The Culture of Jesus – Safe to Work

But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mark 14:6).

With Jesus it was safe:

  • Safe to work.
  • Safe to be different.

Mary wasn’t stealing a car or robbing a bank. She didn’t go out and kill 20 people. Nor was she trying to sell crack to school kids. She wasn’t attempting to lead people down some false doctrinal path. All she did was take some extremely valuable fragrant oil and dedicate it to Jesus for His burial. And how did the apostles and others respond? Negativity, criticism and judgment.

“Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” That was the advice Jesus gave His disciples. They had criticized Mary sharply, scolding her for wasting the fragrant oil by pouring it out on Jesus. The disciples had better ideas on how she could have used that oil to minister to the poor. But Jesus didn’t see it that way. He also added that wherever the gospel was preached, this woman’s act of sacrifice, honor and love would shared with the whole world (Mark 14; Matthew 26; John 12).

Think of the environment and culture the disciples had created by their judgmentalism. Without Jesus there to help, would it have been safe for Mary to step out and do what she did for Jesus? Not at all. They were “troubling her” instead of encouraging her. Jesus was helping the others learn, grow and change to see that this way of pouncing on people with criticism is not His way. This culture of criticism is alive and well in today’s churches, communities, families and businesses, and Jesus wants to transform us, too.

Was it safe for Mary to work and be different? Not at this point with the disciples. They were going to have to be transformed by Jesus. But with Jesus she was safe. With Jesus it was safe to step out and work for Him, even if it was different than how others would have served. This is not to say it is okay with Jesus to teach different doctrines – we’re talking about living within the realm of God’s word. Mary was clearly living within God’s word; she just did something in a way that others thought was a waste.

How about us? Are we like the disciples? Do we insult people, belittle others and make them feel dumb for having different ideas? Then we need a culture change, and that starts in the heart. Come to Jesus and ask Him to help you change how you approach others around you so that they feel safe to step out and work for Jesus.

The Culture of Jesus – Safe in Storms

And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
(Mat 14:32-33)

The disciples of Jesus learned some hard but valuable lessons. Jesus allowed them to be in some incredibly nasty storms, and they knew they were in grave danger. Through those storms, they eventually learned that they were safe in Jesus. When Jesus is in the boat, you are safe and eventually He will calm the storm.

Today’s focus is on the safety we have with Jesus in storms. With Jesus, it is safe:

  • Safe to heal
  • Safe in storms
  • Safe to step out

For you the storm may be relationships. It may be sickness or the death of loved ones. For others it is job loss and money issues. Some face incredible tragedy. All of us have at one point been in the storms of our sinfulness. When we are in the storms, we are helpless, hopeless and scared. We look for refuge, for safety and stability. That is what the disciples found in Jesus. Even in the midst of storms that would literally have cost their lives, Jesus was with them in the boat and through Jesus the storm was stilled.

Consider the sinful woman who was forgiven by Jesus (Luke 7:36-50). Her storm was the crashing waves of her sinful choices. How about the woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria (John 4)? She had drunk from the relationship well over and over, and was continually left thirsty. In Jesus, she had living water. Levi (Matthew) the tax collector was an outcast who recognized his sinfulness and brokenness. He saw the need for the Great Physician (Luke 5:31). All were broken, all were outcasts, and all were unsafe around the current Jewish leadership. Jesus was different. Jesus was a safe place to heal.

One final thought is this: In Jesus it was safe to step out. Peter, in the midst of a storm, was willing to step out of the boat and walk to Jesus. Read Matthew 14:22-33, and you will see that the disciples, several of them experienced fishermen and boaters, were in a nasty storm on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus walked by their boat, and at first they thought He was a ghost. But look at what Peter said once he realized it was Jesus.

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:27-28)

What? Peter was going step out of the boat? I’ve often thought about what this says about Peter. But what does this say about Jesus? What had Jesus shown to this point to create a culture where Peter could attempt such a thing? Peter said, “Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Peter had some level of courage and trust to know that even in the storm, even stepping out of the boat, he would be safe. Yes, he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink, but please understand that even then he was safe. Jesus was there, and was within arm’s reach.

With Jesus you are safe to heal, safe in storms, and safe to step out and walk to Jesus, even in the storm.

The Well From Which You Drink

In John 4, Jesus met with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. I’d encourage you to read through John 4 and meditate upon it. Jesus has a great discussion with her about living water. It started with a discussion about physical water, but led to living water. The woman begged for this living water! And then for some reason, Jesus brings up her marital situation.

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.
(John 4:10-19)

From what well had the Samaritan woman been drinking? I’m not talking about Jacob’s well. I’m talking about the relationship well. She had drawn from that well over and over (maybe for no fault of her own), but it had left her dehydrated. Those relationships hadn’t quenched any thirst at all, they had only left her empty and begging to be filled.

