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    Do Not Judge?

    Saturday, January 24, 2015, 1:56 PM [General]

    'Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2

         Many people use these verses to claim that we don't have a right to tell people that what they are doing is wrong.  They want to claim that right and wrong are purely subjective.  They need to understand these verses in context with the next three.

    '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? 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? 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. Matthew 7:3-5

         Jesus is not saying we can't have object values of right and wrong. He is condemning the ignoring of your own sin, and the use of judgmental attitudes designed to lift yourself up by beating down someone else.  I love the phrase "the only level ground is at the foot of the cross".  There we can realize that on our own goodness, we are truly lost.  Yet a loving God has done all the work necessary to save us, if we humbly bow and admit our need for Him.
         Scripture is also to be read in the greater context of the whole book.  Matthew 7:1-5 shows that our true attitude when we see sin in someone's life should first lead us prayerfully inward, asking God to show us our own heart.  The following verse from Galatians shows us how we are to respond to the individual in sin.

    Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2
         First, we see the person as trapped by sin.  Our heart's attitude should be to help them by freeing them from that trap.
         Then, it is to be done gently.  If we found a wounded animal caught in a trap, we would not simply try to yank it's leg out.  We would first try to pull back the jaws of the trap, and then carefully remove the leg. We would apply disinfectant and ointment.  Then we would try to attach a splint if there was a broken bone.  All this is done with a desire to heal, not torture.
         Like the hurt and confused animal, some will resist our help.  And like this case, our help offered may be painful for them.  
         The most important thing to remember here is that only God can actually heal them. Sometimes, all we can do is love them and wait for God to open a way for them to be receptive to us.  When God does, we need to be willing for Him to use us, even if it is inconvenient or messy.  Life is messy and we were certainly a mess when God found us.
         Above all, love them with God's love.  His love will always compel us to carry another's burden.  Carry it with them, and carry it to God.

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    Redeemer

    Sunday, December 21, 2014, 8:52 PM [General]

         As I was listening to the radio this morning, the song "Jesus Messiah" was playing.  It struck me in part because our worship band had just played it at the coffeehouse that our church hosts.  The line that had me thinking was from the chorus, "Blessed Redeemer, Emanuel."
         It took me back to my childhood.  When I was a kid, you were able to make a little extra money by looking for empty soda bottles.  If you found ones that were not broken, you could return them to the store.  The store would "redeem" it and give you ten cents in return.  Eventually, the bottle would end up back at the bottling plant, cleaned and ready to be refilled.  At this point, the previously worthless bottle had value again.  It went back to the store and was ready to be sold again.
         Before they gave us any money though, they were careful to inspect the bottles.  It couldn't have any chips or cracks.  If it was not in good shape, they would not accept it.  I was always very careful not to even pick up ones that looked cracked.  Cracked bottles broke easy and could cut you.
         The bottle, by itself, never really had value.  Its only true value was based on what filled it.  We are a lot like that bottle.  Life in this world has a way of emptying us.  Even worse, it tends to break us.  Like the broken bottle, the world has little or no use for broken people.  And like a broken bottle, a broken person can sometimes hurt others.
         Fortunately, Jesus does not look at us that way.  No one is too dirty or broken for Him.  If we acknowledge our need for Him, He enters into our life, no matter our state.  He works to clean us up, and repairs our broken places.  He fills us up with His Spirit.  He gives us value.
         Unlike the bottle, to Jesus, our value preceded our filling.  Our value is founded in that He made us.  He loves us.  When we really understand the truth of that, we will begin to see others differently.  We won't see them as their dirt or cracks.  We will see someone that was made in God's image, someone He loves and wants to redeem.  We will desire to be a part of God's work.  We can't redeem others ourselves, but we can love them and introduce them to the one who can.

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    Regret

    Thursday, September 25, 2014, 5:08 PM [General]

         Regret is the cousin of false humility. It has the appearance of godliness, but no real substance. It denies both God's power and His nature. It claims that our failures are too great and strong for Him to forgive and to deal with.
         It continues to bring our focus back on us and our performance.
         Instead, we must choose to focus on God, on His grace and mercy. With them, He overcomes our weakness. He helps us to live rightly. He helps us to live in relationship with Him.

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    My Heart

    Thursday, September 25, 2014, 5:07 PM [General]

         God gives Himself to me completely. He lives in me. He loves me unconditionally. All that He asks is that I give myself completely to Him.
         But I want to hold on to small pieces still. I want to watch what I want on TV. The show isn't THAT offensive. I want to spend my money the way I want. After all, I earned it and it is mine. And I give Him some if it. Right? Small things.
         But it is like a wife telling her husband, "so what if I date another man occasionally. I don't let him kiss me. We don't fool around. It is just fun."
         God plainly tells His people in the Old Testament " for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods." God doesn't want just a piece of our heart. He won't even be satisfied with "almost" all our heart. No husband would be willing to share his wife's heart with another; why should God?
         Jesus explains why when He says that you can't serve two masters. You will always love one and hate the other. The heart can't be divided. It can only truly belong to one person. Either God owns all your heart, or he owns none of it.
         That doesn't mean we have to be perfect. We will always fall short in this life. We still live in flesh and blood fallen bodies, and we have an enemy (Satan) who seeks to corrupt any way he can.
         When we give God our heart completely, we give Him authority to change us from the inside out. It is no longer us simply trying to be a better person. That never worked before and still doesn't. Only His radical work in us brings about the desire to really live for him. We still have to choose to obey, but He give us the power to. "He whom the Son sets free is free indeed." We finally become free to obey and love God.

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    Achan's Sin

    Sunday, August 24, 2014, 12:39 AM [General]

         I write with a heavy heart.  God has laid the story of Achan on my heart.  You can read more fully about him in Joshua 7.  Short story is that God gave the city of Jericho into the hands of the Israelites, only they must not take any plunder for themselves.  Every living man and animals was to die, and the city and its contents were to be destroyed.

         One of the Israelites, a man named Achan, decided to keep a small amount of plunder for himself.  It was not much, only a robe, some silver and some gold.  Yet because of his sin, when the Israelites went to take a small town next to Jericho, they were soundly defeated and several were killed.  When God revealed that Israel had sinned against Him, Joshua called the people out.  It was revealed that it was Achan, and he confessed his sin.  He, his family, his cattle, his property and the stolen plunder were destroyed. 

         To us, that seems extreme, yet God was teaching a serious lesson to the people, and this really hit home with me.  Your sin, even what appears to be a small and hidden sin, can have serious consequences beyond just yourself.  Because of Achan, the Israelites did not have God's favor in the next battle and they were defeated.  Because of Achan, his whole family lost their lives.

         I was speaking with a friend on the phone today.  Because of complacency in dealing with sin in my own life, I brought pain into her life.  I can not change the past.  It is done.  But with God's grace, I can know forgiveness, and I can move forward in the direction that God desires to lead me.  

         I can also remember this lesson, that there really are no little sins.  All sin causes seperation in our relationship with God.  It can hurt others directly.  It can hurt others indirectly, even if only by not allowing ourself to be used as a conduit of God's strength, grace or mercy to them in a situation.  No man is an island.  No man lives unto themself.  As a community, we are called to be agents of God's grace to a hurting world around us.  Our sin prevents us from being used by God.

         Let us not follow in Achan's footsteps of disobedience.  Instead, let us look to Jesus as our model, who was willing to give all in obedience to God the Father.

