Impossible, Difficult, Done

In a blog post I wrote on June 13, 2018, on my other blog, Reflections,” titled, Moving Forward,” I mentioned a small book titled, The Red Sea Rules,” by Robert J. Morgan, teaching pastor at The Donelson Fellowship. In his book, he gives us ten strategies or “rules” for dealing with difficult times in our journey through life that come from the story of the Red Sea crossing which is found in Exodus 14. The following it taken from that blog post:

As the story unfolds in this book, it was “an action of God at the time of the Exodus that rescued the Israelites from the pursuing forces of Egypt. According to the Book of Exodus [Chapter 14], God divided the waters so that they could walk across the dry seabed. Once they were safely across, God closed the passage and drowned the Egyptians” (quote source here). It looked like an impossible situation. Behind the Israelites was the Egyptian army of Pharaoh (with over 600 chariots) quickly approaching, and in front of them was the Red Sea. It looked like there was no way out, and that the army would end up slaughtering them. Exodus 14:10-31 (MSG) tells the story:

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up and saw them—Egyptians! Coming at them!

They were totally afraid. They cried out in terror to God. They told Moses, “Weren’t the cemeteries large enough in Egypt so that you had to take us out here in the wilderness to die? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? Back in Egypt didn’t we tell you this would happen? Didn’t we tell you, ‘Leave us alone here in Egypt—we’re better off as slaves in Egypt than as corpses in the wilderness.’”

Moses spoke to the people: “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today. Take a good look at the Egyptians today for you’re never going to see them again.

God will fight the battle for you.
And you? You keep your mouths shut!”

God said to Moses: “Why cry out to me? Speak to the Israelites. Order them to get moving. Hold your staff high and stretch your hand out over the sea: Split the sea! The Israelites will walk through the sea on dry ground.

“Meanwhile I’ll make sure the Egyptians keep up their stubborn chase—I’ll use Pharaoh and his entire army, his chariots and horsemen, to put my Glory on display so that the Egyptians will realize that I am God.”

The angel of God that had been leading the camp of Israel now shifted and got behind them. And the Pillar of Cloud that had been in front also shifted to the rear. The Cloud was now between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel. The Cloud enshrouded one camp in darkness and flooded the other with light. The two camps didn’t come near each other all night.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and God, with a terrific east wind all night long, made the sea go back. He made the sea dry ground. The sea waters split.

The Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground with the waters a wall to the right and to the left. The Egyptians came after them in full pursuit, every horse and chariot and driver of Pharaoh racing into the middle of the sea. It was now the morning watch. God looked down from the Pillar of Fire and Cloud on the Egyptian army and threw them into a panic. He clogged the wheels of their chariots; they were stuck in the mud.

The Egyptians said, “Run from Israel! God is fighting on their side and against Egypt!”

God said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea and the waters will come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots, over their horsemen.”

Moses stretched his hand out over the sea: As the day broke and the Egyptians were running, the sea returned to its place as before. God dumped the Egyptians in the middle of the sea. The waters returned, drowning the chariots and riders of Pharaoh’s army that had chased after Israel into the sea. Not one of them survived.

But the Israelites walked right through the middle of the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall to the right and to the left. God delivered Israel that day from the oppression of the Egyptians. And Israel looked at the Egyptian dead, washed up on the shore of the sea, and realized the tremendous power that God brought against the Egyptians. The people were in reverent awe before God and trusted in God and his servant Moses. (Quote source here.)

In that blog post, I specifically mentioned Rule #6, When unsure, just take the next logical step.” That rule is about not letting fear keep you from moving forward, even if you’re not sure what that next logical step might be.

Last night I picked up that book again and read Rule #5, “Stay calm and confident, and give God time to work.” It has to do with waiting, which is something none of us like to do, especially in America where everything moves at such a fast pace. For a couple of decades while working in my career field, I had a pretty typical life. I worked in my professional field at several college and universities starting as an academic advisor and ending as a director. It was a fairly routine life, and the paychecks always provided for my needs. And then one day came along and I lost my last job in that field nine years ago, and I was still ten years away from retirement age. Unfortunately, I was never able to find another job in my field again, and my life changed drastically from that point on.

