Meditating on the Commands of Christ (65): Casting Beams

Have you ever had the experience of looking into someone’s eyes and feeling light and peace, like you can see straight into their soul? I have. I have also had the experience of looking into someone’s eyes and sensing impenetrable darkness, like a black, iron curtain has been drawn to keep me from understanding their thoughts. One makes me feel loved; the other gives me the creeps! Do you know what I mean?

In today’s text for meditation, Jesus warns us not to judge others, but to “first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). I want to consider and contrast the “beam” and the “mote.”

“Beam” has many meanings. All biblical translators and commentators seem unanimous in their opinion that Jesus is using hyperbole and referring to a large timber used for construction, but I’m such a concrete thinker that this word picture never really makes sense to me. You can’t have a literal beam of timber in your eye, because no eye could contain something that large. I’ve heard preachers try to explain it by saying it’s probably just a splinter that looks like a beam of wood to the person who has it in his eye. However, a splinter would totally block a person’s vision and be terribly painful. Anyone with a splinter in his eye naturally goes into a state of emergency and can hardly think of anything else until it’s removed.

No, this “beam” has gone unnoticed by the person. It is of huge significance, but it has blinded him and made proper judgment impossible, even though he is oblivious to this truth. So, that’s made me think about other possibilities for what Jesus could have really meant, and it occurs to me that a beam can also be a shaft of light.

A mote—on the other hand—is a speck . . . just a tiny particle . . . a bit of dust floating through the air and drifting across a shaft of light. If you put those two thoughts together, it makes a beautiful picture of what Jesus might have intended for us to understand on the spiritual level regardless of how we interpret his metaphor! Could it be that Jesus is warning us that when we judge and condemn others, we are most often doing it from a state of our own darkness. Our understanding has become skewed. We are not thinking God’s thoughts; we are judging based on our own selfish, self-serving opinions. Our heart has become blind, and what’s coming out of our eyes are beams of darkness that cause ourselves and others to stumble. Jesus points out, “Can the blind lead the blind?” (Luke 6:39).

Look at the orchids above. Only the ones that have been illuminated with light are clearly visible. There’s no way we could we know if there’s a tiny mite or a speck of fungus threatening the health of the flowers in the background which are out of focus and in the dark. Similarly, I think Jesus is telling us to cast the beams of darkness out of our own eyes so that the Light of life can illuminate us from within. Then, and only then, can we see well enough to know what the real needs of our friends are . . . and not simply what they are doing that irritates us!

Also, I love the vision of a mote as a tiny fleck floating along through a beam of light. Although specks of dust can be seen in strong shafts of light, most of them are insignificant and will drift into obscurity before long. I wonder if God, with his infinite patience, watches us with longsuffering, knowing that the bits of dirt in our lives will soon enough pass into oblivion, cleansed away by gentle puffs of the Holy Spirit.

Are we casting beams of light or darkness to those around us? Do you suppose others sense that we love them—or are they feeling creeped out? Does the light in our eyes illuminate or darken others? How much better to concentrate on becoming filled with Light! Then we will see more clearly to give others true help . . . and I suspect many of the motes that are so disturbing to us now will float away . . . or at least turn into mole hills. 🙂

Want more light in your soul? Look up at Jesus. Fill your heart with his Word, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). “They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed” (Psalm 34:5). Jesus said, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18). “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Shine On Us
(—Phillips, Craig and Dean)

Lord, let Your light
Light of Your face
Shine on us
Lord, let Your light
Light of Your face
Shine on us

That we may be saved
That we may have life
To find our way in the darkest night
Let Your light shine on us

Lord, let Your grace
Grace from Your hand
Fall on us
Lord, let Your grace
Grace from Your hand
Fall on us

That we may be saved
That we may have life
To find our way in the darkest night
Let Your grace fall on us

Lord, let Your love
Love with no end
Come over us
Lord, let Your love
Love with no end
Come over us

That we may be saved
That we may have life
To find our way in the darkest night
Let love come over us
Let your light shine on us

Passages for today’s text: Luke 6:39-42, “And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-6, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (64): Give and Receive~ Expiration and Inspiration

Do you find yourself struggling to balance giving and receiving? In a perfect world, it seems like giving out should be as natural as breathing out and receiving should be as natural as breathing in, but I (at least) find at times that it’s hard to give—because it’s “giving away” something I want. And, sometimes I struggle with receiving because I fear indebtedness to the one who has given me something. What if I have nothing left for myself? What if I can never repay the giver?

