Monday, October 16, 2017

Look Different

Long ago, God chose you to be Holy and Different.  Christians are meant to Think Different, Act Different, and today I want to share that we should Look Different.  Of all the sermons in this series, I was concerned about this one the most.  Why did God want me to talk about how Christians should look?  I was concerned so I spent a lot of time praying and meditating on this subject.  And I thought about the different ways different Christians have looked and dressed over the years.  And to make things easy, I’ve compiled a few slides showing how Christians can look different. Maybe you would like to choose one of these looks?

You could choose the monastic look of the monk or the nun.

You could choose the 16-17 century clerical stylings of Jonathan Edwards or John Wesley.

Or maybe you would like the more contemporary look of the Christian t-shirt or contemporary music star Colton Dixon's frohawk.

Or you could opt for a more glamorous televangelist hairdo.

Or if that's not hardcore enough, you could go with the crazy street preacher look.

Or if you're really into hats in church...

With "No Shave November" fast approaching, there's even a handy guide for Christian beard styles:
Maybe, if we really want to know how Christians look different, we should just go to the Word of God for advice.
Matthew 5:14-16
14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Jesus’ Fashion Advice
            Jesus didn’t give much fashion advice.  he did talk about the Pharisees fashion statements once.  The Pharisees liked to dress in elaborate robes ordained with boxes called phylacteries that held tiny scrolls of scripture.  They liked to be noticed and to look "holy," but Jesus warned they were like white washed tombs, beautiful on the outside but, on the inside, full of dead men's bones.
            In the sixth chapter of Matthew, Jesus said you shouldn't worry about what you will wear; He said the lilies of the field are better clothed than anything King Solomon ever wore (and Solomon was the richest man who ever lived).
           In Matthew 5:14, Jesus gives a few images of how we are to “look.” It has more to do with our character, but it can affect the way we look too.  The images he uses are:  light, a city, and a shining lamp. 

Christians Shine
            Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit and have an inner light that shines.  There something special about them that transcends clothes, age, or even the world’s standards of beauty.  Our inner lights leads us and even gives light to others, but in order for the light to shine, you have to open yourself up to the Holy Spirit.  You have to listen for what the Spirit is trying to say and then obey--even if it's uncomfortable or challenging.  When you cooperate with the Spirit, you become more like Christ.
            You will find you also give light to others.  Christians are called to be a witness.  When someone joins as a member of my church, they promise to support the church with their prayers, the presence, their gifts, their service, and their witness.  Obviously, being a witness means telling people what Jesus has done for you.  But even if you don't say anything, people see the way you live.  If you are a Christian, someone is watching to see what you will do whether you know it or not.  And if you let the Holy Spirit lead you, it will lead others as well.
            There's something else about that shining inner light.  Jesus said it can't be hidden.  He said we shouldn't try to hide it anymore than we should try to high the light of a lamp.  I'm so thankful I live in America--a land where we have the freedom to live as a Christian without concerns about our safety.  That was not the case for the earliest followers of Christ and it is not the case for many Christians who live in places like North Korea, China, and Africa today.  Many Christians have to worship in secret and try to keep their faith hidden.  Can you imagine the burden of that?  How do you keep your faith in Christ secret when it causes you to shine like a lamp or a city on a hill?  I'm so glad Christians in America don't have to hide our light.  And I think we ought to try and shine as brightly as we can in honor and memory of those who didn't have this privilege.  How dare we disrespect those who suffer for Christ by taking our shining privileges for granted?
Christians Gather Together
            I have discovered I am truly country person at heart.  I always thought I was and never would have called myself a big city kind of person.  However, before I moved to Cohutta, Georgia, I always lived in a city or a town.  Every place I've lived my whole life was populated enough that you could walk to a store within 5 or 10 minutes.  Now we live in the country and it takes a minimum of 15-20 minutes to drive to the nearest store.  It would take an hour to walk.  I guess that's the definition of country to me and I like it.  I like the way it's quite and peaceful out in the country; there's fewer people.
            But Jesus said Christians are like a city on a hill.  A city is a large human settlement.  By definition, cities are a gathering together of lots and lots of people.  And that tells you something about how Christians look.  Christians gather together in groups.  You can't have a city with just one person and there are no solitary Christians.  Christians must come together. 
            Think of the two most important ceremonies in the Christian Church.  The two sacraments that Jesus commanded his followers to practice are Baptism and Holy Communion and you can't do either of them by yourself.  You must gather together with other believers to experience them.  Christians look different because we are always gathering together with other Christians to worship, to study, to serve, to grow, to hold on another accountable, and to just share life. 

