Month: March 2014

Test – Temptation or Opportunity

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When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger.
1 Samuel 11:6 NIV

This morning at Fight Club we talked about Saul.  In 1 Samuel 10 we see Saul the reluctant young man a head taller than anyone else and God chose him to be king.  He was so reluctant he hid among the luggage but the people found him and proclaimed him King.  After this great triumphal moment we see Saul returning to Gibeah along with some valiant men whose hearts God had touched.

Nahash the Ammonite went up and besieged Jabesh Gilead. And all the men of Jabesh said to him, “Make a treaty with us, and we will be subject to you.” But Nahash the Ammonite replied, “I will make a treaty with you only on the condition that Iu gouge out the right eye of every one of you and so bring disgrace on all Israel.” The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Give us seven days so we can send messengers throughout Israel; if no one comes to rescue us, we will surrender to you.”
1 Samuel 11:1-3 NIV

What a deal eh? Surrender or die.  Oh yeah, and if you surrender I’m going to gouge out the right eye of every one of you. Why did Nahash say this? Because in the Bronze age world your reputation as a people meant something. If he did this, the surrounding people would hear about it and be afraid of the Ammonites. Nahash was a terrorist.  He brought an army but that was just a back up plan.  His real goal was to scare the Israelis into surrendering without a fight.

At this time Israel was a loose confederation of tribes.  Over the previous centuries that had time and time again been dominated by their enemies.  Once a generation or so a Judge would rise up to deliver the people but by and large their reputation was one of weakness.

If you were there in Jabesh Gilead you knew that your options were very limited. Your small town had some fortifications but if the Ammonites attack you know that you are all going to be killed.  If you surrender you will lose an eye and become a slave but at least you will live.

Perhaps you feel like that today. Stuck between a rock and a hard place. No matter which way you turn the outcome seems grim. For the people of Jabesh Gilead this was a trial but the real focus on the trial was Saul.

But there were some scoundrels who complained, “How can this man save us?” And they scorned him and refused to bring him gifts. But Saul ignored them.
1 Samuel 10:27 NLT

These scoundrels were a test for Saul.  They represented both a temptation and an opportunity.

The temptation was to make a deal.  Try to win over these critics who felt Saul wasn’t qualified or ready to be their king.  The problem is if Saul pays attention to these critics now, he just gives them power. How long will it be before they try to manipulate him in other ways?

The opportunity for Saul is to ignore them.  Yes, ignore them.  That is exactly what he did. He trusted God to deal with these critics and the way God would deal with them is by sending Nahash the Ammonite to attack.

The critics didn’t believe that this tall young man had the grit to lead them into battle against their enemies. How does God show them that he does have what it takes? He brings an enemy to defeat.

I’m sure that Saul had doubts as well.  After all, when they tried to make him king he was hiding among the baggage. Do you suppose that when God wants to teach us something about ourselves he brings a Nahash into our lives?

Saul had been plowing a field with his oxen, and when he returned to town, he asked, “What’s the matter? Why is everyone crying?” So they told him about the message from Jabesh.
1 Samuel 11:5 NLT

Wait a minute… after he is crowned king he goes back to plowing a field with his oxen?  I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound like a king to me. Where is the throne? Why isn’t Saul raising an army? Why isn’t he doing king stuff? Maybe because he doesn’t really see himself as king.

Then the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, and he became very angry.
1 Samuel 11:6 NLT

The Spirit of God came… and Saul became very angry. Not exactly the reaction you expect from the Spirit of God is it. Maybe it is about time you and I became angry about some things. Maybe the Spirit of God want’s us to get mad enough to do something about that persistent sin in our lives. Maybe the anger is just the thing we need to move us to action.

He took two oxen and cut them into pieces and sent the messengers to carry them throughout Israel with this message: “This is what will happen to the oxen of anyone who refuses to follow Saul and Samuel into battle!” And the LORD made the people afraid of Saul’s anger, and all of them came out together as one.
1 Samuel 11:7 NLT

Saul’s Holy Spirit inspired anger gave him what he needed to take action and start acting like a king. Then look what the Lord did. He made the people afraid! Wow, didn’t see that one coming. Those critics of Saul… where are they now?  They are afraid.  Imagine that… fear and anger used by God for a good purpose. And now, all of them came out together as one.

God’s ways are so high above our ways. When we face a Nahash in our lives we cry out to the Lord and hang our head in despair.  I have a Nahash in my life.  A very rare and very painful disease that drives me to my knees every day. Do I get angry sometimes?  You bet I do.  I have learned that this disease, even this awful thing that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, even this pain is a tool in the hand of the Lord.

May you find your strength in whatever God allows in your life.
May a holy anger rise up and move you to action.
And may you find the heart of a warrior when you do.

Dog-At-The-Front-Door Worship

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Worship the LORD with gladness. Come before Him, singing with joy.
Psalms 100:2 NLT

I’ve never written a post about worship.  I’m one of those musical and expressive people that finds it very easy to join in the worship of God.  I listen to worship music constantly and often you will find me singing as I walk my dog or as I’m riding around in my car.  

But there are some of you who find worship difficult. I’m not really sure why. Perhaps someone told you that you can’t sing. Maybe it is just your personality. You are horrified at the thought that the person next to you in church might secretly be cringing at the sound of your voice. When you see others raising their hands or even weeping for joy you cannot imagine becoming so vulnerable in a public place.

I see you every Sunday and my heart breaks for you. For those of us to whom worship comes naturally you are somewhat of a mystery. As a Pastor I want you to worship with all your heart. The first thing I want to say to you is that you don’t need to worship like I do. At my church we try not to tell people how to worship. We don’t tell you to raise your hands, close your eyes or dance. We don’t do this because that might not be your style.

When I got sick with Adiposis Dolorosa I found it increasingly difficult to stand during the worship time.  We have about 20 minutes of worship music in our services and I can’t stand comfortably for more than about 5 minutes.  Being an expressive person I wanted to stand but I had to sit. Then a strange thing happened. I started to worry that other people would be judging me for sitting.

“Look, the Worship leader just asked everybody to stand and the Pastor is still sitting down.”

Now I know that there is probably nobody in the service that is really thinking that but nearly every Sunday that thought runs through my mind. Here’s a tip for all you worship leaders. Not everybody can stand that long. I know you like it when the crowd is on their feet but give people permission to stand if they want or stay seated if they want. The most important thing is that people are comfortable to worship the Lord as they are best able to.

Perhaps you feel a little uncomfortable in worship too? Maybe it’s not standing but perhaps you look at a very expressive person and wonder if they are putting on a show. Yes, you know you have thought that, I have too. I think for some of you the worship time is very difficult because you focus on everything but the Lord.

  • You think about that crazy outfit the guitar player is wearing.
  • You wonder why the sound guy can’t get the mix right.
  • You question the theology of that song
  • You miss singing your old favorites
  • You think worship has become nothing but a show

But the time is coming–indeed it’s here now–when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way.
John 4:23 NLT

If this is you can I tell you something? The Father is looking for worshipers. I know you’ve heard about John 4:23 before, but don’t let that first thought pass you by. The Father is looking for worshipers. My question is, will he find you among them? I’m not asking you to become someone that you are not. Worship is not only for the expressive people among us. The Father can be pleased by the faintest smile on your face as your heart exalts in Him. You don’t have to raise your hands but don’t be afraid to let a tear run down your cheek when you marvel at the love of Christ.

proskuneō
pros-koo-neh’-o
From G4314 and probably a derivative of G2965 (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand); to fawn or crouch to, that is, (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore): – worship.

When I come home my dog comes rushing to the front door and enthusiastically greets me. Often he will rise up on his back legs, put his front paws on my chest and try to lick my face. If you can imagine that scene then you know what worship is.  The Greek word for worship proskuneō is thought to come from two roots:

  • pros – forward or toward
  • kuōn – dog

Imagine that! You come towards God the same way that your dog greets you at the front door. If you have ever had a dog, or maybe a cat that does this, just close your eyes for a moment and picture that greeting. Can you feel the joy literally pouring out of your pet? Can you feel the love rising in your heart for your animal? You bend down to greet them. You hold them close and smile over them… 

Why do we worship God? Besides the fact that we are commanded to, the truth is we need to. We were made to worship God and we need  to worship Him.

