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In my last post (July 27, 2011), I talked about Matthew 7:1-5, and the fact that we should not judge others. In the same way that we judge them, we also will be judged. That does not mean that we should abandon all of our faculties for judgement and discernment. God gave us our brains for a purpose. In 1 John 4:1-6 we are told to use them.

I was particularly drawn to 1 John 4:4, because it is a very encouraging verse. We are from God, we have conquered them, and we are on the winning side because the one who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world. It is good to know that even though we are struggling through this life, we will have victory. Halleluljah! But let’s take a closer look at that verse. Whenever I see a pronoun—in this case the word ‘them’—I want to make sure that I understand what it represents. Who have we conquered? In this case, it is the false prophets from 1 John 4:1.

We are living in the midst of a spiritual battle. (Ephesians 6:12) We are at war with the spiritual forces of evil whether we want to believe it or not, so we need to be careful what we believe. Satan’s whole purpose is to deceive us and to turn us away from God, (1 Peter 5:8, June 3, 2011) and he has many people on his team. How do we know what is true? It may seem harder to figure out in these days when few people believe in absolute truth, but 1 John 4:2-3 shows us the way. If the spirit confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He came to earth in the flesh, that He is who He claimed to be, then it is a spirit of truth, a spirit from God. If the spirit denies Christ, says that Christ is not from God, it is a spirit from the enemy.

Those who are from God will understand and listen to those who are from God. 1 John 4:5-6 Those who are from the world will not; they will tell us that we’re crazy. They may tell us that there is no God or that we might as well believe in little green men too. But do not despair, for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.


Have you seen the recent Swiss Chalet commercial? A man and a woman are eating ribs. She has a massive smear of rib sauce on her face, and he has a tiny little speck on his. He wants to tell her, but he hesitates, trying to find the right words, trying to be polite. While he pauses, she says, “You have some rib sauce on your face.” She was quick to point out his mess without paying any attention to her own. This reminds me of the parable of the speck and the beam from Matthew 7:1-5.

Jesus was teaching his followers not to judge. A lot of people use this passage to defend themselves against others who would correct them. They quote Matthew 7:1, but they often misrepresent the point. There are certainly times in our lives when we do have to use some judgement—to discern right from wrong, to settle disputes, to make good choices—but we should not use it to condemn others for things that we haven’t been able to overcome ourselves. This is especially true of motives. We should not presume to know what is in another person’s heart or to understand why they have chosen the path they have. To judge a person’s heart is the responsibility of God alone.

Jesus uses hyperbole—exaggeration—to illustrate His point. Imagine, trying to get a speck of dirt out of someone else’s eye. It’s a very difficult thing to do in the best of circumstances. You need excellent lighting and a willing patient. Now imagine trying to do that if you had a beam the size of a tree trunk sticking out of your own eye. You wouldn’t be able to get close enough to see the speck in your friend’s eye. You would certainly need to deal with your own problem first. Before you judge another’s heart, make sure that your heart is right. If it is, you won’t need, or want, to judge. And make sure you have a lot of serviettes handy when eating ribs.

If you haven't seen it, watch the commercial here:

Today's post was written by Rusty Wright.
As you examine your life, can you think of any lessons you wish you had learned earlier than you did? I'm really glad I learned this lesson very early in my career as a Christian communicator. It's made a world of difference. God has graciously sent me presenting Christ and biblical truth on six continents before university students and professors, on mainstream TV and radio talk shows, with executives, diplomats and professional athletes. He's put me speaking in university classrooms and auditoriums, in embassies, boardrooms, and locker rooms. He's had me writing for mainstream newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet about controversial subjects like sex, abortion, the afterlife, and reasons for faith. As you might imagine, I've encountered many skeptics and objections to faith. I've learned much from my critics, the unpaid guardians of my soul. But if I hadn't learned this crucial lesson at the outset, would all those outreach doors have opened?

The Lesson

I learned it on an island in a river in Seoul, Korea. Over a million believers were gathered for Explo 74. One speaker that day was a prominent church leader from India who discussed how to best communicate the message of Jesus to the types of Buddhists in India. Here's my paraphrase of his advice. We could use two methods, he said. One was to begin by stressing the differences between Buddhism and Christianity. But that often gets people mad and turns them off. A second way involved agreeing with the Buddhist where we could. We could say something like this: "I know that you as a Buddhist believe in Four Noble Truths." (This is foundational to many strains of Buddhism.) "First you believe suffering is universal. As a follower of Jesus, I also believe suffering is everywhere. It needs a solution. Second, you believe that suffering is caused by evil desire or craving. I believe something very similar; I call this evil desire sin." Third, you believe that the way to eliminate suffering is to eliminate craving. I feel selfishness needs to be eliminated, too. And fourth, you feel we eliminate craving by following the Eightfold Path: right understanding, right aspiration, right behavior, etc. Here's where I would suggest an alternative. For many years I, too, tried to eliminate my selfishness by seeking to think and do the right thing. But you know what happened? I became very frustrated because I lacked the power to do it. I realized that if I relied on God, He could give me the inner power I needed." Do you see the contrast between those two methods of approaching someone who differs with you? The first emphasizes differences and has the emotional effect of holding up your hands as if to say "Stop!" or "Go away!" The second begins by agreeing where you can. Your emotional hands are extended as if to welcome your listeners. If you were the listener, which approach would you prefer?