Christians Have Scars
            I have this old truck I've been tinkering with--a 1978 Ford F350.  I love the truck I call "Dry Bones."  It used to be a dump truck.  They say farm truck live a hard life, but the life of a dump truck is just brutal!  You can see the scars from that tough life in the rust that covers her.  But it's the rusty old worn out look that I like most about Dry Bones.  It reminds me so much of the Christian life.
            You see, Jesus comes to us when we are broken and beat down by the consequences of our sin.  He loves us, despite our ugliness, and he redeems us and gives us a new life.  That's what I think about when I see my Dry Bones truck.  It was just a worn our dump truck discarded and forgotten, but I'm bringing it back to life and making it cool.  People stop me all the time and tell me, "Man, I really love that truck."  And they love it, not because it's shiny and new.  They love it because of the old rusted, worn out look.
            Dry Bones is a good picture for how Christians look different.  Christians have scars.  Even Jesus had scars.  In fact, the risen Christ often showed his people his scars to prove it was really him.  "Look," he would say, "Here are the scars where the nails pierced my hands.  Here is where the spear pierced my side."  Jesus scars are not an ugly thing anymore.  Now, they are a badge of honor that shows what he did for us--how much he loves us.
            Christians have scares too--scars left by sins others did to us and sins we inflicted on ourselves.  But a scar is not a live wound.  It is a wound that has been healed.  And if Jesus is healing you (that who Christians are--those who Christ has healed and/or is healing), you will have the scars to prove it.  And your scars aren't an ugly thing; they are a badge of honor that glorifies God and shows what Christ has done for you.  Don't be afraid to show your scars--to say, "Here.  Here is where Christ healed me form my sin."  Our scars tell our story.
            But some might say, " I don’t have any scars.  I’ve always been in the church"  Well, your scars might be smaller, but they're still there.  One of the godliest people I know is Sara Brooker.  She is known thoughout our church and even the community as a true saint.  Sara's been in church pretty much her whole life and will tell you she can't really remember a time when she wasn't a Christian.  But she will also be the first to tell you, she has struggled with sin and wishes she were more Christ-like.  And I'm always thinking, I can't think of a more Christ-like person on earth, but she sees she falls short.  If Sara has scars, then we all do.  Don't be afraid to show your scars so others can see how Jesus has healed you. 

 "Yeah, But How Do Christians Dress"
            If you were reading this blog to find out how Christians should dress, I will leave you with to scriptures to help you out. 
Luke 12:35Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast.
1 Peter 5:5And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
            So, be dressed for service and dress yourself in humility.  There.  That's your Christians fashion advice. 

            Remember, God chose you long ago to be different, to be holy.  God chose you to think different, act different, and look different.  You should like a city on a hill shining for all the world to see so that the world may glorify God who chose you and made you holy different.  Are you ready to look different?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Act Different

            Long ago, God chose you to be Holy and different--to think different and to act different.  Thoughts and actions go hand in hand.  The way you think about things changes the way you act.  But sometimes, the way you act can change the way you think.  Today I want to share how God's Holy people are supposed to act different than the rest of the world.  Listen to what the Word of God says. 

Ephesians 4:17-32
17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.

20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Characteristics of Ungodly People
            The Ephesians passage list some characteristics of ungodly people.  It uses the word "Gentiles", but in the context Gentile just means anyone who doesn't follow Jesus Christ.  Gentiles are the ungodly and the passage begins saying they have a dark mind.
            The recent violence and terrible tragedy in Las Vegas has been on everyone's mind.  We don't understand why someone would shoot all those people.  They are still investigating to find a motive.  The shooter doesn't seem to fit any of the usual profiles.  So far as authorities can tell, he wasn't an Islamic terrorist, a white supremacist, a radicalized black lives matter protester, or anything else.  All we know is his actions prove he had a dark mind.  And we say, "How can anyone doing something like that?  I would never do something like that!"  But we must recognize, the same darkness that was in that man is in every human heart.  We are sinful, fallen creatures.  We may never pick up a gin and shoot someone, but we do other things that hurt people that don't make any sense because we are broken inside.  Christians are those who admit we are broken beyond repair and desperately need Jesus to heal us and save us. 
            The ungodly have a dark mind and hard hearts and they have closed their minds against God.  They refuse to let Him be Lord and continue to seek their own selfish designs.  Ephesians says they have no sense of shame, live for pleasure, and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.
            The point Paul is making is not to say how bad the ungodly are and compared to Christians. Paul is saying this is how you once were, but now Christians aren’t to be like that anymore. We are to be different.

