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

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“Righteous Judgment?”

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Probably one of the most difficult things about a God, Who is Love, is to reconcile His Wrath and Judgment. It goes something like this: “How can a loving God send people to hell,” or the  like. And before we quickly dismiss this, we truly must engage the challenge. How can a loving God do this?

Obviously, treatises and tomes have been written attempting to resolve this conflict. I cannot pretend to say I have read them all or even a near majority. But what I can offer in this brief blog, is a Both/And response to an Either/Or Dilemma.

God is either severely wrath-filled and vicious or He is completely Loving and forgiving: This is the general framing of the conundrum. But I want to submit that a Holy-Love God can express both wrath against evil and Love toward Good at the same time. The problem comes when we reduce the LORD to a human parent, whose fickle punishment and discipline have scarred many for life.

Our God’s wrath is neither capricious nor reckless. The main verse notes that an essential element of His character is patience: He “is slow to anger.” But He is also “great in power”. His anger/wrath when executed is not out of control, thrashing about like a drowning swimmer. No, rather with pinpoint accuracy the LORD punishes the wicked, who refuse to repent, thus protecting His own, who have been cruelly treated by the wicked. This is true justice; Holy Love….

How slow was He to anger? Well, with the people of Noah’s day, it appears He waited 120 years (not counting the many years before Noah) before He executed judgment. And when He did, His Holy-Love spared Noah’s family. (I hear the book is better than the movie.) Another example of our LORD’s slow to anger is with Assyria. After they repented from their wickedness under Jonah’s reluctant preaching, the LORD spared them, on the low end, 120 years as well, before His Holy-Love destroyed the wicked nation for its sorcery, idolatry and violence, but yet protected His people, Judah….

Beyond the theological conundrum and the personal struggle with a God Who is Holy-Love, at least two questions need to be addressed: (1) How does this change my view of disciplining my children? and (2) Where does the cross fit in here?

When discipling our children, let us never do it in anger or reckless temper tantrums. Have a plan. Have reasons. Clearly explain the expectations and the consequences. The older the child the more involved they are in the discipline process. But remember, they do need discipline…

When considering the cross, I see the welding of God’s Holy-Love with Grace. I’m reminded of a sandwich quarter: Holy and Love are the two precious metals on the outside, but welded in the middle is another precious metal: Grace. Beyond the mystery of God, the trinity, etc., I find this fascinating. It was on the cross where the Love of God was demonstrated (Romans 5:8) and, at the same time, I see God’s Holiness express in the sacrifice, the required payment for sin—all sin. And I see the Grace proffered all people, so they do not have to receive the pinpoint wrath of an unrepentant heart.

What are your thoughts on this rather heavy subject?

Main Text— Nahum 1:3 (NIV84)— 3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of His feet.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.— 1 Peter 3:18–21 (NIV84)

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God—John 3:17–18 (NASB95)

Whoever does not discipline his son hates him, but whoever loves him is diligent to correct him.— 1Proverbs 13:244 (ISV)

Lord Jesus Christ, fill my heart with Your Holy-Love so I may graciously discipline those under my care. In Your Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“Shepherd Like this”

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What does it mean to “shepherd” a flock? Perhaps many think of the ultimate sacrifice: Laying down ones life for the sheep. And this is noble and good and best. However, what does it mean to shepherd the flock in the “in-between time”?

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Before we address this, I’d like to note: I do believe our main text directly applies to those who have been entrusted with the flock of the Church; to pastors (elders, leaders, bishops, overseers) who are to shepherd the Lord’s people with such devotion. However, I think you would agree that this can also apply to heads of families who have been entrusted with precious sheep to shepherd as well. With this in mind, let us look at what it means to shepherd such a flock….

We guard them from predators; feed and clothe them; provide a safe nurturing environment in which to grow and mature; dress their little bodies, their bumps and bruises and their hurt feelings. We are a hand when they need help up, an ear when they are confused or learning, and a heart when they are hurting. We are there for them….

Basically, we do all the “things” the Lord Jesus does for us as He shepherds us. But why does He do this? Why do you do this? Because He is madly in Love with us! Francis Chan calls this “Crazy Love,” and it is! It doesn’t make sense. Why would He Love us? Yet He does!

And when we emulate—model—this “crazy” Love, we pass it on to our flock. They may not get “it” at first, but keep it up. Why? Because we are “madly in Love with them.”

