The Truth About Judgment

 

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“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get” (Matthew 7:1-2).

Much has been written about judgment, usually casting it in the unfavorable light of a practice we should avoid. Passing judgment on another, we’re told, is a sure way to reap unwanted consequences. But what if we understand that the motive and actions of another are selfish, disruptive, even potentially harmful to ourselves and others? Do we never say no, but stand in harm’s way, and deal with the fallout as if it’s only our soul’s lesson to learn? Does learning to hold our peace while getting trampled earn us points in heaven?

I have devised a question that may help sort through this very common type of situation: Am I protecting a weakness, or am I advancing a strength? Am I afraid to do what I know is right, or can I do what is right and own the consequences?

While we may think of the ministry of Jesus as a great gift to the world, we should also remember that there were many people who did not want him to continue. Had he capitulated to their short-sighted concerns, he would have been protecting a weakness. His fear would have robbed the world of the gifts he brought. As it happened, he stood his spiritual ground and gave from his greatest place of strength.

Are we to suppose that Jesus advocated neutralizing our faculty of judgment, or was he simply calling attention to the fact that we’re actually judged by our own motive? If we are protecting a weakness, we will perpetuate weakness. If we are advancing from a position of strength, we will contribute to stronger, healthier conditions.

Whatever conclusions we draw from this will set the tone for our experience in life. Judgment is one of our executive faculties and should not be denied. Being clear about the motive from which we exercise this faculty will go a long way toward resolving any confusion about it.

The Truth About Grace

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To assist in sorting through those elements of our religious training that may or may not be true, it’s helpful to start with a baseline concerning the nature of God. For example, can our thoughts and actions influence the way God behaves? If we do our best to walk the straight and narrow, will God grant us special blessings?

I recently spoke with a woman whose husband finally got a good-paying job. She said, “I think God has seen how we’ve struggled, that we really try to be good people and do the right thing. This really feels like a God thing.”

This seems perfectly logical, and a lot of people endorse the idea. But then a Jesus comes along and says something like this: “… for he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Is he saying God is as willing to help the evil and the unjust as the good and the just? Or is he simply saying, God is changeless?

The notion of grace, in its highest form, is really an acknowledgement of the changeless nature of God. Unfortunately, the general understanding of grace, at least in Christian thinking, is that it is a free and unmerited favor of God. We don’t deserve it, but God loves us and will do the occasional favor for us anyway.

In truth, grace is simply God being God. Whether we live with our mind and heart open to the presence of God has no more bearing on God’s behavior than it would on bringing sunshine or rain.

If you have a situation in your life that needs a resolution, try dropping all thought around the idea that God is trying to teach you something, or that you probably deserve this problem but you would like God’s help anyway. Focus instead on the truth that God is changeless love and light, and that God is now working through you in the most marvelous way to resolve your situation.  Affirm the following:

By grace I am lifted above all fear, all struggle, all doubt that God’s greatest good is now unfolding through me. Thank you God, that this is true!

Coming Home

The Truth Will Make You Free: Part 2 of 2

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“If then the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free.”        – Jesus

As we saw last week, the Son represents your soul. Spiritual freedom is an experiential awareness of the soul. It’s important that we become conscious of how we see ourselves throughout our day. Are we enslaved by what our senses are reporting? Are we consumed by some pending “what if” that we’re not sure how to resolve? If so, then we are playing the role of the slave to sin. We’re missing, in the sense that our awareness of the soul, our true source of power, has been enslaved by anxiety over the future or past. We have lost sight of the truth that That which is within us is greater than that which is in the world (1John 4:4).

When we think of the soul, we tend to think of it as an entity inhabiting our body. It’s more accurate to think of our body as existing within the soul. When we drop the body, our soul continues our life’s journey. The body needs the soul. The soul does not need the body.

This is important to grasp because 99% of our anxieties are body-driven. We do not want to deny the body or neglect its needs, but we do not want to ignore the stabilizing influence of the soul either. The soul is our true home. The further we wander into the far country of the senses-driven concerns of the self-image, the more freedom we lose. Our freedom becomes conditional, dependent on the status of our affairs. When we resolve this or that thing, we’ll be happy. We’ll be free.

