Johnny throws a stink bomb

“Johnny just do it!” Marcus said. Johnny contemplated the stink bomb in his hand and wondered. He desperately wanted to get out of it. Johnny was popular in his own way. There were certainly enough classmates that thought he was cool and really looked up to him, although he was not as popular as the starting quarterback of the varsity team.  Now He had the unenviable assignment of throwing a stink bomb into Mr. Bender’s classroom, while he was teaching. The smell although not destructive would certainly disrupt the class. Although it was risky, what Johnny hated most was that it was Mr. Bender.  He was a demanding teaching that often would assign the longest Homework and give by far the hardest exams. But he taught American History and Johnny loved the course. He had aced it and his work had been routinely praised as “well thought out”, “an in depth analysis”  “highly developed” and “especially creative”. Johnny had enjoyed his moment in the light with Mr. Bender and all those good memories were floating in his head.  He could hear his favorite teacher discussing the causes of the American Revolution.  Johnny thought to himself “I can’t do this to Mr. Bender.” Then a sweet voice carried across the hall, “Hey Johnny what you got there?” It was Marie, the prettiest girl in his official class. She was Johnny’s dream girl. No way could he appear to be soft in front of her. Now his best friend Marcus repeated the order “Johnny just do it” and added “What are you chicken now, scared of old Bender?”  Johnny looked at his friend and then at Marie and released it. Like the cowards they were they all took off running.

Soon Johnny found himself in the school yard and thought it best to just head home. That evening Marcus called “Man that was a thing of beauty. Why did you take off? Dude nobody knows who did it. Just Marie and she has a thing for you.” The guilt was so great Johnny didn’t even realize what Marcus had said about Marie. Johnny didn’t want to talk about it. Johnny told Marcus “I’m not feeling well Marco, talk to you later” and he hung up.

Two weeks later the guilt was still driving Johnny crazy.  Now he stood before his favorite teacher, frozen and speechless. Old Mr. Bender, grey haired and bearded and wearing a brown cardigan sweater looked up and smiled. “Nice seeing you Johnny, few students had such a deep and extensive grasp of American History. I sincerely enjoyed our discussions. I really thought you enjoyed the course as well.” It’s as if he knew and just wanted to make this more difficult for Johnny. Now came the icing on the cake “Hey Johnny didn’t I write a letter of recommendation for that summer job you wanted. How did that go?”  Johnny could not bear to look at him and while he hung his head low, he finally just came out with it. “I did it Mr. Bender.” Mr. bender decided he wasn’t done with it and added “What are you talking about Johnny.” “ I threw the bomb the other day.” “I knew you had done it Johnny.” “Why didn’t you report it?” Johnny asked.  “In a couple of months you’re going to start applying for colleges. Would you like something like that on you record?”

Johnny now realized he had given in to peer pressure and made a victim, of not only his favorite teacher, but a teacher who was merciful and considerate of his future.  He was undeserving of such kindness and even after the apology still felt there was more he should do. Fortunately, wise old Mr. Bender had an idea. “You know Johnny I was thinking my car is going to need a good cleaning this weekend.” Johnny smiled. “It’s going to be shiny as new by Sunday Morning Mr. Benson.” Mr. Benson responded “Excellent, just in time for my niece and I to go to Sunday school.” Johnny was satisfied and headed for the door when Mr. Benson stopped him “Oh Johnny you know my niece right.” Johnny answered “No sir.” Mr. Benson with a smile said “Oh you do, her name is Marie.”

Solomon said it perfectly “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.”(Proverbs 1:10) God does not want us to fold to the pressures of others or this world. We must remain strong and listen to the Holy Spirit that guides our actions. (John 16:13, Romans 8:14 ) It is God himself who speaks to our conscience so that we can do what is right. When we fail it is that same spirit that convicts us. Let us ask God to make us strong that we may resist temptation and live a life that we need not be ashamed of.  Peter wisely adds   “We must obey God rather than men.”  (Acts 5:29)

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He was a people pleaser

Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.” John 19:4

Nothing wrong with being a people pleaser, life is so much simpler when everyone is happy.  I am sure Pilate felt exactly the same way.  Pilate was prefect or governor of the Roman provinces of Judea, Samaria and Idumaea. This meant he was the supreme power and might of Rome in these provinces.  His decision was final. He held this position for 10 years.

