The Wow Face

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:5

 

When in Disney World, you do what you do in order to see the “wow face” on your kids. You know the “wow face,” right? If you are a parent you do. It’s that look that says, “I cannot believe I am seeing what I am seeing right now and am literally about to burst out of my skin with excitement.” It’s coming down stairs on Christmas morning. It’s seeing the Birthday cake decorated just for you. It’s walking into a massive stadium and seeing the field. It’s seeing Chris Davis run 109 yards or Ricardo Louis haul in a tipped pass. You get the point.

Disney World exists to produce “wow faces” on kids so that parents will pay a gazillion dollars to see the said “wow faces.” IMG_0442

This being true, when the Pearson’s took a trip to Walt’s World this year I didn’t want to miss out on a single “wow face.” Most everything could be seen without help. But every now and then, a character would walk by (i.e., Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck or Elsa or Anna) and, due to the crowd, the kids couldn’t see. I don’t even have to type out what I did during these moments. I moved heaven and earth to help my kids see everything before the moment (or character) passed. I would pick one of the kids up, put another on my shoulder, move people out of the way, etc. I did whatever I had to do so that my child could experience the moment and I could, again, see the “wow face.”

That’s the meaning of Philippians 4:5. Being gentle means helping people experience the “wow face” with Jesus. In the context of this chapter, Paul is offering directives for how to stand firm as Jesus followers (see verse 1). One way to ensure long-term perseverance is to seek to be known for gentleness. Seek to be known for intentionally being kind with an unassuming spirit. It’s seeking to help others experience blessing. Why? Because the Lord is at hand. Paul helps give understanding to this verse by giving the readers perspective. If the Lord really is present, why would we ever want to call attention to ourselves or try to get eyes on us? If the Lord is at hand, then our goal is simple: help others enjoy Him. Being known for gentleness means being known for intentionally, with an unassuming spirit, demonstrating kindness so that Christ can be seen, known, and experienced. It’s the spirit of John the Baptist: “He must increase, I must decrease.”

If Mickey is walking by, why would anyone want to get in his way and get everyone to look at them? If Jesus is in the room, why would anyone EVER want to distract from Him?

If Mickey is walking by, I want to – automatically & without thinking – work so my kids can see everything about him. They didn’t think about me helping them get to see the characters. They didn’t even consider for a second how I might be serving them in order to see the “main attraction.” To be honest, I didn’t think about how “virtuous” I was for helping them. It just happened.

That’s what Paul means. Be known for your gentleness, the Lord is at hand.

What do you want to be known for? What do you hope people say at your funeral? Wanna stand firm in the Lord? Strive for this sort of intentional, unassuming kindness. Why not? The Lord is near.

There is Always Hope. . . Always

“27 And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, graciously freed Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. 28 And he spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. 29 So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table, 30 and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, according to his daily needs, as long as he lived.” 2 Kings 25:27-30

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It happened.

Babylonians captured Judah.

What was dreaded, yet promised, actually came about.

Complete and utter destruction throughout God’s people – everywhere.

Shock. Horror. Anger. Chaos. Despair. Darkness.

The bulk of 2 Kings 25 just screams, “There’s No Hope!”

And yet – incomprehensibly – just before the book closes, we read these words: “Evil-merodach king of Babylon . . . graciously freed Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. And he spoke kindly to him. . .”

What the what?

In the middle of absolute destruction, a glimmer of light. A sign that God would keep His promise. A glimpse that God would indeed stay true to His Word. A pause that allows us to breathe again and remember that God’s people really are never without hope.

That’s right. God’s people are never without hope. Never. He has always done what He said He would do. He is always doing what He said He would be doing. He will always do what He said He would.

There is always hope.

Maybe you haven’t been overtaken by the Babylonians lately, but perhaps you have been overtaken by life. Maybe a guy named Nebuchadnezzar hasn’t captured you, but a dude named Despair has. Maybe you thought it would miss you, but now you are shocked in disbelief.

Whatever it is, I promise you this: God is not helpless or insufficient. In fact, He may indeed be orchestrating the whole thing. But take heart. In the midst of it, there’s always hope. Always.

There’s a once occupied empty tomb in a cemetery that guarantees it.

Why Obey?

“25 Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him. 26 Still the Lord did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him.” 2 Kings 23:25-26

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When I read about King Josiah in 2 Kings my heart cries, “YES!”

I love the way he obeys the Lord. I love the way he loves the Word of the Lord. I love the way he personally obeys the Word of the Lord. I love the way he reforms structures and systems according to the ways of the Lord. I love the way he inspires God’s people to obey the Word of the Lord. Not only is it refreshing to read amidst all of the “evil and wicked” kings, it is something I myself aspire to as a Christian leader.

I love reading about King Josiah and his obedience to the Lord.

But I have to be honest. I don’t like reading what happens after he dies. In fact, I wish it weren’t in the Bible. Indeed, my first thoughts are, “it just ain’t right.”

If you take a minute to read the last 10 or 12 verses in 2 Kings 23 you will find that after Josiah died, not only did God’s people “mess up” again – but Josiah’s own son led the rebellion by doing “evil in the eyes of the Lord.”

Think about it.

Josiah vociferously obeyed the Lord and led the people of God to reform under the Scriptures. Yet the generation to follow Josiah rejected the Lord. And, to make sure you are paying attention, Josiah’s own son was a sinful prodigal.

Does that not make you mad in a way? Does it get under your skin some? It does mine. My first thought was, “God, he obeyed You! Why in the world would it be where his legacy of obedience would not be passed down at least ONE generation? Why couldn’t his own son be obedient and follow You?”

To be real honest, I even thought, “God, what was the point of obedience like this if it isn’t going to last or affect those who come after us, in particular our own children? I mean, why obey?”

Or, to be even more raw: “Father, if You can’t guarantee that my own kids will love you through my following You, then I am not sure I want to be ‘all in.’”

Enter Gut Check.

This whole dialogue (my reading Scripture and then thinking through it in this way) begs a question: “Why Obey?” If there is potential for 2 Kings 23 kind of “junk” after a life of being completely sold out, then why even obey in the first place?

Here’s what the Lord has graciously and patiently and mercifully reminded me:

#1. Obey God because He is God. 

The very fact that He is God demands obedience. Period. And, if I really get down to it, if He is really MY God – then I will obey Him because I want to please Him. In other words, if I obey in order to get my kids to love God – then my “god” is my kids’ obedience. Do you see? This is not to say it is wrong to long for my children to follow the Lord. But it is to say that if I obey God for the purpose of having godly kids, then it is revealing a “god” that isn’t the real thing. Obedience to God must be out of a heart that loves and trusts and adores and treasures and seeks to exalt God for who He is – God. And, at the end of the day, isn’t that what I want for my kids too? For them to actually love God for who He is – not love God for the sake of getting something else?

#2. Obey God because He is Trustworthy.

If I obey God for the sole purpose of having Him get people who come after me to love and follow Him – then all I am doing ultimately is manipulating Him (or, at least trying to!). Again, there is nothing wrong with wanting those who come behind me to love and honor and follow God! But if my sole purpose is this – and if I think if I do “x + y” God will provide “z,” then I am merely trying to twist God into doing things my way. It doesn’t demonstrate trust at all.

However, obedience that God desires is obedience to Him because of who He is and that He is trustworthy. He has a plan and He knows what He is doing. He has a plan and it is good and perfect and right and loving. In the story of Josiah and the nation of Judah, God had promised to bring destruction through the Babylonians. Sure enough, it happened a chapter later (2 Kings 24). Through all of that – and God’s restoration of His people from it – we now know more about God and His fascinating ways. My point? God knew what He was doing before, during, and after Josiah. He had a plan and the plan was carried out.

If you are ever like me and at times you wonder if it’s worth it to obey – let me remind you, “YES!” Obey God because He is God and because He is YOUR God. Obey Him because you trust Him. Obey Him because He knows what He is doing and His ways are best.

As a matter of fact, “Trust and Obey – for there’s no other way – to be happy in Jesus.”

 

Trained by Constant Practice

12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14

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Would you consider yourself a mature Christian? Seriously. Be honest. No one is looking. No one can hear you read. It’s just you and this screen. Would you consider yourself a mature Christian? What about compared to “so and so”? What about the fact that you have been a Christian for so long? What about the reality that you have taught Bible Study classes? Or maybe you have attended more classes than you can begin to count? Would you consider yourself a mature Christian?

If so, how do you know? If not, why not? Hebrews 5 is helpful here.

Knowing the Word does not equal Christian maturity.

Attending another week of Sunday School does not mean we move a little farther down the “Mature Meter.”

Going through another Bible Study does not guarantee saint status.

Having a quiet time every morning is not the same thing as Christlikeness.

The author of Hebrews wrote to people who had knowledge. They knew the “basic principles of the oracles of God.” They knew what answers to give their Sunday School teacher. Knowledge wasn’t their problem.

Applying the knowledge was the problem.

Notice what he says of the mature Christian in verse 14: “(they) have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

Trained by constant practice. Trained by constant practice. Trained by constant practice. Trained by constant practice.

Translation: Mature Christianity is training yourself to constantly practice the Scriptures.

Growing as a Christian requires knowledge, for sure. But growing as a Christian is not just knowledge. It is taking the knowledge that you do have about God and immediately – constantly – putting it into practice. A mature Christian never points to how much he/she knows. Nope. They can identify areas of obedience that have increased and developed in recent months/years.

So, what did you learn at Sunday School yesterday?

What did you learn from the sermon that was preached?

What did God say to you in your quiet time?

What did you glean from your Bible Study?

Now – what are you going to do with what you know?

 

 

 

 

Don’t Read Hosea and Neglect Philemon

Today’s Reading: 2 Kings 18, Hosea 11, Psalm 132-134, Philemon.

“My people are bent on turning away from me, and though they call out to the Most High, he shall not raise them up at all. . . . My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.” Hosea 11:7-9

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Read these verses carefully.

Now read ‘em again.

The same God who knows His people are “bent” towards disobedience is the same God whose compassion is without measure. The same God who has every right to come on us in wrath like any of us would were we treated the same way is the same God who is not a man.

God does not treat us like we expect. The character of God is love, grace, mercy, and tender compassion. . . towards those who are always “bent” on turning away from Him.

Get that. Let that soak in some.

You have anyone in your life who just seems to always be against you? You have anyone in your life who is always under your skin, who seems “bent” on doing things that are the opposite from you?

Yeah – that’s me and that’s you towards God. But instead of treating us as we deserve, we get compassion.

Now – go back to that person or persons who have done or still do you wrong. Think about what they have done to you and how they have hurt you and how they deserve a good solid kick in the you know where.

How does a Christian respond to such a person(s)?

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Enter Philemon.

This one chapter – 25 verse – book of the Bible is a clinic on how we are to do as God does to us.

Read it. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Paul is sending Philemon a letter through the hands of a man (Onesimus) who had apparently done him very dirty. Onesimus did something to harm Philemon, ran away, ran into Paul, ran into Jesus, became a brother in Christ, and is now going back to hopefully make things right with his former employer.

The challenge in the letter is not on Onesimus. Nope. It’s on Philemon to receive Onesimus as a brother.

You read that right. Philemon – the “innocent” party was to receive back in full measure Onesimus – the “guilty” one. Philemon was to have compassion and mercy and forgiveness and grace on the one who had been “bent” on doing him wrong.

We don’t know what Philemon did. But that’s not the point.

The point is that – as children of God – we “do unto others as we have had done unto us.” If we deeply understand what has been given us in spite of our evil “bent,” we will be at the height of arrogance to neglect the do the same towards others.

I love the truth found in Hosea. And it is indeed glorious truth.

But it’s meant to be more than produce a good, warm fuzzy in our souls. It’s meant to change us. We are, in fact, made in God’s image.

Don’t read Hosea and neglect Philemon.

Let the Gospel (the good news of God’s grace toward sinners) be evident in your relationships right now.

