That which defiles us

Daily Readings: Judges 1-2, Mark 7, Proverbs 12

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” 

He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Mark 7:14-15, 20-23

In the Jewish world, being defiled was a big deal. So much effort went into remaining “ceremonially clean”. By the time Jesus arrives on the scene the Jewish establishment spent far more time worrying about a handful of regulations than actually following the will of God.

Jesus wasn’t having it.

I love Jesus.

I love Jesus not only because he was the perfect son of God who came down willingly to lay down his life for us so that we might have an eternal relationship with his father in Heaven; but also because he was unafraid of speaking the truth boldly and calling out hypocrisy.

Jesus gets angry a handful of times throughout the Bible and it was never directed at “sinners”. It was always directed at those that would claim to be followers of God and yet lead others astray by focusing on the wrong things.

The religious leaders of the day were more concerned with appearing ceremonially clean than with truly seeking after the will of God and bringing that to life in a broken and fallen world.

Over and over again throughout the scripture Jesus goes after our hearts. He wants us to truly understand this.

“What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

It got me thinking today about the American Church and what Jesus would say if he arrived on the scene now. If the Jewish leaders of the day were obsessed with being ceremonially unclean and seemed to miss the bigger picture, what would Jesus say we are obsessed with today that may be clouding our thought process and keeping us from truly striving to do the will of God?

It seems to me that there are two separate Christian universes in America today. There is the Sunday morning church service itself, where I see all sorts of amazing truth being preached. I see church leaders preaching fruits of the spirit, helping those in need, leaning on God, having courage in the face of adversity, etc. If we walked out of those doors and, as the body of Christ, were motivated to go live out what we had just heard, the world would be changed in a generation!

Then you jump on social media. Here we find a different universe entirely.

Social media does a great job of highlighting what people find important enough to share with the world. There is this beautiful platform where we can, quite literally, say anything we want to the entire world that is willing to listen!

How do we use it as a body of Christ?

Then you can click over to the news and see “Christian Leaders” on talking head shows that have been given an even larger platform to reach even more people for Jesus.

What message do we see there?

The overwhelming message Jesus would see people, who claim to follow him, putting out into the world today would be salute the American Flag, racism is a thing of the past and doesn’t need to be talked about so much, assault weapons are an absolute right that cannot be taken away, abortion is wrong, and homosexuality is ruining the country.

I am not trying to make a statement on any one of these issues. I am simply stating that 90-95% of the content that I see put out into the world from self-proclaimed Christ followers typically falls into one of those buckets.

In Matthew 7 Jesus told us, Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” 

In John 8 he said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

And today he challenges us saying, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Before God sent Gideon to take on the Midianites he told him to first get his own house in order. I think Jesus would say the same to us today.

What would the world look like if Christians first looked internally and challenged ourselves, our families, members of our church, and our self-proclaimed Christians leaders to live out what Jesus spoke of here?

What would it look like if we hated greed with the same passion that we hated abortion?

What would happen if Christians used their platform to speak out against arrogance, slander, lewdness, and deceit with as much passion as they speak out against gun control?

Jesus came with a message of love and forgiveness. He came with a message of caring for your neighbor and loving God with all of your heart. He came with a message of first looking inwardly before trying to change the minds of the world.

What would it look like if we took that message to heart?

In Proverbs 12:18, 20 today we also read that, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” and “Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.”

The world is in desperate need of Christians who call out reckless words when they see them and instead strive for words of peace and healing.

God sent his son so that none might perish. We are his advocates in a broken and divided world. The world needs an army of Christians who strive to bring more people to Jesus, not push them away through hateful rhetoric. The world needs Christians who first seek transformation personally, then in their own family and church community, and then in the greater church as a whole.

When people see that level of peace in our lives, the authenticity of our relationships, and our commitment to helping those in need, it is amazing how there is a tendency for people to want to find out more about that Jesus character.

Now life change can happen. Now people can be saved.

If we first seek to remove the collective plank from our own eyes, remember how much time Jesus spent preaching that we should take care of the forgotten and vulnerable, and spread a message of love and peace; the world could be truly changed!

Thought to ponder

If I was to compare myself to Jewish leaders of the time that were too fixated on being ceremonially clean and missed the bigger picture, what Christian hot-button issue has a tendency to dominate my thoughts and may keep me from thinking about the bigger picture?

Through what lens should Christians view Trump?

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:

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/list-officials-left-trump-administration/story?id=49334453

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?

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?

