So Easy to Judge

The Bible tells us, judge not. (Matthew 7:1-3) Most of us try to tell ourselves that we don’t, but the truth is, judging is a really natural thing to do.

This is how normal it is to judge. You hear somebody say, “Well, I don’t have a problem. I don’t judge,” and you immediately want to say, “I doubt that.” Right? We actually judge each other on whether we judge! It’s that natural.

Sometimes our discipleship makes it harder. We’re so conscious of trying to be good that we might look at someone and think, “Well, I’m good. But he’s not.” In your pursuit of discipleship, you judge. You do the very thing that you’re not supposed to do!

Do you know enough about anyone to judge them? You might think you do. You might look at someone and say, “I know he’s bad, because I know what he did.” But if he could look inside your soul, and he could hear your thoughts, he could probably tell you where you’re bad.

If we really think about it, we’ll realize that we’re no better than anyone else. We might think we are! But we’re really not.

When the Bible says, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” what does it mean? Is it really saying, “Don’t judge somebody?” Or is it saying, “Be careful how you judge somebody?” Or is it saying, “Judge only the people in the church,” because of the fruit of the Spirit? (Galatians 5:21-23) Is there ever a time when it’s proper to make a judgment call?

It’s difficult for me to wrap my brain around this, even though it’s something I want to live by. I really want to love my neighbor as myself, and that means not going around judging everyone. It’s the only way to get along. It’s the cure for most of the issues that come into play in relationships. And whether you’re fighting injustice, or merely dealing with people who think differently, things get a lot more clear when you don’t judge.

Jesus said there’s only two commandments: love me and love your neighbors. How simple this sounds! But it’s actually a very difficult thing to do. It’s all about being selfless. It’s all about not judging. It’s all about not doing the things that come naturally!

You know how people say, “Christianity is a crutch”? You’ll hear them say, “Christianity is the easy way out.”

But Christianity is not a crutch and it’s certainly not easy. If I’m going to choose a crutch, I’m not picking Christianity. It’s a very difficult foundation to stand on. It’s a very difficult way to live! One reason is that it’s so easy to judge. It’s easy to judge, and it’s easy to be hypocritical.

Christianity is hard, man. It asks us to transform ourselves.

It’s worth the hard work though. It’s worth it. And so I pray about it. I say, “God, I want to understand what you meant when you told us not to judge.” I want to understand it fully and completely. If we do not judge each other, we will be better off. We will live in peace and harmony with one another.

See you Saturday.

Heart Change

But what does [faith] say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13)

The Bible says that you must make a confession with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. The key to salvation is the acknowledgement and confession of who Jesus is. You must confess that Jesus is Lord in order to be saved. There has to be an admission there, and it has to be real.

But the Bible also says that the word must be in the heart. I believe a lot of people say “Jesus is Lord” without understanding what salvation really entails. It’s not enough to just say the words. Verbal acknowledgement that Jesus died for us is not the whole deal. There has to be a commitment of the heart.

When the word comes into your heart, it brings a heart change. And when you see a heart change, you’ll see a lifestyle change. Saved by the Spirit, you will then live by the Spirit. (Romans 8:13)

You could go through a really emotional time, and meet a Christian who says something that touches you. So you make the confession that Jesus is Lord. You’re saved!

You could go to a big conference, and a speaker or a song hits on a message that really touches you. Maybe you’re touched because you’re having a difficult time, or maybe you experience an emotional high. Someone says to you, “Do you believe in Jesus? Do you want to be saved? Come forward!” So you go forward. You say the prayers. You’re saved!

But this is not enough. What happens to you after you get home? You’ve been saved, but nothing changes. Your struggles continue. You have come from a time of high emotion and high expectation, and you have said the words. But you only said them because it was the right thing to do at the time. What if you don’t go on to live out your newly found salvation in the lifestyle of Jesus?

Becoming a Christian involves a passionate, lifelong commitment to being in a relationship with God.

If you want to really understand Jesus in your life, you have to live in the mentality of discipleship. You won’t understand it if you don’t live it. You won’t understand it if you just say some words. Mere words don’t substitute for infinite passion. They can’t substitute for a relationship with your creator and savior. It has to be heartfelt.

If you’ve been saved but you feel unfulfilled, just try a little discipleship mentality.

More on this next time. See you Wednesday.

Living It Out in Joy

The resurrection is power, man. Resurrection power says, “I have conquered death. I have given eternal life.”

When Jesus resurrected, He said, “We’re family. Now you live in a family in which your sins have been taken from you. Now you live in a family in which death has been conquered. I have died for your sins, and I have resurrected, giving you new life.”

I am in the family of God because I believe in who He is and what He’s done for me. I’ve been justified. I’ve been justified because of the blood of Jesus and the faith that I have in what He did.

But I believe the lifestyle of Jesus is really where it’s at. I believe in living it out. I love humanity. I love the concept of human life and why we were created. And I love God, the creator of life. So I worship that God and I serve that God. I do that by doing my best to live under the commandment that He gave us, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

I worry about those who say, “I’ve accepted Christ and I’m justified, so now I’ll just sit here in my chair and I’ll wait for the Second Coming.” I worry because I believe they will fail. They won’t find happiness that way.

There are tons and tons of people that choose salvation. They do the message, and they admit they’re a sinner, and they believe in the justification, and yet they’re not happy.

They’re not happy because they’re not living the life of Jesus. The joy comes from living it. It’s about asking, how am I striving to live for Jesus? That’s it. That’s the way to happiness.

You’re starting to see more and more people on that course. Those that live the life of Jesus, man, they find joy. Think about it. Just handing some food to a homeless man or woman and walking away feels really good. It makes you happy.

Why does it feel so good? You didn’t make any money. You actually lost money doing it. You know? So that’s not why you feel good. You feel good because there’s something inside of you that says, “Man, that was awesome.” It just feels awesome to love your neighbor as yourself.

And whether you believe in Jesus or not, you just did what Jesus would do.

The sad thing is, I believe some people live their lives every day with that “love your neighbor as yourself mentality,” but they don’t believe in Jesus. I think it’s going to be a sad day when judgment comes. But even the non-believers who live out the “love your neighbor as yourself” concept find joy in this life. They find it. That lifestyle will always bring joy. It’s in everybody’s soul to be that way.

See you Saturday.

Getting Connected

God is a jealous God, so your relationship with Him is your number one priority. And when you truly strive to have a relationship with Him, there will be a change in you. You will become a better person. Intimacy with God means intimacy with people, and there is so much joy in that! Ask anyone who walks that path.

I think sometimes Christians work on their relationship with God but don’t work on their relationships with people. That’s a shame, because working on the vertical without working on the horizontal doesn’t get us very far. It’s only half of our calling.

Here’s a familiar example. You’re driving to work, and this is what goes on in your mind:

“I’ve got to make sure I read my Bible today, and I’ve got to make sure I take communion, and I’ve got to memorize my memory verse. Hey! That person just cut me off! Eff you!”

That’s a little comical, I know, but we’ve all been there or somewhere like it. When it happens, we know that we can confess it to God and let it go. We know that we’re forgiven.

But sometimes it’s so much worse. Sometimes Christians see people right in front of them and think, “I don’t care about that person.”

If this is you, then you’re messing up. When you’re connected to God, you don’t struggle in your relationships. So if you’re not connecting to people, you’re not connected to God. You’re struggling in your relationship with Him. I know. Sometimes I struggle in my relationships, and I know what it feels like.

The key is to find the source of the disconnect.

If you’re having trouble caring about people (or you are cussing at them) then somewhere along the line your ability to connect to God has been disrupted. To connect, you have to open your heart. Reading or memorizing verses isn’t enough. If you’re not doing it with your heart, then you’re not doing it. The Bible says, “Write the commands on your heart so they will not leave you.” (Proverbs 3)

Write these commandments on your heart. Love the Lord God your Father with all your heart, soul, and mind. That’s the first commandment. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said the second is like the first (Mark 12:31). Loving your neighbor is loving God. That’s why an increase in intimacy with God leads to increased intimacy with people. There is no separation between them.

All people were made by God. All people bear His image. And we were all set on this world by Him. We are called to love everyone! Yet God looks at the world and says, “I have created everyone in my image, but some people are so much less fortunate than others.”

If you forget about them, you’re forgetting about God.

Matthew 25 is the way into understanding this simple point:

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:37-40)

Jesus is saying, “In every human being, you need to find me. I am there, in everyone. When you feed a hungry person, you feed me. When you give water to a thirsty person, you give water to me. When you help shelter and clothe people who are homeless or in great need, you take care of me in my time of need. When you visit the sick, or visit people in prison, and love on them in any way you can, you love on me.”

Do you want to be a better human being? Pursue a relationship with God! As you grow more intimate with God, you’ll become more intimate with people. Are you going to mess up? Yes. You’re going to mess up. But in connecting to God, you will learn to love your neighbor as yourself. That is what He is asking you to do.

See you Wednesday.

Love Without Fear

The ancient Israelites loved God. All you have to do is read the scriptures. Check out the psalms! The love is obvious. God loved them and they loved God.

We still treasure the Old Testament. It’s the holy word of God! That’s why it’s in the Holy Bible.

We also read in the Old Testament about all the rules the ancient Israelites had to keep. We can see that they had to make sacrifices to atone for the times they fell short or messed up. When there are a lot of rules, and a lot of people judging you, it can make you fearful. It can even make you start to fear God, no matter how much you love Him.

That’s why I think God said, “This has to change. I’m going to change my relationship with my beloved children. I’m going to make a new covenant with them. I will send my Son to pay for every transgression of every rule, ever. Then my children will be free to love me out of respect and gratitude. There will be no more  fear.”

That’s why my love for God is respectful and reverential. I love Him because of what He did for me, but I am not afraid of Him. I know I am forgiven.

That’s the change. That’s the New Covenant. Our love has changed, so for the New Covenant Christian, the way we do things has also changed.

We see an example of this in the Book of Acts. There was a dispute about circumcision. Peter was preaching in favor of requiring new male converts to be circumcised, and Paul emphatically disagreed, so they went to the council for a decision. The council consulted and then said, “It seems good to us, and it seems good to the Holy Spirit, that it does not matter what you do to your flesh. It’s about the heart.”

This is the New Covenant Christian. We don’t consult a list of rules. We go to the Holy Spirit and then trust the wisdom we receive.

This is what I’m trying to accomplish with my own children. I don’t want fear of me to get mixed in with their love. I don’t want them to fear my anger, or fear reprisals when they mess up. When they make a mistake, I don’t want their first thought to be, “My dad’s going to be so mad at me.”

That’s not at all how I want my children to look at me. That’s why I tell them, “When you mess up, I’m going to be embarrassed on your behalf. I’m going to take that on me so you won’t have to. You should never have to fear me, because I love you. And I’m hoping you’re going to learn from your mistake. Maybe you’ll do things a little bit differently next time. Maybe you’ll see what I do, and you’ll be inspired to do better.”

When they see me take their shame and embarrassment for them, hopefully they’ll respect me for it. I think they will. I think they’ll say, “That’s my dad. He protects me because he loves me.” They’ll respond to me with love because of what I do for them, just as I love God because of what He did for me. This kind of love changes everybody, because this is the love that changes hearts.

See you Saturday.

The Love We Give Our Children

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.”  (John 5:19)

It is the duty of every Christian man to replicate, to the very best of his abilities, everything that he sees Jesus do. John’s Gospel expresses it perfectly here. Just as Jesus does what He sees His Father do, so our children will do what they see us do. In other words, what we do is really important. We are called to be just like Jesus.

What does that mean? What does it mean to be just like Jesus? To begin with, Jesus did not judge us. Instead, He loved us. He stood up for people, no matter how different they were and no matter what social status they had.

If He got angry with anybody, it was the Pharisees, because they were the religious leaders of the time. They were like the presidents of our seminaries, or the pastors of our large churches. People looked to the Pharisees for moral wisdom and spiritual guidance. And what did they do with that leadership? They went around condemning people for their sins. “This is not how it’s supposed to be done,” they said. “You’ll have to pay!”

Jesus thought this was a terrible way to set an example. “You’re embarrassing our Father!” He told them. “You’re embarrassing everything that we stand for! You are whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside, but filled with rot and decay!”