And resolve it we may. Just before another troubling situation arises. A big part of attaining spiritual freedom is found in the understanding that there will always be unrest in our conditions. The nature of life is change. If we’re living with the hope of reaching a state of changelessness in the ever-shifting sands of our material experience, we’ll be forever disappointed. Our affairs will never stabilize to the point of offering us permanent peace.

Jesus pointed out that his kingdom was not of this world – the ever-changing world of appearances. He found a peace and freedom that surpassed material understanding. The ebb and flow of change is ongoing, but the soul is the changeless rock of truth that can never leave us.

True freedom is found at the spiritual level and is available to all. As we begin to grasp this truth, we find that elusive path to freedom.

Seeing Through the Fog

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It is often when your world is shrouded in fog that you gain your clearest vision.

We all have moments of doubt, times when the road ahead seems shrouded in a fog of uncertainty. Perhaps we are on a path that felt right when we started on it, but now seems unclear and confusing. Our original inspiration has evaporated, and we are in a quandary as to what to do. Or, we may have experienced major changes in our conditions that have left us baffled. People or things that served as anchors are no longer present and we feel adrift in a sea of apprehension.

In such times, it is good to remind ourselves that the inspiration that brought us to this ever-changing life rose from our depths. Our circumstances are simply the temporal clothing of the presence of God expressing through us. I always draw comfort from a verse given by Emma Curtis Hopkins:

He who hath led me to this way,

still on the way will show.

He who hath taught me of this way,

still more will make me know.

We naturally seek stability and predictability in our circumstances, for we feel safe when we achieve it. However, it is when our trust shifts from God to circumstantial stability that we begin to move away from that creative live-wire of faith that brought the seeming external stability in the first place. Drawn by the power of the sea, we built a magnificent sand castle on the beach. We admired and identified with it for a time, only to have it washed away by the restless tide of change. But the sea and its eternal inspiration remains. It is this living, ever moving ebb and flow that never leaves us that is as quick now to inspire and guide as ever.

We live in a world of change and absolute stability. Focused on that which changes, we gain and we lose. With God as our anchor, we lose only to gain. In our moments of uncertainty, we open our hearts to the assuring truth that God is with us, that new ways of being in this life are now unfolding for us, that the apparent end we are witnessing is only a new and fresh beginning to something at least as beautiful as we once had.

 

 

Dancing Through Eternity

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“When you are tempted to think a life has been cut short, remember that every soul is dancing through eternity.”

Memorial Day is a holiday for remembering men and women who died while serving our country’s armed forces. Many use this time to remember all loved ones who have passed. It is certainly a good time to reflect on perspectives we hold on matters of life and death. In ways we may not even be aware of, our view of death impacts the way we live our life.

Recently, a woman was telling me of a family who lost their three-year-old daughter to leukemia. “I don’t understand why some lives are cut so short,” she said. “It just doesn’t seem fair.” While we are empathetic toward those who experience such a loss, we do well to consider the grander picture. We always feel the time we shared with a loved one now passed was too short. But whatever its duration, the earthly experience is temporary. The soul, momentarily tethered to a body, is not the sum of the loved one we knew in bodily form. They are experiencing life free of the blinders imposed by the physical senses. Their stay on earth may have been brief, but their life has not been cut short.

In our consideration of death, the disadvantage most of us have is that we only have memories of events connected to this incarnation. Life, as we understand it, is what happens between the bookends of birth and death. Everything beyond is unknown. Yet the one who sails over the horizon of visibility gains an insight those who remain on the shore rarely grasp. Whether they were killed in the heat of battle or silently slipped away from the quiet of their hospice bed, they would long for us to know that there is no death. They would know that if we do not grasp it now, we will discover it soon enough.

We are all dancing through eternity. The day will come when we step from this plane, but we will never step from life. Jesus reminded us that in the Father’s house there are many rooms. Earth is but one of these rooms. Hold your loved ones in the light and beauty of life and know they are doing the same with you.