We drink things today that make us dehydrated. Pop. Coffee. Alcohol. Our well here at our house is really salty, we can’t drink from it; we had to buy a reverse osmosis system to deal with it. I’m sure you understand that you can drink things that leave you worse than before. Nothing really replaces good water, and nothing really replaces the living water Jesus offers.

Are you thirsty? Dehydrated? Have you become empty because you are drinking from the wrong well? Then Jesus is offering you living water!

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
(Isaiah 55:1-2)

Called to Bless

We are called by God to bless others. Multiple passages in the Bible talk about how we are to bless others with our mouths. But what does that mean?

Psalm 20 – This is a Psalm of Blessing. Read this Psalm and consider David’s desire and prayer for those he is “blessing.” His desire is for the best things to happen to others. Notice verse 5, when David writes, “May we shout for joy over your salvation.” David’s blessing included the salvation of their souls.

This is the emphasis of God’s blessing that He brought through Abraham. He promised Abraham that through him all nations would be “blessed.” Peter’s commentary on this blessing tell us that God’s blessing was intended for us to “turn away from our sins” (Acts 3:25-26). We are only truly blessed when we are in a right relationship with God. And by by blessing others, including our enemies, our hope and prayer is for them to be turned away from their sins as well.

When the priesthood was set up by Moses, God through Moses gave the priests a blessing that they were to say to the people. Reading this blessing will help us to see what it means to bless people and what kinds of things we are hoping for those we are blessing.

Numbers 6:23-27
“Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, the LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

This “blessing” of others especially includes our enemies. Do we only wish good for those who are kind to us? Do we only speak well of those who speak well of us? Do we only want the people we like to go to heaven? Let’s read a few passages about blessing our enemies.

Romans 12:14 – Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

Luke 6:27-28
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

1 Peter 3:8-11
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it (Peter is quoting Psalm 34:12-16 here).”

1 Corinthians 4:11-14
To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.

In fact, God tells us that when blessings and curses come out of our mouths, we are living a contradiction.

James 3:7-12
For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Today, let us use our mouths to bless others. That means in our hearts we are wishing the absolute best for them. If we are praying and wishing for the very best for others, that will be reflected in how we talk to them and about them.

Abigail didn’t cover for Nabal

I was studying with someone this week about 1 Samuel 25 which covers the account of David, Abigail and Nabal. Abigail was a woman of beauty and wisdom, but her husband was a complete jerk. The Bible literally calls him “worthless.” He was harsh. He was badly behaved. He caused trouble for a lot of people, and it is clear from the text that everyone knew who would have to fix Nabal’s messes. Abigail.

1 Samuel 25:17 – “Now therefore know this and consider what you should do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his house, and he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.”

Even the servants were comfortable coming to their master’s wife about him. That says this event with David wasn’t the first time Nabal had wreaked havoc.

What we see though in Abigail is that she did not cover for her husband’s wickedness. In her attempts to save her household from certain destruction, she exposed and clearly admitted that Nabal was the problem, not David.

1 Samuel 25:25-26 – Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. But I your servant did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent. Now then, my lord, as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, because the LORD has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal.

Did you see what Abigail just said about her husband? She admitted he was wrong, and that he was the problem. His name means “fool” and Abigail agreed that his parents named him well! She also agreed with others’ assessment that he was “worthless” (literally a “son of Belial”). Abigail did not cover for her husband’s sins. Family did not come first, truth did. Family did not come first, God did. While she pleaded with David to do what was right in not taking vengeance, she did not excuse or dismiss her husband’s wicked behavior.

What about you? Does family come first, or does God? Does family come first, or does truth come first? Loyalty to family sometimes gets so pressed into people’s psyche that they can’t see the obvious truth that everyone around them sees. They find themselves defending the indefensible. Because of that misplaced loyalty, gossip about others is believed as gospel. That shows our loyalty is to family first, not to God and truth first. This just doesn’t happen in families, it happens with our friends, too. Just because someone is a close family member or a best friend, doesn’t mean we blindly take their side. Our misplaced loyalty will blind us and distort our judgment.

Listen to what Jesus said…

Matthew 10:36-37 – And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Abigail did not cover for Nabal, nor did she make excuses for his ungodly behavior, and he was her husband! She also did not try to blame David for being part of the problem, that somehow he was guilty of stirring Nabal up. Nope. She knew exactly where the problem was…right at home with her husband.

Our loyalty must first be to God.

Abigail did not only recognize where the problem was, she also knew clearly where to turn to find the solution…God. Look at what she says about God as she talks to David:

1 Samuel 25:26 – Now then, my lord, as the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, because the LORD has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal.

Abigail turned her attention and David’s attention to the Lord for the solution. Read the rest of that section later (1 Samuel 25:28-34,38-39) and see how many times Abigail and David referred to God as being the Source of the solution. It’s one thing to recognize that her husband was the problem, but far more important that she knew where to go for answers and wisdom to deal with the problem.

