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Favoritism

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FavoritismAll of us have favorite things. Favorite foods, favorite cars and favorite books, are some possessions we might hold in special regard.  We even have favorite people in our lives. They could be a teacher, a kind aunt or uncle, or even a trusty local car mechanic. The question is, when it comes to people, is there anything wrong with showing favoritism? After all, we hear all the time on blogs, Facebook, and in classrooms that favoritism is wrong.

We are all different in many ways. Jesus highlighted this when He taught the Parable of the Talents (Mt 25.14-30). Peter and Paul spoke of rich men, poor men, governors, kings, apostles and preachers, all of whom play a part in the world and in the kingdom of God and are special in their own way.

Christ’s apostle Paul might seem to be saying that ‘God sees no one as special’ when he writes, “But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me.” (Gal 2.6) But is that what the apostle was really thinking?

If it is true that God shows no favoritism at all, then wouldn’t it be a sin if Christians did?  What about Jesus, didn’t He have a special group of friends (apostles) that He treated differently than others? Consider also Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2.9 where Christians are called God’s “own special people.” Sounds confusing, doesn’t it?

Perhaps it is not the fact of having a favorite or special something or someone that is the issue at all. The real problem is one of value. It is impossible to keep from recognizing differences in people, and it is not wrong to do so. Favoritism becomes sinful when we value someone in such a way that we give them special privileges not offered to the rest. This is the type of thing James cries out against:

For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, “‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” (Jas 2.2-4)

Does God value a poor man’s soul less than a rich man? No. All are made in His image (Gen 1.27). He is not partial (Rom 2.11). Jesus came to save all who will follow Him (1 Tim 1.15).

The problem with favoritism rests firmly within us. Our selfishness, pride, and ego’s cause us to treat men unequally. Jude says we do this so that we can gain advantage over others, “These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.” (Jude 1.16)

The next time we are tempted to raise one soul unjustly above another or give preference to someone (especially ourselves) so that we will have something to gain, perhaps we should first consider the words of Christ.

Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mar 10.43-45)

Think about it.

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Do Over!!!

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“Do over! I wasn’t ready yet,” she yelled out as she rounded the tree laughing. This was the scene following our recent VBS where an impromptu game of tag broke out among the exuberant youngsters. It is the excited request for a do over that is rattling around in my head this morning.PlayingTag

How many times in life have we wished for a do over? Do you ever find yourself wishing you could make a better grade, or buy a different car? Would you invest your money differently or take a different job? Would you spend more time with your family? Come on, can I get a do over? Please?

No, I can’t! We live with the life we have created by the choices we have made.

BUT, there are some things we can do from this day forward.

We can choose to live under the weight of guilt and sin for all of the mistakes we have made OR we can choose the path of renewal each day. It’s true that we may bear the scars and consequences of our past, but that does not mean that those weights and burdens have to overcome us. Consider what the Hebrews writer has to say;

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2)

Truth be told, there is little benefit to being caught up in the past. Beyond learning from the experiences of life, reliving our mistakes over and over just feeds on the negativity they bring, and this  is guaranteed to bring you down. After trying over a thousand filaments for his incandescent light, Edison was asked if he had failed, “No, I have eliminated one more element that will not work for me.” Paul puts it this way;

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Php 3.13-14)

We can use our experiences to help others on the path through life. Children understand, “you are going to make mistakes, but you certainly don’t have to make the same one’s I made.” By being open and transparent about the detours you have taken and curve balls you have missed, you are better suited to help others along the way. Taking that approach to life allows you to take your mistakes and extract good from the circumstances.  This may have been what Paul had in mind when he said, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8.28).

Think about it.

Is There a Right Kind of Worry?

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WorryFor the most part, worry is wrong. Jesus teaches this during His sermon on the mount. Listen to His words when He says, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Mt 6.25ff)

Jesus plainly shows us that it is wrong to have great anxiety over material things such as what we will eat or wear. Worry about the mundane things of this earth is useless because it changes nothing and worry is faithless because it reflects a lack of confidence that God can and will take care of us.

 

With that being said, is there ever a healthy kind of worry? Yes, actually there is, although we might choose to use words like concern or care in place of worry. Take a look at what the apostle Paul says, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” (Phil 2.19-20)
Both Paul and Timothy are greatly concerned, even worried, about their brethren in Philippi. They were evidently facing some adversity that tested their Christian conduct (Phil 2.27-30) which could damage them spiritually. Paul was determined to send Timothy to help them due to Timothy’s deep love and sincere care for the Philippians. I believe we can say that both of these men were vitally concerned, or even worried, about the spiritual welfare of their fellow Christians.

 

This is not the only time Paul would feel great anxiety in his heart concerning all of the churches, to the Corinthians he said, “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Cor 11.28)
Paul was not worried about how many times he would be put in jail, beaten, or shipwrecked, these are all worldly things. What concerned him was humbleness, teaching Christ, and standing up against false teaching. He felt great concern, anxiety, and yes worry, for God’s children who faced the kind of adversity that could weaken the spirit and their bond with God.

 

So we ought to try to conquer our fretfulness over the mundane, temporal matters of our earthly life, while realizing that there is a legitimate place for true concern and care for the spiritual welfare of others.



Lord, Give Us More

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I cannot take credit for the list below, but neither can I remember where I received it from. Regardless, I found it encouraging and wanted to share with you.

It is often the case that when one is promoting a position, and another stands in opposition to that position, efforts are made to discredit the one who stands in opposition.  This is often accomplished by “name-calling” and “false-labeling.”  However, such tactics should not dissuade one who is standing in the right.

  • If opposing homosexual marriage is being homophobic, Lord, give us more homophobes!
  • If demanding strict obedience to the Bible is legalism, Lord, give us more legalists!
  • If opposing divorce, except for the cause of fornication, is idealistic, Lord, give us more idealists!
  • If opposing women leadership in the church is chauvinism, Lord, give us more chauvinists!
  • If dressing modestly is prudish, Lord, give us more prudes!
  • If opposing abortion is right wing, Lord, give us more right-wingers!
  • If believing in the inerrancy of Scripture is fundamentalism, Lord, give us more fundamentalists!
  • If total commitment is fanaticism, Lord, give us more fanatics!
  • If believing one should be a virgin when one marries is Puritanism, Lord, give us more puritans!
  • If believing in creation is foolish and unenlightened, Lord, give us more fools!

No matter what names the world and even some Christians may call you, if you stand for the truth, the Lord will call you “right.”  Give it some thought.

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (I Jn 1.5-7)

Are You a Slave?

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James begins his epistle by talking to Christians about how they face trials in life which test their moral character and loyalty to God. Simply existing or surviving through temptations is not enough. Our spiritual reaction and earthly conduct matter to God.

Chains

                He talks about serving the lord from the position of being a bondservant. See how he begins his letter, “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.” James is not the only one to say this; Paul, Peter, Jude and John all identified themselves as servants, bondservants, and even slaves! Slaves? Really? I thought that we were to be free in Christ, after all, Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”. (Jn 8.32)

                Isn’t a slave a person who is bound in chains and forced to do what his master says? Aren’t they deprived of their personal freedom? Well, yes, that is exactly right. In most cases this results in poor treatment, harsh punishment, and social upheaval. Just look at how the Hebrews were treated in Egypt.

                Jesus is a different type of master however. He said to “take up our cross and follow Him.” (Mt 16.24-27). Could it be that He understood because He too had a cross to bear? Christ also said for us to ‘ take His yoke upon us’, that He is ‘gentle and lowly in heart’, and ‘we will find rest in Him’ (Mt 11.29).

                Perhaps we misunderstand sometimes simply because we have just not had the right experiences. Would it be different if we had witnessed what happened in this story?

                The meaning of doulos (servant) is well illustrated in the story told by Clayton Wallers: They were in Africa trying to translate the N.T. into five different dialects and came to the word “redeemed.” They would take each word and explain it as fully to the people as possible and then asked them what word in all five dialects explained it best. They spent 30 minutes explaining the word “redeemed” and asked them for the correct word. The word they gave meant, “to take the neck out.” The translators decided they needed to explain the word better, so they started all over, but the men said, “No!” They said they understood exactly what the word meant but that the translators did not understand the word they gave back as its meaning. Back when the slave traders came over to capture their people they put their necks in chains. If one of the locals who was rich enough and a freeman he could buy back one of these people and they would “take his neck out.” Their custom then was to bow down in front of this person and become his slave voluntarily for the rest of his life.

