Our standards have a way of creeping up on us when we least expect them, especially when when our children remind us of them. “But Daddy, you said people like that go to hell. Are they in Hell Daddy?” Ouch.

I’d like to think I’ve mellowed a bit over the years, but I’m not perfect. I used to believe suicide was a certain ticket to the realm of the wicked, simply because a suicide’s last act is murder, but now I know that not everyone is thinking clearly when they decide to kill themselves, nor can we know their state of mind after the fact. Do some not immediately regret their decision? Do some not immediately repent?

These are positions I would not have understood when I was young and idealistic. When I saw the world as more black and white. It’s taken time and experience to understand that people don’t work that way.

So now when I run into folks whose lifestyles and positions I don’t agree with, I don’t jump to conclusions as to the kind of person they are. I can’t know that. I may make snap judgments based on the type of person I come into contact with, but I have learned that my first impressions are subject to change.

So where am I going with this? This particular text has been used and abused by Christians and non-Christians alike. The phrase “Do not judge” I would argue has been applied back to Christians by non-believers citing this verse as a defense for whatever they want to do. Christians, they argue, have to say in one’s behavior, because Christians aren’t to judge.

So what kind of judgment is in view here? The key to understanding this text is the word translated “standard” which point to actions or activity. The Bible also says, “a tree is known by its fruit.” (Matt 12:33) You can tell what kind of person you are dealing with by observing their actions. You can tell if you want to associate with a person based on their fruit and the personal standards you have for fruit-bearing. We do this all the time, and we don’t even think about it because its ingrained in us to use this kind of judgment to base relationships.

But as in all things, we can takes this to extremes. What Jesus warns us here about isn’t about judging per se, but using an overly critical standard by which to judge. Do you see the fruit and immediately that such a person is a bad person, or do you give them the benefit of the doubt? Would you want someone else to give you time to get to know them, to know your story before they decide they don’t like you? The warning is about jumping to false conclusions based on little information. The command isn’t so such to judge (which we all do) but against being judgmental. We all have standards and ought to practice them. The Scripture also warns us against hanging out with “bad company” because “bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Cor 15:33)

So as you interact with others today, be careful not to jump to quick conclusions about people. Give them time to tell their story, and you then earn the right to tell yours. You earn the right to tell them about Jesus. God is calls us to make connections with people and introduce them to the Savior. As you go today, make disciples. Make friends of God’s children, but watch that you too will not be distracted from your mission.

God bless you today


A Good Lawyer

1 John 2:1-2
I know it’s probably an oxymoron, especially if you’ve had to deal with lawyers on either side of the bench, but having a “good lawyer” is something most of us need at one time or another. A few years ago, I needed a good lawyer to help me through an insurance situation.
I had been driving up to church on a rainy Sunday morning. On a two-lane highway that there usually wasn’t much traffic on this time of day. I’m a little tired, staying up late the night before finishing up my sermon. My eyes are droopy, so I lean over to turn up the radio. When my eyes return to the road, stopped in front of me preparing to turn left was an 18-wheeler. I was going 55. I had just a few dozen yards to stop, and I pounded the brake. My tires squealed on the wet pavement and my car fishtailed. I finally stopped the car, but not before the front end went under the bumper of the truck. The car was still running, and the damage was primarily to the bumper and grille. But my car door was bent in such a way that it would not open. The driver of the truck got out to check on me. We had the police come and check on us, but I was able to drive away to church, a bit late, but ok. (The car was later totaled out.)
A few months later, I got a letter in the mail stating that I was being sued for medical bills. With a little investigation, the one suing me was the driver of the truck! Suddenly, I needed a lawyer. I called my insurance company and they sent me up to the road to a lawyers office, who asked me several questions about the incident. It was later determined that the driver of the truck was in arrears on his medical bills and that his lawyer recommended he proceed to sue anyone who may have been involved in an accident with him. Hmmm. The case was dismissed.
However, the case against us is much stronger. We stand before God with blood on our hands. We are guilty of sin and the law is clear. We deserve death. But, and this is a very important interjection, we have a GOOD lawyer. We have an Advocate who knows the Judge. In fact, there is an unfair relationship that the Judge willingly exploits for our benefit. The Judge will let us off, in fact will erase our entire record, If we allow Jesus to be our lawyer. This sounds like a no-brainer to me, no thought needed. Ah, but there is a catch. Of course. The catch is you have to live your life as the Advocate continues to counsel us. They may make you think a little bit. But I hope you don’t think too long. There is far too much at stake here. Because if you think rejecting His offer is better for you, there is no one else. The Plaintiff is Satan. He stands before God accusing you of sin. If you do not have Jesus as your Defender, there is no one else. You may think you can stand before God without a lawyer, but there is no defense you can offer, no amount of good you can do that will be enough.
What Jesus offers in your defense isn’t a grad retelling of how good you are, but He intercedes for you, interposing Himself between you and God, asking God to take His righteousness in exchange for you. What we forget that is God’s justice demands payment. Even when Jesus pleads our innocence, He in turn takes our punishment. He did this on the cross.
He offers to you the opportunity to take His innocence, His righteousness as your own. He offers to take your punishment for you, if you will accept it. Believe in Jesus as your Advocate, your “Good Lawyer” before God, your Savior. Repent of the sins which continue to condemn you and “go and sin no more”. Confess before men that Jesus if your Defender before God, the One, Living, True Son of God. Then be baptized into the Church and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to receive forgiveness for your sins and receive the gift of eternal life.
God bless you today. Please comment if you have any questions!

Bad News

I hate being the bearer of bad news. I would rather be the one who brings good news, or as the Bible says, “beautiful are the feet of them that bring good news.” But news is not always good, and sometimes it takes bad news to truly understand how good the good news is.

This is a truth in the gospel story. I have become a bit annoyed at the constant spreading of the “good news” about grace and love and peace through Christ. It is all I ever hear from my church and others. All of that is well and good. But frankly it is meaningless without the bad news, that we are all guilty of sin. I have no way to measure God’s grace without knowing the measure of my guilt before Him. As Jesus said, “those who are forgiven little, love little.” (Luke 7:47) I am afraid that we are raising a host of Christians who aren’t guilty so much of sin as they are “illness” or “bad decisions” or “addictions”. They have been offered change and healing, but what meaning does forgiveness have for someone whose life stresses are defined as being a victim instead of being responsible for the hurt he suffers?

It is very frustrating to see that people aren’t seeking salvation from sin, death and judgment, but from bad life choices. Weakening the role of sin, rebellion against God’s righteous standards, doesn’t help us appreciate His grace more. Thus we emphasize the role sin plays in our lives to the point that we have been spared Hell and given much grace. We act out of gratitude for God’s sparing us from the horrors of eternal damnation. Our preaching needs a bit of Hell’s fire to help us understand the stakes of our salvation. It strengthens the cross and the blood of Jesus, the love of God in sending Him to DIE in our place.

Last night in our Bible Study, we were looking in Acts 24. Paul was regularly called to the court of Felix the governor. Felix liked to listen to him until Paul starting about about three things: righteousness, self-control, and judgment. These messages aren’t popular today either. May I submit that as people of God, we always keep the message of God on our lips, always love and be gracious. But never water down the good news of Jesus by leaving out the bad news.

God bless you today.

Where Two or Three are Gathered

There is a running joke in my house that our County Judge Executive always seems to be present where “two or three are gathered” because he always attends any sort of public event, regardless of the crowd. We laugh because it’s often true.

However, I’ve also heard this verse to justify small gatherings of Christians, very small gatherings. If two or three Christians show up for Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting or Bible Study, this verse gets pulled out of context and employed to justify our own presence at the meeting, sometimes with an eye of condemnation for those that failed to show up.

So what does this verse mean? So in the context of Matthew 18, it is the subject of judgment within the church if someone has sinned against you, you are to confront them personally with the sin. If they are not repentant, you are to bring them before the elders, and if not then, before the whole church. If as a church, such a one does not repent, then such a person is to be excommunicated and withdrawn from the fellowship. The idea is that if even two or three are witness to this unrepentance and approving of the excommunication, Jesus is also present, as this unity of decision indicates the presence and agreement of Jesus. The passage is far darker than we usually see applied. It is a hard passage to interpret, and I’ve only given one of a few possibilities. But in short, it seems where two or three are gathered, they may act in unison and pass judgment in the name of Jesus.

It’s funny that this is not the style of church judgment we see employed by the apostle Paul, who in Galatians 2 confronted Peter publicly for refusing to be seen with Gentiles after certain Jews showed up. Peter’s sin was public, so Paul confronted him in kind. There were no private meetings behind closed doors. Public sins have to be addressed publicly?

On the one hand we have Jesus’ explicit teaching. On the other we have Apostolic example. There is something here that may get into another time, but we have enough today to get you to thinking. There are other examples, like 3 John where John tells the church to be rid of a person who was causing trouble. We have 1 Cor 5 where Paul demands the removal of a person living in public sin.

The is probably a book about this somewhere. Remember that this verse is more than about the size of gatherings or about when Jesus shows up.

God bless you and your walk today.

A Plague of Purpose


Exodus 9:14

“For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on our servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth.”God’s purposes for plagues, natural disasters and war are to warn us.When you get sick, or you just don’t feel well, you may not consider God’s role in your illness, nor even consider yourself serious enough to add to the prayer list. More serious illnesses and health problems interrupt our lives long enough to realign our perspectives, and force us to consider God’s role and power to heal. That’s when we ask the “why” questions. But what about epidemics or plagues where many people are sick? Some time ago, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa came to our shores. This disease crossed national borders and exists as a threat in this country. The first, limited supplies of Z-mapp, an experimental drug developed by an Owensboro company, quickly ran out, and the disease threatened our doorstep. The Herald-Leader website published an article October 2nd about two patients that had “Ebola-like” symptoms, but thankfully did not have Ebola. They had, however, been to Liberia in West Africa recently.

Why doesn’t God stop this plague? We can know positively that if God wished He could. Thus the opposite here may be true. He does not wish to stop it yet. It has not fulfilled its purpose. God’s purposes for plagues, natural disasters and war are to warn us. They are reminders that we can’t keep living as if there is no God. Despite all the nuclear warheads in our arsenal, soldiers in our ranks, or bullets in their guns, not one is effective in stopping a plague. No Air Force in the world can stop a hurricane, nor Army a famine. God demonstrates His power over our world by reminding us of just how powerless we are.

Yet, He demonstrates His love toward us by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us. Even when we were His enemies, dying in our sins, He loves us and Jesus died for us to save us from the eternal penalty of sin, death in Hell. As Christians, we shouldn’t need to be reminded of either God’s love or power, but now is a good time to remind someone else. This plague is cruel; it respects no one and will strike anyone who is not prepared for it, good or bad. However, God doesn’t have the same agenda we do. We look at the disease for its cruelty and apply that cruelty back to God. But for God, the disease is a means. He is after the heart of a man to turn him back to God. Disease reminds us of what is really important: not wealth, personal power, or social status, but family, friends, and faith. Many ask, “Why do we suffer before a good God?” Rather, we need to ask, “Since God is just, why don’t we suffer more since we have often offended Him?” God’s goal isn’t a healthy, vigorous body, but a soul that is spiritually sound and saved. When we sin against the Lord, we deserve to die, but He is gracious, and gives us time to consider and repent. Disease is a direct and unmistakable warning to repent; a plague even more so. Will our nation listen this time?

Taking Sin Seriously


Do you take sin seriously? As Christians, it is one area that we are especially good at: identifying sins in others. Since we know the Bible, we usually have no problem pointing out the sins of others for their correction. After all, aren’t we supposed to do that?

Jesus once addressed this problem with the Pharisees. He likened their “helpfulness” as one who has a log in his own eye helping someone else get a speck out of theirs. Honestly, the reason we know sin so well is probably because we’ve committed a few ourselves, not out of any serious study of Scripture.

But one thing that our culture is famous for is miscasting sin as “disease”. There are lots of diseases, like alcoholism, substance abuse, sex addiction (and the host of addictions), obesity, and the like that are caused not by a virus or a malady which the victim was helpless against, but by the power of his own elbow. The result is that many of these sins are being “treated” by medicine rather than cured by the power of God.

What happened if we took God at His word and treated sins like, well, sins? What if instead of “mental health” we strove for soul health? Who can truly change the heart of a man? Is it medicine? Therapy? Conversations with a psychiatrist at $200/ hour? Or is it Jesus?

Surprisingly, many of the things we diagnose as mental disease may only be diseases of the soul. And who can cure all our soul’s diseases? Jesus Christ, the risen Lord. But in order to pursue this “soul health” we must first identify the problem, and admit that it is the problem. There are actual mental problems that have to do with biology, and they fall into a different category that what we will deal with, and I will try to help you discern the difference. For example, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are actual diseases of the brain, not necessarily a result of sin directly.

Are you suffering from something that a psychologist has told you is a mental health issue? Have you been told only a long series of one-hour a week sessions are the only thing that will keep you sane? Do you really think God has nothing to say about “mental health”?

Don’t Judge Me!


Daily we are marginalized in this culture because we hold certain views on certain subjects, like life and death, right and wrong, good and evil. When we take a stand on certain issues, we are wrong, because now it is wrong to judge. Some folks take their cue from Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, lest ye be judged.” But as the Spaniard of the Princess Bride is fond of saying, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”

What does it mean to judge? And is it as wrong as its implied? As human beings we practice judgment all the time, from picking a movie we want to see, a car we want to buy, to people we want to know. There are necessary relationships, like work and service relationships. You don’t really pick the person who works the cash register, but you develop a relationship with them, even if it only lasts until you walk out of the shop. These kinds of relationships we don’t have much say in. But then there are the people you would invite into your home. For these you might practice a bit more judgment, having spent more time with them. What about the person you are married to. You surely didn’t just pick them out of a lineup and agree to marriage. We all practice judgment in human relationships in order to achieve the best possible results, like a lifetime of happy marriage.

But the cry of “don’t judge me!” often comes from an assumption that you, not them, are going to pass a negative judgment on their behavior. And so they head off that judgment by implying you have no right to judge them.

If Jesus Christ will sit on the great white throne at the end of time and judge all humanity, and if the basis for that judgment will be their acceptance or rejection of Jesus’ freely offered forgiveness, and if we, as the body of Christ, are tasked with telling people about the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, do we not have a right to tell people about Jesus? And does that right extend to be watchmen to our culture, to tell them the Enemy is approaching? Or to warn our culture of sins and evils that must be avoided if they give themselves up to Jesus?

Do we have a right to evangelize? And are there better ways to do that that others, better times, and better places? I believe there are. And like the sons of Issachar, we ought to be aware of the right times and the right places, that we may spread the gospel in the best way possible.