The Politically Incorrect Jesus

Mark 12:14-15

“When they came they said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and do not court anyone’s favor, because you show no partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?  But he saw through their hypocrisy and said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”

John 18:38

“Pilate asked, “What is truth?” When he had said this he went back outside to the Jewish leaders and announced, “I find no basis for an accusation against him.”

Psalm 51:6

“Look, you desire integrity in the inner man; you want me to possess wisdom.”

Proverbs 29:25

“The fear of people becomes a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD will be set on high.”

With flattery they approached Jesus, couching their questions with seeming adoration of Jesus’ reputation of being truthful. He knew their hearts.  He did not seek fame nor popularity with them.  The people who had eyes and ears to understand the truth Christ shared listened with delight.  The ones who were jealous, racked with guilt over their sin or even self righteous – plotted to murder him.

Jesus was not deterred by their mocking one bit.  He did not fear them, either, but longed for them to know the truth and just kept living the perfect life before them.  He was more concerned about their salvation and did not try to utilize “seeker sensitive” means to win their hearts.

Truth accomplishes one of two reactions in those who hear it; it is either received and embraced or infuriates the one who does not want to be convicted by the truth.   It seems truth is an instigator.  We have to do something with it – we cannot hear it and have no response.

As believers in a very politically correct charged society, we have a dilemma.  To be all things to all people does not mean to compromise.  How are we to reach this world when absolute truth is no longer recognized or accepted?  Living a righteous life speaks volumes more than just telling someone else about it.  But what about when we make mistakes?  Even in those moments, we can respond in an honest way and repent and glorify God.  Living in truth does not mean we are perfect, but honesty is refreshing and what this world needs more than politically correct empty words.

We must put forth God’s truth in a manner consistent with the grace that has been given to us and we must not shrink back. There are those who have not yet bowed their knees to the peecee police – may we not drink the Koolaid, either.

Avoiding persecution is not a righteous choice and persecution is certain if we live in accordance with God’s truth.  We will not be understood.  We will be mocked.  Labeled.  Jesus was too.  But the peace that comes from Knowing God, searching out His truth and asking Him to help us walk with Him faithfully far outweighs the hollow, temporary acceptance from fickle man.

Lord, help us to live like You did.  May we recognize truth and settle for nothing less in our personal lives.  May we not try to curry the favor of man by worldly means, nor fear them, but love them and guide them to You – truth personified.

Weapons of Warfare

Photo Credits: covenantpromises.org

Photo Credits:
covenantpromises.org

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

“For though we live as human beingswe do not wage war according to human standards4 for the weapons of our warfare are not human weaponsbut are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds.  We tear down arguments  5 and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.”

2 Timothy 2:23-25

But reject foolish and ignorant controversies, because you know they breed infighting.  24 And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient,  25 correcting opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth.

2 Corinthians 10:4

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

Isaiah 54:17

“No weapon forged to be used against you will succeed; you will refute everyone who tries to accuse you. This is what the LORD will do for his servants–I will vindicate them,” says the LORD.”

It is difficult to live in this body of flesh and live for the LORD.  Fatigue and worldliness creep in easily if we are not watchful. Sometimes I can be lulled into a false perspective that being Christian is to be “nice” and flexible, tolerant of everyone and everything.  I can become disillusioned when I think salvation is equated to being loved by all and living a trouble-free life.

While we are called to love everyone, that does not mean we should expect reciprocation.  It also does not mean that we ought to condone sinful lifestyles or give in to the philosophies of this world.  Paul, who had previously zealously persecuted Christians, was a fighter.  He knew that to be faithful to God meant to be vigilant with our thoughts, faithful to seek God and spread His word.  He recognized that this Christian walk is a battle and he armed himself for the task at hand.

But we all do not have personalities like Paul.  I confess that I am naturally a shy person and a peacemaker.  I would rather avoid conflict, but sometimes it is necessary.  On one hand, I will not seek it out and waste energy on controversial arguments, but on the other hand, I want to be ready at all times to give an answer when someone is truly seeking.

Timothy strikes me as a more gentle soul, wanting to shepherd those around him, but equally as faithful to disseminate the word of God.  I love his heart to keep what really matters in perspective – winning one precious soul with gentle correction. It wasn’t about being right, but about caring for the other person enough to be unpopular with them while the truth was lovingly shared.

