What is Judgement?

By Ryan Kelly –

I have found that the most commonly misused verse of the Bible is Matthew 7:1 “judge not or you too will be judged.” Many will make a point at saying that Christians are not to judge. Is this accurate?

One problem that many have is that they will take the verse out of context. Let’s continue reading with verse 2, “For in the same way you judge others you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

These latter two verses elaborate about judgement. It does not say that we should not judge, but that we will be judged by the same measure. This makes sense, right? Have you ever helped someone with a problem that you once faced? It is helpful to have been there before. But, would you help someone with a problem when you are facing the same problem? I would hope not. You will be of no help, and you may make the problem even worse with bad advice.

Verse 5 goes on to say “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brothers eye.” Not only does this ‘not’ say to not judge, but it actually instructs us ‘to’ judge once we are able to do so rightly.

But what is judgement?

Jesus speaks in John 12:47 and says, “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.” This comes to an issue of phrasing. Judgement in this sense is condemnation. Jesus did not come to condemn, but to save. Likewise, as reflections of the radiance of Jesus, we are not to condemn but to show the light of Jesus.

John tells us that Jesus will eventually indeed condemn when He returns. John 16:8 states “and He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”

Judgement in Mathew 7 is not a judgement of condemnation, but a judgement of love to help a brother or sister out of sin. It is a judgement of right vs wrong, good vs evil, and it is reserved only for those that have a heart after God and can judge rightly. It is never for selfish ambition or personal gain. Rather like with Christ, it is sacrificial.

Should we welcome judgement?

If judgement is is helpful for rejecting sin, should we welcome it? In Romans 8:3, Paul tells us, “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.” Jesus condemned sin through His work on the cross, and this is what gives us life.

So yes, we should rejoice in that sin had been conquered and through Christ we can reject it. We should entourage others to judge us rightly so that we can compel the power of Christ against our own sin. And we should judge others rightly so that we can help them to compel the power of Christ against their own sin.

The world treats judgement as wrong. As Christians, it is one of our most powerful gifts for both ourselves and others. We must judge rightly and with love, and this is judgement that brings glory to God for the sanctification of ourselves and others.

The Adaptable and Flexible Leadership of Paul

By Dr. Kevin Dougherty –

The “skills approach” to leadership “frames leadership as the capabilities (knowledge and skills) that make effective leadership possible.”[1] Identifying the exact traits that distinguish a good leader has generated much discussion, but no clear consensus. However, something along the lines of “adaptability and flexibility of approach” is a skill set that appears on many lists.[2] An example of such a leader is Paul.

Paul was born in Tarsus, a city in what is now south-central Turkey. In Paul’s day, Tarsus was “a fusion of civilizations at peace under the rule of Rome: indigenous Cilicians; Hittites whose ancestors had once ruled Asia Minor; light-skinned Greeks; Assyrians and Persians; and Macedonians who had come with Alexander the Great on his march to India.”[3] A devote Jew, Paul was among those present when Stephen was martyred sometime around 31 A. D. for preaching the Gospel of Christ. That winter the Jewish authorities, with Paul as their chief agent, embarked on a systematic suppression of the followers of Jesus.[4] All that changed when the Risen Christ appeared to Paul perhaps two to five years later. Rather than a persecutor of the followers of Christ, Paul became what many consider to be Christianity’s greatest missionary.

The people that would come to be known as Christians represented but one of many religions that made up Paul’s world. Paul’s native Judaism flourished, and many proselyte Gentiles found their ways into the synagogues.

Adherents to Greek mythology worshipped numerous gods including Zeus, Apollo, and Aphrodite while their Roman counterparts worshipped Jupiter, Venus, and Mars. Legends and names of some members of the pantheon were often intermingled with local myths and deities to form all sorts of permeations and variations. A given city might be devoted to the worship of a particular deity. For example, Artemis, the famous goddess of Ephesus, was a local fertility goddess only loosely similar to the Greek Artemis.

By Paul’s time, however, many Greeks had moved on from the original methods of worshipping the gods and formed cults filled with secret and unique rites. Most cults emphasized exuberant and passionate celebrations. Many involved sexual orgies and animal sacrifices. The cult of Dionysius, the god of wine, for example, was made up mostly of women who celebrated by drunken and ecstatic dances.

