Under Judgement

“For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ ” – Luke 7:33‭-‬34 NRSV

Which are you? Are you judged by the people around you because you don’t eat bread* or drink wine, or are you being judged because you do eat bread and have a glass of wine or beer? ‘Bread’ can be changed to many other foods – different meats, or any meats; being vegan or vegetarian or gluten-free or Kosher or avoiding any number of different foods – for many reasons. Just because I have wine or beer with my meal doesn’t make me a drunk, and if I should choose to eat a certain way my reasons shouldn’t be questioned or cause ridicule….. and yet it is. Not me in particular, although it has happened. Christians are not alone in judging other people. Look around at the negative posts on social media, the absolute ugliness and denigrating of each other in politics, the so-called ‘reality’ shows on television. So much name calling and general put downs. It’s really disgusting that so many people calling themselves Christian participate in this behavior.

JESUS said this to His disciples: “If any want to become My followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for My sake will save it.” – Luke 9:23‭-‬24 NRSV

I’m not very good at denying myself. Looking at myself and those around me, it doesn’t appear that many of us are any good at it. Credit cards maxed out, huge mortgages, vehicle loans, personal credit lines, store credits…. where does it all end? We are judged for what we have – and we are judged for what we don’t have. For it to end, we have to make a beginning. As we go through each day, beginning now, whenever a negative or judgemental thought forms, take a second to realize that you don’t know how or why that person is the way they are. The wealthiest person can be the most emotionally miserable and bereft, and the one whose appearance is of extreme poverty might be content in their soul. Until we know that person, we can’t understand their pain.

And In Conclusion….

“Now may the GOD of Peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our LORD JESUS CHRIST comes again. GOD will make this happen, for He Who calls you is Faithful. Dear brothers and sisters, pray for us. May the Grace of our LORD JESUS CHRIST be with you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:23‭-‬25‭, ‬28 NLT

What a beautifully written, eloquent conclusion to Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church. Wouldn’t it be outstanding if we really treated each other with the respect that Paul treats the early churches? Respectful and loving, blunt and truthful – with love – when we have strayed from the teachings of JESUS. Wouldn’t it be amazing to show our total belief in JESUS, that He can perform miracles in our lives, the way the Roman Centurian did?

“……. And Jesus went with them, but when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to Him, “LORD, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have You come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to You. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When JESUS heard this He was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed Him, He said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” – Luke 7:6‭-‬9 NRSV

I want to hear JESUS say that about me.

Photo credit http://www.weheartit.com

Are You Listening?

I follow Graham Allen on Rant Nation. Yes, he uses rough language at times, and yet I listen to him. He has lots of tatoos, and I watch him anyway. He posted a video (“The Light of the Lord,” in case you want to watch it 😁 ) about a comment a woman – who said she was a Christian – said to him about his tattoos. She didn’t like the tattoos; therefore, she “couldn’t stand to look at him.” Really??? Woman, did you hear yourself? Are you even listening? I’m working really hard not to be judgemental here…. JESUS has something to say about it, too.

But I say to you that listen, LOVE your enemies, DO GOOD to those who hate you, BLESS those who curse you, PRAY for who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. GIVE to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. DO TO OTHERS as you would have them do to you.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

But LOVE your enemies, DO GOOD, and LEND, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be MERCIFUL, just as your Father is Merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. FORGIVE, and you will be forgiven; GIVE, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” – Luke 6:27‭-‬38 NRSV

If that last sentence didn’t grab your attention, perhaps you should read it again. I did. I think maybe we, meaning every single person who claims the name of Christian, should print out those verses and post them on our mirrors so that we see them Every. Single. Day. You might not need it, but I need the reminder. Me. The person who doesn’t love my enemies (I hold grudges and have a hard time letting go of hurts), who has trouble doing good to people who don’t like me, and especially doesn’t want to pray for blessings on any of those people!! Then I read that sentence again ” ….. for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.Whatever I do will – and does – directly affect me. Not ‘karma’, JESUS. Thank you, Graham Allen and Rant Nation, for reminding me what, and WHO, is really important.

‘Perfect’ Christians

Perfect Christians don’t exist, nor do perfect churches, and anyone who tries to say differently is a liar and possibly a fool.