Jesus was brought to Pilate for one reason and that was to be crucified.  The high priest did not have the power to execute a criminal and needed Pilate to pass sentence. Therefore Pilate had a man he did not arrest in his possession.  Pilate questioned Jesus over and over again and could not find anything wrong with him. Did he do the right thing? Did he let Jesus go? Pilate was too concerned with pleasing the crowd and the high priest.  He decided to check with them first.  The crowd screamed for his crucifixion.  Pilate still tried to please everyone and brought out Barabbas, a known criminal, and informed the crowd that he would release one.  The crowd shouted for the freedom of Barabbas instead of Jesus.  Pilate had two choices. Please the crowd and the High Priest or do the right thing and free Jesus.

Pilate had Jesus, an innocent man, beaten 40 times with a whip designed to rip his skin off, with bits of sharp bones and metal balls, and then crucified him.  Pilate went down as one of the most famous people pleasing politicians in history.  He was literally moved by the crowd in his actions and did not consider the possibility of doing what was right.

In our lives we too must often make decisions based on whether we should please someone or stick to our convictions and do what we know to be right.  Pleasing others sure can make life pleasant in the short run, but living with the guilt of having done something wrong, just to satisfy others, can become a burden too heavy to carry.

Perhaps it is more important to please the one who always has our best interest at heart, and desires for us to do what is right, regardless of the consequences.  This would be God.  Instead of a people pleaser, we can be a God pleaser.

First they criticize, then they crucify

But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” Luke 11:15

This is dedicated to all the doers, past, present and future, the greatest one being Jesus Christ.

Who was likely the most criticized man on the planet? I can’t be sure. But Jesus sure got a lot of Criticism. It was His critics that wanted Him crucified. They said he was sinner because he healed people on the Sabbath. They said He was a blasphemer because he forgave people of their sins. Whenever he would cast out demons they said He did it with the help of the chief demon. They were even critical of his companions, the publicans; these were the hated tax collectors. Ah, nothing has changed. Sinners were always seeking Jesus out. They were in need. They accused Him of starting a rebellion, but His kingdom was not of this world. They finally decided they had enough and they demanded He be crucified.

If they criticized Jesus who did an immeasurable amount of Good in His short ministry, then what will they do with us? We cannot be surprised when we are criticized for anything good we do. Any attempts to help others or make lives better will be met with criticism. Such as “We were too late,” or “We rushed it”. Perhaps they’ll say “That was too long” or “that was too short” or “those words were too eloquent, no one understood” or “Those words were too simple, what do you think of us.” No way to please everybody. The sure fire way to not receive criticism is not to do anything. Well that may not be true. Then we’ll be accused of being Lazy.

We just need to go out and do what we have to do for the Lord. If some people don’t like what you did, no problem, tell them “Please show me how to do it better”. Most likely they won’t. Because their role in life is not to do something, just to criticize others who do something. More importantly remember we do not perform for the critics. We do it for God and the kingdom of Heaven.

Stuck in a foreign land

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18

It takes a lot of nerve to stand up to a King and say No! But these three Hebrew boys had plenty of nerve.  It came from Faith; faith in a mighty God and a desire to be obedient to him.  Well I got some good news.  This same God is alive and well and we can still find our strength in Him.

These men found themselves in a foreign land, ruled by a ruthless king who held all the power.  With just his word you could be put to death.  This same king decreed a law that had everyone bowing to a large statue. Seemed like an easy thing to do to stay alive. All you have to do is bow. But these young men were not about to compromise their beliefs in order to stay alive. They remained obedient to God’s word. Would the king have his way and send these young men to a horrific death!

Often we too are tested.  Pressure from co-workers, family, friends and even our spouses can be relentless.  We know better but it would be so much easier to just give in and get along.  Why not be just like everyone else, even at the cost of disobeying God’s word.  It’s hard to stick it out and be different. It’s hard to be the only one going to church, praying, believing in God and obeying His word.  It can often lead to rejection, isolation, insults or even persecution. But when we can stay faithful we will receive a greater reward.  For Christ is ever present in our lives. He fills us with a peace, a love, and a joy we cannot find in the world.  We also cannot forget that Jesus promises us a great reward in heaven (Matthew 5:11-12) for staying faithful in the face of persecution. Jesus also advises us to lay up our treasures in heaven “where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego understood that a greater reward could be found in staying faithful to God, than in compromising their beliefs, even at the risk of losing their lives. The King was not impressed and was true to his word.  Into the fiery furnace they went. Then the shocker, the three young men and one other were in the furnace and no harm had befallen them. When we are faithful to God, He is faithful to us.

When you feel like you’re in a foreign land and everyone is urging you to compromise, remember great will be your reward for remaining faithful until the end. This reward is no less than a life that never ends; a life with Christ.

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