It occurred to me that the breathing analogy works in understanding these quandaries too. “Breathing out” could become an issue if I am afraid I’ll not have enough oxygen for my next breath, and “breathing in” could seem suspect if I’m not sure of the purity of the air I’m receiving from the other person. What if I run out of air and die by giving out everything? What if I contract some terrible disease from breathing in “germy” air?

After a rather pain-staking search of the 1392 instances of “give” being used in the Bible (at least in the KJV version), I’ve come to some pretty reassuring and wonderful conclusions. First, the great majority of verses have to do with all the amazing gifts God offers us. I’ll give you a list at the end if you’re interested, but it pretty much includes more than anything we could ever want, including abundant provisions for both physical and spiritual life.

God promises us sufficient “air” to breathe in, so we don’t have to worry where our next breath is coming from—and we can be assured that it will be good for us! We can also share our air, knowing that we’re not going to suffocate!

In light of the overwhelming graces and kindnesses of God, He asks us to give out of our abundance to meet the needs of those who are lacking. (See verses on giving “alms”—which are provisions freely given to relieve the needs of the poor, such as Luke 11:41, “But rather give alms of such things as ye have.”) God doesn’t normally want anyone to give away everything they own. (That only happened once, when Jesus was trying to teach the rich young ruler that he was making an idol out of his money). The Bible repeatedly emphasizes the importance of working hard and saving to provide for those under our care . . . and warns against laziness: Proverbs 6:6-11; Ephesians 4:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” However, He also wants us to help those who are “weak”: “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak” (Acts 20:35).

I think the important distinction is this: Those who are capable and lazy should not be supported; those who are disabled and unable (“weak”) should be.

That being said, there is always room for compassion. The Good Samaritan helped the wounded man without knowing anything about the man’s worthiness or character. (At least, we as readers are told nothing.) Love sees need and tries to help. “He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor” (Proverbs 22:9); “He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse” (Proverbs 28:27).

The bottom line as I understand it is that God wants us to work hard and provide for our own as well as being charitable and generous toward those in genuine need. God doesn’t “need” anything from us, but we can express our love for God by loving others and helping meet their needs. However, we can give God ourselves (Romans 12:1-2); we can give God glory (Revelation 14:7); and most of all, God wants us to give him thanks for all the wonderful blessings he pours out on us! “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Text for meditation: Luke 6:38, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

Appendix on Gifts God gives: If you’re feeling down and depressed, or you’re struggling to think of anything to give thanks for, here’s a small sampling of God’s blessings, many given to all mankind, and all offered to all of mankind who will receive them!

Life and breath and all things (we see in this present world): “He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:25-26).

Difficulties to bring us to God: Ecclesiastes 1:13And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.”

All that we need for this life: Romans 8:32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

All things we need to live a life of godliness: 2 Peter 1:3According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.”

The ability to recognize God’s good gifts to us: 1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

The prospering of our efforts: 1 Corinthians 3:7So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”

The holy scriptures: 2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

Wisdom Proverbs 2:6For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” Ephesians 1:17That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.

Life via wisdom: Ecclesiastes 7:12For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.”

Understanding: 2 Timothy 2:7Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.” 1 John 5:20And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”

Counsel and restraints: Psalm 16:7I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.”

Protection: Psalm 18:35Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.”

Help from trouble: Psalm 60:11Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.”

Strength, power, and peace: Psalm 29:11The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.Psalm 68:35 O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God.”

Deliverance: Psalm 18:50 Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.”

The spirit of power, love, and a sound mind: 2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Promises to help us partake of God’s divine nature: 2 Peter 1:4Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Grace: Proverbs 3:34Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.” Ephesians 4:7But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.1 Corinthians 3:10According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

Good doctrine: Proverbs 4:2 For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.”

Instruction: Proverbs 9:9Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.”

The oracles of God: Acts 7:38This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.

Favor: Proverbs 13:15Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard.

Mercy: Acts 13:34And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.”

Fruit: Proverbs 31:31Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Knowledge and joy: Ecclesiastes 2:26For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.

The ability to enjoy the fruits of our labor: Ecclesiastes 5:18 “Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.”

Riches and wealth: Ecclesiastes 5:19Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.”

Knowledge of salvation: Luke 1:77To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins.

Understanding of the person and work of Christ: 1 Corinthians 12:3Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

Light to find the way of peace: Luke 1:79To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” 2 Corinthians 4:6For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.Ephesians 5:14Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.Revelation 22:5 And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.”

The promise of salvation by faith: Galatians 3:22But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”

Treasure in heaven: Matthew 19:21Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”

Spiritually abundant life here on earth: 1 Timothy 6:17Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.

A physical body for each of us: 1 Corinthians 15:38But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.

Jesus’s life as a ransom: Matthew 20:28Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.Mark 10:45For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

A good shepherd to lead us to heaven and give his life for us: John 10:11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

Jesus’s body as a sacrifice for us: Luke 22:19And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.Ephesians 5:2And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

Everlasting life through the blood and flesh of Christ: John 6:51I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.John 10:28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.John 17:2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” 1 John 5:11And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”

Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God: Mark 4:11And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables.Luke 8:10And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.”

Rewards for our giving: Mark 9:41For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.

Words to speak when we are on trial: Luke 21:15For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.1 Peter 3:15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

Power for ministry: 1 Peter 4:11 “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

The ministry of reconciliation: 2 Corinthians 5:18And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.”

Grace and spiritual gifts: Romans 12:6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us.”

Whatever we truly need: Luke 11:9And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

The kingdom of God: Luke 12:32Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Grace and truth: John 1:17For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.James 4:6But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”

The water of life: John 4:14But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.Revelation 21:6And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

Spiritual meat: John 6:27Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”

Spiritual bread: John 6:32Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.”

Spiritual life: John 6:33For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

An example for how to live: John 13:15For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

A new commandment: John 13:34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (I notice that Jesus says repeatedly that the law came by Moses, or that Moses “gave” them the law.)

A comforter: John 14:16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.”

Peace and His presence to relieve fear: John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.

The words of God: John 17:8For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.John 17:14I have given them thy word.”

The glory which God gave Jesus: John 17:22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.”

Commandments to follow: Acts 1:2Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen.” (I was so impressed by this verse two years ago that it has inspired me to study the “commandments” that Jesus gave us.)

The authority to help others “rise up and walk” (if not physically today, for sure spiritually!) through the powerful name of Jesus: Acts 3:6Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”

Authority to build others up: 2 Corinthians 10:8For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed.”

Faith that results in soundness: Acts 3:16And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

The name of Jesus, which is the only name by which the world can be saved: Acts 4:12Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Repentance and forgiveness of sins through Jesus: Acts 5:31Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.2 Timothy 2:25In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” (If you have a loved one you wish would come to faith, don’t argue! Teach them whenever they’re willing to listen, but also pray for them, recognizing that God is the one who will bring them to repentance and faith.)

The Holy Ghost: Acts 5:32And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.” Romans 5:5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

The Spirit: 2 Corinthians 1:22 “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” 2 Corinthians 5:5Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.1 Thessalonians 4:8He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.1 John 3:24And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” 1 John 4:13Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.”

The Spirit, who gives us life: 2 Corinthians 3:6Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”

The Spirit, who gives us many gifts for building up the body of Christ: 1 Corinthians 12:7-9 (and on) “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit . . .”

Assurance of Christ’s resurrection (given to all men to either accept or reject): Acts 17:30-31And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”

An inheritance among the brethren: Acts 20:32And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” Psalm 61:5For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name.”

Suffering: Philippians 1:29For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.

Hope and consolation: 2 Thessalonians 2:16 and 17 “Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.”

Victory over death: 1 Corinthians 15:57But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (64):Giving and Receiving . . . Take One

This weeks’ meditation is on Jesus’ injunction from Luke 6:38, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” I thought 5-6 hours would be plenty of time to finish thinking about this subject and write with (hopefully) some insight, but I was wrong! Did you know that “give” is used 1392 in the Bible? In attempting to study through all cogent verses, I was just beginning to get some sense for the parameters of the post I wanted to write when I ran out of time!

My daughter’s family is visiting, and I’m deep in the enjoyment of “giving and receiving” love from them, but my blog simply did not get written in time! 😦 So—please excuse me while I try to get a fuller grasp on what Jesus was teaching. I’m absolutely certain that this imperative concerns one of my weakest areas and blind spots, which is probably why (for the first time in eleven years) I haven’t had some meditation from the scriptures ready for a Sunday noon post! Lord willing, I’ll have something more to share next Sunday.

Blessings on your week!