Similar to the cults and probably influenced by them were the near Eastern mystery religions. One of these was the cult of Sibyls, successor of the original priestess Sibyl, who pronounced euphoric gibberish that was translated into widely circulated prophetic oracles.

As time passed, Roman rulers also began adopting the practice of claiming divine attributes, in part as a means of securing unity and loyalty in a far-flung empire. The Roman Senate proclaimed Julius Caesar divine after his death, and this measure seemed to set the stage for later emperor worship. Nero, for example, erected a huge statue of himself with his face as the face of the sun god.[5]

In the midst of this eclectic mission field, Paul used his status as both a Jew and a Roman citizen to full advantage. He tailored his message and technique to his specific audience in order to establish credibility, to connect with them, and to help them understand. This is not to say that Paul in anyway compromised what he considered to be the Gospel truth. He maintained his integrity and his authenticity. What he adjusted was his delivery. In 1 Corinthians 9:20-23, Paul explains that “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.”

Paul used adaptability and flexibility to influence others. He did not pander or deceive. He related and showed empathy. “I have become all things to all people,” Paul explained, “so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” As our world, societies, and communities become more and more diverse, the example of Paul’s conscious effort to make connections and meet people where they are is a good example of how we can be more effective missionaries.

[1] Peter Northouse, Leadership Theory and Practice, (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2004), 39-40.

[2] See, for example, John Gardner, On Leadership, (New York: The Free Press, 1990), 48-53.

[3] John Pollock, The Apostle: A Life of Paul, (Colorado Springs, CO: David Cook, 2012), 17.

[4] Ibid., 28.

[5] Robert Picirilli, Paul The Apostle: Missionary, Martyr, Theologian, (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1986), 109-111.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

I snapped this photo in a western Louisiana swamp.  If you’ve never actually visited a real swamp here in the Southern U.S., you really should, because there really is nothing just like it, and each one is a little different than any other.

The similarities are these — The air is thick, muggy, sticky.  The bugs are the size of small land mammals.  (Well, maybe not really, but they seem like it, especially the mosquitoes!)  And the beauty of God’s creation is all around.

I don’t know what your week holds for you, but as I compare it to mine and think of where I need to be when, I understand your feelings of being swamped with things.  Even the little things can seem huge when we face a new week.  This week’s swamp will likely be nothing like last week’s, or perhaps not even like the next week’s.

But let me promise you this.  Look up.  Be strong and steadfast.  Walk a straight line directly through your week’s swamp, and when all is said and done, all that will have mattered is the beauty of the Lord around us.

Blessings on your swamp!

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

Are you prepared?  A brand new week is ahead.  A new day, if you are reading this in the morning time.  You have things to do, places to be, and people to see.  Are you prepared for all that lies ahead?

Now, lest I scare friends and loved ones with this week’s photo, this was not taken just recently, but three years ago.  Three years ago this month, to be exact, my youngest daughter was “t-boned” by a very fast pickup.  I wasn’t prepared for the phone call I received from her, sobbing.  I wasn’t prepared when I arrived merely brief moments later to see the glass and car pieces that were all over the road.

I wasn’t prepared.  But I was thankful.  You see, other than some bruises and shards of glass that filled her hair and clothing, my child was fine.  And she was prepared – not so much for the accident, but for life, because, you see, her life is in the Father’s hands.  She believes by faith and trust in Him and has made Jesus her Lord and Savior, ensuring that her eternity will be in His presence.

I’m thankful that day wasn’t her last.  But I’m also so very thankful that she was prepared.  Are you?  And if you are, will you help prepare someone else this week?

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

I’m not sure that what’s happening here could be considered a staring contest.  However, it certainly seems as if there is some type of unspoken communication taking place between the little deer and the horse in my neighbor’s pasture.

As you begin another new week, have you taken time to communicate with the Father?  You no doubt have plans.  Some of those plans will require much thought and effort.  Have you talked with Him about His will for the days ahead?

Sometimes we may feel like this little deer – small, insignificant, and unsure of the words to pray to One Who is so much bigger than you or I.  In those moments, words aren’t even necessary.  Look to the Father.  Focus on Him and allow Him to hear from your heart.

This world is a mighty big pasture for one like me.  But if I can keep it all in perspective by looking to Him, it will be a great week!

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

This picture, taken a few years ago on a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, gives you a glimpse at the spectacular fireworks show behind Cinderella’s Castle.  Of course, the pictures can’t do it justice.  This is something that needs to be seen in person.

As a Christian, we are called to share the Light with those around us — to project the Light of Jesus to a very dark world.

I dare say that we don’t do a very good job of this, as we are but a mere reflection of the Light that shines upon us.  Try as we might, the Light of Jesus shining through us will never be as great as the real thing.  However, that does not, of course, give us excuse to keep it to ourselves.

We must, with all we have, let the world see the fireworks of His love in and through us each day.  Pray that God will use the Light within you to cause someone this week to stop and see His glory shining bright.  Until the day when we see the real Light face to face, the fireworks here will have to do.  They must do!

Just a thought.

Washing the Disciples’ Feet: Jesus Models Servant Leadership

By Dr. Kevin Dougherty

Servant leadership is a leadership approach in which the leader meets the subordinate’s
legitimate needs—which might include such concerns as training, encouragement, resources, or help with personal issues—in order to allow the subordinate to better focus on and accomplish the organizational mission. While the traditional authoritarian leader asks, “What can the organization do for me?,” the servant leader asks, “What can I do for the organization?” Servant leadership requires attention to the subordinate’s situation, humility, and hard work. The servant leader must figure out what her subordinates need, put her own needs aside, and devote time and energy to creating the environment where the subordinates are both cared for and empowered. The idea is that if the leader meets her subordinates’ needs, they can then concentrate on and are empowered to pursue the organization’s needs. They also build a genuine trust in their leader based on her responsiveness to their needs.

Perhaps the most oft-cited example of the servant leadership is the account of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. This event is all the more telling when juxtaposed with the disciples arguing among themselves over which one of them was considered to be the greatest…. Jesus countered this selfish display of pride by performing one of his society’s lowest chores as a model of servant leadership. Open sandals, the dry climate, and dusty roads made washing feet a routine hygienic necessity in the Greco-Roman world. Washing someone else’s feet, however, was considered “the most menial task, which none but a servant or slave would ordinarily think of doing.” Even more, “for a superior to perform the act for an inferior would be an incomprehensible contradiction of their social relationship.” That, however, is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus and his disciples were gathered for an evening meal when Jesus “got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” When he was finished, Jesus asked the disciples if they understood what he had just done. He explained that he was setting for them an example: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should wash one another’s feet.” He contrasted such behavior with “the kings of the Gentiles” who “lord it over them” while calling themselves “Benefactors.” The disciples should not be like that, he warned, and offered himself as an example, standing “among you as one who serves.” The disciples accepted Jesus as their Lord and Master, and he certainly was in a position to have others serve him. Instead he “changed the definition of great leadership from a place of power, position, and prestige to the role of humble servant of love.” As Ken Blanchard says, Jesus “turned the organizational pyramid upside down.” This is not to say that Jesus surrendered any of his power or in any way ceased to be the leader. He merely recognized the need of his followers to have their feet washed and humbled himself to do it. In the process, he not only provided a kindness; he also equipped his disciples to continue their mission by taking care of their feet. When a servant leader acts in this way, Blanchard notes, “your effectiveness soars because you are responding to the needs of your people.”

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

This photo I took a few summers ago shows the neighbor’s cows lounging around on a lazy afternoon.  I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps we are guilty of doing the same thing.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Everyone needs time to relax, unwind, and do absolutely nothing sometimes.  However, as a general rule, we need to be busy about the Father’s work.  So I wondered today if it’s only me, or do any of the rest of you seem to be moooooving rather slowly.

Mondays can certainly seem to come around two or three times a week.  And we check our to-do lists, calendars, and phones to discover we have more to-do’s on our list than we have time marked to be with the Lord.

As yet another new week is ahead of us, it is my prayer, and may it be yours, that we will get moooooving right along.  God is a very patient God.  Yet, He commands us to go, to preach, to teach, to share, and to love on our neighbors.  Come on, beef up your efforts.  There is much work to be done!

Just a (corny) thought, yet again!

Till later.

Defense in Depth

By Dr. Kevin Dougherty,

In Ephesians 6:11, Paul admonishes us to “put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Paul then goes on to describe the parts of that armor. Each piece is vital and they work together as a whole, but the sword, shield, and breastplate are especially useful in creating for us a “defense in depth” that allows us to stand against temptation.