For a long time after I lost that job I thought I’d eventually find another job in my field, and my life would get “back to normal” until I retired. I spent over almost six years looking for another job while living on the very little income I received from unemployment benefits at first until they ended; then I had to use up my savings, and then take out what I could access from my small retirement account because for over three years and two months after my unemployment benefits ended I had no income at all, and I still had to pay rent and all the other expenses that come with life. Finally I was forced to apply for Social Security benefits when I turned 62 just to have any income again, and it was one fourth of the amount I had been earning from that last job I lost nine years ago.

In other words, my life never went back to the “normal” it had been for so very, very long. It’s still not there nor do I ever expect it to happen again at this point in time after nine years of trying to get it back. I spent almost six of those nine years trying to get it back and the past almost four years living in a sort of “limbo land” after realizing I was never going to get it back. However, I’m still not sure what my future holds (see blog post, What the Future Holds,” published yesterday on my other blog). However, something tells me that I am hardly alone in this dilemma and that many people have gone through similar situations, and their lives have never returned back to what they once knew, either.

In The Red Sea Rules,” Rule #5 (pp.55-64) opens up with a quote by Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), founder of China Inland Mission (now OMF International). He spent 51 years as a missionary to China. Here is that quote:

“I am waiting on Thee, Lord, to open the way.”

As I mentioned above, as a whole Americans are not the most patient of people. We hate waiting for anything. Because we have 24/7 access to anything we want if we can afford it, we just don’t understand or care to understand the concept of how patience is a virtue. We often let our emotions run our lives, and if you think that’s not true just watch the news on TV or a lot of the movies coming out of Hollywood nowadays, or go on social media–Anger, frustration, rage, hate, violence, revenge, lust, etc.–it’s all there and in mass quantities, too. We don’t like waiting for anything, and we aren’t afraid to express our frustration, either. We want everything NOW….

The opening section of Rule #6–Stay calm and confident and give God time to work–is titled “Waiting,” and it starts with that quote above by Hudson Taylor. Here is the rest of that section:

One night when I was worried sick about something, I found four words sitting quietly on page 1291 of my Bible. I’d read them countless times before, but as I stared at them this time, they fairly flew at me like stones from a slingshot. The four words, now well underlined in my New International Version, are “leave room for God.”

The immediate context, Romans 12:19, involves retribution. When someone harms us, advised the writer, we shouldn’t try to get even, but should leave room for God’s wrath. There are times when we need to let Him settle the score. But if we can leave room for God’s wrath, I reasoned, can we not, when facing other challenges, leave room for His other attributes? For His power? For His grace? For His intervention? I underlined the words “leave room for God” and have leaned on them ever since.

I cannot solve every problem, cure every hurt, or avoid every fear, but I can leave room for God. I don’t have the answer to every dilemma, but I can leave room for God to work. I can’t do the impossible, but He is able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all” that I could ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). The Lord delights in the impossible.

Moses told the Israelites: “Fear not; stand still (firm, confident, undismayed) and see the salvation of the Lord which He will work for you today. for the Egyptians you have seen today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest” (Ex. 14:13-14, AMP).

This is what the biblical phrase “wait on the Lord” is about: committing our Red Sea situations to Him in prayer, trusting Him, and waiting for Him to work. Doing that runs counter to our proactive and assertive selves, but many a modern migraine would be cured by a good dose of Psalm 37:7-8: “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him . . . Do not fret–it leads only to harm.”

If you’re in a difficult place right now, perhaps you need to entrust the problem to the Lord and leave it in His hands awhile. He alone can storm the impregnable, devise the improbable, and perform the impossible. He alone can part the waters. (Quote source: The Red Sea Rules,” pp. 56-57.)

In an article titled, What to Do When You’re Waiting on God,” by Joyce Meyer, Bible teacher, New York Times bestselling author, and president of Joyce Meyer Ministries, she writes:

In the Bible, Paul and Silas [who ministered together] knew about waiting, and they waited well. Acts 16 tells the story of how they were attacked by a crowd, beaten and thrown in jail. Verse 24 says the jailer put them into the inner prison (the dungeon) and fastened their feet in the stocks. He was making sure they couldn’t escape. But about midnight, God showed up. Now it would have been nice if He’d come a little earlier, but Paul and Silas didn’t seem to mind—they just decided to start singing and began to worship the Lord. They began to wait on God.

Verses 25 & 26 say, But about midnight, as Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the [other] prisoners were listening to them, suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the very foundations of the prison were shaken; and at once all the doors were opened and everyone’s shackles were unfastened. God answered them suddenly!

When people patiently and expectantly wait on God in the midst of horrible circumstances, suddenly God breaks through. So don’t give up! Don’t stop believing! Stay full of hope and expectation. God’s power is limitless, and He’ll break through for you. (Quote source here.)

In an article in Relevant Magazine titled, 5 Reasons God Makes Us Wait,” by Eric Speir, pastor, college professor, and practical theologian, the last two reasons he lists (click here to read all five reasons) are as follows:

WAITING TRANSFORMS OUR CHARACTER

Waiting has a way of rubbing off the rough edges of our lives. Most of us know the story of Moses delivering the Israelites from the Egyptians. It’s a grand story of God doing great miracles.

But few sermons talk about Moses having to wait in the desert 40 years before God came to him. God used this time of waiting to transform his character. We know this because when he was a young man he was brash and impatient. In his impetuousness he killed a man and hid the body. When his sin was made public, he ran for his life and was exiled to the desert. When he was given a second chance he opted to do it God’s way and in God’s time.

In the end, the Israelites were delivered from slavery and Moses became a great leader. Waiting transformed the life of Moses and it does the same for you and I.

WAITING BUILDS INTIMACY AND DEPENDENCY UPON GOD

The reason we are able to read about the great men and women of the Bible is because they all had one thing in common. They were all people who learned their success in life was directly proportionate to their intimacy and dependency upon God. For them, a relationship with God wasn’t a get rich quick scheme. For many of them it was a matter of life and death.

Waiting during the difficult times developed their relationship with God. 

Some of the most intimate relationships we have in our lives are because a friend stood in the trenches with us during the heat of the battle. Maybe this is what the scripture means when it says we have a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

The reason we get to read the stories of these great men and women is because they went through the difficulties of life with God. In the end, they enjoyed the process with God and the promise of God.

I’ve always believed God is just as interested in the journey as he is the destination. If not, all the biblical accounts would only include the feel good parts and not the good, the bad and the ugly of the times of waiting. We may not always understand why we have to wait, but the good news is that God never asks us to wait without Him. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with these words from Proverbs 3:5-6Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding….

In all your ways . . .

Acknowledge Him . . .

And He shall direct your paths . . . .

YouTube Video: “Impossible” by Building 429:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

Tisha B’Av 5778 (2018)

Today, July 21, 2018, is Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av) on the Jewish calendar. I first wrote about it in a blog post titled Tisha B’Av and 9/11 on July 29, 2012, and I subsequently reposted that blog post in 2013, 2014, 2015, and last year in 2017; Tisha B’Av is the major day of communal mourning and fasting on the Jewish calendar. First and foremost Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of both the first and second temples in Jerusalem (586 B.C.E, and 70 C.E respectively), but many other travesties have occurred on that same date (source here).

This year, that actual day of Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat (the Sabbath) so the fasting period normally held on the 9th of Av will not start until Shabbat is over at sundown today. The fasting period will begin this evening, July 21, 2018, and extend through nightfall tomorrow, July 22, 2018.

The following brief description of Tisha B’Av comes from HolidaysCalendar.com:

Tisha B’av is a Jewish fast day which typically occurs on the ninth day of the month of Av – or if that happens to be the Shabbat – on the tenth day of Av. It is used to commemorate the five calamities that befell the Jewish people. On the Western calendar, this fasting day occurs either in July or August.

The five calamities that inspired this fast day – as stated by the Mishnah – include: (1) Punishment of the Israelites by God because they didn’t have faith in the promised land, (2) Destruction of King Solomon’s Temple in 587 BCE by the Babylonians, (3) Destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE, (4) Destruction of the city of Betar and the subsequent death of over a half million Jews and (5) Plowing of the site of the temple by Turnus Rufus in 135 AD.