We have all perhaps seen hostile arguments over faith and even tearing down of fellow believers because their style or personality was different.  We might have even done so ourselves.  These are not the weapons we are to use as believers. Pride and vanity can cloud our view and cause us to see things from a merely human point-of-view, but love can clear the fog.  Not the world’s definition of love, but God’s Agape, unconditional love, which speaks the truth completely in love.

Boldness from God consumes me and causes me to see my need of God and to fulfill the calling He has on my life.  I just want to be faithful.  Sometimes we can be about the work of God and suddenly find ourselves under attack.  (Which, by the way, should not surprise us, but being that my short term memory is lessened a great deal, I am surprised every time).

Even fellow believers can nip at our heels and judge the work we are doing in the LORD.  What weapons should be use in our arsenal?  Prayer.  Forgiveness.  Love.  When persecution or judgments arise, they are opportunities to walk after the Spirit and not the flesh; to cry out to God, not man; to read His Word and apply it in our lives.

The stumbling blocks of fear and self-preservation can inhibit us from using the weapons God prescribes for use in spiritual battle and from trusting in God to fight for us.  He is our Deliverer and able to accomplish far more than we ever could with our human tools.  His weapons are not of this world and the battles we face are not, either.

Lord, thank you for being our Defender.  Help us to recognize that every we battle we face in this life is a spiritual encounter, not a physical, fleshly one.  You have overcome all!  Help us to use the weapons You have given us, that many will be saved and healed.

Answering the Call – Test Time!

Photo Credits: tfttraumarelief.com

Photo Credits:
tfttraumarelief.com

2 Corinthians 4:1-2, 5, 7

Therefore, since we have this ministry, just as God has shown us mercy, we do not become discouraged. 2 But we have rejected shameful hidden deeds, not behaving with deceptiveness or distorting the word of God, but by open proclamation of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience before God. 5 For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 7 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

2 Corinthians 13:5

Put yourselves to the test to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize regarding yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you–unless, indeed, you fail the test!

Psalm 26:2

Examine me, O LORD, and test me! Evaluate my inner thoughts and motives!

Psalm 139:23

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Students do not typically look forward to exams.  It is in the moments preceding the exam that they wonder if they have done enough.  Have they mastered the material?  An unprepared student hopes and prays for success, but it is not based on their work; they are just hoping for mercy.  So it is with us, in our calling as ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Have we been in the Word of God and diligent to seek Him?  Are we prepared in season and out of season to share His salvation?  Are we willing to subject ourselves to an examination by God?

I woke up this morning with a sense that my heart and this ministry God has given would be under examination this week, as we are in our final week of raising support for the new music to be recorded.  As I asked God to confirm this ministry, I opened my Bible to the verses above in 2 Corinthians 4 and wept.

Stepping out to minister the word of God through song and word is the most amazing position I could ever have.  Each of us who have seen and understood God’s salvation has a ministry.  Each person’s calling will look different, but it is a calling, nonetheless – to share God’s salvation with a dying world.  How is it, that we should have a ministry?  That God would entrust this treasure – knowledge of Him and His salvation to broken clay pots?  Nothing short of a miracle by an amazing God.

With such a gift comes responsibility.  We must prove faithful.  We must remove any obstacles that stand in the way of people seeing Christ.  Any hidden sin must be seen and removed, so that we can, without hindrance, present a clear message from a pure heart.  God requires nothing less.  We might be broken clay pots, but God is in the business of taking broken things and making them beautiful.

Examining ourselves is a tricky thing to do.  We can easily come up with excuses or believe the best in ourselves.  But laying our hearts bare before God and asking Him to reveal our heart’s attitudes and hidden sins is a question God knows how to answer.  We can also ask godly people around us to evaluate us.  This takes humility and trust and ultimately what they share should be brought before God.  Sometimes the people around us who know that we are broken clay pots cannot receive our message.  That is okay – God will use another; and God can use us as messengers in other places, too.

As we examine ourselves, the litmus test cannot be man’s approval or numbers – it has to be our hearts and the evaluating tools God chooses.  Instead of fearing examination or being discouraged when we are tested by trials or personal choice, it should be a source of encouragement.  Being tested means we are seeking God and being prepared for being used by Him.  Those who submit to God’s test will come forth as refined silver – of great worth in God’s sight.  That makes the testing process worth it – beautiful indeed, and all for His glory.

Won’t you join me in evaluating the ministry God has given you?  This week I will be blogging about this process.  May our hearts be fully surrendered to Him.

Lord, I am Yours.  I am nothing apart from You.  Oh God, use me for Your glory.  Use all the brokenness form the pages of my life to give someone else courage.  Examine me and reveal hidden sins or attitudes that displease You and draw me nearer to You.  Be glorified in this clay pot. 

The Goal of Selflessness

Photo Credits: followpics.co

Photo Credits:
followpics.co

Genesis 44:33-34

“So now, please let your servant remain as my lord’s slave instead of the boy. As for the boy, let him go back with his brothers.  For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father’s pain.”

Philippians 2:4

“Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.”

2 Corinthians 6:3

“We do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry.”

What a beautiful picture this is of selflessness.  Although Judah had spared his brother’s life before by suggesting they sell Joseph into slavery rather than killing him, Judah had finally seen that his former jealousy hurt others.  He had robbed his father of a son and was now willing to take the place of another brother, rather than see his father suffer anymore.

Jealousy is an ugly thing.  Striving for favor instead of being content with what God has provided is prideful.  Condemning others as if we hold the one correct view is sinful, yet we do this even in the body of Christ.  Why?  Self preservation. Defending self when we have been unfairly judged is understandable, but is it really the highest goal?  I know, I know. More death to self.  Ugh.  I feel it, too.

Don’t worry – dying to self does not mean we do not matter.  Biblically, we are to be concerned about our own lives, as well, but not myopically focused on self alone.  Deference hurts, especially when you have been wronged, but ultimately not one of us is always in the right.  Seeking God’s glory in the matter is paramount and helps to clear up our vision.

As we all want to have people believe the best in us, so must we extend this grace.  The church is a place where people should not be condemned for being imperfect, for we would all be condemned then.  As Christians, we cannot think that we are better than our fellow brother or sister.  No, we are all in the trenches side by side, working out character and sharing the Gospel.  Instead, humility and grace lived out and generously bestowed is demonstrated by loving one another in the face of rejection and hurt.  God help us to do so.

This weary world always has some new drama to unfold; someone who is not happy with you, or someone wanting “our” position.  But when we see everything we have as not ours in the first place, we have no need to defend self or hang onto anything.  Since we are hidden in Christ, He is our Defender and ultimately the harm others do to us is not to us at all.

Lord, help us to seek the best for others and favor them above ourselves.  May we be sensitive about Your Name being glorified by how we live and not as sensitive about ours.  Everything You have given us to do is about You. 

Manic Monday: Trusting God in Your Calling

Photo Credits: amayesing-life.blogspot.com

Photo Credits:
amayesing-life.blogspot.com

Genesis 32:9-12

9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord, you said to me, ‘Return to your land and to your relatives and I will make you prosper.’ 10 I am not worthy of all the faithful love you have shown your servant. With only my walking stick I crossed the Jordanbut now I have become two camps. 11 Rescue meI pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, as well as the mothers with their children.12 But you said, ‘I will certainly make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand on the seashore, too numerous to count.’”

Jacob had fled his past troubles years prior to God calling him to go back from whence he came.  At first blush, he was walking in obedience when he did what his parents expected and left his household to marry a believer. Truthfully, his momma wanted her son protected from the older brother who had threatened to kill him for his deceit and cunning.  Isn’t that like us all?  We want to be right with God, but sometimes try to achieve that position by placating our mistakes with an instance of obedience.  Perhaps the right we do will outweigh the wrong.

Jacob wrestled toward the calling of God on his life, tried to make it happen in his own timing and way.  Jacob’s striving backfired big time, yet God was not going to retract that calling.  He uses imperfect people and His calling is irrevocable. Thank God for His faithfulness, despite our mess ups.

A calling is a funny thing.  Burning inside us is this relentless urging, and yet we are so fallible, we doubt that this calling is really from God.  It is the stepping out that confirms the calling.  It is in the authentic moments of acknowledged weakness that our calling is strengthened.  It is in our frailty and failings that God is glorified, if in those moments we fall prostrate at His feet and take no pride in what He is accomplishing in and through us.

