Please, Don’t Find Fault

Without grace, this is what we are

“You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.”

Romans 2:1, NLT

One of the spiritual diseases endemic to the Christian believer is “fault finding”. For some reason, (and I’m still trying to figure out why), is we have a strong inclination to pass a judgement on people (those whom Christ died for!)  We don’t throw stones (far be it from me)– however, we certainly do and will point fingers. And perhaps we feel that its our religious duty, or maybe even our ministry (!).

Almost always, there a sense of certain and attainable righteousness. or our generated holiness involved. This should not be dismissed or overlooked. Because I believe I am right, and have religious grounds, I put all of the “evil sinners” on trial, and then I pronounce my verdict. (And they certainly deserve whatever I decide.)

Much of the same type of thinking was used in Romans 2.  Paul castigates those who were judging others. He goes on a scathing and sizzling rebuke directly at those who were destroying others by their overly-righteous attitude.

” And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. 3 Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? 4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?.”

Romans 2:3-4

Without a doubt this whole subject is highly complex and nuanced. Hundreds of verses should be worked through. But this blog is not that place. However, I will advance this– I read this written by the Desert Fathers.

“Correct and judge justly those who are subject to you, but judge no one else. For truly it is written: ‘Is not those inside the church whom are you to judge? God judges those who are outside’.

Macarius of Alexandria, 296-393 AD



A Simple Poem of a Quiet Wisdom

Pray, don’t find fault with the man who limps
Or stumbles along the road
Unless you have worn the shoes that hurt
Or struggled beneath his load
There may be tacks in his shoes that hurt,
Though hidden away from view
Or the burden he bears, placed on your back,
Might cause you to stumble, too.
Don’t sneer at the man who’s down today
Unless you have felt the blow
That caused his fall, or felt the same
That only the fallen know.
You may be strong, but still the blows
That were his, if dealt to you
In the self same way at the self same time,
Might cause you to stagger, too.
Don’t be too harsh with the man who sins
Or pelt him with words or stones,
Unless you are sure, yea, doubly sure,
That you have no sins of your own.
For you know perhaps, if the tempters voice
Should whisper as soft to you
As it did to him when he went astray,
‘Twould cause you to falter, too.

(I found this poem– it’s unattributed, but known to God)

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This is redacted from an earlier post, but fresh, and thoroughly worked over.

“Go and Learn” [Discipleship]

“Go and learn”

“When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Matthew 9:12-13, NLT

These two verses are a challenge. They fit together like old watch mechanism, small gears and wheels in precise motion, keeping time in a treasured grace.  My father had an old one, used once by a train conductor.  It was made of gold, and had been used for almost 100 years.

The complexity of these verses were never meant to confuse the disciples.  But for them it is simple, to go and learn.”  Certainly, there are times we will be ‘schooled’ in what we learn.  And really the only way to approach this is in humility.  Trying to extract the truth will take patience and a broken heart.

Jesus states the truth of being a doctor, and there is a singular work that a doctor does.  It is serving all who come to him with sickness or injury.  Jesus clarifies a truth that has to be in place.

“Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, `Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.’ I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.” v.13, CEV

“Go and learn!” This implies that there are lessons for us, classes that we need to take in order to grow-up and touch sick and desperate people.  Funny, but it’s all about mercy, and nothing to do with “sacrifices.”  Mercy is what matters. I want you to be merciful to others.”

I admit that I’d rather be merciful, than to be right. (It’s good to be both.)  But mercy– and gentleness should be our driving impulse.  These attitudes assist us to move us forward. “Go and learn.”

The last verse reveals the thinking that Jesus has.  He has come to help those of us in trouble.  The good people don’t understand, after all, isn’t their ‘sparkly goodness’ enough?  As his disciples, we share our faith to all; but maybe we should consider the weak, poor and the sick already prepared for the words of Jesus? “Go and learn.”

“Discipleship is a lifelong process and journey rooted in a relationship with Jesus, whereby we become more like Christ.”

Greg Atkinson

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Testimony of the Scars

 

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At the crucifixion, Jesus suffered great injury. He was beaten, flogged, spat upon, and had a crown of thorns jammed into his brow. Then He was nailed to the cross through His feet and hands and then pierced in the side with a spear causing blood and water to flow from His body. He was covered in welts, bruises, and blood so that He was almost unrecognizable.

After His resurrection, when He appeared to His disciples in the upper room, the welts, bruises, and blood were gone. His body showed very little of the pain and suffering He had endured. He did not have scars on His face or across His back. He was once again beautiful. His resurrected body testified to the resurrection we will all one day know with new, healed bodies that are once again beautiful, even in our own eyes.

