2 Timothy 3:14

Can you trust the book we call the Bible? If you’ve trying to convince yourself God doesn’t exist, you might be tempted to try to marginalize it to make yourself feel better about ignoring it, but the truth is that rather than being unreliable, the Holy Scriptures are more worthy of our trust than any other information out there for us to accept or reject.

“But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.” (2 Timothy‬ ‭3:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Who first taught you about God? Who took you to church? Who said said the Bible is true? Was it your mother when you were little? Your father? A grandmother who cared for you? Was it a beloved friend? A caring neighbor or co-worker? A pastor who stepped outside of himself to help you? Paul penned these famous words to Timothy, his protégée–his son in Christ, as he called him. (In case you don’t know, Timothy was of mixed parentage–his mother was devout, but his father was not. Because of that, he hadn’t even been circumcised, as Jewish boys are supposed to be, according to God’s command to Abraham, and actually had to have this procedure done because his devout Jewish audience wouldn’t listen to his message otherwise). But look at what Paul said: “You know…[the things you have been taught] are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.”

That’s the key to accepting or rejecting any doctrine or philosophy–regardless of whether it is religious, secular, or any other label we slap on it–can you trust those who taught you? Whenever you decide whether to accept or reject a teaching, always look at the life of those who embrace it–at what following it wholeheartedly turns you into.

Elsewhere Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (I Corinthians‬ ‭11:1‬ ‭NKJV‬‬) That’s a bold assertion many of us today would be reluctant to tell another, yet it’s a reflection of how holy our lives as Christians should be–how pure and right and good our conduct, as those who believe in and trust Jesus.

So if you’re trying to decide if a teaching is honest–look at everything else in the life of those who have wholeheartedly embraced it. Is their life honest? If you want to see if a teaching is good–is the life of those who follow that teaching good? What does believing something turn you into?

There are many ideas and philosophies out there, but most of them produce ugly results. Rather than producing good in the lives of those who embrace it, the high and mighty secular intellectual atheism of men and women like Steven Hawkins, for example, produces a self-centered lifestyle, moral ambivalence and confusion, depression–ultimately even despair.

The Bible identifies the kinds of behavior that can show up in the life of a person who rejects Christ as, “…sexual sin, being morally bad, doing all kinds of shameful things, worshiping false gods, taking part in witchcraft, hating people, causing trouble, being jealous, angry or selfish, causing people to argue and divide into separate groups, being filled with envy, getting drunk, having wild parties, and doing other things like this,” (Galatians 5:19-20) and warns that, “…people who do these things will not have a part in God’s kingdom.” (Galatians‬ ‭5:21‬ ‭ERV‬‬)

Genuine faith in God, on the other hand–and not just in any higher power, but in the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” of the Bible–produces beautiful results in those who submit to His authority in their lives:

“But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these kinds of things. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their sinful self. They have given up their old selfish feelings and the evil things they wanted to do.” (Galatians‬ ‭5:22-24‬ ‭ERV‬‬)

These verses have been often quoted, but have you ever actually thought about what they’re saying? That sophisticated professor who waxes eloquent about mankind’s higher potential, but causes his wife and children grief by his shameful personal conduct, is merely reflecting the result of his belief system. God even warns us about religious hypocrites– “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

There have been far too many examples of leaders who have claimed to follow Jesus as a disguise for getting the trust of gullible people in order to exploit them in some way. That’s why God tells us presenting yourself as a Christian isn’t evidence of Christianity–a holy life is. Jesus warns us to, “Be careful of false prophets. They come to you looking gentle like sheep, but they are really dangerous like wolves. You will know these people by what they do. Grapes don’t come from thornbushes, and figs don’t come from thorny weeds. In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. Every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. In the same way, you will know these false prophets by what they do.” (Matthew‬ ‭7:15-20‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

Or, as The Message paraphrase put it, “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.” (Matthew‬ ‭7:15-20‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

So why can we trust the Bible? Obviously because of the many other evidences of its legitimacy, but also and especially because of the goodness it generates in the lives of those who genuinely love and trust Jesus! Because other than loving God more than anything else in life, trusting that He will ultimately make everything wrong right, and clinging whole-heartedly to Him, the goodness He produces in the lives of those who follow Him, the self-denial in favor of serving others–even going so far as giving up our own lives–makes absolutely no rational human sense! Even Paul acknowledged “If our hope in Christ is for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone else in the world.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:19‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

Dear Lord God,

Help me remain faithful to the things I have been taught, knowing they are true because I can trust those who taught me! Amen.

