Category Archives: Life

Discussions of LIFE – as in living life to the fullest. But also LIFE as in purpose, meaning, wisdom, and understanding. This category is all about things that interest me in LIFE.

Today Is The Day!

“For I hope (wait for and trust) in You, O Lord;
You will answer, O Lord my God.” Psalm 38:15

In Psalm 38, King David cries out to the LORD acknowledging his sin and seeking relief from the suffering it brought. He knows (vs 9) that his LORD is aware of all his concerns, confesses his inability to do anything about them, then makes the declaration of verse 15.

As with David, much, if not all our troubles can be traced back to our sin / sins. Though, we must remember the words of Jesus Christ in John 16:33: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” If we live in this world, we will have trouble and not necessarily because of anything we have done, and we can overcome in it because He has, and we are in Him.

That said, our failures, disappointments, reversals, and more, may be traced back to the person we see in the mirror each morning. Someone once said: “I am what I am because of the choices I have made”. David, as should we, took full responsibility for his situation, and if we are to move forward from where we are today, it must begin at this place of confession. In Psalm 32:3-6, David says he suffered until he acknowledged and confessed his sin. Only then did forgiveness, relief from guilt, and reconciliation with God come.

We all need  to be reconciled to this indispensable, Life-giving relationship; agreeing with Him about our condition, finding the abundant forgiveness He offers through Jesus Christ’s completed work, then, following His detailed instructions on how to get on and stay on His path (Psalm 32:8-11).   This fulfills our reason for existing, gains His favor, successes and life-sustaining supply. This gets Him the glory and honor He deserves and He mercies us with joy, rest and the inner peace He has guaranteed.

Seek Him NOW while He can be found (Psalm 32:6).  Today is the day!  Know the benefits His way assures (Psalm 32:10, 11).  His unfailing love is here, now, and promises consistent ongoing personal improvement and future amazing outcomes to all who believe in Him.

May this be yours in abundance, Today!

For more help in knowing God personally:  https://www.cru.org/how-to-know-god/would-you-like-to-know-god-personally.html

Carpe Diem!

Mitch

Are You The Redeemed of the Lord?

One of the more interesting dynamics of the Christian Faith to me is the argument that as the Elect of God, we are perfectly in his hands.  Never to have calamity or evil ever cross our paths again.  These are the “feel good” Christians.  The idea that “if God be for me, who can be against me?”

The opposite side of the coin however are the “daily struggle” Christians. The I must “work out my faith” Christians.  That every day of my life is a new challenge and I must face the Sin in the world against a constant barrage of ill will directed at me by Satan himself.

Both view points point to various Scripture to bolster their claims and to drive their points home.  They will preach that you should live your life secure in the knowledge that God only wants the best for you, or that you must constantly be on your guard and struggle in your faith.

What is interesting about these studies to me is that you never hear both sides at once (or so rarely that they are almost impossible to pinpoint).  You never hear someone preach “God wants to make you rich!” and “You have to put on the whole armor of God” at the same time.  And so you are left with the feeling that perhaps God wants to fight all your battles for you, but only if you take up the sword and do the fighting yourself.

There are many interesting concepts found within Scripture.  Some that are seemingly contradictory of each other.  But only when considered from humankind perspective.  When considered from God’s perspective, they begin to look a little differently to us.  I’ve talked about these Scriptural paradoxes in previous posts.  Perhaps the most famous one known is Calvinism vs, Arminianism, of which I have quoted Louie Giglio when he stated that it is a great mystery to man; that God is 100% in control and yet man has free will at exactly the same time.   I believe our “status” here in this world is exactly one of those cases.

Consider the words of Paul of Tarsus to Timothy in I Timothy 1:15.  Paul told Timothy that he was Chief amongst sinners.  He said “I am”.  I’ve looked up the Greek word for “I am” in this passage for you.  It literally means “to be”, in this case “to be found”.  It is present tense.  Paul was telling Timothy that he literally was the number one sinner in the world at that time.  Paul probably wrote this letter to Timothy somewhere between 58 and 64 AD.  Yet in his letter to the Roman’s Paul writes that it is not he who sins, but the sin that dwells in him: Romans 7:17.  Most scholars date the book of Romans to somewhere between 54 and 57 AD.  Before his letter to Timothy, where he is currently, at that time, Chief amongst sinners.

So which is it?  Is Paul confused?  Or do we have a Biblical paradox here?

I believe that both are true at exactly the same time.  At the same time Paul enjoys the completed work of Christ in him, and yet he remains Chief amongst sinners.  He is both redeemed, and within the sin struggle of this world at exactly the same time.