The exceptions to this miraculous healing of His body were the nail scars on His hands and feet, and the scar from where He was pierced with the spear. “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’” John 20:27 (NIV).

These scars testified to His death and suffering on the cross. They testified to the love and mercy we find there. They testify even now to the greatest gift God has ever offered mankind: the knowledge that He was one of us, faced death as we do, and came out on the other side victorious as we one day will be if we trust in Him.

We all experience suffering and injury. We all bear scars, some physical and others emotional or spiritual. We tend to hide our scars from the world, thinking we are the only ones who bear them.

Our scars long to testify to the love and mercy of a God who saw us through our trials and helped us come out victorious on the other side. They long to testify that we were not defeated because God was on our side.

What if, instead of hiding our scars from the world, we shared them for all to see just as Jesus bid Thomas touch the scars on His palms and His side? What if we let our scars testify to the love and mercy of our God? What if we helped share the greatest gift God has ever given mankind, a gift that our scars testify to?

What victory do your scars testify to? Are you willing to share them, to let your scars testify to God’s love in your life to someone who needs Him desperately? Maybe not every scar all at once, but one little scar at a time? Remember, God will be with you when you do, and then He will be with the one with whom you share the testimony of your scars and His.

Linda’s home page is at http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/

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Grace That Teaches

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,”

– Titus 2:11-12, NIV

The grace of God can be very obvious.  It is seen by all.  It is not sophisticated, and you don’t have to jump through any ‘hoops’.  Everyone can see it.  However, there are a couple of things that will block it.  The sins of ungodliness, and the passions of this world system.  These will short-circuit His grace– sort of like dumping a glass of water on your computer’s keyboard.

It is ‘grace that teaches’.  We learn and take our lessons from handling God’s grace in our own lives.  We receive our education from that grace, it tutors us and we grow in understanding as we understand His love for us. Grace comes, and we receive our lessons, and take notes.  We begin to understand others, and get a handle on life and all its imponderables.

Grace educates, but legalism never does.  The Law has absolutely no ability to educate our hearts and minds.  But God’s untiring mercy explodes on us, and we begin to download all that He offers.  Learning grace expands us, and we develop abilities that we never dreamed of.  We start to do things that amaze us.

One of the most amazing things is that we learn to say, ‘No!’  This is perhaps the ultimate ability–to just say no.  Saying ‘no’ means we will not step in that particular direction.  We won’t travel down that road.  ‘No!’ is in a sense is saying, ‘Yes!’ to what God wants.  Learning to do that is what we are doing here.

Grace is so gentle, and she is a perfect teacher.  She teaches me to be merciful and forgiving.  All that she has, she imparts to me.  When I receive from grace myself, I become gentle and joyful and kind.  When I receive from grace, I become a much more fulfilled Christian.

There are things that work contrary to this.  Ungodliness and the lusts made by this world’s system.  The dynamic of grace somehow gets “turned-off” when we get diverted into these sins.  And this happens all the time, it seems.  But developing a self-controlled, upright and a godly life will give us a deep and eternal perspective.

We are not created for living in a garbage dump.  We are royalty–we are meant to rule and reign, as Kings and Queens.  We have been made ready by Grace for this place.

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When Kindness Meets Truth, [Kissing]

No escape from here.
No escape from here.

But Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, an important court official, heard that Jeremiah was in the cistern. At that time the king was holding court at the Benjamin Gate, so Ebed-melech rushed from the palace to speak with him. “My lord the king,” he said, “these men have done a very evil thing in putting Jeremiah the prophet into the cistern. He will soon die of hunger, for almost all the bread in the city is gone.”

10 So the king told Ebed-melech, “Take thirty of my men with you, and pull Jeremiah out of the cistern before he dies.”

11 So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went to a room in the palace beneath the treasury, where he found some old rags and discarded clothing. He carried these to the cistern and lowered them to Jeremiah on a rope. 12 Ebed-melech called down to Jeremiah, “Put these rags under your armpits to protect you from the ropes.” Then when Jeremiah was ready,13 they pulled him out. So Jeremiah was returned to the courtyard of the guard—the palace prison—where he remained.

Jeremiah 38:7-13, NLT

You can see a lot of truth here. Ebed-melech chooses to stand rather than capitulate to the nastiness around him. He is not cowed by the sinful conspiracies that are operating at the highest level.

Ebed-melech sticks his neck out— he rescues the prophet Jeremiah, and pleases God. As just a minor character he still plays a major role. He is set apart by this commitment to what is right and true. If he lived in the 20th century, I think he would have been one who would have rescued Jews from the Nazi regime. He was fearless.

But he is much more. He is not just dedicated to the truth, but he is also kind.  We see it in the way he saved Jeremiah. He finds old clothing and rags from a closet in the Treasury. With these he pads the rope, so Jeremiah won’t unduly suffer as he is pulled up out of the mire.

“Mercy and truth have met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed.”

Psalm 85:10, NKJV

Ebed-melech reveals his heart by showing this kindness. One could suggest that these rags were not really necessary. The rope we need, of course.

Ebed could have just used the rope, and he would’ve been right. But he uses the rags, and he becomes kind.

This blend of truth and kindness is rare. But I have known people that were both. They are definitely “true blue” and they are absorbed by living out the truth, and doing the right thing. But they are much more than this. Their righteous lives are filled with kindness and gentleness. This is a spiritually potent mix.

Oh dear one, we need both in the Church. It is from these kinds of people that will cause us to stick together. I say, if we are going to err, I would hope we would stay kind.

“I prefer you to make mistakes in kindness than work miracles in unkindness.”

–Mother Teresa

May I become at all times, both now and forever
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those who have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need.

Anonymous

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Are You Getting Enough Mercy in Your Daily Diet?

Graciously, He gives us what we need

“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” Matt. 5:6

If you have been given mercy, you now should try hard to give it away!  And only those who show mercy will be those who continue to receive mercy, even a habitual, continual mercy focused right on you.   Being a merciful person doesn’t mean you’re getting sentimental or “teddy bear soft.”  But instead it looks a lot ike sympathy– that caring love that dresses up in a working servant’s clothing.

Jesus has no intention of just saving us from sin.  He saves us for something!  He has this trick, where He will start “a to live your life inside of  you, campaign.”  When you give Jesus your ‘green light” He takes it very seriously.  He involves Himself right inside of you.  And you will notice right away His presence and His activity right there in your heart, and out from your hands, and from out of your mouth.

We discover that He just isn’t a “forgiving God,”  but He is also an “empowering” or a changing kind of God! He intends to make you perfect, even as He is perfect.

Our church buildings can be beautiful places.  From Mexico, the UK, Canada and US, I’ve had the privilege of wandering into some beautiful places, that have been consecrated to the worship of the Lord God.  But I have come to this conclusion: our own lives are far more important in touching our communities, much more than our buildings and sanctuaries.  A fine liturgy can be wonderful, but it’s the laity that will touch our hearts.

People really do not care how much we know, until they know how much we care. 

They are being drawn by the Spirit’s presence in you.  They want the “real” Jesus Christ to ignite them.  They so desperately want to be touched by the living God.  They really want their lives turned upside down and inside out.  They want the real thing.

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Doctor’s Orders

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And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:17

I am convinced that as strugglers who just happen to be believers, there is a deep truth we need to know.  Simply that we are the ‘audio-visual’ (AV) department of the Church.

We display for all who can see with seeing eyes, the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We can be mixed up, and very confused at times. But in contrast, He is everything, our all in All. As the AV people, we show and declare (out of our very lives) the profound kindnesses of God.

We are meant to be see and heard, because that is what the AV department does best. But that is really not our natural tendency or inclination. Jesus spoke of a “candle on a lampstand,” that gives light into the house. Frightening as this must seem, this is our certain place.

We stand (only because He makes us) and proclaim the solid mercy and kindness of God, for awful sinners. Maybe in this short life– that is all we can really do. Fair enough. But still we hear that compelling call to become visible for Him– His fantastic glory.

We may become quite intimidated. It seems we know far more about sin than we do about holiness. Quite a few of us are expert sinners. Some of us have our  Ph.D in evil. We have taken training in sin, and are quite proficient in it.

“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.”

1 Timothy 1:15, NLT

When it comes to holiness or purity, we discover that we are totally out of our league. We will often try to “fake” it, but we are surprised when the Holy Spirit resists us. He will not let us deceive ourselves in this way. We have no claim to self-righteousness.

Our sins and weaknesses, depressions and sicknesses become even more evident in time. We are the ones who walk with a definite limp. We will falter, and we will stumble. But we continue to turn to Jesus. And in this action, others will see mercy that is poured out on rascals such as us.

But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’”

Luke 18:13

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