Jesus was angry with the Pharisees, but He never judged sinners. Ever. He didn’t judge them because He knew, 100%, that when He went up on that cross, He would be taking their shame. He knew it! He said to the prostitute who was about to be stoned, “Go on, I do not judge you. Stop doing what you’re doing, sure, but just go. You are forgiven.”

He was prophesying to her! He was saying, “Look, when I get nailed to that cross, and that blood starts dripping from my body, and I get whipped and beaten, I will be doing it for you. I know you feel shame over what you do. I know you are vulnerable and persecuted. These people want to stone you! But I’m going to take away your shame. In fact, I will die for you! That’s how much I love you.”

I don’t think the Pharisees understood love. To love like Jesus, they would have had to become servants. That would mean changing how they looked at everything. They would need to forgive sinners. They would need to be kind to them, serve them, and love on them.

But that isn’t how they looked at things. They could only imagine making sinners pay.

Jesus came among them and said, “No, no, no, no, no! That’s not how it goes! I’m going to pay, not them. I’m going to take all of this on. I’m going to die. My Father will turn his back on me so that I can take all the sins of the world upon my shoulders. Why would I do this? Because I love the sinners that you condemn. I love everyone! When I resurrect from the dead, everyone will be redeemed. No one will have to live in shame. No one will have to live in guilt. No one will be condemned to death. Everyone will live in freedom!”

This is the love we should give our children. When they see that they are loved this deeply and this purely, they will respond. They will love you back. They will love you and God so much! They will become filled with love, and love will raise them into beautiful adults. They will be such good people. They will know how to lead by serving, because you will have shown it to them in your relationship with them.

It’s a duty and a calling, but it’s an honor and a privilege.

More on this next time. See you Wednesday.

The Job of a Christian Dad

My job is to be the best replication of Christ that I can possibly be.

With that in mind, I ask myself what it means when the scripture says that a husband is to be to his wife as Jesus is to the church. For me, it comes down to one thing. As Jesus stands in the gap for us, I stand in the gap for my family. I take my family on my shoulders and I will never put them down. How is my family viewed in the community? That is on me. How is my marriage going? That is on me. How are we raising our children, and what decisions do they make? All that is on me.

Here’s an example. Maybe someday my son will get in a fight at school and he’ll punch somebody. I’ll get called into the office and they will say, “This is what your son did.” On that day, I’ll look first at my son and then at the school principal, and I’ll say, “No, this isn’t what my son did. This is what I did. This is on me.”

I’ll take full responsibility for it, and I’ll address it. I’ll deal with my son directly. I’ll teach him to take responsibility for his actions and to apologize for his mistakes. But first, I will go to the other child’s father and apologize. I’ll make sure that the child, the one my son hit, will know that it was my fault. As the head of my family, I’ll apologize for it.

After he sees me do it, I think my son will do the same thing. He’ll take responsibility and apologize. Our children learn from our actions, and I want to inspire my sons to replicate Jesus with me. If my son hurts someone and sees me, his father, literally turn to that person and say, “I’m so sorry, this is on me,” then he’ll want to do the same. When my son sees me accept shame and embarrassment because of his decisions, he’ll want to make better decisions.

That’s why my son won’t see me yell at him or say, “This is your fault.” My son will see me say, “This is my fault.”

Anyone who sees that would say, “I need to make better decisions.” Think about it. What would it feel like if someone is always being embarrassed because of you, but they never embarrass you back? They never blame you or call you out in front of people. Instead, they take the embarrassment for you. Always. How would that make you feel?

You’re going to want to change!

This is what Jesus did on the cross. He took our shame and embarrassment. We respect what He did, and His sacrifice inspires us to be different. Because of Him, we want to be better people. We’re not always going to make the right decisions, but we want to be better people.

I think that’s how our kids will respond to us, if we do the same. They’ll want to be better because they will see their fathers say, “It’s on me. This is my fault. And I’m sorry.”

I really believe this. If this is the choice a man makes, then his wife and kids will respect him for it. Because of it, they’ll be inspired to be better people. Any family will be better because of this.

There are too many men who aren’t willing to accept this job. I say, if they are not willing to accept it, then they are not willing to be husbands and fathers.

See you Saturday.