Consider Paul’s words in Romans 8:17.  Paul is so bold as to point out that we are Joint Heirs with Jesus Christ, the Name above all names.  The Son of the living God.  But he points out that if we share in His Glory, surely we share in His suffering as well.  You might be considering that Christ’s suffering is over, and you are correct, but we should not be so naïve as to think that we can know Glory without also knowing Suffering.

So the question then comes “Does God own the Cattle on a thousand hills”?  Well of course he does.  He is God.  And “Does God want the best for our lives”?  Well of course he does.  He sent his only Son to die on a cross for our sin.  He plans to one day wipe away every tear and lift every burden.  But do we still have to put on the whole armor of God and take up our cross and follow in the footsteps of Jesus?  Well yes, we do.

Why?  Because there is little substitute for experience.  I was talking with a very well-educated person recently.  A person with many degrees and certificates.  But yet this person needed some advice, even with all of their studies and academic achievements, they needed some advice in life.  And the reason they needed advice is because they lacked experience.  You see, experience cannot be taught.  It must be gained though one’s own journey.  And God desires for us to experience Him.  He delights when we explore and strive to understand Him.  He delights when we come to Him in order to know Him more.

And that includes with both blessings and sorrow in our lives.  It includes when we struggle with sin in our lives and when we put on the armor of God and say No! to Satan.  We cannot know victory without knowing defeat.  And God’s blessings are all that much greater when they have been delivered in the midst of great sorrow.  It is when we are weak, that He can be strong in our lives.  Is it because we do not already have the Creator of all things living inside of us?  No, of course not!  If Christ be for me, who can stand against me?  No, it is because He wants us to stand in His strength and not our own.

Are you the Redeemed of the Lord?  I pray today that you are.  But if you are, I pray that you will recall that it is only because of what God has done for you and not what you have done for God.  Can God grant you all the blessings of Job in your life and much more?  Well of course he can.  However I, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, say that if God so chooses NOT to bless me, NOT to shower my life with all the peace, joy, and love, that only He can give, He is still God.  And He is still upon His throne.  God may choose to deliver me from the fiery furnace or He may not.  But He is still God.

Introductory Comments…

“From Thy precepts I get understanding; Therefore, I hate every false way.  [For] Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  Psalm 119:104-105

I’m privileged to join LRPSP as a contributor / editor.  In a day of fake news and an unlimited array of information sources, getting the truth about anything proves to be a challenge.  But the Scriptures, as interpreted to us by the Holy Spirit, can give us God’s view on all things and offers wisdom that can make life work for us.  Why look to Him?  Because His Word tells us He is the only reliable source for truth.  He, our Creator and Sustainer, is that Source.

There are many voices but only One we can depend on. There are many worldviews and paths to take but only a dynamic relational link to God through His Son, Jesus Christ, makes us privy to the vast liberating flow of Truth and Life that gives Light, revealing His path, His way.  He desires to do this in us.  It is only from this Foundation we experience the outcomes and success He’s intended. Otherwise, we are following “fake news” disseminated by the enemy of our souls, who only seeks “…to steal, kill and destroy”.  Any other way  but His is false.  Jesus said of Himself that “He is the Way, The Truth and The Life.  No one comes to the Father but through me.” John 14:6

He’s promised to be our adequacy, sufficiency and security.  As our Maker, He is uniquely qualified to fulfill these needs.  As we choose His way and let Him work in us, it pleases Him and gets Him the Glory, Honor and Dignity that is His alone as Creator, Sustainer, Counselor, Guide…Our Hope, Deliverer, Redeemer…Friend.

I trust your times spent reading here will be helpful.

Indebted,

Mitch

A New Dynamic

When I started LRPSP three plus years ago, I had no intention or desire to have a blog.  I did not set out to simply archive my thoughts for all the world to peruse. If you have read any of them and taken pause, been blessed, or given new thought to some subject, then I am truly humbled and pleased.  However this was not my original goal.

What I really envisioned when I started this journey was a discussion. A debate of ideas. And debates and discussions take multiple parties. The Scriptures say that  “iron sharpens iron”. And one lone voice cannot sharpen itself nor lead others to sharpen themselves.

I have long believed that we must each run our own race. I can no more stand before God in your stead than you can stand before Him in mine.  Therefore you must grow as I must grow. And you must seek truth as I must seek truth. And hopefully I may intone a thought that inspires others to think deeper, but others will intone a thought that causes me to think deeper.  I don’t want to just share on a blog, I want others to begin or continue a journey in their lives that will lead them to a Creator that loves them and desires a personal relationship with them, as He does me.

I have also desired to consolidate voices into one strong accord. A choir of voices if you will. A choir is made up of parts, yet when they sing together, each part comes out in beautiful harmony that pleases the soul.  I know your time is valuable.  And I also know that there are many great voices, most much greater than mine, out there that may bring true value to your life.  I’ve desired to bring voices together here on LRPSP to help maximize your time and search for that material.  I’ve longed to build that choir.

Today I am very happy to announce that LRPSP is beginning to build that choir.  It is with great humbleness and honor that I welcome a new Contributing Editor to this site.  My Christian Brother Mitch White is joining LRPSP to add his voice and his part to the discussions that take place here.

This will afford you, those that linger on this site to read a few words, a new perspective.  You will now be able to consider topics from a different point of view and perspective.  And I know that will bring even greater insight and blessing to your life.

Welcome Brother Mitch, to LRPSP.  I, and I hope others, look forward to all that God has to share with us through your voice.  It is truly a New Day here on LRPSP and it is exciting to look forward to all God has in store for us as we each journey to know the Great I Am more personally in each of our lives.

Do You Make A Difference?

In 2008 The Oak Ridge Boys asked the question “Did I make a difference in somebody’s life?” through a pretty thoughtful melody.

They inspired people though song to consider whether or not they were making a difference in the world in which we all live.  The song is asking us whether or not we are making a positive difference.  And it embodies the idea of sacrifice in making that difference.  When the songwriter states “When my race is run, when my song is sung” it captures the idea of when at the end of my life, how will I be judged?

In reality, we all make a difference.  The very fact that you are alive and here on Earth means you have already made a difference.  Your presence has impacted the world.  All of our presence has impacted the world.  Some for good, and some for evil.  And using any reasonable world standard, we could all be judged to have impacted those around us with a little of both.

But what is the real difference we make?  Maybe I should ask what difference do you want to make?  Most of us want to make a difference, I might say that most of us try to make a difference.  After all, is that not how we are judged?  Isn’t that how we judge one another?  By the impact, or difference, someone makes in our lives?

When we are at our jobs we strive to make a difference.  That is the way we get noticed and are singled out for advancement.  When we court a sweetheart we want to make a difference.  That is how we gain their attention and eventually their love and affections.  When we interact with friends, relatives, and even strangers, we make a difference.  That is why we tell young people that first impressions are the most important.  Some of us make a difference by volunteering, helping the homeless, feeding the hungry, giving to the poor, or working in public service.  Some of us become Fire Fighters, Police Officers, Doctors, Nurses, or join the Military.  Because we want to make a difference.  Most of us want to make a difference, but few realize that we always do.  That we are constantly making a difference in someone else’s life with either positive or negative impressions whether we want to or not.

But to what end or gain?  What does it avail us to make a difference in the world?  What is the motivation?  What should be the motivation?  What do we hope to accomplish and how do we hope to be judged?  I’d like to consider this thought from our three primary base views.

If you are agnostic in your world view, I might ask (as I always do) why do you even care?  The agnostic is completely indifferent to making a difference or to those making a difference on them by sheer definition.  If the agnostic is working to make a difference, it is for their own gain or self-gratification.  Even if the agnostic is working “just in case there is a god”, they are hedging their bets and trying to garner good deed points in their own stead.  Just in case they actually are judged.  Since the agnostic is “rolling the dice”, as it were, they cannot possibly be working towards any other means other than their own good.

If you are atheistic in your world view, I have news for you.  It doesn’t matter whether you make a difference or not.  Void of a god, there is no moral relevance in your life.  I’ve had atheists argue that our moral values are a result of a common societal conscious agreement.  But that doesn’t hold water.  Consider the fact that the ancient Roman Empire considered it perfectly acceptable to put essentially defenseless civilians into an arena with lions, tigers, bears, and great Roman gladiators, in order to watch them meet their deaths for sport.  Today we would consider that barbaric.  The atheist would argue that our morals have evolved.  But that is exactly my point.  There is no relevance. No base.  And they cannot predict where evolutionary morals will take us next.  And whose to say what is right or what is wrong?  Perhaps the Romans were right in their time and we are wrong today.  Without a moral relevance it simply does not matter what difference you make other than for your own self gain.  And even then it is pointless given that all of the universe is just one great big chemical and physical reaction.  The true atheist, the one that has thought their world view through to its logical conclusion, realizes that it is all just natural processes following set laws and is completely without meaning.  And if there is no meaning, what does it matter whether or not you make a difference?

If your world view is theistic however, making a difference gains a whole new importance.  For the theist, making a difference is not about meeting man’s law, but rather meeting the law as prescribed by their god.  There are consequences to ones actions and making a difference determines how one will be judged by their creator.

There is one group of theists that have a quandary though.  For the Christian we are taught there is no one good, not even one (Romans 3:10).  Christianity is the only world religion that teaches there is nothing an individual can do to obtain favor with their God save he intervene in their lives.  Given that there is no one righteous in the Christian world view, even to the extent we cannot obtain our own salvation apart from our Creator himself, it is an amazement to me that so many Christians run around the world trying to “make a difference”.  How can you make a difference apart from The Great I Am, the Creator, the one true God?  You see, for the Christian it should be a different paradigm.  Not one of making a difference, but rather one of being made a difference in.

I wonder every single second of every single minute of every single hour of every single day of every single year if I ever do, or ever have, made a difference.

Which is why I have to constantly remind myself that it is not about me making a difference in the world, it is about Him, the Great I AM, making a difference in me.

Are You Rich?

Mr. Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, recently addressed the Harvard University graduating class during which he said:

“We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas,”

A Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a concept that has gained quite a bit of attention recently.  Finland has recently started experimenting with the idea and Canada and India are giving it consideration.  Finland may be the first country to practice UBI, but it is hardly the first Government to do so.  The city of Livorno, Italy began a UBI program in June of 2016.

Switzerland rejected a UBI referendum by more than 75% of voters.

It is interesting that supporters of UBI view it as the means of addressing income inequality in society today.  It is interesting that this particular reporter terms it as an urgent necessity.  Definitely something we must absolutely have.

In my estimation, UBI is nothing more than a repackaged welfare (see definition 3) program that is completely socialistic in nature.  These ideas are nothing new and have been around for thousands of years.  Consider the account from Mark 14:3-8 in which some self-righteous people where quite upset at what they considered a waste of money.

It is interesting to me that we hear very little about the fact that Jesus was in the home of Simon, a leper, when this story is recounted.  Or the fact that the woman that brought the box of alabaster apparently had the resources to possess it, and yet she also came to the house of the leper (something a person of wealth would not normally do).  But these are thoughts for another time.

The point I’d like to get to in the account is that there were those that pondered the thought that the ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred pence and the proceeds given to the poor.  Basically welfare.  Socialism.  Sell the goods of the rich, and give them to the poor.  A concept put forth by the Jewish culture some 2,000+ years ago.

As long as there has been inequality in the world, which Spiritually occurred about the instant that Adam took a bite of the forbidden fruit, and Physically has been since about 30 seconds after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, mankind has been looking for ways to make things equal again.

Of course in doing so we have been ignoring the words of Jesus when he answered those very same self-righteous distractors with:

And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.  For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.”

I relish the fact that Jesus told them that (basically) they could do good for the poor whenever they wanted to.  I kind of feel the same way about those crying out about inequality today.  No one is stopping you from helping the poor and you don’t need to wait on anyone else to start.

The interesting thing about all of these social experiments to me is that the terms are all relative.  Compared to most (or perhaps even all) of my wife’s family, we are very rich.  However, compared to the people that live just six miles down the road from me, I might be considered poor (the houses in the community six miles down the road average $2,750,000.00 per home.  About 7.37 times the cost of my home).  And those folks could even be considered poor when contrasted to Mr. Zuckerberg.

Another interesting thing to me is that Jesus actually said that those that would inherit the kingdom of heaven, would be poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).  And with good reason too.  God cannot help you if you are rich.  The rich people of the world don’t run to God every night asking for their next meal or a place to lay their head.  Only the poor people do that.  Sometimes we lose our dependency upon God because we become too rich for him.  We no longer need his help.  We are self-sufficient without him and are happy to keep him on the shelf in the event that bad times come our way.

And yet we still feel like we need to play social games with society.  We need to wipe out inequality.

Alright, I’ll play along.  I’ve got a proposition for Mr. Zuckerberg:

Hey Mark, if you’re reading (and I know you’re not) let’s try a small scale UBI experiment right here at home.

I currently make a little over $130,000.00 USD/year.  I’ll use that as a round number.  I have (roughly) six years to retirement (I could conceivably retire earlier, but lets go to minimum retirement age).

My idea of a “new idea” is to purchase a yacht (how about this one: Sea Ray Fly 460) and to make the Great Loop while writing about the experience and the people I meet here on this Blog.

But obviously I can’t do that on my present income.  I would, of course, still need to meet my basic family expenses, for six years at my current salary that would be $780,000.00, I’d have the cost of the yacht, about $750,000.00, and I’d have the operating expenses of the yacht itself, lets estimate $200,000.00/year or $1,200,000.00 for six years.  That would be $2,730,000.00.  We could just round that up to $3,000,000.00.

