It is a daily task to remind myself that I can’t think like the world or get praise from the world and call myself a child of God at the same time. The two cannot coexist in any peaceful manner within me. One or the other is going to get the short end of the stick.
I was reading John 12 the other day. It is a familiar part of scripture where Jesus is teaching and performing miracles. The time frame was right before the crucifixion. Many people in the land were starting to believe and to follow Christ. The many included some Jewish leaders too. However, they were afraid to openly confess that they were following Christ. They were afraid of being put out of the synagogue.
The scripture says: for they loved praise from men more than praise from God. John 12:43
Have you ever been in that situation? Afraid to speak up for God, afraid to publicly say you follow Christ. I recall a friend saying once, “I believe in Jesus but I’m not some Jesus freak.” I chuckled at that. I never explored fully what the friend meant. My guess is that the friend was worried about what people would say about him. He was more interested in the praise of people.
In my mind, to be totally sold out, wholeheartedly following Jesus, you would be seen as a freak. To live wholeheartedly for Christ means you aren’t following the world. That alone makes you the odd man out. It is an every day, every moment commitment to follow Him wholeheartedly. I don’t know about you but the things of the world have a strong and familiar attraction to them. And as creatures of habit, aren’t we comforted by the things that are familiar? Stepping outside our comfort zone takes work and effort. I have to work at it and I don’t always get it right. But I try.
I have faced the challenge of how I am viewed among friends and acquaintances. I believe right now those who have known me for years – friends and family included – are probably thinking I’ve gone off the deep end. But I have seen and I have experienced His love first hand like no other kind of love. Not even the love from my parents – and I know they loved me. They put up with a bull-headed (my mother’s term for me) child.
So whose praise would you rather have – man’s praise or God’s praise?
We have become society that doesn’t want to offend anyone. And while I agree with that, I still believe in a person’s right to have an opinion – even if it differs from mine. And I’ll defend the right to my opinion – like it or not. I shouldn’t be as worried about you offending me but I should be more concerned that I am grounded and firm in my beliefs and convictions that I wouldn’t take offense.
I am not an argumentative person but I think we have watered our stand on Christianity so much at Christmas, that it hardly represents the celebration of the birth of the Messiah.
At work the employee newsletter was making an attempt at explaining the holiday traditions of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. When I read what was written about Christmas, it was so weak and made it sound like a bunch of people following the teaching of a really good guy. It spoke more about the secular celebration involving Santa Claus and giving and receiving gifts. But the article said nothing of the fact that Jesus is God in the flesh. He was born on earth of a virgin to live life and experience trials and tribulations as we do. It said nothing about how He came to be the sacrifice for our sins. If you want to know about Christmas, ask a Christian. Christmas Begins with Christ.
Many years ago Jewish woman once told me that her daughter wanted to know why Christian parents lie to their children about Santa Claus. I wish I was quick on my feet with the response of “Not everyone who celebrates Christmas is a Christian.” Remember the reason for the season.
I find it interesting and fascinating how God answers prayers. I am reminded that it is not always in the way we expect. What is more pleasing to me was that it was my 17-year-old son who pointed it out to me.
In the past during the Christmas season I have always purchased restaurant gift cards and when approached by someone asking for money, I would try to engage them in a conversation and ask what the money was being used for. Often times I was told it was for food. I think probably 90 percent of the time that was the response that I received. Since I don’t carry cash around (I stopped that practice many years ago) I would offer them a gift card to a restaurant. Well my sister and brother told me that many times the recipient would exchange the gift card to someone for drugs or for cash to buy drugs. So this year, I decided to provide what the recipient needed more than anything – to hear about Jesus.
So I set about putting packets together. The packets were simply sandwich bags that had small pamphlets that talk about Jesus. I had been collecting them throughout the last several months. I also put together some information on social service organizations where someone can get some help – free meals etc. And I prayed. I asked God to use me to lead someone to a closer walk with Him. I asked him to slow my pace as I scurry from in the cold blasts of winter winds so that someone looking for help might approach me. I wanted to be an instrument to guide people to Christ. But so far there has been nothing. I haven’t seen anyone seeking help. No one has approached me on my one-block walk from the parking garage to my office building. I know they are there, but I haven’t seen anyone. Was my timing off? Were my eyes open? Was I looking friendly and approachable?
In the meantime, I was asked to serve on the live-in team for the February Walk to Emmaus. I’ve talked about my Emmaus experience before. It was the best 72 hours I have ever spent. I was away from home, away from the television, cell phone and internet. I was able to sit quietly and listen to God speaking to my heart. I heard a whole lot during that weekend. And I came out with a renewed love for the Word and for service.
In the 18 months since my walk I have been busy and involved. I have been listening and asking for direction and in general involving God in my everyday decisions. I’ve been thanking him almost moment by moment and receiving the blessings and hopefully being a blessing to someone. Thinking about significance of the season, I wanted to do something this holiday season. I wanted to do something impactful. I reminded myself it wasn’t for my glory – but for His. Even though I haven’t been approached by anyone so far this holiday season, I am being given the opportunity to make a difference and to have an impact.
I was asked to be part of the February team. I wanted to say yes immediately. Actually I did say yes right away, but I asked the Lay Director to give me the weekend to pray about it to be sure. It didn’t seem like it could be a bad decision. But in my usual fashion I began to think of a million things that I needed to take care of to make it happen. I would have to make sure my teenager was someplace safe for 72 hours and the dog needed to be well taken care of also. As I pondered about these things I continued to wonder about my earlier mission. And then as I was telling my son about my little packets and he said “I’m proud of you mom for your Emmaus work. You are making such a difference in someone’s life.” Boom. There is was. I was going to be able to help make a difference is someone’s life. God was going to use me in an Emmaus Walk. I didn’t immediately see it and I am so grateful my son pointed it out to me because he realizes its impact.