Tag Archives: Romans 5:8

Time for an eye exam


Do you find that it is easier to be more critical of someone else’s shortcomings rather than your own? Do you notice how they act differently and wonder why can’t they be more like you? Maybe you regard their sin as greater than your own?


Judging others is a trap that is easy to fall into, but we are warned against it. In Luke 6, we’re told that the pharisees were critical of Jesus and his disciples because they were picking grain on the Sabbath. This was against the legalistic rules they had set up. But Jesus points out that He himself is the Lord of the Sabbath and the purpose of the day is to honor God not follow a set of legalistic rules. He reminds us that we need to keep our focus on God, not man’s rulings.


It’s easy to get those turned around, isn’t it? Every time elections come around it seems we turn our focus to the economy rather than the moral direction of our nation. We look to what will satisfy our earthly desires. We seek “happiness” as our highest goal, not faithfulness. We long for the approval of others more than we seek the approval of God. We easily get things turned around. But Jesus reminds us that blessed are those who find satisfaction in God regardless of their circumstances, or even the circumstances of our nation.


We easily regard those who disagree with us as our enemies. Whether they are or aren’t, Jesus commands us to “Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you. Be merciful just as your Father is merciful. 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 6:27,36-37)


It’s hard, isn’t it? How can we obey this difficult command? How do we stand up for truth without judging others? Perhaps we start with an “eye exam”. You know if you have a foreign object in your eye you will not see properly. Jesus says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Luke 6:41) In other words, why are we so focused on judging other’s sins when confronted with our own (different) sins? We like to categorize sins, ranking them from not so bad to really bad. But God puts them all in the same category. Sexual immorality, impure thoughts, hatred, arguing, jealousy, greed, selfish ambition, envy. They’re all contrary to the Spirit and “those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:21) Our role is to submit to the Spirit of God so He can transform our own selfish, greedy, jealous, and impure nature to one that is marked by his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control.


This isn’t to say that because all sin is sin we should think it’s all okay. Sin is an abomination to God because it separates us from him. It keeps us from accessing the fullness of his love and grace and from inheriting his promises. But it’s not for us to judge others. That’s God’s job. Our job is to love, do good, be merciful, and forgive.


We have a choice. We can focus our energies on hating the path the world is going while judging others in our path. . . OR we can hate the sin (of others and our own) and respond with the love that Jesus has shown us… the very love he demonstrated to us while we were still sinners! (Romans 5:8)


It all begins with a simple eye exam: “Am I looking at circumstances and others through my eyes or through the eyes of Jesus?” Ask God to look through his eyes and “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap.” (Luke 6:38)


Love is all


Love God with all your heart, mind, body and soul and with all your strength.  Love your neighbor as yourself.              – Mark 12:30-31

Let us love one another for love comes from God. – 1 John 4:7

Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:16


Jesus makes sure we make no mistake. Our love for God is to be marked by ALL our heart, ALL our mind, ALL our soul, and ALL our strength. Basically, we are to love with everything that is in us. He doesn’t allow room for ‘SOME’ of anything. Loving God and loving others is our job description. Everything else is what HR people call “nonessential duties”…leftovers.


But what if ‘all’ God gets is our leftovers? Leftover after we give service to our other ‘gods.’ Anything that separates us from the one true God becomes a ‘god’ to us. Probably you know those who gave up on God because they lost a loved one, their health took a turn for the worst, they were betrayed by someone close to them, they felt unprotected. Maybe you experienced this at one time too. When this happens God is ignored and set aside, like last night’s leftovers, and lesser ‘gods’ are pursued.


Think you are immune to such idolatry? If you could not do without something, that may have become your ‘god.’ Be it sports, the pursuit of beauty and ultimate fitness above all things, that perfect latte, a certain way of negative thinking, or any other compulsive or perfectionist venture. When we obey these things they define and control our life and become as ‘gods.’ We can’t give ALL to the one and only true God, because all that remains is leftovers.


The question is: What do I HAVE to have in order to be satisfied with God? Whatever that is, my health, my family, my abilities, more years of life, more money, a pain-free life…that is the name of our other ‘god.’ The point of Job’s story is that God is enough. Like ending Psalm 23 with the first sentence, the Lord is my shepherd; that is enough.


God created us with a soul designed to love Him and be loved by Him. Love comes from God because God IS love. God demonstrated His love in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us. It is His love that shines in us. That light shines into the despair of our dark griefs and empty pursuits. It reveals hope that brings transcending joy and peace. It illuminates our path and causes fear to flee. It frees us from the captivity of all our false gods.