There are five prohibitions that are generally followed on Tisha B’av. These include : (1) No food or drink, (2) no marital relations, (3) no bathing, (4) no wearing of leather shoes, and (5) no application of oils or creams. While these are the five main prohibitions of this day, there are other customs that are also usually followed on this day. This includes avoiding work as much as possible, turning off or dimming electric lights and/or using candles for the primary light, sleeping on the floor and avoiding giving gifts on this day.

This fast day is not only a personal rite of mourning but also a communal remembrance that not only connects a person with their heritage but also to self reflection and piety. (Quote source here.)

The three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av is actually “a period of mourning commemorating the destruction of the first and second Jewish Temples. The Three Weeks start on the seventeenth day of the Jewish month of Tammuz — the fast of Shiva Asar B’Tammuz — and end on the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av — the fast of Tisha B’Av, which occurs exactly three weeks later. Both of these fasts commemorate events surrounding the destruction of the Jewish Temples and the subsequent exile of the Jews from the land of Israel. According to conventional chronology, the destruction of the first Temple, by Nebuchadnezzar II, occurred in 586 BCE, and the second, by the Romans, in 70 CE.” (Quote source: Wikipedia.) Wikipedia also states:

The Three Weeks are considered historically a time of misfortune, since many tragedies and calamities which befell the Jewish people are attributed to this period. These tragedies include: the breaking of the Tablets of the Law by Moses, when he saw the people worshipping the golden calf; the burning of a Sefer Torah by Apostomus during the Second Temple era; the destruction of both Temples on Tisha B’Av; the expulsion of the Jews from Spain shortly before Tisha B’Av 1492; and the outbreak of World War I shortly before Tisha B’Av 1914, which overturned many Jewish communities.

As a result, some Jews are particularly careful to avoid all dangerous situations during the Three Weeks. These include: going to dangerous places, striking a child or student, undergoing a major operation that could be postponed until after Tisha B’Av, going on an airplane flight that could be postponed until after Tisha B’Av, and engaging in a court case with a non-Jew if it can be postponed until after Tisha B’Av….

The last nine days of the three weeks—which are also the first nine days of the month of Av, culminating in the Tisha B’Av fast—constitute a period of intensified mourning in the Ashkenazic custom. Many Jewish communities refrain from partaking of poultry, red meat, and wine; from wearing freshly laundered clothes; and from warm baths. Sephardim observe many of these restrictions only from the Sunday before Tisha B’Av, dispensing with them entirely in years when Tisha B’Av falls on a Sunday. Yemenite Jews do not maintain these customs. (Quote source here.)

The following additional information (some events have already been stated above) regarding Tisha B’Av is from GotQuestions.org:

Tisha B’Av is a Jewish fast day commemorating several tragedies the Jewish people have endured, including the destruction of the first and second temples. Av is the fifth month of the Jewish calendar, and Tisha B’Av means “the Ninth of Av.” The day falls in July or August of the Gregorian calendar. Since the first two temples were destroyed on the same calendar day (Av 9), tradition has assigned a gloom to this day—some see it as a day cursed by God because of Israel’s national sins.

Tisha B’Av is the final, climactic day of a 21-day period of increasing mourning called the Three Weeks. The Three Weeks is also called Bein HaMetzarim, or “between the straits,” because Lamentations 1:3 says, “Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits” (KJV, emphasis added).

The mourning period leading up to Tisha B’Av begins in the previous month, Tammuz 17, a day that commemorates the first breach of Jerusalem’s walls by the Babylonians before they destroyed the first temple. During the Three Weeks, observant Jews refrain from holding public celebrations. No weddings are scheduled during the three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av. The focus is on mourning and repentance. The final nine days, starting with Av 1, require increased austerity: no wearing of new clothes, no eating of pleasurable foods, and no bathing beyond what is essential.

On the day of Tisha B’Av itself, Jews keep a total fast, sit on the floor, recite prayers of mourning, and read the book of Lamentations. An exception is made when Av 9 falls on the Sabbath—in that case, the fasting and mourning are observed on Av 10.

Over the years the meaning of Tisha B’Av has broadened into a remembrance of Jewish tragedies throughout history, but it remains primarily focused on the destruction of the two temples.