Can I tell you that if we can learn to approach the Father with that dog-at-the-door type of worship we will find a joy that will carry us through the hardest places of life? 

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
James 4:8

Just as you bend down to greet your pet, when we worship the Lord he bends down to come close to you. Want to know why I sometimes weep as we worship? Because my Lord has come very close to me and in that moment he is touching my heart. For some of you it has been a very long time since you felt the Lord touch your heart.  Others might say, if you were honest, that you have never felt that touch in your heart. Still others might at this very moment be on the defensive saying that worship is just about feelings. 

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek.
Psalms 27:8 NIV

The Father seeks worshipers. Dog-at-the-front-door worshipers who will draw near at the front door. They won’t wait for others to get there first… they want to lick His face so that he will be so close to their heart that he can’t help but touch it. There is nothing greater than to be a part of that pack of animals waiting at the door when the Father comes in.

I pray for you.

  • I pray that the Lord will help you to learn how to worship.
  • I pray that he will help you to lay aside the fear that keeps you from true worship.
  • I pray that he will help you to learn how to wag your tail and worship

Three Choices

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”  …2 Corinthians 12:8-9a NLT

You have a thorn.  You’ve asked God to take it away.  It isn’t going away.  Now what?

Unlike Paul, I haven’t had a direct revelation from the Lord.  I didn’t hear his voice saying “My grace is all you need,”  All I know is that every day is a struggle and sometimes I become very low.  It seems to me that there are three common responses to a thorn that isn’t going away.

Deny It

In 1875 after recovering from a fall Mary Baker Eddy wrote a book Science and Health that became the foundation of the Christian Science Church.  She taught that sickness is an illusion that can be corrected by prayer alone.  In other words, she taught people to deny that they were sick.

Strangely her teachings caught on in recent history in a different form.  There are preachers who teach people to deny that they are sick and to express their faith in the healing power of God simply by making positive declarations.  They claim that if you “Speak health” you will be healthy.  They say that your sickness is simply an illusion brought on by Satan and that if you speak your words of faith (and send them money of course) that you will be healed.

Of course, this sounds great.  You can declare “I have perfect health in my body” and your cancer or diabetes or whatever you have will simply vanish.  This works fine until the preacher who is teaching such things gets old, gets sick and dies.

With apologies to those who believe such things I have to say that I don’t believe this is true. I don’t believe it works and I don’t believe that the bible teaches this kind of magical thinking.  While it is true that having a positive outlook is a good thing and it is also true that there is a connection between mind and body that can produce good results when properly engaged, Your words, your declarations do not carry power to heal you.  If you want to hear more of my thoughts on this and the New Age “Law of Attraction” see my post Lie To Me.

Wallow In It

wal·low‌ (wŏl′ō)
To roll the body about indolently or clumsily in or as if in water, snow, or mud.

Thinking about your thorn is a very natural reaction.  Pain can be spiritual, emotional or physical.  The end result of the different types of pain is the same.  Pain is pain.  It reaches out and grabs you.  You can try to ignore it but sooner or later it breaks through your best efforts.  When we are in pain we reach out to others.  We want them to acknowledge our pain.  We want them to feel sorry for us (as if that will help.)

When do we cross the line into wallowing?  When we begin to feel entitled.  When we feel that we have a right to bad attitudes.  We say things like “You would feel this way if you were as sick as I am” or “You don’t know how I feel.”  We become grumpy and very self-centered even to the point of being rude to the very people who are trying to help us.

