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For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. Matthew 7:2 (NLT)

One of the men I admire most was my uncle Bernard. Uncle Bernie was a quiet man with a generous heart. In all the years I knew him I never once heard him raise his voice or say a negative word about anyone. He was soft-spoken, gentle at heart and generous. He didn’t have a large house although he had money, his home was modestly comfortable. Uncle Bernie died in the same way he lived, quietly falling asleep as he listened to his favorite baseball team on the radio.

Uncle Bernie has been gone a long time but his testimony lives on in my mind because he was probably the most non-judgmental man I know, next to Jesus. I don’t remember enough about Bernie to know what made him tick; what it was that made him so accepting of other people, but that part doesn’t really matter. What matters is that he was a man who knew Jesus and showed Jesus love in how he treated others.

Jesus taught us not to judge others. He showed us acceptance of other lifestyles when he reached out to the woman caught red-handed having sex with another woman’s husband by telling her she wasn’t condemned, even though she deserved death.

He showed how to accept people when he made a point to stop at a well so he could meet up with a woman who’d failed five times at marriage and finally decided to ‘shack up’ with man number six rather than go through the whole marriage/divorce cycle. She was so ashamed she went to the well when she ‘knew’ she’d be alone. But Jesus met her at her most lonely time in the loneliest place because he accepted her even though he couldn’t tolerate her lifestyle.

If Jesus were here today I think he’d visit people you and I avoid like the plague. The person living the gay lifestyle would find a friend in Jesus. The imposter who lives behind a disguise of religion while they battle with drugs, alcohol or pornography would feel his touch. The abusive father or stepmother, the guy with at tendency for road rage, the vindictive gossip. All can find acceptance and healing when they come to Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t ask us to accept those different than us, he requires it. Through the power of his Holy Spirit I can find the strength to accept those who make a mockery of my faith. Because of his nail scarred hands I can find acceptance and healing in the midst of my struggle with sin. I want to be like him. I want to show his love like my uncle Bernie did.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I see in scripture how you have reached to others. I ask that you would do a work in my soul. Forgive me and heal me of the struggles I’m enduring. Empower me to live for you and to reach out to those around me. Help me to accept those who mistreat me, drag your name through the mud and mock your name. I pray this in your name, Amen.


“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

As Jesus traveled along the dusty paths and streets of Israel he met many people from many walks of life. Some, like the woman at the well who had been divorced five times and the woman caught in adultery were struggled with emotional issues, feeling the guilt, shame and embarrassment of failure.

Others had more physical issues. The blind, the lame, the leprous suffered daily in a world of pain and darkness. Socially outcast and physically in pain they lived a life of pain and misery.

Then there were those who marveled at his teaching. For their entire lives they had been held captive by a religion which offered no hope. Strict rules and empty hope were just another irrelevant part of the journey they called life. It was a religion built on guilt, shame and fear.

Then Jesus came along. He offered rest to those who struggled with relationships. Don’t think for a minute that kids didn’t rebel back then. Pornography and lust were different then, but not non-existent. Feelings of failure and desperation were just as real then as they are today in your life.

One would think that the people who saw the miracles would follow. You’d expect that every person healed and all their families would give up everything to become his disciples. Some did. Most didn’t. In fact the very people he offered rest to from their physical and emotional trials were the ones who shouted ‘Crucify Him!’

Seems outlandish doesn’t it? Then again, maybe not. Over 2000 years later we are still doing the same thing. Jesus offers us hope. He offers us emotional healing. When he doesn’t offer physical healing he offers us strength to endure the pain. But people still seek religion over relationship; rules over freedom; death (spiritually due to sin) over life.

There is no religion on earth that offers us the things that Jesus does through a relationship with him. All he asks is that he be the only source of your praise, worship and love. Friends will mislead you. Religion will use you. Only Jesus gives you rest.

The hard truth is, as in any love relationship, you can’t experience the total joy Jesus offers without total commitment. Darkness has no place with light. Sin has no place in the life of a Christ-follower. Can you be forgiven? Yes. Can you live comfortably (physically)? Sometimes. But you won’t experience the total joy and peace Jesus offers until you come to him, only him, for rest.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I confess to you that there are so many times I seek pleasure, peace and comfort from things and people rather than you. My focus shifts from the eternal to the temporal. I want, so I go after it even if I know it will hurt my relationship with you. Forgive me for my refusal to sell-out to you completely. Empower me by you Holy Spirit to live completely for you. In your name I pray, Amen.

 


You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. Psalm 4:7

Every year it’s the same thing. People all over the world will gather together to cheer in another year of great, new hopes and expectations. They talk about the new opportunities before them, about how great everything will be, and, for a few moments anyway, forget the pain, the agony and the turmoil that surrounds all of us.

The unfortunate reality is that January 2 or shortly afterwards, reality returns. The credit card bills come in from the Christmas overspending, the health concerns worsen, relationships fail us and the political and economic turmoil goes on. Wouldn’t it be nice if ‘Happy New Year’ were a statement of promise and absolute truth and not a flippant statement of hope in the midst of despair?

Each one of us can have a Happy New Year. That may seem like a bold statement but happiness isn’t about what goes on around us. Happiness is based on what we put our hope on. If we put our hope in material things, or relationships, or religion or even physical health we are destined for disappointment and failure. Anything that is earthly based will fail to bring us true happiness because by its nature it is destined to deteriorate.

The Psalmist compares his happiness to the happiness of those around them. During the time this Psalm was written ‘grain and new wine abounding’ represented everything one could possible ask for in the physical realm. It was a statement that represented the most successful and prosperous things that could happen in the world.

True happiness finds its source on the inside of each of us, not in the fickle, external circumstances that surround us. As Christ-followers we can have peace in the midst of turmoil, wealth in the midst of financial despair, freedom in the midst of addictions because our peace, wealth and freedom come from our faith in Jesus Christ.

Think about it for a moment. As a Christ-follower what is the absolute worst thing that can happen to you? The person without Christ may say relational or financial or physical disaster or even death. But for the Christ-follower none of that really has a lasting impact. The ‘worst that can happen’ for most people (death) is the best that can happen for us because in the death of our physical bodies we get to be united with Jesus in heaven.

The guarantee of a ‘Happy New Year’ comes only when we put our complete faith in Jesus Christ and resolve to grow in relationship to Him. Everything we see, everything will fail, change or go away. Jesus never will. Have a Happy New Year in Jesus!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I thank you for the promise you have given me that you are with me in every situation. I confess that in my humanness I seek happiness measure success by what I can hold in my hand or see with my eyes. Empower me by your Holy Spirit to base my happiness on you alone and not people, religion or things. I praise you for your love and power to bring true inner happiness to me through your forgiveness and your Holy Spirit. Amen.


Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35

There seems to have been an ongoing battle among Jesus’ disciples to establish a pecking order. The comparison game ran rampant. Some would argue their case based on the order in which Christ ‘chose’ them. After all, wouldn’t he pick them the way we choose teams on the playground? The most talented would surely be chosen first, and disciple number 12? Well, you know that story!

I would imagine that the fisherman in the group argued their case for supremacy based on the consistency and size of their catch. Matthew and Judas based their level of importance based on their knowledge of finances and the Roman government, The others all staked their claim to greatness on other personality traits or passion to follow Christ.

We still play the comparison game in our churches and Christian circles. We’ve become more refined, of course. Past sins, divorce and other relational issues, length of time with the master and denominational affiliation will either disqualify you, or make you more qualified, depending on your point of view.

Fact of the matter is, Jesus sets the standard for greatness pretty low. Children, livestock, women and servants were all in the same category in Jesus day. They carried no value in and of themselves. Women were valuable of course if they produced male offspring. Livestock were valuable if there were no blemishes because they were the monetary standard of the day. Children had some value because they would eventually grow up to be heirs (boys) or a way to raise yourself to a higher social level (good looking women).

Servants? Truth be told there really wasn’t a value placed on a servant. The bad ones were sold or killed or given the dirtiest jobs. The good ones were elevated until, of course, they proved themselves inadequate. There was no glamour in being a servant. Wasn’t in Jesus day, still isn’t.

Servants had no choices in life. Their sole purpose in life was to make other people happy and comfortable. Good masters may show some gratitude (to the good servants) but it certainly wasn’t necessary, or the norm. Servants generally received no praise. They were just doing their job after all. There was no Servants Union. No one to advocate for servant rights. No United Servant Code of Ethics.

Still, Jesus calls each of us to be servants in order to show His greatness to the nations. One more thing about being a servant, and this is a hard one to swallow. Being a ‘servant’ to people who we like and who are kind to us? That’s not being a servant. Servant-hood is not based on like-ability. The crabby boss? The obnoxious customer? The angry spouse? Yep. We’re called to serve them.

As Christ-followers, our question is not ‘Should I serve that person’ but, ‘How does God want me to serve that person wisely.’

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. You showed us the ultimate example of how to be a servant by reaching out to the unlovely, allowing yourself to be the object of scorn and ridicule and ultimately dying for me when I didn’t deserve it. I know your command is the same today as it was when you walked with your disciples. It’s hard being a servant in an evil world but I know that is Your desire. Empower me with Your Spirit to be the loving and wise servant You want me to be. Keep me from playing the comparison game. I’m not better or no worse than anyone else when I walk with you. Thank you for being my servant. Help me to serve others in the same way. Amen.

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