Tag Archives: Judge

For the Good of the Whole

The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done….'”
Numbers 5:5-7 (NIV)

Many of the client offices in which I’ve worked over the years are cramped quarters. Numerous people work in confined spaces with little barrier between desks. During the winter months it is quite common to hear stories of entire departments decimated by the flu or other viruses that spread quickly with little or no warning. Over the years when I’ve found myself with a nasty bug I have felt compelled to call clients and explain, “You don’t want me visiting you right now.” I can’t remember a single client who wasn’t grateful for me being considerate of their operation and team members.

When reading through the ancient marching orders for the Hebrew nation in the book of Numbers it’s easy to for me to find myself perplexed in the simple reading of the text. It is so easy to read it from a 21st century American perspective and scratch my head. There is little connection between me (the modern, western technological age reader) and a nomadic nation of semitic people in Arabia around 3500 years ago.

Stepping back and looking at today’s chapter as a whole, the rules prescribed through Moses had to do with things that were threats to their community, starting with that which was physical and easy to see and ending with that which was relational and much harder to judge.

It begins with that which was physical and quite easy to diagnose. In that time period infectious disease could wipe out an entire people in little or no time. While my cold virus might wreak havoc on my client’s workforce and productivity, in the days of Moses a nasty virus could bring death and plague to the entire nation. So, those who showed clear physical sign of what might be a disease were to be quarantined outside the camp. Next came the broad category of “wronging” another member of the community. I think of this as the type of neighborly disputes that might end up in small claims court at my local courthouse. Finally, the bulk of the chapter deals with the most intimate and difficult things to know or to judge: marital infidelity.

It’s easy as a modern reader to get mired in the struggle to understand rules made for an ancient, middle-eastern culture. Wendy and I had a fascinating discussion over coffee last week about the historical and cultural contexts of these rules. Still, I walk away from today’s chapter reminded that all cultures need laws, rules, and regulations that protect the good of the community.  Infectious disease, personal disputes, and the breakdown of marriage all have consequences that  radiate throughout the community. God through Moses prescribed very specific ways to determine and deal with them for the good of the whole.

This morning I’m thankful to live in a community with a strong system of law that protects our community, state, and nation as a whole. I’m also reminded this morning of my individual responsibility to be considerate of my community as a whole. In fact, I report for jury duty in two weeks.

From Monochrome to Living Color

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
Romans 2:1 (NIV)

When I was a young man first endeavoring to follow Jesus, life was far more monochromatic. I was unaware just how black and white my world really was. I delineated life into binary camps: good and evil, godly and ungodly, believers and unbelievers, things allowed and things not allowed, right and wrong.

Towards the end of his ministry, Jesus said that He would, on the day of Judgement, divide the nations into sheep and goats. Those on His right would go to their reward in eternity and those on His left would go to the fire prepared for the devil and his angels. One of the most important lessons, and one that is oft forgotten, is that judgement will be Jesus’ job.

The further I get on this life journey, the more clearly I see that when I presume to sit in judgement on others I am presuming to take up Jesus’ job. If I presume to do Jesus’ job for Him then I am setting myself up to be equal to Him; making myself God. That is really the core sin of Eden. Therefore, when I do this I am proving exactly the opposite of what I presume. When I presume to sit in judgement on others I am proving that I am as much a sinner in need of salvation as the person I condemn.

Life is much less monochromatic than it used to be. While there are things that I can perceive are still clearly black and white in this world, my view from the path is a colorful place with infinite hues. I seem to have lost my label maker somewhere along the way, and I haven’t really missed it. Life is an interesting place, a mysterious place, a beautiful place. I find that I am more fascinated and feel less need to understand. I am more intrigued and feel less need to be convinced. I am more given more to faith and less concerned with my doubts. I am more given to grace and am happy to let Jesus have the job of Judge.

 

chapter a day banner 2015

featured image: vinothchandar via Flickr

The Latest 11-22-2015

Madison has her wings!
Our birthday girl!

Today is our daughter Maddy Kate’s 24th Birthday!! I have to send a shout out to her. Madison has diligently focused her life on graduating from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in December. Between school and flying the friendly skies, she’s been such a busy girl. We’re so proud of her and can’t wait to see where God leads her in her impending new stage of life. 🙂

It seems like I’ve been unusually haphazard with posting the last couple of weeks. To be honest, the switch back to regular time from Daylight Savings Time has thrown my body off more than usual this year. I’ve always been a morning person, but I’ve been having a hard time pulling myself out of bed in the mornings and so I’ve missed a few mornings.

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Wendy and I enjoyed celebrating her brother, Lucas’ Birthday at Hickory Park in Ames. We also had the opportunity to meet his fiancé, Brooke, for the first time. After dinner we got a tour of the Greek Orthodox Church that he is helping to fix up in Ames and the parsonage where he lives with a couple of other guys from Iowa State.

My friend, Matthew Burch, and I were scheduled to present our More Than Conqueror’s men’s conference at Westview Church in Waukee on Nov 13-14, but it was rescheduled due to a tragic death in the Westview family and the funeral that had to be scheduled that Saturday. We’re looking at a date in January or February. Stay tuned.

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Pella’s Tulip Court for 2016.
Me with my fellow judges Doug and Chad. We were three of about 30 or more judges for the evening.
Me with my fellow judges Doug and Chad. We were three of about 30 or more judges for the evening.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to be a judge for Pella’s Tulip Queen. We got to meet each of the 13 ladies for a brief personal interview. We then judged their presentation before the Tulip Queen and her court were announced at the end of the evening. It was a great experience, and I was amazed at the amazing group of capable young ladies. Any one of them would have represented our community well. It was hard having to see eight of them be disappointed, but so proud of our 2016 Hollandse Magdz.

Speaking of Pella, a shout out to the boys’ football team who won their second State Championship in a row on Thursday night. Wendy and I had to record the game, but we stayed up late to cheer them on. Well done, boys!

Even though the men’s conference got cancelled, I had plenty of opportunities to speak this past week. I gave the morning message in the Auditorium at Third Church last week. On Monday I left at 4:30 a.m. to make the four hour drive to Sioux Center where I presented two training sessions for a client. Then drove home. Long day. Then on Wednesday evening I spoke to the high school group at Third.

We headed to Theatre Central’s production of Lion in Winter on Thursday evening. A few of the cast members were in Ah, Wilderness! with me back in 2013 and it was fun to see them on stage.

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On Friday night Wendy and I had our Open House and Stock the Bar party here at VW Manor. Murphy’s Law struck and Iowa got pounded with our first snow storm of the season. We forged ahead with our party and were pleased at the number of hardy souls who braved the elements to join us. We got the chance to meet several of our neighbors whom we had yet to meet. Our house was packed, and the bar definitely got broken in. Of course, Wendy had an amazing spread of snacks and desserts and everyone had a good time!

Unshackled

This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. Galatians 2:4 (NIV)

As an actor, I was trained to dig into a character’s motivation and what makes him or her tick. Why do they act the way they do? What is it that he or she wants? What drives him or her to do that? The result is that Wendy and I find ourselves constantly observing people and discussing what it is that seems to motivate them. It’s not about being critical, in fact it’s just the opposite. Rather than observing a person’s behavior and immediately judging the person based merely on our reaction to his or her behavior, we try to genuinely gain a better understanding of why that person behaves the way they do.

Wendy and I were just talking over the weekend about a person we have observed who seemingly chooses to be shackled to their legalistic, religious rules. Our discussion led to  that people who choose to be enslaved to legalistic, religious rules are motivated out of a fear of what others will think. It would seem that they are so worried about appearing good, pure, upstanding, holy that they will tie themselves up in knots to keep up the appearance of propriety (and will try to force their loved ones to do the same). The result? Uptight, joyless people enslaved to rules and perceptions.

This is exactly what Paul was touching on in today’s chapter. Experiencing the spiritual freedom to follow Jesus’ teaching without jumping through the legalistic hoops of Judaism, Paul now had to confront the uptight, joyless legalists who wished to put, and all other believers, him back in shackles. “No thanks,” I hear Paul saying and my own soul echoes the sentiment. I walked the path of legalism for several years and it twisted my soul to the point that love, joy, and peace were wrung out of my life – the very things that matter most.