“God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
Genesis 3:5 NLT

When your pain becomes the center of the universe you make it into a god.  You give it power over your activities, thoughts and relationships. Now that you have created an idol out of your pain it will naturally attack the one true God.  When you read the bible you will think “Jesus healed those people… why not me?”  Just as the serpent in the Garden of Eden lied about the character of God, implying that God held back good things from the man and woman, you will begin accepting lies in your mind.  Maybe God really doesn’t love you (forget about John 3:16).  Maybe God is the one causing your pain.  After all He can do anything right?  Why won’t he stop your pain?  If you wallow in your pain you will begin a downward spiral.  Your thoughts will build on one another until you are ready to throw away the one relationship that can truly save you.

Accept It

The hardest choice of all is to simply accept your pain. This does not mean that you don’t do everything possible to stop it.  You go to doctors and counselors, you listen to them and do what they say.  Sometimes, even when you’ve done everything you can, the pain persists.  This is the pain of the thorn.  I think Paul learned how to accept the thorn.  Why?  Look at what he said.

“So now I am glad”

Glad? How glad are you Paul?

“I’m so glad I’m Glad Glad.”

Yes, in the Greek text Paul uses the word hēdeōs twice, we might say Paul was “Mega-Glad.”  Hēdeōs means “sweetly” or with pleasure.  We get our English word Hedonism from it. Hedonism is a pursuit of or devotion to pleasure, especially to the pleasures of the senses.  Somehow he learned how to find sweetness in life, even with a thorn.

“That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT

Paul learned how to change his perspective.  He learned that even with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles that when he was weak in himself, he was strong in Christ.

Acceptance is not simply accepting defeat.  No, rather it is a declaration of war on the pain that seeks to destroy your life.  You won’t deny it, you won’t wallow in it, you will bring it to the feet of Jesus and lay it there.  You will find strength in your weakness and even the grace to suffer for Christ.

Responding to the Voice of the Thorn

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What if you have a thorn?  What if it is speaking to you?

Do thorns have a voice?  Ever get a thorn stuck in your sock?  It has a voice… trust me.  Paul had a thorn and he learned how to respond to it.

“If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.”
2 Corinthians 11:30 NLT

Paul says a very curious thing here.  He said he wants to boast about the things that show how weak he was.  Huh?  Who boasts about that?

When I was a skinny teenager I was very weak.  I did my best to hide this, but I dreaded gym class.  It was the one class where I couldn’t hide my weakness.  Whenever we tested for push-ups it was a very traumatic experience for me.  The other boys would talk about how many push-ups they could do.  I stood by the side and did my best to hide.  When I was in ninth grade, me and another overweight kid waited as the others took their turn.  One by one they did fifteen or twenty push-ups and then left to go play basketball with the other boys.  Finally we were the only two left.  The overweight kid went first.  He struggled but he finally did one push-up.  I thought “Good I can beat that.”  When it was my turn I tried and tried but I couldn’t even do one. I was devastated. I was so weak and for a ninth grade boy it felt like the end of the world.

Can you imagine me running around my school boasting in my weakness?  “Yeah – I did ZERO push-ups!”

“If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message,”
2 Corinthians 12:6 NLT

When we start boasting about things we are constructing an idol.  We construct an idol out of lies and boasting and we bow down to it in self-worship.  We raise up our idol before others and ask them to worship it as well.

Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”
Exodus 32:4 NLT

Why do you suppose God commanded that we not make an idol?  I think the reason is that anything that you or I could create would fall short of God’s glory.  Instead of worshiping God who dwells in unapproachable light we would settle for something that doesn’t even come close.

The people got up early the next morning to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. After this, they celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.
Exodus 32:6 NLT

If you worship anything other than the living God.  If you create an idol out of anything, even yourself through boasting, your worship will devolve into something very ugly.  The Hebrew word ṣāḥaq, translated above as “indulged in pagan revelry”, indicates that sexual immorality was a part of their worship.

How quickly they have turned away from the way I commanded them to live!
Exodus 32:8a NLT

Genuine worship of the Living God brings us closer to Him.  His Holy Spirit leads us to a life that is increasingly purified as we learn more and more to walk in the Spirit.  When we craft an idol and worship it we turn away.  As John Piper says, our favorite idol is the one in the mirror.