In Ephesians 6:17, Paul says to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The idea behind a defense in depth is to have several layers of protection that can defeat an enemy in detail rather than to run the risk of just one line of defense that must stand on its own. The sword is that part of the full armor of God that comprises our outermost layer of protection. A typical sword of Paul’s day was between two and two and a half feet long. Adding to that length the length of the soldier’s outstretched arm creates a space of four to five feet that the attacker must penetrate. The idea for both the soldier and the Christian is to use the sword before he is hopelessly entangled with the enemy.

The sword is primarily an offensive weapon that can cut, thrust, and stab. As an offensive weapon, the soldier uses the sword to take the initiative, to put the enemy at a disadvantage, and to defeat him. For the Christian, this offensive action translates in to being so engaged in doing God’s will and work that the devil has no opportunity to interfere. Although the old maxim “idle hands are the devil’s plaything” does not literally appear in the Bible, the idea is very consistent with passages such as 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-10. When we are fully engaged in bearing the fruits of the Spirit as a Christian neighbor, parent, son or daughter, friend, disciple, worker, boss, church member, caregiver, citizen, or anything else, the devil has very little opportunity to lead us astray. We are simply too busy and too invested in doing God’s will for the devil to get our attention.

In addition to this offensive focus, the sword serves a secondary function of being a defensive weapon. The soldier can use the sword to deflect, parry, or block an enemy’s attack. This capability for the Christian is especially relevant when we consider that the sword “is the word of God.” Psalm 119:11 tells us to hide God’s word in our hearts so that we might not sin against him. When we have internalized God’s word in this way, we have it readily available to use to counter the devil whenever he attacks us.

The next layer of defense is the shield. Shields are primarily defensive weapons that a soldier uses to protect himself from attack. The typical Roman shield measured about three and a half feet by one and a half feet by one foot so it was fairly large, but unlike the sword, the shield’s protection extended only as far as the soldier could extend his arm. The shield blocked threats that had evaded the soldier’s sword. Indeed, Ephesians 6: 16 tells us that this “shield of faith… can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” These arrows will likely come at us from different directions and at different times so we will need to keep alert and move our shield around to protect us from each attack. We cannot become complacent or let down our guard.

Although the shield is mainly a defensive weapon, it can also be used offensively to push against an attacker and knock him off balance. Matthew 5: 15-16 tells us to not hide our faith, and we can use our “shield of faith” to minister to others in a way that keeps us in God’s will and less vulnerable to the devil’s attacks.

Whatever temptations of the devil that get past our sword and shield must still deal with what Ephesians 6: 14 describes as “the breastplate of righteousness.” This breastplate is a coat of thick armor that is directly against the soldier’s body to either deflect or absorb blows. The breastplate doesn’t keep us from being attacked but it is how we build the resiliency, confidence, and skill to not succumb to attacks. It is by this breastplate that the promise of 1 Corinthians 10: 13 is fulfilled: “God is faithful: he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

In addition to these three pieces, we have a helmet of salvation, a belt of truth, and feet fitted with readiness to complete our armor. These three pieces represent a literal head, to middle, to toe network of protection, and that is another useful visual image of how God equips us. Between that totality and the defense in depth of the sword, shield, and breastplate we can indeed stand!

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

I took this picture several years ago in New Orleans.  The city of New Orleans, LA, is quite a place – filled with all the sights & sounds you can imagine.  There is good food, good music & entertainment, and interesting people.  However, one memory that makes me chuckle each time is that the most lasting impression my young daughters have of New Orleans is that “it stinks!”

We walked quite a bit around the Bourbon Street area and out to Jackson Square, and that was their main summary – “it stinks”.  Even in the fun, excitement, food, music, etc., there was the lingering smell of who-knows-what all around us.

Life is full of great opportunities from food & fun to people & places, but for some strange reason we seem to focus on the “stink” around us.

Instead of letting the tough parts of life affect how you view your week ahead, how about just dealing with the stink of it all and enjoying all the wonderful blessings and opportunities the Father has provided for you!

Praying you have a “stink-free” week ahead!  (And if you’re ever in New Orleans, try some fried alligator!  That’s one of the good memories!)

Just a thought.