Christians Act Different             Ephesians tells how Christians are to act different.  Christians are to stop telling lies.  We have to be honest with each other, even when the truth is awkward or difficult or goes against generally accepted beliefs.
            And the passage says "Don’t let anger control you.  Notice, it doesn’t say don’t get angry, but don’t let your anger control you.  Anger is a natural emotion--especially in the face of evil and injustice like we saw in Las Vegas.  Anger can motivate you to act when you need to act, but don't let anger control you.  Do loose you temper and let anger make you do or say something you shouldn't.
            And the passage says to quit stealing.  Work hard and give.  Notice, it's not enough just to stop stealing.  Christians act different by going even further and being generous, which is actually the opposite of stealing.
            Christians should be different because we don’t use foul or abusive language.  Now, if you've grown up in church or among polite people, you might shake your head in agreement.  Don't cuss.  But Christian differentness is so much more than refraining from profanity. 
             Saturday morning, I stopped by Ace Hardware to pickup something I needed for my "Dry Bones" truck (which I was entering in a car show at Grove Level Baptist Church).  I don't have time to tell you all about Dry Bones, but here's a couple pictures.  (Maybe I can share the story of Dry Bones at another time.)
            Anyway, as I checked out, the cashier asked if that was my truck outside.  "Yes ma'am," I said. 
            "Do you mind of I come out and take a look at it?"
            "Sure." I said and we went out and she looked it over.  She immediately exclaimed, "Man!  That's cool as heck!"  Only, she didn't say heck.  So we were walking around it and got to the back tailgate where there is this big wooden cross and she repeated, "Man! That is cool as heck!"  (Only she didn't say heck."  And then she looked over at me and saw I was wearing a Christian t-shirt, my Pleasant Grove church hat, and a cross necklace.  And she said, "And your a Christian."
            "Yes ma'am."
            "And you go to church."
            "Yes ma'am."            "And I just cussed in front of you."
            And I said, "Yes ma'am, but don't you worry about it.  I'm not offended and God loves you."
            I don't think God is too terribly upset with that lady for her choice of words.  It's a small thing.  On the other hand, I had a Christian who was a member of a church I used to pastor years ago make some abusive remarks on a Facebook post Saturday afternoon.  The ironic thing is she considers herself a ultra-devote Christian which is why she blasted the UMC and people who attend it because she thinks we aren't "holy" enough.  And I think God was much more disappointed in her comments than He was with the fact that the lady in Ace used a 4-letter word to express her admiration of my truck.
            Act different.  Speak life and hope as verse 29 says:  “…Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”  Verse 31 hints at what real foul language is.  It says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.”
            We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard. We have acted like ungodly people at one time or another. However, the Word of God teaches us to let the Holy Spirit of God invade our hearts and change us so we act different.
            Verse says, “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  Christians act different. We are kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving.  Some will say, "Yeah, but I know some non-Christians who are kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving."  The difference is why Christians act these way.  We are different because Jesus Christ acted that way toward us first.  Christians act different because of what Christ did for us when we didn't deserve it.