Your spouse, your children, your grandchildren will feel safe, nurtured, comforted when they are hugged with a “Crazy Love”!

What are some ways we can demonstrate that we are madly in Love with our flock?  Your thoughts….

Main Text— Acts 20:28 (NIV84)— 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.— 1 Peter 5:2–3 (NIV84)

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. … I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.— John 10:11, 14 (NIV84)

This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.— Ezekiel 34:2b–4 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, be the shepherd in my Life so that I might demonstrate Your Crazy Love and Kindness to the flock You have entrusted to me. In Your Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“Even the Lone Ranger Had a Friend”

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My Thoughts:

Being so deeply wound by fellow Christians, I went through a phase commonly called, “Anti-Church.” Oh, I would still go to services and studies, but I seriously refused to join any of them. I basically felt they didn’t need me and I didn’t need them.

Because this went on for some time, I became known as a loner, and yet I had “friends,” but I wouldn’t commit or open up to any of them. Slowly the Lord healed my wounded soul, and I realized that even the Lone Ranger had a friend: His dear friend Tonto. (Beyond the overplayed issues of the more recent ‘remake,’ it was clear that they had each other’s back….)

It took me quite a while to overcome these feelings of rejection and isolation, finally coming to a place where I could trust people again. As I did, the Lord showed me that the best way to show my Love for Him was to “Love one another” (John 13:34).

What was harder was realizing that in order to ““Love one another,” I need to be committed to a group of people I could really get to know, (let alone the extreme degree of this Love, “as I have Loved you ….”)

A major wrecking came in my middler year of seminary, but, to a large degree, the wrecking has continued to this day. I often fight isolating myself from the Body with feelings of “I don’t need you,” and “you don’t need me.” As a pastor this is rather curious, no? But in the Lord’s grace and mercy, He is healing my wounded heart in such a way that I am getting a of glimpse of what He said to Peter, “Do you truly Love me more than these…” (John 21:15)? It is a process, to be sure.

As a team player, I have often found this anomaly in my soul rather paradoxic, like maybe I didn’t feel like a part of the team? Because of this, it has been one of my passions to make others feel a part of Jesus’ team, and to be the Tonto in some loner’s life so that they, too, may come to realize, the Community of Christ is far larger than themselves…. I know I’m learning this.

How about you? Have you been on such a journey with Jesus? Care to share?

Main Text: — Acts 2:42-44 — 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  — 1 Corinthians 12:21 (NIV84)

If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  — 1 Corinthians 12:15-16 (NIV84)

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  — 1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, forgive me isolating myself from Your People. Remove the pain and shame I have caused Your Name and others by these attitudes. Be that part of my Life, Lord Jesus Christ, that has been in bondage. Free me to Love as You Love.  By Your Mercy & Grace and in Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“A Father’s Fear Begins to Evaporate”

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Date: 06-17-15

My Thoughts:

Many parents have the fear that they will irreparably emotionally damage their children. More often than not this fear feels more at home with the father, though not too far from some mothers, eh? But since Father’s Day is neigh upon us, I thought we’d encourage the dads among us. Yes, encourage….

I have counseled, known and heard of many a ‘dead-beat’ dad, but underneath this ‘dead-beat’ dad syndrome (to capture a phrase) is a deeply seated fear that paralyzes the dad. He is so fearful that he’s so screwed up there’s no hope of repair. Well, he has ‘screwed up’; clearly a self-fulling prophecy of sorts, but not beyond repair….

Yesterday, I was leading games for our VBS, and we were talking about how much Jesus cares for us from Matthew 6:33. While I was speaking to the small tikes of the K-1st grade group, as if on cue, a sparrow started singing in a nearby tree. I told the little ones to get really quiet and “tell me what you hear?” “I hear a bird,” chirped one of the older ones. Yes, and the Lord takes care of the sparrows. They don’t work or make food… But our Heavenly Father takes care of them. “Oh, come here,” and we found a blooming dandelion. (Bare with me, now.) The Lord even takes care of dandelions—which are weeds. “Are you more valuable than a weed.” One little girl sighed deeply, “No…,” as her voice trailed off. “Oh, honey, you are more valuable than a sparrow and much, much more valuable than a weed. And the Lord will take care of you even more and provide everything you need….”

