Truthful Tuesday: Judging Judgment

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Romans 14:12

“Therefore, each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore we must not pass judgment on one another, but rather determine never to place an obstacle or a trap before a brother or sister.”

1 Peter 4:17

“For it is time for judgment to begin, starting with the house of God. And if it starts with us, what will be the fate of those who are disobedient to the gospel of God?”

Judgment.  No one wants to be the recipient, but all have been participants in either judging others or being judged themselves.

In His perfect wisdom, God designed a system of justice in place to judge our actions.  Man sets up his own system of judgment, too, to condemn one another.

At the root of judgment from any human being is pride.  Pride in our own sinful, myopic condition that we would think we could ever be in a place to pass judgment on another creation, made in God’s image.

There are so many more motivations in the act of judgment, though. Sometimes we want to make ourselves feel better about our decisions, or we manipulate others with judgment to try to get them to do something we want.

Sounds pretty ugly.  That’s because judgment from man is going to be man-centered, but judgment that Christ gives is perfect and redemptive.

God judges our hearts to bring us to repentance and show us our sinful condition.  Man judges to prove a position, inflict pain, manipulate or inflate self.

Man cannot judge other’s motivations, for we cannot see the heart – only God can.  Still, the default sinful condition of man is to presume and judge brothers or sisters in Christ.

Despite out corrupt nature, we do not have to give in to judgment.  The heart of man is deceitful, but God.  He is gracious and able to help us lay down our judgments and put on forgiveness.  Sometimes people can hurt us and boundaries have to be put up so they cannot hurt or condemn us further.  Sometimes we have to lay down our desire to please man in his faulty judgments, too.

Maybe some of us feel we deserve judgment – we all do.  But Christ bore that judgment for us all.  In this world we have relationships that are broken from sin and ensuing consequences, and people will judge us until the day we die, but all of those judgments fall off our shoulders and are laid at the feet of our Savior – the One, perfect, Righteous Judge.

Lord, thank You for the sweet victory You give to walk in freedom and forgiveness.  Thank You for bearing our judgment.  Help us to consider others better than ourselves and to discern others in the light of the grace that we have been given.

Thoughtful Thursday: Influential Influence

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Our battle is not fleshly, but spiritual.

Scriptures of the Day:

1 Corinthians 15:33

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

Romans 12:12

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

2 Timothy 3:1-6

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires,

Ephesians 2:1-2

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”

One verse my children know well as it was a mantra repeated continuously in their childhood was 1 Corinthians 15:33.  It was challenging to strike a balance between warning them about being influenced by ungodly people around them and not judging them, either.

Much like the Israelites had to be reminded to write God’s word down and keep it before them, we need reminders to be aware of the influences all around us.

Most of us do not pause to perceive why we are feeling a certain way about another person or circumstance.  We casually give in to the emotions, unchecked unless we ask God for discernment to see the spiritual influence all around us.

The prince of the spirit of the air is busy.  So are our minds, with over 2100-3000 thoughts per hour going through them.  Keeping track and being accountable for all of those thoughts is overwhelming.

But when we study God’s Word and surround ourselves with godly influences, the sorting of wicked and godly influences becomes easier.  God has made a way out and He will show us what is pleasing to Him and what is not.  The choice is ours.  There is no middle ground. Life or death. Righteousness or wickedness.

Apathy is not the answer, self-righteousness is not the answer.  There are absolute standards that God has set.  We are accountable.

Choosing to abstain from bad influences is not enough, though.  Keeping oneself unsoiled is not the same as becoming a source of godly influences for those around us.  We are a light not because we have anything inherently good in us, but because we have the light of the world within us and He is good and able to use us for righteousness.

Lord, help us to be an influence on those around us that draws people nearer to You.  Help us to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world and to live for Your glory.

Mundane Monday: Waiting for God’s Best

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Genesis 24:7

“The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and the land of my relatives, promised me with a solemn oath, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ He will send his angel before you so that you may find a wife for my son from there.”