To the legalistic, religious, rule following Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The discussion Wendy and I had led us to feel sorry for our shackled friend. “We need to pray for them to experience real freedom,” Wendy said. Indeed. And, so we are.

The Many Faces of Prejudice

 “Surely such is the dwelling of an evil man;
   such is the place of one who does not know God.”
Job 18:21 (NIV)

As I write these words, our nation finds itself struggling with racial tension after a young black man was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri and the legal system found no legal basis to charge the officer with wrong doing. I have seen this before. I watched it happen after the Rodney King verdict in California. As a child I remember the conversation which lingered for years after the race riots in Watts, California. As a teenager I attended what was, at the time, the most racially diverse high school in the state of Iowa, and I sat on a student committee with students from the white, black, hispanic and asian communities. Our nation is a melting pot, and we continually struggle to get past preconceived notions of one another, to connect, and to relate to one another on a human level.

Along the journey I’ve discovered that prejudice comes in many different forms. Race does not have a monopoly on pre-judging others. There is socio- economic prejudice as in “All rich people are…” or “All those white trash are….” There is regional prejudice as we speak of east coast liberals, northern yankees, southern hillbillies, west coast granola types, midwest farmers, and etc.” There is increasing political prejudice on both sides of the aisle. And, there is also spiritual prejudice which we see in today’s chapter.

Bildad’s rhetoric is getting more intense as he begins to lose patience with Job. He sets off on what he perceives to be the common end of all who are “wicked” and it looks a lot like Job’s present circumstances. The problem is, Bildad is painting his picture of the wicked with a very broad brush. For every wicked person who gets what we believe to be just suffering for their wrong doing, there is another wicked person who gets away with it. For every righteous person who seems to wallow in abundant blessing, I can show you a righteous person who endures unbelievable suffering like Job.

Today, I am reminded that Jesus repeatedly commanded us NOT to judge others, even as He commanded us to LOVE even our enemies and those who hate and persecute us. Until each one of us obediently follows both commands we will continue to struggle with all of our prejudices.

Finding Wisdom Amidst the Ruins

Chorazin

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.” Luke 10:13-15 (NIV)

When you visit Israel, there are a million places you can visit. Jerusalem and the temple mount are a big attraction. Floating in the Dead Sea and trekking up to the fortress of Masada makes the top of most tourist’s list as does a dinner cruise on the Sea of Galilee. Then there is Megiddo, Mount Carmel, Mount Gilboa, the Garden Tomb, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, The Jordan River, and on and on and on.

As I and my companions made our way around the north shore of the of Sea of Galilee, our guide, George, took a turn onto some back roads. It was obvious that we were off the beaten path. Even George, who knows the area like the back of his hand, seemed a bit lost for a few minutes. Finally we pulled into a group of ruins and got out. The site was desolate and bare. Unlike many sites in the Holy Land there was no hoopla. There were no trinket shops or refreshment stands. This place was clearly among the official sites to get scratched off the “must see” list for most tourists. The place was dead.

We were in the ruins of Chorazin, a small backwater town where Jesus once taught and performed miracles. The people of Chorazin did not respond favorably to Jesus message and miracles, however. I pondered Jesus’ words of woe as I walked silently among the ruined walls and abandoned buildings.

Wendy and I have been talking a lot this past week about the small daily choices we make and their cumulative effects. “I place before you Life and Death,” God once told His people before adding, “Choose life.” Along this journey I’ve come to realize that the choice of Life or Death is not a one time monumental decision, but a series of small daily choices that I make every day. What I choose to eat and how much of it I consume slowly affects my weight, my mood, and a myriad of other health issues. If I choose to sleep in and forget an important meeting it will affect my client relationship and, eventually, my income. If I consistently choose to give in to little bad habits they will eventually lead to very big consequences.

I snapped the picture above from the rubble of Chorazin looking out over the Sea of Galilee. It’s become a constant reminder to me that Jesus is both Savior and Judge. I find that I love to think of Jesus the Savior, but I like to conveniently forget Jesus the Judge. Woe to me for doing so, for amidst a judged Chorazin there is wisdom to be found for those who choose to wander in the ruins and digest Jesus’ words.

Responding to Speculation and False Accusations

Tabloids a Twitter
Tabloids a Twitter (Photo credit: noodlepie)

Let them know that it is your hand,
    that you, Lord, have done it.
While they curse, may you bless;
    may those who attack me be put to shame,
    but may your servant rejoice.
Psalm 109:27-28 (NIV)

Those who live life as public figures or in the spotlight of leadership are likely to find ourselves in the midst of a whirlwind of speculation and suspicion at some point in our lives. People are people, and whether you lived some 30 centuries ago in Jerusalem or live in rural Iowa today you will find that some experiences are common to humanity. There is a particular kind of insanity producing frustration that comes with finding yourself at the center of others’ misguided gossip and false accusations.

King David, who penned the lyrics of today’s psalm, was no stranger to the spotlight of popularity and leadership, nor was he a stranger to scandal and public ridicule. For certain, some of the public ridicule David brought on himself. Like all of us, David made his share of boneheaded mistakes. Yet, even in the tornado of gossip the truth often becomes distorted and inflated into crazy tabloid speculation.

In my experience, there are only a few things you can do when you find yourself the subject of local gossip and speculation:

  1. Plead your case in the right place. Vent your frustration to God. That’s what today’s psalm was all about for David. Psalm 109 is an ancient example of a screaming, venting, thrashing Metalcore anthem. Get it out. Express your feelings. Tell God what you’d really like to see happen to those lying gossips talking about you behind your back. It’s okay. God understands your emotion and isn’t surprised by your feelings of vengeance. It’ll be good for you.
  2. Let it go. Once you’ve vented your anger and frustration, take a deep breath and then let it go. Believe me, there is nothing you can do to chase down and confront every source of gossip and every false accusation that you hear on the streets and behind your back. You’ll ultimately fail, drive yourself crazy in the process, and your efforts will only fan the flames of speculation. Like David, don’t just plead your case to God but also relinquish your desire for justice to the only True Judge.
  3. Stay the course. When Wendy and I were married (Eight years ago this New Year’s Eve!), it created a fair amount of talk in our neck of the woods. I was recently divorced at the time and I admit that the timing of our quick courtship did not do anything to quell the rumors and idle gossip. We heard the whispers and felt the self-righteous judgment and disapproval of others. At that point in time, Wendy’s mom gave us a sage piece of advice: Make like a turtle. Toughen up the shell, let it bounce off, and keep plodding towards what you know is right. Slow and steady wins the race.
  4. Give it time. Just this past week I was told that a young adult, who has watched Wendy’s and my marriage for the past eight years, commented that they see our relationship as an example of the kind of marriage they want for themselves. Wendy and I talked about that last night and marveled at how far we’ve come from those days when it was whispered that ours was a flash-in-the-pan rebound relationship doomed to failure. If you find yourself falsely accused, remember that what is true about you will be revealed in the test of time as others observe your faith, love, life, actions, words, and relationships.

Chapter-a-Day Hosea 4

English: Image of a Thomas Saf-T-Liner HDX sch...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Don’t point your finger at someone else
    and try to pass the blame!”
Hosea 4:4a (NLT)

The other day I was in a meeting and those in attendance were asked if they had any prayer requests. I was expecting the normal litany of requests about illnesses and safety for those traveling, but one of the men in the group had an unusual request.

The previous week he’d been driving home and happened upon a school bus with kids and parents milling about. One of the parents standing along the curb began to trip and fall toward the street. Distracted in an effort to avoid hitting the tripping mother, the man realized he’d passed the bus with its stop sign out. Realizing he’d broken the law he promptly drove to the local police station and turned himself in. He reported what he’d done. The result, he was told, was a mandatory court date, a citation, and the possibility of serving jail time. While writing out the citation, the officer realized it was the man’s birthday. “Happy Birthday!” the cop said as he passed over the ticket. Hearing the words “jail time” had the man a little rattle and he asked that we pray for the judge’s leniency at his trial.