Following Tisha B’Av, the fast is broken, but some of the other restrictions associated with mourning continue until Av 10. Then begin the “Seven Weeks of Comfort,” which continue through the rest of Av and the month of Elul. During this period the focus in the synagogues turns to the glorious future God has promised Israel.

The observance of Tisha B’Av is not commanded in the Bible. Like Purim, Tisha B’Av is a traditional observance based on non-canonical Jewish writings and oral tradition. It’s possible that a Tisha B’Av observance is alluded to in the book of Zechariah. The men of Bethel sent a delegation to the prophets in Jerusalem asking, “Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?” (Zechariah 7:3). The fifth month is, of course, Av; the “fast” mentioned could have been observed on Av 9. God’s response to the people’s question is key: “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?” (verse 5). As with any religious observance, God is more concerned with one’s motivation and the condition of the heart than He is with the ritual itself. (Quote source here.)

Besides the obvious themes of destruction and mourning associated with Tisha B’Av, there is also another theme–renewal. Chabad.org states:

…There is more to the Three Weeks than fasting and lamentation. The prophet describes the fasts as “days of goodwill before G‑d”-days of opportunity to exploit the failings of the past as the impetus for a renewed and even deeper bond with G‑d. A sense of purification accompanies the fasting, a promise of redemption pervades the mourning, and a current of joy underlies the sadness. The Ninth of Av, say our sages, is not only the day of the Temple’s destruction—it is also the birthday of Moshiach (the Hebrew term for Messiah).

May we soon merit the fulfillment of the prophecy: “I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them and make them rejoice from their sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:12). (Quote source here.)

Of course, Christians as well as Messianic Jews believe that the Messiah has already come for the first time in the person of Jesus Christ (Yeshua in Hebrew), and that Jesus will return a second time (as noted in the New Testament Book of Revelation, Chapters 19-22). In the traditional Jewish faith, here is some background information on Moshiach from Chabad.org:

Two of the most fundamental tenets of the Jewish faith – as listed by Maimonides among the Thirteen Principles of the Jewish Faith – are the belief in the ultimate redemption, an awaited era of world peace, prosperity and wisdom, and the belief that the dead will be resurrected at that time.

The Messianic Era will be ushered in by a Jewish leader generally referred to as the Moshiach (messiah: Hebrew for “the anointed one”), a righteous scion of King David. He will rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and gather the Jewish people from all corners of the earth and return them to the Promised Land.

At that time, “delicacies will be commonplace like dirt.” All the nations will “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Micah 4:3). Humankind will be preoccupied with only one pursuit: the study of G‑dly wisdom. “The earth shall be filled with knowledge of G‑d as water covers the seabed” (Isaiah 11:9).

Okay, so it’s going to happen—that’s what we believe. But why is this important today? Why is the coming of Moshiach so central to the Jewish belief system?

Because the Torah teaches us that there is purpose to our world. And the Messianic Era is the actualization of that idea.

There are those who maintain that this crass physical world is merely a strategic challenge; one that the soul must battle and transcend en route to a heavenly paradise. According to this line of thinking, the physical and mundane has no intrinsic worth, it retains no value whatsoever once its function has been fully served—it is a means to a spiritual end.

While Jewish belief also speaks of the soul’s reward in the hereafter, earned through its toil in the course of life’s journey, it sees the refinement of the physical and the infusion of holiness and purpose into the mundane as the paramount objective. It is the sanctification of the human body and the world at large that constitutes the very purpose of its creation.

From the dawn of time, G‑d envisioned for Himself a “dwelling place” right here on Planet Earth. And He put us here to fashion this home. To transform darkness into light.

And soon the day will come when G‑d’s glory will be revealed in this nether-realm, and we will enjoy the fruits of our millennia-long work, the end-product of our labor of love.

The curtain will be ripped aside, and all flesh will perceive G‑d. It will be the culmination of the master plan.

The belief in Moshiach has sustained our nation throughout a 2,000 year exile fraught with pogroms, expulsions and persecution—our ancestors’ firm belief in a better time to come, and their trust that they would be resurrected to witness that day. And today, finally, we stand at the threshold of redemption. One more good deed by one more person may be all that’s needed to seal the deal. (Quote source here.)