She was merely serving a stranger by watering his camels.  He was simply asking God to lead him to find a wife for his Master’s son.  God was faithfully leading and fulfilling His promise to Abraham.

But Abraham had a choice.  He could try to get the blessings his own way, or seek the blessing of God and His will.  He chose the latter.

The faithfulness of God to lead and provide a godly wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac, is precious.  God wants to lead us all to His best, to provide a spouse who will draw us nearer to Himself and to complete us.

We all want the fairy tale love story, but often don’t want the discipline, waiting and trust to get there.  A new relationship is exciting, but even more precious is a relationship that has stood the test of time and trials with a person of character that grows more into the image of Christ with each passing year.

Finding a life partner whose love for the LORD surpasses anything the world has to offer, including ourselves, is paramount.  Although we want someone to really know us and cherish us, the motivation for a romantic relationship should first and foremost be the glory of God.

God knows our need and longs to comfort us.  Sometimes He brings someone into our lives to complete us – not a perfect person, but a co-laborer and the delight of our heart – to walk beside us in this adventure called life.  That’s what He did for Isaac. His relationship with his wife meant far more than just the happiness he had with her.  A simple trusting in God gave Isaac his son, Jacob – who would become the beginning of the nation of Israel.

Lord, thank You for the gift of marriage.  To be able to encourage one another in Christ and share agape love is beyond words.  Help us to see our spouses as the tremendous gift they are and our children as a legacy of that gift.

Forgiven Friday: Our Gracious God

God spares us

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We cannot comprehend on a moment-by-moment basis what God spares us from.

Scripture:

Job 11:6b

Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.

Job 12:9-10

Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? 10  In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. 

So much to share about what God has shown this weekend at the Worship Conference, but the verses above were from my own reading today.  In the midst of being in awe of God in all that we have learned, I found out that one of my children was in a car accident tonight.

Why would God be so gracious as to keep my child safe?  I don’t know, but all I can do is praise Him for His undeserved mercy.  Life is fragile and no one knows their end, but every moment, every breath we have – is in His perfectly sovereign hands.

Every day there are miracles untold, situations which never arose because God’s hand stayed them.  Then there are the painful circumstances that are allowed in.  Complaints can be quick to rise in such times, unless we remember all that God has done for us and contemplate what He has kept from penetrating into our lives.

Overwhelmed by His grace today.  Give a hug and kiss to your loved ones whom God has placed in your life.  They are a treasure to behold.

Lord, this precious life is Yours alone.  Thank You for the opportunity to live for You.  Be glorified, LORD, in everything we say and do and help us to be grateful for each moment.

Truthful Tuesday: Prevention or Provision of Blessing

Blessings prevented

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The prevention of blessing in our lives is either caused by God’s sovereign grace or our disobedience.

Scriptures:

Genesis 16:2 ESV

“And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.”

Genesis 17:1-2

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”

Walking in the Spirit means sometimes God prevents or leads in a way that does not make sense.  We want the typical blessings of life and do not understand that God’s timing is best.  So it was with Sarah.  God made a promise and she was going to make sure it happened.  Whenever we have to strive to produce God’s promise, we are probably missing the leading of the LORD.

I do not blame Sarah.  I’ve done the same thing myself.  She did not want something wrong, she just went about it the wrong way.  Compromise is like that.  It happens when we follow our own inclinations instead of waiting on the LORD and trusting His timing.

What did God want Abraham and Sarah to do?  To walk before Him blamelessly.  What is intriguing about this requirement is the word “that” which follows God’s command. Waiting on God is all about relationship.  He makes a covenant with us and WE can prevent God’s blessings in our lives when we simply do not walk with Him in obedience.

We can be like a toddler, wanting what we want and all the while God is saying, “come and fellowship with me.  I want to bless you.”  Those who would seek Him would receive the blessings and the greatest of blessings which is Himself.  Those who would seek the blessings miss out entirely on the purpose of the covenant.

If we break His covenant He is still faithful, but we might not see the promise fulfilled or see it massively delayed.

Remember the Israelites in the desert?  That trip should have taken eleven days, but instead it took forty years.  BUMMER.

Even if the journey becomes difficult, walking in the Spirit and trusting in God’s plan and timing is far better than veering off course.  God might prevent us from something, but He is always leading us to another.

Obtaining blessing apart from God’s perfect will feels empty, but the peace of Christ that comes from abiding in God and walking in His ways is unsurpassed to any blessing we were seeking in the first place.

Lord, thank You for Your faithfulness, trustworthiness and promises.  Help us to wait upon You, knowing Your plans and ways are perfect.

Mundane Monday: Undeserved Mercy

Undeserved Mercy

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Mercy would not be mercy if we could earn it.

Scripture of the Day:

Romans 9:15-17

For he says to Moses: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then, it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. 17 For the scripture says to Pharaoh: “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may demonstrate my power in you, and that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”

Here it is, the beginning of a work week again.  We labor not in vain, though, if we labor in the LORD.  So often we work for our own glory or we try to attain favor or mercy based on merit.  It makes sense that we should earn what we have sought so hard to achieve . . . or does it?

In one breath the verse above can be discouraging to the workaholics among us who try avidly to curry favor only to see another given grace unmerited; but the fact that God’s mercy could never be earned is beautiful.

Our righteousness is as filthy rags, and any insight or ability we think we have was given to us, so we trust in God’s sovereignty in the mercy he grants us in all of life.  This is a vulnerable place to be and we can be tempted to cry, “not fair!” when a deed goes unrecognized, but resting in the perfect goodness of God and the reality of our deserved damnation causes us to fall to our knees in gratitude that God has mercy on us at all.

Mercy is evident throughout every part of our life, though it is often not perceived.  We do not see what we have been spared from, and what blessings we have received we might take for granted.  When we are tempted to become embittered at life’s vicious curve balls, may we remember what grace has been given to us – the obvious and the not-so-obvious mercies.

God’s mercy is not always seen as a blessing.  Sometimes His merciful hand prevents blessings which could ultimately be our undoing.

But the most important mercy ever to be received is the salvation God offers.  Every inclination of our hearts is steadfastly toward sin apart from the grace of God. What sweet grace opens our eyes to know that we are sinners and to receive His free gift of salvation!

We may never fully understand the mercy of God extended to us, but somehow in His sovereignty He chooses to reveal His mercy and love that we might know Him.  Life is a vapor, but for all eternity we have mercy!

Jesus, thank You for saving me!  Thank You for revealing my need of You.  When things have not gone as I thought they should, Lord I thank You.  Your mercies overwhelm me. You are good all the time.

“And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham ahead of time, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.'”  Galatians 3:8

Friday: It’s Party Time!

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

There is no more joy that can be found on this earth than in Jesus.

Scriptures:

Isiah 24:14-16

“They raise their voices, they shout for joy; from the west they acclaim the Lord’s majesty. 15 Therefore in the east give glory to the Lordexalt the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, in the islands of the sea.  16 From the ends of the earth we hear singing: “Glory to the Righteous One.”

Isaiah 25:6-8

“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations;  he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.  The Lord has spoken.”

The weekend is here … finally!  So many of us live for the weekend, for a break from the tortuous routine of daily living.  Hoping for an escape from boredom, we pursue relief, even partying as a refuge.

Maybe it’s hobbies or parties – drinking, maybe it’s drugs.  Maybe relationships.  But in all the human pursuits of this earth, eternity knocks on the door of all of our hearts and the longing for something more is not quenched by a momentary celebration or diversion. No, we need something – someOne more.

When I read the verses above, I can’t help but smile.  God is not a spoil sport.  He designed everything for our enjoyment and eternity with Him is going to be filled with joy and delight in His perfect presence.  Parties on this earth pale vastly in comparison to what God has in store for those who love Him!

Those promises the world offers?  Counterfeits.  We can let them go and find real, lasting answers in God alone.  He alone satisfies our soul’s deepest need and desire.

No more death, no  more sorrow.  No tears seen there.  Only perfect peace and joy, enveloped in His love.  Think on that this weekend.  You are loved with an everlasting love.  Right now we can seek Him and know Him and be filled with His Holy Spirit to overflowing.

Lord, thank You that we can know You and enjoy You now.  Thank You for the gifts you lavish on us each moment – Your peace, Your unconditional love, Your Joy and faith in troubled times.  Help us to find our joy in You and to spread it to all the world.

Thoughtful Thursday: The Pity-less Party

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We are more blessed than we deserve.

Scriptures:

Job 9:1-4 (ESV)

“Truly I know that it is so: But how can a man be in the right before God?  If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times.  He is wise in heart and mighty in strength —who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded?”

Proverbs 19:3 (NIV)

“A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the LORD.”

Life is an amazing gift from God. Yet many people never really live the abundant life that Christ meant for us to have.  What keeps us from a full life?  Ourselves.

Life can be exhilarating and a bummer sometimes, if we are honest.  The roller coaster ride of flat tires at inconvenient times, an award for a job well done, terminal illnesses, healing, reckless accidents, miraculous protection, unemployment, a new job, unfaithfulness, loyalty, rebelliousness, obedience . . . and the list goes on and on . . . can be no fun at all for us less adventurous types.

To think that life would be great if we never experienced pain is flawed, however; for the pain is a vivid reminder of how blessed we were to have had moments without suffering in the first place.  When we made a mess of things all by ourselves, the consequences for our sin point us to our need for our Savior, which leads ultimately to that perfect, abundant, eternal life.

So how do we wreck abundant life in Christ if we did not cause our own demise?  Our response.  How we accept, deny, respond in anger or blame others or God – sets the course for whether or not we will walk in the joy that Christ has for those Who are His.

I get it, believe me, I do.  When other people’s sins cause immense pain and horrible consequences.  I have been there, done that, and still feel the effects.  There have been moments of horror, anguish, PTSD, shock, disbelief in my life – but at the end of the day the LORD would bring me to a singular truth that I could not argue with – I am doing better than I deserve.

Every time I try to argue with myself about that truth, when I somehow feel I have been unjustly treated (and it might be the case), I finally relent and realize it is folly to even attempt to play the self pity card when the truly Perfect One didn’t.  He did not deserve to suffer for my sin or anyone else’s, but He WANTED to.  This was not because he enjoyed suffering – no, He cried tears of blood in anxiety over His choice, but He chose it nonetheless, because comfort was not His God and the salvation of our souls was His mission which He did not falter from.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are tremendous burdens that seem completely unbearable, that make us lean into God hard.  When we see others hurting, we have an opportunity to be the hands and feet of God – not just to dismiss their suffering.  But in that comfort, it is in vain if we do not point them to the Healer Who is able to help us handle every let down.  But perhaps our expectations, when placed in reality, help us to take notice and be grateful when things go well.  Why is it that I did not get sick?  Why is it that I can see this amazing gift from God at all?  What an amazing grace is ours.  Such understanding this is that we can turn away from our behaviors that hurt the heart of God and thank Him instead.

Lord, forgive us when we get mad or disappointed when things don’t go our way.  Your ways really are the best.  Give us eyes to see and ears to hear.

Truthful Tuesday: Whose Lead Do You Follow?

Whose lead do you follow

Romans 8:5

“For  those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.”

We’d all like to think that we are led by the Spirit and are making decisions that are wise, but often we do not see the spiritual realm all around us, affecting our thoughts and actions.  The impact of flesh versus spirit affects our lives and those around us.

The choices we make moment by moment are filtered by our mindset which is impacted by many factors in our environment.  Evident in our choices about what we eat (ugh . . . chocoholic confessions here for me), to the clothing we wear, the words we say and the attitudes we have toward other people, we have impressions or feelings that bombard us constantly.  If we are not careful and discerning, we can allow our perception or someone else’s opinion to affect our own behavior.

One main way this flesh is played out is how we treat one another.  Rejection of others who aren’t like us is common in the world, but unfortunately, it also happens at church. People shun others or just plain old don’t like other people who are made in the image of God.  Where does this come from?  If it is not from God, then the answer is obvious, but all too often we do not stop to consider why we don’t like someone.  We might all have different personalities, but we ought to love one another so the world can see that body of Christ is indeed different.

The truth is we are more apt to be carnal than spiritual beings and when we are spiritual, we often get in the flesh and think it is us who are righteous, when Christ alone is our righteousness.

While this is a humbling truth, maybe it can provoke us to be aware of our thoughts and behaviors.  Do they honor God?  Are they of the Spirit or of the flesh?  If we could grab a hold of this reality, Christians would turn this world upside down with godly lives and choices that no longer appear hypocritical, unconditional acceptance and love instead of judgment and forming cliques.

Pleasing self or others and seeking acceptance from God’s creation does not compare with living for the audience of One.  Like Paul, we will have to battle the flesh, but staying in the battle is far better than not recognizing the battle of the flesh versus spirit in the first place.

Lord, may You increase and may we decrease.  Help us to recognize the things that are from You and the things that are not and to walk in the Spirit.

 

Mundane Monday: Living Between a Vision and Its Fulfillment

Waiting for the Vision

Genesis 12:1-2

“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household to the land that I will show you. 2 Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, so that you will exemplify divine blessing.'”

The chasm between the calling God has placed on our lives and the ultimate fulfilling of that vision can be rife with challenges and doubts.  To our limited understanding, it would seem that the all-powerful God would call us, then fulfill what He had spoken without a lot of delay or consequences.

But in His omniscient wisdom,

the process is often more important

than the receiving of the promise itself.

God is surely capable to crush everything that stands in the way of accomplishing what He has called us to, but in this fallen world the enemy is busy trying to undo what God has already finished.  We are stuck in this space called time that God is already outside of, fully knowing how everything will turn out.  Mind blowing.

Often I question whether God has really given me a vision or if it is myself trying to achieve a calling on my own.  I get confused and feel I cannot pray for success because I do not want it to be for my own glory.  It is then that I realize that a vision that is of God and for God will be tested and that testing process will refine the character needed to accomplish the task placed on my heart.

I don’t have to be perfect to be used by God.  I just have to yield to Him in the process and continue to press on in the work He has called me to.  Back to Abram.

God told him to go – he went.  It does not say that he labored over it.  He just obeyed.  He then promised incredible blessings, which, although Abram would be blessed, the goal was not just for Abram – it was for all people and ultimately “to exemplify divine blessing”.  Abram’s response?  To worship – even though He had not yet received the blessing.

When people look in our lives and see God’s blessings, it is not so we will be comfortable, but so people can see what being in a relationship with God is like.  When we are in between a promise and a blessing and face trials of all kinds, our worship in the midst can inspire many to do the same.

Abram was not spared hardship – he faced famine right after He worshiped God for His promise.  How we respond during the famine will often determine how long we stay there.  When Abram doubted God’s ability to protect he and his wife, God was faithful and protected them, anyway.  The world will see us fail, but the righteous man will rise again and again and continue to walk until God’s purposes are fulfilled in him.

When God places a vision in our hearts, we do not know how we will get there and many obstacles will stand in our way.  Abram faced famine, quarelling, war, family problems – but through it all he worshiped the God of the promise.  In the end, Abram became Abraham; his name and his life changed forever because of the faithfulness of God to keep His promise.

In His faithfulness, God will remind us of His calling and His promises.  He did not promise us a pain-free life, but He did promise to carry us through the challenges we face and that all of it has meaning for those Who would trust in Him.  In the process, on the other side of our calling – our nature is changed, too, for we can never be the same when we encounter the living God.

Lord, help us to trust You when the road seems long and burdensome.  You are faithful and You will complete the work You have begun in us.  Praise Your Name!