Can We All Just Shut Up?

It doesn’t matter what side of any issue you are on at this point, the reality is that we all need to shut up and take a step back for a moment.  We have collectively forgotten what it means to be grateful for the things we have…we have forgotten what it means to be gracious toward one another…and truthfully, we have forgotten what it means to love one another.

It’s quite despicable, really, to take a step back and look at the overgrown children we have become…we have no respect for anyone, including ourselves, which is where I will start this conversation…we have become selfish, but we try to pass it off as if we are being victimized in some form or fashion.  Are we though? Is it any worse for one than another?

Let’s just be clear, to everyone who is saying that “My Jesus wouldn’t look that way or act that way!” Disclaimer – this is for people on both sides of the issues – the reality is that Jesus wouldn’t look like any of us…we are sinners, we are physically and morally unable to be anything more than the trash that we are…sorry, truth hurts. So, with that being said…are any of us worthy to be a moral compass for anyone else? Short answer: NO, so stop trying to pass off Jesus as someone who fits into your box and looks like you, he doesn’t.

This is where I’m reminded of Revelation 5 where we see John weep because when it came to opening the scroll, “No one was found worthy”…did you catch that? NO ONE! We do go on to find that One was worthy, the slaughtered Lamb who took away the sins of the world; but this stirred John’s heart because NO ONE was worthy…and if we look at the world around us today, again, NO ONE is worthy to be a moral guide for anyone else…Even the holiest among us is still a mere man who is at best a sinner in need of the saving grace of God.

So, why shut up? Because we have become disgraceful in how we live life…so much so that we have begun to attack the very ones that need to see the grace of God at work.  We attack others because of their “sins”, but we fail to realize that we too are sinners.  Just because someone sins differently than you, it does not make them a worse person.

NEWS FLASH…”All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” – Romans 3:23

You want to talk about being inclusive? This is likely one of the most inclusive stances that you can take; straight from the scripture…we are ALL sinners! Hate to burst your bubble…but it’s a reality that we must understand.  So…please stop trying to be a moral compass and professional splinter remover…

Just imagine what a world it would be if we could focus on the plank that rests in our own eyes…instead we have become blind to the sin that we need to overcome.

Thank God for His mercy and grace, that overcomes the vilest of hearts and can bring us all into a relationship with Him…but for us to truly experience Him, we need to stop trying to interpret the scripture for everyone…the Spirit gives guidance and clarity, we just need to share God’s love.

Colossians 3:14-15 – “But above all these things, put on love, which is the bond of perfection; And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.”

Paul is clear…

Put on love – wear it, live in it, share it, love one another!

Be unified – we are called to be ONE body…

And be thankful!  Be content in your situation; stop demanding that people see things your way or that they give you what you “deserve”. The reality is, all you deserve is death….we already saw that all have sinned, and the wages of that sin is death (Romans 5:8).

So please….can we all just shut up and love one another…the way we were commanded to?

“Love one another, as I have loved you…” – John 15:12

Thanks!

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Jesus Who?

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

— Romans 8:29 (NIV)

Paul used these words to tell the Roman church how they were to be…conformed to the image of Christ; but what is the image of Christ?

We see throughout the Gospels that Jesus is the son of God…Jesus is the incarnation of God…Jesus is God.  From his birth to the last days he spent on earth…one thing is evident…Jesus was about his Father’s will.  Throughout the life of Jesus we see the example that he lived for us to follow…an example that is to be lived out daily in the lives of those who call themselves Christians.

Take a look at his birth – Jesus was born just as we are…to an earthly mother.  This wasn’t just any other birth, however, as Jesus was born of a virgin.  God found a pure heart and a pure body to bring his son into this world.  Jesus was born to Mary, a young girl who found favor with the Most High God, enough so that He entrusted her with the birth and responsibility of raising His child.  Mary was to be married to a man named Joseph…who wanted to secretly slip away when he found out of her pregnancy, but proved to be the man for the job when he was approached by an angel and told to stick it out…that God was in control.

We see it in the garden – when Jesus was praying for God to let His will be done.  Jesus was obedient to the call God had on his life.  Jesus knew the cost he was to pay, but he also knew that God’s plan was greater than his own…enough so, that he went to a cross to die for our sins.  Jesus knew what obedience to the call was all about…from his birth and the obedience of his earthly parents…to the cross where he showed the greatest obedience of all in the giving of his life.  Jesus understood.

But go back with me for a minute to probably one of the most important times in the life of Christ…not his ministry, not his birth…not even the cross…lets go to the temple…

“ 41Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. 43After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51
Then he went down to
Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

— Luke 2:41-52 (NIV)

Mary and Joseph had to go to Jerusalem each year for the Passover…it was a custom…it was tradition; and it is here that we see the keys of Jesus’ life coming to fruition.  The feast was over and it was time to leave…so Mary and Joseph started their trek back to Nazareth – thinking Jesus was with the family, but then realizing he wasn’t…Jesus had stayed behind – Jesus was learning…and in some ways, Jesus was teaching the teachers.

Did Jesus need to learn?  Probably not, he was there at the start, he was God; he had the inside track, he was a step ahead, he understood.  Jesus was in some ways opening the minds of the teachers…for three days Mary and Joseph searched frantically for Jesus (just as many of us do for years, searching for our savior).  They found him in the midst of his Father’s work, in his Father’s house (just as we do, when we are searching for the answers…think about it – Jesus knew the path to reach his Father).

Look with me if you will at the last verse of this section…

52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

— Luke 2:52 (NIV)

There are four keys to becoming like Christ in this verse…smarter, stronger, deeper and cooler.

Smarter – First, Jesus grew in wisdom – what this means is Jesus learned and applied what he learned in his life.  Think about school…we go/went to class to learn, to grow in wisdom…to become knowledgeable in the things around us.  In the Jewish society it was customary for a child to learn his father’s work so that he would be able to take over the business of the family…this means that Jesus learned carpentry.  Joseph was a carpenter and had taught Jesus the ways of a carpenter…look at Luke 2:40 – ”And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.” Jesus grew and became strong…and was filled with wisdom.

This wisdom was not just wisdom of being a carpenter, but also wisdom of who God was…because God’s grace had been bestowed on him…Jesus knew right from wrong.  As a child grows, they learn what is right and what is wrong, they never have to be shown what is wrong; because that is something that is learned by learning what is right.  A teller who is working at a bank doesn’t learn the difference between a counterfeit bill and a real bill by studying the fake…they learn by becoming familiar with the real thing.  They learn by studying the truth, because knowing the truth will help them spot a fake.  The same is true in the life of Christ, as in our own, we learn the truth and by knowing the truth we can spot the lies because of the composition being a little different.

Jesus grew in wisdom because Jesus asked questions…

“After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”

— Luke 2:46 (NIV)

Stronger – Second, Jesus grew in stature. Jesus lived a life that would make him stronger, both physically and mentally.  Jesus believed in being clean…Jewish customs lead us to this conclusion, where we see that cleanliness was a way of life for the Jewish people, and we are told that Jesus was raised according to Jewish custom.  Hygiene was key to the Jewish people…and Jesus was sinless and blameless…so we can see that Jesus was most likely clean inside and out.

Jesus was also a very well dressed man.  We get this from John 19:23 where we see that Jesus wore a garment that was seamless.  In the Jewish society a seamless garment was the best you could get…almost like our suit and tie are today; a seamless robe was reserved for the special occasions…it was presentable.  Although he dressed well, he did warn against those who would overdress though…in his description of the Pharisees in Matthew 23…

2“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5
“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’
8
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

— Matthew 23:2-12 (NIV)

Jesus states that the Pharisees “do not practice what they preach”…in other words, they put on a show, they’re not willing to serve in the way that they expect others to serve; and then, probably the central point of this speech Jesus gives is this… Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’” In the Jewish Tradition the phylacteries were two small leather boxes that were worn by the men containing scripture and were worn on the forehead and left arm during the morning prayers.

Jesus stated that they make their phylacteries wide, meaning that they would make them larger, making it more visible, and in their minds establish their status in the society.  Jesus then explains that they loved to be the center of attention…praying on the corners and taking the place of honor at social events…they wanted to take all the glory…leaving none for God; and Jesus is warning them of this.

The third thing we see about Jesus’ stature is that he was likely in shape…meaning he took care of his body.  He was a carpenter, so Jesus was likely a strong man, because the work he did would have built muscle and kept him active.  Jesus didn’t let this phase him when leaving his trade either, as Jesus then continued in his exercise by walking everywhere that he went…very rarely in scripture do we see Jesus hitching a ride.  He even walked across the water rather than taking the boat with the disciples (Matthew 14).  Jesus was an active man, he was in shape…physically Jesus cared for his body, after all it is a temple.

Deeper Jesus grew in favor with God. Jesus earned his Father’s respect…because he gave his Father respect.  Jesus knew what it took to grow in a relationship with God…Jesus showed us how to grow as well.  All through Jesus ministry we see that he was constantly in prayer about everything…we also see that his example was noticed by his followers because they came to him and said, “Teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1)…he must’ve had it down for them to ask his advice.  His favor with God would have come from his obedience as well…being obedient to the call God had on his life.  Jesus questioned the teachers, and in return they were astonished at the understanding that a youth would have on the topics they were discussing.  Jesus also adhered to the laws of God, showing the world the love that his Father showed him.

One key we can see from Luke 2:49 is this…“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” When Mary asked Jesus why he had treated his parents in this manner, causing them to search, that was Jesus response…Didn’t you know I HAD TO BE in my Father’s house?  He had to be where his Father was…yes Joseph was his earthly father, but God was his true Father, and Jesus understood that.  The interesting fact of it all is that though his mother didn’t fully understand what Jesus was saying, she treasured the fact that her child wanted to be in the temple…doing his Father’s work…fellowshipping with God; and we are to conform to the image of Christ.

Cooler – Jesus grew in favor with men. Three aspects of Jesus life that developed his social standing and made him “cool” were his respect for family, community, and conversation.

Jesus knew what family meant to the Jewish society, and even what it means to us today.  Jesus respected and obeyed his parents…and taught others to do the same.  After making the statement to his mother about doing his Father’s will, Jesus then went with his parents and obeyed them…which is another thing his mother treasured in her heart…a child who was obedient.  Jesus’ respect for his mother is most evident in his last moments of life as well…looking down from the cross, a dying man made arrangements for his mother to be taken care of.

He was very involved in the community.  Think about it, Jesus at the age of twelve wanted to be part of the community by sitting in the temple and talking with the teachers.  Jesus also made many of his sermons a public event…he wanted to involve everyone.  He gave to the poor, healed the sick, and took time to care for everyone he came in contact with…Jesus was a socialite.  His first miracle was at a wedding, he healed a man who was lowered in to a house while he was speaking…Jesus fed 5,000 and 4,000…Jesus spent time with those around him…giving back to the community.

Along with Family and Community, Jesus also enjoyed a good conversation…we know that Jesus was familiar with the Old Testament scriptures, because he was constantly quoting them…which means he would have known the Proverbs showing him how to treat others and live a Godly life.  Jesus was a listener, he was compassionate, and he took time for everyone…

Jesus lived his life perfectly so that he could die for the sins that each of us have committed, and even those we’ve yet to commit.  Jesus understood the ways of God…and he wanted us to get it too.  Jesus was showing us all how to live…he was showing us what we were to become…he was being the example.  Jesus knew what Paul shared, “For those God foreknew He predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  We were and are known by God, we are loved by God…and he has chosen us to be conformed to the likeness of Christ.

What does this mean for you and me?  It means that we, because of the grace and mercy shown us on the cross, are seen by God as holy and just because of the blood that Christ shed on the cross…Jesus died to make us like him.  Jesus died so that we could conform to his likeness…Jesus gave it all, so that we could have it all…and to think, at twelve, Jesus likely already knew the plan…and yet took the time to teach the teachers about the heart of a child…A child of God.

