Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"Who Are You to Judge Me?" by Frank Black



        Have you been confronted with or read the above question?  I have.  Usually the question concerns some area that is contrary to Biblical teaching – some sin; and someone who chooses to be involved. The question is usually meant to put us Christians on the defensive [implying that “You aren’t perfect either”]. It’s often meant to be a “stopper”; to be a “gotcha” question.  Well, it should not be.


        Recently in our church study of Romans the topic of “judging” has come up.  My wife, Lou Ann, and I have done a fairly extensive study of the Biblical use of the word “judge”.  This is because of its use in Romans plus the question this article raises – “Who are you to judge me?”  Before I deal with “judging” further, let me share an analogy - the Biblical use of another word quite familiar to you –-> LOVE.  I imagine you are all familiar with the fact that in the original New Testament (written in Greek) there are several different words for love – all that have distinctly different meanings.  This is in contrast to our limited English where you can ‘love’ everything from pizza, to football, to snow, to your children or parents.  My comparison is that it is the same for the word “judge”.  When you realize this, it may help clear up some of the meanings of “judge” that you read in the New Testament in addition to knowing how to better answer people who “hit you” with the question I’ve raised in the title.


         No, I don’t plan to bore you with an exhaustive word study with the specific Greek words and all their meanings.  I’ll simply tell you that my study shows three different Greek words for the verb “to judge”.  [There are other words for a person who is a judge (noun form) and still others for the word “judgment”].  The three verb forms have quite varied meanings.  Some of these meanings are:  to condemn; to sentence; to form an opinion; to conclude; to determine; to think; to examine; to discriminate; to discern; to recognize  ------  If you are following me at all, you can readily see quite a difference in the first two meanings and the others listed.  To give a couple of examples:  “If someone is determined in a court of law to be guilty of murder, they are “condemned” and “sentenced”.  On the other hand; if you are ‘judging’ art work in a contest, you ‘judge’ one to be the winner – you ‘determine’; you ‘form an opinion’; you ‘conclude’; etc.  This has nothing to do with ‘condemning’. 


        Now to get back to the question, “Who are you to judge me?”  We need to make it clear that we are NOT condemning or sentencing the person [we know that is not up to us – it’s in
God’s hands].  What we are doing is recognizing, concluding, discerning that, “YES”: they are a _________ or have committed _______.  You can fill in the blanks.  Again, we need to specifically tell people that “NO”; we are not condemning or sentencing them; but “YES”, we recognize what they are or what they’ve done and we do not agree. Further, we should say that, “My Bible tells me that this is wrong.” 


        I don’t think that I’m “splitting hairs” here with the quite different meanings of “judge”.  Of course many times the people we’re talking to may not accept what we say and probably have rationalized the Bible’s statements or dismissed them all together.  But don’t let our title’s question put you on the defensive.  I hope this rather erudite article gives you a better insight and understanding of “judging.”


Frank Black  [Jan. 2016]

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Are You Serious? by Mike DeCamp

Christianity 101-Are You Serious?

There are some things in life that simply demand that we face them with more seriousness. Taxes come to mind. Fail to take them seriously, blow them off and you’ll find yourself in trouble with a little group known as the IRS. How about dealing with a major illness? People who are told they have cancer generally buckle down into a very thought-out and careful treatment regimen. Even something as simple as trying to reach a personal goal needs to be faced with seriousness if one is to truly reach beyond themselves.

In 2009, I made a personal commitment to ride my bike 100 miles in one day. I made that commitment in the spring, and the plan was to do the ride before the end of the summer. I’m not sure how many of you have ever ridden a bike a hundred miles, but it isn’t easy. It takes training, preparation, planning and commitment. I had to think through how I was going to approach the training, and build up my body’s endurance over time. Additionally, I had to plan a route, work out a support system for drinks and food for the day, and develop a strategy for how I would ride the distance. It took serious thought.

I think as we delve into the subject of Christianity, it is fair to say that we should enter into the topic with a serious mind. Many in the USA today often seem to waltz in and out of church like it was going to the movies. Is it entertaining enough? Is it too stiff or too loose? Are the seats comfortable? Do I like the preacher?

