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

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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.

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

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Photo Credits:
halepringle.com

Exodus 13:9

It will be a sign for you on your hand and a memorial on your forehead, so that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth, for with a mighty hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt. 17 When Pharaoh released the people, God did not lead them by the way to the land of the Philistines, although that was nearby, for God said, “Lest the people change their minds and return to Egypt when they experience war.”

Exodus 14:4

“I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them. I will gain honor because of Pharaoh and because of all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” So this is what they did.

Exodus 16:3-4

The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this desert to kill this whole assembly with hunger!” 4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people will go out and gather the amount for each day, so that I may test them. Will they walk in my law or not?

With a mighty hand God delivered His people, yet three days after many miracles, including parting a sea, granting favor to the Israelites so they plundered their enemies and prophesying and fulfilling 10 plagues, they doubted God.  They replaced the faith they had learned to have in God quickly with fear and doubted God’s goodness and character.

God’s people did not understand His purposes and looked at their circumstances of discomfort and misinterpreted them.  A good God would never have them wonder if God would faithfully provide, would he?  Why would He test them?  Because He knew their tendency was toward the superficial.  They wanted to be provided for, but did not expect that a relationship with God would mean they would have to go without to make them see their need of Him.

God knew them and their tendencies to go astray, but they were not acquainted with God’s nature.  We often displace our own character flaws on others, but God has none.  The LORD wanted them to know Him.  He wanted even their enemies, the Egyptians, to know Him.  He wanted them to learn to walk faithfully with Him.

The Israelites had forgotten their purpose.  The main thing for them became their happiness.  They became self-focused and disillusioned when trials came.  They began to think that the grass was greener on the other side, but forgot that the other side was slavery.  Suddenly the “feast” they used to eat while there was embellished to be something they missed.

We might think this happened only in Old Testament times, or with an unintelligent people who were ignorant of God’s plan, but we, too, are easily distracted and forget what we have been saved from.  We forget our purpose, our mission.

We become enchanted by the world or begin to be lulled into thinking this world system and the here and now are the most important.  Eternity hangs in the balance for all those around us, yet we are often preoccupied with worries of this world and distracted with trivial things.

The Israelites thought God’s deliverance was all about them.  They focused on their freedom or on the comforts they wanted. God’s purposes always run far deeper than ours.  He chose us and wants to use us for His glory.  He loves the world and does not want any to perish.  God help us to keep the main thing the main thing . . . knowing Jesus and making Him known.

Lord, help us to remember daily Your promises and to fulfill the mission You have called us to.  Help us to keep You at the center of our lives and your salvation as the main purpose of our lives.

Perception’s Deception

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Photo Credits:
cgutek.com

1 Samuel 16:7

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t be impressed by his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

When Samuel was choosing the future King, he was led by God.  Men tried to sway him to pick according to their own prejudice and preference, but Samuel sought God’s favor.  People were shocked that David, a mere shepherd boy who played the harp was selected.  He was the youngest, the least that anyone would have expected.  It was, perhaps, politically incorrect.

The people qualified Samuel’s choice: “but he’s taking care of the flock . . .” – not someone God would choose, would He? David might not have been esteemed as a leader in man’s eyes, but to God, who knew his heart, David was the perfect choice.  Confidence in appearance never lasts, but character endures long past looks, wealth or popularity have faded.   Waiting for God’s best requires patience, trust and obedience in God, not fear of man.

It is a humbling thing putting ourselves before man, whether it be to step out in ministry, to share what God has done, or to lead in some fashion.  We will be tested in those times to develop character and sometimes in our own hometown we will not be endorsed.  Like David, people around us know we are imperfect.  They may hold a perception of us that we cannot affect.  The true moment of freedom comes when we realize that we do not have to.

None of us wants to be misunderstood, but it is a fact of life.  People have their perceptions formed on the surface in the chalice of opinion, gossip, envy, or experience.  Whether or not there is truth behind that perception often doesn’t matter, as the power of emotion can be stronger and people are often fed opinions by the peecee police in an attempt to control outcomes.  But the humility of reserving judgment before tearing down another brother or sister is rare and needed today.

To form a viewpoint on another person without attempting to know their heart is prideful and demonic.  It is also folly to trust in what someone or something appears to be, only to be let down.   Discernment comes through prayer and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

These same patterns of judgment and jealousy are in the body of Christ today.  They were also present in the time of Christ. Jesus’ own disciples questioned the motives of other followers of Christ casting out demons in Jesus’ name.  A competitive spirit was quickly quelled by the Master, though, who saw all working together for the glory of God.

Are we a David, being chosen for a work, or the older brother, scorning someone else who is seeking to work for the kingdom of God?  In either station, may we recognize we are nothing apart from Christ.  We are all unqualified to serve the King of kings.  Therefore no jealousy is permitted and no pride, either, in whatever position we are in.

Blind trust in someone can bring devastation, but we have to be willing enough to be vulnerable and not allow ourselves to become embittered and believe the worst in others, either.  We all need grace and need to believe we are capable of being better tomorrow than we were today – no matter what the appearance suggests.

