All I needed was…

Just one more second.

Just one more inch.

Just one more word.

Just one more dollar.

Just one more signature.

Just one more degree.

Just one more step.

Just one more note.

Just one more answer.

Just one more try.

Success isn’t measured by our performance in the moment that matters most.  Success is measured in the preparation for those moments.  If you needed one more second to succeed, then you didn’t prepare properly.  You chose failure when you opted for rest.  You picked second place for yourself, when you needed Friday off.  You decided to have fewer friends when you were too busy to call someone back.  Choices.  Not circumstances.  Not luck.  Not what-ifs.  Options.  Decisions.  Calculated specifics.

You could have done one more yesterday… but you didn’t.  Much of life is like a transaction to me.  If you pay in reps yesterday, you succeed in an amount based on those reps today.  You can’t go back in time and make a payment just because you decided today that you want it more than you did yesterday.  Pay today for what you want tomorrow.  If you want a million dollars in your savings account, can you get there by putting in 1 dollar a day?  NO!  Why do we think we can perform miracles and ace tests we didn’t study for, win races we didn’t run, or gain acceptance we didn’t earn?

Tomorrow, you will take a test.  Wouldn’t it be neat if we could pick our grade?  I’m not going to promise that everyone can choose to get a 100 and then will get it.  What I can promise is that if you put in enough effort to get the 100 then you will.  Two things tend to happen during the training process.  We either procrastinate or we accept mediocrity.  Regardless of the path, some of us are still surprised at how we fell short.  Can I retest?  Will you curve the grade?  Did you cover that, this question didn’t make sense (i.e. its someone else’s fault)?

When I read posts like this one I tend to get sad.  I regret yesterday.  I start the inner dialogue of frustration with myself.  But I’d like to encourage us (you too) to try it from the other perspective.  While its not yesterday anymore… it’s not quite tomorrow yet either.  Why not do something you will thank yourself later for?  Train.  Study.  Live.  Love.  Do good deeds.  Embrace life so that when you can’t anymore, you savor the moments you chose.  This is the anti-regret opportunity.  This isn’t my only post like this.  It won’t be my last.  I’ve read countless others.  Why?  The struggle is real.  The Bitter reality hurts.  But the remedy is just out of your reach.  Will you figure out how to get it?

Do you feel like removing the ed from needed?  You can if you opt to get out of the past and live for the future.  Can you do one more today?  Can you go further?  Will you work harder?  Can’t you go faster?  Don’t you want to be sharper?  Those decisions are born in moments all around you.  Grab that moment and make it your success story.  Make it your time.  Make it yours.  Make it.  Choices come and go so quickly.  Stop pondering and start choosing.  Stop blaming and start excelling.  Stop excusing and start winning.  In all matters of life, YOU are the one that can conquer defeat and make tomorrow a great day.

All I NEED is to choose right now that tomorrow I’m not going to regret anything.

Dear Devil, I’ve Missed You, Welcome Back!

When I first found my faith, you were there.  I remember it.  At first, it was questionable, but every day as I grew firmer in grace you came closer.  When my heart was wholly in God’s hands you had become a regular addition to my life.  You were even a little predictable.  When temptations didn’t work, you moved on to family and friends.  When they wouldn’t waiver you worked outside the box.  Illness, stress, relationships, even loss of loved ones.

You liked to work on my temper, my social issues, and how hard it was for me to say no.  I loved it when I found you in the middle of my mess.  Like a baby deer in headlights you leapt away knowing the name of Jesus was just behind my lips.  But, to your credit, you never came back with an old trick… at least not the same way.  You are the king of subtlety and calling audibles.  Slinking back before I could finish laughing at your escape, I barely noticed how you changed your advances.

When we were constantly at odds life felt complete.  Everything made sense.  Good versus evil, good always wins, it just felt right.  Like Wile E. Coyote you would scamper away, the victim of your own disobedience, while my Savior protected, healed, and loved me.

True to your name, I never even saw how you did it…  That day, when I stopped turning to God for help.  It was so casual and uneventful.  Life calmed down and that rut felt like a comfortable groove.  Church days brought extra rest, Bible time became TV hour, and Prayers were things I did to make myself feel better.  They were more like checklists and observations than any semblance of conversation.  And since I didn’t care to really converse, He didn’t choose to answer.  Days turned to weeks and weeks stole away months before years finally ravaged a significant portion of my life away.

You did it.  I let my guard down, I guess.  I thought I had you all figured out.  But your trickery dismantled my dreams, my hopes, my life, and my heart.  Kudos on how slow and methodical you approached the situation.  A violent attack would have been deflected and I always saw those coming.  But you pulled the long con.  Years and years passed while the pot slowly boiled beneath me.  And to be honest, there were a few times where I actually noticed things weren’t quite right, but I preferred the new sauna I was simmering in.  I was certain of my full downfall when I saw the truth in it all and reasoned that it would be tomorrow’s problem.  ‘Tomorrow’… the battle cry of the defeated.

I did learn something that I somehow always knew.  Once you had everything you wanted out of me… you didn’t want me anymore.  All the drama, all the fights, all the cruelty of life diminished. Living just became a gentle sunny day.  Sure, I was in quick sand, but it was slow and breezy and warm.  It felt like being at the beach.   Your absence was noted as much as His.  With my soul no longer aligned with the Savior’s your time was better spent on someone else.  We spent so many nights fighting.  Battling.  Maneuvering each other.  And then, poof!  You have better things to do.

This isn’t the first time you turned your back at the worst possible moment.  Do you remember the cross?  You turned your back on Jesus with a smug grin on your face.  And you left Him to rot in that tomb for 3 days before you realized that you blew it.  Not just literally, but eternally.  And now you turn your back on me before your work is fully done.  The man that blew away that stone has grabbed my hand again.  I’ve found His footsteps.  And His grace was fully prepared to accept one such as I back again.  He doesn’t care where I come from or what you and I were up to.  He just welcomes me back with open arms.  I must say, coming back is different than the first meeting.  This time… I ran to Him.

Have you ever hugged Jesus?  I guess not, or you wouldn’t hate Him like you do.  It’s incredible.  And it reminded me of something.  And I think it reminded you too.  Because once we embraced, you shrieked.  You showed back up in my life again.  Years of your absence while I floated through life in a waste of inevitable doom and now I finally have something you want again.  Forgiveness, hope, love, a Friend, a Father, a Lord, a God.  You want those things, don’t you.  Because here you are.

When I say, “I’ve missed you”.  I mean that I noticed your absence.  I observed how you only show up to take, destroy, ruin, and then move on.  And here you are.  I see you in the shadows.  I see that hate and fuming regret drizzling from your teeth.  I see resolve in your eyes.  You want this bad.  Just like Jesus, you had me… but you couldn’t hang on.  I don’t want you back in my life, but I welcome what your interference means.  If I didn’t have something good for you to take, you wouldn’t be here.

As evil as you are, you have a good tell.  You don’t waste time on people who aren’t a threat to you.  So now I know two things.  I know that Jesus has taken me back and I know that you want me.  You don’t want me back.  You want me away from Him.  I’ve become a threat again.  A target for your cause.  Where once I was afraid, now I can grin safely in my Savior’s arms.  You want what you can’t have.  Jesus won.  You can’t ever undo what happened on the cross or in the tomb.  While my soul may still be ‘in play’, I’m telling you that you can’t have that either.  Because to take it, you have to go through Him… and we both know how that will end.

I know this won’t stop you, and we will be seeing a lot more of each other as I choose the light of the world.  But one thing is different this time.  I’m not just trying to save myself.  Because I have already been saved, I will be trying to save others.  I’m not ashamed to say His name anymore.  I’ll speak it freely.  The timid boy you once knew has a sword and shield.  Where once I hid behind religion I now stand tall behind THE God.

I know better than to taunt you or tease you.  No insults or threats here.  I just wanted you to know that I see you have returned.  And to be honest, it feels good.  The world is right again.  I am by my Savior’s side and you work tirelessly to pull me away.  What a compliment you give.  That I might be a threat to you.  I know its not me you fear… but you know what even most Christians won’t acknowledge… That Jesus works through those that allow Him to.  He isn’t bound.  He just chooses to work were welcomed.  And He is MOST WELCOMED here!

I never chose you, but you tricked me once.  I do not welcome you in my life, but now I understand why you try so hard.  You know given the choice between a hateful, spiteful, selfish, evil, demon and a loving, saving, forgiving God you wouldn’t have any volunteers.  So you pervert the game.  You obscure the rules, and you confuse the players.  You corrupt and rot because you don’t have the ability to compete fairly.  God creates and heals.   You make the valley of dry bones and God resurrects.  You spread disease and God cures.  You dismantle families and God reunites.  You cheapen and God restores.

Who would choose you?  Not me.  Not again.  I’m taking the narrow path.  The one you have hidden behind lies, manipulation, and coercion.  And until I go, I’ll be showing it to others.  Signs, lights, markers, whatever I have to do.  I’m not worried about me any more.  It’s them that need saving.  So stay with me.  Send your worst.  I can’t handle it, but my God can.  And while you piddle around with bad days, corrupt governments, illness, money issues, and any other obstacles you can conjure up, I’ll be too busy carrying the lost away from you to notice.  I’ll take your temporary misfortunes and hurtful accusations.  I’ll take poverty and loneliness too.  I’m just not interested in this world anymore.  And that is all you’ve got.  You can’t offer ANYTHING that won’t burn away.

I’m going home… and I’m taking them with me!

The Greatest Cliffhanger

The new TV seasons are slowly cropping up to finally deliver on that promise they left us all with so many months ago… What will happen next!!!!????!??!

As I’ve been pondering some of the more clever (and cruel) cliffhangers we have been left dangling with… Who shot JR?, Ross saying ‘Rachel’ at his wedding, ‘not Penny’s boat’…  I wonder how we would be affected if we binge-watched the life of Jesus.

He’s born… lots of gifts…teaches in the temple… makes some enemies… heals, prays, travels, yada yada yada… He dies.

“It is finished” he speaks out loud, as it actually is… finished.

Well, it can’t end there.  There wouldn’t be another season.  The cameras are still rolling.  My wife will look at the clock and see there is still time remaining in the final episode of the series.  That just wouldn’t make for good TV anyway.  The cliffhanger is an art.  You have to leave the viewer wanting more, but “wanting” is not accurate.  The viewer must crave.  The proper cliffhanger creates enough anger (yet not so much the viewer will quit the show) mixed with enough emotion and stirred in with the proper amount of enthusiasm, so that when the time comes to pick up the story… you can’t be found anywhere else but glued to the TV soaking in what happens next.

Killing off Jesus is a mixed bag.  Some were devastated, some cheered.  The line in the sand didn’t move, it was erased.  Victory, defeat… depends where you stood, but it doesn’t matter because the story is over if its truly finished.  So they put Jesus in a tomb.  Still no plot twist.  Oh, I hate it when they do this.  They killed off the main character and then for 3 more episodes they go on some side plot that no one cared about.  They know, each week, we are going to tune in to check on the main character only to find out, yet again, they decided to put a pin in it.  Not just 3 shows, but it was during the super bowl, so you go like 5 weeks salivating at where the plot could possibly be going.

Then you happen to see the camera pan by that familiar tomb.  They alluded to it for months, but we didn’t think much of it.  Just another sad reminder of what they did to our hero.  Wait, why is the big stone gone?  Don’t they know that… hold on!  The garments are neatly folded on the…. !!!!  and then it happens.

… To be continued

That is not the end.  That is a cliffhanger.  The story isn’t over.  Jesus’ part of it is mostly done.  But now comes the payoff.  The big reveal.  The final moment where we take over in our own lives and decide what it all means to us.  The credits won’t roll because we haven’t all decided yet.  It’s not “finished” because WE STILL HAVE A CHANCE!  Can you fathom that?  The writers have collected their checks.  The producer has left the set.  The crew is packing up cameras and props while loose script pages are being swept away.  Yet… the show isn’t over folks.  One thing still remains.  Our part is yet to be decided.

The stone was rolled away… queue the person reading blogs on the internet, its time for them to make a decision.  Can you step up under the heat of the stage lights and respond to the story laid before you?

The stone was rolled away.  The burial garments folded and left behind.  The tomb is empty…. “ACTION!!!”

Let me ask one final question.  When Jesus does return, where will you be?  Will you still be trying to learn your lines?  Or, will you be glued to the Bible, waiting on the return, so you can finally be a part of what happens next?

Is Freedom Worth it? Or, Do We Have it Already?

This picture sums up better than I’ve ever been able to with words, how God’s word, His law, and His expectations are lovingly freeing to those obedient to Him.

God doesn’t desire to put us in a boring box.  He yearns to be near us.  To protect us.  And even those that fully understand this start to feel trapped at times.  “I can’t do this, I can’t do that.  Why is God smothering me and keeping me from fun?”  It doesn’t happen overnight.  But eventually, it makes sense to us that we need to get out of that cage.

Look back at that picture again.  This is more like God’s point of view.  He will allow people to come and go… but He really, really wants you to stay.  He loves you, wants to keep you safe, and knows that predators literally hide above, below, and on all sides of your life.  The enemy is ruthless, cunning, and knows how to work through friends, family, loved ones, businesses, and even strangers on the road.

What is life like inside of the cage?  It’s wonderful.  I’m safe.  I’m loved.  I’m accepted.  I gave up bad habits that were only holding me back.  Now I can go farther.  Did you catch that?  I have MORE freedom in God’s embrace.  He is with me wherever I go.  Like children learning to walk, we aim to get further away from the parents that want to keep us on the ground.  Do they hate us?  No, but they don’t want us to fall either.  They construct cages and barriers of all kinds for our safety.  If it were up to us, we’d wander into traffic out of sheer curiosity.

Sadly, we never grow out of this reflex.  To test our limits and see how far, high, and fast we can go is seemingly born within us.  Helmets weren’t invented before the first fall.  They were thought up after incident after incident.  Eventually someone thought, there has to be a better way.  Wear this!  It will protect you.  God’s love and protection is little different.  It’s not just in case… It’s to save eternal lives.

Consider what Jesus has done for you.  What lengths He went through to save you.  Measure that against His wisdom.  It really is freeing to forgive others.  It truly is satisfying to not judge others.  Telling the truth?  Why, its the healthiest thing I’ve ever done.  I don’t have to bother with alibi’s, details I may have forgotten, or cross checking stories with others.  I’m hoping the next time I’m tempted to wander outside of the cage, I remember how wonderful it really is inside.  That Satan wants us out and he will tell any lie he can to get us out from under God’s shield.

And if I can’t remember that, I hope this picture helps. It’s a reminder of how ridiculous the thought is of trying to leave in the first place.  And for what?  So I can gossip a bit more?  Or to make sure my politics are heard?  Or I just don’t feel like anyone in here gets who I am?  lies, lies, lies.  This picture tells the truth of what is outside.  I hope you can see it too.

Go Long, or You’ll Miss it

Consider these stats about an average NFL game.  It takes over 3 hours to watch the game.  The game clock, and any true game play will last for only 1 hour (4, 15 minute quarters).  The actual time where real football is being played (this is the time between the snap and the whistle at the end of the play is 11 minutes.  That is 11 minutes total for the entire game.  Each play lasts an average of 4 seconds.  This means, on average, there are 165 plays in the game.  But this counts punts, kick offs, field goals, extra points, offense and defense.

We sit for over 3 hours to see 11 minutes of payoff.  The rest is commercials (roughly 100 of those), instant replays, huddling, snap counts (thank Peyton Manning for that… OMAHA!), injuries, and penalty discussions/instant replays.

So the question is… who would do this?  Who would trade 3 hours of their lives for 11 minutes?  Well, anyone who thought the payoff was worth it, of course.  Consider God’s plan for the salvation of humanity.  Who would give their Son to be tortured and killed to save the souls of a bunch of sinners?  I think it stands to reason the answer is the same… because He thought the payoff was worth it.

Consider how much you matter to God.  You were worth it.

That said, perhaps when we catch the next game, we spend some of that spare time giving back to Him.  Pray.  Reflect.  Share.  History is made in 4 seconds.  It’s why we watch.  The first play gets stuffed.  The next play goes out of bounds.  And then… amazing happens.  So goes our walk with God.  4 seconds.  A kind word.  A gentle gesture.  Giving God credit.  Invitations to church, or maybe just lunch.  You will be told no.  You may be laughed at.  You will be told no again.  But then… a miracle happens.  We only have so many opportunities to share how much we matter to God.  How much He loves us.  How much He has done.

When the game is over and the sponsors are counting their piles of ad revenue, nothing we do matters after that.  11 minutes, 4 seconds at a time.  How can we not give it our best shot?

 

 

 

Average NFL Game stats

I Keep Finding My Weight

Some time ago I lost 50 pounds.  And it went quick.  Everyone wanted to know my secret.  I stopped drinking sugar drinks, I watched what I ate, and I exercised.  Big secrets, right?  EVERYONE wanted to know.  And when I answered, can you imagine the response?

Disappointment.  It was NOT what they wanted to hear.  They wanted the pill, the surgery, or the fad that would take the weight away without any effort.  Effort.  I worked my butt off (sort of literally) and no one was please that I did it on my own.  Because I couldn’t share that with them.  I couldn’t give them a prescription of weight loss that they could take over cheeseburgers and milkshakes.

I goth healthy and they wanted a lottery winning story.  Because the answer is the same when it comes to wealth.  How did you get so wealthy?  Hard work!  oh, nevermind, thought you could share your winning ticket with me.

But I’m not wanting to beat up on the deadbeats too much.  Mostly because I am one.  All of that weight I lost… I found it.  And I found some of the weight that some of you must have lost as well.  It happened gradually.  Weight fluctuation is common so I could let a pound or two slip.  Rewards are good motivators, so I endured several of those.  And the justifications started.  Well, at least I’m not as bad as I was.  I’ll crank it back up next week.  Oops, I’m injured, gotta take it easy.

I could go on for some time about my downfall and how I need to lose 20 pounds just to be 50 pounds overweight again.  But I’ll spare you and give you the short version.  My goal was to lose weight.  That’s it.  If you want to fail and fail hard, let your goal be to lose weight.  Why?  Simple.  Because once you reach your goal, you are done.

Let’s enjoy the Cub’s victory with them shall we? cubs

You know the story by now, right?  Its been decades since they have been to the world series.  Now they have won.  What is next for them?  In 3 months their record resets to 0 – 0 and they begin spring training.  No longer will they be the current world champs.  They will be fighting every other team in the league that didn’t win this year. Can the Cubs simply reproduce their effort from last year and win again?  NO!  Because every other team that didn’t win is going to work harder to try and remedy their mistakes from the past.  So to win again next year, they have to do more.  Even more than they did this year to win.  Its always stronger and faster and smarter.  The scale never ends.

When you set your goal too low, you have no where to go once you have achieved it.  If the Cubs goal isn’t to be the best team in the entire history of baseball, then they will never become that.  Just winning the world series is something that has happened over 100 times before by all sorts of different teams.  All you have to do is ask a Brave’s fan.  We endured a similar victory in our past as the Cubs did this year.  And it seemed that just winning the world series is all they wanted.  World series turned to playoff losses.  New years brought on just decent seasons.  And this year, the same year the Cubs won, they finished dead last in their division with one of the worst records in the league.  This is what happens when you achieve your garbage goal.  Its just that.  It means nothing almost as soon as you achieve it, and it guarantees failure.

My goal was to lose weight.  I lost it.  And then I found it right back.  This failure is true in all aspects of life.  Money, relationships, career, you name it.  Your goal has to be higher.  Colossians 3:2 says to “set your mind on things above, not on earthly things”.  Our bodies are temples given to us but once.  What if my goal became to honor my body?  We need something to hold onto that doesn’t end at a specific pound or milestone.  We need a mindset change.  I don’t need to lose weight, I need to respect the housing that God made for my soul.  1st Corinthians 3:16 says, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”  This body isn’t just for us.

And we can abuse ourselves in more ways than simply overeating.  What if we stopped with the exercise equipment, the track, the charts, the measuring cups, and the motivational posters?  Those things all are traps to a horrible goal.  And instead, we set our minds on things above?  Instead, we honor God, and we honor our body, and we clean up the temple meant for us and the Spirit?  Of course we can use those tools just mentioned to get into to shape, but they are tools, not goals.

There is a massive difference in mind set between the 2 types of goals.

1.  I’m not going to eat this because I have reached my calories today.  Otherwise I would tear into that bad boy and enjoy every salty bite.  Maybe tomorrow! or… maybe I can just walk a little extra and have it anyway?

2.  That does not honor God or this body.  Its toxic and I will NEVER put that into my body.

See the difference?  Option 1, even if you turn the bad food down, you leave the door open for tomorrow’s failure.  If you are looking at food and rationalizing or reasoning with yourself, you already have the wrong goals.  A mindset change says those things are disgusting.  They are poison.  And its amazing how this change of mind works against all kinds of temptations.  Does this mean its easy?  No.  Its hard.  And that takes us right back to our miracle diet that our friends and family want to know so much about.  If you want to lose the weight and keep it off, you will BOTH:  work hard, and make decisions for your whole life (and not just for the calorie chart that day).

Prayers to all of us struggling with various temptations every day.

 

 

Christ didn’t gamble on us

Perhaps it may help to understand the mind of Christ when He came to earth.  Or, to be more precise, where His mind wasn’t.  A quick glance in Isaiah 53 can clear this up for us.

“He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.  Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we counted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

This was written in scripture quite some time before Jesus came to earth.  In fact, this was the scripture He came to fulfill.  The point i want to make today is very basic.  Jesus didn’t come to us on a bet.  It was NOT a gamble.  He and God didn’t have a disagreement about mankind.  Jesus didn’t leave heaven exclaiming, “You’ll see!, they will change!”.  He didn’t come to earth, first with a goal of saving us, and the cross was merely His backup plan.  The sin had already been committed.  The cross was already the ONLY plan Jesus had.  And if you are sitting there thinking, “Well, duh!”.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Jesus still came.

We sing about Him on the cross and how he could have called 10,000 angels to set Him free from his torture and death.  But we rarely realize that this was not Jesus’ first introduction to the plan.  The cross wasn’t an ‘uh-oh’ moment for Jesus.  The cross was His destination all along.  He knew, from before birth in the manger, that His life here was about pain, humiliation, backstabbing, manipulation, and death.  All from the folks He loved and wanted to save.

He still came.  In other words… humanity did not disappoint.  God knew blood had to be paid, and who better to handle that?  Like clockwork, we found out Jesus was better.  He was holy, he was pure, he was unwavering in His faith.  And we knew very quickly He had to die so we could get on with our corrupt lives.  We all performed God’s plan to perfection that day.  Jesus showed up, prepared to die.  And the sinners showed up, prepared to kill the innocent Savior.

This isn’t revolutionary, but I hope a change in perspective might help with the magnitude of what Jesus did for us.  His trip to earth wasn’t a mission gone south.  The cross wasn’t the result of poor timing, missed opportunities, or misinformed planning.  The cross is EXACTLY what was planned in response to our refusal to honor God.  And we made it possible.  In fact, we carried it out.  He knew.  He knew our hatred, our greed, our corruption, our pride, and He still came.  He also knew God.  He knew God didn’t bluff.  He knew God loved mankind in spite of our actions.  He knew God wouldn’t send him here with a hidden agenda or with a secret plan B.  He knew His mission was the cross.  He knew when He carried it on His bloody back, He knew when He was adored by cattle and wise men in the barn.

So my question for today is… now that we KNOW what He did for us and what we did to Him.  What will we do today in response?

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Daily Prompt: Copycat

via Daily Prompt: Copycat

When I look in the mirror, I see an anomaly.  Difference.  Insufficiency.  Not like them.  They have grace, they have purpose, they have a likeness.  All of them do.  Why do I fall so far short?

He runs faster, she writes better, they tell better jokes.  Enthralling.  I can’t stop watching.  Comparing.  And shrinking into the shadow alone with my shortcomings.  They can’t see me, I’m certain of that.  Sight does not protrude past elegance and charm.  Why would it?  What could it gain to envision garbage beyond their crystal existence?

I have a plan.  I’ll be like them.  Just like them.  The dress, the walk, the language.  It’s all so perfect.  When I’ve mastered it all I’ll join them.  Will they know?  Can they smell the deceit?  Will my trickery be punished with worse than what I’ve already endured?  It’s worth the risk.

Tomorrow I’ll change.  I’ll transform.  I’ll study, mimic, and pattern.  Tomorrow, I’ll copycat.  And… finally… I’ll be unique.

Greetings Sinner!

Good morning sinners!

Or, would you prefer to be addressed as something else? Something a little less blunt and honest? Lets face it, you most likely read that greeting and hung your head down knowing you have a checkered past that you regret, or you got angry because you are living in denial. We are all sinners. Some of us have just forgotten about that. Some of us don’t want to be reminded as it’s in our past.

There is a movement that I have noticed among Christians that seems to have lifted a passage or two out of our Bibles.

“Do not judge” Matthew 7:1

Whew! It’s still there. What a powerful and complete thought in three blunt and irrefutable words. Why not judge? Well we don’t even have to turn the page to find out why we shouldn’t judge. It’s the very next sentence. If you judge, you will be judged. And that verse is extremely threatening because each one of us deserves the cross for our sins. Some of us have dropped to our knees and made life sweeping changes at the thought of Jesus taking on our sins and redeeming us from our fate.

And for those of us that know Jesus personally, we get that verse. We get Paul. The Christian murderer who went on to proclaim Christ and who has become a saint in the eyes of many new believers. We understand the prostitute. The woman whose death-sentence was being carried out until Jesus gave permission for any perfect person around to finish her off. With no one able to meet that criteria she walked away a new woman with a simple command, “sin no more”. Why no more? Because Jesus knew what his cross meant for us. It was a dividing line that bridged a massive gap between yesterday and today. Yesterday we lived in sin and today we live in Jesus. The cross did that. His sacrifice for us did that. Jesus allows us to live a new life, innocent of our past.

So all we have left to tidy up this gift of salvation is our hypocrisy. Our ability to thank God for forgiving us from our past and then turning to our neighbor and condemning them for theirs.

And here is the really hard part. We all know people we would love to forgive right now. Or at least allow God to forgive them… but we know deep down that if we did that, we would have to allow forgiveness for others, and that would put them all on the same playing field. And, if we are brutally honest (which is the only kind of honesty) that makes us sick. We want to forgive one person while claiming another person is irredeemable.

“That all of them may be one”. John 17:21. Jesus’ final prayer to God before being executed. We are one in our sin. We are one in our forgiveness. Jesus wants us all to be one in Him. He knew then, that evil would tempt us towards division.

I’m not proud of my sin. I’m actually proud of very little in my life. But I find great pride in my future. I am happy and secure in God’s promises for me. And the thing I’ve noticed in my short life as a forgiven Christian, is that I’m not looking at the sins of others, when I’m looking at God. I’m not judging others, when I’m trying to improve my own life.

I’m not much on challenging others or calling people out. But I thought this verse was particularly helpful to me today. I can imagine the rebuttals, and the exceptions, and the what-ifs being hurled directly, indirectly, or even under the reader’s breath. But this verse speaks for itself. Lets try it out:

But….

Do not judge.

You are forgetting…

Do not judge.

How about…

Do not judge.

But…

Do not judge.

This person…

Do not judge.

The Bible also says…

Do not judge.

Aren’t you judging us right now?

Do not judge (besides, it’s a loving reminder :p)

I like it when it’s simple. Jesus knew the minds of people. If only one person stood before the prostitute with rock in hand, ready to stone her to death for her sin, and Jesus gave them a chance to admit sin in their own lives… they could have easily justified throwing with full force. Our minds are tricky that way. We can rationalize a lot of things. But this was a community of believers. They looked around at each other and their minds began to fact check. That guy knew me when I was a teenager, I can’t throw this in front of him. She saw me after prom, I can’t throw in front of her. All alone we can summarize a quaint, perfect, existence for ourselves… until we remember we have a past. And then we catch a glimpse of those we have wronged ready to cast blame at another.

As a community of believers, we have strength in sobering up to our true pasts and current selves. As one, the one unit that Jesus prayed we would be, we can’t honestly cast stones at each other. It’s far too easy to judge. The enemy uses it as a sucker’s game to lure us in and we just keep dropping money until, before we know it, we are broke. The high road is to follow the scripture. “Do not judge”. Period. Amount of anger does not matter. Level of depravity does not matter. Humiliation suffered does not matter. There isn’t an asterisk in the ancient manuscript that points us to all of the exceptions where it’s OK to judge. Its simply never allowed. Instead, we have bigger fish to fry. We have sin in our own lives that needs forgiveness. We have enemies to pray for, possibly the very ones we are tempted to judge. We have service to provide. We have a world that desperately needs to see the love of Jesus in each of our hearts.

A judgmental heart is accompanied by an idle mind. One that has the time and energy to put towards work against the will of God. Harsh? Perhaps. But let’s be honest, we’re all sinners. And we need each other focused on God and leaning on each other in the spirit of love. We need each other judgement free, so that we can confess to each other, work with each other, love one another, and be one with each other.

Let me try one final analogy. Eternity isn’t the time where we start learning to get along. I would go so far as to say that it will be a required trait to have mastered BEFORE we leave this side of life.