You Are Not Swayed by Appearances

As I continue reading and praying with the book of Mark, I am struck by what the Pharisees have to say about Jesus:

“For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God.” Mark 12:14b

It hurts my heart to think how often I (and probably you) are influenced by how people and things look on the outside. How easy it is to judge the homeless man who looks disheveled and dirty, or even the friend who is overweight. How quickly I am impressed by somebody’s beautiful home or adorably dressed grandchildren. This is wrong. I don’t and can’t know anyone else’s full story. The one person who does is God, and the Bible tells us in the book of Romans:

 God does not play favorites.” Romans 12:11

We can’t impress God with how we look, or what we have. What is in our heart is much more important. When Samuel was about to anoint a new king for the Hebrew people, God rebukes him for assuming that Eliab, one of Jesse’s older sons was the best choice :

“… Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

In truth, God’s choice often confounds us:

” … God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:27-29

Jesus Himself said:

“I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” Luke 5:32

Regardless of how good we seem to be superficially, we’re sinners (No One is Good Except God Alone). We’re all lucky to have a high priest who looks into our hearts and has compassion on our failings ( Our High Priest). If we’re His followers, we should do likewise. Be quick to love and slow to judge. Don’t be swayed by appearances.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I implore you– Part 2

Part 2 (first and final measure)

What does the Bible say?

Revelation 21:

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

A long-awaited day. A day awe and joy so full you cry with relief. A day that reinforces all the promises, validates all the heartache, and ends the unnecessary. In this season of Lent as we look toward the day our King died for His people, His loves . . . this vision comforts. His love is so great; that like a hen covering her chicks, He took the disgusted spit in the face that we deserved. He took the slap that was for our shame, the angry clenched fist bruised and broke His skin instead of ours. The lashes meant for the criminal he willingly accepted. So much so that His countenance no longer resembled the Lord and Teacher His disciples came to know.

This Christ, the same Christ we put to death and who defeated it Is the Christ I follow. This Christ who says to me truly, truly; is the Christ Lord Jesus that is not just a swear word to me. He is my teacher, my confidant and loving Abba, Father. This is what the title Christian means and represents. I bring shame if I carry it carelessly. Therefore, I expect any church I attend to take this title and responsibility with the same seriousness. I expect any church that claims the title of Christ to believe in EVERY, SINGLE, TRUTH, written down and handed down to us in the Holy Bible. The true word of God. Anyone that selects as they wish, or adds a meaning without context, or intentionally disregards anything; should take a good long look at Revelation 22: 18 & 19.

Churches, Pastors, remember please. Remember your duty. Your sacred job to tell the truth. Your job is not to pander, it is not to spare feelings. (Re-read the new testament if you think Jesus did.) Your job is to unburden the burdened. To free the trapped. Your job is to warn those who blindly go. To warn the ignorant and hope they return to God and away from worldly temptations. And your job is the most important job on the planet.

John 14:

 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

22 ` Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

 

 

For this reason, God’s word must be the Christians first and final measure.  The rule by which we test all things. The standard for all templates of worship must follow the instruction, the guidebook and sacred history that is the Bible. It proves itself true time and time again. It shows us truths of heaven that are but shadows on this earth. Just as Jesus said.

 

John 14:

“They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

 

 

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian* Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

*Christian: the ancient text reads “catholic,” meaning the whole Church as it confesses the wholeness of Christian doctrine.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I implore you. –Part 1

Part 1

I begin as the Apostle Paul began; first with greetings and what is admirable and good about our collective statement of faith, then with a reminder of what God’s truth is.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I love that we are so patient and tolerant and want nothing more than to show others the love of Jesus Christ. I love that we are the polite Chick Fil A goers and we fill those large churches with joyful singing. We are a patient, forgiving, and kind group of people. Yet, there is a side that also means love but we call it discipline.

Please then fellow Christians, please stop apologizing to the world for what God says is wrong. Of course God forgives and God loves all His children (believers or non), but would you say that God condones sin? Is Our almighty God okay with adulterous behavior, molesters, thieves, or murder? Of course not! Yet when we tolerate certain behaviors in the church we broadcast to the secular world that very message without meaning to. Yes, forgive within the church and outside the church but please don’t pretend it’s ok. Consequences need to still be a thing. In fact God uses consequences for our good.

1 Corinthians:5

3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

Yes, the Bible said hand him over to Satan. Doesn’t sound very kind, but look what it says after that. “So that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” The spirit is more important. We have to start thinking eternally. Again Paul goes on further still saying this:

1 Corinthians:5

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

In other words, as professed Christians, we are told explicitly to judge those who also claim to be followers of Christ Jesus. We are to set the good example and not conform to the worldly ways. Not speaking of daily mess ups that we all have, or even of the renewed in Christ who know of the past condemning life they led; but specifically I (Paul also) speak of the current proclaimed, professing Christian who goes on deliberately condoning (or doing) what the Bible speaks against. In 1 Corinthians chapter 6, we read:

Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!

I address this first because I want to remind my brothers and sisters in Christ, that our title comes with responsibility. That having taken on the name of Christ, we now assume representation of Him. Whether on purpose or through our everyday customs that just don’t look very becoming. (Example: cursing) In our lives, appearances do matter. Just like when a teacher tells children to act as best they can, so that the school they attend might be represented in the best light. Why wouldn’t (or couldn’t) adults be able to control their behavior in the same way? Of course mistakes will be made, however, can we say we’ve tried if we’ve already formed an excuse in our minds? If children can be taught self-control, can we not do the same? Shouldn’t we in fact try even harder for the sake of our children and even more so the sake of our Savior who paid such a high price? Our Savior who bought us with His blood? Yes, of course.

Because it is better to be disciplined by those who love you and save your soul, than to go on in polite tolerance thereby risking eternal death. Christians please, remember our beginnings. Remember who we are. Remember that it is an ETERNAL existence we fight for. This life, our church, is but a shadow of things to come. Of things in heaven that our buildings and society pale in comparison to.

Hebrews 8:5

“They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Judging Others

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others
we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as
entitled to as we are.”

Err on the side of love.  It will lead to understanding.

Living Large

The sermon last Sunday was titled “Widen Your Hearts” and based on the following verses from 2 Corinthians:

“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you.  We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us.  As a fair exchange –I speak as to my children –open wide your hearts also.”  2 Cor. 6:11-13

In this section Paul is telling the Christians of the church in Corinth that he loves and accepts them even though they seem to reject him.  There are other Bible verses that speak of “enlarging” our heart or understanding.  As the sermon progressed, I began to see that this widening or enlarging is the natural result of our freedom in Christ.  When we live under the law, we judge others (and ourselves) and find them lacking. When we live under grace, as God’s beloved children, we are set free to love others in the same way and leave judgement to God. We can make room for people who are different from us, who disagree with us, even dislike us.  Isn’t it a freeing experience to let go of prejudice, malice and hate?  Those things bind and confine us.  Love frees.

Here’s what Paul says about it to the Galatians:

“For you were called to freedom, brethren;  only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another.”  Galatians 5:13

I have one more thing to share that speaks to me about this enlarging.  It’s a poem called Love Them Anyway.

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self centered. Love them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.  Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.  Be good anyway.

Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.  Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.  Build anyway.

People need help, but may attack you if you try to help them.  Help them anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

So live large.  Widen your hearts.  Be free.  God loves you and so do I!