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Matthew 6:13

Why does God allow us to get into situations that make it easier for us to sin–that test our resolve to holiness? Jesus taught us to ask the Father, “lead us not into temptation,” yet there are times when people of faith seem especially placed in difficult spiritual spots. Why does God allow these situations?

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil…” (Matthew‬ ‭6:13‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

First of all, let’s clarify: God doesn’t try to get anyone to sin–that’s just not what He’s like. James clearly states this:

“Whenever you feel tempted to do something bad, you should not say, “God is tempting me.” Evil cannot tempt God, and God himself does not tempt anyone. You are tempted by the evil things you want. Your own desire leads you away and traps you. Your desire grows inside you until it results in sin. Then the sin grows bigger and bigger and finally ends in death.” (James‬ ‭1:13-15‬ ‭ERV‬‬)

Yet God does, indeed, sometimes place us into situations in which we can prove ourselves–just look to His command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac!

But if God’s heart is not to cause us to fall, why does He do this? Well, let’s look again at Abraham. Why did God ask him to sacrifice Isaac? Of course, we know God didn’t want the death of Isaac, and He certainly didn’t want Abraham to disobey. So why did God place Him in such a terrible place? Did He really want Abraham to disobey? Of course not!

I am convinced the reason God does allow us situations of testing is for OUR OWN sake–for US to see we can resist sin and come out stronger on the other side of it. Abraham was about to become the patriarch of the nation of Israel–much would be required of Him; I believe God wanted Abraham to understand the strength of his faith; the extent of his commitment and loyalty; the degree of his love for God.

It’s the same for us. Whenever God places us in situations that test our resolve; our faith, commitment, loyalty, love–it is not because He wants us to stumble, but because He wants us to come out stronger on the other side, having experienced temptation and responded correctly!

So why did Jesus teach us to ask God to not lead us into temptation, if getting through difficult situations strengthen our faith? Being human as well as divine, He felt our humanity and weakness; remember that He Himself had gone through an intense period of teasing in the wilderness just prior to His public ministry. I believe He commanded us to ask this because He understood how difficult it is for us to navigate these situations of testing well. Yet ultimately, we can rest assured, knowing that, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:13‬ ‭NASB‬‬)

Dear God,

Lead us not into temptation! Thank You that You don’t ask the impossible of me; that You don’t place me in any situation except what others have and are also going through; that You will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I am able, but with the temptation will also provide a way of escape, so I can endure it and come out stronger on the other side! Amen.

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Psalm 90:12

What is wisdom? What does it mean to be wise? Scholars, theologians, academics and philosophers have debated this question and pondered its implications for millennia, yet even though there are various practical expressions of wisdom–at its heart, ultimate wisdom is simply valuing the eternal over the temporary.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalms‬ ‭90:12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

What do I mean by this? Well, what is eternal? What will pass through the life/death barrier? What will survive after “we” leave our bodies? Isn’t it what some have alternately called our spirit or soul? Contrary to cynical thought, this life isn’t all there is, and what happens to “us” after we die is what is truly significant because regardless of what we accomplish or acquire in these bodies, there is nothing we can take with us when we die–except one thing: Jesus. What do I mean? Simply what St. Paul said in his letter to the Roman Christians:

“But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.” (Romans‬ ‭8:10-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

If we have Jesus Christ–His Spirit–in us, then even though our bodies are dying or will eventually be, then the One who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will also raise me from the dead. That’s what God promises us!

Again–if Christ is in me, even though my body is subject to death because of the power and effect of sin, the Spirit gives me life because of Christ’s righteousness in me. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead is living in me, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to my mortal–my dying–body because of His Spirit who lives in me. Amazing! This is nothing short of absolutely, totally, life-shatteringly amazing!!!

And wisdom is giving this fact the weight–the attention, the focus, the time, the consideration and thought–it deserves in my busy day-to-day physical existence. Why? Because it is the terminus of my physical existence! As Jesus said, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Mark‬ ‭8:36-37‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

The answer, obviously, is nothing–nothing is worth losing my soul and no accomplishment or acquisition will offset its loss.

So how should I respond to this? By being wise; by not avoiding thinking about it but rather, by intentionally making myself right with the eternal Force that is God. Listen to context of Jesus’ comment above, because pieces of the Bible shouldn’t be taken out of context–we should always read the verses before and after:

“Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, He said, ‘If any of you wants to be My follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He returns in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.'” (Mark‬ ‭8:34-38‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

What’s the Good News? That God forgives and accepts us through Jesus when we repent of our sins!

So our response should be to think of–recognize, acknowledge–our sins, and repent of them–feel remorse for messing up, for not being everything God wants us to be–and commit our destiny into Jesus’ hands–believe what God says and trust in the forgiveness He gives us through Jesus. In other words, rather than avoiding and running away from it, we should deal with the issue of what comes after this life, because, ultimately, that’s real wisdom!

Dear God,

Help me number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom. I trust You, Jesus! Amen.

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Matthew 10:37-39

What does it mean to love God? Is it like loving a human being–a father, mother, sister, brother, girlfriend, boyfriend? Is it an either/or situation–does God require us to chose between loving Him and others? Or is our love for God different than any of our other relationships?

“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” (Matthew‬ ‭10:37-39‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Jesus did clearly say that if I love anyone more than I love Him I am not worthy of Him, but what did He mean? Do I have to choose? Does loving God push out all other loves? What, indeed, is loving God, and how does it show itself?

Loving God is different than loving anyone else in one important aspect: the fact that I love God by loving others. I cannot say that about my other relationships; I do not love my brother by loving my father, or one boyfriend by loving another–with love for a human being I love that human being by loving that particular human being.

Because God is love; because Jesus said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.””

‭‭(John‬ ‭13:34-35‬ ‭NLT‬‬)–because of this, when we love human beings, especially when it’s difficult, we are actually evidencing our love for God.

God doesn’t compete for our love, He multiplies and expands it–exponentially! The converse is true, too. We have not personally experienced how much God loves, and forgives, and accepts us if we hate someone else: “We love because God first loved us. If people say, “I love God,” but hate their brothers or sisters, they are liars. Those who do not love their brothers and sisters, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have never seen. And God gave us this command: Those who love God must also love their brothers and sisters.” (1 John‬ ‭4:19-21‬ ‭NCV‬‬) But is there ever a moment when we have to choose between loving God and loving another? Why did Jesus say we are not worthy of Him if we love someone else more?

It helps to understand what He meant when we recognize the fullness of who God is. Yes, He is a real being–not a feeling or inanimate power–but He is also the embodiment, if you will, of everything good!

The fruit–the result–of the work of God in us through His Spirit is identified as, “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…” (Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬ ‭NLT‬‬) That’s because, along with other character attributes, this is what God is–loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled. So when someone is kind to you, or gentle, or patient, or loving–that’s the work of God in them towards you!

God hates hate because He is love; He hates lying because He is truth; He hates unwarranted heaviness of heart in us because He is joy; He hates discord because He is peace; He hates impatience and intolerance toward another’s inability because He is patient; He hates unkindness because He is kind; unfaithfulness because He is faithful; harshness because He is gentle; a lack of self-control because He is self-controlled. Ultimately, He hates all sin, because He recognizes it as us falling short of who we could otherwise be, and sees the grief and pain we cause ourselves and others–the life we cheat ourselves of!

Hate is a four letter word, but this kind of “hate” is not only okay; it’s how we should all feel towards that which keeps us from being everything we could otherwise be! We make the mistake of hating people while accepting sin, when we should, in fact, accept and love people but hate sin as God hates it, recognizing it, as He does, for the evil it is and the lives it wrecks. Which bring us to what Jesus meant about loving anyone else more than Him.

There may be times when someone close to us asks us to do something wrong. The wrong may be big or small–that aspect is irrelevant; the point is you know your doing it would be you falling short of who God wants you to be. That is the juncture at which we have to have our loyalties straight–the point at which we choose and cling to that which is right and good above pleasing someone else–regardless of how much we otherwise love them.

They may feel angered or betrayed, they certainly may not be happy; but by choosing right over wrong, good over evil, character over blindly following a friend or loved one, and ultimately by choosing Jesus over them–I haven’t rejected them; I’ve actually chosen Jesus and them! How?!

By showing them ultimate love; love that would rather risk their getting mad at me or not liking me, rather than lying to them about whatever they were doing or wanted me to do! Because when we back down and fail to stand up for what is right, we think we’re not causing waves but what we’re actually doing is hurting the other person, because even though they may feel happy with us at the moment, we’ve misrepresented the situation to them–by going along we’ve lied to them that it isn’t wrong, that it isn’t ultimately hurtful to their conscience and life, too. We’ve been cowardly and not loved them enough to risk having them reject us rather than make waves about wrong.

That’s what Jesus meant when He said we’re not worthy of Him if we don’t love Him most. He wasn’t saying we shouldn’t love the people in our life; He was saying we should love them so much that we should be willing to stand up to them! He was talking about character; about our ability to be the “this far and no further” point in another’s life; about loving and clinging to what is right and good and truthful and decent and kind and gentle and peaceable above anything else; about being so grounded in Christ that even if we’re rejected for it, we won’t sin. That’s what Jesus meant!

Dear God,

Help me recognize that You are everything that is good; help me always choose good in my life! Amen.

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I Corinthians 13:5, 7, 9, 11

Do you belong to Jesus? No–not do you think God exists or that Jesus really lived on this earth; not do you go to church, or pray, or even read the Bible, but–do you really belong to Him? I think this is a question each and every one of us should ask ourselves regularly, not to stir up doubt in our mind, but to make sure we really are who we think we are, because the Bible warns us that not everyone who thinks they are in Christ and saved from future judgment really is.

“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.

Now I pray to God that you do no evil…but that you should do what is honorable…And this also we pray, that you may be made complete.

Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (II Corinthians‬ ‭13:5, 7, 9, 11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Jesus Christ died for everyone, but not everyone belongs to Him–not everyone will be fully united with Him and escape God’s judgment of their wrongdoing after they die–because not everyone wants to. Some haven’t examined the evidence enough to become convinced of the facts–that God really does exist; that we are naturally unholy on our own and incapable of true holiness through our efforts; that it is only because of what Jesus Christ did that God forgives and accepts us when we trust in Him.

Others don’t want Jesus because they love unholiness. It’s sad, but true, that sin seem to be pleasant in the moment, and some have simply learned to enjoy sinning–and are thereby repulsed by God because of this, because you cannot be Christ’s if you do not renounce sin in your life.

Yet others believe God. They believe what those who experienced it firsthand recorded for future generations–for us–and think they have the acceptance and forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ. And some do. Yet St. Paul wrote the verses quoted above for a reason–to warn us from becoming complacent in our faith.

He says Jesus Christ is in us–unless we’re disqualified. How would we be disqualified? I think the obvious answer is if we’re not repentant; if we’re still living in any kind of sin we’re aware of. The context of these verses was church discipline to the church at Corinth: they weren’t confronting the open and unrepentant sin of a man and woman there. And that’s what Paul meant–you can’t assume everything’s okay if it isn’t. You can’t assume Jesus is working in you through His Spirit–that you really belong to Him; that you really trust in Him–if you’re living in a sinful situation.

Because choosing sin–any sin–over obedience to Jesus means you don’t trust Him enough; you are making the value judgment that He isn’t enough, that He can’t make you really happy; that you need to fix your situation by adding sin to your life–something He says is wrong wrong and hurtful to you–for it to be good.

Yet the opposite is true. When we choose sin instead of faith–instead of saying, “You’re enough, Lord Jesus”–we’re denying Him. We’re sewing fig leaves together to fix our pain or want like Adam and Eve did, instead of accepting the real clothes God provides through Jesus’ death on the cross.

Jesus is enough–He really is. He’s enough when we hurt; He’s enough when we’re empty; He’s enough when life’s not fair, when bad things happen, or even when nothing bad in particular at all is happening! But we have to examine ourselves to see if it’s true for me–if He really is enough; if I really am in the faith.

