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Our church is in transition. The pastor of 40 years retired in November. Just think…our church has not had to search for a new pastor in 40 years. Quite incredible, huh?! As you can imagine we are taking our time in finding “God’s man” (as the chairman of the committee accurately states) to lead our church for the next 10, 15, 20 plus years.
Since our pastor’s retirement we have had guest speakers for our Sunday morning worship services. One Sunday morning as I glanced at the bulletin and noticed the bio for that morning’s guest speaker, which was a lengthy and qualified bio, the verse, “man looks at the outward appearance” (1 Samuel 16:7) whispered in my heart. The verse caught me by surprise as it had not been on my radar. But now, I can’t let go of it. I meditate on it and look for other ways “man looks at the outward appearance” that I hadn’t before. My thoughts are not complete at this point – they may never be – but this is what I have so far.

Our church has received over 500 resumes for men seeking to be our pastor at Arrow Heights Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, OK. The resumes are most likely filled with qualifications by anyone’s standards to validate why he should be the one for the position. Just as the resumes are noteworthy, the bio’s of the guest speakers blazon titles, degrees, books written, positions of power, along with honors and recognitions. God is right (obviously and always), man does look at the outward appearance. In order to properly satisfy the congregation as to why so and so was asked to bring the message of God’s Word through the pulpit, we give them what they want to hear; we answer the question of “Why him?” We answer it by stating all his accomplishments in the field of ministry. I am not saying this is wrong, but I do believe we as a church body (not just my church) have neglected how God chooses his men as He did multiple times in the Old and New Testament.
1 Samuel 16 is about the Israelites needing a new earthly king after King Saul made a spectacle of himself and didn’t honor God in the end. 1 Samuel 16 is about the boy God chose to be the next king even though no one in his own family even remotely considered him a candidate. Earlier before Samuel even knew who God had chosen to be the next king, prophesied to King Saul that the next king is one who is after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). The Bible Knowledge Commentary adds these words, “After the seven older sons of Jesse were disqualified one by one (vv. 5-10), David was singled out by the Lord and anointed by Samuel (vv. 11-13). The anointing, as in the experience of Saul, was accompanied by the coming of the Spirit of God mightily on the young lad (v. 13). This was the supernatural authentication of God’s will.” (Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck. “1 Samuel 16.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1983. 448. Print.) I love that last phrase – “This was the supernatural authentication of God’s will”. The Spirit testified! Everyone in the room knew David was to be the next king, and even David himself knew he was the one.

In the New Testament Jesus selected unqualified men by man’s standards to be His disciples. But, Jesus didn’t measure what He did by man’s standards. His standards were no less and no more than God’s standards. It was said about two disciples: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Those who have been with Jesus are ones who resemble the Spirit of God and will have favor with God and with man. It was said of Samuel in his growing up years that as he served in the tabernacle he grew in favor with the LORD and with men” (1 Samuel 2:26).
My question is, “Do we really want to qualify someone based solely on what paper states of him?” Is this really how we should as the body of Christ decide whether or not one’s credentials point toward the success of the man? I can’t help but think that this is the heart of a Pharisee who as Jesus described “their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Matthew 15:9). By no means, am I disqualifying titles, education, and experience. I am all for an educated person who uses the gifts and callings he has been given to build the kingdom of God. (I am, by all means, a high school English teacher and my oldest daughter is attending Oklahoma Baptist University with a minor in ministry.) So, I am not saying that we shouldn’t consider previous job titles, education, experience, etc. What I am saying is we should also consider the heart as “the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Maybe we should consider:
his fruit,
his love,
his obedience,
his giving,
his forgiving,
his commitment,
his self-control,
his patience,
his kindness,
his joy,
his servanthood.

As I have been meditating on 1 Samuel 16:7 the part that reveals “man looks at the outward appearance”, a conversation came up at a club meeting I sponsor, Students for Christ, at the high school campus. The conversation was on tattoos. They (a group of over 40 high school students) were giving their opinions whether or not having a tattoo was a sin. After a good and biblical discussion (of which I only listened), it ended on the note that we shouldn’t judge someone by their outward appearance. I think some adults could have gained some insight from these students!!

Something else was brought to my attention as I was reading Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them. The author, John Ortberg summarized the story in John 8 about the woman caught in adultery. He then added this question: “Why do churches produce so many stone throwers?” (Ortberg, 95). He said of a church he once attended that the members passed judgment on the spiritually inferior. He states: “-Somebody’s kids were a little wild- people would pick up stones. – Somebody’s marriage wasn’t working – another stone. – The music minister chose the wrong kind of song, or played it too loudly – more stones. Somebody crossed a line, violated a code, had a problem – word spread. People picked up stones. The truth is – though they would never admit this – it energized them, gathering stones. They looked forward to it” (Ortberg, 96). Ortberg’s point was that “we are most scandalized by sins of the flesh. Jesus was most scandalized by sins of the spirit” (Ortberg,94).
Obviously, we aren’t going to literally pick up a stone in today’s time, but we can be a “stone thrower” meaning we may label someone by what he/she does or does not do. We identify a speck in someone’s eye all the while we have a log in our own (Matthew 7:3).
These could be ways in which we (including myself!!) unknowingly and knowingly label someone:

seminary degree – outward appearance
tattoo – outward appearance
BMW- outward appearance
nose ring – outward appearance
Seven children – outward appearance
pink hair – outward appearance
25 years of ministry experience – outward appearance
grungy clothes – outward appearance
President of this or that – outward appearance
only a high school diploma – outward appearance
15 mighty fine suits – outward appearance
facial hair – outward appearance
musically talented- outward appearance
former addict – outward appearance
too old – outward appearance
too young – outward appearance

If we have been one to throw a stone or have a stone thrown at us (no matter how polished and polite the intention), I believe wholeheartedly that this strikes not just the person, but also the Lord Jesus – it hits a chord in His heart – He is Love. What Joseph said of his brothers who condemned him, can be said today at those who throw stones, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20 ESV).

I don’t want to be a “stone thrower”. Nor do I want to disqualify or even qualify someone for that matter based on his/her outward appearance. Lord, forgive me for times I have intentionally and unintentionally thrown a stone. Lord, forgive me for not respecting someone based on his/her outward appearance. Lord, forgive me for giving someone undue attention based on outward appearance.

Another thought comes to my mind…we shouldn’t qualify or disqualify ourselves based on our outward appearance. Just because we may not look the part based on man’s views and standards does not mean God has not called you to do something or be someone! Of course, God would never ask you to do anything contrary to His Word, so if you believe God has put something in your heart and mind to do – He will qualify you! He gives you favor with man and with God! “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

I end this post by asking myself and you what Paul declared to the churches of Galatia: “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Jennifer Johnson

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"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." -Revelations 1:5b-6

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