Suppose I gave you a jar of yellow gumballs with this simple instruction: you are to separate one gumball from the rest without isolating it from the others. Could you do it? As soon as you take one gumball out of the bunch, it is separated, but now it is also isolated. As soon as you put it back in, it once again becomes neither separated or isolated.
Can something or someone be separated without being isolated? It is a question worth asking because it drives at the core of the meaning of holiness. As Christians are we to be a holy, separated people, or are we to be a holy, isolated people?
How you look at your Christian life through either of these two possibilities will determine how you relate to the world around you. From two different pastors I heard the following two statements: “Church is not for the saved, it is for the lost to come and hear the Gospel” and “Church is not for the lost, it is for the saved to come and learn how to live a life pleasing to God.” As I took in and thought over these two statements, I could not see anything wrong with either of them except for their exclusive stance toward a particular group. In truth, church should be for the saved AND the lost.
The church should be a place where the lost feel welcome and where the Gospel can be planted in their hearts, however, it should also be a place where Christians feel comfortable bringing their families because they know that the teachings will help all of them learn to live a holy life pleasing to God.
Going back to the example of the gumballs, what if you were to take one gumball out, change it’s color, and then place it back in the jar. Would it then be separated? Well, it would certainly be different, and it would stand out. It would also no longer be isolated.
1Peter 2:9 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” John 9:5 “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
If we are in the world and no different than the world, then I propose that we are not separated, or to use another word, holy. To be holy is to be different in a way that gives honor and glory to God instead of bringing attention to ourselves. If we are so different that we isolate ourselves, and the world has no interaction with us, then they cannot see God in us in that way either. We may as well be a gumball wrapped in opaque packaging completely cut-of from any interaction, definitely separated, but also just another form of isolation.
There must be balance. We cannot hope to influence a lost world if we isolate ourselves from them, nor can we be the light to a world if we are no different than they are. That balance, that distinction between being separated and isolated, that characteristic that points to God instead of ourselves, that is what I believe is holiness.
Reposted from www.MenRising.com
When the For Sale sign went on my motorcycle, the first thing my daughter asked me was, “Are you going to sell your motorcycle?” It was not a question of if, but more a question of why. I explained to her that I did not need the motorcycle anymore, and that we needed the money more than I wanted to keep the motorcycle around. I could tell she was sad about the whole thing, so I offered to take her for a ride. She became very enthusiastic. I went and got the helmets, and off we rode through the back roads of Jacksonville and eventually ended up on Hwy 204 headed into town. It wasn’t a planned trip, but it was fun, and instead of just heading home, we went to a local restaurant to get some hamburgers.
Just being with my daughter on this impromptu date was fun for her and me. We had ridden together on the motorcycle together before, and as we ate hamburgers and fries, she recalled the different times, places we went, and things we did together. For the most part, we hadn’t done anything spectacular, no pictures had been taken, there were no main events, but I began to realize a couple of things: first, just being with my daughter is an event all its own, and second, this little girl is growing up fast.
At the restaurant, she did all the talking. Stopping occasionally to ask questions on some point she was unclear on, and sometimes taking a bite of food, she rambled on for many minutes, and I just listened to her talk. It’s amazing to see what a child takes in, their perceptions on things that have happened, and how they can come to some pretty amazing conclusions all on their own. She talked about stuffed animals and friends as though they were both an equal part of the world, and in her world I am sure they are. She talked about riding a bicycle, and how it is a lot like riding a motorcycle, except for all the things that are different, which she began to name.
As I looked at her and listened and watched, I began to wonder what kind of future is she going to have. Who will she marry? That thought reminded me of a story a preacher told about his wife who was busy praying one day. The preacher asked his wife what she was praying about and she said she was praying for a Godly husband for their daughter. The preacher thought this odd since their daughter was not yet 5 years old, but then his wife added, “Somewhere, there are parents raising a young man who will one day become the husband of our daughter. I’m praying for all of them.” That’s when the preacher knelt down beside his wife and also began to pray.
Since that time, I have begun praying for the future husbands of both of my daughters. As we wrap up our little lunch, I wonder if there are parents out there with a little boy, possibly praying for me and my wife and my daughter. I wonder if they have the same concerns about this world and a future for their children as I do, and if they care as much about raising their children right.
As I parked the motorcycle on the driveway, and though the motorcycle is still technically for sale, I took the For Sale sign off. Not because I didn’t want to sell it anymore, but for some reason I found I just didn’t want to sell it as badly as I used to.
Reposted from www.MenRising.com
I was talking with a young lady in China, trying to get her to understand the concept of how God sees sin, right and wrong, and moral absolutes. As we talked, it became apparent to me that either she did not understand the concept of absolute right and wrong, or she was purposefully choosing a line of thinking that said all actions of right and wrong were conditional.
To clarify her position in my own mind, I asked her if prostitution was against the law in China. She said yes. When I tried to get her to admit, based on the law, that prostitution was wrong, she wavered. “Wrong by the government does not mean it is wrong for the girl. Maybe she must do these things to support herself, and maybe she must support her baby.”
She then brought up a question I recognized immediately as a moral dilemma question. Here is the setup: A group of people is trying to escape from certain death in a building through the only passage way available. One person becomes stuck in the passage way just a few feet from the opening outside, and this person cannot be removed by either pushing them forward or backward. It seems now that everyone will die.
However, one person in the group has a crude and gruesome means of removing the person from the passage way, but it will certainly kill the person blocking the way. Some people argue that for one person to die to save everyone else is worth it. Others argue that it is outright murder and should not be done. The person stuck in the passage way has a family and does not want to die, but agrees there is no way for everyone to live unless they die, and so the decision is left up to you. What do you do?
There are variations on this story I have heard since then, such as the person in the passage way is a relative, maybe a husband or wife, or maybe the person stuck is a pregnant female. In one case the person is begging for their life to be spared, and in another they are consenting to their own death. Whatever spin you put on it though, the original moral dilemma remains the same as in the first story. The other variations just seem to add in distractions intended to complicate or simplify what is essentially the same choice: one person (or two in the case of the pregnant female) dies so that the rest may live, or all die in the name of preserving moral right.
While you may never personally face this moral dilemma, we still face these types of decisions once in a while. Is it OK to change seats at a ball game for better seats you did not pay a premium price for if they are empty? Is it OK to call in sick on a day when you actually overslept? If you do something wrong and someone else is getting the blame, do you step in and fess up – even if the consequences are going to be very harsh?
Problem is, these answers may be difficult for some people to answer, but when there is a clear line of right and wrong, and a choice has been made to do right no matter the cost, then the decisions are actually made before the time of decision even comes. Those clear lines of right and wrong are called moral absolutes, and when solidly based on the Word of God, we can make choices with confidence instead of worrying if we did the right thing or not.
How this really begins to apply is when we are raising our children to choose to do right. Peer pressure among friends and a desire to fit in with the group has a very powerful way of greying out a line of right and wrong. “I’m not hurting anyone else but myself” would be one argument, while another argument has been “What is right and wrong for you is not necessarily what is right and wrong for me.” If moral absolutes do not exist in the first place, there is very little chance these faded lines will hold up when the greying effect of peer pressure comes in to sway you, or your children. What moral absolutes can you find in the Bible?
Reposted from www.MenRising.com August 15, 2011.
When I was a kid, a conversation that would come up once in a while had to do with our five senses, and which one we could do without, and which ones we felt we absolutely had to have. Eventually, the list would be narrowed down to a choice between sight and sound. If you had to lose one of them, which would you choose? Unanimously, everyone said they would rather lose their sense of hearing over their ability to see, because while hearing is critical, a lack of sight would keep you from doing so many more things.
Most people would be devastated to lose their sight. No more golden sunrises or sunsets. No more reading books, at least not the way you’re used to reading them. Movies would be left up to your imagination. The faces of your children would be impressions of your hands on them. So much of what we discover and experience in life comes from our sense of sight. It would be a very difficult thing to lose.
Vision, however, is not just what we see right now. Vision is the ability to see what is coming before it gets here, to see potential problems, as well as the ability to see the potential of what could be. Before every great development, invention, new product, or new experience we have, there is the flicker of an idea in the imagination that slowly emerges as a vision of a future that could be. That vision shapes everything, creates motivation, focuses energies, and makes things happen.
As the leader of your home, what is your vision for your family. Maybe you have not given this a lot of thought, but you should. What kind of relationship do you see between you and your wife 5, 10, 25 years from now? What kind of relationship do you see yourself having with your kids when they are grown and married? What about your grandchildren? What will it take to get there?
I do not personally know of anyone who ever married for the pure motive of getting a messy divorce, ripping their family apart, and destroying a good relationship – but it happens. I also do not know any parent who purposefully raised their kid to be a drunk, a drug abuser, or someone who breaks the law and lands in jail for the sole motivation of being able to go bail them out of jail at night, sending them to a rehab clinic, or seeing the lives of their children destroyed – but this also happens.
I feel that part of the problem is the inability of these people to see the end-game of their actions. The other part of the problem is that they never had a concrete vision of the future they really wanted, or that if they did, then they never had a road map to take them there. Without such a vision, many things are left to chance, or even the selfish vision of someone else. You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, so why try to build a home without one?
By home I am not referring to the sticks and blocks that make a house, I am talking about the decisions you make now that can have long-term effects. Setting standards, having rules that have consequences when they are broken, and saying no to things that do not promote or further the vision you have for your family. That kind of vision provides a focus that is very powerful, because it makes so many other decisions easier.
Reposted from www.MenRising.com 8/10/2011 post
The recent downgrade of the US Credit Rating seems to have many in government scrambling - to get out from under any responsibility. The news media is giving voice to anyone who wants to get in front of a camera and point fingers, and many hold their breath waiting to see how the markets will settle out over this newest wrinkle.
Are you worried?
The truth is, no one knows what will happen next. The economy seems to be on a daily roller coaster that is being built daily, and the future is impossible to predict. I’ve had conversations with people about how to prepare for such an uncertain future, and suggestions of what to do have run from doing nothing differently, to some comical “end-of-the-world” preparations, and all points in between with some ideas I found pretty level headed.
We have all given it some thought, and when I search for something in the Bible to compare it to, my mind went immediately to the storm at sea the disciples experienced with Jesus asleep in the back of the ship. The story is found in Matthew chapter 8 and Mark 4, but some points about their situation jump out at me as being similar.
First, they had a very huge problem come upon them. This was not a theoretical, political, or personal problem. This problem was tangible, it was immediate, and it threatened their very lives. Second, for their part, there was nothing they could do. The ship was full of water, and their future was in great doubt. Third, they went to Jesus, but finding him asleep bemoan that He does not care for them, and that they may die.
Ever been in a situation where life is turned all upside down and it seems God is asleep at the wheel and/or does not not care about what is going on in your life?
As this economy plays out, there are some people out there in ships that are sinking. Their problems are not theoretical, political, or personal. They have very real problems that require very real answers. They have gone to God, and from their point of view, it seems God is asleep. They have cried out in their hearts, in their prayers at night, in frustrations and anxiety of an uncertain future “Carest thou not that we perish?”
Their concerns and fears are no less real than the concerns and fears the disciples had while on that ship in the middle of a raging sea that threatened to destroy them, and I think Jesus’ response to the disciples would be no different for us today. Mark 4:40 “And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” The difference being that Jesus calmed a very real storm in their lives before uttering those words. His actions showed what the intent of His words were. He was always in perfect control of the situation.
Sometimes we simply want the storm to stop, and then we will trust God and be thankful. I know that is where I would be in my mind. We want to see the storm abate to know God is still in control. Strange. Why do we believe God is control when things are good, but when things go bad we doubt His sovereignty? When things are good, faith is easy because we perceive the good blessings of God’s provision, but it is when things are not so good when our faith is tested.
The God in control of our lives in good times, is still in control when things go haywire. When things are good, it is easy to give God control of our lives. We should be equally prepared to surrender control in our lives when things are not so good, or downright terrible. The way I see it, with all the uncertainty I have about the future, I think I’d rather have faith in God who really does control everything than trust myself. It’s not easy.
Like being the passenger in a car heading into trouble, the impulse is to wrest control of the steering wheel away from the driver, but if the driver is an expert, and we really do trust him, faith dictates we be prepared to surrender complete control. Now, you can start by taking your hands off the wheel.
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