Daily Readings: Judges 13-14, Mark 13, Psalm 72
Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
“You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
Mark 13:5-10, 32-37
I am always amused when I see Christians spending a great deal of energy trying to determine when Jesus will return by reading the Bible and attempting to look at current events for a concrete sign of his return. It is easy to become fascinated with the concept of the end times. Many Christians enjoy latching onto the portions of passages speaking of wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, etc. It is easy to say, “Gosh, doesn’t this feel a lot like the end times?”
Jesus made unmistakably clear that we will never know the exact time or date of his return, but he did tell us to always be ready.
I started thinking today how much different our world would look if we took seriously the end of Mark 13 individually and as a collective church.
He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task…
How diligent are we at seeking after our own individual task in God’s greater story? How are we doing at chasing after this calling in our lives and allowing God to use us to reach every nation?
God wants to use us. He wants to use us wherever we work, in our neighborhoods, with our friends, in our families, and wherever else he chooses to call us. He wants to give us a task.
If God returned tomorrow, would he see us actively engaged in the task he has given us? Jesus paints us a picture of the master leaving for an undetermined amount of time and leaving the servants in charge. In a modern version of this analogy, imagine being the master of the house and tasking a single servant with the job of dishes. Then upon returning you see the sink overflowing with dirty dishes, the kitchen a disaster, and not a clean dish to be found in the house. Meanwhile the servant is binging the most recent show on Netflix, playing hours upon hours of video games, zoning out for entire evenings on social media, watching television, and completely ignoring the task he was given.
I can’t imagine being all that thrilled with this servant.
We all have the same task as Christians, reaching those who have never heard the good news of Jesus and caring for his sheep. We see this truth over and over again throughout the gospels. They unique gifts we have each been given and the circumstances that God has put in our path vary, but those are the tasks we have been put on earth to accomplish.
How are we doing at praying daily, “What do you have for me today Lord? Please give me eyes to see you will in my life today. Give me the wisdom to discern your will in the chaos of life today. Help me to see the lost and hurting today that I am meant to impact, even in a small way. Give me the strength and courage to live for you today.”
I don’t want Jesus to return one day while I am still on earth and have him arch an eyebrow while looking at me and say, “Really? This is how you decided to use your limited time here on earth?”
There is the classic question people love to ask: If this was your last day on earth, what would you do with it?
Most of the time when people ask this question my mind goes to all of the things I would still like to see, fun things I would still like to do, people I would want to spend time with, etc. I would be lying if I said that my mind immediately zooms to, “Man, I have some work to do for the Kingdom!”
Don’t get me wrong; there is a place for rest. We all need to recharge our batteries from time to time as well. Carving out intentional time to rest and recharge is critical. However, we have become a culture of rest. We have become a culture of endless entertainment where we place being constantly entertained above being on mission for Jesus.
Whether or not Jesus returns during our lifetime, it is undeniably true that we never know when our own time will come to an end here on earth. At that moment, the master returns for his individual servant. What will he say when he returns for you and I?
I want my last days, weeks, months, and years to bear fruit. I want Jesus to be able to look at me and smile saying, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
Thought to ponder
“Would I be ready if Jesus returned today?”
Daily Readings: Judges 9-10, Mark 11, Psalm 70
“Truly, I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Every morning when I am about to do my readings for the day I always pray a simple prayer of, “God, what do you have for me today?”
Today the answer was not hard to discern. I have reverted to being a terrible forgiver.
This used to be an extreme weakness of mine, holding things against people. I have spent the majority of my life believing that there were almost no people in my life that I could count on in the clutch, that most people would take advantage of me eventually, and that few people truly cared.
I imagine I am not alone in this.
The challenging part of being surrounded by other human beings is that they are human beings. If we are waiting on the edge of our seat for them to disappoint us, we will never have to wait long. We all fall short.
If our first response is, “See, I knew it…” we live a life of keeping others at an arms length away to “avoid getting hurt”, we have our guard up at all times, and we search out the worst motives in others instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt.
God wants our reaction to be one of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is hard.