Christians Act Different Because We Never Give Up
            Good people will eventually run out of goodness within them.  Christians never will because our source of goodness is not us--it is beyond us; it is in our eternal Lord, Jesus.  In Christ, there is always hope. 
            The symbol for Christianity is the cross.  The cross is not a decoration or piece of jewelry.  The cross is an instrument of torture and death.  Our Founder was crucified on it.  And everyone--including Jesus' closest followers--thought it was over and done and all hope was lost.  They saw him die; they saw him put in the tomb.  But then on the third day, Jesus rose from the grave.  There is always hope!  And everytime we look at a cross, we are reminded--the is always hope!  Never give up!
           The Holy Spirit works within Christians to change us and make us act different.  You don’t have to change all at once.  Don’t be overwhelmed by the great degree you feel you need to change your actions to live up to Jesus' example.  Remember, following Jesus is a journey.  You make it one step at a time.  Don’t get overwhelmed and give up, just let the Holy Spirit change you little by little, day by day, and soon you will start to look back and see just how far you’ve come.  Trust Jesus to take you from the person you are now to the person God wants you to be.

Are You Ready to Act Different?
            Spend time talking to Jesus.  Is Jesus your Lord? Your all in all?  Is He the most important priority in your life?  When Jesus is your all in all, you think different and act different.  When Jesus is your all in all, there is a fire down deep in your bones that drives you to love God and love your neighbor.  You might get tired sometimes, but then the Lord fills you with new energy, and renewed drive, and bold courage, and relentless ambition, and Holy Ghost power, and Spiritual energy, and YOU GET OUT THERE AND CHANGE THE WORLD!  Pray to the Lord today and tell Him you want to follow Jesus from this day forward and ask for the Holy Spirit to fill you and lead you.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Serving - The Truth As Far As I Can Tell...

            I don’t really like shopping for clothes.  I know there are some people who do.  There are those who have a really good time browsing through store after store, trying on clothes, picking out the ones they like, and spending their money.  Those people are crazy!  
            Shopping is not for me.  It’s just draining.  I can work hard all day outside in the hot sun doing something I enjoy and not get tired, but I’m exhausted in less than an hour if my wife makes me go shopping.  
            Something similar happens when people serve in the church.  You serve with more passion and dedication when you serve in ways you enjoy, but serving becomes a chore when you serve in ways God hasn’t gifted you or when you have a bad attitude.
            God gives every Christian special abilities so we can serve others.  A person is truly blessed when they discover their gifts and learn how to use them to serve.  There is no greater joy than serving others in ways God designed you to serve.  It is a double blessing because you are blessed and so are the people you serve.
            However, there is another vital factor at work—your attitude.  A bad attitude can spoil the blessing of any act of service—even something you normally enjoy.  I sometimes see this when people serve out of a sense of obligation rather than love.  People often feel guilty because they think they ought to serve in some way, but they don’t really want to or aren’t able.  They may serve anyway, but they do it grudgingly.  Other times people refuse to serve and resent having been asked to do something they couldn’t or wouldn’t do.  Either way, there is a bad attitude afloat and it stinks worse than dirty sock left in the backseat of a hot car.
            This is not the way God wants it to be.  God sent His one and only Son to redeem us from guilt and shame.  The last thing God wants to do is guilt us into serving.  God asks us to serve so we can be part of the rich blessings He plans to give—both to those who serve and those who are served.  And God wants us to serve—not because we feel we have to, but—because our heart is overflowing with love and gratitude for Christ.  God gives us the freedom to decide how we serve so we can serve out of love and with a cheerful heart. 
            The Word of God tells us to have a cheerful heart.  One verse in particular comes to mind.  Although the context of this verse is financial giving, the same principle applies to our gifts of service.    2 Corinthians 9:7 – “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”” 
    I encourage you to give your time, your talents, your treasures, (everything really) with a cheerful heart.  Don't miss the joy, the blessing, the wonder of cheerful service for it is a sweet, sweet aroma to the Lord.  It is the way the Church was meant to be.  Of course, I’m no expert and certainly don’t claim to know everything, but that’s the Truth as far as I can tell…

Remember, God loves you and so do I!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Think Different