I couldn’t help but be impressed by the man’s honesty and willingness to take responsibility for what he’d done. I observe that most people today would quickly slink back home, do everything they could to avoid the rap, excuse their behavior and shift blame to someone or something else. I have come to believe that we live in a time when pointing the finger and shifting blame have been raised to new heights by both individuals, groups and our culture as a whole. How sad that we find it quirky and odd when an individual steps up to the plate and accepts responsibility for his or her own mistakes.

Today, I’m praying for honesty and personal integrity in my own heart and actions, along with those of God’s people.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 26

photo by usfwsnortheast via Flickr

Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me.
    Test my motives and my heart.
Psalm 26:2 (NLT)

The other morning in the Wall Street Journal there was a fascinating article about the difficulty in erasing human bias from judging Olympic events. As flawed human beings we tend to pre-judge and judge others without much thought or effort. In our every day lives we are very good at Olympic-style judging of others while being very poor at judging with fairness, justice and objectivity.

Maybe that’s why Jesus was so adamant in demanding that we don’t judge others:

  • Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2 (NIV)
  • “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:36 (NIV)

Years ago I went through a divorce after seventeen years of marriage. One of the most difficult aspects of that agonizing stretch of my journey was how quickly I heard and experienced the judgement of friends, family, neighbors and strangers who convicted me in their minds without knowledge, examination, conversation, evidence, or trial. To this day I can experience the rippling effects of those human judgements in silly ways.

Because we all tend to judge and pre-judge others imperfectly, we also tend to experience the judgement and prejudice of others in one way or another. It’s part of the human experience. Through the period of my divorce I learned to make my appeals to God, just like the writer of the lyrics in today’s Psalm. I can’t control the judgement of others, but I can make my appeal to God who is the only Judge who counts for eternity.  I can’t stop others from making skewed and false judgements of me, but God has required that I forgive those who do.

Today, I’m echoing David’s appeal and asking God to examine and test my heart and motives. I’m reminding myself to give up any senseless effort to control what others think, do and say about me. I’m choosing to forgive those who have chosen to sit in judgement of my life like a biased Olympic judge holding up their score on a placard.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 7

Gollum from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobb...
Gollum from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[The wicked] dig a deep pit to trap others,    
     then fall into it themselves.
The trouble they make for others backfires on them.
     The violence they plan falls on their own heads.
Psalm 7:15-16 (NLT)

I just finished the unabridged audio version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings…again. Listening to the epic tale is sort of an annual pilgrimage I make while I spend time on the road. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the many themes Tolkien developed within this “leaf” he claims to have pulled  “from the tree of tales.”

I was struck once more by the very theme David brings out in the lyrics of today’s Psalm. Evil digs its’ own grave. The trap that the wicked lay for others springs back on themselves. The orcs at Cirith Ungol kill one another, allowing Sam to find and rescue Frodo. Saruman’s indescriminate attitude towards nature brings the unexpected wrath of the Ents which, in turn, brings ruin down on the kingdom he’d created for himself. Even Gollum, driven by his self-seeking addiction to the ring, ends up bringing an end to himself and it.

To that end, Tolkien weaves an interesting change in Frodo towards the end of the story. When the hobbits return back to their beloved homeland, they find it overrun with evil men and ruffians under the influence of the broken wizard, Saruman. While Pippin and Merry raise the Shire, realizing that the ruffians will only be driven out by armed force, Frodo becomes a voice for tolerance in the conflict. He refuses to take up arms. He stops fellow hobbits from indescriminate killing. He refuses to allow Saruman to be killed by a hobbit, choosing to let Saruman go to find his own evil ends (which he quickly does when his own wicked protege slays him).

Over time, Tolkein’s story, along with passages of God’s Message like today’s chapter, have influenced how I view and perceive others in whom I perceive wickedness of thought and action. I still have more questions than answers. Nevertheless, the older I get the more my scales of thought tip towards obedience to Jesus’ command not to judge others “for even the wise cannot see all ends.”