 

Oh For Grace to Trust Him More

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age . .” Titus 2:11-12

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The same thing that saves you is the same thing that sanctifies you.

The One who brings salvation to your soul is the One who transforms your soul.

Jesus saves you to make you look like Jesus.

Think about it. . .

Look carefully at what Paul tells Titus: “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.”

Who or What has appeared that brings salvation for all? Jesus.

What is Jesus described as? God’s grace.

Jesus is the grace of God made manifest in a man.

But what else does Paul say about this grace (Jesus)? “. . . training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” Translation: Not only does the grace of God save, it also trains for godliness. This “grace of God” that has appeared trains the disciple to be like Jesus.

How? How is it that Jesus – identified here as the “grace of God” – sanctifies His followers?

First, understand the word for “training” here literally means “to help a child understand.” Paul knows this is a lifelong process. Followers of Jesus – those who are gripped by the grace of God – are not going to all of a sudden “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” No. It is going to take time. Paul knows that the more of God’s grace – in Jesus – is understood, the more godly we become. It is a lifelong process and journey.

Second, think about it. Paul didn’t have to say “the grace of God has appeared.” He could have just as easily said, “Jesus has appeared.” But he identifies Jesus as grace . . . God’s grace. The more you understand the grace of God, the more you hate the things that caused you to so deserve His grace. In other words, as you grow as a Christian – you understand more and more of why Jesus had to die . . . for you. Growing in that understanding “trains” you to renounce the things that you are now saved from. If you think about it, it is crazy to claim how great Jesus is and how He has saved your soul from sin, then turn around and verbally abuse your spouse. That just doesn’t compute. If you are growing in the grace of God, you are growing in your understanding of the massive love of God for you in spite of your sins. I can’t partake of the Lord’s Supper and rejoice that my sins are forgiven, and get high on drugs the second I get home. No, no. If I do that, it proves I really don’t understand grace at all. To be trained in God’s grace means to grow in my understanding of what I have been saved from and what has been given to me that sin could never do. Do you see?

Jesus saves and Jesus sanctifies.

We are saved by grace alone and we are transformed by grace alone.

We don’t “get saved” by Jesus and then move on to “bigger and better” things. No. No. No. No. No. No. We get saved by the grace of God in Jesus and then proceed to grow in our understanding of that grace that He has so lavishly given us even while we were yet sinners.

When was the last time you contemplated the grace of God in your life? It will be the best thing for your sanctification that you do today.

Oh for grace to trust Him more.

 

Heart the Polls & Poll Your Heart

Christians should go to the polls tomorrow with two perspectives.

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Heart the Polls – “You are the salt of the earth. . . You are the light of the world. . .” (Matthew 5:13, 14)

On the one hand, we should go to the polls with our hearts heavy for our nation. We should express the gratitude we have for our country by doing something we have the freedom to do: vote. We should express our convictions through button pushing in a ballot box. We should express our beliefs that God’s ways are supreme and most loving for mankind by casting a vote according to His standards. We should aim to be salt and light in this dark world, understanding that not voting as a Christian is giving more room for darkness to reign. We should love our country as Christians by taking our Christian heart to the polls.

Poll Your Heart – “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

On the other hand, we need to remember that it’s not a politician’s job to make disciples of all nations. It’s ours. Paul didn’t tell Timothy to pray for the king so that through his rule everyone would believe the Gospel. Paul told Timothy to pray for the king so that Timothy and his church could be about bringing the Gospel to bear on everyone. In other words, the king and those in authority were not to be the “hope of the world.” No. Jesus is the hope of the world and Christians – all Christians – are to make that reality known. We should poll our hearts when we go to the polls. Are we voting with the mindset that Jesus is the hope of the world, or are we voting in hopes that a new guy in office will make everything grand? Are we going to the polls hoping that our vote will take the evangelism responsibility off of our backs, or in prayer that those over us will provide us an atmosphere for us to continue to share?

Go to the polls with your heart tomorrow. But don’t forget to poll your heart. Jesus – only Jesus – is the hope of the world.

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