            Long ago God chose you to be holy and different.  Have you ever noticed that all the heroes of the Bible were a little different?  Some might say, they were a little off or weird; they were definitely different.  Noah built an ark out in the middle of dry land.  Can you imagine what his neighbors thought when he build the biggest boat they'd ever seen and there wasn't anywhere to sail it?  Abraham took his only son up on top of Mt. Moriah to sacrifice him, because "God told him to."  That's just crazy!  King David got so excited when he was bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, he started dancing so hard and worshiping God his clothes came off.  He embarrassed his wife and she had to scold him for exposing himself and not being dignified like a king should be.  david was different; his heart was different.  He loved God more than his own dignity.  The prophet Ezekiel ate a biblical scroll and said it tasted as sweet as honey!  That's different! 
            Jesus was the most different of all.  He is the divine son of God.  If He was going to be born on earth, he should have been born in the most majestic palace or temple with the most important people in the world gathered around, but he did things different.  He decided to be born in a manger with cows and sheep and shepherds gathered around.  The Son of God cae to change the world and he had the power to do it all by himself, but he instead he chose 12 mortal men to help him do it.  I would have chose the 12 most gifted, smartest, powerful, influential people in the world to help me, but Jesus did something different.  Instead of picking the best and brightest , he pick a bunch of smelly fishermen, a collaborator, and a terrorist determined to kill collaborators!  Peter was a bragger. Thomas was a doubter. James and John were a manipulators. And Judas was a betrayer!
            And instead of conquering his enemies by force, Jesus chose to be different—he let them crucify him on a cross and he forgave them.  And then he said to his rag tag team of disciples, “Alright boys, you know what to do.  Go change the world.”  And today, Christianity is the largest religion on the face of the earth!  Apparently God sees things different than we do and He has a thing for people who are different.  God wants you to be different! Don’t you want to be different?  
Romans 12:1-3 (Emphasis added)

1And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

3 Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
God Chose You to Think Different
            Let me first point out a few key insights about this passage that we need to hear.  First, don’t copy the world.  The world has a way of doing things and ideas about right and wrong, but we don't pattern ourselves after the world.  We should be different. 
            The Amish people seem to take this verse to heart.  They very literally choose to be different and reject the innovations of modern society.  They dress in old-fashioned clothes, refuse to use TVs or cell phones, and even still ride in horse and buggies.  I admire their dedication to being different, but I don't think that's how God wants us to be different.  The passage says let God change the way you think.
            We may dress like everyone else in the world, use modern technology, and do many similar things as everyone else, but God has changed the way we think.  And when you think different, you have a different attitude and you do things for a different reason and you will often act different.
            And finally, I want to point out the passage says, "Don’t think you are better than anyone
else—evaluate yourself honestly..."  I love the way the Word instructs us on this because it addresses to ends of the same spectrum.  There are some people who arrogant and conceited, who think they are "all that and a bag of chips."  To them the Word warns, "Don't think you are better than anyone else."  If you're full of pride or look down on others, you need to change the way you think.  But there are others who struggle with low self-esteem.  And the Word addresses that too.  It says, "Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us." God made you and God doesn't make junk.  You are special.  God's fingerprints are all over you.  So let God change the way you think.

Three Ways We Need to Think Different:
            I want to give you three ways we need to let God change the way we think.  First, stop thinking this world we see is all there is.  This world is an amazing place and it's full of wonders.  We are blessed to be able to enjoy this life, but there is more going on than just what we see.  In fact, this lifem this world, is not what it's all about.  We are tempted to think that because it's all we see right now.  However, the Word teaches us there is more.  There is a spiritual battle going on behind the scenes we can't see.  Eternity hangs in the balance.  There Life to come when this life is over.  And the rewards of this life aren't that important when measured in the scales of Eternity.  So, as the old hymn says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of of his glory and grace.”  Stop thinking this world, this life, is all there is.
            Second, stop thinking this life is more important than the Life to come.  Since this current life is all we've known and is what's immediately pressing in upon us, we get so wrapped up in it's joys and concerns.  Have you ever thought about this when we are praying about those who are sick?  Suppose we pray for someone who has terminal cancer and God's miraculously, unexplainably heals them.  (The cancer was there one day and gone the next.)  We would praise God and be so happy!  But what was really achieved?  That healing--at best--is only temporary.  Even if they live 40 or 50 years more without any other traces of cancer, then they will still die.  Everyone in this life dies.  The True Healing comes when they are resurrected in Eternal Life.  And a million years fro now, when we are praising God on that Golden Shore, no one will give a second thought to the few measly years we lived in this fallen world or the joys or sorrows we faced here.  All the things we spend so much time fretting over will seem infinitely inconsequential. Romans 8:18 - “What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.”
            Some would say: “Yeah, but I want glory in this life and in the future one."  Why do you deserve that?  Do you think you are any better than the saints that have gone before you?  Think of those saints who suffered and died for Christ.  Think of Stephen in the book of Acts who was stoned to death simply because he preached about Jesus' death and resurrection.  What about the Disciple Peter who was crucified upside down or the Apostle Paul who was beheaded in Rome.  Do you deserve more rewards in this life than those protestant reformers who worked so hard to help the Church return to true faith in Christ and received as their only reward in this world to be hanged, drawn and quartered, burned at the stake, or drowned--simply because they believed what God said in the Bible more than what the Pope said in a corrupted church in Rome?  We need to change the way we think.
            And third, we need to stop thinking the rewards and consequences of what we do now are primarily realized in this life.  People ask, "Why do the wicked prosper?  Why do bad things happen to good people?"  First of all, I would say who is really good?  The Bible says, "No one is good.  Not a single one." (paraphrase of Romans 3:10).  We might think of someone who is especially good, but that's only because we are comparing them to ourselves.  But if we place them next to a holy God, all their imperfections and sins are immediately clear and we see they are far from "good."  
            Jesus said, "[God] sends rain on the just and the unjust alike." (Matthew 5:45)  And he also taught that we would have to wait until God's sorts out all the weeds from the wheat at the end of the age.  We have to accept that Some things will not be settled in this life.  Your faithfulness in this life may not be rewarded until you get to Heaven, but God will bring justice according to His perfect wisdom in eternity. 

