Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Reflecting on Jesus

The Bible records fascinating facts about Jesus and His time on earth. Among those fascinating facts is the contrast between what Jesus did and how the world treated Him.

Over and over, the Bible describes the acts of compassion Jesus performed. He miraculously healed the sick, the lame, and the blind. He cleansed disintegrating bodies of leprosy. He multiplied five loaves of bread and two fish sufficiently to feed 5,000 people at one sitting. He even brought the dead back to life and presented them to their loved ones!

With all this obvious love and compassion backed by divine power, Jesus should have been the undisputed hero of Israel. But how did the world respond? They killed him.

You see, it wasn't enough that Jesus loved people. It wasn't enough that He cared and bestowed divine healing on them. Along with His acts of healing came His teaching, and He authoritatively spoke the words of God. He called sin what it is. He had no stomach for religious hypocrisy. He single-handedly drove out of the temple the money changers and vendors who were more interested in profiting off worshipers than in living for God. He said bluntly to religious leaders, "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires" (John 8:44). And for such things the world crucified Him. Oh sure, not everyone hated Jesus. His disciples loved Him. Others remained faithful, too. But those with the louder mouths and angriest hearts definitely hated Him and nailed Him to a Cross.

No surprise, of course. When his own half-brothers did not believe in Him, Jesus told them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil" (John 7:6-7). The Lord Jesus knew in advance how and when He would die. But He allowed it to happen in order to provide a way of salvation for all who believed in Him (John 3:16).

If Jesus were to come today, performing miracles but also teaching the word and will of God, would the modern, "tolerant" world treat Him any differently? I think not. In fact, I suspect the modern world would waste no time in branding the Son of God as a hate monger and trying to shut Him down ASAP. 

Christians (that is, true followers of Christ who live according to His will, not those who simply wear the Christian label to be respectable) will always be maligned in this current world. Their words will be twisted as in Bible times, and they will be slandered and threatened for their beliefs. But the Bible is filled with examples of God's using the minority who love Him to do His work. Being in the minority is not bad--especially when the minority stands with the Creator of the universe.

Another plus--The Bible has a final chapter. God wins. The King of kings will reign forever!

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!