Conclusion Jumping is not a sport

2 Timothy 1:5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

jump-to-conclusionsIf conclusion jumping was an Olympic sport, I’d be a gold medalist. You know what I’m talking about: someone says something vague to you and you immediately began a thorough investigation into what made them say that. “Why are they telling me what to do? Maybe they don’t like me. They obviously think I’m a terrible person.” You’ve probably had thoughts like these go through your head. Like me, you’ve made some impression jumps to conclusions. You could win a medal for it. Here’s the problem: conclusion jumping isn’t a sport that we ought to be participating in.

In his letter to Timothy, Paul gives an instruction. Then he immediately follows up the instruction with this statement: “I am saying this out of love and my heart is pure in it.” Why would Paul need to say that? Well, maybe there was a chance people thought he was just being a bossy jerk. I mean, have you read any of his other letters? He was man who was large and in charge. But here, he reveals his heart – because hearts can’t be read. They can’t be seen. They don’t always come through well with words or tone. And so they get misinterpreted and misunderstood.

The lesson here is that we can’t just make assumptions about Paul’s tone and then transfer those assumptions to intention of his heart. And if we shouldn’t make those assumptions about the Apostle Paul, then we shouldn’t make them about each other. If we truly love one another, qualifying statements shouldn’t be necessary. There’s only one true reader of hearts, and it isn’t you or me. So let’s get out of the conclusion jumping competition and start assuming the best in one another. If we do, we may discover a heart of gold in the most unexpected places.

Covered in dirt

Genesis 38:24-26 About three months later, Judah was told, “Tamar, your daughter-in-law, has acted like a prostitute. And now, because of this, she’s pregnant.” “Bring her out, and let her be burned!” Judah demanded. But as they were taking her out to kill her, she sent this message to her father-in-law: “The man who owns these things made me pregnant. Look closely. Whose seal and cord and walking stick are these?” Judah recognized them immediately and said, “She is more righteous than I am, because I didn’t arrange for her to marry my son Shelah.” And Judah never slept with Tamar again.

dirtyA friend who is addicted to alcohol criticizes your smoking habit. Your girlfriend gossips about your gossip problem. It’s what people do.  We judge others when we are just as guilty of the same things. I saw a sign recently that read, “don’t judge me just because my sin looks different than yours.” Now don’t get me wrong, we need to be called out on our sin. We need accountability. We need friends who steer us toward God. But let’s not burn the prostitute when we are the ones who slept with her… so to speak.

Judah was a man of God. He had no business sleeping with a prostitute; he knew better than that. Unbeknownst to him, the prostitute he slept with wasn’t a prostitute at all – it was his daughter-in-law. Ew. A while later, Judah is told that Tamar committed an act of prostitution. Now here is where awareness of your own sin comes in. This is when you think to yourself, “I really want to punish her, but I just slept with a prostitute myself.” Instead, he recommends burning her.

Dude.

Jesus said that we should remove the plank from our own eye before we point out the speck in our brother’s eye. That’s like someone covered in dirt saying to a friend, “Hey, you’ve got a little dirt on your face.”  What’s a little dirt on a friend matter if you are covered in it yourself? It was upon the realization that he was filthy himself that Judah changed his tone. He exclaimed that this sinner was far more righteous than he was. He became painfully aware of his own shortcomings and it caused him to have grace on her. If we would only do the same, we might be able to extend some grace also.

Is your pointer finger covered in dirt?

Taste of his own medicine

Genesis 29:22-25  22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her. 24 And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant.  25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”

medicine2Most of us have zipped in front of someone in traffic.  We don’t, however, like it when someone does the same to us.  We have said an unkind word but dislike unkind words said to us.  We have lied to someone and become angry when someone lied to us.  It feels a little different when we do it, doesn’t it?  When we get a taste of our medicine, we realize that maybe it isn’t such a good thing after all.

Jacob was a trickster; he was a deceiver.  He tricked his father into giving him the family blessing.  His setup was elaborate and full of deceit.  Yet he asks uncle Laban this question: “Why have you deceived me?”  Hmmm… you don’t like being deceived, huh, Jacob?  It seemed to suit your life well, but it didn’t taste so good when it was served to you. Jacob got a taste of his own medicine… and he didn’t like it.

I wonder if we act the same way in our lives.  I wonder if we hold others to a standard that we don’t hold ourselves to.  I wonder if we easily complete our own atrocities all while judging others for theirs.  We tell little white lies yet discipline our children when they do the same.  We show up late to places but get irritated when others do the same.  It’s time we begin to hold ourselves to our own standards and allow others to do the same in their own lives.  We must trust that God will work in the lives of others.  And while we wait for Him to do just that, we ought to ask Him to work in our own.

*Reflect today on the places where you are doing what Jacob did… questioning others for the very things you do.  (ouch)

Church FAIL

Luke 22:4-5  And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 

Judas is a disappointment.  He really blew it when it came to being a loyal disciple.  And throughout church history we have been pointing our fingers at him for betraying the One who gave him life.  We scoff at his choice to make a few bucks off the Son of God.  Then we start to wonder how long he had conspired to betray Jesus.  After all, he was the carrier of the money among the disciples.  We wonder if he helped himself to the cash on occasion.  We wonder if he ever really took part in any healings or if he stood by and just watched.  He is guilty, for sure.  He handed over Jesus to be executed.  It was a decision that proved too much to live with, so he killed himself shortly thereafter.

But what about the church?  What about the chief priests and the temple guards?  Are we not as perplexed at their plot to murder a great prophet who was healing God’s people? They had been conspiring for years and we are mad at Judas.  Friends, this is an epic fail for the church.  Imagine if a person came on the scene that was prophesying and spreading the gospel today.  In fact, let’s just hypothetically say that many churches aren’t real comfortable with Benny Hinn.  Maybe they don’t like his style or doubt his healings.  Should we conspire to hire a hit man and have him killed?  That’s preposterous!

Jesus clearly stated that the church’s response to opposition is to love.  Oh wait, they wouldn’t listen to Him.  Will we?  Will we love those who oppose us?  Will we let God be the judge of those who seem to be blaspheming His name?  Because it’s His job really, not ours.  Yet we get so worked up about defending His name.  We insist that people say “Christmas” instead of Happy Holidays.  We ask people not to swear.  We give disapproving looks to people doing things we don’t like.  That’s not how we are supposed to defend His name.  That’s just a modern day church fail.  We defend His name by living a life that He would be proud of.  We defend His name by loving, reaching, helping, and speaking life.   It does no good to defend His name with our mouths, but not live it with our lives.  So let your life line up with your mouth today.  Let your love be the measure of your faith.

One big happy family

2 Samuel 21:1  During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the LORD. The LORD said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.”  

Warning: There are 2 big takeaways today.  Yes, in this one little verse there are two profound truths we can discover.  So bear with me as I tackle them both.

Up first: I wonder what took David so long to ask God what was going on.  Do you ever do this?  Israel had some serious lack for three straight years when David finally decides to ask God what is going on.  I’ve experienced this phenomenon myself.  I remember one year as I was planning a summer outreach, the other leaders and I would regularly meet to plan out the details.  We would talk for two hours and accomplish nothing.  Then one of us would say, “maybe we should stop and ask God what we are to do.”  It was a giant, NO DUH!  So we prayed and God showed us the plan.   Why are we humans like this?  We struggle on our own for far too long before we ask God for His help.  If we would just ask God why there is a famine in the land sooner, maybe we wouldn’t have to endure it for three years.

The second part of this verse gives us a good dose of Godly truth as well.  Let me paint a picture for you.  Let’s say that in the church there were two types of Christians: those who grew up in Christian homes and those who did not.  We will call these two groups the “lifers” and the “latecomers.”   Now what if the lifers decided that they were superior to the latecomers.  They had been saved longer and didn’t really care for inexperienced Christians.  (Boy, I hope this doesn’t really happen anywhere!)  So the lifers decide to form their own little subgroup that only lifers are welcome to.  The latecomers don’t belong and considered second-class citizens.  What are your thoughts on that?

That would be a shame, wouldn’t it?  That would defeat the purpose of the church; it would be contrary to the heart of God.  But Saul committed a similar crime – he killed Gibeonites.  Who are the Gibeonites, you ask?  They are a people group who the Israelites made a treaty with in the book of Joshua.  They weren’t born the people of God, but they were brought into the nation of Israel and were given the privilege of serving the Lord.  They essentially became one big happy family.  You see, once God adopts someone in – He doesn’t plan on kicking them back out.  Once He promises protection, He doesn’t throw them to the wolves.  Saul violated God’s heart by killing those who seemed less important to God.  He misread God’s heart and passed judgement that wasn’t his to pass.  Let’s not do the same.

I can see your issues but not mine

2 Samuel 12:5-7a   5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”  7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!

I’ve gotta tell you David, you walked right into that one.  Word to the wise: if a prophet comes to you with an obscure story asking for advice, it might be a setup.  Poor David, caught in his sin – sin that he thought would remain a secret.  Sin that he thought would just go away over time.  If he only would have realized that sin doesn’t do that.  It doesn’t go away, it just grows.

What I see in today’s scripture is a human epidemic.  It is a disease called: I can see your sin but not mine.  How easily David called the man in Nathaniel’s story out on the carpet.  How quickly he was ready with a fitting punishment.  “Justice must prevail,” was David’s cry.  But what if you are the one who needs the justice?  It changes things, doesn’t it, when those shoes are on your feet.

Maybe this is why Jesus told us to take a look at the giant beam of wood called sin in our lives before we start pointing out other people’s slivers.   We so quickly want others to drink from the cup of judgment while we sip from our cup of grace.  If we are going to grow to be like Christ, we must first assess our own hearts.  We must do our best to stand clean before our God and spend less time focusing on the sins of others.  We’ve probably got enough things of our own to work on, anyways.

You’re Fired!

Romans 14:4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

You’re Fired!

Once common words that every employee dreaded to hear, these words have now been made famous by Donald Trump.  Playing the boss man in the reality TV show “The Apprentice” (I can’t believe this show is still on the air), Donald fires a contestant each week.  The plot goes like this: young business candidates, well now it is celebrities, compete in challenges each week to ultimately earn an internship position in one of Trump’s companies.  At the end of each week, one contestant loses his or her chance to land the job.   The bottom three contestants sit at a boardroom table, Trump points to one and boldly declares, “YOU’RE FIRED!”

Oh the power to hold someone’s future in your hands.  Well, technically he only holds the power to their future in his company.  Donald Trump doesn’t have the authority to fire someone else’s employee – just his own.  Imagine if he did.  He is out with his trophy wife (yeah I said it) eating dinner and the waiter brings him the wrong order.  “You’re fired” he exclaims.  He is at Nordstroms buying new shoes.  He doesn’t like how they fit so he tells the salesperson, “you’re fired.”  It’s a Trump firing rampage – look out!   This is a ridiculous notion, isn’t it – firing someone else’s employee?  I don’t think that would ever fly.  I don’t think anyone should have that kind of power.  Wait, didn’t our president fire the CEO of General Motors.  How in the world… okay, I digress.

Getting to the point of today’s devotional.  We are all servants of God.  We work for Him.  That’s what Paul is saying here.  So who are we to go around judging someone else’s servant?  How do we get to tell God how to run His organization and how to treat His employees?  Quite simply, we don’t.  God doesn’t ask us to go around pointing fingers and demanding that he deals with someone a certain way.  It is not up to us to determine how someone gets treated; it is up to God.  If He wants to rough them up, that’s His decision.  If He wants to give them a hundred billion chances, that’s His decision too. (The latter is probably much more likely with God)

Our focus then, should not be how we think God ought to be dealing with others.  Our focus ought not to be on putting someone else’s employees in their place.  Our focus should be on our service; it should be on our employment status with God.  How are we measuring up against His standard?  It’s a “me and He” relationship.  That’s the focus.  That’s where all of our energy should lie.  If we spend all our time trying to figure out what God should do with so and so, we will just waste our time.   Because if I take all my time to evaluate others, I don’t have any time left to give of myself.