                This is exactly what Jesus has done for us! He has spilled His blood so that we could be purchased in our sinfulness, cleansed by Him, then set aside for God’s use for life, and as a faithful servant we have the hope and promise of eternal reward with Him in heaven after we depart from this world. If that is what it means to be a bondservant of God, then put the chains on me! How about you? Are you a willing servant of the Lord? Think about it.

It’s MY Big Gulp

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Not too long ago now, there was an argument raging in the city of New York over the mayor’s dictate that a person cannot buy a single soft drink 32oz or larger. If you want a ‘big gulp’ from Seven Eleven then you will just have to buy two smaller ones and drink them both. The situation ignited the airwaves with controversy, something we Americans seem to thrive on.

BigGulp

            One nutritionist argued that America is eating itself to death, literally. Obesity rates are higher than in any other country she said. Not to mention the deaths caused by heart attack and diabetes that can be caused by overconsumption.

            While I do not accept the mayor of New York’s solution to sugar consumption, I did have to agree with one thing. We are a nation addicted to things that are not good for us both physically and spiritually.

            Consider the words of Christ, “Then He said to them all, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9.23)

When we are hungry, we eat, but often it is too much ‘comfort’ food. I wonder, do we feed our minds in the same way? We soak up shows like Duck Dynasty when we want to sit and relax…for hours. People spend more time in activities like texting or messaging friends than they do in even considering their own soul. Others just don’t have time to consume spiritual food, opting for the world’s drive through instead.

            If our desire is to be with God in heaven forevermore, then we have to find the strength to put ourselves aside and pick up the cross of Christ, every day. We must develop the courage not only to be seen with Christ, but to stand up for His cause.

            To be honest, it doesn’t matter if you want to walk around with your 44oz Coke from Sonic, it’s OK. But if we fill ourselves to overflowing with the world instead of God, then we will die a spiritual death. Don’t die a spiritual death! Take up your cross, open the Bible, eat the bread of life, drink spiritual water, feed your soul, follow in His steps and live with the Lord forever.

Oz, The Great and Powerful

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Copied from Google Images.

Copied from Google Images.

Every now and then, our family likes to rent a show for a movie night. Recently, we watched Oz, The Great and Powerful. As movies go, it was OK. It told the story of how the wizard and the wicked witches of the land of Oz came to be.

One particular aspect of the movie that did intrigue me was the story of Theodora, who would eventually become the ‘wicked witch of the west’. You see, when Theodora meets Oscar Zoroaster she falls in love with him. Oz is the first person to ever freely give her a gift or to dance with her. His kindness toward her warms her heart, causing her faith in him to grow.

Unfortunately, Oscar’s affection toward Theodora is nothing more than a show that he puts on for every pretty face he sees. Oz’s true love is for himself and his desire is to become a ‘great and powerful’ man. Money, power, and prestige are the most wonderful things in life to this scam artist.

When Theodora discovers that Oz’s affections toward her are meaningless, her heart is broken. She desperately grasps for anything that will take the pain and anguish she is feeling away. In true Disney movie form, her sister presents her with an apple, which has a spell placed upon it that will cure her broken heart, and boy does it. Not only does it take away the pain of a broken heart, but it shrivels her heart up until there is nothing left inside but wickedness.

Now, I know this is a movie, but there is something very real about the effects that following after things of this world have on the heart. When our mind is set on the size of our bank account, the next big promotion, or how popular we are with people, then our heart becomes callous and hardened to matters of the spirit which are important to God. The apostle Paul says it this way,

 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Rom 8.5-6)

 What kinds of things does your heart desire? Do you place more importance on the things of the world, or on the things of God? If God, then do your actions reflect the conviction of your heart for all to see? If not, why not?  Think about it.

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