:25).

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Are You Powerful Enough to be Ordinary?

Our culture is captivated by superheroes. From Gotham City to Metropolis, from Earth to Asgard, movie producers seem to be cranking out superhero films in record numbers. Of course, the thrill doesn't come from snug-fitting tights or even flying body armor. Story-tellers realize that, when a tale is presented well, the reader (or viewer) "becomes" the hero of the story. So to a degree, superhero flicks propel regular people from humdrum lives into roles where they can outwit, overpower, and vanquish the bad guys. (Another plus--superheroes tend to be physically attractive and rarely have trouble with their weight!)

A lot could be said about positive role models who fight for truth and justice, who stick up for the underdog and save the day. But let's get back to the real world. What does God require of His people? To be super smart? To possessive stellar martial-arts ability? To flaunt movie star good looks?

Not even close. You see, God takes delight in picking up ordinary men and women who know Him and using them as tools as He works in this world. Consider the backgrounds of Jesus' hand-picked disciples. They included fishermen. A tax collector (think IRS agent). Not exactly professions that made observers ooh and ahh. They were just regular guys, yet God used them to change the world.

Recall what the Bible says about the Jewish rulers in Acts 4:13:

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

That's our distinctiveness. To know Jesus and to use the new life He offers to live in a godly way for God.

Muscles aren't bad, but if you've got them and you're a believer, give God the glory for your good health and strength. Same for good looks; if you've got them, no need to be stuck up about it. Rather than relishing compliments, praise the Lord and glorify Him rather than self. Do you have the intellect of Mr. Fantastic or Tony Stark? Then thank God for giving you a good mind, then use it for Him.

The point is, most of us are fairly ordinary, but that doesn't mean we're unimportant. All around the planet, God is using ordinary people to be salt and light in this world. Those countless Sunday school teachers who instill Bible truths every week? They might be ordinary, but God uses them. Pastors of churches in "small" or "unimportant" places are as much tools in the Almighty's hand as leaders of megachurches. Maybe you're a Christian plumber, truck driver, insurance agent, construction worker, factor worker, office assistant, a writer, or...? Chances are, you can't fly or deflect bullets. But God wants to use you right where you are to be a source of light and encouragement to the circle of people you know. Are you willing to let His light shine through you?

Never lament being "ordinary." The fact is, if you believed you were truly extraordinary, then you'd probably be too puffed up with self to be any real good to God or others!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Who Ratted on Moses?

Although the Bible records a multitude of historical incidents, often it relates only the main details, leaving us to wonder, how, when, where, or why certain events happened. For example:

In Exodus 2, we read how Pharaoh's daughter adopted Moses, the Hebrew child whom she found crying inside a miniature ark floating among the reeds along the Nile. Later, when Moses was an adult, he spotted an Egyptian taskmaster beating a Hebrew man. We don't know whether this Egyptian was notorious for his cruelty, or whether on this particular occasion he was on the verge of beating the Hebrew to death, but the sight sparked a reaction inside Moses. After glancing around and seeing no witnesses, Moses charged to the aid of the Hebrew and ended up killing the Egyptian in the process.

The Scripture doesn't tell whether Moses actually intended to the kill the man, but it happened. Not knowing what else to do, Moses buried the body in the sand. After all, even the adopted son of Pharaoh's own daughter had no right to kill. However, the very next day Moses learned that at least one other Hebrew man knew what he did. The verse after that one states, "Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses." So Moses fled from Egypt.

So the question arises, "Who ratted on Moses?" Did the man whom Moses saved tell the story, which then spread among the Hebrews? Or perhaps there was a witness that Moses had not spotted? Even if so, how did Pharaoh find out? It's inconceivable that mighty Pharaoh happened to be chatting with a group of slaves around the water cooler when one of them blurted, "Hey, did you hear what your grandson did?" The Bible doesn't say.

Of course, the slain taskmaster must have had friends, family, and neighbors. His absence would be noticed. When it became clear that he'd fallen victim to foul play, who would the Egyptians accuse first, but the very Hebrews that taskmaster oversaw at the jobsite? In that case, it's not hard to imagine the Hebrews, desperate to avoid punishment, crying, "We're innocent. It was one of your people, the one called Moses killed him!" Regardless of who blabbed, Pharaoh was outraged, and Moses fled.

From a human standpoint, these events might seem an unfortunate turn of events in Moses' life. God had planned to use him to aid the oppressed children of Israel in Egypt. If Moses hadn't decided to intervene, the taskmaster would have remained alive, and Moses wouldn't have "wasted" 40 years watching his father-in-law's flocks. At least, so we might reason. Yet, God's thoughts are higher than man's thoughts and His ways above our ways. It may be that Moses had some rough edges that needed filing off before he was suitable to lead his countrymen out of Egypt. Had his education and training as Pharaoh's grandson filled him with pride? Or was it essential for him to master survival in the uncivilized wilderness? We can't answer every "Why?" But when God sent Moses back to Egypt, this man was clearly not trusting in his own cleverness, persuasive words, or intellect.

Friend, in your life there will probably be events that you consider unhappy, maybe even tragic. You might question why God allowed them. Yet, if you know the Lord--if you're one of His people by faith in Jesus Christ--you can rest confident that He remembers you and loves you. The eternity He has in store for you will outshine any hardships endured in this earthly life. Trust Him!