Are You Ready to Think Different?
            Jesus changed the world—he changed eternity—by his death and resurrection.  Because He chose the cross instead of the sword, you can be forgiven, redeemed, healed and live different, holier life than you have been living before. Long ago, God chose you to be different and holy.  Chose to follow Jesus today and let His grace enable you to think different so that you will act different and be different.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Holy Different

            I'm so proud of my son, Gavin.  He's never been afraid to stand out from the crowd.  He's always been smart--he graduated 3rd in his high school class.  He's independent.  He's attending the University of Alabama, Huntsville and doing well.  Last year, he used a bike to travel between classes across campus, but Gavin's never been afraid to be different.  This year, he decided to trade in his bike for a unicycle!  So if you're ever at UAH and you see a college kid riding a unicycle to class, it's probably my son!
            I want to talk to you today about being different.  Colonel Sanders wasn't afraid to be social security check was only $105. Instead of complaining, he did something different.  He thought restaurant owners would love his fried chicken recipe, use it, sales would increase, and he’d get a percentage of it. So, Sanders drove around the country knocking on doors, sleeping in his car, and wearing his white suit.  Can you imagine how strange people must have thought Sanders was?  They did.  His idea was rejected 1,009 times before someone finally said yes.  The rest is history.
different.  He was over 65-years-old before he became famous for fried chicken.  He got mad when his
            This blog is the first in a series called “Different”.  Did you know God wants us to be different than the rest of the world?

1 Peter 1:1-2 1This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.

I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

May God give you more and more grace and peace.

Holy Different
            This passage tells us some important things about your relationship with God.  First of all He chose you.  It wasn't a mistake.  He made a deliberate decision and chose you on purpose.  And He chose you long ago.  If you're like me, you get so busy that days and weeks just seem to run together.  And as busy as we are, I don't know what you thought was going to happen today.  But thousands of years ago, God already knew you would be reading these words right here, right now.  And He chose you.  And lastly, this passage tells us that God's Spirit chose to make you holy; and that is the crux of this blog.
            We use the word holy a lot in the church, but what does it mean?  Holy means “set apart for the special, sacred purposes of God.”  Something that is holy is not to be used for unholy purposes(You don’t use a communion chalice for your morning coffee).  When you are holy, you are different.  When you are holy, you are special.  When you are holy, you stand out.  Diamonds are so valuable because they sparkle.  Diamonds are really just rocks, but they stand out from other ordinary rocks because of the way the catch and reflect light.  Like a diamond, you need to sparkle and shine for God.  Stop trying to blend in to the crowd. 

