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Another Father’s Day is upon us and I can’t help but think of my dad and his rebellious lifestyle:

  • As a popular high-school football player he decided to spend his life telling others about Jesus.
  • As a young preacher he switched pulpits with one of his close friends, a young, African American preacher. In the early 1970s not many churches were doing that. I’ll never forget dad taking me to this congregation and finding a sweet, older lady for me to sit beside while he preached. I loved the joy and excitement that came from those faithful Christians. Dad taught me that it didn’t matter what color someone’s skin was. We were all family.
  • When faced with the news of having a terminal illness as a young twenty something, dad continued to preach the hope of Jesus even when he could no longer speak. He turned his diagnosis into a way to bless others.

I hope you had a rebellious father. One who looked at his world and refused to let the darkness win. One who knew Jesus and wasn’t afraid to practice what he preached.

I hope you are a rebellious father. I hope you will continue to love God and love others even in a world that doesn’t. I hope you ask God to stand guard over your mouth, your eyes, and your actions. I hope you tell your children in words and deeds that nothing matters more than following the Christ and encouraging his church. I hope you fiercefully love your wife and children and fight for them. And if you need to, I hope you will forgive your own dad for his faults.

Here’s to all the rebellious dads! Happy Father’s Day!

 

A young woman preaches grace and truth and receives death threats from other Christians.

College students are hurt by their school and then wounded even more on social media by other Christians.

A preacher spends weeks agonizing over a sermon, praying it will bring glory to God and encourage the Kingdom only to be criticized, isolated, idealized, or treated as an office manager or building keeper by other Christians.

We wonder why we’re losing our children, why no one wants to talk to us about religion, and what we can do to make things better in this world. Maybe we need to take a long look in the mirror.

We are the holy people of God which means he should be influencing our actions, reactions, and words regardless of whether they are spoken or typed.

What does holy look like when you’re faced with someone who doesn’t interpret Scripture the way you do? It looks like laying down your stones and choosing grace instead. That may mean withdrawal but it never means cruelty.

What does holy look like when someone has been offended? Regardless of your opinion on the subject, holy looks like listening and trying to understand someone else’s viewpoint and story.

What does holy look like for a church and her minister? It looks like an adequate salary for the vital role served. It means making sure they can afford quality health insurance for them and their family. It looks like good communication from and with the leadership. It means walking alongside them in their work for the Lord and not expecting them to carry the entire congregation. It means friendship, encouragement, and love.

In every relationship holiness looks like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It’s thinking Jesus and inviting him into every situation.

Church, it’s time we step up. We are God’s people. We know holy. Let’s start living it. The world is watching.

 

 

 

I received this note from a kid at school the other day. I especially like the second line. “I love God and Jesus so you have to love God and Jesus.” I can hear her attitude loud and clear and it cracks me up. This sweet, innocent child of God has some bad theology to sort out. But don’t we all?

I hope a kind soul gently breaks it to her someday that not everyone is going to love God and Jesus. I hope they go on to tell her that regardless of what others choose to believe about God (even choosing to live against God) doesn’t negate the way God expects her to respond to them. She still has to be kind to them. Still has to protect them, go the extra mile for them, feed them, visit them, walk alongside them, and help them. She still has to show them Jesus even if they refuse to see him because loving someone doesn’t mean accepting the choices they make, it means accepting the Christ and his wildly, radical call to love your neighbor.

I hope someone opens a Bible and shows her that Jesus died for us while we were still enemies so we have no excuse to exclude or mistreat ours. Maybe they’ll also show her the Gospels and she’ll realize that our Savior built a church on relationships not rules and regulations. Maybe she’ll strive to be a friend to others regardless of how or what they choose to believe. Maybe she’ll be so moved by the way Jesus loved, healed, and associated with sinners that she’ll eagerly welcome them and do the same. Maybe she’ll be so busy she won’t have time to protest, oppress, or ignore others made in the image of God.

I hope she chooses not to listen to some in the church when they say love is a nice idea but won’t work in the real world. Jesus certainly thought it would. I hope she sits with the outcasts and hears their story. She might find out they loved God and Jesus all along.

More than anything, I hope someone gently teaches this sweet kid that loving God and loving other is what we have to do and we have to do it in a way so genuine, others might even decide to love God and Jesus, too.

 

In the really gripping stories, the bad guys have some secret weapon that seems to be overwhelmingly superior in strength to anything the good guys can muster, and with a bit of cunning, the enemy will surely thwart the good guys with their diabolical weapon.  In these enthralling stories, the bad guys always have some powerful tool at their disposal that disables and immobilizes even the strongest hero. And while we know the good guys will win somehow, we never know how until nearly the end of the story.
How many times in your life have you had a well-intentioned conversation shut down with a simple, “Jesus said ‘Thou shalt not Judge”?  It seems like “who are you to judge me” or “you christian people are so judgmental” is like Kryptonite for modern believers.
In our culture, if you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable with the direction of any conversation, simply cry out, “Don’t judge me” and like a blue-statically-fizzling-forcefield, you will be protected from a distasteful dialogue, you are instantly shielded from anything incriminating and you can go along your merry way.  “Don’t judge” is your get-out-of-jail-free card, and oh, here’s your free $200 as you pass Go.
It seems like we are in quite a quandary.  They have us up against the wall.  Our hands seem tied.  Their ace in the hole has, it seems, successfully stifled us.  Who are we to judge?  What gives us the right to point out the faults in others?  Maybe they are right, and we should just mind our own business.
After all, didn’t Jesus clearly say, “Don’t Judge” and didn’t He say something about getting the log out of your own eye before you go fumbling around, swatting at a speck of dust in someone else’s eye?  Of course He did.  And isn’t it ironic that people will point to one prohibition from Jesus, that being don’t judge, to justify a lifestyle that elsewhere, had they bothered to read, Jesus would clearly denounce?  Yes it is.
My goal isn’t to let anyone off the hook here; judgmental people have issues they need to deal with, and the people being “corrected” for messing up their lives have serious issues to fix too.  Perhaps the missing piece for most people is the vulnerability factor.  Whenever we go down the road of pointing out the faults in others, we invite in some critiquing of ourselves as well.  Which after all, is not only fair, it should also be welcomed, as Proverbs 27:17 points out, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  Let’s see if we can reconcile this conundrum about do we judge or do we keep our lips sealed, and let’s see if we can remain inline with the heart of Jesus along the way.
Let’s look at what Jesus actually said in Matthew 7:1-6,
“Judge not, that you be not judged.   For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.  Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”
Number one, there are ways to address people who are screwing up their lives without being critical or harsh or hateful.  And frankly, if someone is on the train-tracks and a train is about to run them over, we have an obligation to warn them about the direction they are headed.  So, yes, just like the saying, “friends don’t let friends drive drunk,” if we care about someone, sometimes we do have to interject ourselves.  Remember, James writes, ” My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)
Also, Jesus’ famous statement “don’t judge” comes within the context where He warns about pigs and dogs, and pearls such things, in other words He requires we make judgement calls about situations and people, without sentencing them eternally.  There is a difference between judging someone and making a judgement call.  Judging someone entails we know their status with God, and we are assigning them their eternal status in heaven or hell.  Making a judgment call, on the other hand, is pointing out an observation on an objective fact without playing God.   See the difference?
The “don’t judge me” phrase being tossed around these days forgets, we do have the obligation to discern good from evil, safe from harmful, right from wrong, and this is in the context that we need to do a little self-checking along the way.  Jesus never forbids or prohibits us from stating the obvious, He simply says make sure your own lifestyle reflects someone with credibility.  Be someone worth listening to.  Don’t miss it, Jesus said once your log is out of the way, you’ll see clearly enough to help remove that irritating speck of sawdust from your brother’s eye.
Brother’s eye.  Brother’s eye?  Does this mean this passage is built on the relationships between believers, and those outside the church aren’t even at stake here?  Wouldn’t that be judgmental too, though?  Paul wrote in Romans 6:20, “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.”  Yet, if someone is outside of Christ, don’t they deserve to hear about His saving grace?  From Jude 1:22-23, it looks like yes, “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”  Perhaps christians should be held to higher standards, but everyone deserves a shot at life.
One thing is clear here, our standards which we have for others will be held up for us to uphold.  If we expect perfection from others, Jesus may just expect that out of us.  Also, it seems like it’s human nature to point out other people’s mistakes while ignoring our own, this may be one of our greatest character flaws.  But also notice, this whole paragraph requires we recognize the significance of sins, i.e., lesser & greater wrongs summed up as sawdust & logs.  And, we need to be cautious with whom we distribute holiness to and with whom we share our jewels with.  Events could turn bad quickly, and we could be endangered instantaneously if we are unable to make a judgement call.
So, you can’t have it both ways.  You can’t be a christian who lives like a hypocrite and call out the sins in others, and, you also can’t live like a reprobate pagan and quote Jesus only on the “don’t you judge me” verse.  If you want to help others live holier lives, set the example.  If you want to use Jesus’ phrase about not judging others, you need to accept the rest of His teachings as well, which call us to submit to Him and live lives of holiness.
The reality of it is, there are consequences from our actions and attitudes.  When we live in sinful lifestyles and when we are judgmental, we suffer and other people suffer.  I could be wrong, but I think Jesus teaches in this passage that being judgmental might just forfeit our own salvation.  I doubt I’m wrong about this, but I’m fairly certain that Jesus teaches several times in the Gospels sin is bad because sin separates us from the Father.
Everyone seems to think Jesus will condone whatever course of action they see fit, at the time.  Would Jesus condemn a critical person’s judging of another?  Yes, absolutely.  Would Jesus let the one being judged off of the hook because they got “judged” by some bible-thumper?  Hardly.
Maybe, if we showed more respect, lived lives that displayed unconditional love, and freely offered forgiveness, maybe people would ask us for advice or help more often?  And, maybe if we didn’t make stupid choices, people wouldn’t feel obligated to point out our mistakes.  Ouch.
Consistency, that’s usually what’s missing whenever we take the words of Jesus out of context and seek license to live however we want or treat others however we want.  Seek for better consistency, and maybe you’ll gain the credibility you desire.  I’m pretty sure consistency is the way we disarm the evil one’s secret weapon.  Now, do we cut the blue wire or the red wire…?
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