How will you respond to your weaknesses?  Paul learned to boast in them.

This Thorn

thorns

Thank you for this torn embedded in my flesh
I can feel the mystery, my spirit is made fresh
You are sovereign still and forever wise
I can see the miracle opening my eyes

To a proud heart so quick to judge
Laying down crosses and carrying grudges
The veil has been torn
And I thank you for this thorn

Thank you for this thorn fellowship of pain
Teaching me to know you more never to complain
Thank You for this love planted in my side
Faithful patient miracle opening my eyes

I never thought I’d say it without reservation
But I am truly grateful for this piercing revelation
Of a proud heart so quick to judge
Laying down crosses and carrying grudges
The veil has been torn
And I thank you for this thorn

And if You chose to take it, I will praise You
And thank You for the healing in Your name
But if it must remain, I thank You for Your rod
Evidence of Father-love for a child of God

I join You in sorrow
So much less than You have borne
And I thank you, really I thank You
Lord I thank You, I thank You for this thorn

– Twila Paris

The Voice of the Thorn

“If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:6-9 NLT

Do you feel weak?  If so, you are in good company.  Paul boasted in his weaknesses when others belittled him for them.  Paul came to realize that being weak is a good thing and the way he learned that was from the voice of the thorn.

Paul said he received wonderful revelations from God. He even said he went to heaven and heard things that man is not permitted to speak.  God entrusted Paul with the job of writing the majority of the New Testament.  It would be very easy with that kind of revelation to become proud.  In fact, I’m sure that Satan was actively working on Paul to try to make him proud and boastful.  Why?  Because that would render him ineffective for the mission of spreading the gospel.

Paul said “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.”  Who do you suppose gave that messenger to him?  It was a very bad thing given for a very good reason.  I think this is just one of the many ways that God works in our lives for our good.

At first, Paul didn’t think it was good.  He asked the Lord to take it away from him.  Three times… he begged Jesus to take it away.  Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”  One thing I am learning as a brand new pastor is that people are hurting.  People share their struggles with their pastor in a way that they don’t typically share with other people.

Paul never said exactly what the thorn was.  There is a lot of speculation that it might have been a physical, emotional or even spiritual ailment.  Whatever the case, I think the Lord prevented him from saying what it was.  I believe that everything in scripture is there for a reason and in the same way things that are left out are left out for a reason.  As an author I try to carefully craft what I write and I think that Paul did as well.  Why did God not let Paul include what his thorn was?  Perhaps he wanted us to not get stuck in the specifics.  Maybe he wanted all of us to catch the principle.  What is the principle?  “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

My Grace Is All You Need

Are you hurting because of something you don’t have?

  • You don’t have a job
  • You don’t have money
  • You don’t have a spouse
  • You don’t have your health

What do you suppose Jesus would say to you?  I think he would say “My grace is all that you need.”  There is something about the grace of Jesus that can fill every hole in your heart, life and soul.  It is truly all that you need.  You may be struggling with that idea.  When the hurt is great it is hard to feel it but I think that the greater our hurt the greater our desperation.  The more desperate we are the more likely we are to go to extremes.  You can turn your desperation into desperately evil acts or you can turn it into desperation for the grace that only Jesus gives.

My Power Works Best in Weakness

We like our preachers strong.  We like them with strong voices and strong arms.  We want them to be good looking and tall.  Our culture is obsessed with strength and beauty.  Saul, the first king of Israel was a head taller than any other man.  He was all those things but in the end he failed terribly as king of Israel.  Why?  Because God’s power works best in weakness.

“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”
1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NLT

Few of us were wise, powerful or wealthy.  We weren’t the “A” team and yet God chose us.  He chose the things that are powerless.

  • He chose a group of slaves in the land of Egypt to go to a promised land.
  • He chose fishermen, tax collectors and zealots to be his disciples.
  • He chose a proud Pharisee to be knocked off his horse to become a missionary to the gentiles
  • He chose you and me

The next time you feel weak and powerless remember this.  “God chose things despised by the world.” Why?  So that no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

May you boast in your weaknesses and in infirmities.  You can boast in the Lord because his power works best in weak people.