Start by Agreeing where You Can

In communicating with skeptics, start by agreeing where you can. You'll get many more to listen. I call this approach Advocacy Apologetics. You're approaching the person as an advocate rather than an adversary. You believe in some of the same things they do. Expressing agreement can penetrate emotional barriers and communicate that you are for that person rather than against them. It can make them more willing to consider areas of disagreement. Don't compromise biblical truth; but agree at the start where you can. Paul used this approach. He wrote (1 Corinthians. 9:19-23):

I have become a servant of everyone so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Jews, I become one of them so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Gentiles who do not have the Jewish law, I fit in with them as much as I can.  

Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ. I do all this to spread the Good News. (New Living Translation, emphasis mine)

Here's an experiment: The next time you encounter someone who differs with you, take a deep breath. Pray. Ask God to help you identify three areas of agreement. Can't find three? How about one? Discuss that first. Become an advocate for them. Maybe you'll oil some stuck emotional and intellectual gears and nudge someone in His direction.

Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.

After writing my last post, (July 20, 2011) it occurred to me that we not only get memos FROM God, information and instructions from His Word to guide our lives, but we also send memos TO God through our prayers. There are several passages in the Bible that give us insights about how to pray, and I will look at some of them in future posts, but for the moment let’s look a little more closely at this one.

Again, it is interesting how the focus changes if we look at 1 Peter 5:7 without including 1 Peter 5:6. If our only concern is casting all of our cares on God because He cares for us, it becomes a grocery list or a to-do list that we are itemizing for God. Here God, here are all the things I want and need; would you take care of that for me? It is so easy to fall into that habit, especially when things aren’t going well, and you would like to have them fixed. But, verse 7 is not the beginning of the sentence.

Verse 6 instructs us that if we want to be exalted, we need to humble ourselves before God. This must surely be demonstrated through our prayers. If we agree that God is mighty, and we are not, if we agree that we need to humble ourselves and accept His help in our lives, then I believe that we need to start our prayers off with praise to Him. Start by thanking Him for His love and His mighty power. Thank Him for all the good things that He has provided for you. When you have declared His power and praised Him for the attributes that make Him God, then share the things that are troubling you. Ask Him to provide for you knowing that He wants the best for you, but remember that if you are truly being humble under His mighty hand, that you will pray that HIS will would be done.


Suffering. We question why it has to happen, and we try to avoid it, but it is all around us. Many wonder why God would let bad things happen to good people. Others argue that none of us are good. We shouldn’t be surprised by our troubles. God has told us that we will face trials, (Genesis 3:16-19, John 16:33) and He tells us in 1 Peter 5:6-7 what to do with them.

I have heard people quote 1 Peter 5:7 many times over the years, and very often they have omitted the word 'by' and changed the tense of the verb 'casting' to 'cast'. They have had to do that because they have not quoted it with 1 Peter 5:6. The two verses are in fact one sentence. When verse 6 is not included, the full meaning of the passage is lost. Yes, it is encouraging to tell someone that God cares for them, and to cast their burdens on Him, but there is more to it than that.

For many of us, certainly for me, a lot of our anxieties are a result of our pride. We want to be in control, to do things our way, and to make something of ourselves. What we need to realize is that God already has a plan for our lives, (Jeremiah 29:11) and if we will simply agree to His plan and do things His way, we will have no need to be anxious. (Matthew 6:25-34) He will take all of our troubles onto His shoulders. It’s not that we won’t have any trials to face, but He will be right there facing them with us, giving us the strength and resources we need to get through them. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

It takes humility to depend on someone else, to allow someone else to take care of us. But God promises that in due time—HIS timing—He will exalt us, IF we will humble ourselves. Biblical humility does not mean that we need to have a low opinion of ourselves. In fact it will allow us to have more confidence, because if we submit to God’s plan for our lives, and let Him take care of our difficulties, we know that everything will work out. (Romans 8:28) If we read 1 Peter 5:6-7 together we will realize that the way to be successful, exalted, is to humble ourselves, and we do that by casting all our cares on God and trusting in His power and goodness.

Well, here it is Monday morning (at least in my time zone). For many of us that means the end of a relaxing weekend and going back to work—a job that we may or may not enjoy. For many of us, the stress level that was lowered on Friday evening, is back on full. Depending on your situation and where you live, you might not only have to get yourself together, but you might have to get the kids up and ready to go to day care, school, summer school or hockey camp. Any camp for that matter. Clothes packed, lunches packed, schedule jam packed with things to do. Perhaps at some point we should discuss the importance of rest, but I think Psalm 121:1-2 might be apt verses for us today!

In the King James Version, there is no question mark. The psalmist lifted his eyes to the hills because he knew where his help came from. He didn’t mean the hills themselves, as some later thought would be the source of confusion. It was symbolic. Today we might look to the sky when we think of or pray to God. In that time and place, God was considered to dwell in the temple on the holy hill of Zion. Psalm 121 is often thought of as a pilgrim’s Psalm, spoken by travellers as they made their way through the hill country to Jerusalem. After the declaration of where our help comes from, the rest of the Psalm elaborates the kind of help that a traveller would need and that the Lord provides.

Except for poetry’s sake, it doesn’t really matter where we look for God, for He is only a thought away. We don’t have to go to any particular place or kneel in any particular way. God is not only always available to us, but He is always waiting for us, wanting us to look to Him and promising that we will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:12-14) He is just as happy to hear from us on Monday morning, as He was on Sunday morning. Our help still comes from the Lord. Look to Him today.


I used to think that I was a patient person, but lately I’ve been realizing that I’m really not. I don’t like it when things go wrong (defined as not how I want them to). I don’t like it when things break, especially if we can’t afford to replace them. And I don’t like waiting for someone else when I have other things that I want to do. I always try my best to be kind and considerate to others, but when it comes right down to it, I’m really a rather selfish person. I want things to go my way. As a general rule, they don’t. Now, I have to tell you that I learned long ago not to pray for patience—all manner of things might happen to a person who prays for patience—but I think the Lord might be trying to teach it to me anyway.

The Apostle Paul always gave practical instructions to the people he wrote to, and Romans 12 is certainly a shining example of that. In the middle of Romans 12:12, Paul tells us to endure in suffering. Be patient! Things are not always going to go the way you want them to; as a matter of fact, we can be sure that in this world we will have trouble. (John 16:33) But on either side of that phrase in Romans 12:12 we are given other instructions that will help us to endure.

Rejoice in hope. We know, and I have said many times, that God wants what is best for us. (Jeremiah 29:11, Matthew 7:11) I always want things to go according to what I plan, because I think I know what is best for me, but the truth is that I usually want what is easiest, most enjoyable, most productive or most rewarding. God wants to build my character and integrity and make me more like Jesus. He has an eternal perspective, and if we were to focus on eternity instead of this very moment, perhaps rejoicing in hope would come more easily.

Persist in prayer. Prayer is a gift from God. It allows us to tap into His plan and His power. It connects us to Almighty God, which is hard to fathom really. That He would allow us to be a part of His family, and to take part in what He wants to accomplish on this earth, is just beyond imagining. Prayer is a benefit to us, and it glorifies God when we come to Him. It keeps us focused on the overall picture, which helps us to rejoice in hope and to endure suffering.

We should pray, rejoice and not give up.

In these days when John Deere and Massey Ferguson are common names on the farm, the yoke has become an unfamiliar implement. Before the tractor was invented however, the yoke had been used for millennia to link oxen, horses or other animals together to plow the fields or to haul heavy loads. Although there are different types of yokes, they are essentially molded wooden beams used to bind animals together so that they work in unison. Often the yoke was molded so that a larger, more experienced animal could be linked with an animal that needed to be trained.

The idea of a yoke would have been well understood by Matthew’s audience, both literally and symbolically. They understood the concept of a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1) The religious leaders known as the Pharisees had taken God’s laws, the commandments given to Moses, and added to their own rules to them, rules that were so strict that they were a burden to follow. In Matthew 11:29-30 Jesus is telling his listeners that what He expected of them was not as difficult as the expectations of the Pharisees. It is not that our load is taken from us when we decide to partner with Jesus, but He helps us to bear it; if we yoke ourselves to Him, He will teach us and share our burdens. If we follow Him, learn from Him and do things His way, we will find rest for our souls. When we come to Jesus, we are free from the law, not the laws of the land we live in, (Romans 13:1) but the extra religious laws like those that the Pharisees imposed. Today, that would be seen as the legalism of some churches—burdens that God had not intended for us.