Or, alternately, if I’m running after and trusting in anything and everything else to complete me. Because, while I may feel like I got something for a while, ultimately, nothing else will complete me but God through Jesus Christ.

That’s what Paul urges the Corinthians, and us, to do: to do no evil, to do what is honorable, to be made complete in Christ Jesus. Because if Jesus is enough–if we don’t need any sinful anything else–we can assure our heart that we are really in the faith!

Dear Jesus,

Help me be truly in You; You are enough! Amen.

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Exodus 33:15

What do you do when life overwhelms you? How do you respond? Whom, or what, do you run to? We all need margin in our lives–in respect to time and money, for example–but inevitably we overload ourselves, and when the unexpected happened; when the waves start crashing in, threatening to drown us–how do you deal with it?

“Then Moses said to him, “If you yourself don’t go with us, then don’t send us away from this place.” (Exodus 33:15 NCV)

Exodus 33:15 is one of the most underrated verses in all of Scripture in my opinion, because it was Moses’ heartfelt expression of a pivotal truth of life–if God doesn’t go with us, we’re doomed; we just can’t do it in our own.

Sure, we can fake it; if we don’t yet trust Him personally, in fact, we’ve been faking it our entire life. But the truth is that it is He–His love and blessing, His strength upholding us, His wisdom, His guidance–that causes us to be able to rise in the morning and even face the day.

Because, let’s be honest, life can be scary. Yes, it can be very happy too, but far too often it is daunting, and challenging, and even as we get older and find ourselves in more difficult situations, ambiguous at times. Sometimes, it’s not as clear cut as “do this; don’t do that.” Sometimes decisions have to be made that will help one person and hurt another, or actions taken, the outcome of which is not at all obviously good. In other words–life gets messy and complicated. And the less margin we have built into our life, the faster the breakneck speed at which these things seem to hit us.

So…what do you do when things get rough? Whom, or what, do you turn to? Good friends or trustworthy family members who will advise biblically is a good option. A spiritual leader who loves Jesus Christ is great, too. But far too many seek council or comfort from those who advise according to what seems best to them at the moment–not the solid rock of Scripture.

Many more grab a glass or bottle, or a pill to pop, or something to smoke, hoping to dull the confusion and their unquiet conscience–and ultimately, it does not work.

And it does not work because the only thing that works is the Rock; Christ Jesus, and our Heavenly Father; the one and only actual, real, existing God. He is the One Moses turned to in desperation, and He is the One we today also turn to.

Why? Because regardless of the nature of the pain, He is the only One who can make either it or me–whichever He determines–better. He is simply the only One with the capability to do so.

So why on earth would you turn to anything else?? Drink will make you numb, but it won’t fix the problem. Pills may put you to sleep or bring you out of the present to a different experience, but when these wear off the problem will remain, exacerbated by your abuse. Tears by themselves, too, or anger, won’t solve the issue either.

Only God can solve it–only, ever, the Rock who is our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer God, can do anything to impact the situation in any genuinely constructive way whatsoever! Yet at the very moment it’s happening—when our pain or fear or misery is at its greatest—our senses can lie to us and say He is not enough. But if you cry to Him–if you genuinely reach out for Him–He hears and responds. How?

Well, He may alter the situation–He has done that numerous times in my own life. Or, alternatively, He may change me, giving me peace, and what the Bible calls His grace: the wherewithal to get through a miserable or even terrible situation with the comfort and peace of mind that is only through Christ Jesus, our God.

So, what do you do when life overwhelms you? You call out with Moses, “Lord, I can’t do this; if You don’t go with me don’t make me do this on my own!” And He won’t–He’ll accompany you on whatever difficult path He sends you on!

Dear Lord,

Don’t let me travel alone; I can’t do life on my own! Amen.