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

— Luke 2:52 (NIV)

Open Doors

“When one door closes, another one opens…”

How many times have we heard or said these words in our lives?

Open doors are one of the things that we seem to focus on in life; in fact, it seems that it becomes a focus of many, especially when we start a new chapter.  Truthfully, it’s hard for us to imagine our lives without these doors that we speak of. We sit back and begin to wonder, “Why did this happen?” or “How did I get here?”

We begin to question why circumstances turned out the way that they did…or maybe, we wonder why it seems that we have been praying over something, asking God to do a work in our lives, and it just doesn’t seem to be turning out the way we had pictured.

This actually may be one of the greatest things in our lives that will happen; that moment when God closes a door.  One of the best gifts that God has given us is the promise of “no worries”.

With many colleges and high schools already having a graduation, and many locally soon to hold their commencement, I realized how important education is. Graduation is a benchmark moment for our lives; it marks the end of an era…the closing of a door. Graduation is one of the few things in our lives that mark the end of an era and the beginning of another one.

I remember graduating from high school and the feeling that I had the next morning knowing that I didn’t have to do that again…I was done!  And not one person could take that away from me. The same feeling came the day that I received my degree from college.

The feeling is something that is unmatched, a feeling of accomplishment, a feeling of completion, a feeling of relief; all of these leading to the opening of new doors and new opportunities in our lives. Actually, the only other time I felt that feeling in my life was the day I accepted Christ as my Savior.  That day was my Graduation from the ordinary life into the extraordinary life that God has for each of His followers.

This promise of “no worries” is found in Matthew 6:25-34:

“Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add one moment to his life-span by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (CSB)”

So, as these new chapters start to unfold in your lives, allow yourself to see that God is in control and all it takes from us to accomplish these things in our lives is to move forward with the help of a Father who gives us all we need.

Selflessness vs. Selfishness

These two words go hand in hand…and the true measure of who someone is in Christ is the ratio of how they apply them to their lives.

Selfishness is something that we all become familiar with when we are children.  Children are versed in being selfish at times – mostly when there is a toy they want to play with.  Look at a group of young children and you will usually find selfish behavior, and parents spend many hours on trying to teach their little ones the importance of sharing.

Being selfish carries over to our adult lives as well.  We find ourselves wanting what is best for us, not necessarily for others.  We will even walk away from situations when we have a feeling that it will not turn out in our favor.  We have a problem…look at Biblical examples:

Judas – He let his selfishness get the best of him, enough so that he was willing to trade Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Jonah – was asked to go and preach to the people of Ninevah.  He ran, was swallowed by a fish, and then finally made it to minister.  This is where we stop the story most of the time…we neglect to mention the selfish nature of Jonah after he ministered to the people.  He then went up on a hill and waited for the destruction to come, because he wanted nothing more than to prove he was right.

Selfishness runs rampant throughout our country today, with people seeking their own benefit, and never giving of themselves to help others…never being selfless.

Selflessness comes from putting others before ourselves.  People who are selfless will give you the shirt they are wearing if they believe you can benefit from it better than they can.

There are a number of people today who live selfless lives, giving to charity, giving of their time and money to benefit others.  There are a number of people who are even willing to give of their lives so that others can hear the Gospel.  One of the best examples that I can think of today is a missionary.  Someone who gives up the life that they have here to travel to a run down, third world country to minister to people who have never heard the good news of Jesus.

These are people who understand what being a Christian is all about…people who imitate Christ Himself…many of whom would die for the cause of their Savior.

Christ gave all He had to save a lost and dying world…He came to seek and save the lost, obeying His Father to the point of being hung on a cross for sins He didn’t commit.  Jesus was the best example of selfless living that we can find to exemplify how our lives should be modeled.

Our true heart is shown in which of these we live the most.  Each of us has both selfish and selfless tendencies, but which are we seeking?  Are you seeking your own? Or, are you seeking to follow in the footsteps of Jesus?

Examine your heart, which are you?  I challenge you to be selfless rather than selfish, just as Jesus was.