When the love of Jesus shines in and through you, you find freedom to love without expectation. Jesus says, we shine our light so others may see the real Jesus and praise God. Loving God with ALL your heart, mind, soul, and strength extends His endless love to others. Let’s give Him our ALL, not just leftovers.



Does your countenance reflect the love you receive?

She was a poor farmer’s daughter and lived a hard life. He was a man of position and generosity. She was not a ‘beautiful’ woman by the world’s standards but don’t tell him for the beauty that captured his attention was undeniable. His labor was light and easy. She toiled from sunrise to past sunset. Her caring love for her frail father and siblings was evident in her every action. It was not unusual to hear her singing songs while doing her chores.

When he went into town people stopped to talk with him and sought to learn from his wisdom. Women of means vied for his attention. When she went to town people hardly noticed her. If they did, they took extra steps to avoid her.

And so you can imagine the gasps of overwhelming surprise when it was first rumored that the young man had asked the girl’s father for her hand in marriage. And being the culture it was he inquired about the dowry the father required for the wedding. One cow was the amount set by the father. You could imagine the stunned speechlessness of the town folk when they learned 100 cows and servants to attend them was the dowry the man paid. In our age we have come to appreciate (have we not?) the immense and equal value of women and men. But understand in those days how people would question how any woman could be worth such a fortune, never mind a poor unseemly farm girl.

And yet worth it she was, and more according to the young man. I suppose it is not uncommon even in our days for one’s countenance to reflect how they are valued, admired, and loved by others. And so it was with the young farm girl, when she walked hand in hand with her young husband, to stand tall and with confidence. She was loved perhaps more than any other. And what can I say? Others took notice of her radiant beauty. The young man also was no longer seen for his wealth but for the love that also reflected in the eyes of his bride.

This is not at all a story of gender superiority or submission. But it does tell the tale of the need we each have to love and to be loved. And it relates how the power of being valued speaks to a very deep and dear place in our hearts.

Did you know that God, like the young man, chose US while we were still unworthy? That he sought us from before we were born? That he rescued us from an eternity of despair, not to play the hero role, but because he loves us and values us so much? And do our eyes reflect this immense love or do the daily routines fog our memory of his great gift to us?*

For God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

* based on a tale told by Ray Exum, Second Chicken Soup For the Soul

Forgiving When It Hurts

In yesterday’s post we touched on the power of forgiveness to free both the offender and the one offended, including ourselves.

But sometimes the gravity of the offense is so great, the memory of the pain so intense, that the idea of forgiveness seems offensive to our sense of justice. We withhold forgiveness thinking that we have the upper hand or some sort of power over the offender. But the reality is quite the opposite. Instead of having any power over the other person or the situation, we find that in not forgiving we become enslaved to the bitterness and resentment created by the event and magnified by our memories.

Years ago, Marcia and I took a trip specifically to counsel a young woman who couldn’t forgive herself or others in her past. She was disappointed with God for not protecting her and at the same time wrapped up in her own guilt of unforgiveness. Over the course of three intensive days we read scripture together and she agreed with everything. But in the end, she could not bring herself to forgiveness, and remained confined within the prison she had created.

In her book, Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand contrasts this with the true story of a WWII prisoner of war survivor. Following a period a terrifying nightmares, drunkenness and anger stemmed from his tortuous experience, he attended a Billy Graham crusade. Filled with a sense of shame and powerlessness that had driven his need to hate his captors, he realized they were no longer his ‘monsters.’ He made a trip to the Sugarno Prison where he was kept in Japan, and attempted to see “The Bird”, one of his fiercest torturers. Refused access to the man, “all he could see of his former captor was a lost man, a life beyond redemption. He felt something he had never felt for his captor before. With a shiver of amazement, he realized that it was compassion. At that moment something shifted sweetly inside of him; it was forgiveness, beautiful and effortless and complete. For Louis Zamperini, the war was over.”

The power to forgive so great an offense comes from the Savior who first forgave us. In such light how can we withhold forgiveness from others or ourselves? Yes, the painful memories seem unbearable, but more unbearable is the pain of carrying the weight of unforgiveness all throughout your life. Say it out loud, visit the person if possible, write a note. Just don’t carry the burden of unforgiveness in your heart. Quite simply, forgiveness is for giving. It is a gift you give yourself and others.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8