Others seem to think they are Christians by genetics. I was born in America, so I’m a Christian.  I’m not Jewish or Islamic, so I’m a Christian…right?

Whoa! Not so fast, partner. I think maybe we need to take a serious look at Christianity. It isn’t something to take lightly. After all, a person died to get this thing going and many others have died along the way trying to be faithful to the God who gave His Son. Back in the early days of the Way of Christ, folks would be thrown into prison, flogged, fed to lions, used as human torches, or hung on a cross simply for professing a faith in Christ. This was back before a cross was a piece of jewelry. Rather, it was an instrument of a torturous death, capital punishment.

Christianity is serious business.

Maybe you’ve just started looking into this Christianity stuff.  That’s great.  Be serious about it.  Investigate. Look at the details of scripture, and don’t simply take another person’s word for what it says. Study it for yourself. In the Bible, in the Book of Acts, there are a whole group of people from a village called Berea that are called noble because they didn’t take the Apostle Paul’s word for what was true. Rather, they listened to him, and then they researched it for themselves to see if it was true. (Acts 17:10-12) Follow their lead. Don’t take mine or anyone else’s word as gospel. Check out the details for yourself.

If you are a Christian, then my question to you is: Just how seriously do you take your faith?

Is it just another facet of your complicated life? Or, is it your driving force, your source of strength, and your hope for your future? When you read the scriptures, do you allow it to impact you, or does it roll off like some nice sayings from an old book?  Do you read the scriptures?

I wonder what would happen if Christians began to once again take the Bible seriously. What if Christians everywhere began to really love their neighbors as themselves? Or, they began to consider the needs of other people before they considered their own? Hmmm.  Would our culture be changing us or would we be changing our culture?

What about you and me? Can we begin to take a serious look at Bible passages? Are we letting them impact our daily walk?

Let’s take a look at a few verses with our new “serious” perspective. Let’s consider what “serious” looks like in this sampling.

Matthew 6:31-34
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Take a few moments to consider…if we are really serious…what does it look like to seek the kingdom of God FIRST? How would priorities change? How would lifestyles change? Are you doing this already?  Or, would a serious look drive a serious change?

I John 3:16-18
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

What would it look like if we as individual Christians stopped talking about loving others and actually began to earnestly do something about it? Bob Harper from the Biggest Loser yelled at a competitor a few seasons ago that she should “Stop talking and just do it!” I think that is what the Apostle John is saying. Stop talking about feeding the hungry, and get them some food. Stop talking about …you name it…and get it done.

What would it look like if we all did that?

Romans 12:2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Is your faith culture-driven or God-driven?  Would a serious look change it?

As I bring this article to a conclusion, let me just say it again. Christianity is serious business. We are talking about things like death, redemption, salvation, and eternity. Sin is a real thing and it has consequences—both now and beyond.  Still, the heart of the story is how God loves us.  It’s all about having a relationship with him.

Will you take a serious look?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

LOVE by Clint Davis


By Clint Davis

The Pharisees asked Jesus what was the most important commandment and he replied in Matthew 22, “You must Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, and all your mind.  And the second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love is the most powerful force in the entire world.  I Corinthians 13 tells us that if we had enough faith to move a mountain, but do not love others, it means nothing.

I cannot think of a better example of love than the love a parent has for their child.  Someone once said that having a child is like ripping out your heart and letting it walk around on the earth.  They literally are a part of us.  It’s the kind of love that fills our heart and soul and makes us feel their pain.

When you have a child that is hurting and you are not able to make the pain go away, it is incredibly difficult for a parent to endure.  Jack Canfield, one of the co-authors of the book Chicken Soup for the Soul relayed the following true story about this kind of love.

There was a 26 year old mother in Phoenix, AZ who woke up one night to the cry of her son.  She went to his bedroom to help soothe her little boy.  She tried everything: Tylenol, ice packs, heating pads, massage, rocking him but nothing worked.  So, distraught at 7:30 the next morning, she took him to the emergency room.  They ran a series of tests only to discover that he had a terminal illness and maybe had three to six months to live.