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to His [JESUS’] disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” JESUS answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:30‭-‬32 NIV

Do you find a sense of relief in this passage? I do! Knowing that JESUS came for me, the bruised and the broken, full of faults and cracks, it’s amazing, …. and unbelievable??? Why would the King of Heaven, Who created this amazing universe, care about an insignificant being like me? I say inappropriate things, I want to be the center of attention, I keep getting involved with men who just want to use me. I’m selfish and self centered. All these faults, and JESUS Loves me??? I used to be one of those people who thought that I had to be perfect for GOD to Love me. You know, wear the ‘right’ clothes, act the ‘right’ ways, don’t smoke or drink or curse or dance. Be in church for Sunday school and training union (Sunday evening classes) and services, and Wednesday prayer meetings. I was pretty self-righteous and judgemental, and it can still creep up on me at times – I have to be on guard against it.

There’s a song from Hilary Scott (of the group Lady Antebellum) called “Thy Will” that seems so appropriate for me – and probably many others – right now. Here’s the first verse:

I’m so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

Sound like anything you’ve been through, like feelings you’ve felt, thoughts you’ve had? Then I follow it with this beautiful song by Lauren Dagle, who sings from her heart:

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know

Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet
You have every failure God, and You’ll have every victory,

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

I think that sometimes we think, we believe we are following GOD’s Will, but maybe it becomes more what we want more than what He wills for us, and maybe, sometimes, it is His Will that we go through the hard time so that we remember that He is GOD, not me or you. I don’t like being told I’m wrong, or that what I’ve done wasn’t correct, and I’ve never liked being called out or disciplined. It makes me bristle and want to argue, to show that I was right, dadgummit, even when it’s the LORD GOD Who is doing the discipling! Really, do I honestly think the CREATOR is wrong? Yeah, oops. I think it’s pretty obvious that I am far, far from perfect! But, perfection – and perfectionism – aside, the GLORIOUS Truth is that our GOD, our LORD and KING of Heaven, LOVES me, Loves us, anyway! He Loves us through our imperfections and our brokenness, He Loves us regardless of our silliness and stubbornness – HALLELUJAH! Remember what JESUS said: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

I thank my GOD every day for the gift of His Salvation, even when I’m felling down because of the situation! Can you say the same? Oh, I pray that you can! All the brokenness, all the junk and bad times probably won’t meticulously change for the better, although our LORD can do anything, especially the things that we see as impossible.

This is what God says to us, and whispers in our ear:

TRUST and OBEY

TRUST and OBEY. Difficult words. Trust defined: “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” Trust is faith, and faith, well, faith is tough when you have had (or have) pain and betrayal in your life. Then there’s ‘Obey’. The word leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you have no trust, no faith, in the person or persons you are supposed to obey. Parents, siblings, classmates, friends, bosses, the list of people who might require us to obey them is long and varied. I have been betrayed countless times, and I know I have betrayed trust that was placed in me. Betrayal doesn’t have to be deliberate, but the hurt runs deep, making it difficult to trust again. We become guarded in offering our trust and faith, and that impacts every aspect of our lives. Every person who has ever lived or will ever live on this earth – from the first man, Adam, to the newest baby born – will experience betrayal. Even GOD the FATHER, our CREATOR, and JESUS CHRIST, our LORD, have experienced it!

How do we get past it? I submit that there is only one way to escape the unending treadmill of no trust, and that is to look at the perfect record of our LORD. Throughout the recorded history of the thousands of years of earth’s and man’s existence, GOD has never betrayed us. Even in the worst betrayals of man against Him, the FATHER stood with those who chose Him (remember, He gave man Free Will when He created him). He stood beside us even when we persecuted and tortured and murdered His Son, and He allowed it as the Sacrifice to end all sacrifice. He has used the Blood of JESUS to cover and cleanse our sins… past, present, and future, of those who make that choice to Trust in the LORD.

It’s a choice. Making the choice is simple, and it can be difficult for many of us, but it’s still a choice! Whether we like it or not, the truth is that we have to choose between the one who currently rules world or the ONE Who CREATED of the world. The enemy makes the way of world look all glam and glittery and enticing and easy, but it’s all window dressing. Once he gets you and you begin to see how truly ugly it is, it’s really hard to escape from his grasp.

Here’s the GOOD NEWS! It’s never to late to escape! All we have to do is look up, away from the enemy, to see JESUS and realize He has been right there all along, just waiting for you to ask Him for help.

“The Lord is my Strength and my Shield; my heart trusts in Him,and He helps me. My heart leaps for Joy, and with my song I praise Him.” – Psalm 28:7 NIV

Have you looked at JESUS and chosen to trust HIM over the enemy? Listen to the words of the old hymn Trust and Obey, and the way Big Daddy Weave sings it. Verse 2 says:
But we never can prove
The delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay
For the favor He shows
For the joy He bestows
Are for them who will trust and obey

JESUS – Prophesy Revealed.

“He [JESUS] went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the LORD is on Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim Freedom for the prisoners and Recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed Free, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.” Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” ” – Luke 4:16‭-‬21 NIV

Can you imagine arriving at church one morning to worship, and someone you’ve known for years stands up in front of everyone and says “I am the fulfillment of the scriptures”? Can you imagine the laughter and scoffing? I think that very thing happened to JESUS. I’m sure someone said “You’re a good man, true, but the MESSIAH??? No way! You’re the son of Joseph, not GOD! Take it back!” We know that’s what happened because it is documented in the scriptures.

“All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove Him out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him off the cliff. But He walked right through the crowd and went on His way.” – Luke 4:28‭-‬30 NIV

Gotta love that last sentence! The people were determined to kill Him, and JESUS just walks right through the crowd and away from them. The confusion that had to have descended upon the crowd would have been a sight to behold, I’m sure. Most people known that He went on to teach and heal and minister for the next three years, until the rulers of Israel decided He was too much of a threat to them. All four Gospels tell the story of His ministry, His persecution by the authorities, His ‘trial’, torture, and crucifixion, and of His VICTORY over death and the grave! If you aren’t familiar with the whole story, read the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They are written from the perspectives of a tax collector, a teenager, a physician, and a fisherman – all first-hand observations of the life and ministry of JESUS, Whom they knew was the MESSIAH, as the fulfillment of the prophecies. Just ordinary people following an extraordinary Man, giving up their lives to follow Him.

We each have the opportunity to do what the disciples did: give up our selfish wants and follow the lead of JESUS – or deny Him. Do you know He is the fulfillment of propecy? Even the demons acknowledge that He is Who He says He is: the SON of the LIVING GOD, come to earth to sacrifice Himself so that we might each be saved from the very real eternity of hell and damnation. Are you willing to do the same as the disciples, to give up your worldly ways to follow JESUS; to open yourself to the attacks and harassment of the enemy, and the possibility of persecution or even torture? It’s more than just saying we believe! It is accepting Him as our SAVIOUR – something the demons won’t do, even knowing as they do the TRUTH of the Way of JESUS.

JESUS answered [a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish ruling council], “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. You should not be surprised at My saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the SPIRIT.” ” – John 3:5‭, ‬7‭-‬8 NIV

Are you born of the SPIRIT?

Photo credit Wallpaper4God.com

My Fortress

Satan tempted JESUS, saying to Him, “To You I will give all this [worldly] authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If You, then, will worship me, it will all be Yours.” And Jesus answered him [Satan], “It is written, ” ‘You shall worship the LORD your GOD, and HIM only shall you serve.’ ” – Luke 4:6‭-‬8 ESV [Deuteronomy 6:13]

This same enemy who tempted JESUS looks for our weaknesses to exploit. The longing for power and authority as wielded by kings and goverments is a huge temptation for many. Watching the ‘rich and famous’ through media outlets, others want that same financial strength and public recognition. Sometimes, even good things like children are a source of weakness when we desire them and can’t have them. Satan looks at our desires and places correlating temptations in our path. Without JESUS (Listen to “Only JESUS” by Casting Crowns), we can’t withstand the enemy’s relentless assault of our hearts and minds.

“GOD is our Refuge and Strength, a very present Help in trouble. ….. ‘Be still, and know that I AM GOD. I Will be Exalted among the nations, I Will be Exalted in the earth!’ The LORD of hosts is with us; the GOD of Jacob is our Fortress. Selah” – Psalms 46:1‭, ‬10‭-‬11 ESV

Thank GOD for His Mighty Fortress! Thank Him for the Gift of Himself in the person of JESUS CHRIST and the HOLY SPIRIT to save us from an eternity of untold and unimaginable agony in hell. Remember the old hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our GOD….”? It was written by Martin Luther in the mid 1500’s, and it is as true today as it was 500 years ago.
A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing:
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work his woe;
His craft and power are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth is his name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,—
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! His doom is sure,—
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers—
No thanks to them—abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also:
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is for ever.

(Credit Wikipedia.org for the information and lyrics)

Remember, with the LORD GOD as our Refuge and our Strength; our Fortress, we cannot lose! Oh, we will lose skirmishes while we are on earth, because the enemy has dominion over the earth…. for now, until our LORD creates the new heaven and earth! Unlike any earthly fortress, whether past, current, or future, our GOD’s Fortress will never fail. (Read the back of The Book – even the devil and all his little demons knows he loses!) AMEN!

(Photo from englishrussia.com )