It’s Not Time

13 11 2013

A judge is separated from the people who come before him (or her). There’s a big desk, a lot of floor space, and tables behind which the prosecutor and defendant sit.

The judge does not personally know the people being tried; all he knows is what he’s been told and what he observes of the person while in his presence (and not in the best of circumstances, to be sure!).

He’s never spoken to them before. He knows nothing of their history, their character, or the intricacies of their relationships. He’s never had a meal with them, or seen them in a social setting of any sort.

He only has the “facts” as they have been presented to him by the attorneys – each with their own agenda, by the way.

When we judge people, don’t we do so in like manner?

I am as guilty as the next person of passing judgment on others. I judge by appearance, by my preference, by what I consider to be right and wrong, and based on what others tell me about the person.

Often, I know little or nothing of the person. I haven’t talked to them, eaten with them, or have any idea what they are like as a person.

I was stopped dead in my tracks by Jesus’ words in John 3:17:

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world;

but that the world might be saved through Him.”

And this one, too:

“And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him;

for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.

He who rejects me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him

– the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” John 12:47-48

Check these out:

“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” Hebrews 9:27.

Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts.” 1 Corinthians 4:5

“For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13.

If Jesus didn’t come to judge the world, but to save it…

…and we are His body…

…then He is still here…

…to save, not to judge.

That day is coming, but is not yet.

There are many evils taking place around us. Our propensity is to hop onto the judge’s bench, pass judgment, and sentence people to hell.

This isn’t Jesus’ heart in the matter. He came to save, not to condemn.

At the deaths of people like Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Ladin, and even Hitler, heaven did not rejoice. These were people that the Lord created. He loves them too. He wanted so much more for them.

It grieves His heart to have anyone choose hell as their final destination. 

If we are to be Ambassadors for Christ – accurate representatives of the King of kings and Lord of lords – we will need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Jesus set an example for us:

In Mark 2, Jesus is found eating in Levi’s house with tax collectors and sinners. The “good” people took exception with this and asked how He could do such a thing. Jesus heard them and said,

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Verse 17)

Is it possible that we’ve gotten off track? I think perhaps we have.

I leave us with this:

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,

keep yourselves in the love of God,

looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire,

hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” Jude 20-23

It’s not the “religious” folks who need the body of Christ. It’s the unlovely, the hopeless, the desperate. These are the ones who will respond.

They may not all look like street people, but instead more like politicians who know in their hearts that what they are doing is wrong…but can’t see a way out of where they are. They are prisoners of war, compelled to do the bidding of their captor.

Mercy will win far more hearts than condemnation ever will. Jesus needs a body here on earth to do His bidding…one who does justly, loves mercy, and walks humbly with Him…not judges.

That day is coming…

…but now is not that time.

Faith, hope, love…

the greatest of these is

LOVE.





The Christian “F” Word

13 06 2013

Barely making eye contact, Johanna* quickly looked past me as I entered the building and asked, “How are you?”

Slowing down a bit, I responded, “I’m dying of cancer.”

She never batted an eye. “Oh, that’s nice, dear.”

Really?

(I’m not dying of cancer – just so you know!)

This was part of an experiment I’ve been running, curious to see how people would respond. Most of the time, when folks ask “How are you?” they’re doing the “polite” thing. Very few actually give a rip.

On the street, polite disinterest is to be expected. When I find the sense of “don’t bother me with the details, just give me the standard answer” among my church family members, I am saddened. Because we have the “mind of Christ,” His tender-hearted care must be evident, one would think.

My goal is to become genuine. Therefore, if I don’t care, I don’t want to ask! (…and there are some whom I don’t ask. They wallow in their woes – and like it that way. I’m not being harsh – I used to be one of them!)

Sometimes, though, it’s not the “asker’s” fault…

With a face so long she could have stepped on it, a Christian sister entered the foyer on Sunday.

“Hi, Claire*! How’s it going?” I asked, genuinely concerned.

Then she dropped the bomb…the Christian “F” word…

Fine,” said with a plastic smile.

“Wait, Claire. Let me try this again…How is your soul?”

What came next left me astonished. She  unloaded the saddest story I’d heard in a while.

By the time she was finished, she was in tears, and so was I.

“Whoa! Let’s talk to our Father about this,” I said, and led her to a quiet corner.” I prayed for her, and then we went into the sanctuary for worship.

By the time church was over, her plastic smile was replaced with a real one. She gave my hand a squeeze and whispered, “Thanks.”

Nothing had changed about Claire’s circumstances, but she’d been given the opportunity to have someone come alongside and bear the burden with her.

(*These are not their real names.)

The question we ask makes a huge difference. I have yet to be given the “F” word when I ask a person, “How’s your soul?” Every time, they stop and think about it. The replies have been everything from “My soul is good,” or “To be honest, I’ve been cranky lately,” to “I’m not doing well at all. I’m about ready to give up.”

Try it for yourself…but only if you’re prepared to invest time in others!

How often we miss an opening to encourage one another when we ask the “standard” question, “How are you doing?”

…and how many times we let the chance to have someone lift us up in prayer or be strengthened by someone when we respond to this routine question with…

…the Christian “F” Word!





Dead People Stink…

25 04 2013

…and they walk among us. Their words fill the air with a thick  blue fog of foul odor; through their actions it’s not uncommon for them to leave behind bits of “rotted flesh.” Their grave clothes leave them bound and helpless to do anything about their condition.

It’s not uncommon to be flipped off, told off, or put down by complete strangers anymore – or even by people you know. I see this happen frequently. On occasion I’m the recipient. It used to really bug me when people were ill-mannered and self-centered.

One day I realized: This person does not know Jesus. According to the Bible they are *dead* in their trespasses and sin.

Duh! Dead people stink. They can’t help it.

Should this understanding give me a sense of superiority to them? Hardly. If it wasn’t for Jesus, I would still be just like them.

Once we are made “alive in Christ,” though, there is still a lot of work to be done.

Consider Lazarus.

He was dead as they come – four days in the tomb. I love how the King James records Martha’s response when they were told to take away the stone that covered his grave, “Lord, by this time he stinketh!”

There is no stench like a rotting carcass. Stick your nose in a bag with a pork roast that’s been left too long in the refrigerator, if you doubt this. I gagged all the way to the dumpster!

Fortunately for Lazarus, the grave was opened. Then Jesus called him by name; good thing He did. Had Jesus just said, “Come forth” there would have been a lot more excitement that day.

Once Lazarus made his way out of the tomb, Jesus instructed those who were there to loose him. It is interesting that Jesus didn’t do it Himself. He was the epitome of servanthood. I doubt Jesus thought this was “beneath” Him; but rather, handled it this way as an example for us to follow.

A newly “resurrected” person, made alive in Christ, is still bound in his grave clothes…addictions, beliefs, behaviors, attitudes. They’re still very smelly. Unless this person gets help from the “living” (other believers),  around him or her, they will be unable to remove the things that bind in their own strength. We are called to come alongside their stinky, newly alive frames and assist in the unwrapping. His arms are bound to begin with – rendering the fellow helpless in getting loose on his own.

Once this person has been thoroughly bathed by the washing of the water with the Word, he begins to be less “aromatic.” In time, he will learn to wear his new robe of righteousness – and be ready to assist someone else in the process.

And it is a process!

When I grasped this, I began to navigate life with more grace. I can (but don’t always – sorry, Lord) have compassion for those who are still dead, and pray for their release from death. I will mourn over their condition.

And once they’re truly alive, I have the joy of being invited to participate in their process of being made free. It will be stinky for a while, but before long they will become the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. They must be unwrapped gently, though. There’s brand new baby skin under those grave clothes!

In the meantime, they stink and they can’t help it. Let’s not content ourselves with criticism for their rotten behavior, or judge them.

So when you find your co-worker or the person in line at the store stinking up the joint, just remember:

They’re dead; they can’t help it!