For more information on Jesus as Messiah in the Gospels–the title of an article written by David Brickner, executive director at Jews for Jesus on JewsForJesus.org–click here. Also see What Do Jews Believe About Jesus? by the staff at MyJewishLearning.com.

Following Tisha B’Av is Seven Weeks of Consolation leading up to Rosh Hashanah–the Jewish New Year. Information on the seven weeks of consolation can be found at this link. For now, I’ll end this blog post with Psalm 30:5For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life . . .

Weeping may endure . . .

For a night, but joy . . .

Comes in the morning . . . .

YouTube Video: Music is not played during the observance of Tisha B’Av; therefore, I have not included a YouTube video on this post.

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

On Judging Others

Judging others is a favorite pastime we all indulge in on a very regular basis whether we acknowledge that we do it or not (and we do). And if we think we are not guilty of it, here’s something to think about from a 2013 article titled, Quick to Judge, Slow to Understand,” by Bryan Calabro, managing editor-in-chief (2012-2013) of The Beacon Wilkes campus paper (comprised of Wilkes University students who are advised by a full-time faculty member of the Communication Studies Department):

Have you ever heard the saying “treat others the way you want to be treated?” or “don’t judge a book by its cover?” They have probably been pounded in our heads for years along with a million other things, and still continue to be. The question is, how often do we follow them?

As a society, we judge others too often and too quickly, and we are well aware of it. The second we cross paths with someone else, we are analyzing them and making our own assumptions. You’re probably thinking, well, it’s a part of human nature, and you’re right. However, that doesn’t make it right.

Take these situations for example, which is something I saw on Facebook and really made me stop and think:

A 15 year-old girl holds hands with her one-year-old son. People call her a slut, but no one knows she was raped at 13.

People call another guy fat. No one knows he has a serious disease causing him to be overweight.

People call an old man ugly. No one knew he had a serious injury to his face while fighting for our country in the war.

People call a woman bald but they don’t know she has cancer.

I didn’t just stop and look at this in passing, I even reposted it because I felt others needed to see it. Many of us are at fault here, and sometimes we don’t even realize we are doing it. But there are no excuses. The bottom line is, we are too quick to judge.

As someone who works at a grocery store and deals with the public, I can tell you that making judgments about others, even just based on their appearance is something that happens constantly. I see it all of the time, and it doesn’t just happen in grocery stores. It happens literally everywhere you go, and we are being judged in return. I will admit I am just as guilty as the next person for doing it.

The reasons for which people judge others are so numerous, they could probably fill a small book. We tend to judge those who are different than us, including those who have disabilities, speech impediments, a different sexual orientation, look different or don’t seem intelligent … and the list goes on and on. Even criticizing the way people dress or how they do their hair or makeup can make them feel bad about themselves.

Yet we still do it.

Obviously we do this because we feel others are different, but maybe we also do it because we don’t think they measure up to our standards or think like us. Maybe we just have nothing better to do than place judgment on others, because it seems easier to follow the crowd than be the bigger person and be nice.

The worst part is that we evaluate others without actually knowing the circumstances or the fact that the person could be a very good person and have a lot to give. The truth is you don’t know what other people have been through or what they are going through. Therefore, you don’t have the right to make judgments. Not everyone is willing to talk openly about their personal life or things they cannot control. We shouldn’t jump to conclusions based on things we don’t know.

This is not just about judging others, but it is also about making them feel unwanted or unaccepted which is perhaps one of the worst feelings a person can have. I have always felt bad for those I see sitting alone at a lunch table in school or sitting alone anywhere, particularly kids and elderly people. It always makes my heart melt a little.

We often do not think about the ways in which our negative attitudes and actions make others feel. Not only should we consider this before we decide to think or act negatively, but we should also think about how we are going to feel about ourselves afterwards, and likely regret our hurtful words or actions.
We also don’t want to be the reason behind someone’s feelings getting hurt.

Obviously this isn’t right, and I’ve personally been putting much thought into this recently, which has made me realize how much room I have to improve and become a better person. There is always room to be better. I’ve certainly been looking at things differently.

Everything we go through in life is a learning experience, and so this is as well. We should always strive to change our ways, maybe some we are not so proud of, because it can and will backfire if we are not careful.