We were never chosen because we are all that.  We were never chosen to be esteemed or to receive glory.  We were chosen in His sovereignty and for His purposes.  We may never understand why.  Facing our failures is what enables us to see God’s purposes and plans for our lives fulfilled.  That is what Jacob did, shaking in his boots (ok, maybe sandals), he went to face the one he had offended – because God said so.  God was positioning Jacob (now Israel), where he wanted him to be.

Sometimes we want God’s calling to be comfortable, but instead sometimes He has us ministering before an unappreciative people, or encountering many roadblocks or discouragements along the way.  Jacob understands.  But in the midst of all the turmoil and drama, he became Israel.  He answered the call and God was glorified by imperfect Jacob, scrappy and daring, but in the end a follower of the one true God.  His pride became humility, His hope became God’s promises and His greatest joy was God.  He was not defined by his failures, but by the great God He followed and who called Him.

Lord, help us to not focus on the calling, but on You, the One Who calls us.  When we are discouraged or doubt Your ability to use us, help us to be obedient and to never tire of seeking your glory in our lives.

Innoculation Against Identity Theft

Photo Credits: www.bhvcpa.com

Photo Credits:
http://www.bhvcpa.com

Isaiah 23:13

“Look at the land of the Chaldeans, these people who have lost their identity!” 

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Colossians 1:27

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

1 Corinthians 3:16

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

I am sure in an earlier time that having one’s identity stolen would have seemed rather odd and difficult to pull off.  Today, it is becoming one of the most common crimes of our day.  Unbeknownst to us, we all might have fallen prey to identity theft ourselves.

It seems ridiculous to consider that we would willingly give up our identity, or forget who we are – nonetheless, it is true.  For if we really believed what Scripture says about who we are in Christ, we would turn this world upside down.  The enemy knows this, which is why he works so hard to distract, discourage and defeat us.  If he succeeds, he is one step closer to destroying us and the world remains lost.  We must not forget our mission.

And what is our identity?  We are one with Christ – the LORD of all the earth.  We are children of God, beloved and cherished by our Father in heaven.  Called on a mission to make Christ known.  We are redeemed, forgiven, and NOTHING could ever separate us from the love of God.

What about the accusations?  Surely some of what the enemy says are true.  But greater than any failure is the love of God still.  We are more than conquerors through Jesus.  Fact.  Look in the mirror and see yourself as a child of God given much mercy.  That is what you are – and God wants to use you to share that same love and grace with others.

It is not just missionaries who are tasked with this calling – but all who are called by God and receive His salvation.  Don’t forget that you belong to Him and He has plans for you.  Rise up, shake the dust off and get to the calling of God on your life – He will complete the work He has begun in you, all for His glory.

Stepping Out of the Boat – AGAIN

Photo Credits quoteko.com

Photo Credits
quoteko.com

Matthew 14:28-30

Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Joshua 1:9

“I repeat, be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the LORD your God, am with you in all you do.”

Standing in the midst of an assembly of people all worshiping the LORD, the speaker’s eyes caught mine.  “Young lady, please come up here.  The LORD has a message for you”.  Twenty-six years ago as a new Christian, I was unsure of what was about to happen.  God had called me through a prophetic message given to me in a dream when I was a little girl.  I do not know why, in His mercy, He chose me, but I know I cannot cease praising Him for His mercy.  At this moment, in front of all these people, I was singled out and a music ministry was spoken over me.  I would be singing and playing keyboard on stage.

Funny thing was, I really was not a pianist at the time and did not seek to be in front of people.  In fact, I played the mini-tuba, puffing my cheeks and pulled the music stand just high enough so no one could see anything but my eyes.  I liked it that way.  An introvert by nature, why on earth would the LORD want to use me in front of people?

Within weeks of that prophesy, I was asked to play keyboard and sing on a worship team of a church plant.  “What?”  “Me?” There were far more talented people – extroverted people with charismatic personalities.  Uncomfortable as I was, I could not deny that the LORD has begun to pour songs into my spirit and I was suddenly writing music, singing and playing piano – something I had not had the ability to do before.

When God calls you to something, it is not always fully realized until a much later date. The Israelites would wander 40 years until they got to the promised land.  Joseph would ultimately see his prophesy come to pass, but not before many side roads that did not seem to be of God.  Abraham had to wait until he was 100 to finally gaze upon his promised son. Who says that when God calls you it will be fulfilled right away?  Not this girl – not this girl.