Why doesn’t Facebook hire me for a $3,000,000.00 USD contract for six years (I’d bring some diversity to the company since I’m sure you’d agree my political, social, and religious views are different than your own) and I’ll become an ambassador traveling around interviewing people about their situation in life, compiling statistics on exactly what a correct UBI would amount to, as well as exploring the mechanics of such a plan to see if it could realistically be met.  At the end of the six years I’d sail off into retirement, and you could evaluate just how well your $3,000,000.00 was spent.  A social experiment and you get an employee out of the deal as well!

I’ll be waiting for your call ………………….

Does Your Life Have Meaning?

Here we are at another Easter.  April 16, 2017 is the 55th Easter I have encountered in my life.  Many of my early Easters were spent with family and friends hunting for Easter Eggs, trying to fill baskets with Easter candy, and having Easter Day meals.  All of these have been joyous occasions and comprise many happy memories.  But none of these ascribe meaning to my life, or meaning to my very existence.  However, the meaning of Easter, the true meaning of Easter, the Religious aspect of Easter does bring meaning and value to life and to my existence.

I had the great honor and privilege of attending a talk by Dr. Ravi Zacharias this past week.  I’ve mentioned Dr. Zacharias in my posts on occasions in the past and consider him the greatest Christian Apologist in the world, alive today.  In his talk this past week he talked about four elements to the ultimate pursuit of Truth in one’s life.  He stated that those four elements are ‘Origin, Meaning, Morality, and Destiny’.  These four elements are all met in the celebration that is Easter Sunday.

Today you really have but one question of existential relevance before you.  And that is “Do you believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead?”  Because how you answer that question will shape your world view and provide the foundation for how you conduct yourself in your life.

If you answer the question with a resounding “Yes” you should be compelled to believe that He is the only person in human history to ever do so of His own accord and that would lead you to find relevance in all His other claims – that He is who He said He was, the Son of the one true and living God.  That He came to die for our sins, and to bring life more abundantly.

If you answer the question with a flat “No” or a “maybe” or an “I don’t know” the rest of His claims are left in doubt and bring no relevance to your life.

But how you answer the question is how you will discover whether or not the four elements are met.

Science may claim to answer the question of ‘Origin’, where we came from, but it cannot answer the questions of ‘Meaning’ or ‘Morality’, or ‘Destiny’.  The answers to those question ring hollow and are without substance with the pursuit of Science.

Philosophy may claim to have the answers to ‘Meaning’ or ‘Morality’ or ‘Destiny’ but without an ‘Origin’ these answers do not provide purpose or relevance to one’s life.

However, there is one answer that provides all four.  If Jesus Christ did rise from the dead, as is recorded in history, then His claims of being the Son of God must also be true and that must mean there is a God.  And that answers the question of ‘Origin’.  If Jesus Christ did indeed rise from the dead, then we must be created beings, made by a living God.

If Jesus Christ is who He said He was, then the account of Genesis must be accurate and true and that answers the question of ‘Morality’ and gives meaning to right and wrong.

If Jesus Christ is who He said He was, then the purpose of His coming to earth, of dying for our sin, of providing us a path to a more abundant life, must also be true.  And that answers the question of ‘Meaning’.  It provides a purpose to our lives.  Not one that we invented or made up, but one that the One True God laid down from the foundation of time.

And if Jesus Christ rose from the dead, as history records, then the warning of a Heaven and a Hell must also be true.  And that answers the question of ‘Destiny’.  We can know why we are here and what our ultimate endpoint in all of eternity will be.

The reality of ‘Origin, Meaning. Morality, and Destiny’ are all met in the person and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  No other pursuit of Truth, relevance, or logical consistency are met anywhere else in life,  Only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ do we find answers to all four elements.

So the question is – “Do you believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead?”  But before you answer, let me pose another question to you, and that is “For how long have people been trying to get you to believe that the answer to the question is no?”  Would you believe me if I told you that the answer is “Since the day He died”?  Because on the day He died He was sealed in a tomb and a Roman Guard was placed to watch over it.  Why?  Why would a Roman Guard be placed to keep watch over a sealed tomb of a carpenter from Galilee who had been executed upon a cross?  If not to keep you from learning that He had risen from the dead?

Why were Christians persecuted from the earliest of times and sacrificed in the Roman Colosseum?  To keep you from learning that He had risen from the dead.

Why have governments for centuries tried to control and stamp out the Christian faith?  To keep you from learning He had risen from the dead.

Why does Science teach evolution and denounce the Bible?  Why is the world seemingly so threatened by the Christian faith?  To keep you from learning He had risen from the dead.  And what does it threaten them?  After 2,000 years, why is the world so consumed with you not knowing that He has risen from the dead?