Throughout the last 7-10 years, I feel like I had grown a lot in this area. I feel like giving grace and forgiveness had become strengths of mine over time. God had really worked on me in this area and I had so much more peace of mind in my relationships with others.
Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. Life is so much more peaceful when you forgive quickly. Life is so much more enjoyable when you don’t hold on tightly to every wrong someone does against you. Life is so much more rich and full when there isn’t a constant movie playing in your mind, replaying of every slight you have felt in the last year or imagining terrible conversations unfolding in the future with the person you are harboring unforgiveness towards.
Lack of forgiveness is exhausting.
Over the last 18 months or so, somehow, I have reverted to being a terrible forgiver.
When we turn to Jesus and ask him into our lives, we are called to forgive. This isn’t just a small asterisk or minor footnote when it comes to our faith. At the end of Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray he concludes with this in Matthew 6:14-15:
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
As a church we rarely think of “unforgiveness” as a sin that needs to be rooted out of our lives the same way we think about things like lying, violence, lust, drug abuse, etc. And yet at the end of teaching his disciples how to pray, this was the singular thing that Jesus decided to highlight that has the power of keeping us from receiving the full forgiveness of God.
Whenever I feel stressed, underappreciated, overlooked, taken advantage of, overwhelmed, angry, and generally just distant from God; there is a 100% chance that there is someone in my life I have not fully forgiven.
I am stewing in it. I am allowing that anger to fester. I am harboring ill will. I am not giving forgiveness freely the way Jesus commands us to and in return I don’t feel that closeness with the Father that we have access to.
It is hard, but it is worth it. It is worth the constant pursuit.
True forgiveness takes more than just 30 seconds of quick prayer. We frequently need to really come before the Father and absolutely plea for his help in forgiving others. Forgiveness is unnatural. It runs counter to every natural wiring we have as human beings. That is why we need God.
I am going to go back to living a life of forgiveness. I am going to go back to seeing the best in people and not waiting for the other shoe to fall. I am going to go back to loving people even when they may not “deserve it” because God first loved me when I certainly didn’t deserve his love! I am going to go back to living a life that has forgiveness at the center of it.
Thank you God for revealing this to me today. I needed the reminder.
Thought to ponder
Who am I currently withholding forgiveness from?
Daily Readings – Joshua 23-34, Mark 6, Psalm 66
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
What a beautiful verse. There is power in a public declaration that your house will serve the Lord. This is a verse that has become one of the most popular verses in modern Christianity. If I had to guess, I bet this single verse can be found hung proudly in more Christian homes than any other verse in the Bible.
When reading the entirety of Joshua 24 today and the surrounding verses, something struck me today. As beautiful as this verse is, and as much we like to profess it as Christians in America on decorations we hang by our doorway, it is also a good example of what we tend to do with the Bible in general in America.
We tend to water it down. We have a tendency to pick isolated verses that give us the warm and fuzzy version of faith we desire and not dig into the rest.
Here are verses 16-22
Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.”
Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”
But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”
Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.”
“Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.
When Joshua was making this bold proclamation and the Israelites were recommitting themselves to follow the Lord, he did not pull any punches. When we declare that we are turning our life over to God, he expects us to honor that. There are consequences when we don’t.
We are human and will always fall short in moments of human weakness. God knew this and, in his divine wisdom, sent his son to pay the price for our sins so that we could still have a relationship with him and inherit eternal life. We serve an amazing father in Heaven that gives us more grace than we deserve!
Even if we truly turn our lives over to Christ, there will be moments of weakness.
However, what we see throughout the Bible is that there is a difference between momentary human weakness, and turning sin into an idol that we worship.
We see this again in Psalm 66:16-20 today.
Come and hear, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what he has done for me.
I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened
and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!
Our natural tendency is to want to focus on verses like, “Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!”
It is less exciting to think about the verse immediately before, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”
Again, there is a big difference between, “If I had I sinned…” and “If I had cherished sin in my heart…”
One speaks to momentary weakness; the other speaks to idolatry.
The combination of these verses really stood out to me today, because I think we have a tendency in the American Church to preach a gospel of confession without repentance. We have a tendency to put out there a message of, “Believe in Jesus and your sins are forgiven and you have punched your ticket to heaven!”
In the Bible what we actually read is that even demons believe in God and shudder. What separates Christians is acting upon those beliefs. When we gloss over this portion of the gospel, we do a massive disservice to those we are doing life with. If someone has given over their life to Christ, there is fruit in that person’s life. You can see a change. That is spoken of over and over again throughout the Bible.
These changes are not the reason someone is saved. You cannot do enough good deeds to earn your way into heaven. That is why Jesus came. Life change is not the way into Heaven, but it is the evidence that someone has genuinely given their life over to Jesus and not just simply believed in him.
I love what Joshua did when the Israelites said, “We are in! Sign us up!” He didn’t leave it at that and celebrate. He didn’t treat it as if the sale had been made, his motivational talk had worked, etc. He challenged them. He told them what they were committing to truly meant.
If we profess to be Christians, have we done this for ourselves? Have we looked inwardly and asked God to reveal any strongholds in our hearts? Have we asked him to show us any metaphorical altars we have built in our lives that are taking the place where he is meant to dwell?
I want to have the type of faith that produces fruit. I want to constantly be asking God to refine me. I want my family to truly serve the Lord and not just have the pretty artwork hanging by the front door.
But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
Is that something we are willing to declare today? When Joshua goes on to challenge us about what that is going to take, are we willing to reaffirm that statement?
Thought to ponder
What altars have I erected in my heart? What sin do I not only succumb to, but also actually cherish, that may be keeping me from experiencing full life in Christ?
Daily Readings: Joshua 19-20, Mark 4, Psalm 64
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
Mark 4:1-8, 13-19
9:30 PM: Check the current scores of a couple of games, respond to a text, check email one last time, click over to Facebook for two minutes, then Twitter, then back to ESPN. Put phone in airplane mode for the night.
4:30 AM: Out of airplane mode, check emails while getting a big glass of water. I would rather make sure nothing needs to be taken care of this morning before starting my God time that way I can maximize my time with God and with my kids once they wake up. I want to leave as late as possible for work knowing that there are no misc. things that need to be taken care of before my first concrete appointment. (Solid rationalization) Check final scores while here. Then Facebook briefly to see if there are any notifications…scroll down for 10 seconds while there before being mad at myself and stopping.
4:45 AM: Settle in for prayer, worship, and time in the word until 6:00 AM.
“Lord quiet my mind, help me focus on you…”
Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain…
“I still need to get that project done today…and when I am going to finish my taxes that I already filed an extension on…and I really need to have that conversation with a coworker I have been putting off…”
“Lord quiet my mind, I want this time to be yours. Thank you so much for the incredible blessings you have put into my life that are so undeserved. Help me to be a light today…”
“I can’t believe my friend posted that on Facebook. Don’t they fact check anything? That is what is wrong with the world today…Lord help your world heal…Lord, quiet my mind. I want to be able to just enjoy your presence without feeling pulled in so many directions. Maybe I should write a post about that…”
Prayer…to do list…prayer…think about post…prayer…to do list…prayer…
“At some point I really need to fire off a few emails this morning before the day gets going. It is going to be a pretty full day. I have no idea when I am going to be able to call that person back…Lord quiet my mind.”
“I need to spend some time in worship.”
Pull out phone to cue up favorite worship music. Refresh email.
“Why the heck did I do that? It is 5:10 AM. There aren’t any new emails. I hate myself sometimes. I need to stop being such a slave to this thing.”
Attempt to worship along with playlist.
“God you are so good. Thank you for loving me and being patient even when I am being so silly. Your grace and love sustain me!”
To do list…worship…to do list…worship…to do list…worship…
Grab phone to do daily readings. Quick check of Twitter for 20-30 seconds to see reactions about the playoff game last night. Back to Bible Gateway app to start reading. Annoyed with myself…why did I do that?
“Lord, show me what you have for me today.”
