Category Archives: Do not judge

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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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Unity, Do not judge, General Observations, legalism, Uncategorized

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

13+ Things I DON’T Want To Do In 2018

Based On a Sermon

Five years ago I preached a sermon to close out the year of 2012. The following 13 points were part of that sermon: what I did NOT want to do in 2013. I reposted the list last January for 2017.

Unfortunately, numbers 10, 11, & 12 are the only ones I’ve not done; I failed on the rest. Just goes to show you why a preacher needs to preach to himself more often. Did I hear an “amen”?

But this is a new year, and all I can do is try again. The only difference is that for 2018 I’m going to take my 13 and raise me 5. Therefore, here are 13+ things I DON’T want to do in 2018.

I Don’t Want To…

1. Believe another politician. Why did I ever? I won’t do it this year, that’s for sure. Even if he/she is telling the truth, how would I know? Let God be true, and every man a liar, especially those running for office (Romans 3:4).

2. Eat more in one sitting than the average family in Africa eats in a week. (Prov. 23:21; 21:17)

3. Lie, cheat, or steal, even when it’s socially acceptable. This is especially important during tax season, but there are many times we lie to each other, deprive each other, and take what isn’t ours. Have you ever told someone you were “fine” when you actually weren’t? You lied. Used two coupons instead of one, just because the cashier didn’t notice? You stole.

4. Be angry.  Anger rarely solves anything. Angry people are miserable and always finding fault. Angry people turn a leisurely drive into a demolition derby. “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9).

5. Whine or complain. What do I have to complain about? Really?

6. Tell people how stupid they are. I don’t understand why some people act the way they do, but I need to be a little more understanding of idiots, morons, ignoramuses, and bone-headed nincompoops. They must answer to God, not me, for their actions (Rom 14).

7. Add another x to my large. I can’t afford any more clothing. Even now I must wear Hawaiian shirts year-round because nothing will stay tucked in. I mean, seriously! The last thing I need is to expand the “temple.” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

8. Lose another favorite sock. I can’t figure out how it happens, but something has to be done.

9. Waste time.  Today I listened to my two girls play with a new ukulele. They laughed and sang.  Soon they will be grown, and there will be no more music, games, or bedtime stories. “Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away” (Psalm 144:4).

10. Get a divorce.  Many do it because the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence. They don’t realize the unnatural stuff has a nasty aftertaste. I want to stay with the woman God gave me. Who could be better than a gift from God?  “Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth” (Proverbs 5:18).

11. Give one more dollar to a guy on the street….without offering the gospel as a condition. If he wants a dollar, then fine. I’ll give him $5 if he lets me tell him about Jesus.

12. Be on a reality TV show. So many people say, “Anthony, your family would make a great reality show.” I say, “Yes, I know.” However, it ain’t gonna happen. The world isn’t ready for it.

13. Forget to pray. I don’t pray enough. More is better. What I need is to follow David’s example and pray morning, noon, and evening (Psalm 55:17). I shudder to think how much I’ve given up by forgetting to spend time with God.

James 4:17  “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

Nor do I want to…

14. Have another rotator cuff surgery.  Honestly, this has not been as bad as some people said it would be, but it’s bad enough. I seriously do NOT want to go through this again.

15. Preach another boring or routine sermon. Honestly, what excuse do we have to preach anything that’s not engaging, exciting, or exalting? How dull do we have to be – or how little do we really care – to deliver the life-changing Gospel in such a way that the hearer would yawn??

16. Assume the new blue toothbrush is mine. I don’t even want to talk about it.

17. Move again. We moved twice last year, and we not even done! If I have to move again, it’s going to have to wait till 2019, not a minute earlier.

18. Waste another God-given opportunity. I’m getting too old to waste any time (and I have less than I did 5 years ago). But aside from time, I don’t want to waste any opportunity God gives me to do anything, especially tell people about Him.

 

Look for “20 Things I Want To Be Perfectly Clear In 2020” two years from now.

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Filed under Christian Living, Defending Traditional Marriage, Divorce, Do not judge, Future, God, Life Lessons, Preaching, Relationships and Family, scary new year, the future, Uncategorized

Building 429 Meets My Judgmentalism, Then Gets an Apology

The following post was first published in 2011, yet it is definitely worth revisiting. If you have not read this post, what it depicts is a perfect example of why I call myself a “recovering legalist.” Even now I cringe when I recall my judgmental, legalistic actions 6 years ago. But God’s grace doesn’t force immediate change; we grow in grace.

Some take longer than others.


The Story

For the last several weeks we have been going out to get some food after evening services. If you don’t know what I am talking about, let me explain:

Getting Food = going to a restaurant that sells stuff you could make at home for a lot less money, but tastes better and is more fun when you pay for it in the company of others.

Evening Services = gathering of believers at a local church that still takes place on Sunday nights, while most people stay home, in order to give the pastor something to do.

FoodFriday #17: Cracker Barrel - Old Country Store

Last night, after a great time of worship and hearing from God’s Word, my wife, our girls, our youth director, and I went to Cracker Barrel. When we pulled in, I noticed a really sweet Prevost tour bus sitting in the lot. I said to my wife, Valerie, “Now that has got to be a group, or a band, or something, because it takes somebody serious to keep one of those things on the road.

We gently maneuver our tired, aged frames (we’re getting old in our 40’s) out of the car and walk toward the entrance. As we walk across the front of Cracker Barrel, where all the rocking chairs are, my wife and I notice some interesting young men dressed in black. One of them had a black hat and a hairstyle that would make more than a few grannies say, “What died on your head, sonny?”

Myself? Well I am in a suit and tie. My wife? She is wearing a dress. WE are the “Reverend and Mrs. Baker,” you know. WE know how to dress on Sunday, unlike these guys. So, my wife walks past them first and gives them a forced, but gentle smile. Next, I walk by, thinking to myself, “These are definitely musicians…yep…the hair gives it away…they’re the Prevost riders.” I nod and smile.

Once inside the Cracker Barrel, my conscience started to bother me. Something wasn’t right. I have been around long enough to recognize when the Holy Spirit says, “Hey, I bear witness that those weird-looking guys out there are part of the Family.” That is when I come up with a brilliant, self-covering plan – send Katie, our 15 year old, out to see who they are.

I only had an old iPhone. And it was dark.

Katie,” I say, “go out there and ask those guys on the porch who they are or what band they’re with.”  Fortunately, and I knew this, there were others outside beside the “men in black,” so don’t think I sent my little girl out to talk to strangers, alone. She talked to strangers with other strangers there to help.

A few minutes later, Katie comes back in with the biggest smile on her face, beaming with a glow that could blind a man in sunglasses, saying, “They are Building 429!!

Now, here’s the point of all this. Here I am, someone who preaches against unrighteously judging others, especially Christians who look different (what’s normal?). What do I do? I walk right by a group of guys and assume, wrongfully, that evidently, just because they were not in suits on a Sunday night, they were a group of heathen beatniks heading to/from Nashville.  I messed up.

An Official Apology

Sorry, guys, for doing the very thing I hate seeing other people do. This is why I call myself a “recovering legalist.” Sometimes I fail. Last night I failed in a bad way. Up until last night, I had never even seen you before to recognize you in person. All I know is that the song you recorded, “Always,” is one of my favorites…I’ve shed more than a few tears while listening to it.

Please forgive my wife and I for acting like a couple of snobby, self-righteous, judgmental legalists. If I’m fortunate, maybe God will someday give this preacher some hair like yours.

May God bless you and your ministry. He WILL be with you always.

 


UPDATE: Shortly after this post was first published, Building 429 posted a link to it on their Facebook page. A little later we exchanged a few emails in which they graciously accepted my apology. I offered to buy them dinner the next time they came through town, but Jason Roy (lead singer) said that wouldn’t be necessary – then he offered me free tickets the next time they came to town! Cool, huh? But I never took him up on it – we just bought them, anyway.

Here is a more recent video from Building 429, “Unashamed.”

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Filed under Do not judge, General Observations, legalism