Lord, we answer to you alone.  Thank You for calling each of us for Your glory.  We are so needful, yet You use us.  Help us to not fear man, but to serve you faithfully.  May we also not discourage another because of a weakness we see in them, either.

The Goal of Selflessness

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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. 

Not in Vain

 

Isaiah 49:1b

The Lord summoned me from birth; he commissioned me when my mother brought me into the world.

Isaiah 49:4

But I thought, “I have worked in vain; I have expended my energy for absolutely nothing.” But the Lord will vindicate me; my God will reward me.

Isaiah 49:5-6

So now the Lord says, the one who formed me from birth to be his servant – he did this to restore Jacob to himself, so that Israel might be gathered to him; and I will be honored in the Lord’s sight, for my God is my source of strength – 6 he says, “Is it too insignificant a task for you to be my servant, to reestablish the tribes of Jacob, and restore the remnant of Israel? I will make you a light to the nations, so you can bring my deliverance to the remote regions of the earth.” 7 This is what the Lord, the protector of Israel, their Holy One, says to the one who is despised and rejected by nations, a servant of rulers: “Kings will see and rise in respect, princes will bow down, because of the faithful Lord, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you.” 8 This is what the Lord says: “At the time I decide to show my favor, I will respond to you; in the day of deliverance I will help you; I will protect you and make you a covenant mediator for people, to rebuild the land and to reassign the desolate property. 9 You will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ and to those who are in dark dungeons, ‘Emerge.’ They will graze beside the roads; on all the slopes they will find pasture. 10 They will not be hungry or thirsty; the sun’s oppressive heat will not beat down on them, for one who has compassion on them will guide them; he will lead them to springs of water.  11 I will make all my mountains into a road; I will construct my roadways.” 12 Look, they come from far away!  Look, some come from the north and west, and others from the land of Sinim!  13 Shout for joy, O sky!  Rejoice, O earth!  Let the mountains give a joyful shout!  For the Lord consoles his people and shows compassion to the oppressed.

To those who watched as Christ was crucified, it might have seemed as if His work was all in vain.  He, who was to restore Israel, was nailed to a cross, along with the hopes of those who were looking to Him.  If my Redeemer, my Messiah, knew what it was to be rejected despite being God in the flesh, I should expect nothing less as His servant.

We, too, were chosen before the world began.  God knew all of our days before one began.  He is not surprised when we are rejected or when we are seeking to do His will and are met with adversity.  Instead, He uses it all to fulfill His plan.

This world has a lot of politics and striving.  Sometimes we can feel insignificant with our little portion that we offer for God’s service.  But God sees.  When people denounce us for their own gain, or try to minimize His calling on our lives, His will still stands.  Worry is gone, because of the sovereignty of God, nothing is ever in vain.  Our work might be small in man’s eyes, but big or small, it is all for Him.  We might not see the fruit in the here and now, but we can know that all labor done in the LORD is lasting.

When others even within the fold seek to tear down our calling, we have to remember that Christ can relate.  This is expected in the territory of ministry, just harder to bear when it is within the church.  The beauty in it is that God uses it to refine us and make us more like Him.  Recognition is not the goal, but faithfulness to God’s calling.  The only thing in vain is to be concerned with other’s opinion of us instead of pleasing God.

Lord, thank you that Your purposes always stand.  Help us to look to You in the trenches and to not grow discouraged when the work of our hands, all done for You – is rejected by man.

Manic Monday: Trusting God in Your Calling

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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.

My Delight is in Her

deights in

Isaiah 62:4
“You will no longer be called, “Abandoned,” and your land will no longer be called “Desolate.” Indeed, you will be called, “My delight is in her,” and your land “married.” For the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married to him. 12 They will be called, “The Holy People, the Ones Protected by the LORD.” You will be called, “Sought After, City Not Abandoned.”

A little girl dancing in a ballerina outfit with her Daddy’s praise spurring her on . . . a young woman glowing as her father’s eyes beam with pride at her dressed in a wedding gown . . . a wife blushing at her husband’s praise . . . all moments that evoke the feeling of being delighted in.

When is the last time you have felt delighted in? Oftentimes we take one another for granted and forget what gifts each one of us are to one another and to God. The word, “Hepzibah” which God is calling Israel, literally means my delight is in her. Unconditional acceptance, cherished, favored. I believe we often feel the opposite – unaccepted, not good enough or rejected. But that is not what God’s Word says.

Difficult times can make you feel insignificant and forgotten, like you will never see the goodness of God in the land of the living. But God desires to lift us up out of that place, for His glory, and redeem what was lost. Today He proclaims His favor and chooses to lavish His love on you – if You have accepted His free gift of salvation. We love one another imperfectly, but God’s love is perfect and eternal. I am in awe of God, Who would choose a people and then graft in others who were not a part of the original promise and delight in them. What a wonderful heritage and blessing that is.

You, my friend, are delighted in! Bask in that truth and choose not to stray from it. He’s not through with you yet. Amen.

Thank You, God, that you never give up on us – You will complete the work you have begun in us. You do not delight in our stagnation or destruction, but in restoring us. You are good – all the time! Love you, Lord!