The world has enough mockers

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 15-16, 1 Corinthians 15, Proverbs 9

Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults;
whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.
Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
rebuke the wise and they will love you.
Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;
teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

Proverbs 9:7-9

For most of my life I viewed this passage in Proverbs purely the way it was written, through the lens of how I should deal with others. I would read this passage and think to myself, “There is so much truth in this! There are just some people who are pointless to correct. If only they were open minded to wisdom! They are the epitome of the mocker described in Proverbs! They are so closed minded!” The fundamental flaw in this view is that it automatically assumes that I am wise and have all of the correct answers. By viewing this passage simply through the lens of how to deal with others, we miss the opportunity for self-reflection that we are offered as well.

This passage applies to every area in life, but I think it is safe to say that it manifests itself in today’s world most prominently through politics. There are very few people that have much of an interest in hearing what the other side has to say on an issue. We view most conversations as nothing more than a debate. Even the most patient of us typically only listen and attempt to appear open minded as a tactic to open the mind of the person we are with, find holes in their argument, and eventually attempt to “win them over to our side”. Very little listening is done with a genuine attempt to understand the position of the other person. Very rarely do we take down our own walls and ask, “Is there some wisdom in what they are saying?”

Frequently the answer very well might be no. On some issues, the answer is a pretty obvious and incredibly definitive no, and that is only hammered home more and more the longer we listen! However, by not being willing to actually engage, listen, and consider the thoughts of others, we become a mocker and lose the chance to “add to our learning and become wiser still.” And in cases where we come away feeling like we are on the right side of the argument after listening further, we have lost the opportunity to have any impact on the other person’s views as well. No one is going to take kindly to being called an idiot who doesn’t actually understand how the world works. No one who is mocked or insulted based on their views ends up opening their mind and coming away wiser because of the interaction.

This was absolutely my default throughout high school, college, and in my early to mid 20’s. I knew how the world worked, the correct sides to all arguments, and felt confident in making my case in such a way that would be hard to counter.

This all changed leading up to the 2008 election. (Wow that seems like a lifetime ago currently!) I was 26 at the time and decided to do an intellectual exercise for myself. I took 8-10 political hot button topics and actually asked myself, “What if I am wrong on this issue? Do I actually believe this because I have truly considered every aspect of the topic, listened to people from both sides with an open mind, looked at actual research and facts presented by each, and thought through the philosophical ramifications of the position I currently support? Or have I just always believed it and sought out sources of information that worked to confirm my already existing bias?”

Wow, that was challenging! For about 6 months I wrestled with quite a few topics. I spent time on just about every hot button topic imaginable and really tried to be open minded to the possibility that I was either completely wrong on my stance or that it might be more complicated than I originally thought and that a more nuanced approach was necessary than I wanted to admit.

I came away changing my stance almost completely on about 30-40% of topics and having a far more nuanced view on most of the others. At this point I am pretty confident I would get crushed if I ever ran for office, by both sides, because there are simply too many issues on both sides of the aisle that I support. We demand that every person get in line with 100% of the party platform or we call you ignorant! It is incredibly natural to choose a side that seems to fit more of our beliefs and then embrace what we are told to think by that side on all topics, instead of deciding what we believe and accepting the fact that “our party” might not agree with us on everything.

One of the biggest revelations I had in doing this exercise was the realization that politics, and our country as a whole, would be far better off if more people only agreed with 70% of what their party told them to support. Our country would be far better off if people looked into individual issues on their own, heard arguments from both sides, and made their own personal decision about how they feel on the topic.

I now listen with a far more open mind to people that I disagree with. I really want to understand where they are coming from. I want to know why they believe what they believe and if there is any truth in their position. Sometimes I am surprised by how well thought out their position truly is, even if I disagree. Sometimes, I find myself being swayed slightly or even quite a bit towards a portion of their argument, and am thankful I took the time to ask the question and listen. At a bare minimum, I am at least thankful for better understanding the psychology of why they believe what they believe instead of simply pigeon holing them because “I already know why they think the way they do”.

Virtually every single person you talk to today will say that the world is completely divided right now and do not like the polarized and toxic nature of our country. On this point, virtually everyone on both sides agree! (Other than those who actively seek to continue this divide for their own purposes) However, most of us prefer to shake our heads and say, “It is too bad the other side is so full of mockers and not people willing to seek wisdom.”

This past year has caused me to revert back into this tribal feeling more and more. I have found myself slipping back into a mindset where I view this passage in Proverbs 9 as advice for me on how to deal with others and not advice directed to me, encouraging me to not be a mocker, but to instead seek wisdom.

The world has plenty of mockers.

This morning I am making a decision to go back to being willing to learn.

In the words of Jerry Maguire: Who’s coming with me?

Thought to ponder

If I am being honest with myself, have I spent the last 12 months as a mocker or willing to learn?

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