Attempt to focus on reading the Bible and really taking in God’s word…
Thorn, thorn, thorn, thorn, thorn…
Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain…
I imagine some of you can relate.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we cripple our own ability to be present whether with God, our family, or our friends? Why do we train our brains to desire anything other than what we are doing at the moment?
We live in a society where people don’t even allow themselves to relax and enjoy watching a basketball game, television show, etc. We need a second screen in front of us seeing what other people are saying about that shared social experience. We need a distraction from our distraction…wait, what?
The Lord said, “Be still and know that I am God.” –Psalm 46:10
And yet even when I carve out that beautiful time to be still, even when I wake up early, go with less sleep, and really strive to prioritize time to God, I frequently self sabotage for 30 seconds here and 30 seconds there. It is not the sum total of 5-10 minutes out of the first hour and a half of my day that I choose to spend on petty distractions that robs me of truly enjoying my time with God; it is the mental clutter I bring upon myself.
We fill our brains with an overwhelming amount of stimulus and then wonder why our minds feel full and why we feel overwhelmed. We spend the last 2 minutes before bed flipping between 6 apps, 4 websites, and 2 more apps, and wonder why we can’t seem to turn our brains off and fall to sleep well.
Thorn, thorn, thorn, thorn, thorn.
Some days, I am great about not doing this. Some evenings, I am as well. However, there are so many when I self sabotage and hate myself for it.
I want a change. I want to declutter mentally. I want to be fully present. At home, at work, with friends, and with God. I want to be where I am.
In life you always have to want better for yourself badly enough that it is worth the pain of change. That is why breaking any addiction is so hard.
I hate my cell phone. I am ready for a change. I wonder if anyone reading this is ready for a change as well?
30 day challenge.
- When you get home from work, put your phone on the charger in your room and just be present at home. Don’t check it every few minutes. There is nothing that can’t wait for at least an hour or two without the world burning down around us. Human beings used to survive somehow without cell phones.
- When you are at work, put it out of arms reach. Get that thing out of your pocket! If it rings, you can answer it, but put it far enough away that you don’t accidentally grab it as an OCD tendency to check something that does not need to be checked. Only pick it up when there is a specific productive purpose.
- Leave it on the charger throughout your entire morning routine. Use a different source for music. Read an actual physical Bible. Don’t come out of airplane mode until a preset time where you are actually going to begin work.
- Put it into airplane mode an hour before bed and don’t touch it from that point forward.
For 30 days.
I am ready to be good soil again, every day, not just some days. I am ready to ruthlessly weed out the thorns in my life and help my brain slow down so that I am able to appreciate the little things in life that go unnoticed frequently because of my addiction to technology.
Who is coming with me?
Thought to ponder
If it is not technology, what is my thorn? What in my life sometimes rises up and chokes the plant trying to grow when the seed falls on the soil? How can I remove those thorns from my life?
Daily Readings: Joshua 17-18, Mark 3, Psalm 63
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.
Even since I left college, I have never been a good sleeper. I always marvel at the concept of sleeping through the entire night. I cannot remember the last time I didn’t wake up at least 3-4 times throughout the night and then roll around attempting to get comfortable.
If this last more than 20-30 minutes, now my mind starts wandering, responsibilities start flooding in, the to-do list for the day, week, or month begin to keep me up, and falling back to sleep seems an insurmountable task.
In the middle of last October God did a wonderful thing for me and asked me to stop fighting it. He asked me to just abide in him in these moments. He asked me to use that time in bed to spend time with him, thank him, lift others up, and just enjoy the presence of my heavenly father in the comfort of my bed.
There have been some nights since then where I have completely forgotten this prompting from God and failed miserably at this, but there have been many other nights where I have chosen to turn those seemingly frustrating moments of not being able to fall back asleep because of a sore back and active mind into beautiful time with my father.
I have imagined being curled up in his lap the way my children snuggle up to me around bedtime when we are reading books on the couch. I have imagined his smile as he puts his arm around me and enjoys the time we have together with no agenda other than being with his treasured child.
