Be Different When Judging Others

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When we manifest the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, we will find our lives to be markedly different. In this wonderful sermon the Lord Jesus is calling His followers to live His Words, not just hear them (see Matthew 7:24). Indeed, living them would make us different enough, but if we are honest with ourselves, we cannot live them. Thus, as we have noted in previous blogs, the Lord Jesus Christ must be our Righteousness in order for our righteousness to exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees (see Matthew 5:20). 

But what does it look like to be different”? Our Master focuses on four areas in Chapter 7 in which we are to be markedly different. The first one is we are to be different when we judge others….

Sadly, some believe that Jesus is teaching never to judge. But this is not so. He is actually presenting us a “procedure” to follow when “judging” others. V. 1 cautions us to stop judging, especially in light of the areas He has just presented in His sermon. Indeed, having a critical spirit when judging does not produce the greater righteousness required….

In v. 2 our Lord says to avoid crooked measuring sticks or faulty measuring weights. Having these creates a double-standard, which does not produce the greater righteousness required.

He then offers a proper approach to “judging” in vv. 3-5: First do a self-evaluation using the higher standard Jesus offers in this sermon, and then assist your sister or brother in removing the little splinter. In this self-evaluation, don’t you find it humorous when Jesus says you and I will discover we have a huge plank blinding us from seeing the little splinter? I call this mirror theology: When we criticize  other’s behaviors & attitudes, it is only a reflection of our own behavior or attitude.

 Would you agree that the Lord is saying, we are to humble ourselves first by accepting (and confessing) our huge faults and shortcomings so that if and when we do approach a brother or sister, we will do so in humility rather than in superiority?

To me, this is what it means to be different: Humbly dealing with our own issues first; then humbly offer to help others deal with theirs. Recently I was painfully reminded that unsolicited advice is unheeded. Many do not want to remove the splinter from their eye; and they definitely do not want someone to help them. But when they see a humble Jesus follower removing his/her huge plank, perhaps then they may ask for a mirror? What do you think?

Main Text— Matthew 7:1–6 (NIV84)— 1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  3 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? 4 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? 5 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. 6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.John 7:24 (NIV84)

  Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.—Galatians 6:1 (NIV84)

  Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?— Roman 2:4 (ESV)

Lord Jesus Christ, I humbly yield to Your Holy Presence within me. Continue to make me more like You. In Your Holy Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Defensive or A Strong Defender?”

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When you are misunderstood, how do you respond: Defensive or Calm? Being open, my response was a knee-jerk barrage of defensive self-inflating and other-demolishing “evidence”. But as I grew more confident in the Lord’s Love for me and His constant protection, a calmness would come upon me. “What did you hear me say? … I must have misspoken. Let me try again.” I had a near out-of-body experience the first time I was able to say this….
Over the years, I have grown more and more confident that the Lord is my Defense and my Shield. I do not need to be defensive because He is my Strong Defense.
This came poignantly home to me during my first viewing of the movie, “The Judge”. The judge had been a revered institution on the bench in a small mid-west community; his black sheep son went off to become a high-powered, highly sought after, big city defense attorney. As the plot unveils, the Judge is accused of murder and the black-sheep son offers his skills as a defense attorney. Needless to say, their rocky relationship adds to the plot thickening, but at one point the son says something to the effect, “Keep your mouth shut and let me defend you.”
The father’s refusal to heed his son’s counsel gets him in even more hot water. And then the Spirit’s lance lands. I need to keep my mouth shut and let the Lord defend me: He is my Defense Attorney.
Perhaps some of you are father down the path on your journey with Jesus than I am, but for those of us, like myself, who have acted as our own defense attorney, this is a welcomed transformation in my life. Besides, I’m sure you know the old saying about defending yourself, “… every man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client.”
Join me in letting Lord Jesus be our Defense Attorney.  Your thoughts….
Main Text— Acts 22:1-5 (NIV84)—  “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”  When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said:  “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.  I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison,  as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts
My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.— 1 John 2:1 (NLT)
“When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”— Luke 12:11–12 (NASB95)
Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord.Vindicate me in Your righteousness, O LORD my God; do not let them gloat over me.— Psalm 35:23–24 (NIV84)
Lord Jesus Christ, be my Shield of Faith. Quench the fiery darts that are being hurled at me. Be my Shoes of  Peace that I may be calm when misunderstood. In Your Name, Amen!Pastor Mike

“Get It Mixed Up A Bit?”

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Have you noticed that some of Jesus’ followers get the Pharisees mixed up with the Woman at the well (see John 4)? They call the Woman at the well an adultery, a snake and yell at her that she must be born again; and the Pharisee? Well, they try to reason with him, giving a little latitude for his blindness in his religion.

Yelling in Ear

But, I am so glad our Master did not mixed us up. He gently offered Living Water (obviously His very Person) to the Woman who knew no better, even though she engaged Him in a mild theological discussion. Her questions were sincere & genuine and not a barbed  trap. Oh, He still addressed her sin (as He did with the woman caught in adultery; see John 8:10f), but He did so with the gentle kindness of the Loving Messiah.

Contrariwise, He sharply rebuked the Pharisees, crescendoing on the last week of His earthly ministry with the Matthew 23 “The Seven Woes”  confrontation. Here, the Loving Messiah, filled with deep sorrow for ones so close but so far, used the double-edged scalpel of a skilled surgeon, Who truly cares for His cancer-ridden patient. …

In our main text, we find that the Apostle Paul used the “Woman at the Well” approach: He gentle moved through his gospel presentation, starting out with a kind observation of their “religious” behavior. Oh, he could have used the “Pharisee Approach,” screaming, “You brood of idolatrous vipers. How can you bow down to wood and stone? Can they save you?” But they had no idea of this true, Living God, Who does not live in a temple man by human hands. They, like the Woman at the well, though able to discourse in some form a theological (albeit philosophical) dialogue, truly had no idea what Life was all about. …

Do you get mixed up, too? Do you judge with critical screams those who are ignorant of the LORD’s Word and Ways and yet gently dialogue with those who actually know better? (Now, I’m not advocating screaming at those who do know better, for our Master did not scream at them either. I hear a different voice of Jesus in Matthew 23 than most movies have portrayed. I hear a voice full of compassion and deep sorrow—expressed in the woes and noted in Luke 19:41.) I find it best to fight in my own spirit a critical and a judgmental attitude. Note: I said, “I fight it.” 

Just a few days ago, I had the opportunity to chat with someone who was the type of person I would normal go after in private conversation with others of “my” persuasion. But, the LORD afforded me a Gush of Grace, and I was able to peacefully sit and converse with them. At one point in our conversation, I had doubted the veracity of some of their statements; so I asked a few questions that only someone schooled in this particular area would know the answers to (since I myself have been trained in this particular area), and voila! I just caught them in a lie. And better yet, I did not call them out. Why? Because they truly didn’t know any better. So, I prayed the Lord to use my listening to them and following their agenda as a more powerful witness than winning any argument.

I, too, rely heavily on His Gushes of Grace not to get mixed up. How about you? Your thoughts….

Main Text— Acts 17:22-23 (NIV84) 22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.Colossians 4:5–6 (NIV84)

And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.2 Timothy 2:24–26 (NIV84 emphasis added)

So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?Romans 2:3–4 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, be the Sword of the Spirit wielder in my Life so that I might demonstrate Your Love and Kindness to both those who do not know any better and to those who do. In Your Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“One Essential Virtue of Nobility”

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As I have pondered nobility and pursued what it looks like in my life, I came upon many virtues that seem to flow from true noble character: humility, fair-mindedness, chivalry, and courtesy quickly came to mind. But of all these virtues, I yet found another virtue essential to nobility: active listening. As we deal with those who attempt to shout us down, I find that being an effective active listener an essential virtue of nobility.

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Active listening is more than merely giving comfortable eye contact  or being able to repeat back what someone has just said. It is—as one of my former college students defined: “Staying on the other person’s agenda.” I am going to pursue what my friend finds interesting, ask questions to clarify words and their meanings as s/he intended them.I must remind myself: Stay on their agenda. All this has a noble goal: Coming to a deeper understanding of my dear friend—beyond their words. And in order to do such active listening, I must also demonstrate humility, fair-mindedness, and the like, don’t you agree?

Then I applied this to the Bereans (of our main text), and, yes, to my own life, and discovered something rather intriguing: I cannot say I actively listen to the Lord, if I do not actively listen to my fellow sister or brother. Ouch! Would you agree that I demonstrate my Love for Jesus by being an effective active listener with fellow believers?

If I take nobility to this level, do you think it naturally follows that I not only demonstrate noble virtues with my brothers and sisters (as well as those outside the fold—since God still so loves them), but also to the very One Who manifests the noblest of virtues towards me: Gracious Love? (Perhaps, then, I could stay on His agenda, eh?)

As I begin this New Year off on the “right” foot, will you join me in being a better listener to the Lord’s Words—like the Bereans—as well as to those around me—whether they have an active relationship with Jesus or not? Your thoughts….

Main Text: — Acts 17:11-12 (NIV84)— 11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger— James 1:19 (NASB95)

Then Jesus said, He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”— Mark 4:9 (NIV84)

let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— Proverbs 1:5 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, as You fill me with Your Holy Spirit, open my ears to hear the wonders of Your Praise. Lord Jesus Christ, continue to transform me into an effective active listener, so that my Life may manifest Your Noble Character. In Your Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“Houses of Prayer”

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After reading in My Utmost for His Highest devotion this morning, Chambers sparked some questions in my soul:

When Jesus cleaned out the Temple and declared it to be a “House of Prayer,” was He not also declaring that we, as the Temple of the Holy Spirit, are to be a House of Prayer? And in cleaning out this Temple, did not our Master also suggest, by inference, that we, too, need cleaning? And, do we not understand that the we are to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and petitions (see Eph. 6:18)? Indeed, don’t we know that we can rely on the Spirit to intercede for us with grunts and groanings that cannot be utter, but dare we limit our prayer to the unutterable? And dare I suggest that all believers are to be “Houses of Prayer” since we are the temple of the Holy Spirit? And if I suggest this, does this not also mean that many are in desperate need of being cleaned up and out—including, yours truly?!? The answers seem to be a resounding, “Yes!” don’t they?

House of Prayer

So how do we go about cleaning up the Temple of the Holy Spirit? Do we scurry about as Martha did complaining to the Lord that Mary isn’t do her part of the housework? Or do we not become distracted by others and merely clean out the portion of the House for which we are responsible?

I find it fascinating that some of the cleaning in my House of Prayer actually is this very issue of being distracted by others who are not doing their cleaning. But at the same time I’d best not let my house cleaning be spoken ill of either, don’t you agree? What are your thoughts?

Main Text: — 1 Corinthians 3:16 (NKJV)— 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And [Jesus] said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”— Mt 21:13 (NKJV)

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.— Colossians 4:2 (NIV84)

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.— Psalm 66:18 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ and through His power, I confess I have been negligent in prayer. My “House of Prayer” has been so cluttered with too many “distractions.” I ask You, Lord Jesus Christ, to bear the consequences of my actions. Remove the pain and shame I have caused Your name and be that part of my Life that has been disobedient to You. Create a clean hear within me so that I may walk in the Light as You are in the Light, becoming a clean House of Prayer for Your glory. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike