Archive

Archive for December, 2011

Celebrating Jesus as Judge

December 24, 2011 Leave a comment

When someone says to you, “Jesus will be your Judge.” what kind of image does it bring to mind?

I think the answer can depend on your religious background. If you grew up in a more legalistic environment, you probably see God pointing his finger down at you and pronouncing condemnation in one way or another. On the other hand, if you had a grace-filled home, you may see Him pardoning you. I think that if all you see is one of these two options then you are missing something deeper.

Before I get to the more profound meaning in Jesus being our Judge I first want to point out that while everyone knows and can quote John 3:16 rarely do they continue on to verse 17 which says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
This truth that God does not want to condemn anyone is reiterated again in John 5:24 when Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
If you are part of the group that sees Jesus as a finger-pointing, vindictive judge then I pray that you will read the rest of this post with an open mind and heart because what He has to offer us is so much better.

I think I have said this before but I want to say it again. “I love the Old Testament!”

I do. I love finding Old Testament principles and patterns that point to and are fulfilled by Jesus. It makes the Word come alive and gives me a hunger for more. A few weeks ago I found a pattern that I have been thinking about ever since, not sure how to convey it to people. I feel this attempt to do so will be wholly inadequate but I pray that God uses my weakness to speak life into your heart.

In the Old Testament, there is what I call the pattern or principle of the Judges. Here is how it works:

Judges 2:10-19
“After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.

Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD’s commands. Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.”

This passage perfectly explains the idea but you can find this pattern related in the narrative time and time again.
Here is what God said to me as I read this:

“Doug, I have what I call the pattern of the Judges. Whenever my people distance themselves from me I do what is necessary to get them back. Sometimes that means letting them become captive and oppressed by their enemies and mine. But I wait and watch for the moment when they turn to me and cry out for help. When they do, I rescue them. I raise up a judge and I work through that person to bring them back to safety and prosperity. I had to do this time and time again because as soon as my judge died, my people would forget me again and worship other gods. I am faithful even whey they are not so again I wait and rescue them when they cry out to me.

Doug, understand this. I don’t have to raise up another to rescue my people because the pattern of the Judges has been fulfilled. Two Thousand years ago I raised up the last and perfect Judge. A Judge that will free my people from every type of bondage imaginable. This Judge will live for eternity so my people never have to fall back into wickedness and rebellion. He will forever stand as a sign of the patience, mercy, grace and love I have for my sons and daughters. He is the answer to all the cries for help and freedom.
Jesus is your Judge.”

All of this was spoken to my heart in a fraction of a second like only God can do and it only becomes more amazing as I write it down.

Today is December 24th or Christmas Eve. That means that tomorrow we celebrate the Birth of our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ. It is my hope and prayer that as we do so, this truth becomes part of the conversation. That Joy fills out hearts as it sinks in and God begins to expand our understanding of the significance of having Jesus be our Judge.

Honoring a Dishonoring Parent

December 10, 2011 4 comments

In the spirit of full disclosure and before you move on to the next paragraph you should know that what follows is not coming from wise personal counsel bases on my own lesson learned. It instead comes from what God has shone me in what I believe is the answer to a question I, and many of you, have had to ask ourselves countless times. In writing this I am not speaking down from a pulpit, but lying flat on the floor.

This is actually a blog I would rather not write because doing so places me in a position of greater accountability and compels me to do what I can to improve the relationship I have with my parents…which I admit is something I often don’t care to do. Divorce and abuse of different kinds and even my fairly recent commitment to Christ has caused a number of fractures in my family to the point where I have not spoken to most of them in the past 6 months or longer. In reality I have no place to write about restoration in that context but I hope that my full disclosure will help you know that if your can relate to many of these things than you are not alone.

Anyone who has darkened the door of a church has heard the verse, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

This brings to mind great memories for those who had a good family life and strong, positive parental influence in their lives. They smile and don’t give this commandment another thought. For them giving honor is almost second nature. Please know that I do not think negatively towards those who fall into this category in any way. You are much needed as mentors and support for those in the next group.

The other group of people who are the focus of my writing feel immense pain and confusion at the mention of this passage of scripture. For them, their family is broken and in many ways, their parents were less than admirable and even abusive. They ask the question, “How can I honor a parent who dis-honors me?” or “How do I give honor to the dad (or mom) who spent years abusing me?” For them, answers are hard to come by.
I put myself in this questioning group of damaged souls.

I don’t know what the typical “Pastor answer” is to these questions but let me share with you what God pointed out to me while reading 1 Samuel in my car during lunch this week.

1 Samuel is where we find the story of Saul and David. If you remember, Saul was made king by God through Samuel, the Prophet at the time. Saul did things that were serious infringements in God’s sight and he was rejected as King. This is where David comes into the picture. At God’s direction Samuel goes to the house of Jesse where David is anointed as King but he does not take up this mantle yet. Instead he goes into the service of Saul and becomes well know after he kills Goliath. David looked up to Saul as a father but it was at this point that Saul began to become jealous of him because of the favor God had given him. This is where we pick-up the story.

Saul’s jealousy quickly turned into disdain and hate. It was not long before he began to express those feelings physically. In fact, it got so bad that he repeatedly tried to kill David. Realizing that he was in serious trouble, David left. Saul pursued him, not satisfied until he completed the dark plan his mind had conceived and incubated for so many years.

While my experience is not that extreme I know some can relate to this type of danger at the hands of their parents. Either way I think it is obvious that Saul’s actions do not in themselves merit honor or respect. Most would even say David had significant reason to protect himself with force, which he had multiple opportunities to do. But instead, this is what he said.

“Saul, my lord the king. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the LORD’s anointed. Father, now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you.”

At this, Saul shows contrition and momentary repentance and promises to leave David alone. That quickly changes and again, he is following David. Once more, David had the chance to put an end to it by taking Saul’s life but does not, and Saul repeats his apology. Seeing the pattern, David puts more distance between himself and Saul. They lived the rest of their lives separated from one another.

Despite all that Saul had tried to do to him, David mourned bitterly when he heard that Saul had been killed in battle. He had always had God-like love for Saul.

“Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan.”

You know how in Acts it says that David was a man after God’s own heart?

I think that is the point. David was put into the care of a man who he looked to as a father but treated him with contempt and abuse. I can only imagine how that must have hurt him to see Saul throw a spear at him. I know many of us have had verbal, spiritual and even physical spears thrown at us from our parents. Perhaps the way we start to honor our parents in this situation is by first not wishing that harm will come to them and making a point to not be the source of such harm. Maybe it is even confronting them in love like David did to tell them that as their child what they did or said was wrong and hurtful but despite it all you wish them the best. For those cases where their contrition only lasts a short while and the abusive action continues, it is justifiable to do these things and followed by separation for an amount of time determined by God, which may be until death.

I don’t pretend for a moment that any of this is easy or that there are most certainly other considerations that may come into play that I have not addressed. But I can say with 100% clarity that there are more answers in scripture for our daily problems and questions than we could ever use. If any of this rings true to you, please go and read 1 Samuel starting in chapter 15 through 2 Samuel chapter 1 while asking God to continue to expand the idea of honoring our parents through this story. I pray He will show you much more than I did here and give you direction on how to begin the process of showing honor to those who dishonor you.