I think the Apostle Paul understood Jesus’s teaching! He lived it out and shared with the rest of us: “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (63): Forgive and Be Forgiven

As 2019 draws to a close, I can’t think of any commandment more appropriate than Jesus’s teaching on giving and seeking forgiveness: “Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). What a perfect way to end the year! Some people never reconcile with those who have offended them; some wait until they’re on their deathbed or at the funeral of a mutually beloved family member. But, what a waste! Why not offer and receive forgiveness before the year dies rather than waiting until WE die?!!

There are many diverse opinions out there on what it actually means to forgive, but I believe the one from Wikipedia is right on: “Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as resentment and vengeance (however justified it might be), and with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), pardoning (granted for an acknowledges offense by a representative of society, such as a judge), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).”

Here are some wise insights from William P. Young’s The Shack: “Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person’s throat……Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established………Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation.”

If you wonder whether or not you’ve really forgiven someone, test yourself with these questions: Do I still erupt in anger when I remember the event(s)? Do I truly hope the offender will recover and become a trustworthy person, or am I more focused on wanting the person to be exposed, brought to justice, and punished? Am I willing to accept their confession and request for forgiveness, or do I refuse to believe they’re sincere?

If you’re struggling to forgive anyone, please understand that God tells us to forgive—not on the basis of the offender’s worthiness or repentance—but based on God’s willingness to forgive us for our sins: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). Jesus instructs us to forgive, not only for the sake of the offender but also for our own emotional health and healing. It’s not just the Judeo/Christian heritage that promotes the value of forgiving others either; it’s a part of every major religion! Even among the non-religious, there are literally thousands of quotes about forgiveness, In fact, there are 3012 quotes on Goodreads alone! (Here’s one of my favorites: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”― Mark Twain. Talk about a good, challenging resolution for the New Year!! 🙂 )

Below, I’m sharing seventeen of my favorite quotes on forgiveness. I hope you’ll take time to pray your way through, asking the Lord to help you forgive anyone against whom you are still holding a grudge. Before this year ends, may we all be free from the bondage of unforgiving hearts!

(Photo credit for first photo: “I Will Give You Rest,” by Yongsung Kim, used by permission of Havenlight.com .)

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (62): Condemn Not

I was part of a panel lately on the subject of how to deal with in-laws, particularly during the holidays. Do you cringe at the thought of going home for the holidays because you’ll feel condemned as “not good enough” in some area? If you’re sponsoring holiday festivities, do you worry about “not measuring up?” Alan’s parents died forty years ago, and they were very kind to me, so I was startled by just how real and how difficult it is for most young wives to negotiate the holidays, particularly vis-à-vis their mother-in-laws. Yikes!

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to be a better mother-in-law since then, particularly in light of this week’s reminder from Jesus: “Condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned” (Luke 6:37). It occurs to me that for many (most?) people there is some ambivalence around Christmas that has to do with unmet expectations and feeling unloved, and most of the conflicts revolve around the questions of with whom and how to spend our precious vacation time.

Ouch! If you’re feeling tense, overwhelmed, and frustrated by just how frantic and unfulfilling the holiday season has become for you, may I recommend this: Continue on as planned this year, but start praying about how to improve the holidays for next time. Observe how you and your loved ones react to this year’s game plan and afterward talk through what happened with your spouse (loved ones, or yourself if you’re single). Strategize about how to make the holidays more of a win/win for you and your loved ones, and start now to lay the groundwork for a happier, healthier, more Christ-like Christmas celebration for next year.

Here’s a little imaginary look into the hearts of those of us who are working hard to make Christmas wonderful—those of us who are functional and happy! (BTW, this is based on gleanings from the panel discussion, not the inner workings of my own family, but you get the drift . . .)

From the mother-in-law’s perspective: “I just want to hold my daughter-in-law close, the way Jesus holds us as his sheep. I want to tuck her under my wing and make her a part of our family! I want to celebrate the same cherished traditions that have always made our family so happy together! If we have to share, it should at least be 50/50.” This can also devolve into: “I deserve to be loved and honored this Christmas. I’m doing all the work, so I want to do it my way. Besides, if my son really loved me, he’d be trying to take care of me. I spent the past (XX) years of my life giving everything I had to bring him up the best I could, so I deserve his attention too. His wife just isn’t fair!”

From the daughter-in-law’s perspective: “I don’t want to be absorbed into my husband’s family as if I’m just another child. Husbands are supposed to ‘leave’ their parents and ‘cleave’ to their wife. I am an adult with a new, independent family, and I want to protect that space so we can develop our own traditions.” This can also devolve into: “Besides, I like the way my family celebrates better, so if we’re going to visit, I’d rather visit my parents. If my husband really loved me, he’d defer to what I want! After all, ‘happy wife is happy life,’ so he should be trying to make me happy! My mother-in-law is so critical that I don’t feel comfortable being around her. His mom just isn’t fair!

From the son’s perspective: “I’m not sure what to do! I love my parents and want to honor them, but I also love my wife, and I want to make her happy. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but all the work and tension makes me super tired and isn’t pleasant at all! I go back to work every year more tired than when we left for our ‘vacation.’ It seems like there’s no way to win!”

Jesus: “I came to earth to bring peace and goodwill to all people. Christmas isn’t meant to be about conflict, competition, and condemnation! If you celebrate my coming to earth, please do it in my spirit: “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:2-7).

Can you imagine how the spirit of Christmas would change if we all took Philippians 2 to heart and practiced Jesus’ command to “Condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned” (Luke 6:37)? Instead of judging and condemning one another as unfair or unloving, let’s focus on Jesus and try to follow in his footsteps, finding ways to put others first and meet their needs! Besides that, there are a world of lonely people who have no one to love OR even fight with this Christmas! 🙂 Can we reach out to some of them? Let’s make Christmas about loving God and loving others. That’s what Jesus did!

(Photo of Yongsung Kim’s picture of Jesus with the snowy lamb used by permission of Havenlight.com. As we celebrate Christmas, may we snuggle into the everlasting arms of Jesus, who will keep us warm in his love!)

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (61): Judge Not

This has been a really challenging post for me to write, because by nature I am a moralist, and as I’m slowly learning—also a legalist. So, to figure out what Jesus was teaching—and is (present tense) expecting from those of us who attempt to be his disciples, I studied every verse in the Bible that talks about judging. . . and there are literally hundreds! From Genesis 18:19, where Abraham is commended as someone who will “keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment” all the way to Revelation 19:2, where God is worshiped because “true and righteous are his judgments,” the Bible is filled with admonitions about the importance of understanding and keeping God’s laws, of living justly, and doing right.

So, what did Jesus mean when he said, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged” (Luke 6:37 ), and “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2)?

The first thing that struck me from studying is that Jesus doesn’t mean, “Don’t attempt to discern right from wrong.” The entire weight of scripture promotes a life of knowing and keeping the “way of wisdom,” embodied in knowing and keeping God’s laws: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:7-9). Being a moralist and a legalist is not all bad. God wants us to know and do what is just and good. “Mind over matter.” “Do right ’til the stars fall.” “Keep on keeping on.” These aphorisms are right and good! Don’t shove your moral compass (the scriptures) into a back drawer; keep your Bible as the GPS on your dashboard!!

The second thing I learned is to distinguish between discerning good from evil and judging people. I think Jesus is saying, “Judge not [people], that ye be not judged [by other people].” So, the standard is personal purity for ourselves while not assuming responsibility for the actions of other people . . . or passing judgment on them. You can call it a “Double Standard” if you want, and I think that’s almost appropriate, but the double standard puts the burden for purity and uprightness squarely on our own shoulders. It is up to us to do right regardless of what anybody else does.

What does this look like day to day? Jesus didn’t come only as an example to us (He came to die for our sins and become our redeemer), but He is the perfect example for us to follow, and in studying the life of Christ, we have many accounts of how he interacted with people—all of whom had character flaws, and some of whom were characterized by immoral behavior. Jesus never shunned anybody! (If you can correct me, please do, but I haven’t found a single instance.) Jesus rebuked those who confronted him with sinful behavior: “Sin no more” (to the woman caught in adultery, John 8:11) and even “Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men” (speaking to his most passionate disciple, Peter, in Mark 8:33). Jesus’s most violent reaction was to the religious leaders who had turned God’s temple into a “den of thieves” (Mark 11:17). Jesus was clearly enraged by the spiritual leaders hypocritically oppressing the people, and he cleansed the temple, but he didn’t lay a hand on anyone . . . anyone. If Jesus—who could have called down fire from heaven to devour evil men—never harmed anyone and only rebuked sinful behaviors, then none of the rest of us ever has the right to attempt to take justice into our own hands and repay evil with evil.

How do I know? Because the scriptures are crystal clear on how God intends for judgment and justice to work:

*God is ultimately responsible for judging: “He cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity” (Psalm 98:8-9).

*God, as the creator, ruler, and sustainer of Earth, is the only one with the ultimate right to judge: “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us” (Isaiah 33:22).

