What will I allow to shape me in 2018?

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 29-30, 2 Corinthians 6, Proverbs 10

The wise in heart accept commands,
but a chattering fool comes to ruin.

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.

Whoever winks maliciously causes grief,
and a chattering fool comes to ruin.

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

Hatred stirs up conflict,
but love covers over all wrongs.
 

Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,
but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.

The wise store up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.

Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips
and spreads slander is a fool.
 

Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
but the prudent hold their tongues.

Proverbs 10: 8-14, 17-19

I once read a quote from Charlie “Tremendous” Jones 15 years ago that “you will be the same person in five years except the people you meet and the books you read”. I thought this made a lot of sense and I could see some real truth in that within my own life. Fast forward to 2018 with the incredible rise of the information age and our easy access to the internet, television news, radio & podcasts, social media, etc. and I think we would have to edit that statement to say that “you will be the same person in five years except the people you meet and the media you consume”.

I have seen so many people I love and care about over the last 10 years that I lost touch with for a year or two and then can hardly believe the things I see them saying in person or on social media when we reconnect. It breaks my heart when I see people, that I truly believe to be good people at their core, parroting things that they heard over and over again but go against so many things I know they once believed.

We truly are shaped by the people we surround ourselves with and the media we consume. So what are we to do as Christians?

I love the wisdom in Proverbs today.

Here is my challenge for Christians throughout America in 2018, let’s all strive together to be discerning. Let’s all strive to consume less and think more. Let’s have more in depth conversations and not stray away from important topics. Let’s collectively increase each other’s wisdom. I want to grow and I hope everyone reading this would like to grow in 2018 as well.

In 2018 when you are watching TV, reading an article, listening to a radio or podcast, or consuming information in some other way; run it through God’s filter. Run it through the lens of Proverbs above. Is this person I am listening to spreading hate, lacking integrity, refusing to listen, causing grief consistently, and ultimately behaving like a “chattering fool” as described in Proverbs?

In 2018, as Christians, let’s stop following these people. Let’s stop giving a platform to leaders in churches, politics, and the media that will profess to be Christian and yet behave the opposite.

We are going to be the same person as we are today when we are about to enter 2019, a year from now, other than the people we surround ourselves with this year and the media we consume. It is time to turn the page and get back to wisdom. It is time we lean on God’s word again and not what television or radio personalities tell us to believe as Christians.

Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

Let’s not collectively allow others to lead us astray this year that refuse correction, sew hate and discord, and use their power and platform to simply build themselves up. Let’s be a collective body of Christ that embodies the correct side of Proverbs in 2018 and seek after wisdom.

When 2019 rolls around in a year I want to look back at what I allowed to shape my personal growth over the last 12 months and see God’s fingerprints all over it!

Thought to ponder

If I have been subconsciously shaped over the last year by what I have consumed, what subtle ways might I have changed that are counter to the person I want to be and how can I rectify that in 2018?

Mind dulled or Spirit filled?

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 23-24, 2 Corinthians 3, Psalm 52

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:12-18

In this passage in Corinthians today Paul speaks directly to the trap of religious activity. It is so easy as a Christian in today’s world to fall into religion instead of relationship. It is easy to show up to church, maybe occasionally crack open the Bible, check those boxes, and then move on with the rest of our day without any real relationship with our father in heaven. It was not only Paul that warned against this mindset throughout his ministry here on earth, but heard this directly from Jesus as well.

In Matthew 7 Jesus absolutely eviscerates the religious leaders of that day:

Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’”

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Don’t get me wrong; this is not anti-church. I adore the church I am a part of. I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of a church that focuses on relationship with God, outreach to the community, and discipleship instead of simply religious tradition.

I would submit, however, that there are very few things that made Jesus angrier in his time on earth than religious hypocrites. You can commit a whole laundry list of sins, but if you are willing to admit them, repent, and turn your life over to Christ; Jesus is right there in your corner, arm around you, fending off your accusers and saying, “You who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

However, if you pretend to be righteous, are unwilling to admit to sins in your own life, adopt a religious persona, and lead other’s astray; that is a different story. Now Jesus is ready to walk into the temple and start turning over some tables.

So, the question becomes, are we “being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” or are we allowing our minds to be dulled? Do we stand up boldly, speak truth in the face of obvious wrongs, and follow leaders that are chasing after God and clearly spirit filled? Or do we allow ourselves to fall for the counterfeit, with veils over our faces and not truly going after the transformation that can only come through a genuine relationship with our father in heaven?