Fierce Anger

1 Samuel 20:34 And Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had disgraced him.

“Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). Being angry is not sinful. Being fiercely angry is not sinful. It is what we do with the anger. Jonathan had every right to be fiercely angry with his father, King Saul. His father, who was also his King and commanding officer, had just tried to kill him. All Jonathan was trying to do was to defend David. Think of the betrayal of trust and the deep wounds that Saul had inflicted upon Jonathan. Put yourself in Jonathan’s shoes – Saul would not listen to reason. On top of that, he is trying to kill you and your best friend for being a threat to his power and questioning his authority.

Jesus was also very angry at times. This anger came from His deep sadness for the hardness of the Jewish leaders’ hearts. Jesus was angry because of “hard hearts in the face of human hurts” – Adrian Rogers.

Mark 3:5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Moses, the meekest man in all the earth, left the presence of Pharaoh in “hot anger.” If you read how Pharaoh was behaving, you will understand Moses’ hot anger. Pharaoh’s arrogance, stubbornness and rebellion against God was growing while his land and people were being destroyed before his very eyes. He just would not listen. Can you understand why Moses had “hot anger”?

Exodus 11:8 And all these your servants shall come down to me and bow down to me, saying, ‘Get out, you and all the people who follow you.’ And after that I will go out.” And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger.

In these above passages, we see righteous men who were angry, and rightly so. But we are also reminded many times in the Scriptures about the danger of our anger.

Ephesians 4:26-27 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.

James 1:19-20 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

James says our anger does not produce God’s righteousness. So, we can take passages about people being justifiably angry, and justify ourselves saying, “See, I have a right to be angry!” Wait a minute. What are we doing with that “justified” anger? We can say we have a right to be angry, and then use that as our justification for rudeness, avoiding people, gossip and offensive behavior. If that’s the case, then we are producing our righteousness, not God’s.

If we are “righteously angry”:

  • Are we moving toward resolutions and solutions? Or are we just talking about it?
  • Are we seeking vengeance or reconciliation?
  • Are we really using God’s word to deal with the anger and offenses or are we using our own human wisdom to resolve conflicts?

Here are a few thoughts about the men in the above passages who were angry.

Jonathan was angry with his father Saul, but he directed his energy to protecting, encouraging and defending David. He could not change his father, but Jonathan could keep his father’s wickedness from affecting his own behavior. He could also refuse to allow his father’s view of David to affect how he saw and treated David.

Jesus was angry with the Jewish leaders, and righteously so. Jesus prayed for them. He wept for them. At times He confronted and rebuked them for their hypocrisy. But again, just like Jonathan, Jesus went out and continued to do good for others, specifically those “others” that were hurt by the Jewish leadership.

Moses was very angry with Pharaoh, and he rebuked and confronted Pharaoh. But Moses clearly knew that Pharaoh’s heart was full of rebellion against God. This wasn’t against Moses, it was against God – Moses knew that. Moses could not take his own vengeance against Pharaoh, he knew that God would take care of Pharaoh. Moses kept doing what God called him to do, and God dealt with Pharaoh.

We may be angry, and we may feel very justified in that anger, but what are we doing about it?

When You Don’t Listen to God First

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
(Genesis 16:1-2)

Abram and Sarai were promised a child. They were old. It had been 10 years. After a while a person starts to have all kinds of ideas. Maybe we can help this along. How about Hagar? Let’s try having a child through her! You might not appreciate what Sarai proposed, but try to imagine how desperate they were to have a child.

But just because we are desperate, impatient and wondering why God has not come through on His end of the deal, does not give us a green light to go outside His will. Abram and Sarai, just like so many of us, had to grow in faith and learn to wait on God.

We have to see, though, that there are consequences to not listening to God first. There are doors we open and things we set in motion that are irreversible when we listen to others first and forget to consult God.

Consider just a few consequences of Abram listening to Sarai first instead of God:

  • Think of the strain that put on Abram and Sarai’s marriage. Sarai quickly realized what she did was wrong, but there was no going back. Her husband slept with her handmaiden, and that could not be reversed. This is an example of how we can make a time of hardship into a real crisis. Yes we can appreciate that Abram and Sarai were sad, hurting and waiting for God to fulfill His promise, but what they did created a real crisis in their family.
  • Look at the strife that came between Sarai and Hagar because of this. Hagar began to despise Sarai, and then Sarai really treated Hagar so badly that Hagar ran away. God even took note of how badly Hagar was treated by Sarai.
  • What about what the problems that came in between Ishmael and Isaac and their descendants? For generations to come, these families would have problems, and all because of one weak moment in Abram and Sarai’s life. Because they did not listen to God first and wait on him, their families suffered strife for generations.

Listen to God first. Wait on Him, even when all other things are falling apart around you. Trust in His promises. Do not waver. Learn from the lessons of those like Abram and Sarai. Be cautious of letting your impatience turning an already hard situation into a very bad series of events.

Daniel – They, their children, and their wives

Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.
(Daniel 6:23-24)

Today’s passage from Daniel is a sobering reminder of the consequences of our actions as men and how it affects our children and our wives.

These men had “maliciously accused Daniel.” They wanted him out of the way and even if that meant he was killed, the ends justified the means. Because of their hatred for Daniel, they even went to great lengths to manipulate the king into making a law that would be adverse to Daniel’s faith. They set the king up and used him like a pawn so they could dispense with Daniel. Once the king was wise to all of this, he was full of righteous wrath and threw every one of these men and their families into the den of lions.

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.
(Proverbs 26:27)

It is a serious warning for us today that our envy, pride, anger, lust and hatred can wreak serious havoc on our families. That was a horrible day for all of those families. Imagine how awful the sight would have been to see those wives and little kids being thrown into the very mouths of lions. And this was all because hubby/daddy had a malicious heart that craved power.

I got a Christmas card in the mail this week. It made me so sad for that family. Here is another woman now without her husband having Christmas pictures taken with her kids. Where’s daddy? He’s not there anymore because other things/ladies took his heart away from them.

Take your role seriously, guys. Where you lead as men will either take your family to green pastures or to the lion’s den. It’s your choice.

Getting your house in order

Today is a everyday practical application on how to love and honor our wives. It’s about getting our houses in order.

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.'”
(2 Kings 20:1)

Anna and I went to a marriage retreat recently in Branson, and we really enjoyed it. I highly recommend it. Among the many relationship lessons we learned, there was a session about getting our house in order. It was led by a brother in Christ who serves as a shepherd in a congregation. He also works as an attorney. This brother really hammered home the urgency of getting your financials and legal stuff in place. I certainly got my toes stepped on and I wanted to share a few thoughts with you all.

What happens if you die today? What is in place to make sure that your wife and kids have financial security? Maybe you and your family already have everything like wills and life insurance put in place, and that’s awesome, but I’m pretty sure that is not true for every home. After listening to this attorney and hearing of all the horror stories he deals with on a daily basis of those families who were not prepared…it’s pretty obvious that a lot of folks aren’t ready for what God says will happen to every one of us. We will die. A link below to caring.com will show you that 6 in 10 adults in America do not have a will!

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Do you have life insurance? And is that life insurance policy sufficient to cover your wife and kids?
  • Do you have a will and other legal matters in place? What will happen to your kids if both you and your spouse pass away?
  • Does your family know your expectations of things like funerals, burials/cremations, end-of-life decisions, etc.?

It’s something to take seriously and to make an urgent matter. Even if Christmas presents have to be a little light this year because we have to get a few financial/legal things in place, that is one of the best gifts we could provide for our families.

Here is a link to Dave Ramsey’s website where you find guidance on getting life insurance and other matters in order for your home.

The Importance of Making a Will by Dave Ramsey

5 Life Insurance Mistakes by Dave Ramsey

Estate Planning by the Numbers – Caring.com

Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.
(Proverbs 6:6-11)

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.
(Proverbs 13:22)

Are you praying with your wife?

Here are a few thoughts today about praying with your wife.

Praying with your sister in Christ.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16).

Think of all the passages in Scripture that encourage and teach about God’s people coming together to pray. Don’t just apply that to what goes on at the church building! Those same passages can be applied to you and your wife. We get kind of compartmentalized in our application of Scripture sometimes and miss the obvious.

Laboring in prayers

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God (Colossians 4:12).

A brother named Epaphras was mentioned in Colossians by Paul. What I find very interesting is that Paul wrote that Epaphras was laboring, struggling or wrestling in prayer (depending on which version you read). The early Christians had to “devote” themselves to prayer (Acts 2:42). This is a spiritual war in which we are facing the Devil (Ephesians 6:10-18). He does everything to oppose God and His people, including our efforts to pray together. You try to pray consistently with your wife and see what happens. There is amazing good that happens, because God is at work. But be on guard because the Devil will do everything in his power to keep you and your wife from praying together. It is war. You are wrestling with Satan and his forces of darkness. But with Jesus you will overcome (Revelation 12:11)! Don’t give up!

Arrow prayers. 

At a practical level, one thing that most likely will discourage you from having regular prayer time is the unrealistic expectation that you have to have a marathon prayer session every time you pray. This is a trap that I believe men fall into even at the church building. We feel like we have to cover every base every time we pray. Please don’t try to cover the whole “prayer list” every time you sit down to pray. Pick one or two specific things each day and pray about that. Rotate it around. Don’t make a rigid schedule. Be flexible and merciful to yourselves if you miss a day or two. Keep trying, don’t give up!