My music ministry has seen some interesting twists and turns.  Confirmation again and again, despite setbacks.  Winner of the “Do Good” ministry award (2000), chosen to be on The Spirit Radio Compilation CD (2001), radio play from both CDs, (2001, 2007), Inspirational album of the year (2006), first place IMMA Christian Contemporary Artist on “An Evening with Champions” television show (2007), an artist with Mission of Mercy helping sponsor children, a worship leader on staff and as a volunteer in several churches.  In the midst of all of these things was the greatest calling and delight of my life – raising my children, home educating them and discipling them.

But all the external validations are not what meant the most to me in ministry.  Seeing people encouraged and the opportunity to share God’s amazing, awesome goodness to help others keep putting one foot in front of the other and to know the One true God – brought me far more joy than any award ever could.  Seeing my children get a heart for missions and ministry by being a part of the process – priceless.

At the height of ministry, horror and trauma impacted my family and I set aside formal ministry.  My attention was where it needed to be – with my children.  Over the years, I have wondered if that calling was over or if God was not through with me yet.  I have battled with self-doubt and a variety of reasons why I should just give up, but inside me is an insatiable calling that I can no longer deny.  When I sing and write music, or I write or speak about my LORD, I sense His pleasure.  (Sure, this is a line borrowed from one of my favorite films, “Chariots of Fire”, but it so well describes the confirmation in my soul of this calling).

I am humbled and excited to share with you all that I am officially stepping out of the boat and going to step back into formal ministry.  So here it is, the eve before I officially begin the process of recording my next CD and step back into a calling that was interrupted by tragedy, but not forgotten.  It is hard to express the feelings in the depths of my soul.  At New Life Community Church in Louisa, VA tomorrow (Sunday), I will be sharing personal testimony and announcing the recording of a new 5-song EP to be produced by Shay Watson and released this summer.

We are launching a Pledge Campaign TOMORROW on 2/1/15 and invite you to partner with us. Be a part of the creative process by pre-buying music, donating or participating in exclusive offers on our campaign website. Please visit www.pledgemusic.com/projects/seeingdeep and come with me on this faith walk.  Learn more about the Seeing Deep project and join us in this adventure. Thank you all so much!!

Blessed and Amazed,
Denise Pass | Seeing Deep

Worshipful Wednesday: Who is Worship For?

Photo Credits inbythroughhim.blogspot.com

Photo Credits
inbythroughhim.blogspot.com

Psalm 9:1-2

“I will thank the Lord with all my heart!  I will tell about all your amazing deeds! 2 I will be happy and rejoice in you!  I will sing praises to you, O sovereign One!”

John 4:24

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Hebrews 13:15

“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”

Hebrews 12:28

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.”

Thank you for stopping by on this Worshipful Wednesday!  Worship is often misunderstood as a part of the church service alone, but it is a lifestyle of thanksgiving to the One Who has given us every blessing we have.  As a worship leader in churches for over twenty years now, I confess that contemplating God’s Holiness, goodness and character in song is one of my favorite things to do.  I say one of, because just reading and listening to His Word fills me with an inner joy that cannot be contained.  But I fear our worship is lackluster in comparison to what God deserves.

Worship is cultivating gratitude from a heart that recognizes our own dependence on God.  It is in the very act of worship that we draw nearer to God.  Affection in marriage or in the parent/child relationship is the most essential aspect of those relationships.  A child and a parent both want to know they are loved and adored.  We can become hardened in this world and begin to think that receiving adoration is our highest goal, though.  God knows we need affirmation and love, but our greatest joy is found in giving that highest worship to Him.

I remember as a new believer not understanding why God would require us to worship Him.  It seemed a little vain to me at the time, though I did not want to even think such a thought.  But if God had not commanded us to worship, we would worship far lesser things.  What our hearts are set on to worship affects greatly how we live on this earth.  Practically speaking, when we worship created things which cannot compare to the greatness of our God, our aspirations are lesser than what God could accomplish in us.

Until we grow deeper in our relationship with God and see that He is worthy of the highest praise and adoration, it does not make sense to us in our humanity.  Certainly contemplating all that God has done makes Him praiseworthy, but in our pride we can be deceived into thinking we deserve what God has done for us.