The answer is because He is the TRUTH, the Life, and the Way.  And that TRUTH meets all four elements of ‘Origin, Meaning, Morality, and Destiny’.  And that threatens not the world, but rather the Prince of this world, Satan himself.  He does not want you to know the TRUTH.  And thus he does everything in his power to propagate the lies.

Does your life have meaning?  You can find new purpose and meaning in your life today by knowing the TRUTH, the Way, and the Life.  Purpose and meaning are found in the person of Jesus Christ.  But that truth starts at the foot of the cross and is found in an empty tomb.  And is obtained through belief in Him.

How Do You Walk the Line?

In my last post I talked about the judgements we use in our day-to-day lives.  It is clear from Scripture that God intends for us to use good judgement in our lives.  However it is also clear we should not condemn those around us.  The grey area comes when we try to become judge, jury, and executioner with our judgements.  And this might be a much finer tightrope to walk than one might imagine.

So, exactly where do you draw the line and how do you ensure you are walking it?  In the post: Why Did The Tree Have A Name? I stated that the knowledge of good and evil was a dangerous thing.  In this post we are about to find out why I believe that.  But simply put, Satan told Eve that eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil would make her “as a god” (and later on, God agreed with that statement).  When we start applying our knowledge of good and evil, when we start judging others, when we start discerning actions around us, quite simply, we have become as gods in our own realm.  And trust me, the last thing we ever want to do in our lives is replace God’s understanding with our own.  Do you want a quick check as to whether or not God (Jesus Christ) is sitting upon the throne of your life?  Look at your judgements.  Check your discernment.  Consider whom you condemn and whom you forgive.

In I Corinthians 5 we have a seemingly difficult case.  Paul of Tarsus has received a specific report of a specific individual who is not only embroiled in an immoral act, but is actually publically boasting about it at the same time, and apparently receiving the approval of the Church.  And Paul calls for the individual to be handed over to Satan.

Contrast this situation to the adulteress who was brought before Jesus Christ in the Temple as recounted in John Chapter 8.  Here we had another individual embroiled in an immoral act and Jesus Christ offers complete forgiveness, yet we might perceive that Paul of Tarsus calls for condemnation (turn him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh).

The difference between the two situations is that in the one case the immoral act was being committed outside of the Church, I might even argue in secret (except that the scribes and Pharisees obviously knew about it), and no one in the Temple was either bragging about It or boasting of it.  In the other case the people of the Church were not only well aware of what was going on, they were encouraging it with their boasting.

In the case of Jesus Christ, he knew that if sinners outside of the Temple were to find nothing but condemnation, they would never come to the Temple.  Who wants to go to the Temple to be condemned?

In the case of Paul of Tarsus, he knew that if sinners outside of the Church saw the Church as boasting and encouraging immorality, they would see nothing but hypocrites.  And who wants to go to Church with a bunch of hypocrites?

In both cases, in the case where the judgement ends in forgiveness, and in the case were the judgement ends in (seemingly) condemnation, the sanctity and the integrity of the house of God (the Church or the Temple) was being maintained.  And that, is good judgement.

Personally, I like to apply the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego test.  Remember these young men in Daniel Chapter 3?  They were the 3 young men who refused to bow down to the idols the government (the king) had set up for all the people of the land.  Why?  Because they knew that if they did, no one in the land would ever want to bow down before Jehovah God ever again.  Why would they?  If Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego bow down before idols, why waste time with God?  He must not be any better than these idols the king set up.

So what if we were to apply the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego test to some of the biggest issues of our day?  What do we think that would look like?  In my case it would look like this:

Abortion: I’m sorry, I love you, and I don’t condemn you, but only God is the author of life and to not recognize the sanctity of the life that God gives is to deny him.  The Church must continue to preach and to teach against it.  You will always find forgiveness within the Church, but the Church should never support your so-called “right” to usurp God.  The Church should celebrate life, not death.

Same sex marriage: I’m sorry.  I don’t hate you, nor do I condemn you.  But clearly your actions are against the very design of God and the teachings of the Bible.  You may try to erase those teachings, twist them into something else.  You will fail, and the Church should never have to support you in your sin by being forced to conduct wedding ceremonies for your so-called “rights”.

(So called) Hate Speech: I’m sorry.  But when I proclaim Jesus Christ as the only way to God the Father, it is not me that made the claim, rather it was Jesus Christ himself.  I am simply teaching history.  History you may want to rewrite, but history nonetheless.  And for me to teach anything else is for me to deny my faith and to turn my back on my religion.  It is actually those that try to silence the truth that are intolerant and non accepting.  Not myself.

Where do I draw the line?  I draw it at the feet of Jesus Christ.  And I draw it at the foot of the Cross.  That is the point where I cannot step over the line.  The line that I attempt to walk, is the line that lifts up Jesus Christ and gives him all the Praise, and all the Honor, and all the Glory.

In the beginning God told Adam and Eve, do not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil because bad things will happen.  Turns out God was right and bad things did happen (and continue to happen today).  About 4,000 years later, God, in the person of Jesus Christ, came to earth and basically said, ‘OK, you didn’t listen to me in the beginning and because of that you’re in this huge mess.  But I’m going to give you some advice as to how to get through this predicament you’ve placed yourselves in.  And the secret is in your judgement.  Use it wisely and justly.’

Do You Use Good Judgement?

1Judge not, that ye be not judged.  2For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again”  Matthew 7:1-2 KJV

And with these words a lot of people in the world want to “throw the baby out with the bath water” (a euphemism for inadvertently getting rid of the good thing while disposing of the bad thing).  And by this I mean that the complete lack of understanding of judgement is astounding these days.  And the lack of understanding basically comes from bad Theology.  Both Theology that has been taught, and Theology that has failed to have been taught.  From our greatest theologians, to our humblest of Bible study teachers, we’ve failed.  We’ve failed at the basics, and we’ve certainly failed at setting people off on a path that would allow them to seek after a Holy God with all their heart, and all their soul, and all their might.

And that small word judge has a lot to do with it.  That word judge there, in the Greek it is the word κρίνετε (pronounced: krinete).  Now that we’ve all learned our Greek word for the day, let me ask you what you think the definition of krinete is?  A Greek language purist will tell you that properly, it is “to pick out, (choose) by separating”.  In other words, the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action.  Or, I might say, to JUDGE.

The word actually means judge, just as we understand judgement today.  The same definition we apply to the word today would apply to the word that Jesus Christ actually used as recorded by Scripture.

So the Bible (actually the very words of Jesus Christ himself) state quite unequivocally that we should not judge (because by the same measure we judge, we will be judged).  Right?  That is what it says, isn’t it?

But wait-a-minute, do you really believe we are not to judge?  Should we really (and truly) not use judgement in our lives?  Doesn’t Scripture also tell us:

13For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.  14But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  Hebrews 5:13-14  KJV

See that word discern?  Our discernment is what allows us to be discriminatory.  And I will argue that you cannot discern, without the application of judgement.  And I’d argue that discernment is a pretty important thing within our lives.  It allows us to separate good and evil.  And that would seem like a pretty good thing to me.

Seemingly we have a contradiction here.  On the one hand we are told not to judge, but yet on the other we know we are to use our good judgement to discern between good and evil.  There are those right now that are going to try to separate those two entities by applying judgement to people and discernment to actions.  Don’t even try.  People without actions are dead, and actions without people is Nature.  You can’t separate the two (unless you are God, that is) so let’s not play  word games by pretending that we can really and truly separate them in our hearts and minds.  That leads us to silly quotes like “God hates the sin but loves the sinner“.  And while there may be a kernel of truth to this, it really is putting words into God’s mouth.  We are not God, and we cannot compartment our hate and our love.  God must do that for us and we should not believe that it is perfected within our lives.

So what is the answer then?  What is Jesus really telling us?  And why would Scripture tell us not to judge (really judge) and then tell us to judge (really judge)?  Especially when we know (beyond any shadow of a doubt) that we need to judge in our everyday lives.  How could our courts, our Government, our business, our very society survive without judgement?  How do we survive without judgement?

Fortunately these words are from Jesus.  And that means they are recorded in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).  And fortunately Luke recalled perhaps a more complete account of the time than Matthew might have.  Here is how Luke recorded the same event that Matthew is relating to us:

37Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”  Luke 6:37-38  KJV

Luke adds in a couple of extra thoughts here.  First of all he tells us that the judgment being talked about here is the kind that condemns.  In other words, Luke has qualified for us that we should not use our judgement to punish, convict, censure, or pronounce unfit for society, those around us.  And Luke adds in a second thought here, and that is we should forgive instead of condemn.  In other words we should grant pardon to those that offend us.

Scripture clearly tells us that we are to use our good judgment.  But it also tells us that we should not use our judgement to condemn those in the world today.  Condemnation does not win people.  Forgiveness is what wins another’s heart.  And Scripture tells us why we are to act this way:

It is found right there in the second half of the statement.  Because by the same measure that we judge or forgive people, that is what will be reciprocated in kind.  In other words, if I am judgmental and condemning to you, that is exactly how you are going to respond to me.  Try it.  Tell someone what they should or shouldn’t do.  Won’t they usually do just the opposite?  If we are forgiving and do not condemn however, we are much more likely to find an open heart and a listening ear.

My prayer today is that we all would use good judgment in our lives, and recognize that means a little more forgiveness towards others and a little less condemnation.

Do You Have A Bucket List?

In 2007 Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman brought us The Bucket List, a movie about facing death and accomplishing your life’s goals.  The basic premise of the movie is that two men facing certain and imminent death, decide they have not yet lived life to the fullest and make a list of things they wish to do before they kick the bucket (so to speak).

In the past ten years since that movie taught us that it must be really, really important to make a list of things we’d like to accomplish before we die and then cross each item off that list, family members, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and strangers off the street, have all shared their Bucket Lists with me.

In all that time, I have never once shared my Bucket List with those that have shared theirs with me, or anyone else for that matter.  It would be pretty difficult for me to do so since I do not have a Bucket List, nor will I ever have a Bucket List.

You may ask: Don’t I have goals and aspirations?  And the answer would be “Of course I do.”  But the concept of creating some fanciful list that I’m going to complete before I die is the kind of thinking that has completely warped our world views for the past several decades.  Where is the focus, and what is the object of me creating a Bucket List and then attempting to mark off each item?  Is it not Me?  And if you have a Bucket List, is it not You?

Let’s consider the concept of a Bucket List from each of the three base world views:

If you are Agnostic in your world view, why in the world would you care about completing anything specific before you die?  After all, life is Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will be, Will be) for the agnostic world view.  The idea that there is any meaning whatsoever in accomplishing a certain number of pre-defined tasks before one dies makes absolutely no sense from an agnostic world view point, other than to simply please oneself.

If you are Atheistic in your world view, I might almost argue that the concept of a Bucket List is some feeble attempt on your part to find purpose and meaning within creation.  It probably makes you believe you will have accomplished something, completed a set of goals, you may even believe it will provide you with a sense of satisfaction.  To know that you have managed to complete those things that you have desired within your lifetime is fulfilling and thus assigns purpose and meaning to your existence here on Earth.  But once again, the atheist fulfilling their Bucket List does nothing for the rest of us.  It is for them, and them alone.  Oh sure, we may be happy for someone marking one of their life’s goals off the list.  We will rejoice with them at their point of triumph.  But in the end, we go our separate ways, time passes, and goals, triumphs, victories, are lost and forgotten.  And I would still ask:  Did you, personally, completing some task before you die, really and truly answer the question of life, its purpose and its meaning?  If so, would you mind sharing it with the rest of us?  Because I think we’d all be quite curious about that.  The true atheist has actually come to grips with the fact that (in their world view) there is no purpose or meaning to it all.  Its just the laws of nature playing out over time and even their Bucket List was prescribed within the physical laws at the moment of the Big Bang (and the one before that, and the one before that, …).

However, if you are Theistic in your world view, there is a creator (or creator(s) depending on your specific Theology) and there is hope of life beyond death.  It is with the Theistic world view and the concept of a Bucket List that I am most intrigued.  Why in the world would we, who have hope of eternal life, ever need to complete some self gratifying list of tasks before we die?  Would we, no, will we not, have all of eternity to complete the most wonderful adventures that an eternity could possibly offer?

Some might be asking right now what is wrong with having a set of life goals and with wanting to complete them in this lifetime, before one dies?  And the answer is absolutely nothing.  However, for the Christian I would ask, “Who are you completing them for?”

For you see, not once in the last ten years, have I ever had someone share their Bucket List with me and have any of the items on it be “Honor God above all else”.  “Follow after Jesus Christ with all my heart, and all my soul, and all my might.”  “Learn to know my Creator more than I know myself.”  “Lift up Jesus Christ and give Him all Honor and all Glory and all Praise.”  These have not even been items on the list, let alone the very FIRST item on the list.

You might be arguing right now that those things are already foremost in your life.  They wouldn’t be things that you would put on a Bucket List.

I’d like you to consider something if you are one of the ones making that argument.  If He, The Great I Am, is foremost in your life, why do you even need a Bucket List?  Does it bring Him Honor and Glory?  Did He direct it in your life?  How does you pursuing some arguably arbitrary goals put Him first in your life?  And if He really is foremost in your life, why do even need a Bucket List in the first place?  Shouldn’t taking up your cross and following in the footsteps of Christ be all that you need?  Isn’t keeping our eyes on Christ about all we, as humans, can hope to accomplish?

Perhaps if we were all to spend our time seeking after Him, instead of our own life goals, we would all find a few more of our life’s dreams and aspirations fulfilled.  Perhaps we should all consider making it more about Him and a little less about ourselves.