Judge Yourself Before You Judge Others…

SCRIPTURE

Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?”  John 7: 19

“Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”  John 7: 22 – 23

Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”  John 7: 51

OBSERVATION

I could not help but notice that Jesus had to defend Himself against unfair judgments.  He was accused time and time again of breaking the law.  Yet, the same people who judged Him, were the ones who were breaking the law and failed to notice it.  Jesus asks them why are you trying to kill me when you are the ones breaking the law?  He asks them again why are you so mad at me for apparently breaking the Sabbath by healing a man, when you also perform circumcisions on the Sabbath to keep the law of Moses?  If I am breaking the Sabbath, then you are too. Jesus challenges their hypocritical legalistic attitudes towards the law.

Clearly the people have little insight into their own actions and can only see what they perceive Jesus is doing wrong.  On that basis, as Nicodemus points out they have judged Him without even asking Him what He is doing.  It is classic speck versus plank eye syndrome. (Matthew 7: 3-5). They do not realize that they have failed to judge Jesus’ actions in the context of His testimony and their own failings and if they had, they may have judged a little less harshly. “Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7:2)

APPLICATION

It’s easy for me to stand back, judge someone and then feel better about myself because I did not break God’s law.  It’s satisfying that I can go away and exalt myself for not doing what they did.  I cannot count how many times I have judged someone from a distance without getting to know or ask them what they were doing or why and trying to put myself in their shoes. Furthermore, how many times have I criticized someone, only to find myself committing the same act a few days later?  It all happens far too often.

It’s important to challenge ourselves daily about the snap judgments we make.  It is equally important to be careful about the accusatory remarks or thoughts we have, without having enquired directly or tried to understand another person.  We should try to listen to people with an understanding of our own failings as humans.   When Jesus pointed out the people’s hypocrisy He said “do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). He was referring to the fact that they had failed to look at the full picture, which included their ‘law breaking actions’ too.  Legalistic hypocritical judgments have no place in God’s law. Just as Jesus said that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2;27), “the Law was made for man, not man for the Law”.

I am realizing that I am continually seeing planks in my own eyes.  The more planks I see and remove from my own eyes, the more spiritual insight I have.  The more spiritual insight I have into my own failings, the more grace and love I can extend towards others.

PRAYER

Almighty God

You are worthy to be praised and we thank You for Your Grace, Love and Mercy.  My prayer today is that we all look deeply into ourselves before we even begin to look at others.  The process of removing planks from our eyes is endless but necessary.   Help us not to judge others by appearance.  We do not know what others are going through and even if we do, help us to be supportive.  Even if we try to step into their shoes, we can never fully experience their pain or understand their decisions, so help us not to judge hypocritically or legalistically.  Help us to judge righteously by seeing others through our own failings and in doing so, to extend love, grace and care towards them.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Did Jesus Accept Divorce?

SCRIPTURE

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”  The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”

OBSERVATION

I have always wondered about the purpose of the conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman.  I notice that following Jesus’ request to call the Samaritan’s woman’s husband, she responds by saying that she has no husband.  Jesus agrees and says that she has spoken the truth.  He then goes on to say that she has had five husbands and the one she is with is not hers.

But how can she have married five husbands, yet according to Jesus, have no husband?  Surely, according to traditional views, Jesus would say that she has at least one husband, with the first marriage (where there is no death) being the only spiritually acceptable one?  Furthermore, how could she have gotten to her fifth husband without being stoned for adultery because she remarried four times?

Or did all of her husbands die? It seems unlikely, even so, what Jesus said would then be correct, she has no husband for they are all dead.  But why mention her dead husbands?  All He could have said is, that the man she is with now is not her husband.  Why would it be relevant to raise her past?  After all, Jesus says everything for a reason.

Another explanation is that she ‘had’ – meaning had sexual intercourse with five men who are another woman’s husband.  However, the term generally used in the Bible for sexual intercourse is ‘to lay’ or ‘to know’.

Lastly, could she have had five husbands and was legally and spiritually divorced from them, hence she really had no husband.  As a consequence of her five failed relationships, she decided to live with the last man so that she would not have to go through the humiliation of another divorce? If so, was Jesus accepting the validity of a legal and spiritual divorce by stating she has no husband?

While I believe and fully support the ideal for a marriage partnership to be life-long, we know that Moses allowed divorce due to the hardness of man’s heart.  However, according to some studies, the word divorce has been wrongly translated.  The original Hebrew word used for ‘divorce’ actually refers to an old practice of men who ‘put away’ their wives (separated  or left them with no legal divorce).  For her survival and that of her children, the ‘put away’ wife would remarry rather than prostitute herself. But because she was not legally divorced, she committed adultery and this is why God hates ‘divorce’ that is the practice of ‘putting away’.  Moses requested that a legal document be produced to protect women who were often oppressed, impoverished and unjustly stoned, (Deuteronomy 24:1-3).  A legal document allowed the woman the freedom to remarry without condemnation of adultery.  It has been suggested that the word ‘divorce’ in the Bible should be read using the words ‘to put away’. (For a general read on Divorce and Remarriage –  http://www.bethelministries.com/divorce.htm). Let us not forget that God legally divorced Himself from Israel, also issuing them a certificate of divorce (Jeremiah 3:8).

APPLICATION

What was the purpose of this conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman such that He raised her past and present?  I think that Jesus gently brought her into the awareness of her failed relationships and her current actions living with another man, but I think it was the reason behind her failed relationships that Jesus was asking her to explore.  Before He mentioned her husbands, Jesus told her that He  has living water, and if she drinks His water, she will never thirst again.  I believe Jesus was saying to the Samaritan woman – whatever you are seeking in these men, can be found in Me.  He was stipulating that He (Jesus) is the love that she has been searching for and once she accepts God’s love, she will never search for this love in another man or earthly relationship again.  I know this is a lesson I need to hear and accept.

PRAYER

Father God

Thank You for another day enjoying this miracle called life.  I thank You for the institution of marriage which ideally should be a life-long commitment.  I thank You for the opportunity to look at divorce from a different perspective.  Help us in this day and age to learn to treat people who are divorced with more compassion and care, rather than with judgment and failing.  I know that You understand because You Lord were also divorced from Israel and You bear no shame.  I thank You for the example of love and empathy that You showed to the Samaritan woman while explaining to her that we need to find love in You first.  Without the knowledge of Your love it will be difficult for any of us to truly know what love looks like and this may eventually lead to failed relationships.

Help us all to be grounded in Your wonderful gift of true unconditional love.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Note:  Your comments are welcome, but please note that this a controversial and sensitive topic. I ask that all words are written respectfully and with love.

Trust in The Source.

Trust is the foundation in any successful relationship. But trusting people always comes with a price – the possibility of being hurt. Once trust has been damaged it’s difficult to repair and without trust, relationships between friends, family, spouses or co-workers can fall apart.

People often let us down with their words and/or behavior – we all have done or said something which has damaged someone’s trust in us whether it is a parent, spouse, sibling, child, or friend – none of us are perfect. However, trust can be rebuilt if we are willing to swallow our pride, accept we are wrong, apologize and demonstrate through our actions a willingness to change and be considerate of others.

On the other hand, consistent displays of behavior which repeatedly breaks or damages trust is difficult to accept.  Perpetual broken trust, without repentance or humility often leads to a breakdown in the relationship. As Christians we are taught to forgive repeatedly and so we should, especially since we need forgiveness too, but there are behaviors which should not be tolerated – after all God did give us common sense and wisdom. To continually accept behavior which breaks our trust and hurts us is damaging, not only to the relationship, but to the spiritual, emotional and physical persons involved and can often lead to depression and despair.

God does not want us to despair. Why?  Because He wants us to trust in Him. When people hurt us God wants us to draw close to Him.  God can renew us. Like Elijah, God can revive, refresh and sustain even when we are at our lowest points. Jesus will feed us, quench our thirst and provide for all our needs for He is the Bread of Life and the Living Water.

When people hurt you, whether intentional or not, God can use that hurt to turn your life around, just as Balaam, in Numbers 24 tried to curse the Israelites, he ended up blessing them three times. In Genesis 50:20 Joseph said “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good”. God can take you on a journey of revelation through your pain and transform it into a blessing of peaceful understanding, spiritual growth, strength and happiness.

Where a broken trust leads us to question ourselves, our identity and judgment, we must remember our identity is in God and He is the source of all things – our breath, self-esteem, gifts, abilities, education, job, income, health – everything in our lives.  Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein”.  God is the source of all things. The earth, people, jobs, wealth, success and all the things in the earth, dare I say, are merely re-sources and we should not put out trust in re-sources.

I am learning to trust in God – The Source and believe what He says about me and accept who He created me to be and to trust Him to provide for my life – He validates my very being – no one else. Trusting in ‘man’ to meet our mental, spiritual, financial needs or otherwise is sinking sand and we need to build our trust in and on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Rock of our Salvation.

landscape
Image courtesy of Photokanok at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Maybe that is why the very heart of the Bible says:-

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes”  Psalm 118:8 .

It is a lesson and a scripture that we should hold in our hearts as we seek to heal from the hurts of an imperfect human race.  God is The Source – let us put our trust and confidence in Him.

I Confess…

…I’m an Israelite…through and through.  Despite seeing miracles over and over and experiencing the blessings of God repeatedly – like the Israelites in the desert, I still doubt God’s protection and His ability to do the impossible.  I don’t understand how God can bless me one week, and the following week my faith crumbles when things are not going my way.  I’m putting it out there… bad as it sounds… it seems that I need God to prove Himself over and over again.

In our last blog by Delzino, it was mentioned that people watched Jesus Himself perform miracles, yet it did not cause them to believe… and it’s at times like these when ‘I get it’ and I feel the need to repent and ask God to cure this resistance in me that does not quite fully accept Him or His power at face value.  It must have been really frustrating for Jesus to ‘prove’ Himself, to people that were not open to believe in the first place.  And while I am open to believe, I still doubt. “Lord I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

I am sure that I have fallen victim to the art of projection.  It is likely the case that I do not believe in myself and my ability, and have thus projected my doubt in myself onto God – consequently diminishing Him to the stature of a human.  The reality is, that I should not bring God down to my level, but I should allow Him to raise me up to be the excellent creation that He created me to be – to glorify Him in all that I do.Woman with Arms in the Air

So today, I want to testify of God’s goodness toward me in answering the spoken and unspoken prayers of my heart despite my lack of faith and trust.  I have to praise and thank Him and confess that God has done great things in my life. YES! “…He has done marvelous things!” (Psalm 98:1)

My prayer is that as we continue our walk with God that our trust and faith in Him will grow and we will allow Him to transform and renew our minds, such that we can live a life of peace, knowing that ‘He is the blessed and only Sovereign (controller) of all things, the King of Kings, Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power (1Timothy 6:15 -16).

Miracles: Lessons from the Blessings of the Supernatural ‘Servior’

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”-Mark 10:45

The “Servior” might look like a typo, Jesus makes it clear in this verse what His entire mission on earth would be, and that is to be our Loving Server and our Lord and Savior. One of the many ways that Jesus served the people was through the miracles he performed.

Jesus performed miracles – around three dozen, depending on how you count them-but the Gospels actually downplay them. Though He never denied someone who asked for physical healing, He always turned down requests for a demonstration to amaze the crowds and impress important people such as King Herod & Pontius Pilate even when His life depended on it. Jesus recognized early on that the excitement generated by miracles did not readily convert into life-changing faith. Rarely did people find it easy to believe in miracles; they seemed as peculiar in the first century as they would seem if performed today. Just imagine your own reaction of seeing a televangelist on one of the Christian networks that “heals” members of his audience. Then, as now, miracles aroused suspicion, contempt, and only occasionally faith.

Now even though we cannot perform miracles as He did and still does, we can still learn lessons from Him in how we serve others in our community.

Lesson #1. When you do community service, or any volunteer activity to benefit others, you must expect suspicion and skepticism.

We live in such a cynical world, that even random acts of kindness to strangers will have them thinking there is a catch. Also when we go out to serve the community, like Jesus, we cannot do it just so we can get attention, give ourselves a pat on the back, or just make our church look good. Read Matthew 6:2. Imagine if you will, the mentality of the arrogant modern day apostle, “Look at me; I just gave away a free water bottle and two bags of Cheetos and Skittles! I’m such an awesome volunteer”. Service should be who we are and not just what we do. Christian writer E.G. White says in the book “Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing” that “Those who desire words of praise and flattery and feed on them as sweet morsel, are Christians in name only.”

Jesus’ first miracle in John chapter 2 (turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana) was perhaps the strangest of all. He never repeated anything quite like it, and the miracle seemed to take Jesus by surprise as much as anyone else.

As emergencies go, this one falls well down the list. It caused embarrassment, to be sure, but should a Messiah who had come to heal the sick and liberate the captives concern Himself with a social mishap? “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied when His mother mentioned the problem. “My time has not yet come.”

Can you imagine what crossed Jesus’ mind? If He acted now that would mean His time HAD come and from that moment on, life would change. If word of His powers leaked, He would soon hear pleas from needy people from Galilee to Jerusalem. Crowds would flock: the blind, the lame, the deaf-mutes, and the demon-possessed, not to mention any street beggar who wanted a free glass of wine. So finally He reached a decision, for the first but surely not the last time in His public life, He changed HIS plans to accommodate someone else.

Lesson #2-When we serve others in any capacity, like Jesus, it would require us to change plans to accommodate someone else.

Serving others is not about us. It requires sacrifice of our time, money, our energy, and some of our material possessions. Also serving others requires us to step outside of our comfort zone. Like Jesus, we have to meet people where they are. We actually have to step out of the ivory towers of the church building and go into some of the most undesirable neighborhoods to serve those in need. We can’t expect those in the community to come in here, if they feel we are too good to go meet them out there.
The people back then blamed the victims of blindness, deafness, and paralysis on their sinful conditions. So the sicker you were, the more sinful you were. But Jesus overturned common notions about how God views sick and disabled people. He denied that the men’s blindness came from sin, just as he dismissed the common opinion that tragedies happen to those that deserve them. Job refuted that theory right? Job was the most upright man in the land and still got hit with more tragedy than anyone else. Praise be to God that Jesus, the only perfect Man who ever lived, served the most imperfect of people.

Lesson #3-When we serve others, like Jesus, we must not look down on them or stand in judgment of their circumstances as if we’re superior and they’re inferior to us. We must dismiss the ideology that bad circumstances mean they’re bad people. But if you read the Holier Than Thou version of Romans 3:23, it says “Most have sinned..some have fallen short”, no ALL have sinned and not only have ALL sinned but no matter how high and mighty you think you are, or how big a deal you think you are, you STILL come short of the glory of God. We are all just nobodies telling somebody that anybody can be saved by the Man who died for everybody. So let’s serve with humble hearts of compassion like Christ.

Let us talk about the only miracle in all four Gospels, the feeding of the 5,000. The daunted disciples were vexed and perplexed on how to feed the multitude, but the Savior was the solution. When we focus on the problems, we lose sight of the promises. When we focus on great obstacles, we miss out on golden opportunities. So I can imagine Jesus telling the disciples “I healed the sick, made the blind see, made the lame walk, raised the dead, and calmed a storm with My voice alone … so do you honestly think hunger is something I can’t handle?”

Lesson #4-When we serve others, we need to remember that little becomes much when we place it in the Masters hands. Just like the 2 fish and 5 loaves fed everyone AND created an overflow and spillover, God will take whatever gifts and talents you have to serve others and will multiply it so that it would exceed even YOUR expectations so that it will spillover and overflow to have a huge impact on so many that would greatly benefit from it.

The author Philip Yancey once said, “Jesus never met a disease He could not cure, a birth defect He could not reverse, a demon He could not exorcise. But He did meet skeptics He could not convince and sinners He could not convert. Forgiveness of sins requires an act of will on the receiver’s part, and some who heard Jesus’ strongest words about grace and forgiveness turned away unrepentant.” In the context of service, we can help so many people when we give of our time and energy, and they can still end up being ungrateful and unappreciative, but serve anyhow. And why should we serve others? What’s the point of it all anyway? Let’s look no further than Matthew 25:37-40. It wasn’t the wicked, the unbelievers, or even the Gentiles that asked those questions, it was the righteous that asked these questions. It was His followers, the believers, the Christians. He wants us to serve others we SEE just like we serve Him that we DON’T see. Matthew 20:28- the Son of Man did not come to be served, but TO SERVE, and give His life a ransom for so many.” Besides dying on the cross for our sins, out of His own mouth, serving was His only other purpose on earth. We are saved to serve. God saved us so we can serve others…God saved us, so we can serve others. So let us serve with compassionate hearts and sincerity. Francis of Assisi once said, “It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look”. I believe that God not only loves a cheerful giver, but a cheerful servant.

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” -Muhammad Ali
We all need to ask ourselves, are we current with our “rent” payments with our LandLord? Or are we delinquent?

Suggested listening music to reflect on.
Keith Pringle-Saved to Serve

Apostle or Christian?

Nowadays anyone can call themselves a Christian if they profess to believe in God. But are they Apostles for Christ – messengers of the gospel and ambassadors making disciples of others? I overheard the following conversation between two fellow co-workers discussing Christian ministries. “Have you ever thought about serving outside the church?” said one. “You know – I’m not sure about totally going outside of the church, though the idea is appealing” replied the other. They went on to describe how their circle of acquaintances and family were in the church and that was their target area of ministry.

Although I recognize the need for people to minister inside the church and while I do not want to doubt the sincerity of any person who serves God. I did wonder how much of those remarks were based on the ministerial needs of the church or of the individual needs of the person having a familiar group of people around them.

The call to go totally outside of the church is not an idea, it’s a commission. Jesus said “Go into all the world…and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:17) 

How many of us have become comfortable Christians? Professing Christ and serving busily in roles which serve other comfortable Christians. Do we hide behind the comfort and security of the church, hoping that the drug addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals, homeless, mentally ill, and any other non-conforming group will stay safely outside of the church? After all, we don’t want anyone coming in lowering the church standards or making us feel uncomfortable, do we?

unwelcome mat
Image courtesy of theguardian.com

Why are we unwilling to sacrifice the creature comforts of the church walls to seek the lost in the community?

“They’re a crazy drug mob…What if they have AIDS?…Maybe they’ll ruin our church! Or take my favorite seat…They’ll bleed our budgets dry!… They’re a bad example for our children!”

Though these comments are not always expressed verbally, it is often clear in the way we treat our visiting brothers and sisters, and it becomes clear to them that they are not welcome at our church to receive the message that God quite clearly told us to preach to all the nations.

Where would we be if Jesus had said:- “You know, I’m not sure about going down there, they’re dangerous, crazy and they just don’t get it…they could even kill me!  Why would I want to bring those sinners up here anyway? They’ll bring our standards down, they may even try to sit on my throne! I’m going to stay here in Heaven and hang with my angels…”

Thankfully He didn’t!

We need to remember that the majority of Jesus’ ministry was outside of the synagogue with the apparent ‘unsavory’ characters of His time. Furthermore, it was Jesus, the Son of God, who gave up His heavenly home, throne, family, angels, and His Father and suffered incredible discomfort – to save us.

Jesus did not call us only to believe in Him as a Christian, but also to follow His example as an Apostle, a messenger and ambassador. Following Christ’s example in sharing the gospel requires some discomfort and potentially a ministry outside of the church with God and the gospel being our only partners. What better lesson could we teach our children about love and overcoming fears, than to serve God in the community sharing the gospel with others? The nervous unease of inexperience and meeting different people as we seek to move outsideimagesCAL2PEE0 of our comfort zone is positive growth.  The confidence in our abilities and acceptance of others as God’s children usually becomes more assured as we allow God to equip us as He promised.

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1: 4 – 6).  Has the time come for you to take the next step from being a comfortable  Christian towards being an Apostle for Christ?

Open the Door

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock…” Revelation 3:20

A recent article described the importance of maintaining healthy boundaries with family, friends and co-workers. It stated the benefits for our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health to create boundaries that allow healthy, positive, and encouraging people into our lives, while limiting or denying the access that negative, critical people have.

It is wonderful news that God’s amazing unconditional love of sinners means that He does not create boundaries to keep any of us out.  Despite our sinful nature, God created a way through His Son, Jesus Christ to enable us to have fellowship with Him such that nothing can separate us from His Love. The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15 : 1-7) tells us about how God looks for us. God is gracious and does not turn his back on us, but He actively seeks out the fallen.

It is even more incredible that Almighty God wishes to respect our human boundaries, such that He knocks at our doors and waits for us to answer! God wants us to remove our barriers, open the door and invite Him in. No  boundaries, no limits!

Even if we place boundaries on others or they do the same to us, we can take comfort in the fact that God’s love is always available to us. He is a healthy wholesome God who is willing and able to heal/comfort those who are emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically unwell – especially when we let Him into our lives.  God invites us all to limitless fellowship with Him through prayer and meditation on the Bible. God’s promise in Revelation 3:20 (NKJV) is:-

Image courtesy of ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If  anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

God’s door is always open to us and yet He patiently stands and waits at our doors. Is He knocking at your door? Will you let Him in?