*God is the only one who can judge and execute justice perfectly: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). “For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people” (Hebrews 10:30).

*Furthermore, God does care about good and evil, and He is at work, even though it’s not always obvious to us: “God is angry with the wicked: God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11).

*God has ordained governments and church leaders to serve as judges in disputes between people: “And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him” (Deuteronomy 1:16). Also: “And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:12).

*In situations where we are being personally oppressed, we are free to pray for relief and for God to judge— based on our personal uprightness and innocence: “The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee” (1 Samuel 24:12). ” The Lord shall judge the people: judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me” (Psalm 7:8).

*Because Jesus did not come to earth to judge, we are relieved of that responsibility at this time also: “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12:47).

*Our responsibility is to teach the Bible to others so they’ll understand right from wrong, because it is ultimately the Word of God in the Bible by which people will be judged: “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

*We are specifically warned against judging other people: “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4).

* We are reminded that we are also not without sin: “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things” (Romans 2:1).

*Instead of being judgmental, we would do well to pray for those who are trapped in sinful lusts, doing everything we can to help them overcome: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

*Instead of being angry and shunning those who are doing evil, we need to learn to be broken-hearted for them, as they will eventually become miserable, whether or not we can observe it from the outside: “Unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil” (Romans 2:8-9).

*Lastly, let’s remember that there will ultimately be a judgment for our entire earth, where good will be vindicated and evil punished: “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (1 Corinthians 4:5).

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works” (Revelation 20:12-13).

*Still confused? I am sometimes! But thankfully, if we are believers, we have the resource of the Holy Spirit to teach us how to interact with others, and we can remember that it’s HIS JOB to convict people of their sins, not ours!If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:7-8). “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin” (Ezekiel 18:30).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (60): Don't Worry About Tomorrow

It took me quite a while to decide whether this was a separate command or part of Jesus’s earlier imperative: “Take no thought for your life” (Matthew 6:25), but the two commands are like two bookends in the passage (Matthew 6:25-34), and I think the first is telling us not to worry about the present, whereas the last is telling us that we shouldn’t worry about the future either: Matthew 6:34 “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

Jesus gives us two good reasons for not worrying. I think he gives the second reason first and the first second, but however you want to look at it, he makes two points:
1. Dealing with the issues we face—present tense, day by day—is enough to keep us fully engaged. If we’re worrying about tomorrow, we won’t be giving our complete attention to what needs our focus NOW! As my pastor says, “Wherever you are, be all there.”
2. The concerns of tomorrow may change, depending on how this day is lived out. If we live the present day well, we may find that some of the things we worried about the most have completely dissipated, like dew on the morning grass! As my husband’s boss likes to say, “I have anguished through many horrible events in my life, and a few of them actually occurred.” 🙂

I notice there are literally hundreds of quotes encouraging us to stop worrying, and I’ve chosen a few favorites to share, but if you need more, there’s no end of them online!

“Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.” -Swedish Proverb

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
-Leo Buscaglia

“Worrying is using your imagination to create something you don’t want.”
– Abraham Hicks

“Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”
-Arthur Somers Roche

“Sorrow looks back. Worry looks around. Faith looks up.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

 “A day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work.” -Anonymous

“What worries you masters you.” -Anonymous

“It’s not the work which kills people, it’s the worry. It’s not the revolution that destroys machinery it’s the friction.” – Henry Ward Beecher

“Worry is like a rocking chair-it keeps you moving but doesn’t get you
anywhere.” – Corrie Ten Boom

“Most Christians are being crucified on a cross between two thieves:
Yesterday’s regret and tomorrow’s worries.”- Warren Wiersbe

“Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear.”
– Corrie Ten Boom

“Worry causes stress. Prayer causes peace, so worry less and pray more.”
– Anonymous

Matthew 6: 25-34:”Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Day by Day
(—Lina Sandell, 1865, Public Domain)

“Day by day and with each passing moment, Strength I find to meet my trials here; Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure Gives unto each day what He deems best– Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, Mingling toil with peace and rest.

“Ev’ry day the Lord Himself is near me With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me, He whose name is Counselor and Pow’r. The protection of His child and treasure Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
‘As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,’ This the pledge to me He made.

“Help me then in eve’ry tribulation So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting, Till I reach the promised land.”

(Credit for initial painting of Jesus with a lamb and a clock by Yongsung Kim, used by permission of Havenlight.com.)