Standing Out

All these people were still living by faith when they died…admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. (Hebrews 11:13, NIV)

Do you ever feel like a foreigner and stranger on earth? In America — and many other countries — only a minority of people today:

  • Attend church service at least once monthly.
  • Pray at least once daily.
  • Read the Bible at least once weekly.
  • Believe the Bible is God’s Word that should be taken literally.
  • Look primarily to the Bible to decide right and wrong.
  • Talk about their spiritual beliefs.

While living for God brings us far more life, it may also leave us feeling like an outsider. Bible-based perspectives are not welcome in many conversations. Asking questions that reveal a Biblical worldview can lead to rejection or ridicule. Sharing a Bible-derived moral stance can get us cancelled. As we examine the Scriptures, we find this explanation for many of those experiences:

But the person who is not a Christian does not understand these words from the Holy Spirit. He thinks they are foolish. He cannot understand them because he does not have the Holy Spirit to help him understand. (I Corinthians 2:14, NLV)

In order to understand God’s ways you must be connected to God. Most people who do not have a relationship with Him will not value His perspectives and instructions. So when we base our decisions, morals, and values on the Bible, we stand out from many around us.

Jesus stood out in His culture, too. He said, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44) to people whose country was occupied by a foreign ruler. He said wrong thoughts are as sinful as wrong actions (Mark 7:20-23) to people who had over 600 rules governing their behavior. He built relationships with people who were unpopular and scorned (Mark 2:16-17). His focus was on fulfilling God’s plan for Him, not fitting in.

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. (John 6:38, NIV)

Jesus knew His message would resonate with some and offend others (John 6:60-69), so he was not swayed by people’s reactions to the content. He continued to share the truth with those whom God drew, but did not try to convince those who were not interested in His message (Matthew 10:14). He told His disciples to expect rejection and persecution — even from their own families.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. (Matthew 10:16-17, NIV)

Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:21-22 and Mark 13:11-13, NIV)

Many people — including religious people — rejected Jesus during His lifetime. Today many people believe Jesus was a good teacher, a wise man, maybe even a prophet, but they do not believe He was God in the flesh. But Jesus’ own words left no question about His identity:

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (John 4:25-26, NIV)

The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me…I and the Father are one.” (John 10:24-25, 30, NIV)

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)

We are called to represent Christ to those around us. So how do we live out far more life in a culture that is hostile toward God and the authority of His Word?

Far more life allows us to demonstrate God’s character, love, and power. When we are put under pressure of criticism, rejection, or persecution, people expect us to respond with hate, anger, revenge, or condemnation. But through God’s Spirit we are able to respond with truth, love, and forgiveness. We stand out as we represent Christ with integrity.

Far more life speaks the truth in love to those who are open to hearing it. We know that many of the problems our society faces are actually spiritual problems. We also know that only God offers the peace, joy, purpose, and fulfillment people are seeking. We stand out by speaking the truth in love, whether it is accepted or rejected.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (I Peter 3:15, NIV)

Far more life remembers who the enemy is…and is not. We may feel attacked or be accused of attacking others. We stand out when we remember the spiritual forces at work around us and focus on glorifying God:

We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world. (Ephesians 6:12, CEV)

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4, NIV)

Far more life either attracts or repels people. As we live authentically for Christ, people will notice and respond. Praise God for those who find far more life!

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.  (2 Corinthians 2:15-16, NIV)

Sisters,
How do you stand out for your faith?
Where are you afraid to stand out?
Ask God for courage and wisdom to fully embrace far more life and stand out for Him.
-Shari

Far More Hope

As you think about life, are you hopeful or hopeless? Your answer will be determined, in part, by where you are placing your hope.

Sometimes we place our hope in things that change. When they are going well, we are hopeful, but when they take a downturn, so does our hope. For example, if we hope in financial investments for our security, each time the stock market dips we will doubt our future. But when our hope is placed in the unchanging, it remains steady when circumstances shift. We have hope that a new day will dawn because it always has; the darkest nights have always given way to daylight and we are confident that will continue to happen.

During this uncertain time, where can we place our hope that is secure? The Bible offers an answer:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NIV)

Far more life is built on an active relationship with the God of hope. Do you think of Him as the God of hope? When I hear that phrase, I am reminded of His character, both what I have read in the Bible and what I have experienced:

God keeps His word. The Bible is filled with promises, some already fulfilled and some yet to be fulfilled. Since God has faithfully kept His promises we can have confidence that He will continue to do so. Keeping His word confirms He is the God of hope.

God’s plan prevails. When God created the earth, He had a plan: an eternal relationship with us. He has communicated that plan to people throughout the ages, inviting them to join Him in fulfilling it. Yet His plan is not dependent on us, so we cannot ruin it by refusing to join Him or making mistakes. Far more life on this earth is part of His plan, but the best is yet to come! Revealing and enacting His plan shows He is the God of hope.

God is powerful and good. He sets the course of each celestial object in the universe. He arranges each atom just as He wants it. He controls the seasons, the tides, the span of each life. Yet his goodness is revealed in every detail as well. Our bodies are perfectly suited for life on earth. We experience happiness and satisfaction. He promises to reward righteousness and punish evil. He offers us forgiveness. Demonstrations of His power and goodness prove He is the God of hope.

God is love. We are designed to put our hope in love. That is why so many books, movies, and songs focus on love. The message is reinforced by well-known sentiments such as “love conquers all”, “love means never having to say you are sorry”, and “all we need is love”. But humans are incapable of being a stable source of love. God’s love, however, never wavers. We can be confident in it because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, whose perfect love led Him to sacrifice Himself as the ransom our lives. And this gives us hope! Sacrificial, unconditional love sets Him apart as the God of hope.

Keeping our hope fixed on God, through Jesus, is an important aspect of far more life. But God asks us to take it a step further and share our hope with others:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  (I Peter 3:15, NIV)

I was recently challenged with this question: what source am I most actively promoting as the reason for my hope during this pandemic? Is it a particular doctor? An elected official? A political party? A line of research? Or am I primarily hoping in God and pointing people toward Jesus?

Far more life has hope in eternal life, with God through Christ, which is evident in our words and actions. Hope allows His Spirit in us to stand out: we can remain calm when others panic; we can act with kindness and generosity when others are rude and selfish; we can grieve what we have lost while wholeheartedly celebrating what we have. During this time, hope in God opens the door for us to share how a relationship with Jesus gives us far more life, empowering us to live above our circumstances and remain hopeful.

This is how far more life puts hope into action:

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. (I Peter 1:13, NIV)

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24, NIV)

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. (Psalm 130:5, NIV)

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. (Psalm 119:114, NIV)

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5, NIV)

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. (2 Corinthians 3:12, NIV)

Make this your motto: my hope is secure in God! Share it with those who are seeking hope. Far more life is the best gift you have ever received…and the best gift you can give to others!

Sisters,
Are you hopeful or hopeless?
In what are you placing your hope? Is that source secure or shifting?
What confirms to you that God is the God of hope? What causes you to doubt?
What source of hope are you promoting to others?
Who in your circle is seeking hope? How can you share the reason for the hope that you have?
Thank God for the hope of far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso