Wednesday, January 25, 2012


     We cannot imagine a world without judgment or judges. In our fallen state, we find the necessity to judge between right and wrong. We see the need to reward the right and punish the wrong.

     We must judge, reward, and punish to hold our society and world together.

     We find it natural then to project all of this onto God, making him the ultimate judge. But this is an illusion. We made it up. What do you make of Jesus saying, 
"The Father judges no one." 
John 5:22a
  No one has seen the Father but the Son (John 6:46). He is the expert witness on who the Father is. The only one who has seen the Father says he 
"judges no one."

     Following this, Jesus says, 
"The Father has entrusted all judgment to the Son."
John 5:22b 
John 5:27

     So, if the Father judges no one and has entrusted all judgment to the Son, then does Jesus judge us? Jesus answers this question, 
"Do not think I accuse you to the Father." 
John 5:45
"I do not judge anyone." 
John 12:47

     The Father gave the Son authority and capacity to judge and Jesus refrained from doing it. So if the Father judges no one and Jesus, who could judge but doesn't, then who judges?

     In John 8:15, Jesus explains, 
"You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one."

     There it is. We live in a world held together by judgment based more or less on arbitrary human standards. We are the ones who judge others and ourselves. We can't imagine our world working in any other way.

     We judge ourselves because we feel guilty and we often judge others for the same reason. The biggest criticism of the church that I have heard over the past forty years of ministry is that it is so judgmental. I have always thought this very odd, since we claim to represent the God who judges no one.

     You may judge that you are not spiritual enough, don't pray enough, etc., or that you are too fat, too stupid, or too wrong in some other way. That judgment is yours and yours alone. You either made it up or you accepted someone else's opinion of you. 

Enough pain.

     Don't compound it by thinking God shares your opinion of you. He doesn't. When the Father looks at you, he sees his Son in whom he is well pleased. He has the same affection for you as he has for his Son. That Son says, 
"I do not judge, for I did not come to judge the world, but to save it." 
John 12:47

     So let's let him save us. 
Save us from judging ourselves and everyone else.

Friday, January 20, 2012


     Some people are anxious to discover God's perfect will for their lives, especially when making big decisions, like who to marry, where to live, what job to take, etc. Behind this anxiety is the notion that if they miss God's leading and make the wrong choice, they will have to settle for less than his best. A softer version of this is a preoccupation with finding God's guidance in daily life. Such people often get stuck, wondering if they have really heard from God. 

     In early Israel, the adolescent days of the people of God, he led them by visible, audible signs: voices, fire, cloud, fleeces, talking animals, and prophets. That was the old way of knowing God's will. Now there is a new way. 

"In the old days God spoke to the fathers by prophets. These days he speaks to us by his Son."
Hebrews 1:1-2
      That is to say, God now leads us by the Spirit according to our knowledge of Jesus. We gain that knowledge by reading the New Testament, particularly the Gospels. At least 90% of all daily decisions are guided by what Jesus said and did. If we truly want God's will for our lives, we will believe what we find in Jesus.

What about the remaining 10%? 
The Bible doesn't tell us what car to buy or what job to take.
What now? 
The answer is do what you want to do.
Isn't this dangerous? 
Don't we all know people who have made a mess of things by following their own desires?
The caveat to this dilemma should be obvious. 

If we love Jesus and have his words and deeds in our thinking, we have his mind.

      If we have a teachable heart, we will not go too far wrong. And if we make a bad choice, it can be redeemed. After all, the biggest mistake we ever made was rejecting God when he came to us in the flesh of Jesus and that was spectacularly redeemed. So don't worry too much about making a mistake and don't get stuck.

     As Yogi Berra said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." Guidance comes when we are in motion. Trying to turn the steering wheel of a parked car is difficult and pointless.

     If God wanted us to know his perfect will for our lives he would have told us to find it. He also would have told us how to find it. Nowhere in the Bible does he do so. Therefore, 

we are in no way responsible for getting everything right.

     When the Bible talks about God's will for our lives, it's always in terms of our character. For instance, 
"It is God's will that you be sanctified." 
I Thessalonians 4:3
     Marry who you want to marry. Take the job you like. Book the vacation you desire. Attend the church you enjoy. God's will for your life is not about these things. His will is that whatever you do and wherever you go, be the best you possible.

     As we get older and log some experience, guidance becomes easy - provided we have been paying attention. If we love God and trust him, he trusts us. After all, we are told to have the same mind in us that was in Christ (Philippians 2:5) and the Spirit is in us to will and do his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). 

So do what you want.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


     The greatest power humans possess is the power and freedom to make choices. By the time we reach our mid 20's our life looks mostly like the choices we have been making. If we want better lives we are free to make different choices and in time, our lives will reflect those choices. Some bad things that happen to us, of course, are not of our choosing. But we are free to choose how we respond to those bad things. 

     Victor Frankel, the famous Jewish psychologist, made this point in his classic book, "Man's Search For Meaning." One of the core insights he gained from his years in Nazi concentration camps is that when we are utterly victimized, suffering helplessly at the hands of others, one final power we have that cannot be taken away is our power to choose how to respond. He says that those in the camps who chose hope and a future tended to survive. Those who gave up died.

     In Deuteronomy 30:19-20, God tells Israel to "choose life.

Life equals prosperity, health, and long life for us and our children. 

     In the context of these verses, choosing life is:
loving God and listening to his voice. 

     That voice we most clearly hear is in the Gospels, the voice of God's visible image, Jesus Christ.

     Jesus is constantly calling us to make choices for life that result in life more abundant. His list of choices that lead to life is long. 

The list, while longer than this, looks something like this:

  • Repeatedly Jesus tells us to choose trust and faith over worry. Some of us find it hard to believe that worry is a choice, but it is. We can't choose not to worry directly. We just worry unless we choose to focus on and fill our imaginations with the Father Jesus knows. Jesus, who knows the Father personally, says he is a good, caring, providing, loving Father who is very fond of you. We are totally free to believe him and since what he says is true, we can believe with confidence.
  • We can choose repentance over guilt. Shame is feeling bad for who you are. It is always wrong, wrong, wrong. What can we say except - just stop it. Guilt is the result of what we do. Feeling bad for doing bad is the evidence of mental health, but it shouldn't last long. You were forgiven every sin, past, present, and future in the death and resurrection of Jesus 2000 years ago. We access and feel that provision by owning our sin, making no excuses, confessing it and saying thank you for forgiveness.
  • We can choose forgiveness over bitterness. Forgiveness is a choice. We can do it. We can state it. While we don't have to feel forgiveness to forgive, in time, we are likely to feel what we choose to do. Our forgiving may do nothing for the person forgiven, but in so doing, we set ourselves free. We open ourselves up to more life. We literally choose life.
  • We can choose contentment over envy, community over isolation, love for the poor over indifference, prayer over T.V., etc.
     I know people, even have family members, who don't want life. They have chosen to see themselves as victims. Self pity is their dominant emotion. They say they are OK with that. Hopefully, you are not one of these.

     To make choosing life run more efficiently say out loud, many times a day:

Thank you Father for providing all I need in life. I'm so happy that you are fond of me.