May 24, 2017

I was once asked to give the opening presentation at a weekend for parents who were looking for some help or direction with raising children. I began with something like this:

“There are at least three groups of people who know more about raising your kids than you do.

  1. People who have never had children.
  2. People who had children 40 years ago.
  3. People whose children are the most misbehaved brats on the planet.

There may be others but few will be more outspoken then the three above.”

This same principle of naiveté also applies to those who want to tell me about what it means to be a Christian. I’m talking of course about those who have no clue about the Faith, but of course, they think they do.  You know… those who quit coming to church years ago because “Church goers are just a bunch of hypocrites”; or those who quit coming because they didn’t like the pastor.  Meanwhile, that pastor left 10 years ago.  Or those who have had a few too many and want to spout off about their thoughts on God.

Maybe what I have heard most over the years is something this, “You can’t judge other people!” And then in a sarcastic, smarmy, self righteous voice, “And you call yourself a Christian!”  And if they are really smart they might reference Matthew 7.  Or at the least they will reference verse 1.

1Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

It only takes a cursory look at these verses to realize they are about hypocrisy, not judgment, i.e., don’t be a hypocrite! If you have sin in your life, don’t judge others for the same thing.  Get your life together before casting aspersions on others.  These verses are not proof texts regarding judging!

Let me ask maybe a different question. Do you believe that forgiveness is a practice commanded in the Bible?  For sure it is!  Matthew 6:15  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.  And numerous other verses I might add.

Here’s the question. How do you forgive or what do you forgive, if there is not a judgment made about the other person’s behavior?  What do you forgive if you have not made a “judgment” that the other has “sinned against you?” With no judgment there is no need for or grounds for forgiveness. Imagine in a courtroom the judge saying, “Your penalty is life imprisonment.”  Someone then questions why there is a penalty at all.  What does the judge say if there has been no judgment of guilt made?  He can’t say anything.  That’s why courts have to make a judgment.  There is no court if there is no sense of judgment.  There is no declaration of guilt or innocence if there is no judgment.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that your judgment or mine is infallible.  After all, just like secular courts, we can make mistakes.  But we cannot live life without making judgments… constantly… regularly…. repeatedly….  I would also say that for Christians our judgments need to come from loving and kind hearts.  WE ARE NOT THE WORLD!  Get it?  WE ARE NOT THE WORLD!  If you don’t hear anything else today hear this:  We are not called to judge as the World judges.  We are called to judge as God judges… from a position of love.

How are you doing with that?



June 4, 2015

I have heard people say over the years that they have “no regrets” about their lives. REALLY?! I mean “NO REGRETS”?! Nothing they have done that they wish they had done differently? Um… I guess those people are… something… but “honest”? I don’t think so. I understand that someone might say, “I have learned from everything I have experienced and I am who I am because of those things,” but that doesn’t really address the issue of regrets. At least in my mind it doesn’t. The only way to not have regrets from my way of thinking is to make the world about yourself and care little for how your behavior and actions might harm or hurt others. But that’s just me.

Personally, I have tons of them… regrets I mean. Times when I have said things that hurt others. Times when I have gossiped about others. Occasions when I was misunderstood and caused embarrassment or pain for someone. Or times when I was clearly understood and caused embarrassment or pain. Opportunities that I have missed. Things that I put off for too long. Times when I did things as a dad that my kids will remember forever in a less than positive light. Things I have done to hurt Ellen. Occasions when I dishonored God. Times when I have just been plain old SELFISH. Like I said…, there are many regrets.

I try not to dwell on them. I attempt to work through them and not allow them to affect my present. Sometimes I’m better at that than other times.

I recall an occasion a few years ago where I hurt someone. It was unintentional and frankly a simple misunderstanding that should have been easily corrected. I spoke to that person and explained my intention and said, “In any way that I might have offended or hurt you, I ask that you would forgive me.” Honestly those words can be hard to say. This person chose not to forgive. To this day they hold the offense against me. I hurt over that when I think of it and I for sure regret what happened.

There have been times in the church over the years where decisions were made and folks didn’t agree with them or like them, thus I became the “bad pastor” in their eyes. I feel bad about those things. I also know that I am not infallible, so sometimes (not always) decisions are made that I look back on later and wish I could change. Regrets. And I have had many of those people also choose not to forgive me. I do know that their decision to withhold forgiveness actually hurts them and those they claim to love. It has little to do with me.

Yeah, there is surely yucky stuff in my life that I would change if I could go back. Regrets. That’s the bad news. But allow me to share some good news. I worship a God who does forgive me! He does not hold things against me. He doesn’t whip me with guilt. He doesn’t cause me to hang my head in shame. He doesn’t talk about me behind my back in a less than kind way. He doesn’t cause me to go through life in disgrace or with feelings of humiliation… at least not from His perspective. Thankfully I am responsible to Him and Him alone. (Psalm 51: Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.) To those who would withhold forgiveness from another person, you are broken. Come to the Lord and ask for His forgiveness. He will show you how.

We sing a song in church occasionally that’s based on Psalm 3. The song and the Psalm are below.

A Shield About Me

Thou Oh Lord are a shield about me, You’re my glory, You’re the lifter of my head. (repeat)

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, You’re the lifter of my head. (repeat)

Psalm 3
A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.
1 LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.” 3 But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
4 I call out to the LORD,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.
5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
6 I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.
7 Arise, LORD!
Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.
8 From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.

You see, we worship a Lord who lifts our head high, not one who beats us down. If you are beaten down, overcome by regret, and immersed in guilt…, come and bring your sin before my God… He will love you and lift your head.

From the Lord comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.