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    My Savior, My God

    Saturday, August 23, 2014, 3:34 PM [General]

    My Savior, My God

         My Savior, My God is one of my favorite worship songs by Aaron Shust. The lead in to the chorus is:
    That he would leave his place on high
    And come for sinful man to die
    You called it strange so once did I
    Before I knew my Savior

         To be honest, I still count it strange. I still am filled with wonder that the all-powerful creator of the universe would love me. Even more, that He would exchange the glory of being constantly worshiped in heaven for trudging down here for thirty some years as a flesh-and-blood human being. And if that was not enough, He loved me so much that He allowed His own creation to torture and murder Him.
         Yes, He allowed. He could have stopped it all with one word. Remember, He is the same one who SPOKE all creation into existence (John 1:3). And don't forget when He was arrested in the garden. Jesus asks the soldiers who they are seeking. They reply "Jesus of Nazareth." All He says is "I AM he". I emphasize this (I AM) only because John's gospel does. I AM is the name that God gives himself in the Old Testament to Moses, and John never wants us to lose sight of who this man, Jesus, really is. The soldiers' response, by the way, is to draw back and fall to the ground (John 18:6). In other words, they were literally tripping over themselves to get away from one that they recognized was more powerful than they were.
         And Jesus loved me so much that He chose to experience this in my place. The Father's wrath was poured down on Jesus for me. Imperfect me. I have sinned plenty. Not just the "oops, I can't believe I did that (again)" stuff. I mean the "I want what I want and I don't care what it costs me" stuff. Actually, it cost Him, not me. My life was stained blood red with that kind of sin, and more than deserved the wrath of God. And yet, like the song, Jesus came for sinful man to die.
         I still count it strange. It silences me. It fills me with tears at times - tears of humility, tears of regret at times, but also tears of joy. I am filled with joy because, although I am still amazed, I now need never doubt the depth of His love. I need never fear that He will walk away from me. No one would ever go through that kind suffering, only to walk away when I fail; especially since He knew all the failings of my life even before He paid for them.
         Now, here's the catch (isn't there always a catch). He asks me to take up my cross and follow Him. It's not really a catch though. If He asks me to follow, it must mean that He has already gone before me to make a way. He also promises to walk with me and give me the strength to do all that He asks me to do (Philippians 4:13). And when I fall short of what He asks, He does not give up on me (Philippians 1:6) or walk away. Instead, He promises :
    "The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:17-20 The Message)
         This happens when Jesus appears to His disciples right before He returns to heaven. Notice it says "Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally." He commissioned all who stood there and promised to be with them always. He understands my struggles and even my doubts. That is precisely the reason for the promise. I am not going on my own and He won't ditch me when I screw up. He is with me till the wheels fall off.

    THAT is why I still wonder in amazement, but also with joy. THAT is the kind of God I want to follow. Don't you?

    To view My Savior, My God (Aaron Shust) video, click the link below:

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=96P0bwvpbk4

    Scriptures listed:
    John 1:3 "All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. " (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
    John 18:6 "When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground." (English Standard Version)
    Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (King James 2000 Bible)
    Philippians 1:6 "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (New American Standard Bible )

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    God IS Love

    Monday, August 18, 2014, 9:40 PM [General]

    1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
    Love is patient, love is kind.
    Love does not envy,
    is not boastful, is not conceited,
    5 does not act improperly,
    is not selfish, is not provoked,
    and does not keep a record of wrongs.
    6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
    but rejoices in the truth.
    .7 It bears all things, believes all things,
    hopes all things, endures all things.
    8 Love never ends.

    To many, this is that sappy scripture read at weddings. To others, it is a goal to strive for. And to some, it is just another check list of where we fall short yet again.
    I was struck this morning with the truth that this is how God is towards me. How often He is patient and kind. When I trip up, fall short or even when I dive head first into foolishness, He loves me. He isn't waiting to wag a condemning finger at me. He has faith in me. Often He has faith for me when I can muster none. 
    Try seeing yourself today as God sees you. Maybe that will help you more to be the person He is making you to be.

    0 (0 Ratings)

    What's Your View of God?

    Saturday, August 16, 2014, 11:02 AM [General]

    What's Your View of God?