Lifestyle worshiper, as I was talking, I was actually listening to myself. Strange, I know, but I was realizing that even when I do mess up, the Lord will take care of my “weeds,” and still make them something beautiful and useful…. (Not sure how useful a dandelion is, but in the eyes of a child they are very beautiful.)

So, dads, let the Love the Lord Jesus Christ has for you dispel any fears you may have of screwing up as a dad. Confess those times you have and forgive yourself as He has forgiven you, and then yield to His presence to be the best dad He has designed you to be. I know my fears are beginning to evaporate. I pray yours are, too.

Main Text: — Matthew 6:33 — But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  — Colossians 3:13 (NIV84)

 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. —Ecclesiastics 3:11 (NIV84)

 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us. — 1 John 4:16-19 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, as I realize more and more how much You really do Love me, extinguish this fear of failing as a father. Replace it with the same Love You have more me as demonstrated by Your Son, my Lord, Jesus Christ. In His Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Beyond the One Day”

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Date: 05-10-15

The Big Idea: Start a habit that goes beyond this one day.

My Thoughts:

As a child growing up, I remember getting the typical response to my question, “Why do we have a special day called ‘Mother’s Day’? Why not have a ‘Kids’ Day’, too?” My mother so wisely responded, “Every day is kids day…!”

And in many homes, even Mother’s Day is “Kids’ Day.” So today, I was wondering if we could start a habit that goes beyond this one day. This habit I’m suggesting is to help out single mothers as often as we can. Now many may not accept our charitable kindness, thinking we are saying by offering our help that they are weak and inadequate, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead, our help is offering them a reprieve from their daily literal grind, giving them some breathing space, kind of like a time out in a game so they can ‘catch their breath.’

What do you think? Would our help be considered imposing; or received with warm gratitude? Perhaps we could find out starting today? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Luke 7:11-13 — 11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” 14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?…”— Isaiah 49:15a (NIV84)

Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. —1 Timothy 5:1b-2 (NIV84)

Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. — Romans 16:13 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus, Christ, enlarge my heart with Your Compassion as I honor my mother and those who have been like a mother to me. Grant me an opportunity to bless a single mom today. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Call It As It Is”

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Date: 02-20–15

The Big Idea: Calling it as it is in Love builds trust and aids in repairing those broken walls of fractured relationships.

My Thoughts: There is a saying I oft quoted much of my life: “Tell me the truth: Hurt me once; lie to me: Hurt me twice.” I’m going to find out the truth, so just let me hear it from you straight up in Love. But have you discovered that if you are lie to, not only will the truth hurt when you discover it, but the breach of confidence will only double the hurt? I have….

Lifestyle worshiper, because a servant leader is more concerned for those s/he leads, they call it as it is. With as much candor and as little bias as possible, a servant-leader learns to speak the truth in Love, but in doing so s/he does not soft soap or PC it to meaninglessness. I have found on my own journey with Jesus that I have often been too brutally blunt when ‘telling the truth,’ so I have had to learn to be more diplomatic. (Others I have known need to be less PC.) I had my first shot at practicing this lesson of diplomacy when I had to fire one of my maintenance assistants. At first I said, “I’m freeing you up so you don’t have to come in to work any more.” Oh, that missed the target, for he was stoned out of his mind and said, “Cool, man, you mean I can do whatever I want and still get paid?” Ah, no…. Finally, after a few tries of diplomatic phrasing, I simply said, “You’re fired!” “Aw, man, that’s a bummer.” Off he went….

When dealing with the broken walls of fractured relationships, sometimes we have to quit lying to ourselves first and finally admit the truth. Now that truth may be we are the major source of the fracturing. Or maybe it is finally admitting the problem is far more serious than we’re willing to admit—and we need some help. But whatever the truth is, it will hurt a lot less that continuing in the lie. And I have discovered as a servant-leader, I do not have the luxury of hurting others twice!

Lifestyle worshiper, when we have our hearts filled with a genuine concern and a deep affection for those we lead, we will see the wisdom in calling it as it is. Speaking the truth in Lovecalling it as it isbuilds trust and aids in repairing those broken walls of fractured relationships.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 5:9 —   So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

— Ephesians 4:25 (NIV84)

Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.

— Proverbs 8:6-7 (NIV84)

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ

— Ephesians 4:15 (NIV84)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  I put You on as my Belt of Truth and my Belt of Love. Stir in my soul a deep compassion for correcting those in my charge. May I do so with a Righteous Love. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike