Tag Archives: Judge


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


“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.”