Our flesh can be overwhelmed with worshiping God for all eternity – it seems tiring and repetitive.  That is when we realize that we have not really gotten a glimpse of Who God is.  We need to worship Him to know Him more.  We can be fans of people on this earth, but they will ultimately all perish and their splendor will fade.  But God – the great I AM, is not like us. No, He is Holy, perfect in all He does, without beginning or end.

We need to worship someone greater than we are.  Worshiping the creation could never fulfill us like worshiping our Creator – the only One truly worthy of praise!  We need to be transformed and that happens in His presence.  Our hearts and minds easily falter and can be divided.  Worshiping God aligns our will with God’s, and helps us to focus on what really matters and to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives: knowing Him.

The irony in God’s command for us to worship Him is that He does not need our worship – it is we who need to worship.  It is in love, not selfishness, that He is requiring us to worship Him.  We are harassed and helpless sheep who need direction. Thank God that He has shown us Himself and our need to worship Him alone.  Worship Him now.  Contemplate all that He has done for you.  Set aside the barriers that hinder sincere worship.  He is worthy.

Lord, help us to worship You in humility and truth.  You are worthy of all our praise and adoration.

Walking in His Sandals – the Call to Ministry

Photo Credits santatizing.wordpress.com

Photo Credits
santatizing.wordpress.com

Isaiah 20:2-3

“At that time the LORD announced through Isaiah son of Amoz: “Go, remove the sackcloth from your waist and take your sandals off your feet.” He did as instructed and walked around in undergarments and barefoot. 3 Later the LORD explained, “In the same way that my servant Isaiah has walked around in undergarments and barefoot for the past three years, as an object lesson and omen pertaining to Egypt and Cush.”

Matthew 3:4

Now John wore clothing made from camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his diet consisted of locusts and wild honey.”

2 Kings 1:8

They replied, “He was a hairy man and had a leather belt tied around his waist.” The king said, “He is Elijah the Tishbite.” 

Ezekiel 3:1-3,25

1 He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you see in front of you – eat this scroll – and then go and speak to the house of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth and he fed me the scroll. 3 He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll I am giving to you.” So I ate it, and it was sweet like honey in my mouth.  25 As for you, son of man, they will put ropes on you and tie you up with them, so you cannot go out among them.

Ezekiel 4:4-15

4 “Also for your part lie on your left side and place the iniquity of the house of Israel on it. For the number of days you lie on your side you will bear their iniquity. 5 I have determined that the number of the years of their iniquity are to be the number of days for you – 390 days. So bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. 6 “When you have completed these days, then lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the iniquity of the house of Judah 40 days – I have assigned one day for each year. 7 You must turn your face toward the siege of Jerusalem with your arm bared and prophesy against it. 8 Look here, I will tie you up with ropes, so you cannot turn from one side to the other until you complete the days of your siege. 9 “As for you, take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt, put them in a single container, and make food from them for yourself. For the same number of days that you lie on your side – 390 days – you will eat it. 10 The food you eat will be eight ounces a day by weight; you must eat it at fixed times. 11 And you must drink water by measure, a pint and a half; you must drink it at fixed times. 12 And you must eat the food like you would a barley cake. You must bake it in front of them over a fire made with dried human excrement.” 13 And the Lord said, “This is how the people of Israel will eat their unclean food among the nations where I will banish them.” 14 And I said, “Ah, sovereign Lord, I have never been ceremonially defiled before. I have never eaten a carcass or an animal torn by wild beasts; from my youth up, unclean meat has never entered my mouth.”

15 So he said to me, “All right then, I will substitute cow’s manure instead of human excrement. You will cook your food over it.”

Isaiah walked around in his underwear barefoot for three years, John the Baptist ate locusts and honey.  Ezekiel ate a scroll and laid on his side for 390 days, eating 8 ounces of food each day.  Each considered themselves unworthy, just a tool, a forerunner to Christ.

God knows we don’t get it if we haven’t walked in those sandals.  If we are going to be used by God to share with others, we don’t understand unless we have suffered similarly, the compassion gained in the lessons of suffering is priceless.

We think being a vessel for God can mean a position that is respected – the Israelites thought the Messiah would be a King, triumphing over all.  He did.  But not in the way they would have chosen.  He served, laid down his life and bore our humiliation – embraced suffering instead of seeking to be elevated.

We all can think we want to be a man or woman of God, used for His kingdom, but are we willing to pay the price?  Life’s lessons also teach us to refrain from judgment on others, for we begin to understand that the pain others walk through has a larger purpose than what is on the surface.

Some of the things God calls us to do or allows in our lives do not make sense.  The compassion that Ezekiel had after enduring 390 days of punishment for Israel would cause him to passionately plea with Israel.  He saw what was coming and was a watchman indeed.  The hope was that Israel would turn away from their sin.  One who had suffered could deliver God’s message with zeal and a fortitude that would hopefully turn God’s children back to Himself.

What are our hopes for ministry?  Our aspirations?  If we belong to the LORD, we are all in ministry.  Will we be used as He wants to use us?  I remember well when God first called me.  Newly saved at the age of nineteen, my heart was full with a desire to minister for Him.  I did not know or understand what that meant.  I recall weeping as I would drive to D.C. to work every day.  This was not God’s calling for me.  I was supposed to be out on a mission field somewhere, or something that appeared more like ministry.

God began to give songs to me on the piano as a music major at the University of Maryland.  It was not my instrument, but God clearly opened doors for me to serve Him in this way.  Over time, songs were given with a desire to help others along in their walk with God.  I began to notice a degree of suffering before a song was inspired and asked God if He could use me to encourage others without me having to suffer first.  How foolish of me.  Ministry was never intended to be a cushy experience.

Our calling is ultimately God’s calling.  It is His life lived through us.  He chose a path of humility and service.  Will we?

Lord, help us to be yielded clay in Your hands.  Your will, not ours.  Whatever suffering we will walk through, we know You ordained and permitted it.  Help us to trust You despite what is on the surface of this life.

The Calling of Holiness

Photo Credits logos-kenny.blogspot.com

Photo Credits
logos-kenny.blogspot.com

1 Thessalonians 4:1, 3, 4, 7, 8

1 “Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask you and urge you in the LORD Jesus, that as you received instruction from us about how you must live and please God (as you are in fact living) that you do so more and more. 3 For this is God’s will: that you become holy, that you keep away from sexual immorality, 4 that each of you know how to possess his own body in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion like the Gentiles who do not know God.  7 For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. 8 Consequently, the one who rejects this is not rejecting human authority but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”

1 Peter 1:16

“For it is written, “You shall be holy, because I am holy.”

Matthew 5:8

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

I am humbled by the truth that God calls each of us to be holy as He is holy.  How can what is flawed, with nothing good inherently in our being, become holy?  What is impossible with man, is possible with God!  Moment by moment, day by day, we are being fashioned into His image – what a beautiful sight to behold!  The version above uses the word “shall” – what a precious promise is contained in that little word.  God is going to do the work of making us Holy and we shall be Holy.  Sure, we might stumble around and fall short, but we eagerly look onward to this calling of Holiness, knowing the One who said it will complete it in us.

This command to be holy is not a suggestion, but it is also a calling.  A calling differs from a command in that it is in us – urging us to live a life worthy of the One Who laid His life down for us.  You cannot silence that calling, you can only muffle it a bit with a stubborn heart.  But a calling is going to come to fruition when the LORD is the initiator and the completer of the covenant.

Some men hide behind their man-made religions, eager to judge their perception of wickedness and carry out what they define as Holy judgment. They might even be right in saying something is unholy, but their handling is wicked, as well. Average people can judge other’s lack of holiness but not see that holiness extends to all aspects of life.  We might judge another for what seems an obvious lack of holiness in their life, and not see that our speech or our attitude is also unholy in the presence of our most Holy, perfect God.  I am so grateful that the One true living God is not like that.  He is the One Righteous Judge and He will judge all – but before that He extends mercy and grace and opens our eyes so that we might see.

Let us serve and help one another where we are myopic and blind.  Let us encourage one another to heed the calling of holiness and even admonish and exhort, when needed.  But may we also extend grace and instruction that causes our souls to yearn after God and His ways.  May we press on and never grow weary of being like Jesus . . . for the sweetest promise of all awaits those who pursue holiness in God . . . seeing Him face to face!

Lord, thank You for heeding the call and living a perfect life as an example to us.  Work in us for Your glory alone, LORD. Help us to seek after Your Kingdom and Your righteousness.