The Pharisees rejected Jesus because they didn’t feel that they needed Him; they believed that they were already righteous, because they followed the rules so closely. But to those who wanted it, those who felt weary and burdened, Jesus offered the gift of rest. (Matthew 11:28) We need to come to Him, to believe and to accept His gift. Let me emphasize that we are coming to the person of Jesus, not a church or a religion. Following religious rules is not the way to find rest for our souls. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” (John 14:6) We can receive this gift of rest from no one else.

Today's post was written by Ron Edmondson. Some of the points he makes are reasons why I started this blog. You can read more from Ron here:
7 Ways to Make Bible Reading Fun

A young college-aged girl told me recently that she didn’t enjoy reading her Bible and asked if there was an alternative book. Well…no! This is THE BOOK! There is no substitute. There are plenty of great Christian books, but none compare to this one.

I’ve heard similar concerns many times. The Bible intimidates many people; even those who are avid readers of other books.

I told this girl she could listen to the Bible on a CD or mp3, but I don’t think that’s the complete solution. I think we need to figure out how to enjoy reading God’s Word. Part of maturing as a Believer is to fall in love with the Bible.

Here are 7 suggestions which may help:

Pray – The Bible is not like any other book. You need God’s Spirit to help you. You should always pray before and as you read it. Ask God to help you understand what you’re reading. Good news here! This appears, in my experience, to be one of God’s favorite prayers to answer.

Version – Pick a version easiest for you to understand. I would suggest you read a more literal translation primarily, but the paraphrase versions are good for casual reading. I suggest NIV or NLT for a literal but readable version, ESV or NKJV if you want a most literal translation, or for a paraphrase version, that’s extremely readable, try The Message Version. I read some of each of these for my studies and fun reading.

Sharing – It brings Scripture to life when we can share it with others. Sharing your reading with your small group, a group of guys or girls at a coffee shop or a couple of people from work helps energize you for the passage. The key here is that when you talk about what you’re reading, it helps you value it more. (Read Philemon 1:6 for an example of this.)

Journaling – Writing about your time in God’s Word will help you process your thoughts and keep a record of them. It’s exciting to go back over time and remember what you read before. It fuels your enthusiasm for more.

Taking your time – I love the idea of reading the Bible through in a year. I’ve done this many times. I think it’s more important, however, that you benefit from what you’re reading. I sometimes meditate on a few verses or a story for a day. I also recommend people start with an easier book to understand and move to more difficult passages from there. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John are good places to start, because they are filled with great stories of Jesus.

Clarify – It’a best to have a study Bible for this part, but there are plenty of free online tools also. Look up words you don’t understand. Learn to use Bible dictionaries and commentaries. Look up passages, which aren’t clear, cross-referencing verses with other similar verses using footnotes. For some people, having a Bible study to work through along with reading the Bible is helpful.

Relationship - The best way to fall in love with God’s Word is to get to better know it’s author. It’s cliche now, but read it as a love letter written to you. If someone writes you a love letter, you’ll read it continually until you figure out what it means, and maybe even memorize parts of it along the way. If you can’t figure out something, you’ll consult the author. Fall more in love with God and you’ll find reading the Bible much easier. You may even someday say it’s “fun”!

How do you feel about practical jokes? I don’t like them. I’ve heard of people putting Nair in their boyfriend’s shampoo bottle, or putting glue on their baseball caps, things that can cause real harm and certainly real embarrassment. If each person insists on getting the better of the other, the jokes only escalate. Where do they end? Perhaps only when someone gets severely hurt.

A similar thing can happen with our words. People seem to think that it’s okay to insult, lie to or make fun of each other, as long as afterward they say that they were only kidding. This is such a common practice that in social media circles, all that is needed is "jk". Sometimes the one doing the joking makes the other feel like they are in the wrong, that they are boring and have no sense of humour. Proverbs 26:18-19 says that someone who deceives another, and then says that they are just kidding is like a madman who shoots flaming or deadly arrows. A madman shooting deadly arrows. That’s a pretty serious analogy. So much for just kidding.

Matthew Henry has said, “By lying and slandering in jest men learn themselves, and teach others, to lie and slander in earnest; and a false report, raised in mirth, may be spread in malice; besides, if a man may tell a lie to make himself merry, why not to make himself rich, and so truth quite perishes, and men teach their tongues to tell lies, Jeremiah 9:5. If men would consider that a lie comes from the devil, and brings to hell-fire, surely that would spoil the sport of it; it is casting arrows and death to themselves.” [Emphasis his.]

I think our society has come to the place where we don’t understand the value of truth or the power of our words. According to Proverbs 18:21, death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love its use will eat its fruit. James tells us that our tongue will determine our direction just as a rudder steers a ship (James 3:4-5) and that what comes out of our mouths represents who we really are. (James 3:8-11)

Who are you really? Who do you want to be? Make sure that your tongue is leading you in the right direction.