Category Archives: Do not judge

Jesus Hung Out With Sinners

The Argument

If I have heard it once, I’ve heard it six hundred and sixty-six times: “Don’t you know Jesus hung out with sinners?

Yes, as a matter of fact, I actually did know that.

However, those of us who oppose any number of formerly immoral, but now celebrated, cultural trends are regularly chastised for our supposed ignorance of the Savior’s party guests. When we refuse to affirm a particular lifestyle choice, almost without fail we are treated like biblical illiterates – because, of course, those who treat the Bible like toilet paper have a greater grasp of the text.

Me:  I love you, but I don’t think Jesus would approve of what you are doing.

Somebody:  You don’t love me, you bigot! You’re nothing but a ____phobic piece of $#!*! If you loved me, you’d accept me for who I am, not judge me.

Me:  I’m not judging you, all I’m saying is…

Somebody:  All you are saying is that you are a hater…a bigot…a racist…and all of your kind should be rounded up and shot! If you loved me like you say you do, you’d be more like Jesus and quit hating me.

Me:  I don’t hate you! I just can’t affirm your activities and choices.

Somebody:  See, you’re nothing but a m____-f____, self-righteous, hypocrite! If you read your Bible like you say you do, then you would have read where Jesus loved sinners and hung out with them. He didn’t go around hating people and trying to get them to change. You need to quit judging and go read your bronze-age book of myths again, then maybe you’ll actually learn something!

OK. You got me. I guess I should go dust off the cover of that old Book and re-read those long-forgotten and overlooked passages that prove Jesus would have affirmed and promoted every alternative lifestyle…because, you know, He was only about loving people, not wanting them to change. Right?

The “Hanging Out” Passages

Believe it or not, Jesus did eat with sinners! It’s a fact! But what is also a fact is that Jesus didn’t simply go eat with the prostitutes, the homosexuals, the drug addicts, the tax cheats, and the drunkards in order to tick off the religious elite. His intention for dining with these people was to reveal a better Way (Luke 19:10; John 14:6).

All three of the synoptic gospels tell of a particular event, one where Jesus went to eat at the house of Matthew (see Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:15-17; and Luke 5:29-32). When the scribes and the Pharisees saw Jesus with the “unclean” crowd, they were indignant! One can almost hear the seething, sneering comments hiss from their lips as they murmured, “How is it that he eats with these publicans and sinners?”

When Jesus heard what they said, he did not respond in the way the modern activists portray Him. Jesus, the embodiment of love and compassion, did not in any way accept and affirm the sinners’ lifestyles, but referred to them as “sick” and in need of a spiritual “physician.” Imagine referring to sinners as “sick” these days! However, that is the precise reason Jesus came to “hang out” with sinners: to heal them from their spiritual diseases.

Jesus said unto the scribes and Pharisees, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

He didn’t want to leave them where they were; He actually wanted them to repent! He didn’t hang out as a sign of affirmation, but so that they could be forgiven and “sin no more” (John 8:11).

The Point

So, you see, Jesus did care about and hang out with sinners, as do most of us. But just like Jesus, because we love them, we can’t automatically affirm and support every cause that parades naked down Main Street. Like Jesus, we don’t want them to stay “sick,” we want them to be “healed.”

“This [is] a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” – 1 Timothy 1:15

Because I have had the life-changing “balm of Gilead” applied to my own sin-sick soul, why wouldn’t I want to point others to the Great Physician? Leaving people to die in their sins, never telling them there is a cure for the sickness they may not even realize they have, may be a form of affirmation, but it sure as heck ain’t love.

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Filed under Christian Living, Culture Wars, Defining Marriage, Do not judge

Perfection Not Required

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”

“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” – Luke 18:11, 13

Looking for Perfection?

God doesn’t use perfect people; He uses REAL people. Yet sadly, within the church, there are many men and women who have felt inferior and useless because of sinful and broken pasts.

They are the people who sit on the pews, week after week, doing all they can to be faithful in life, but are forbidden to hold positions in the church.  

They are much like the Publican, men and women who know they have failed before, but want to be forgiven and start new.  They are not the ones that look down on others for mistakes they’ve made. 

