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Separate from the World  

Nobody wants to stick out.

Everybody wants to blend in.

That’s the mantra of a middle school kid.

Unfortunately, it’s also the way many of us approach our faith as we navigate our culture. We don’t want to make waves, ruffle feathers, or stick out in any way. 

And that's a problem. Because Scripture calls us to be separate from the world. In 2 Corinthians. 6:17, we hear God calling:

"Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate," says the Lord.

What exactly does it mean to be separate? Godly Christians haven’t always agreed. But we know the Almighty doesn’t ask us to wear dorky clothes or speak in King James English.

That said, there ought to be plenty about us that marks us as different.  So different, the world sees us as separate. And that’s not a comfortable place to be.

What grid can we use to make choices that separate us from the world?  J.C. Ryle has some ideas:

The first secret of victory over the world is a right heart. By that, I mean a heart renewed, changed, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit—a heart in which Christ dwells, a heart in which old things have passed away, and all things become new (2Co 5:17). The grand mark of such a heart is the bias of its tastes and affections. The owner of such a heart no longer likes the world and the things of the world, and therefore finds it no trial or sacrifice to give them up. He no longer has any appetite for the company, the conversation, the amusements, the occupations, the books he once loved, and to "come out" from them seems natural to him. Let him who wants to come out from the world and be separate make sure first and foremost that he has got a new heart. If the heart is really right, everything else will be right in time.

So…how’s your heart?

 
Why We Must Bless Israel  

Did you know that within 24 hours of the United Nations' declaration of Israel's statehood, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria launched a full-scale attack?

Did you know that nearly 30 countries—including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Somalia, and North Korea—still do not recognize Israel as a nation?

Did you know that Arab leaders have publicly stated they want to “throw the Jews into the sea?”

Did you know that in 2017, Iran constructed a large clock that is right now counting down to what they hope will be the end of Israel’s existence?

Did you know that Hamas fired more than 1,500 missiles into Israel in May of this year? Israel's Iron Dome Defense Missile System shot down about 1,400 of those. But there are members of our Congress who actually voted to defund America’s support of this defense system!

Did you know that the Palestinian Authority pays convicted terrorists a monthly allowance? And the families of terrorists killed by Israeli security forces during a terror attack receive a monthly "pension" as well.

Despite what you've read or seen on television or online, Israel is not the big bully in the neighborhood. In truth, tens of millions of hostile neighbors surround Israel.

In Genesis 12:3, God makes this extraordinary promise regarding the Jewish nation “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you, and in you, all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Exactly how well are we doing at blessing Israel? May I suggest two practical action steps?

Action #1: Stop the Assault on Israel and Jewish people.

Learn the truth! Keep others from slandering Jewish people here in the U.S. or slandering Israelis abroad. Email the TV station when their coverage is plainly biased against Israel. Stand up! Speak up! Pack up! Yep, consider a trip to the Holy Land (afterward, you’ll never read the Bible—or the headlines—the same).

Action #2: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

I’m serious! Ask the God of heaven to bring peace not just to Jerusalem but to the entire region. Of course, the only lasting peace we'll ever see is when Jesus finally returns, but meanwhile, He tells us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Now more than ever, it’s time to bless Israel!

 

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure.

—Psalms 122:6

 

 

 
Shrinking Self  

In Richard Matheson’s novel, The Shrinking Man, the lead character Scott Carey is exposed to a radioactive cloud causing him to begin shrinking. In just months, he loses three inches in height and continues to get smaller—to the point a Black Widow spider pursues him in his own basement.

John the Baptist’s life exemplifies a different kind of shrinking. When comparing himself to Jesus Christ, John declares, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).  Could seven words possibly pack more punch?

Ours is an age of shallow slogans and empty talking points. But when John the Baptist made this famous declaration, he wasn’t trying to be glib.  He was doing what he always did—speaking truth boldly.

This business of an increasing Jesus and a decreasing self is not for the faint of heart (it cost John his head, remember?). So how do we go about it—making Jesus large and ourselves small?

F.B. Meyer writes, “The only hope of a decreasing self is an increasing Christ. There is too much of the self-life in us all….But how can we be rid of this accursed self-consciousness and pride? Ah! We must turn our back on our shadow and our face towards Christ. We must look at all things from his standpoint, trying to realize always how they affect Him."

Unlike the fictional Shrinking Man, who lost a seventh of an inch every day—without trying, our struggle will be lifelong. But it’s a battle we must face—and win.

"If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”    —Jesus (Mark 9:35)

 
The Spiders Have Perfect Attendance  

Outside my third-floor office is a hallway about 125 feet long.  On many days, glorious sunshine filters through its twelve cathedral-height windows.  But sun or not, I've noticed that the outside of these windows all seem to feature a high level of arachnid activity—spiders.

Plying their wind-resistant webs, these eight-legged critters spin, sprint, and snack hour after hour.  In all twelve windows. And this, in broad daylight!  Here, I thought spiders were supposed to be nocturnal. (Perhaps the flies they’re catching all drink Red Bull?). Phone snapshots below. 

Having searched the web for—well—web facts, I was still curious. Are these insect-eating arthropods exceedingly exuberant, or is this standard spider stuff? My spidey sense was confused. After all, not a single morning passes that I do not find them energized, engaged, and in motion. In all twelve windows.  Perfect attendance—every day.

I learned that spiders do not (as I previously thought) croak at the first frost. Many of them enter a form of hibernation. I think they should call it “Spidernation”—but they don’t.

The arachnid activity I'm observing may simply be a display of spiders preparing for winter. Their Creator programmed them to know that tough times are ahead. Spinning, bundling, and equipping, they're getting ready with commendable diligence. And those spiders have perfect attendance—every day.

In a long stare at a laced web, the question came to mind—are we as smart? As believers, we read that tough times are ahead. Godlessness, hedonism, the rumblings of persecution—winter is coming.

Are we, like those humble spiders, equipping ourselves?  Are we daily with our King? Daily in His Word? If we are to thrive, not just survive, we’ve got some prep work to do.

The spiders have perfect attendance.

And us?

 
Soul Not for Sale  

As the passenger from the Houston plane stepped off the jetway, I couldn’t help but notice the bold white letters on his black tee-shirt: Soul Not for Sale.

But really, who sells their soul?  That’s only the stuff of movies and legends, right? Some lady sells her soul to the devil to guarantee she becomes a millionaire.  Some guy sells his soul so he can get the beautiful girl to fall in love with him. That’s them.  But not us, right?

“Of course not,” many of us would say, “because I’m a follower of Jesus.” But sell our souls we do—every day. And the price is surprisingly cheap. Consider:

  • We sell our souls—in excessive work hours—all for a fleeting nod from the boss or a sense of brief significance.
  • We sell our souls when we are more religious about our weekend sports teams than Sunday morning church.
  • We sell our souls when we trade irreplaceable time with our families for the passing fancy of hobbies or other selfish pursuits.
  • We sell our souls when Netflix is a priority, but knee-flex (as in prayer) isn’t.  
  • We sell our souls every time we indulge ourselves in lustful online images.
  • We sell our souls to likes, Twitters, and Instagram posts.
  • We sell our souls to stocks and 401k's, Coronavirus fears—even busyness at church.…

And all the while, we proclaim, "Soul not for sale.”

Does Jesus own your soul? All of it? Or do you and I just carve Him a thin slice every Sunday?

Jesus asked, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world—but lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

Soul not for sale. Anyone can wear the shirt. But not many can wear it honestly.

Lord, help us!

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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