The mother believed that everybody should have a dream and that everyone should do whatever is possible to make that dream come true. She felt that you should ask people to support you in making your dream come true and not be humbled, embarrassed or ashamed by that because we all have a need to be supported by others.  So she went to her young son named Robert, she called him Bopsy and asked him, “Bopsy, what did you want to be when you grow up, what is your dream?  You are six years old and your time appears short, and it didn’t really cross my mind before, but I wanted to know what you wanted to be.”  Bopsy said, “Mom, more than anything I wanted to be a fireman.”

She went to the Make A Wish foundation and she told them about her son’s dream and they went to the Phoenix Fire Department and they met a guy there named Fireman Bob who had the same name as Bopsy and they asked him if he could help out.  He said, “Sure”.  The mother said, “If you could just give him a ride in the fire truck around the hospital one morning maybe.” He said, “Look lady, we’ll do better than that, with the chief’s permission we are going to make Bopsy a fireman for the whole day.  We make the uniforms right here in Phoenix so we will take his measurements and get a real uniform made and it will have the yellow rain jacket and pants and boots and a real hat with the insignia of the Phoenix Fire Department.”  It turns out that when he checked with the chief, the chief said, “Let’s make him Chief of the Phoenix Fire Department.”

About a week later they picked him up at 6:30 in the morning and put him on the back of one of those hook and ladder trucks where he could steer the wheel on the back with the help of another fireman.  They went down to the station and that day there were three fire calls in Phoenix and Bopsy got to go on all three and he was really excited.  They were not condescending to him in any way; they literally made him chief of the department.  The chief would say’ “Look Bopsy this is what we normally would do, we would bring some fireman over here, and direct the helicopter other there, and cordon off that area over there, but you are the chief, what do you think?”  Bopsy would pause briefly and say “Sounds good. Do it.”

So he got to ride in the fire chief’s car and the different fire trucks, the paramedics van, and even in the police chief’s car that day.  And probably the most exciting part was the camera crews that showed up as they always do for fires and they wondered what this little kid was doing giving directions to everyone.  So they interviewed him and filmed him and he got to see himself later that day on the 5:00 news, and 7:00 news and 10:00 news and 11:00 news.  He was on all the channels and he was very excited.  His dream had come true; he got to be a real fireman.

Well, several months later all of his vital signs did begin to fade as the doctors had predicted.  The hospital believed in the hospice movement where the basic concept is that no-one should ever die alone.  So his mom started calling family members saying, “We don’t think Bopsy is going to make it through the night and we think you ought to come down and be with him by his bedside to transition with him.”  Then she remembered the fire department, so she called up the chief and said “Chief, do you remember Bopsy?”  The chief said “Sure, I remember Bopsy, he’s a great kid.” She said, “Well, we think tonight is the night he’s not going to be with us any longer and he’s going to make his transition and we wondered if you could come down and maybe just send a fireman to be by his bedside in uniform to remind him of that special day he had.”  The chief said, “Look here, we’ll do better than that.  We are going to be there in six of seven minutes.  You are going to here sirens and see flashing lights.  Would you go on the intercom and tell everyone at the hospital that everything is okay and there is no fire because we do not want to scare anyone.  But we want them to know that the fire department is coming to pay final respects to one of its finest members.”

Six minutes later the fire truck appeared and a ladder extended up to Bopsy’s third floor open window that the chief had asked them to open.  14 firemen and 2 firewomen climbed up that ladder and into that room and with the parent’s permission they picked up this little boy and they started to rock him.  At that moment, Biopsy looked up at the chief and said, “Chief, does this mean I’m a real fireman?”  And the chief looked down and said, “Bopsy, absolutely, you are one of the finest firemen we have ever had.”  And with that, he closed his eyes and made his transition.

My prayer today is for God to touch your heart in 2016 to love others more deeply and to help someone realize their dream.  Praise God for his Love!!