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

At the Name of Jesus

While waiting for our children to be born, my husband and I undertook an important task: choosing a name. It felt like a huge responsibility, selecting the name that would carry this child through life. The name had to be just right: not too cumbersome or common; not too formal or weird; not too old for a newborn or too young for an octogenarian. The syllables had to flow well. It had to evoke positive emotion — at least in us, the parents. So many considerations! Part of the challenge was defining someone we had yet to meet. Would the name we chose fit the person God was adding to our family?

A good name is more desirable than great wealth. Respect is better than silver or gold. (Proverbs 22:1, GW)

A name is much more than a word. We answer when called by name. Others know us by our name. When people hear our name, they have an image or impression of us. It describes us and become part of our identity; it is a symbol, a representation, of who we are.

Names are very important to God. Throughout the Bible, names and their meanings are explained. In fact, angels told Mary and Joseph the name God had chosen for His Son:

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. (Luke 1:31, NASB)

She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21, NASB)

Jesus means to deliver, to rescue, or he saves. What a big name — and life mission — for a baby to grow into! While Mary and Joseph were relieved of the task of choosing a name, I imagine they pondered how a child — their child — could live up to all this name implied.

But Jesus did grow into His name. He fulfilled His God-given purpose on earth. He delivered people from the power of sin and death. He saved people from the punishment they deserve for their sin. He will return to rescue people from the presence of sin and death. We find far more life in Jesus, in His deliverance, His salvation, and His rescue.

When we hear a name mentioned we react to it based on our experiences with that person. We may feel sad when hearing the name of a loved one who is deceased. We may feel joy at the name of a long-lost friend. We may feel a surge of love hearing the name of a person or pet that is especially dear to us. We may feel anger or pain at the name of someone who has wronged us. We may feel hope and anticipation hearing the name of a person we are about to meet for the first time.

People also react to the name of Jesus. Currently, His name is often used as a curse word, a term of contempt or disgust. But one day every person who has ever lived will react to His name this way:

…God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11, NASB)

Imagine what it will be like when everyone reacts with reverence to the name of Jesus. It gives me goosebumps just to think about everyone giving Him the response He deserves! I believe in that moment we, God’s daughters, will experience far more life as never before. I believe His presence will fill our hearts with more love, joy, and peace than we can imagine. I think we will gain a deeper understanding of Jesus as our deliverer, rescuer, and Savior.

Fortunately, we do not have to wait until Jesus returns to have far more life. We can begin living in fellowship with Him during this lifetime. Think of how rich life would be with a best friend who is:

  • Immanuel; God with us (Matthew 1:23)
  • Faithful (Revelation 19: 11)
  • True (Revelation 19:11)
  • The Light of the World (John 8:12)
  • The Way (John 14:6)
  • Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6)
  • Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)
  • The Word of God (Revelation 19:13)
  • King of Kings (Revelation 19:16)
  • Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16)

Jesus is all of these and more to each person who calls on His name.

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Joel 2:32, NIV)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10, NIV)

Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called “children of God”—and that is not just what we are called, but what we are. (I John 3:1, PHILLIPS)

Being able to call on Jesus and receive the name “child of God” is a great privilege. Living in His name and experiencing far more life is an honor. And one day, on our knees, we will have the joy of calling out the name of our Deliverer, Rescuer, and Savior.

Sisters,
What does the name of Jesus mean to you?
Are there any of His names (characteristics) you doubt?

Are there any barriers that prevent you from calling Him your best friend and experiencing far more life?
Experience far more life by being alert to how His names are active in and around you.
-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso