My daughter (Joy) and I played for the opening community worship time at TFC. What a fun morning.
My daughter (Joy) and I played for the opening community worship time at TFC. What a fun morning.
Sometimes I like to just sit and watch people. If I get to the airport early I watch the folks traveling. Sometimes at shopping malls I just sit on a bench and watch. You can learn a lot about people just by watching.
You can see how folks discipline their children, you can see their preferences about fashion, you can see their reactions to various events, you can even begin to see a bit of who they are as a person.
I often find that I am the person being watched. Someone will stop me and say they saw me in a particular store or restaurant. Yet I had no idea that person was even there.
Last week I saw a lady in the grocery store with a bag of Cheetos. I didn’t know her but thought I would have some fun with her. I told her that anyone who would buy Cheetos could be a good friend of mine. Her response? She said, Thank you, Bob. She surprised me. I still have no idea who she was but she certainly knew me. Doesn’t it make you wonder how many folks watch us as we go through our normal day? What example did we give these folks as they watched?
When we call ourselves followers of Christ, people intentionally watch us. People want to see what makes us so different as Christ followers. Sadly, for some, there is no observable difference between the behaviors of Christ followers and the behavior of others who make no such claim.
I see some who claim to be followers of Christ who are sad all the time, feel like the Bible is a weight around them keeping them from the fun in life. With sad faces and much complaining these people invite you to follow Christ too!
After watching some of this sad behavior most people would run from an invitation to follow Christ if the result is perpetual sadness.
For those who really are true followers of Christ, scripture talks about the joy that comes from a relationship with Christ. In fact, scripture mentions the word joy over 300 times! Scripture mentions happiness more than 30 times. Joy is actually one of the fruits of the spirit mentioned in Galatians 5.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness…
As I look at another verse in Matthew 7 I find this:
Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
So now I must wonder about those who profess Christianity but are terminally sad. The sad fruit being produced identifies that person. Something is missing in their relationship with Christ. It has to be. The scripture is clear on the fruit that must be in the lives of a follower of Christ.
Let’s build our relationship with Christ so we exude joy and happiness. This doesn’t mean we’re laughing all the time and don’t have problems. It simply means that we can experience joy knowing that God will see us through whatever we may face.
For all those people watchers watching us, let’s make sure that folks realize the tremendous joy that comes from being a follower of Christ. Let’s give the watchers a desire to experience the joy found in Christ. Someday someone may ask what makes you so different from others because they witnessed your joy.
Here is a guest post by Joy Myers, a 10th grade student writer. Feel free to post comments.
The United States of America is a country founded on equality for all men and women, a country that has never deviated from those principles. It is often said that we are a country that is superior to all other countries, a place where opportunities are available and equal for everyone. We are a country where equality is valued more than anything. People often say that the United States is a country that the rest of the world should imitate because we are simply the very best.
All of these things are principles that Americans choose to believe. They are things that we want to be true, the sugar coated version of our country’s reality. In a country where all of those things are true, life would be wonderful, nearly perfect. It would be the ideal place to live.
However, what if these beliefs are false? Most of the beliefs previously noted are wishful thinking. America might have been founded on the idea of freedom, but we have never quite managed to stick to our beliefs without keeping a few skeletons in our closet.
This country was never a place for Americans. It belonged to the Indians, the native Americans. It was never rightfully ours, we simply took it because we wanted it and because we had the power to do so. That has been a consistent pattern in American history, we take what we want; no matter who we push aside in the process.
Indian tribes such as the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw tribes were forced out of their homes to accommodate us. We took their homes and their lives. When we traveled to America we brought diseases that killed large numbers of the Indian population. We thought they were a threat simply because their way of life was different than ours. That is another pattern in America’s history, the idea that different equals bad. Anyone or anything that is different than us is frequently assumed to be wrong. Could it be that we really are a closed minded nation and we always have been?
When the Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence, they included this phrase:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these
are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Notice how they did not say most men are created equal. They chose the phrase all men, and yet, the very men who wrote these words were slave owners. They were participating in a practice that contradicts the very idea that everyone is equal. They were using someone else’s life for their own benefit. Maybe that’s why they wore so many ruffles and wigs, to cover up their hypocrisy.
