Blindfolded Helper





And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” Matthew 7: 3

Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey has been a popular party game for decades. We like to watch our blindfolded friends figure out where to go and what to do. We expect silly mistakes because we understand that only those who see clearly can complete the picture correctly. Someone blindfolded will pin the tail on the nose, the hoof, or miss the target entirely.

Judging works the same way. Jesus warned us about the blindfold. As long as we are blind to our own sin, we cannot see clearly to complete the picture for someone else. Pride is the blindfold that keeps us from judging rightly. When we take off the blindfold and deal with our own sin, we can then see clearly to help others with theirs. For example, we have no right to tell a friend he should not steal from his employer while we regularly cheat on our income taxes. We cannot decry homosexual practice while living in heterosexual sin ourselves. Our friends do have problems. They are sinning and need correction. But they can’t be helped by someone who has refused to deal with his or her own sin. Jesus goes on to say, “First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (v. 5).

 Do you point out the failings of others while doing similar things yourself? Ask God to take off your blindfold.

Judgmental Message






The Lord gave this message to Jonah… “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” Jonah 1:1-2

What an assignment! Nineveh was not a popular city and judgment was not a popular topic. Jonah had not been sent to the Ladies Garden Club to talk about roses. He’d been ordered into the Jihadist camp to talk about their impending destruction. It may have been a little easier if the message was health and prosperity. But judgment? Wickedness? People don’t like to be told that God is angry with them—especially people with whom God is angry. These people were bad news. They might mock him. They might kill him. They might even call him “judgmental.” It’s no wonder he ran the other way.

Would you have run too? Are you running now? The Lord has given us a message for the world: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). But nobody wants to hear the bad news. So we pick through the Bible to find cheery verses we can tweet to the Ninevites, and pretend we’re obeying God’s mandate. We agree with them when they confuse Biblical truth with being “judgmental.” So we bury the need for repentance and salvation under piles of all-inclusive, non-judgmental fluff and assure the Ninevites that they are fine. An obedient servant of the Lord learns to define “judging” the way God does. When we know we have a message people need, we are willing to risk being misunderstood to deliver God’s lifesaving truth.

Welcome, Nathan






Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. 2 Samuel 12:1



“No one has the right to judge me! Only God can judge me!” Although this has become a popular statement, a person who realizes what that means would never say it. The assumption behind those words is that anyone who points out sin is a judgmental meanie, while God is a big ol’ Teddy Bear. They seem to think that the judgments of a righteous holy God who created morality and gave us His law will be lighter than that of a fellow human being. They imagine that this Grandfatherly God will pat them on the head, give them a wink, and a FastPass to heaven. However, even a basic reading of scripture disproves this idea and shows us what God really thinks about sin. (Hint: He’s nobody’s Teddy Bear.)



King David had slipped into this mindset. He had messed up big time; yet, instead of confessing his sin and finding forgiveness, he tried to cover it up. The thinking was that if others don’t judge it, God won’t either. So the LORD sent Nathan to confront him. Nathan was not “judgmental.” He was not “holier than thou.” He obeyed the LORD’s instruction to confront his friend who was headed the wrong way. God loved David too much to let him stay in his sin, so He sent someone to point it out. God loves us like that too, and often sends Nathans to confront us when we persist in our sin. Psalm 51 is David’s cry of repentance, through which he found restoration. He learned it was better to humble himself before Nathan than face the rest of his life without God. 


Have you resented the Nathans that the Lord has sent you? Are you willing to be a Nathan for someone else? 



Crutches



He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:16

If your kidneys are acting up, the rest of your body suffers. If your eye stops working, your toe gets infected, or your pinky finger is smashed in the door, the rest of your body knows about it. In fact, all attention goes to the part that is not doing its job. The rest of your parts are often called into service for a job they were not designed to fill. If you’ve spent any time on crutches, you remember the way the rest of your body suffers because of the weak leg. Shoulders ache, hands cramp, and the strong leg does double-duty to make up for the leg that is not doing its job.

The church is like that too. God equipped each of His children with unique talents, passions, and gifts that are designed to work together for the good of the whole Body. He expects us to discover, develop, and devote those gifts to Him and His church. When one person refuses to utilize the gifts God has entrusted to him or her, the whole Body suffers. Others without that gifting or passion must step in to bear more of the load. A church gets out of balance when the bulk of the work is done by a few. The few become overburdened and the others grow weak and ineffective, neglecting the gifts God entrusted to them. A church without all members doing their part is a church on crutches. 

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The Opposite Game






In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people…But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.” Luke 22:25-26

Kids like to play the “opposite” game. Yes means no, up means down, and run means stop. In order to win at this game, you must suspend your normal way of thinking. On a grander scale, God also plays the opposite game. What looks good to us is evil to Him; what seems wise to us is foolishness to Him. In fact, 1 Corinthians 1:27 says that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” Jesus also said that if we want to be great, we must be the servant of all. In order to walk in harmony with God, we must suspend our normal way of thinking.

Following Jesus means playing the opposite game. That’s why He warned us that if we are serious about being with Him, we have to deny ourselves, take up our cross every day, and follow (Luke 9:23). He is going in the opposite direction of our fleshly desires. We want to indulge in sexual immorality; He says be pure. We want to lie; He says be honest. We want to exalt ourselves; He says be humble. We want to be served; He says serve others. If we refuse to crucify our normal way of thinking, we will never make it as a follower of Jesus, because His way is opposite our way.
 
We can measure our spiritual growth 
                     by how well we are allowing God’s “opposites” to define our normal. 

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Hipster Christianity






“Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them.”  Romans 16:17

We love new-and-improved. As soon as a product becomes popular, the marketers repackage it, raise the price, and call it new-and-improved. And we gullible consumers snap it up. Those same marketing strategies are often used within the church. Every few years, a “new teaching” comes along that is guaranteed to renovate your faith. Trendy young hipsters present a “this-ain’t-your-granddaddy’s-religion” concept, and people flock to them. Churches split, families divide, and God weeps. We were warned about this in Romans 16, but we often don’t see it for what it is.

So how do we avoid these false teachers and division-causers? First, we search our own hearts to see if we are among the guilty. Then we search our Bibles so that we can distinguish truth from error (2 Tim. 2:15). Next, we compare the new-and-improved ideas with the timeless truth of scripture, and discard anything that doesn’t line up with “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). We refuse to be drawn into any splinter group whose goal is to divide the church rather than build it up. Then we recognize that it is pride behind the idea that there is some “new truth” that the apostles, church fathers, and martyrs throughout history have all missed.

 Are you attracted to the latest fads or splinter groups within the church? Let Romans 16:17 be your watchdog.

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Busybody






“…things the LORD hates …a person who sows discord in a family.”  Proverbs 6:19

Every family has one: the aunt, brother, cousin, or in-law who delights in stirring things up. Some people cannot be happy unless they are causing drama. Often gossip is shared under the guise of "helping." With lowered voice, darting eyes, and fake concern they murmur, "You know what Uncle Bill said about your sister, don’t you?" or “That side of the family never liked us, so I’m not surprised." You may have been surprised, but now you're upset. Your emotional reaction is no accident. It was a crafty maneuver, carefully planned by the Busybody Patrol, to make them feel important.

God is so offended by busybodies that he included them on his Top Seven list. He despises troublemaking, especially when it infiltrates his church. We cannot pursue family unity when we are constantly embroiled in drama. We've all been guilty of creating discord at some point, but it can become a way of life. Are you a busybody? Consider this checklist: 

Have you ever
  
1...talked about someone you disagreed with instead of talking to them?  
2....secretly tried to garner support for your grievances?  
3...spread rumors? 
4…created your own little following to oppose the leadership?  
5...slandered someone’s reputation?  
6…grumbled to others when your ideas were rejected? 
7…pushed your opinion until it disrupted church unity?
   
Evaluate your actions within your own family. Do you create drama under the guise of “helping?”  What about your church family? 

Wise people are those who acknowledge their wrongs and seek God’s help to change.

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God's Top Seven List



“There are six things the LORD hates—no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family.”  Proverbs 6:16-19


Have you ever studied this list of things God hates? Take a minute to go back and read each item slowly. If we want to understand what God loves, we have to understand what He hates. God is the definition of perfect love and joy. But He also hates sin--especially the things on this list. Notice that two of the items are very similar and have to do with dishonesty. Lying is so repulsive to God that he included it twice in his Top Seven list of evils.


God is Truth (John 14:6, 17:17), so anything less than truth is abhorrent to Him.  Embellishing facts, slandering others, or selfishly manipulating situations are all contrary to the nature of God. It’s all dishonesty and God won’t tolerate it. Lying breaks unity with God because it shatters truth. Lying breaks unity with others because it shatters trust. Whether in marriage, a friendship, or the church, trust is the bedrock of relationship. Without honesty, there is no unity.

How honest are you? Have you considered that every time you veer from the truth, you are creating a gulf between yourself and God? 

                               Read Revelation 21:8 to discover the end result of 
                                                           unrepentant lying.  

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Bear the Load



 
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

An exhausted soldier in battle tries to climb over a wall, but the pack he carries pulls him backward. He is desperate to scale the wall, but his wounds and exhaustion threaten to defeat him. Then a buddy comes along, lifts the pack for a few moments, and the grateful soldier makes it over the top. When he retrieves his pack, he has renewed energy to carry it once more.

We have burdens that threaten to topple us. Burdens can be heavy life situations or even besetting temptations. Storms hit. Tragedy strikes. Heartaches overwhelm. We can despair unless a buddy comes along and helps lift that burden for a while. Our friends can’t carry it all for us, but often their presence and support give us strength to keep going. Those who come along to “lift the packs” of struggling soldiers are actually fulfilling the law of Christ. 

To fulfill means to complete. In other words, selflessly carrying the burdens of others is exactly what Jesus wants us to do. This doesn’t mean becoming an enabler or a fixer. It means giving a hand-up to someone struggling to move toward God and falling backward. When we choose to walk with someone who is suffering, extend patience to someone who wrongs us, or hold friends accountable as they struggle to overcome sin, we are fulfilling God’s desire for His family. 
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Teamwork





Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3

In every sport, certain elements bind a team together. Coaches, fields, matching uniforms, and rulebooks ensure that everyone is playing the same game. Before a group of individuals can work together in unity, there must be a common denominator. Every player must understand the rules, the boundary lines, and the necessity of the other players. When a team is unified, success is within reach. However, when every person is looking out only for himself, chaos erupts. If you shouted “Fire!” in a crowded theater or “Sale!” in Wal-Mart on Black Friday, you would see this principal in action.

The church is no different. We are groups of individuals, selfish to the core, who are trying to work together for a common goal. But if we don’t identify that goal and purpose to reach it together, we become like those shoppers in Wal-Mart, everyone trying to get the best deal. The bond that must tie us together is the “bond of peace,” given by the Holy Spirit to churches who desire it. That bond must supersede personal agendas and opinions. Otherwise, Jesus’ goal to evangelize the world takes a backseat to divisions and ego-trips. The early church knew they needed each other and were on a unified mission to spread the Good News about Jesus. This verse encourages them—and us—to make whatever sacrifices necessary to keep that “unity of the Spirit” the strongest bond in our churches. When the Holy Spirit is the winner in every dispute, unity rules and a church thrives. 

What sacrifices have you made to keep the bond of unity with your brothers and sisters in Christ?

Unity






The people are united, and they all speak the same language.” Genesis 11:6  

The TV show What Not to Wear gave fashion tips to fashion disasters by showing them what they were doing wrong. Likewise, the first Babylonians hosted their own program called What Not to Build, where God had to show them what they were doing wrong. They were using their unity to defy God’s stated command to “be fruitful and multiply, and repopulate the earth” (Gen. 9:7). They had decided that if they all got together, they could become their own gods. They wouldn’t need God telling them what to do. They could even build a tower straight to heaven! So God had to disrupt their unity because it was destructive.
 

Unity in itself is neither good nor bad. Some people unite because they are opposed to the same things. Some Middle Eastern nations who otherwise hate each other will unite to fight against Americans, Christians, or Jews. Terrorists, the KKK, and the Nazis were all unified in purpose, but it wasn’t God’s purpose, so unity became evil. Unity is destructive when it elevates human opinion above God’s. However, when God’s will is the goal, we can work together to accomplish His interests on the earth. He desires for His creation to work together in unity to reflect the beauty, goodness, and perfection of His own character.

Consider the ways in which you are unified with others. Is this unity accomplishing God’s purposes? 
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