    Verse of the Day

    [ The Letter to Laodicea ] “Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea: “The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation says: Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:14,20 HCSB

         The web page had barely appeared on my screen when I saw the words "The Letter to Laodicea."  The message to that church was that since they were neither hot nor cold, they were being spit our of God's mouth.  It is an important and necessary warning of the danger for the church about not ministering to the hurting world around you or your brothers and sisters within you.
         However, it is not His only word to them, as today's verse testifies.  And yet sometimes we still choose to see God's condemning stare instead of His loving  gaze.  Why?
         We do still need to hear truth from God when we stray.  Conviction of the Holy Spirit and discipline from God are actually a gift of love.  Without them, we drift farther away from Him.    
         Also, it is harder to hope than to wallow.  To hope for change, we have to believe in His promise that He is working in us.  Phillipians 1:6 says we have to believed that He gives us strength to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling."  Not produce our own salvation, but to work it out, like kneading dough to work the ingredients through out it.
         Finally, we have an enemy that wants to keep us chained to our failures. Again, though, God's word provides us with necessary truth and strength.  Romans 8:1 reminds us (and oh, we need much reminding in this life) that " Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,"
         No condemnation. We can rest in God's word, whether convicting or encouraging, knowing that He will always love us and never cast us aside.  
    Can I get an Amen?

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    Great Quote

    Saturday, August 9, 2014, 12:00 PM [General]

    "An unshared life is not living. He who shares does not lessen, but greatens, his life."

    Stephen S. Wise - Reform Rabbi, Zionist Leader

         It is a mistaken belief, especially with men, that to need others is a weakness.  To give of myself to others, and to receive help from them, is to slowly lose little pieces of myself till eventually nothing is left.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  I believe that God uses that giving and receiving as a tool to chip away the parts of me that don't belong, much the way a sculptor uses a chisel on marble.  Slowly, God is revealing HIS masterpiece, the me that I truly am meant to be.

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=83OtmNQiIk0

    "No Man is an Island" - Tenth Avenue North

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    My Stained Glass Window Life

    Sunday, August 3, 2014, 4:05 PM [General]

         I recently started a new blog page titled "My Stained Glass Window Life." Why "My Stained Glass Window Life"?

         I have always loved stained glass windows.  Whenever I looked at a them, I figured that the pieces of glass where just broken cast off pieces of that that were collected and made to fit a picture.  Recently, I was reading about how it is made.

         It is an art form.  The glass is crafted to fit where it is designed to fit.

         God is an artist.  Sometimes I feel like what I always imagines the glass was, broken and cast off pieces.  But what if my jagged and rough edges are not an accident or mistake?  What if they were designed that way?  Maybe I was made the way I am so that God's grace may shine through me, creating a beautiful picture only visible when His light shines through me.

         John 9:1-25 tells the story of a man born blind:

    Jesus heals a man born blind

    As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

    ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.  As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’

    After saying this, he spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.  ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means ‘Sent’). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

    His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, ‘Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?’  Some claimed that he was.

    Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’

    But he himself insisted, ‘I am the man.’

    ‘How then were your eyes opened?’ they asked.

    He replied, ‘The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.’

    ‘Where is this man?’ they asked him.

    ‘I don’t know,’ he said.

    The Pharisees investigate the healing

    They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind.  Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath.  Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. ‘He put mud on my eyes,’ the man replied, ‘and I washed, and now I see.’

    Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’

    But others asked, ‘How can a sinner perform such signs?’ So they were divided.

    Then they turned again to the blind man, ‘What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’

    The man replied, ‘He is a prophet.’

    They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. ‘Is this your son?’ they asked. ‘Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?’

    ‘We know he is our son,’ the parents answered, ‘and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.’  His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.  That was why his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’

    A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. ‘Give glory to God by telling the truth,’ they said. ‘We know this man is a sinner.’

    He replied, ‘Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!’

         The man's blindness was not about sin.  Whether a sin is our's, another's or simply the result of living in a fallen world, it is an opportunity for God's grace to shine and for Him to be glorified.  When we sin, repent. We must trust God and allow Him to use our failures and struggles to fashion a beautiful stained glass window from them.

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

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