Genesis of Dysfunction

A while back I read through the book of Genesis in a couple of sittings.  Reading a book of the Bible that way, especially in a different translation, can help you see the story from a new perspective.  This time I was just astounded at how messed up these people really were!  There was so much “stuff” going on that if it were today, it would make an episode of Jerry Springer look tame!

Consider, if nothing else, the sad story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. This was a seriously messed up family with real marital problems.  At one point, Leah and Rachel get into a jealous argument over a son’s mandrakes.  Just imagine you were a marriage counselor and listened in to the following story…

Reuben went out during the wheat harvest and found some mandrakes in the field.  When he brought them to his mother, Leah, Rachel asked, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”  But Leah replied to her, Isn’t it enough that you have taken my husband?  Now you also want my son’s mandrakes?”

“Well,” Rachel said, “you can sleep with him tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.”  When Jacob came in from the field that evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come with me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.”  So Jacob slept with her that night. – Geneses 30:14:16 HCSB

Check this out…

  • Twice Abraham told other people that his wife, Sarah, was his sister so that he would not be harmed.
  • Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him to traveling salesmen.
  • Jacob and Esau were seriously at odds.
  • Leah, poor thing, kept trying to have children so that her husband, Jacob would love her.

And there’s more!

  • Jacob’s father-in-law, Laban, got him drunk on his wedding night and gave him the wrong wife – on purpose.
  • The son’s of Jacob (founders of ten of the tribes of Israel) lied to a bunch of men about making a covenant, then proceeded to slaughter all of them after they had convinced them to be circumcised.

It just goes on and on.  Messed up, I am telling you! MESSED UP!

Nevertheless,

God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”  How is this even possible?  

If God can use Abraham and his family with all their problems to bless the nations, then He can use ANYBODY!

 

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Filed under Abortion, abuse, Christian Living, Do not judge, Faith, General Observations, legalism, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials, World View

Things to Do In 2019: More Mercy, Compassion, and Grace

I Broke the Law

Oh, I know what you’re probably thinking. Being that I am a Christian, a preacher, and “the recovering legalist,” by breaking the law you think I’m referring to something of a spiritual or biblical nature, like eating pork, or smoking a cigar.

No, I literally broke the law! Like as in a statute recorded in a City Hall – the kind for which a police officer can arrest someone.

What did I do?

Well, this morning I drove my daughter Katie to where she is student teaching in Dayton, Tennessee. She directed me off the main highway and through a part of the town where I rarely visited.

As I came to a 4-way intersection, I looked all over for a stop sign, then up for a traffic light, but I saw nothing (which I thought was odd), so I proceeded cautiously, looking to my left, then right.

That’s when I saw the bright red light. I had just run a red light! I’m a professional driver – I don’t do that kind of thing!

And when you’re in a little 2-horse town, that’s NOT a good thing to do, especially when there’s a budget crunch!

So, why didn’t I see the light? It wasn’t where I expected it to be – nowhere close. It was on the other side of the intersection, about 6-ft off the ground. I just didn’t see it until I crossed the intersection and there it was on my right, shining at me through the passenger-side window.

Breaking Our Laws

Thankfully, there was not a police car anywhere close. I can only hope there were no traffic cameras, or else I’m going to have to pay a fine, for I did, in fact, break a law, and ignorance is no excuse.

But how often do people break OUR laws? And by that I mean the kind of regulations and legalistic standards we all have; the kind that lead us to judge others’ spirituality based on how they dress, the tattoos on their face, or what’s in their glass at the restaurant.

Even when our standards of conduct and demeanor are biblically justified, what if the other person just missed the light at the intersection? What if they never read that verse?

When you have the time, I would encourage you to read or re-read the whole chapter of Romans 14.

If the truth be known, much of the time we find ourselves judging others based on OUR laws and regulations, not the ones the Lawgiver has written. So, in reality, who are we to hold them accountable? It’s not our job.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. – Romans 14:4 ESV

This year I want to criticize less, be less judgmental, and show a little more mercy, compassion, and grace.

I know that’s what I would have wanted when I ran that red light.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christianity, Do not judge, grace, legalism

Even a Trash Can…

This is a blast from the past post, but it is a wonderful story that someone needs today. Maybe it’s you.

Saturday night, March 5th, 2011, was the day I said about a shiny, silver trash can, “I have GOT to get me one of THOSE!

For our daughter Katie’s 15th birthday, instead of a party, we bought tickets to see Chris Tomlin and Louis Giglio in concert. Chris Tomlin sang, and Louis (the “Laminin” guy from YouTube) Giglio preached. However, before Chris or Louis got up to do their stuff, a group we had never heard of took the stage. Their name? Rend Collective Experiment.

Well, I am not Irish, so maybe that’s why I don’t fully understand or appreciate Rend’s style. Frankly, it was a little weird, at first. But on the other hand, once my ears adjusted, the energy and emotion from the stage were too contagious to ignore. Thankfully, because the lyrics were projected above on screens, I was able to understand what it was that I was being compelled to sing along with. Did I say I’m not Irish? I’m not even lucky.  Anyway…

Drumsticks NOT included.

The worship experience was awesome, and I don’t use that word flippantly. I really felt the Spirit of God move, especially in my own heart, and Sunday was evidence of that. Saturday night brought renewed strength and encouragement in the faith that overflowed from the pulpit as I preached. But one thing, in particular, stood out and has been forever sealed in my memory – the silver garbage can.

I kid you not, along with all the other instruments I expected to see a live band play, like guitars and drums, a girl with more enthusiasm than a hummingbird at the sight of a bird-feeder was whacking away on a tin trash can – a garbage can. And I am not joking when I say that I am surprised the can was as tough as it was because she beat the lead out of any alloy it was made of.

I had never seen anybody play a trash can, before; yet, after an initial period of jaw-dropping amazement, my immediate thought was, “How could I get one of those in the church choir?” “Who could I get to play it?” Really, other than rhythm (which is critical), what do you need by way of musical talent to play a tin can? All you need is a willingness to make a……WAIT……

A JOYFUL NOISE!

O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. – Psalm 95:1 KJV

Some are piously thinking to themselves, “How could God have been glorified by a stinking garbage can? What rubbish!”  But God never said a joyful noise had to be made on a pipe organ, did He? When did God ever say he couldn’t be glorified by a trash can? But talk about the pot calling the kettle black – Praise our Father in Heaven!WHAT ARE WE that WE should be given the opportunity to sing praises unto the King of Glory? WE are nothing but “filthy rags!” If not for His mercy, we would still be in our sins.

But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. – Isaiah 64:6

But PRAISE THE LORD, He has chosen to use us to bring glory to His name! Just like that old trash can the girl on stage was pounding with a stick, if God chooses to use us, He can put us in just the right place, just the right context, to bring out of us a new and joyful anthem of holy celebration. Even though the world says a trash can is fit only for garbage and filth, God can take the most humble of things and elevate them to the heights of a heavenly choir! HALLELUJAH!

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, [yea], and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. … That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. – 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, 31 KJV

“How do you tune it?”

I was so blessed with that trash can that I looked over at my wife and said, “I have GOT to get me one of THOSE!” Then I looked over at my daughter and said, with the best Irish accent I could muster, doing an imitation of Rend Collective’s drummer, “That was GRRRET!” If God can use even a trash can, I know He can use you and me. Now the only question I have left, being a bassist, is “how do you tune this thing?

 

 

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Filed under Do not judge, General Observations, God, legalism, self-worth, worship

What to Wear to Church?

Clothing

Recently, I was asked to be the guest speaker at a larger, more contemporary church. Out of respect for each other, the pastor of that church and I jokingly discussed what I should wear. You see, he never wears a suit, while sometimes I do. His congregation has become more “contemporary,” while my congregation remains more “traditional.” So, to make me comfortable, the pastor told me whatever I wanted to wear was fine.

Therefore, I wore shorts and flip-flops… Just kidding.

The way I dress to go to church may not be the way you dress. My style may not suit your tastes, nor yours mine. But the fact of the matter is that you do wear some kind of clothing to church, correct? Well, have you ever wondered if what you wear to church is appropriate?

Some people have asked that question.

Below are some of my thoughts on the subject.

Keep It Simple

If you are planning to attend a worship service where God is supposed to be the center of attention, don’t dress like a clown! Don’t dress like you are going to a movie premiere in Hollywood, either (that could get expensive in a hurry, not to mention scare the kids).

Some cultures believe people should come to church in clothing that could damage someone’s retina. Gettin’ “fancied up” is what’s expected. But it’s this type of clothing, in many cases, that draws attention to the congregant, not Christ. My advice is to stay away from neon suits and flashing bow ties. Church clothing should be a covering, not a calling card.

Show Respect

Some people think it is totally appropriate to wear enough jewelry and feathers to keep pawn shops in business and all geese naked. Others think it is completely acceptable to look like a drunk that slept in an alley all night (no offense to the drunk). Neither shows a sense of respect. The first steals glory from God, while the second implies the place where we gather to worship is no different than anywhere else.

Think about it this way, for example. Receive an invitation to tea from Queen Elizabeth and show up looking like you just got out of bed and never took a shower. Unless you’re a bonafide rock star, security personnel may escort you to a private room to “get acquainted.” Therefore, if dignitaries of earthly kingdoms demand respect, why shouldn’t we offer it to our Heavenly King?

Just a thought.

Beware of Legalistic Standards

However, whatever you wear, don’t be too quick to judge another person’s spiritual condition by what they wear. Only God knows the heart.

Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. – Rom 14:4 KJV

Sadly, I have been around many believers who consider one style of clothing a sign of spiritual maturity, while another style a sign of spiritual waywardness.  And you know what’s funny? It doesn’t matter which side of the spiritual tracks, there’s always somebody looking at another thinking, “They’re not right with God.”

Legalism cuts both ways, dear friend. For example, I have been to churches that ridiculed any woman who wears pants, or a man who never tucks in his shirt. On the other hand, I have been in congregations that blatantly condemned all dress and tie-wearers as right-wing, self-righteous, fundamentalist, nut jobs. In both cases, someone judged another’s spirituality based on outward appearances, alone. In both cases, one group’s set of standards were being used as a guide to what is mature spiritual behavior, and what is not.

That’s LEGALISM.

Context, Context, Context

Ultimately, how you dress should be determined by the context of your community. Small, rural congregations might not feel comfortable dressing for church in the same way a metropolitan First Baptist may. Similarly, churches in depressed economies may adopt different dress codes than upwardly mobile societies. The key is to be respectful, honorable, and considerate of the holy moment at hand. Whatever fits that bill is good enough.

Just keep this principle in mind:  Grace accepts, Maturity develops, and Love constrains.

Don’t make appearances the only thing about which you’re concerned. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is far too important a message to be drowned in petty arguments about whether it is appropriate to dress up for church, or go dress-casual. Many people in the world have to worship Christ underground – literally. Dress codes are the least of their worries. Additionally, the drug addict who needs hope and help may not have any clothes left that he hasn’t already sold to get high. The single mother of five that walks into your church may have barely enough energy to survive, much less do her hair.

Do all things to the glory of the Lord, but keep things in perspective, OK?

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism [or be legalistic]. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? – Jam 2:1-5 NIV

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Filed under baptist, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Culture Wars, Do not judge, Independent Baptist, legalism, Southern Baptist

Being Judgmental of Angels

When questioned by a follower of Christ, people who love their immorality seem always to respond with the crème de la crème of rebuttals: “Christians aren’t supposed to judge!” Never mind they have no earthly idea what they are talking about, or where they get that phrase; with an ironically self-righteous sense of pride they just sneer and boldly showcase their biblical expertise (or lack thereof) in an effort to justify their actions.

But sadly and tragically, many Christians (if not most) barely understand what Jesus meant when He said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). It had nothing to do with reproving the “unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11); it had everything to do with not expecting to be judged with any less of a judgement than one meets out.

It’s a shame when unbelievers who know so little about Jesus are able to use Him as an excuse and intimidate Christians into silence, but it happens every day.

But what’s worse is when we Christians REALLY do what we’re accused of (i.e., make assumptions from which we cast judgment).  It happens all the time when, for example, we see a man on the side of the road with a sign that reads, “Will work for food,” and we assume he’s either too lazy to work, an alcoholic or drug addict, or looking for a way to scam somebody.

It happens when a woman walks up to our car and taps on the window, only to ask if we have some spare change, and then we assume she’s either dangerous or unwilling to get a job.

Who are we to say that what they tell us is a lie or a scam?  Is it just possible that they really do need money for a fan belt, a gallon of milk, or a bus ticket home? Is it possible that the poor man and his wife on the side of the road really did get kicked out of their house and have no place to stay but their car?

Or, is it just possible that the scruffy-looking, unkempt fellow you’re afraid to talk to is, in actuality, a heavenly messenger?  An angel? 

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. – Hebrews 13:2

Even though the jobless rate in America these days is at record lows, it is still possible the “bum” on the side of the road is actually somebody whose homeless.  Who knows for what reason he/she is there?  Are we to pass judgment upon them?  Maybe we should just love them and do what we can to help when we are confronted – or before.

In one of the same chapters that talk about not judging another unjustly are found the following verses:

Give what you have to anyone who asks you for it; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do for others as you would like them to do for you. – Luke 6:30-31 NLT

By not giving that dollar or two to the one who asks, are we not, in actuality, disobeying a direct command of Jesus?  Is it possible we are committing two sins? One would be that we did not give when asked; the other that we judged them unworthy.

It would seem to me that the better part of wisdom – not to mention a display of our faith in action – to entertain the “stranger” rather than judge him.

Who knows? He might be taking notes for his Boss…in Heaven.

 

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I Live With Animals

The following post was first published nearly 6 years ago, but nothing much has changed except location. We still live with animals; we still live in a house that’s never a showroom, and I’m once again at a computer on a Saturday morning. It’s just that this time I’ve got places to go and people to see … and messes to clean up 😉


Early Riser

Today I am up a little later than usual because it is Saturday. It is nearly 10 a.m. at the time of this writing and I am just now finishing an egg, cheese grits, and my first cup of black coffee (in my TTU mug).

I sat down at the computer for a few moments in order to study for tomorrow’s Proverbial Thought post on Proverbs 14:3. Then, as I read the next proverb, 14:4, an additional thought came to mind…

I live with animals, and I’m glad.

Furry and Furless

Animals. Now, when I say, “I live with animals,” don’t get the impression that I live in a barn, although barns are pretty nice if you remodel them. The animals I am referring to are not only the four-legged, flea-bearing, shoe-chewing canine types, but the 2-legged, child-bearing, shoe-buying female types.

Barns. Sometimes I really do think I am living in a madhouse. Other times I feel like I am living in a barn of the un-remodeled style. But most of the time I am cognizant (I went to college) of the fact that animals of all kinds make messes. Whether they be furry or furless, you can tell where animals live.

Qualifying “Messes”

Before I get into trouble, let me qualify what I meant by “messes.” My children, my wife, and I do not leave the same kind of messes lying around the house that our four-legged barn-guests are capable of. We know how to use our indoor plumbing.

The kind of mess I am talking about is just the stuff that comes as a result of living a hectic life. For example, clothes aren’t always put away; dishes get piled up; the kitchen table is a community desk, and a remote-controlled helicopter is in the china cabinet (that’s my fault…along with the clothes, dishes, and table).

But what if these messes weren’t there? What if everything in the house looked like a picture from Martha Stewart’s fake family album? Without at least some of the mess, home would be nothing more than a sanitary stable or a clean crib – and that could be bad.

Too Clean

Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.” The New Living Translation puts it this way: “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” In other words, a clean stable might be nice, but that’s not always a good thing.

This proverb is trying to tell us that in order to have the grain to make a mess, you need the messer-uppers to harvest the grain. Without the messer-uppers in the stable there will be no harvest – so quit complaining.

A strong family is a family that lives like a family, not like legalistic representation of perfection. It’s nice to have a clean house, for sure. Yet, I would rather live with a bunch of animals (myself included) in a happy barn, than like a white mouse in a sanitary laboratory.

As soon as my wife and daughters read this, my funeral will be a simple affair.

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Filed under animals, Do not judge, Homeschool, Relationships and Family