I don’t always fall back to sleep immediately when I shift the posture of my heart to one of abiding in these moments, but I wake up refreshed.
Psalm 63 was a great reminder this morning to choose to abide more often. It was a great re-centering of my heart on praising him on my bed and not just with my waking moments.
When I embrace that his love truly is better than life, as David writes today, and use those quiet moments to allow my heart to sing his praise, glorify his name, and cling to him; I leave fully satisfied.
Thought to ponder
When are moments throughout the day or night when I allow my mind to be cluttered and heart to stray from God, where I can actively choose to imagine this physical manifestation of God right there with me as a loving father looking down on his treasured child?
Daily Readings: Joshua 15-16, Mark 2, Psalm 62
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Throughout the entire gospel we see a running theme of religious leaders struggling to grapple with the faith they have grown up embracing that was based on black and white rules that needed to be followed at all cost and the type of faith that Jesus spoke of. Religious leaders were most comfortable with a concrete checklist of things to do and things to avoid. Jesus went after the heart. Jesus came with a message of relationship with God. Jesus came to help people understand that God did not simply desire legalism and a group of followers that followed the religious laws to perfection, but followers that understood God’s desires for their lives and what they were called to do with their time here on earth.
Almost the entirety of Mark 2 follows this theme. Jesus heals a paralyzed man, but the religious leaders feel he blasphemed by saying, “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus goes to eat with the sinners so that they may come to faith and the religious leaders grumble their disapproval. And finally they see Jesus and his followers simply picking a couple heads of grain as they walk and blow everything out of proportion.
I love the response Jesus gives.
The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
I chuckled when I read this passage this morning.
The Sabbath is for us.
The almighty God of the Universe, creator of everything that was, that is, and that is to come is not having his day ruined by us knocking out some work on a Sunday afternoon. The Sabbath is not for him. The Sabbath is for us.
I desperately need the Sabbath. I need a day every week where I unplug, spend time with family, friends, and the body of Christ. I need to reenergize, fill my cup back up, and re-center myself on God.
The Sabbath is for us.
I imagine this applies to a lot of God’s laws throughout the Bible. So often we think of God’s laws and view them as a list of things that are inconvenient to follow and resent that we are “unable, as a follower of God, to just do what we want!” like an immature teenager that thinks their parents are so stupid for all of the rules they put in place until they reach their mid-20’s and realize, “Maybe mom and dad knew a thing of two back then…”
God wants us to live a rich, full, and meaningful life throughout the time we are blessed with here on earth. God want the best for his children. When my wife and I set rules for our kids it is not to try to restrain their fun or make life less enjoyable, they are always made with their best interest at heart. We are imperfect human parents and may occasionally make decisions with our children that we look back on and wish we could have over. Our father in Heaven is perfect.
Following all of God’s word does not guarantee an easy life for us. That is not what we are promised as followers of Christ. However, if we truly seek after the father’s will through studying his word and seeking to live it out, it does draw us closer to him. It does give us peace and perspective. It does keep us away from self-created adversity!
We all have some commands from God that we find incredibly difficult to follow. We all have a portion of his law that we push back against over and over again despite knowing that we shouldn’t. We are flawed and fallen human beings, which is why Jesus came in the first place. However, when we acknowledge that God has so much more for us when we embrace that his laws are perfect and lead us to a better life in the present, not just for eternity, they do become easier to follow.
Start with the Sabbath. It is almost impossible to follow any of other of God’s decrees when burned out and not centered on God. Give yourself that recharge. Have a day that is actually devoted to God and not knocking out an endless to-do list and catching up on things you fell behind on this week.
The Sabbath was made for you.
Thought to ponder
How could I do a better job of guarding the Sabbath?
Daily Readings: Joshua 11-12, Proverbs 11
If you love Trump and have even gotten this far to click on a link you saw, thank you! Before you read on, please take a few minutes to pray that God would allow you to spend the next three minutes reading with an open mind. Not an open mind towards what I have to say, but towards what scripture has to say. This isn’t a long read. If you aren’t going to take the full three minutes, feel free to just stop here. No worries!
We are in a world where not enough Christians spend time going back to the Bible for wisdom. We have a tendency to lean on cable news, talk radio and podcasts, social media, etc. As Christians, we have already been given the ultimate lens that we are called to return to over and over again to seek wisdom.
As a side note, I have voted for more Republicans over the last 18 years I have been able to vote than Democrats. I have some views aligned with each. This is not about that. This is not about tax policy, use of the military, health care, gun control, etc. You can be the most conservative person politically in the country. As a Christian, that does not mean you should blindly follow anyone who claims to be conservative as well. That does not mean that we should extol the virtues of anyone we feel is carrying the flag we align with.
I first wanted to write this post through a softer lens. I wanted to water everything down and not mention anyone by name in the spirit of not being seen as bias. I realized quickly that it would be far better to simply go to the Bible and let it speak for itself.
I am not going to tell you what to think of Donald Trump. I am simply imploring people to view Trump through the lens of what the Bible says and not through the lens of what Fox News, talk radio, or conservative social media says.
Let’s just look at a handful of passages from today’s readings alone. I will simply pose a question I would ask you to seriously consider instead of just brushing off after each verse. Come to your own conclusions.
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2
I simply ask you to ignore all commentary from any other source than the President’s own words. Go scroll through the last 4 months of his Twitter feed and ask yourself if our leader is leading with humility.
“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” Proverbs 11:3
Again, ignore all commentary and simply scroll through the last 18 months of his Twitter and see if this appears to be a man who leads his life with integrity as the cornerstone.
“Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.” Proverbs 11:12
Again, no commentary. Just Twitter.
“The Lord detests those whose hearts are perverse, but he delights in those whose ways are blameless.” Proverbs 11:20
Simply put, Trump cheated on a former wife with his current wife and then cheated on her with an adult film star while she was pregnant. Trump himself denies none of this. I am not saying we do not all have failings in our lives. We have all fallen short of the glory of God and that is why Christ came in the first place. However, if you are a Christian Trump advocator, I would simply ask you if you have ever heard him give the interview, read the quote in the magazine, etc. where he showed genuine remorse for these actions. Have you seen him express his brokenness and how thankful he is for a God that gives second chances?
No. In fact he brags about these things.
If you are a Trump supporter and a Christian, I have a serious question I beg for you to consider: If Barack Obama had been discovered to have had multiple affairs, a tape came out with him talking in his own voice about how he just starts kissing women without even asking, how you can simply “grab them by their…”, and how he paid hush money to an adult film star to keep their affair quiet during an election; would major evangelical leaders rush to Obama’s defense and say, “We have all fallen short! These attacks on Barack’s character are completely out of bounds?!”
“For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.” Proverbs 11:14
Here is a complete list of all of the advisors who Trump has either fired or who have resigned:
If you are still reading, thank you. Sincerely, thank you.
We live in a society where we tend to ignore any opinions that do not mirror our own or we simply read them with a closed mind and allow ourselves to be sent into a righteous fury over “how wrong this is!” I really appreciate you sticking with me.
It is ok to be conservative. Lots of my views are conservative as well.
That is not what this is about.
I will close with this:
“Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing.” Proverbs 11:6
The only man we should place our hope in is the man who went to the cross to pay the price for our sins.
In our time here on earth, political parties will rise and fall. Leaders will be exalted and then torn down. Our ability to reach others for Christ is so much more important than a single election cycle. Our allegiance to Christ is far more critical than throwing our allegiance behind a certain political figure.
Let’s not ruin our testimony.
Let’s spend less time with cable news and hearing what they have to say and more time with the Word of God seeking after true wisdom.
Thank you for reading today. This one was scary to write.
Thought to ponder
What have I allowed to shape my views recently other than the Bible and Christian community?
Daily Readings: Joshua 3-4, 2 Corinthians 10, Psalm 58
By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
You are judging by appearances.