But I Don’t Want to Be Different…
            An interesting thing happens with most teenagers that causes their parents a lot of anxiety.  Doctors and psychologists tell us that teenagers are biologically engineered to start separating from their parents and create their own identity.  From the time they are babies to the age of about 13, most kids adore their parents and want to be just like them.  But then they become teenagers and start to pull away.  All of a sudden, they stop admiring their parents and start to think they are boring and old and uncool.  And parents often get so frustrated because it feels like their teenage kids are going off the deep end, rejecting everything they've worked so hard to teach them.  And this is natural, because teenagers are trying to establish their own identity apart from their parents.  They want to be individuals.
            Ironically, rather than becoming “individuals” with their own “separate” identities, teenagers most often try to be like all their friends.  They trade mimicking their parents for mimicking their friends.  They want to wear the clothes their friends wear, listen to their friends music, hang out with and act like their cool friends.  And this is a natural part of growing up and almost everyone goes through it to some degree.  It isn’t until teenagers mature a bit more--usually once they get into their 20s--that they really start to figure out who they are apart from anyone else and find their own individual identity. 
            Unfortunately, many people ever really grow out of the human desire to “fit in”.  Most people want to adhere to “social norms.”  We want to be in fashion, we want to "fit in" our community, we want to be accepted by everyone else.  Most people still define themselves in relation to others.  They want to "keep up with the Joneses."  What does that expression really mean?  It means you want what they have, because you think what "they" have is what you really want or need.  Very few people stop to think what they really want without regards to what other people have.  Even fewer stop to think about what God really wants for them and trust that what He wants is really best.
            I have been accused of being different--even weird.  I'm fascinated with science and experiments and a couple years ago I was at the beach in South Carolina with my extended family.  I was staring at the ocean wondering if I could distill some sea salt out of it.  And I thought, "I bet I can."  So I got an empty milk jug and washed is out and collected a gallon of sea water from the ocean.  I put it in a  pot on the stove back at our condo and boiled it down until there wasn't any water left; and lo and behold their was about a quarter cup of salt left in the bottom of the pan!  I was so proud as I showed it to all my uninterested relatives.  My brother-in-law, Joey, looked at me and said, "Chris.  Your weird."  Haha!  And said, "Hallelujah!" because I own it! I know I'm different.  That's how God made me and I'm learning more and more to just be who God made me, because God wants us to be different.  It's OK to be weird!

God wants us to be Different.
            Truitt Cathy was different and he founded a different kind of fast food restaurant.  He said, “We should be about more than just selling chicken. We should be a part of our customers’ lives and the communities in which we serve.”  Now, if you try to eat lunch after church at a Chick-fil-A, you will be disappointed, because they're always closed on Sunday.  You'll have to settle for something else.  Chick-fil-A makes a statement by being closed.  You can't help but see it.  Sunday afternoons is one of the busiest times of the week for a restaurant, but Chick-fil-A intentionally stays closed and you can't help but see it.  And you don't just see it on Sundays.  Go in there on a Monday when they're open and you get a sense of it too.  I mean, it's just a fast food restaurant like any other, but it's also different.  Something about the way they carry themselves and the way they serve and the way they take pride in what they do.  Chick-fil-A is different.  It's almost like they're holy.            In the Old testament, God chose the children of Israel to be his holy people.  He wanted them to be different, to stand out.  So he gave them all kinds of rules that would make them a separate, different people.  Resting on Sunday was one of those rules, but there were also rules about how to dress and what kind of food to eat.  And all these laws--though they were a burden to follow--marked the Israelites as a special, holy people.
            Things have changed for us since Jesus came, because Jesus made all food clean and said we are saved by grace and not by following rules.  But we are still supposed to be holy and different. People should be able to look at us and think, "They look like other people, but there's something different about them, something special."
            Jesus told us the most important way we would be so different.  In John 13:35, Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  Do you love people in different way?  A holy way?  God's way?

God Chose You, but Do You Choose God?

            Long ago, 1 Peter 1:2 tells us, God chose you to be holy.  How long before you humble yourself, bow down, and choose to follow God?  For when you choose God through faith in Jesus Christ, Peter says you, “have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.”  Then you are holy and forgiven and you will have more grace and peace.  People will begin to see you are Holy Different and you will live a Holy and Different life, a better life, and you will have eternal life. And you will know you are loved and your will love people like Jesus loves.   Are you ready?  Make the decision to be Holy Different today!