Reflection

Christians Need to Judge

  • Posted on April 20, 2021 at 3:41 pm

It upsets me when people throw around verses like “Judge not that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1) or “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7). Some don’t even try to be spiritual as they blurt out, “We all sin. No one’s sin is worse than another’s.” No wonder the church is in the state it’s in today!

Most of the time, I challenge people to deal with the sin in their own lives. Instead of being flippant and accepting the fact that “We all sin” and “No one is perfect,” we need to be crying out to God to show us where we are failing and change our hearts so that we can be perfect as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48). I understand that we will never attain perfection while on this earth, but if we do not repent, we will not be the overcomers that Christ has called us to be, and we may end up missing a glorious eternity with Him.

As you grow in your own walk with the Lord, you will develop discernment concerning others that are faltering and, in spite of popular opinion, it is not wrong to judge those who claim to have a relationship with Christ but are not living in accordance to that claim. Matthew 7:20 says that “By their fruit, you shall know them.”

In 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, Paul tells us:

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person (emphasis mine).

That sounds pretty judgmental to me.

As I write this, I realize that some will accuse me of being self-righteous and arrogant. I don’t know how to keep from sounding that way. The fact is that I grieve when I hear of Believers who have walked away from God or who still claim to be His child while they give in to their selfish indulgences regardless of who they hurt. I pray for them with tears sometimes. But it is not wrong to refrain from listening to teaching by someone who does not exhibit the fruits of the Spirit. And when you think, “Yeah, but I do that same thing,” that’s when the Holy Spirit should convict your heart. Just because you do the same thing does not make it OK.

Our refusal to call sin what it is is why each generation gets further and further from the Lord. Our culture no longer understands what it means to be a follower of Christ. They are told that, if they ask Jesus into their hearts, they are born again when in reality that does nothing except provide a false sense of security for those who don’t want to surrender everything they have in exchange for the life that Christ promises to His true servants.

I admit that I am upset right now. I’m tired of platitudes and cliches being tossed around by people who don’t seem to have a clue what Christianity is all about. Our biggest problem is not that the church is judgmental. The bigger problem is that it doesn’t judge. It wants to accept everyone and, in doing so, it is “loving” people into Hell.

I am not claiming perfection. I am well aware of areas that I need to grow in, and I expect that God will continue to show me more. But I want to make sure that I am being taught by people who are growing in holiness as they seek to love God with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength. I want to surround myself with those who want to please the Lord in everything that they do. I want to be an example to others who are looking for a reason to believe in Christ. I don’t want to settle for people who have the same faults that I do. Sure, I can bear with those people, knowing that God is continuing to do a work in both of us. But I want to encourage everyone to keep running the race. Be faithful. When you fall, get up, repent, and keep running.

I often recommend The Walk of Repentance Bible study because that is the heart of the Christian life. If you are comparing yourself with others, Scripture says that that isn’t wise (2 Corinthians 10:12). Instead, God’s Word should be your guide. Galatians 5:22-23 is a good place to start, but the whole Word of God will tell you what is acceptable to God and what isn’t, regardless of whether or not it’s currently accepted in society.

In summary, I encourage you to definitely get the plank out of your own eye before dealing with the speck in your Brother’s eye (Luke 6:42). Don’t be like the pastor who preached strongly against adultery not long before being caught with a prostitute. No, this is not about hypocrisy. It is about raising the standard, explaining to your children the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, sin and righteousness. It is about challenging others to raise the bar with you. If you know someone who struggles with the same sin you do, see if he or she is open to being your accountability partner so that you can both find freedom from that sin. I am not advocating that everyone begin to look down on others for their shortcomings. Not at all. But I am saying that it is not wrong to confront professing Christians who are living in sin. Perhaps in doing so, you will save them from the fire (Jude 1:23) instead of being partially responsible for their demise (Ezekiel 3:18).

Sunday Has Arrived

  • Posted on April 4, 2021 at 4:29 pm

 

Jesus’ followers just experienced the worst weekend of their lives. They were going about as normal, celebrating the annual Passover, laughing, joking, and probably even arguing a bit, and now their mentor and closest friend had been brutally murdered. That must have continued to hang over them as they observed the Sabbath. They had to stay home on that day and do no work, which included going to check on the tomb of their beloved. As soon as Sunday rolled around, however, a couple of women did go to the tomb and were shocked to find the stone rolled away from the entrance with no body inside. They ran to tell the disciples who thought there must be some mistake! So Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves. The women were right! This could only mean one thing: Jesus had risen! He promised He would, and He kept His word once again! Reactions varied from different ones who heard the news. Some believed while others doubted. I imagine I would have been in the latter camp. How could a man who was so obviously dead come back to life? And yet He did.

No one alive back then could have imagined everything that Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplished, but praise the Lord, because He lives, we too can live. He left us an example to follow, to be holy as He was holy. He showed us how to pray, how to be led by the Spirit, and how to rebuke self-righteous Pharisees when necessary. If He had remained dead, His followers would probably not have written down His works. There would be no need for us to study Him. Sure, we could take note of Him being a good man, but He was so much more than that.

As Sunday draws to a close, I would like to challenge each of us to examine His life, to learn to live as He lived, to love as He loved. Let’s strive to be more like Him than ever before. Let’s make sure that, as far as we are concerned, He did not die in vain.

The Darkest Night

  • Posted on April 2, 2021 at 7:24 pm

The trial continued throughout the night. I imagine this was unusual. In ordinary circumstances when the masses wanted a person dead, I expect that it didn’t take long to convict him, but this trial was different. Historians say that Pilate was not a nice man. He was a Roman. He delighted in torturing and killing Jews and yet there was something about Jesus that made him hesitant and so he stalled, hoping to find a way to release him. At one point, Pilate reminded the crowd that they could choose to release one prisoner. “Whom do you want me to release to you?” Pilate asked. “Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” To Pilate’s amazement, the people asked for Barabbas to be released. A known criminal to be set free while a man whose only crime was honesty was sentenced to death. Although Pilate didn’t like it, he was a coward and so he finally gave the command for Jesus to be crucified.

Crucifixion has to be the most horrendous form of torture and death which was ever invented by any regime, but this was the means by which Jesus would suffer. I’m sure my readers are familiar with everything that took place between the trial and the crucifixion. If you’re not, you will find it detailed in every Gospel. Matthew 26 may be a good place to start.

As hard as it was for Jesus to go through everything He went through, I expect the worst part is going through all that and people not caring. Sure, more people may attend church on Christmas and Easter than any other day of the year, but that is to appease their own conscience. It has nothing to do with gratitude for what Christ has done for them. They don’t seem to recognize, as Rusty Goodman put it, that “had it not been for the old rugged cross … then forever my soul would be lost.” Jesus didn’t die so that we could be happy and live in ease. He died so that, when we surrender to Him, we can be holy and have eternal life with Him.

Every year around the new year and my birthday, I take time to ponder my life and ask God to show me areas that I need to grow in. Easter is also a good time to examine our hearts in light of God’s Word and make sure that we are living as He desires us to live, that our hearts and minds are pure, and that we are fully surrendered. I don’t believe that we can do those things too often. It’s easy to get into fleshly ruts instead of seeking to be daily filled with the Spirit.

Let’s not fritter away this weekend. Like most of you, I have things to do tomorrow, but I plan to set aside a time to focus on Jesus, the life He lived, and the purpose of His death. I want Him to continue to change me into His image so that I can be a light for Him. I hope that is your desire as well.

 

Photo by Duncan Sanchez on Unsplash

A Dark Night

  • Posted on April 1, 2021 at 7:52 pm

April 1st. A day when many are pulling pranks on friends and family while others are reflecting on the night Jesus and the disciples shared before He was crucified. Maybe your day has included a little of both.

I can only imagine what Jesus must have felt like eating with His disciples, full of heaviness concerning what the next morning would bring while His disciples were totally oblivious. It wasn’t that He hadn’t tried to prepare them. He had. But there was no way that they could grasp the gravity of the situation.

Maybe they thought that He was being overly dramatic. Maybe God in His mercy kept them from understanding what was about to take place until they absolutely had to know. Regardless, His words about dying and leaving them seemed to go through twelve ears and out the others. Jesus must have felt so alone sitting at supper that night.

More amazing than anything was the fact that, when they asked Jesus who it was that was going to betray Him, He told them, and they totally missed that too.

A while later, He and eleven of His disciples went out to Gethsemane. He allowed Peter, James, and John to go with Him a little further and asked them to watch and pray with Him. I expect that they still didn’t grasp what was happening or they probably couldn’t have slept. Here Jesus was surrounded by His closest friends, but He was functionally alone during His greatest trial. He woke them up a couple of times and then finally let them sleep, knowing they would need their rest to get through the days ahead.

I can only imagine the terror they felt when they were rudely awakened by an angry mob wielding swords and torches. Peter sprang into action, taking his own sword and cutting off a soldier’s ear. He no doubt thought this was when Jesus would rise up and overthrow the Roman government, with some help from His followers of course. But He could not have been more mistaken. Instead, Jesus told Peter to put his sword away. Then He healed the soldier’s ear!

Later that evening, as Peter was in the distance, trying to see what would become of Jesus, he denied three times that he had known the One that he had once called Lord. After hearing the rooster crow, Peter’s heart smote him, and he wept in remorse. Judas, on the other hand, realizing that he had made a grave mistake, went out and hung himself. Jesus would have graciously forgiven Judas, but instead of asking, Judas ended his life.

Scripture doesn’t record where most of the other disciples were at this point. I expect they had gone into hiding. And who could blame them? The Romans were not a people that one would want to spar with. If they arrested Jesus, it wouldn’t be long before they would go after His followers.

And so the evening ends. Jesus is on trial, His followers are scattered. One disciple is dead, and one is full of remorse. Surely, things can’t get any worse. Or can they?

Becoming Mature

  • Posted on March 26, 2021 at 8:11 pm

“A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” ~Proverbs 16:9

For as long as I can remember, I have not liked change. This includes change of plans. If I know that I cannot do something that I’d really like to do, I can usually deal with it. If I am planning to do something and then something comes up so that I can’t follow through with my plans, it is really hard for me to handle. In the last few months, I have had several changes to plans, and yet it has been obvious that God was redirecting. This does not always make it easy, but I find that He is giving me the grace to accept His will which is not always what I had planned.

It is easy to sing “Take my will and make it Thine,” but it is not easy to mean it. Deep down, the majority of people still desire to have their own way. “I surrender all” becomes something we think we mean until we are asked to do so. I have learned, however, that true joy comes from following the Lord regardless of what He asks.

Years ago, someone told me that maturity is when you can laugh at yourself. At the time, I thought I’ll never be mature then. But now I often tell on myself when I do something stupid as I can see the humor in it. And you know what? People really don’t love me any less.

It’s fun to watch children as they desire to get bigger. Some moms get a tape measure to track their child’s growth. I expect the child doesn’t realize how big he is getting until he compares the mark on the wall that measures his current height to the line which was made a year ago. So it is in spiritual growth. I know for myself that I get frustrated by the areas in which I am not seeing progress, but every once in a while, I realize that I responded differently to a situation than I would have once upon a time, and what rejoicing there is as I thank the Lord for continuing the work that He has begun in my life.

I don’t know where you are at in your Christian walk. Maybe you are full of overcoming victory. I expect some are discouraged by the lack of growth that they see. Whatever you do, do not give up. When you fail, acknowledge it, ask for forgiveness and help to conquer that area, and move forward. Maturity does not mean doing everything perfectly, but it does mean responding appropriately. I am still being stretched. My routine is currently disrupted. I continue to seek God daily for wisdom about the plans I’m making this year. I expect I’ll have more plans I will need to change. But I trust that I am growing in all of these and that He who began a good work in me will complete it (Philippians 1:6), and He will do that for you as well.

Second Timothy 1:7

  • Posted on March 4, 2021 at 12:50 pm

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  ~2 Timothy 1:7

I wish I could quote this verse to everyone who is fearful these days. Whether it’s fear of getting COVID, fear of losing a loved one, or worry about how they are going to pay bills, fear is running rampant and, unfortunately, some are turning that fear to blame. Blaming friends, the government … anyone they can think of in order to let out some deep-seated frustration and anxiety. I understand where these emotions are coming from, but I encourage you to turn that fear into prayer. God is able to meet every need beyond what you can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). The problem is that we don’t often ask.

David Livingstone trod the dangerous jungles of Africa because he believed that nothing could harm him until it was God’s time to take him Home. I agree with his assessment where Spirit-led children of God are concerned. If you are seeking Him and His Kingdom, you must trust Him to complete the work that He has begun in you. God is not obligated to protect you from your own foolishness, but He will lead you in the paths that He desires you to go and will give you peace in the midst of your storms if you will but look to Him to do so.

Please know that I am not making light of your situation. I am not even saying that you don’t have a reason to be concerned. I just want to encourage you to turn your fear and anxiety to prayer and trust. God is able.

You Are Making a Difference

  • Posted on February 18, 2021 at 8:30 pm

I don’t know about you, but I often wonder if I am impacting anyone’s life. I feel like I do my best to encourage others and hold a standard in order to be an example but, at the end of the day, does anyone notice or do they just pass me off as a crazy lady? I expect many times that it’s the latter, but lately, I have been reminded that people really do pay attention more than it may seem. Humanly, it would just be nice to receive proof before I’m lying in a cold grave somewhere.

If you’re a parent, it can be especially tiring as it seems like everything goes into your child’s ear and out the other, but I expect that they are catching more than you realize. It may take 20 years for you to see how much influence you really had, but I imagine that it’s there just the same.

Maybe you are trying to be a light to your work or community. Don’t stop. I know the battle can be weary and oftentimes thankless, but your Father in Heaven is watching, and He will be glorified through your faithfulness.

Walking in the Spirit is not always easy, but it is vital. You have been placed where you are for a purpose, and that purpose is to bring glory to the Father. This comes through exhibiting fruit that only He can give: peace, joy, love, gentleness, patience, kindness, self-control. Every time you give into the flesh whether it’s through your language, your attitude, the tone of your voice … you are discrediting the God that you profess to serve.

So, my friend, I want to encourage you to keep pressing on. Don’t give up. Don’t become discouraged. You are most likely making a difference more than you realize. Let’s pray that those who come behind us find us faithful. And let’s continue to encourage each other to love and good works.

Make Your Requests Known

  • Posted on January 26, 2021 at 9:36 pm

Have you ever prepared for a vacation, praying fervently that it wouldn’t rain so that your family could make the most of the beach or monuments or whatever else you had planned? While you prayed against the rain, I can imagine someone in that same region praying for rain to cool off the summer or water the drought. This is how I feel when I pray for our president and against some of the laws that he wants to institute. While I ask God to keep some things from coming to pass, I know there are others who want these things to take place. So, what should I do? Stop praying since whatever will be will be? I don’t think so.

Philippians 4:6 tells us:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

I feel like that is God’s message to us in this season. Do not fear the future but, instead, talk to God. Let Him know what concerns you and boldly pray against the things that you know do not please Him or even the things that would present a hardship for your family. If there are things you would like to see happen, ask Him for those things. There’s a reason that God is called a righteous Judge. I can picture him in Heaven, listening to the petitions of one side and then hearing the cries from the opposing side. I expect that sometimes He weighs His decision based on the fervency of the prayers. But, ultimately, He answers according to what is best for His children in the long run, and that which will most completely accomplish His plan.

I have friends who are happy with the way the election turned out while others think this is God’s judgment and are preparing for the End Times. Regardless of which camp you are in, I hope that you will not become complacent. Our work does not end at the polls. We need to daily make our requests known, striving to be led by the Spirit instead of being guided by fear. When you see answers to your prayers, rejoice. Thank Him for those answers, but don’t stop praying for our leaders. Pray that God will guide them and turn their hearts to Him. And don’t view those who see things differently as your enemy. Christians need to band together and encourage each other while seeking to be a light to a dark and depressed world.

 

Photo by Alessio Lin on Unsplash

Love Mercy

  • Posted on January 21, 2021 at 8:34 pm

I have adopted Micah 6:8 as one of my life verses:

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

I pray often that God will help me to walk humbly in His sight, but I wonder, What does it mean to love mercy?

As a teenager, I thought of this verse in conjunction with my sister Mercy. I knew it was not really referring to a person, but there were days that I had a hard time loving her. She is 8 1/2 years younger than I am, and she thrived on annoying me. Then again, it didn’t help that I was easily annoyed. Fortunately, I let her live to see adulthood, and we have become good friends. We are still different in a lot of ways, but we are definitely sisters. We are both grateful for God’s mercy toward us, and we strive to extend that same mercy towards each other (which is not nearly as difficult as it used to be).

Probably the most quoted passage on “mercy” is Matthew 5:7:

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.

Luke 6:36 tells us to:

Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

So what is “mercy”?

Dictionary.com defines it as “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.”

The first examples that come to mind are parent and child relationships. In my case it was a sibling. Or it might be a boss with an employee. If you are working for someone and you make a mistake, I’m sure you would like him to be gracious to you instead of firing you on the spot. But mercy can be extended to everyone you know. Even if you are not in authority over a person, you may find yourself tempted to slander him or her or to get even with someone who has hurt you. Instead of acting on those impulses, it would be better to take a deep breath and remind yourself that, just as you are in need of mercy, so is the person who has wronged or inconvenienced you.

I like how Micah 6:8 tells us to love mercy. This goes beyond just appreciating it when people show mercy to me. Joy should well up inside me when I see mercy extended to others as well. I should love granting mercy to those in need of it. I realize this is not easy, especially in a highly charged political climate these days. But if you love the Lord, this should be your posture. Life is not all about you. It is about how you can honor God by showing mercy and forgiveness to others. When you feel pride rising up and wanting to take offense or hold a grudge, remind yourself that sometimes you are the one in need of mercy and strive to treat others as you desire to be treated. Let’s let this world truly see Christ!

 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Bible Study Review

  • Posted on December 21, 2020 at 5:16 pm

I hope you are having a blessed December. After a moderate fall temperature-wise, we are finally getting the cold temperatures that Michigan is used to this time of year. I don’t prefer cold weather but I try not to complain since every season serves a purpose.

Last week I wrote up a review of the Bible studies that Family Renewal (the company I work with) sells to send to our email list, and I thought I would share this with you all as well.

Years ago, I didn’t see the importance of Bible studies or devotionals but I have changed my mind on that. Although I read my Bible every day, and I read through the Bible to make sure I don’t miss anything, it can still be easy to read over a lot since it is so familiar. For me, going through a Bible study causes passages to jump out at me that I may not have noticed before. It forces me to slow down as I read the Word so that it becomes life. I have opted to do my studies at night before I go to bed so that I can ponder them if I need to instead of jumping into my day and forgetting what I’ve read. I don’t do this every night, but I like having a study that I can pull off my shelf and dig deep in order to examine my heart through the light of God’s Word.

So without further ado, let me describe the studies that have been a blessing to me and help you to choose the one that is right for you.

A Lamp Unto My Feet is a study on Psalm 119. I view this as a starter study. If you are new to Bible studies or if you have a teenage son or daughter who would be interested in studying, this could be a good place to begin. Psalm 119 is all about loving God’s Word and His laws. I found myself worshiping as I went through this study. You will be inspired and encouraged each day.

He Leads Me Beside Still Waters is on the book of Psalms. This too is an encouraging study. You will meditate on various Psalms, answer questions, and then it will suggest another Psalm that you can read. I feel like we can learn a lot from David since Scripture called him a man after God’s own heart. Psalms is a good place to begin.

Pressing On Toward the Heavenly Calling is a deeper study which goes through the epistles. Then at the end of each week, you will read a portion of Acts and learn a little more about Paul’s life.

The above are all 12-week studies, but if you are someone who has walked with God for a long time and is strong in your relationship (or want to become so), I highly recommend a 24-week study titled The Walk of Repentance. I have gone through this three times in the last 15 years or so. Two of those times, it took me over a year to finish. It’s hard-hitting, as it covers topics such as Biblical Submission, The Repentant Heart, The Lifestyle of Repentance, The Process of Repentance, Overcoming Self, Overcoming the Flesh, Controlling the Tongue, Double-Mindedness, Biblical Love, Biblical Forgiveness … just to name a few. 🙂 Each of those topics takes a week and within those weeks, you will be looking at root issues. For instance, the week of Biblical Forgiveness, you will learn about “Our Need for Forgiveness,” “Appreciating Our Forgiveness,” “The Basis for Forgiving Others,” “Commanded to Forgive,” and “Handling an Offense.” See what I mean? It’s not for wimps, but you are diving into the Word in a way that a lot of people have probably never done. This can also be a good counseling tool. There is very little commentary as you are looking up Scripture verses in whichever version of the Bible you use and writing down what the Bible says about each topic.

The newest additions to our Bible study line are some studies for women. The Word Study Scripture Journal for Ladies and The Word Study Scripture Journal for Young Ladies are designed for mothers and daughters to study together or individually. Each week begins with a hymn. Then each day, you will read a scripture verse, write it down, do a word study, write down the practical application, and keep a prayer journal. Although that sounds like a lot, I expect that most days will not take more than 15-20 minutes.

All of these studies are on sale through the end of the month so you will want to order right away.

Although they are not Bible studies per se, I would also like to mention my brother’s books Questions God Asks and Questions Jesus Asks. I mentioned that I do Bible studies at night, but in the morning, after my regular Bible reading, I like to read a devotional or a book that will help me to focus on the Lord. These can be perfect for that. They may be used in family devotions or individual study. They could also make good gifts for your pastor or small group leader. We are currently selling them as a set for $19.99 or you may purchase them individually.

Thank you for taking time to read my Bible study review. I hope that you will find at least one study that will help you to grow in your walk with the Lord this coming year. After the year we just had, I think we could all stand to refocus and remember that this world is not our final home. Let’s not neglect to draw ever closer to our Father, looking into His wonderful face until “the things of earth become strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

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