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
2 Corinthians 10:1-5, 7, 13-17
One of the biggest fears that hold most people back from fully living out the calling God has for all Christ followers is the fear of rejection. The fear of being judged, talked about, smirked at and dismissed. The fear of not being enough.
In 2 Corinthians today we see Paul dealing with this fear actually manifesting itself amongst the church he planted in Corinth. It is obvious from reading this portion of Paul’s letter that there has been some grumbling amongst the church about Paul. Certain people have been stirring up anti-Paul sentiments.
“Who does this Paul guy think he is anyway? His teaching is really pretty weak and timid. I didn’t find him all that compelling while he was here and now he is trying to be the ultimate authority? He sure is talking a big game now that he is gone!”
I know personally, this would be one of my greatest insecurities realized.
“This guy sure thinks highly of himself!”
It is a pretty tough critique to just shrug off, even for the most mature, grounded and centered follower of Jesus. None of us likes to feel judged and having our intentions be the very thing that is being picked apart is one of the worst feelings there is.
I don’t mind if someone wants to critique my knowledge, delivery, presence, etc. However, having my motives and integrity questioned, that stings…
I think we can all relate to how Paul probably felt when putting pen to paper at this moment. We have all been there at some point in our lives. In today’s world, the fear of coming off wrong in a world that is quick to label Christians as hypocrites, bigots, judgmental, etc. can be a bit overpowering.
“Maybe it is just safer to focus on my own relationship with Jesus, going deeper with friends who already know Christ, and just leave it at that!”
I love Paul’s response today.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
I can almost see him shaking his head with a smile and saying, “Look, as you are all focused on my delivery, I am going to be over here absolutely DEMOLISHING STRONGHOLDS of the enemy. I am just going to continue helping people find freedom from the things that have held them captive through saving faith in Jesus. You keep worrying about worldly concerns, I am going to keep breaking chains and setting captives free!”
The way he closed this section of his letter really spoke to me as well.
But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
People in today’s world are always going to question motives.
“Are they just trying to build their own brand? Are they just trying to get their own following? Are they just using ‘Jesus’ to advance their own agenda?”
Sadly, there are many times where the answer is yes. However, even Christians with the purest of hearts will have their motives questioned if they are confidently speaking about their faith long enough. It is inevitable.
We can’t control the thoughts that others are going to have about us, but how we choose to respond is up to us.
Paul says, “This really isn’t about me.”
Paul wasn’t out there trying to build “Paul’s brand”. He wasn’t basking in his fame and notoriety. He was focused on continually building the kingdom. He was focused on the harvest.
If we let the opinions of other people build our confidence too much, it is easy to make sharing the good news all about us. And on the opposite side, if we care too much about those opinions, we frequently never even get started.
C.S. Lewis said that, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”
Striking that balance where we are unafraid to share about Jesus confidently, but not fall into the trap of making it all about ourselves is tough. However, true humility is not something we can obtain by chasing after it. In fact, if we are thinking about whether or not we are demonstrating enough confidence or enough humility, we should stop for a moment and laugh, realizing that we are still thinking too much about ourselves!
Both pride and under confidence are from the enemy. And he is incredibly good at his job!
We need to turn all of it back over to Christ, get out of our own heads, and just be in the present moment. The moment we are in is where the magic happens.
True peace comes from true humility, which only comes from completely turning our ego over to Jesus and focusing on his will instead of our own.
Paul demonstrates that for us today.
This is so incredibly challenging, but being self-aware enough to recognize when we are straying down the path of under confidence or pride, is the first step. When we are self aware, we can catch ourselves and immediately ask for God’s help at the moment it is happening, instead of asking for forgiveness later.
This true humility Paul models for us, and which C.S. Lewis so articulately describes, has immense power to impact others. An army of Christians demonstrating this true humility has the power to change the world.
Thought to ponder
What are warning signs I can be self-aware of that could signal to me that I am heading down the path of making things all about me? Knowing our typical triggers and what the first step down that path usually looks like has a huge impact on our ability to turn back to God in the moment when the enemy first starts to attack and tempt us to focus on ourselves!