Reactions to Judging

In a response to this email question:
Are you saying that non-believers should be judged and condemned?
My good friend John Gilman answered with this insightful reply:
Jesus related differently to the subgroups of non-believers. The common folk he called sinners and in need of a doctor and a shepherd, and he called them to repent; but at the same time he relates to them as a friend, calling himself “a friend of sinners," and in spite of his calling them sinners, they like him. Abusive religious hypocrites got harsher treatment and he called them "sons of the devil." They didn't like him. M. Scott Peck calls such people "children of the lie." Jesus said the prostitutes would go into the Kingdom before them. That is, they would repent sooner.

So our judging of the non-believer is our position that they need to repent to enter the Kingdom, even while we value their friendship. There is also a judging of those whose behavior harms others that makes friendship difficult. I have a hard time relating to people who've abandoned their families and wont try to make it right. As long as Jack beats Jill, I have a problem with Jack.
These words might be difficult for some but not for me because I know John. He is one of the most loving people I know. In conversations over coffee he has lovingly asked me difficult questions, encouraged my heart with instruction and just cared about me.

The words judge, judging and judgment can all have very negative connotations. These words can cause us to run into hiding, get defensive and sometimes evoke an angry response. But as John says they can also cause genuine reflection and sometimes repentance even among the most religious of us :) I am reminded that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were of the group that Jesus called hypocrites ... these men seemed to respond differently to Jesus' rebuke ... their reaction didn't seem to be defensive but repentant ... a good reaction to the Lord's rebuke and judgment.

Flowing with Weakness

This past week has been a week of weakness. My wife Ann and I are both physically, emotionally and dare I say spiritually weak. Ann had a relapse of Multiple Sclerosis last weekend and once again ended up in a wheelchair - where she now she sits receiving the IV steroids that I prepared a few minutes ago. My heart in writing is not to elicit pity or sympathy or even prayer ... I just want to share my struggle with you. Times like this always draw my attention back to what Paul wrote:
If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 11:30, 12:7-10)
I think that this kind weakness is something that often looks like desperation. It is the kind of thing that really brings you to the end of yourself and to the beginning of faith. I have to admit that I do not feel strong spiritually right now. I am forced to trust the Lord in a way that I have had to do on several other occasions. I am again reminded that I can only flow with the Spirit at a heart level ... I can only be at peace when I give up control of this situation ... I now feel that I am preaching to myself ... reminding Bob of past instructions from the Lord ... remembering that my job is to flow with this and not fight against it ... remembering how God once told me that I cannot manage my life like a project because that is His job.

So here I am ... trying to flow with this weakness that envelops me ... remembering Paul's words about weakness and about true strength ... receiving that sufficient grace. I am encouraged when I think about another scripture:
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:28-31)
So, I will wait upon the Lord ... he bravely says ... maybe waiting is really waiting ... thinking that maybe new strength can only come when old strength is exhausted. So, for now, we will wait on the Lord, flowing with God in this weakness, waiting for our strength to be renewed. It is what He has promised.


"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17)

John answered and said to them all, "As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Luke 3:16)

And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, "Sons of Thunder"); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot; and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him. (Mark 3:16-19)

"And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. (Acts 3:16)

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

but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. (2 Corinthians 3:16)

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ. (Galatians 3:16)

that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, (Ephesians 3:16)

however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. (Philippians 3:16)

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all! (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? (Hebrews 3:16)

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. (James 3:16)

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:13-16)

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3:16)

So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. (Revelation 3:16)

Why I Read the Bible

In September 1975 my newly born-again wife Ellen approached me one evening asking if she could ask me a few questions. Ever since she had become a Christian the month before I had become wary of these "conversations" but in my typical New York manner I invited her to bring it on. Her first question was "Do you believe in the Bible?" I answered like this: "Of course I believe in the bible ... all Episcopalians believe in the bible". I hadn't practiced my faith in years but I wasn't going to let her get the best of me. Ellen followed up with another question: "Do you believe in evolution?" I told her that all intelligent people believe in evolution - it is science! Ellen then said something that rocked my world ... she said this: "Then you don't believe in the Bible!" I quickly retorted "Well, I don't know about that but whatever the Episcopalians believe is what I believe."

That conversation really shook me because I had never read the bible and really didn't know what it said about evolution ... or about anything else for that matter. This haunted me for months. The idea that I had been an Episcopalian for most of my life and I really didn't know what the bible said really bothered me. In April 1976 I gave my heart to Jesus and almost immediately began reading the bible. I ate it up ... it was like food for me ... and within a year had read the whole bible. My life began to change as God used the scriptures to teach me how to live.

The scripture is powerful. In Hebrews it is described this way:
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
The way that the Holy Spirit uses the scripture to speak to us is simply amazing. He lifts the words off the page and penetrates the deepest recesses of our hearts. I have found the Bible to be a great source of comfort in times of trial. It has been a great encourager when I have been depressed. But reading the bible is more than a quest for knowledge ... reading it has done more than informing me about it's contents ... it has introduced me to God and helped me to know Him ... to know His ways ... His love ... His mercy and compassion. Reading the bible helps us know God like nothing else can.


I read this passage this morning from the Psalms:
"For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills. "I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine. "If I were hungry I would not tell you, For the world is Mine, and all it contains. (Psalms 50:10-12)
In this passage the Lord tells us that their is no lack in His kingdom. All of the earth is at His disposal. So, why is it that so many struggle financially and what should our response be to those in need? The answer to the first part is quite complex and covers the gamut of human problems ... greed, misfortune, foolishness and many other issues factor into poverty. Many books have been written about this and I won't try to give any answers here. What I'd like to discuss is one response to poverty: generosity. Listen to what the Apostle Paul says:
"In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:35)
One of the best sermons that I have ever heard on giving started out with the speaker telling everyone to not pray (before a meal) at a restaurant if you are not a generous tipper. The issue with charity (like tipping a waiter/waitress) is one of generosity not obligation. Those who give out of obligation open themselves up to attitudes of superiority and self righteousness. I think that true generosity comes from humility and gratitude.

As I have been reading through the Old Testament the past few months I have repeatedly seen God's admonition to care for the poor. I believe that He tells us to care for the poor not only because it is good for the poor but it is good for us as well - if we give with the proper attitude. To be a generous person challenges me because it demands more than a percentage ... more than an occasional thought. Generosity demands repentance from self-seeking and self-centeredness ... it demands an attitude change at a core level.

Friends, what do you think about when you consider the poor? Does your heart break for the poor? Do you pray for them? Do you hope for them? Are you grateful that people and governments come to their aid? Do you hope that health care will be available when their children are sick? Do you cry for the destitute in Africa and other places? Do you have compassion for people less fortunate than most of us? I hope this note causes you to pause, pray and give in generous ways.

Kingdom Uncles

My blogging buddy Danny Sims posted his memories of Irby Jackson, an encouraging friend who passed away one year ago. Danny's post reminded me of the older men in my life who encouraged me in my walk with the Lord. These godly saints blessed my life by speaking words of affirmation to me on a regular basis. At church, men's meetings and retreats these older men approached me on a regular basis and told me that I was special. I cannot describe what it was like to have these men in my life. So, for the record, I list the following men in memoriam:
Ed Roberts: With his wife, Ellanora, Ed spent time (in the 80s) with my wife and I over breakfast, brunch and other occasions. I remember the day when Ed, who was close to 80 at the time, kindly rebuked me telling me that he always wanted to be able to learn from people younger than him. I'll never forget how humble a man he was.

Ralph Schmidt: With his wife Leone Ralph began and maintained Horsecreek Ranch, a retreat center close to Lake Perry, Kansas. Ralph was a kind man who was filled with the spirit of encouragement. His kindness inspired me. I loved the way he cared for me.

Gil Blake: Gil was a man who I looked up to as a man of courage and principle. I appreciated the example he gave me and the care he showed me. Gil caused me to exercise the spiritual gifts God had given me.

Max Barnhardt: Max was the eldest of this group. He combined many of the qualities of Ed, Ralph and Gil. He was a deeply spiritual man. I felt the love of God when I was around him. He like the others would say the most outrageous things about me to my face. It was so encouraging to be around him.
It is often said that church and life is all about relationships. I cannot remember the church we all attended and not think of these men. They were encouraging shepherds in my life.

Do you have uncles or aunts like Ed, Ralph, Gil and Max in your life? Maybe you could take a few minutes and tell us about them. It will do you good to rememer them!

2006 in Review

Excerpts from my personal favorites, month by month:

  • January: Refuge
    Three years ago I was faced with the trauma of dealing with a crisis on the high seas when my wife became paralyzed from the waist down after we boarded the a cruise ship. I vividly remember the crisis and how God spoke to me about letting go ... He whispered these words to me "You cannot project manage your way out of this. You need to flow with Me in this and give up control". Taking refuge in God always involves releasing control of your life ... release is the doorway to God's refuge.
  • February: On Rabbis, Monsignors & Pastors
    We evangelical flavored Christians seem to not understand why the more liturgical traditions address their ministers as “Father” and yet are very comfortable addressing our ministers as Pastor (with a capital ‘P’).
  • March: Control
    I find it interesting that so much of my life has been spent trying to control that which is not meant to be controlled – namely my life. As I have said before in other places life is about living from the heart and not managing with the head. Faith is of the heart.
  • April: The Weekend that Changed My Life
    On a Sunday in August 1975 Ellen capitulated to Marvale’s invitation to come to church ... after all I had to work that day and couldn't go ... and went to church with her and her family. The pastor did something different that morning ... before he gave his sermon he asked if anyone would like to invite Jesus into their heart ...Ellen’s hand shot up ... she was the only one and the pastor decided to speak to her after the service. He proceeded to give his sermon and asked people to turn to a bible passage ... as Marvale opened her bible Ellen looked down and pointed to the scrpture ... she saw the words of the scripture ... and could read the very small print ... she could not believe what had happened ... she could now see out of her left eye ... simply miraculous!
  • May: Christian Flame Throwers
    I wonder what it is in us that causes us to rush to judgment ... even if it involves death by fire from heaven. It is interesting to note that these folks believed they were in the right ... they believed that a village was worthy of fire just because they did not welcome their leader. Jesus seems to get to the heart of the issue when He rebukes the disciples and confronts the issue on a spiritual level. He says that they are in the dark about the kind of spirit they were operating out of. In some sense this kind of judgment gets it's power from a revengeful murderous spirit ... it is pretty scary.
  • June: Dancing with God
    I feel that most of my life has been driven by this sense of pleasing God by doing spiritual things ... interesting how subtle this form of performance based spirituality is ... we want to dance for Him when He wants to dance with us. Relationships are all about how we dance ... sad that some of us feel we need to do a tap dance solo rather than a jitterbug or waltz.
  • July: Bibliolatry
    My internet buddy Danny Sims puts it this way "The Point Of The Bible Is Not To Know The Bible" ... the point of the bible is to know God. I think that we can get to a place where we place the bible as the fourth member of the Trinity ... we can know it but not know God ... worship it and not worship God.
  • August: Freedom from Bitterness
    About 20 years ago I had been having problems with my boss, Carol, for about six months. I could hardly stand to be in the same room as Carol ... I considered her to be the cause of my angst. As I prayed about this one day God spoke to me and told me that I had bitterness in my heart towards Carol. I was devastated - the issue was mine and not hers.
  • September: Step Into Your Pain
    I think that when Jesus says "take up his cross" He is speaking about stepping into painful areas of our lives. He is talking about believing in the midst of difficult circumstances - trusting and remaining in Him when everything in you is screaming run. Pain won't let you stay who you are - it will change you ... it will make you bitter or better.
  • October: Our Debt
    I told them that the debt is love. We were created to love both God and man - it is our debt to our Creator and to each other. For many in that jail, and I imagine many of you, love is a difficult topic. When you think about your childhood you do not think about an environment of love. Your childhood may have been a difficult one where you did not experience love from your parents or your siblings. You know, love has always been an issue. Even at the dawn of humanity the issue of love came to bear.
  • November: Hypocrisy
    I am still challenged to live a life true to who I really am and to not reject my heart and cowtow to the image of the Christian leader that others might want me to be. It is sometimes a difficult journey because I don't like to be rejected and when you live from your heart rejection often comes - even if it is only in your mind :)
  • December: Teenage Pain
    As I entered His presence He brought me back to that painful teenage experience where I was shamed by my pastor for making a mistake that cost the church about $35. As I flashed back the Lord spoke to me and said that my pastor sinned against me. Words cannot express how free I felt when He spoke those words to me. His words set me free to speak words of forgiveness for that pastor. As I did I felt a release from the pain of the memory. It amazes me because I had gone back to that memory many times and couldn't experience freedom until the Lord spoke truth to me.

In 2007 I am looking forward to reading your thoughts - on my blogs and yours. Happy New Year!