Voices you should not listen to

When somebody says they are hearing voices, our first reaction is to think they are crazy. While it is true that this can be a sign of mental illness, the fact is we all hear “voices” (thoughts) in our head all the time. These voices come from many sources (from the most common to the least common):

  • Myself (the most common source by far)
  • Culture (books, music and video)
  • Friends / Family
  • The Bible
  • Angels / Demons
  • God

I know… it sounds like we just stepped of the edge of rational thought but stay with me here.  You know there is a dialog in your head constantly. Your thinker (mind), feeler (emotions) and chooser (will) are constantly debating:

  • What should I do next?
  • How should I feel about what just happened?
  • What should I say?

The voices all serve as input to this discussion.  It’s important that you not be gullible when listening to voices.  There are many voices that you should just ignore.

My Voice

I think that most of what goes on in my head is me.  I have good ideas and bad ideas.  My thinker and feeler are constantly processing and interpreting the input of my eyes and ears  and trying to adjust.  The adjustment comes in various forms.

  • Am I good looking enough?
  • Do other people approve of my life?
  • Do I approve of myself?

There is a societal instinct in all of us.  We feel this as the need to belong to a group.  We want people to like us and this pressure to be liked causes us to take all sorts of action.

Our thoughts often spring from our fears.  In our minds we are imagining giants that we run from as in a dream.

  • Financial fears
  • Relational fears
  • Spiritual fears

If you spend your life running from your fears you will develop an emotional panic we call anxiety.  You need to face your fears and confront them with the word of God.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:31-33

You might find yourself saying something like this.

“I’m afraid that I won’t have enough money to meet my needs.  But God’s word says My Father knows what I need.  Jesus says that I shouldn’t worry about these things but instead seek first his kingdom.  I agree with God.  I’m going to give my fear to him now.”

The Voice of Culture

This is the voice that says:

  • “Come on, everybody else is doing it.”
  • “You deserve to be happy”
  • “You can do or be whatever you want”
  • “Don’t be a prude”
  • “Aren’t you getting a little crazy with this Jesus stuff?”

This voice comes from the inputs of friends, family and media.  It pressures us to conform.  Back in my college days I had a roommate named “X”.  His real name was Xavier but he told everyone to call him “X.”  Anyway he was a big fan of the band Rush.  I listened to Rush all the time and I hear some good things from their voice.  They are not Christ Followers (as far as I know) but their songs sometimes speak powerfully.

Subdivisions
In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out

Subdivisions
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out

Read more: Rush – Subdivisions Lyrics | MetroLyrics

The pressure to conform is at the heart of so much pain in our world.  It is the tool of the judgmental person who says “You shouldn’t do that.” It is the tool of the non-conformist who takes delight in pressuring those around them to be like they are. The pressure to be cool is enormous.

“Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
Romans 12:2 HCSB

When Paul wrote in Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this age” he was speaking about “The Voice of our Culture.”  For the first century Christian there were many cultural voices that had to be ignored.

  • “You need to be circumcised”
  • “Why don’t you worship Artemus of the Ephesians?”
  • “You have to worship the emperor first.  Then you can worship Jesus”

Paul told those early Christians to not conform.  They paid a heavy price for doing so.

“Look! I (Stephen) see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Then they screamed at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. They threw him out of the city and began to stone him…
Acts 7:56-58 HCSB

Think about this.  All Stephen had to do to save his life was just cave to the pressure.  Just tell them what they want to hear.  You can tell them a lie.  People would have understood if you lied to the Jewish leaders to save your life.  Stephen stood up to the pressure even though it cost his life.

God has a reason for telling us (through Paul) to not be conformed to the pattern of this world.  The pattern of this world is a pattern of sin and death.  Christians are called to live the pattern of heaven instead.  Jesus taught us to pray that “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  What is that but a prayer for the pattern of heaven to be done in my life.  This is a pattern of life and peace.

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”  Genesis 15:1

May  you hear God’s voice today above all others.