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Matthew 7:1-2

Are you judgmental or arrogant? Do you find yourself looking down on others, assuming you are somehow an inherently better human being than they are; that you would never make the mistakes you see them doing? Most of us don’t see ourselves this way, but are actually exactly like that. To be completely honest, I personally have come to realize I’m highly judgmental and far too often subconsciously arrogant, because I often find myself thinking way too much of myself; in any given situation, making an almost automatic subliminal predetermination that whatever mistake someone else is making, whatever foolish or sinful or harmful behavior they’re engaging in, I certainly wouldn’t do that–I wouldn’t act that way–if I were them. And that is so wrong!

“Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.” (Matthew‬ ‭7:1-2‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

Judgmentalness and arrogance are kissing cousins; both stem from a misunderstanding of my own condition apart from Christ–from the absence of genuine humility of spirit in me. It’s natural, I suppose, to want to feel I am better than someone; we tend to see life on a sliding scale, and if there’s someone who’s doing worse than I am, by definition that means I’m not the worst; I’m not at the bottom of the pile. But this is not love; it’s not how God sees humans and our condition, nor how He wants us to see things.

The Message paraphrase isn’t an interpretation–it’s not a word-for-word translation; there are even times when you have to sit back and ask, “how did they get that out of this?!” But in this instance, I like how it effectively conveys the idea of arrogance versus humility:

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. Don’t be flip with the sacred. Banter and silliness give no honor to God. Don’t reduce holy mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you’re only being cute and inviting sacrilege.” (Matthew‬ ‭7:1-6‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

Humility is recognizing that the same God who made me made them; that under exactly the same circumstances I would very possibly be responding to life exactly as they are–or be making even more foolish decisions; that I am who I am–that I have had the opportunities and blessings I have had–because God allowed me them, not because I am somehow inherently of a better caliber than others; ultimately and regardless of any achievements real or imagined, if God were to remove Jesus–Christ in me, the (only) hope of (His) glory–from the equation, I would be left an empty shell of nothingness, miserable and void of any real value or accomplishment in His eyes.

Which brings me to the truth of I Corinthians 1:30, “Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭1:31‬ ‭NLT‬‬) That’s about it; it’s all we can legitimately boast of–what Jesus Christ, the Word of God made a human being–did for us. Every other arrogance and boasting is genuinely unwarranted and unjustified!

I’m going to finish off with the entirety of this chapter, again in The Message’s paraphrase (I encourage you to read it on your own in an actual translation, for greater accuracy of interpretation). It shows us that the first Christians were no different than we, and struggled just as we do with a judgmental, arrogant spirit:

“I, Paul, have been called and sent by Jesus, the Messiah, according to God’s plan, along with my friend Sosthenes. I send this letter to you in God’s church at Corinth, believers cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God-filled life. I include in my greeting all who call out to Jesus, wherever they live. He’s their Master as well as ours!

May all the gifts and benefits that come from God our Father, and the Master, Jesus Christ, be yours. Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.

Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.

I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common. I bring this up because some from Chloe’s family brought a most disturbing report to my attention—that you’re fighting among yourselves! I’ll tell you exactly what I was told: You’re all picking sides, going around saying, “I’m on Paul’s side,” or “I’m for Apollos,” or “Peter is my man,” or “I’m in the Messiah group.”

I ask you, “Has the Messiah been chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic all our own? Was Paul crucified for you? Was a single one of you baptized in Paul’s name?” I was not involved with any of your baptisms—except for Crispus and Gaius—and on getting this report, I’m sure glad I wasn’t. At least no one can go around saying he was baptized in my name. (Come to think of it, I also baptized Stephanas’s family, but as far as I can recall, that’s it.)

God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn’t send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center—Christ on the Cross—be trivialized…The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written, I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head, I’ll expose so-called experts as crackpots. So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn’t God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered stupid…to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.

While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti -miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”

Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.””

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭1:1-31‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

So, are you judgmental? Are you arrogant? Do you find yourself puffing up about your perceived accomplishments while looking down on those who seem to have made a mess of their lives? Instead of thinking something of yourself, realign your thinking with how God sees this picture, and give Him the recognition for anything truly good He has allowed you to participate in in your life. Then, in humility and reverence for God, come alongside those you see struggling and help them also benefit from all Jesus has done for everyone!

Dear Jesus,

Help me see the world through Your eyes. Help me have enough compassion and love in me to help those You also made, who I see are still struggling! Amen.

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