Are You Peculiar?

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If you asked most people to define the word “peculiar” you would get some variation of this: “something or someone who is odd, strange, unusual or weird.” Most people would not appreciate being called peculiar. It definitely has a negative connotation in our current culture.

But looking at the 1828 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, I find the following:

Peculiar – One’s own; belonging solely or especially to an individual; not possessed by others; of private, personal, or characteristic possession and use; particular; individual; special; appropriate.

Our modern culture has shifted this word, peculiar, to mean something to be avoided or kept at a distance. No one wants to be called peculiar. They don’t wish to appear odd or strange. Most people would rather blend in and be inconspicuous.

But in the King James version of 1 Peter 2:9 we read, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” This doesn’t mean strange or weird, it means they belong to God. Peculiar comes from the Latin word peculium which means “private property.”

We are a peculiar people! We belong to God. We are His and no one else’s. He claims us as His own. And maybe to the world that looks strange or weird. If belonging to God makes me seem strange to the world, so be it!

If following after Christ means you stick out and look different than the world, is that okay with you? How peculiar are you willing to be? Will you stand firmly on the fact that you have been chosen by God, no matter how that looks to the world?

What’s In a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Those are Shakespeare’s words. Actually Juliet said them. Would a rose smell as sweet if it were called something else? Say, a skunk cabbage or a stinking corpse lily? It’s hard to imagine.

Have you ever thought about the importance of names? People pay a lot of attention to names. Just look at Hollywood. Would a movie starring Archibald Alexander Leach and Doris Kappelhof have been as successful as one starring Cary Grant and Doris Day? And somehow a gun fighter played by Marion Michael Morrison wouldn’t seem as threatening as one played by John Wayne. Maybe it’s a good thing they changed their names!

Speaking of name changing, there are many examples in the Bible where God or someone else changed a person’s name. Frequently it was to signify a change of heart or a redirection in his or her life. Abram became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. God chose those names to call Abraham and Sarah into a new direction as parents of a new nation. Naomi changed her own name to Mara to describe how bitter her life had become. Simon became Peter, the rock on which God would build his church. All of these are quite significant events.

Another significant event is marriage. The tradition of most English-speaking countries has been for the woman to take her husband’s name when she marries. There is no real proof as to why this tradition began, but there is speculation that it was similar to the name changes in the Bible. A new bride has had a redirection in life. She is now one with her husband and shares his name. It is definitely a change of heart when two become one and the name change is one way to acknowledge its importance.

Biblical names had great significance. The meanings of many names turned out to be prophetic in nature. Many Christian families today take seriously the naming of their children and seek God’s direction before deciding on what name they will give each child.

There is definitely power in names. But there is one name which is above every name. One name that all of creation must bow to. One name that has the ultimate power.

Jesus.

Call upon His name when you feel stressed, when you need comfort, when you need power. Call upon His name when you are discouraged, when you are sad, when you are afraid. He is there and the power of His name is available to you in every situation.

“Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, 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.”
Philippians 2:8-10 (NASB)

Jesus Laughed

Sometimes I think we take life too seriously. I know I do. I get caught up in the pressures of my to-do list or the decisions I need to make. I think “if I can just get this or that done then I can relax.” I always seem to be waiting for one more thing to be resolved before I can set it all aside and rest for a while.


Jesus had an incredibly intense life at times, yet he was able to get away from the crowds and the demands and rest. He was able to spend time just hanging out with the disciples. Do you suppose they sat around the fire in the evening and talked about life? Can you picture them telling stories about things that happened to each of them? How about a funny story from Peter about a mess he got himself into? And at the punch line did Jesus laugh? I bet he did. He was able to focus on enjoying the moments in His life that were special. He knew He had a lot of difficult things to deal with, but I don’t believe He constantly thought about those things. I think He allowed himself to love life with His friends.


We can always use the excuse that there are too many important things to attend to at the moment. We can convince ourselves that life it too difficult just now to be able to relax and just have a good laugh. We can tell ourselves that it would be irresponsible to set those challenges aside for a time to just enjoy the life God has given us. But if we do, we will miss some of the most treasured moments of life.


Everyone knows that the shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept.” That verse shows that He had emotions like we do. He wanted to show us that we could have compassion on others. I think He also would tell us that it’s okay to enjoy life and talk and laugh together. I wish there was a verse that said, “Jesus laughed!” I believe He did and that He still does in Heaven. When I get there, I can’t wait to hear Jesus laugh. I’ll bet He has a great laugh!


A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22(ESV)

Bad Behavior, Gauges, and Jesus








Wouldn’t it be great if we all walked around with little gauges over our heads. You know, like the lighbulb in comic strips?  It could be like the temperature gauge in a car only the C would be for calm and content and the H would be for hurting and life is HARD.

That way, when we had difficult encounters with people we could see that there are reasons behind their behavior.  If that guy who just cut you off in traffic had the needle on his gauge pointing clearly toward the H because he is on his way to the hospital hoping to get there in time to say goodbye to his father we might be more forgiving.

Or maybe the woman who was rude to the cashier, her gauge read H because she just lost her job.

And the young girl who rear-ended you at the traffic light because she was distracted. Not by her phone but because she’s pregnant and her father threw her out of the house this morning.

If we all had gauges we would be more patient with each other. When we saw that needle tipping toward the H we would offer hope instead of judgment. We would encourage instead of condemn.

But we don’t have gauges or any way to know what someone else is facing today. Perhaps if we could realize that we ALL are on H at times we could begin to offer understanding and patience. It’s what Jesus did.

It’s what He still does.

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:1-4 (NASB)

What Are You Afraid of?








Fear: “A painful emotion or passion excited by an expectation of evil, or the apprehension of impending danger.” – Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

So, what are you afraid of? If we asked people to list what they fear their lists might include, death, poverty, sickness…but perhaps things like public speaking, other’s opinions, failure, and rejection might also appear.

If we use Webster’s definition of fear, the expectation of evil or danger, we would have to revise our list.  What actual evil  threatens a person who fails, or who must speak in public? What danger presents itself in other’s opinions?

What if we revised our list to only include those things that truly brought the risk of danger? Let’s take a closer look.

Do you fear death? John 11:25: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”

Do you fear poverty? Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Do you fear for your safety? Psalm27:1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” 

And just in case we forgot a few, God has already covered those too.

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4 (ESV)

There will be times when we are afraid but David tells us the simple remedy.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3 (ESV)

So again I ask, what are you afraid of?

 

 

 

Are Your Prayers Getting Through?








If you have a cell phone you are probably familiar with “dead spots.” Places in your house or in other buildings where you don’t get a good signal. Places where you might be talking and suddenly the call is dropped for no apparent reason.

We might experience the same sort of thing with prayer. You might have heard the expression “I feel like my prayers are bouncing off the ceiling.” Why do we get that feeling and how can we get rid of it?

Scripture tells us many reasons why it seems our prayers aren’t being heard.

We pray with wrong motives: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3)

We pray without faith:  “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matthew 21:22)

We pray while we still have sin in our lives: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)

If we want the Lord to hear and answer our prayers we must pray the way He requires us to.  We may try to blame our unanswered prayers on God or even on the devil but the biggest hinderance to answered prayers is us. WE are the ones who have to examine our hearts and our lives to remove the things that are blocking our prayers. It’s God’s desire to answer us!

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” – John 15:7(ESV)

Do You Trust Someone You Don’t Know?








First impressions aren’t always positive. Sometimes you can meet a person and be uncomfortable without knowing why. You wouldn’t trust them to watch your children or to enter your house when you are away. But then you spend more time with them and realize they are trustworthy. You can now leave them with your child and your house key without a second thought. They are the ones you can call in an emergency and know they will be there for you. They’ve become friends.

When we moved from Ohio to Iowa many years ago, we had to start fresh in a new place. The friends we’d left behind were people we trusted completely because we knew them well. It took time to build new relationships. We spent time with acquaintances and eventually embraced them as lifelong friends. We did the same thing when we moved to Florida a few years ago. Now we are making new friends again. Learning to trust people to come into our lives.

How does that happen? How to you learn to trust someone? The key is spending time with them. Getting to know them. Watching the way they live their lives to see if their “walk” is consistent with their “talk.”

It’s the same with God. He wants you to trust Him completely. But how can you trust Him if you barely know Him? If you haven’t spent time with Him, how do you know that He will be faithful to His promises? If you haven’t spent time in His word, learning about His character, how can you expect to believe He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do?

The best way to learn to trust Him is to get to know Him. Then you will be able to trust Him with your child, your house key, and your very life.

Paul says it well in 2 Timothy 1:12:

“For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” (NASB)

 

Are You More Like Mary or Zachariah?








We often read the book of Luke at Christmas time. It tells the story of the birth of our Savior. But it also illustrates two different ways we respond to God when we don’t understand what He’s doing.

There are two accounts of a birth being foretold. The first is Zachariah being told by the angel Gabriel that Elizabeth is with child. Zechariah responds in astonishment but he makes a serious mistake as he speaks to the angel. He asks, “How will I know this?” He’s asking for more evidence, more proof.

The second account is of the angel telling Mary she will conceive and give birth to a son. Her response is not “prove it.” Instead, she says, “How will this be?” She’s asking in wonder for she knows she is a virgin. She wants to know HOW God will do it, not IF He will.

How do you respond when God gives you direction that seems impossible? Do you say, “yeah, right. How can THAT happen?” Or do you say, ” Yes Lord, show me how You want to do it. I’m ready to do it your way.”

Big difference.

Zachariah lost his ability to speak for months because of his slip of the tongue. But it was much more than that. It revealed what was in his heart. His doubt was made clear.

When we respond to God, we are to do so in faith and not doubt. What has God been saying to You? And how will you respond?

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” -Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)

 

 

God Wants Us to Pour Out His Love On Others








When God blesses our lives it’s for the purpose of equipping us to share His love with those around us. We aren’t supposed to keep it all to ourselves, we’re supposed to generously pour it into other’s lives. But how can we have enough to pour out if we are constantly allowing God’s blessings to leak out of us?

A while back I wrote a piece called Stopping the Leak where I talked about the remedy for the leaking. But perhaps it would also be helpful to consider the cause of the leaks so we can avoid them in the first place.

Some of the things we chose to do can create leaks. When we leak, the blessings God gives us drain away. When we complain or speak negatively about our circumstances we shoot a hole in our barrel and the blessings begin to leak. Also, being unkind, impatient or judgmental of others can shoot more holes than we can imagine.

If all the things God gives us are to equip us to bring His Kingdom to people, how will we be successful in doing that if we allow everything to leak out? We are to POUR out! When you find yourself exhausted and too weak to cheerfully share God’s love perhaps you should examine your barrel and see if there are too many holes.

“He poured out his Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior  so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life. This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. These are good and profitable for everyone.” – Titus 3:6-8 (CSB)

 

What Does it Mean to Live Life Loud?








If you do an internet search for the phrase “live out loud” you will  find a trendy definition along these lines:

“Being yourself , genuine, open, trustworthy, with sass , spice and flare . Living on purpose, loving others and yourself, living passionately for your values, no matter what.” – Urban Dictionary

But what does it mean for Christians to live their lives out loud?  What if you were to become mute today and couldn’t speak another word for the rest of your life? Would your life speak loudly enough that others could still see Jesus in you without words?

Perhaps it would be a good exercise to take some time, especially during the Christmas season, to practice showing Christ’s love without depending on your words to convince others of your relationship with Jesus.

Are you up for the challenge?

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16(ESV)

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. –  1 John 3:18 (ESV)