As we watch some of the events taking place in our world today, I think there is very little doubt what God would have to say on the matter. When we see leaders in the public eye wrapping themselves in the cloak of Christianity and yet behaving quite the opposite, how will we respond as Christians?

Will we be “very bold” as Paul describes today in 2 Corinthians? Or will we be on the other end of Paul’s message, minds dulled, faces veiled, and blindly following along any charismatic leader willing to claim Christ with their lips?

We see a similar message from David today in our readings in Psalm 52. I think this applies quite directly to several prominent political figures in today’s world that would claim to be Christian but look to use Christ as nothing more than a sales tactic. On both sides of the aisle.

Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?
Why do you boast all day long,
you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
You who practice deceit,
your tongue plots destruction;
it is like a sharpened razor.
You love evil rather than good,
falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
You love every harmful word,
you deceitful tongue!

Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:
He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.
The righteous will see and fear;
they will laugh at you, saying,
“Here now is the man
who did not make God his stronghold
but trusted in his great wealth
and grew strong by destroying others!”

But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
forever and ever.
For what you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
for your name is good.
 

My sincere hope is that Christians throughout our country would stand up boldly, filled with the spirit, face unveiled, walking in true relationship with our heavenly father, and push back against any leaders in this world that would boast all day long, practice deceit, grow strong by destroying others, etc.

I want to live in a world where Christians claim Christ boldly, hope only in his name and not in a political party, and are like the olive tree flourishing in the house of God.

Let’s not allow our minds to be dulled. The stakes are eternal.

Thought to ponder

In the last year have I claimed Christ and stood up for what is right boldly? Have I been walking spirit filled and in a true relationship with Christ or have I allowed my mind to be dulled as Paul described?

Was Paul crucified for you?

Daily Readings: Numbers 17-18, Psalm 41, 1 Corinthians 1

My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?

1 Corinthians 1:10-13

I love this passage in 1 Corinthians because it is always a constant reminder to us to not get caught up in hero worship when it comes to our faith in Christ.

Throughout all of Christian history this has been happening. In today’s age with so many options for content consumption, we all end up gravitating towards books, blogs, podcasts or sermons from individuals that we really enjoy listening to or reading. There is nothing wrong with this on the surface of it, but Paul would warn us that this becomes dangerous when you start hearing more of, “Another thing Andy Stanley says is…” or “Rick Warren teaches that…” or “Joel Osteen believes that…” instead of, “Another thing Jesus taught was…” or “The Bible consistently shows us that…”

The Bible is the ultimate authority, not individual teachers of the Bible. Sometimes we need help interpreting God’s word, but ultimately we should always seek to keep God’s own word as the primary source!

Having authors, pastors, and speakers that you really connect with is not a bad thing and God has the ability to use these people to help draw you closer to him. That is the role of people called to ministry in different forms! However, when we start to trust any one given voice above the words of the Bible, it becomes a very dangerous proposition indeed.

This doesn’t simply go for issues within Christianity. If you listen to people today the vast majority of people turn to only a couple of sources when shaping their opinions on different topics. Once we find someone we connect with, we are all in!

Financial gurus, self help personalities, pundits on the right or the left, health and nutrition experts, etc.

None of these things are bad on the surface. In a lot of cases these folks can hold a great deal of value in helping us navigate complicated topics where they have a great deal more knowledge than we do if it is not our area of expertise. However, none of them are infallible. They are all human. It is always ok to seek out multiple sources of opinion so that you have a well-rounded view of any topic. Your ultimate understanding on that issue will be that much more thoroughly developed as a result of you not simply going with what one person has to say.

That brings us back to Christianity.

I love Paul. It would be incredibly natural for Paul to enjoy the fact that there are people in his corner proclaiming, “I follow Paul!” His response is perfect.

Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Ultimately, it is all about Jesus.

When it comes to reading articles or blogs, listening to sermons or podcasts, make sure that you come away focused on what the Bible has to say on the topic. When in a discussion with other Christian friends or folks you are trying to share the gospel with, keep it focused on Jesus.

It never hurts to have outside commentators you want to draw from in these discussions, but it is important to be careful that you use these outside sources to supplement the word of God and not fall into the trap of doing the opposite.

Remember, it is all about Jesus.

Thought to ponder

Whether in Christianity, finances, psychology, politics, or anywhere else, are there any people I look to a little too much? Are there any people that I find myself constantly agreeing with and not seeking outside knowledge on the topic to see things through another lens and have a more complete perspective on the topic? Do I unintentionally engage in hero worship?

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