George Washington, the first president of the newly founded free country, owned over 300 slaves. The fact that someone can be this blatantly hypocritical and so easily have this part of his life forgotten is a bothersome idea. Many presidents that followed after him also followed in this practice. These are the same men that we idolize. The men we teach our children to look up to, the young nation that we use as a pattern for others to follow.
Could it be that America was not founded on equality but on oppression? The voices of the oppressed were silenced, as they have been throughout all of our country’s history. While America was being established as a nation where everyone had the opportunities to live however they would like, our country had entire groups of people fighting just to survive. Their cries for help fell through the cracks and were kept there under lock and key for our own convenience. As a country, we had finally found a little bit of power, and we abused it. The only people who truly had freedom were white, property owning men. Women were allowed very little influence in any aspect of our country, they were not even given the right to vote. Thousands, possibly millions of Indians were killed in America by settlers. About 450,000 slaves were transported to North America, forced to work, live, and die in terrible, inhumane conditions.
Our founders knew how it felt to be oppressed, to be discriminated against and controlled; and yet had no problem with it when they were the ones benefiting. We are a nation, as a whole, who lives for our own benefit.
People have always clung to the idea of progress. Progress is a good thing, but it depends on how it is achieved. Progress does not have to include destruction, but in most cases it does. If one group is benefiting, there is most likely another group that is suffering. The founders may have believed that they were being progressive in taking over a country and claiming it as their own, but the Indians suffered immeasurably from the founder’s actions. In the same way, slave owners in the newly established America looked at the idea of slavery as something that was necessary for them and the country to thrive. The people who frowned upon the idea of slavery could have easily been seen as standing in the way of progress.
America today is the same way it was centuries ago, but instead of covering it up with ruffles and wigs we cover it up with labels such as inclusive or tolerant. As long as we continue to label ourselves with these things anything we say goes.
One of the things many Americans see as progress today is abortion. If we want to take the life of an innocent child because they do not seem to fit into our life plan, then we can do that. Not only do we have the opportunity to do so, but we will be patted on the back for being brave. Since 1973, the United States has aborted about 60,007,125 babies. Millions of innocent lives wiped away without so much as a chance to live. Why is it so inconsequential for us to take a life?
None of these groups of oppressed people were given a voice to speak out against it. All of these lives taken under the justification of a label of progress. When our nation was founded, taking the innocent lives of Indians was seen as progress. They had no voice to fight it. When our nation was young, using other humans as slaves was seen as progress. It was seen as something that we could not live without, something that was a normal part of life. Now, abortion is seen as progress, as a normal part of life. Hurting an entire group of people for our own benefit has always been part of our supposed progress. Today, if you look down on something like abortion, you are seen as standing in the way of the progress of our nation.
We are a hypocritical nation. We always have been. People will cling to any idea that seems beneficial to them. We are experts at tunnel vision, at only seeing what we want to see. We see progress, not violence and discrimination. We see an inclusive, accepting nation, not the self-centered one we truly are. If something is currently seen as acceptable, we are all quick to jump on the bandwagon and agree with it. We have a history of taking the easiest path to get what we want, no matter who we take down on the way. We are very good at hiding the suffering that we do not want to see, all in the name of progress. We are a nation built on hypocrisy, and it is up to us whether or not our future continues on that path.
As we get ready to celebrate Christmas, my thoughts went to someone in the Christmas story that gets very little attention. Scripture speaks about Jesus and Mary but we hear so little about Joseph…the earthly father of Jesus.
In much of the study that has been done about Joseph, most researchers agree on several points. Here they are:
Most believe that Joseph died before Jesus began his public ministry. There are several portions of scripture that would point to this. First, Joseph isn’t mentioned being present at the Wedding in Cana where Jesus changed the water into wine. Yet Mary is mentioned.
Second, the story of the crucifixion provides some interesting details. Joseph is not present at the crucifixion while Mary is mentioned. At the crucifixion, Jesus instructed John to take care of Mary, which would be unusual if Joseph had still been alive. After the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea takes the body of Jesus. This would ordinarily have been a task given to the father.
There is even another hint in scripture that would support the death of Joseph during the lifetime of Jesus. Luke 2:33-35 details a conversation Simeon had with Joseph and Mary. Even though both Joseph and Mary were present, Simeon simply addressed Mary. Simeon says this:
This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but He will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose Him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.
Simeon tells Mary that a sword will pierce your very soul but makes no mention of Joseph. It seems Simeon knew that Joseph would not be alive to see all that would happen to Jesus.
We don’t know for certain that Joseph was dead before Jesus public ministry but the evidence points to that.
Here’s what we do know about Joseph. First, he was alive and a part of the life of Jesus until Jesus was twelve years of age. Luke 2:41-42 speaks about Joseph and Mary attending the Holy Days with Jesus when he was twelve. You may recall that this was the time Mary and Joseph mistakenly left Jesus at the temple. This is the last mention in scripture about Joseph being with Jesus.
So what can we learn from the few verses in scripture that mention Joseph? Here are four things to think about:
God picked Joseph to model for Jesus what earthly fatherhood looked like: We know Joseph had at least twelve years to teach Jesus about life. We know Joseph spent time with Jesus training him to be a carpenter and teaching him about the spiritual issues in life. It is reasonable to believe that Joseph taught a young Jesus how to be a godly man.
Joseph cared about others more than he cared about himself: When Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant and he wasn’t the father, he certainly could have broken the engagement. In fact, in our world today there are many men who would do just that. Many of us would be upset by the news or just want to save face and end the relationship. We need to be realistic. If our fiancée came to us and said she was pregnant but the father was God that would be hard to believe.
Yet Joseph did believe Mary’s explanation and protected and cared for Mary and Jesus for the remainder of his life.
Joseph did remarkable work and received no recognition: Joseph spent years of his life serving as a faithful husband and father, scripture barely mentions him, and yet he faithfully served his family and the Son of God.
Joseph believed what God told him and he obeyed: When the angel came to Joseph in the dream and told him it was fine to marry Mary he did it. Joseph obeyed when God told him to flee to Egypt to miss a confrontation with Herod. Joseph obeyed when God told him to return to Israel after the death of Herod.
We have many followers of Christ who either don’t listen when God speaks to them or they hear God but choose not to obey. Joseph listened and obeyed.
As you think about Christmas this year remember these four points. Also remember, that like Joseph, God has placed you where you are for a purpose. Don’t lose sight of God’s purpose for you. You have valuable work that only you can do…just like Joseph. If we could talk with Joseph I bet he wouldn’t regret a day of doing what God asked him to do.
OK…I’m not a fan of Facebook. I have seen very little conversation there that is spiritually uplifting or even just plain positive. The feeds are filled with arguing, complaining, bickering, and foolishness.
People post things to get others to feel sorry for them, to seek support to right the injustices in their lives, or simply lie about situations. Here’s the cycle: someone rants, someone agrees, someone disagrees, then the people agreeing and disagreeing turn on each other and the fight is on. As believers in Christ, engaging in this type of behavior just isn’t scriptural…on so many levels.
The book of Proverbs warns all of us about something very dangerous with this type of behavior. Let’s look at Proverbs 18:17 (NLT). Here’s what it says:
The first to speak in court sounds right – until the cross examination begins.
In other words, there are two sides to every story. Folks who go out on Facebook with their tale of woe seldom provide all the facts. They provide the side of the story that supports their position. This is what Proverbs is talking about. Most stories sound believable until the cross examination begins. If we knew all the facts of the situation it would make us re-evaluate our thoughts and be ashamed of some of our public comments.
I spent many years of my life as a police officer. I was in court almost every week. When a defendant first took the stand to testify, the stories often sounded very good. It wasn’t until the cross examination took place that defendants were caught in lies. Witnesses took the stand and provided evidence that contradicted the defendant’s testimony. Now the judge had both sides of the story and the evidence.
Next time you read something on Facebook, ask yourself about the other side of the story. If you don’t have all the facts, not the hearsay, don’t engage in discussions like this. They are divisive and certainly don’t model Godly character. Participating in discussions like this is gossip.
Here’s a thought…get off Facebook entirely and do something productive with the time that God has given you. Before we open Facebook for the day let’s instead open our Bibles and hear what God has to say. God doesn’t speak in status updates and we can’t expect to grow spiritually by spending our time there.
I had a great time with Trace Embry and the staff at Shepherd’s Hill Academy. They have a great program and a tremendous radio ministry. You can listen here to our latest show together. We discuss some of the issues surrounding cultural shifts.
My new book is now on Kindle. Go pick up a copy! If you have already read the book, please rate it on Amazon.
Take a look here.