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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.



Stop, Look and Listen

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How many times have you heard one of these sayings in your life? ‘Where there is a will, there is a way’ or ‘If your friend jumps off of a bridge, are you going to do it too?’ and ‘The early bird gets the worm’. Sayings such as these are said so often that they sometimes seem trivial. Yet there are still valuable lessons to be remembered no matter how many times we roll our eyes when we hear them.

                I recently received an email from a friend, the type that floods your mailbox and tries to get you to forward it to everyone you know. This one in particular vividly portrayed the courageous actions of an eleven year old girl who protected herself and her home from intrusion by two violent, illegal aliens. In the end, the heroic actions and sharp shooting skills of this young woman really tugged at the heart strings. The email then encouraged all people who ‘loved the United States’ to pass the message along. I love my country. I am a patriot. I felt an emotional need to share this story, to press the send to all button. As I started to forward the message I remembered these words.

                “Before you cross the street, be sure to stop, look, and listen.”

                Pausing for a moment, I reread the email. Something just seemed ‘too good to be true’. A quick search on a couple of internet rumor sites proved this story to be completely made up! It was nothing more than a good bit of emotional fiction. I was duped! Just before deleting this colorful story, I sent a note of caution to the friend who had passed it along to me.

                Christians, we have a responsibility to be sure that what we tell others is true, whether it be around the lunch table or through email. You are a light that cannot be hidden, an example to the world of just who Christ truly is.

                Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.  (Psa 19:14 NKJV)