People will always be judgmental, but we can always strive to be better. If you take anything from this article, let it be a lesson to always be kind to others, and that means in both words and actions. The next time you are about to cast judgment on someone, remember the golden rule and how you would feel it you were in that position. You might think twice about making that judgment. (Quote source here.)

All of us can recognize ourselves in those words expressed above. And not only do we judge others, but we also judge others who we think are judging us, too. And we judge others from the gossip we’ve heard about them or that has been spread about them on social media and other sources.

As noted in an answer to a question regarding judging others on GotQuestions.org:

Jesus’ command not to judge others could be the most widely quoted of His sayings, even though it is almost invariably quoted in complete disregard of its context. Here is Jesus’ statement: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). Many people use this verse in an attempt to silence their critics, interpreting Jesus’ meaning as “You don’t have the right to tell me I’m wrong.” Taken in isolation, Jesus’ command “Do not judge” does indeed seem to preclude all negative assessments. However, there is much more to the passage than those three words.

The Bible’s command that we not judge others does not mean we cannot show discernment. Immediately after Jesus says, “Do not judge,” He says, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs” (Matthew 7:6). A little later in the same sermon, He says, “Watch out for false prophets. . . . By their fruit you will recognize them” (verses 15–16). How are we to discern who are the “dogs” and “pigs” andfalse prophetsunless we have the ability to make a judgment call on doctrines and deeds? Jesus is giving us permission to tell right from wrong.

Also, the Bible’s command that we not judge others does not mean all actions are equally moral or that truth is relative. The Bible clearly teaches that truth is objective, eternal, and inseparable from God’s character. Anything that contradicts the truth is a lie—but, of course, to call something a “lie” is to pass judgment. To call adultery or murder a sin is likewise to pass judgment—but it’s also to agree with God. When Jesus said not to judge others, He did not mean that no one can identify sin for what it is, based on God’s definition of sin.

And the Bible’s command that we not judge others does not mean there should be no mechanism for dealing with sin. The Bible has a whole book entitled Judges. The judges in the Old Testament were raised up by God Himself (Judges 2:18). The modern judicial system, including its judges, is a necessary part of society. In saying, “Do not judge,” Jesus was not saying, “Anything goes.”

Elsewhere, Jesus gives a direct command to judge: “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly” (John 7:24). Here we have a clue as to the right type of judgment versus the wrong type. Taking this verse and some others, we can put together a description of the sinful type of judgment:

Superficial judgment is wrong. Passing judgment on someone based solely on appearances is sinful (John 7:24). It is foolish to jump to conclusions before investigating the facts (Proverbs 18:13). Simon the Pharisee passed judgment on a woman based on her appearance and reputation, but he could not see that the woman had been forgiven; Simon thus drew Jesus’ rebuke for his unrighteous judgment (Luke 7:36–50).

Hypocritical judgment is wrong. Jesus’ command not to judge others in Matthew 7:1 is preceded by comparisons to hypocrites (Matthew 6:2516) and followed by a warning against hypocrisy (Matthew 7:3–5). When we point out the sin of others while we ourselves commit the same sin, we condemn ourselves (Romans 2:1).

Harsh, unforgiving judgment is wrong. We are “always to be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:2). It is the merciful who will be shown mercy (Matthew 5:7), and, as Jesus warned, “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2).

Self-righteous judgment is wrong. We are called to humility, and “God opposes the proud” (James 4:6). The Pharisee in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector was confident in his own righteousness and from that proud position judged the publican; however, God sees the heart and refused to forgive the Pharisee’s sin (Luke 18:9–14).

Untrue judgment is wrong. The Bible clearly forbids bearing false witness (Proverbs 19:5). “Slander no one” (Titus 3:2).

Christians are often accused of “judging” or intolerance when they speak out against sin. But opposing sin is not wrong. Holding aloft the standard of righteousness naturally defines unrighteousness and draws the slings and arrows of those who choose sin over godliness. John the Baptist incurred the ire of Herodias when he spoke out against her adultery with Herod (Mark 6:18–19). She eventually silenced John, but she could not silence the truth (Isaiah 40:8).

Believers are warned against judging others unfairly or unrighteously, but Jesus commends “right judgment” (John 7:24, ESV). We are to be discerning (Colossians 1:91 Thessalonians 5:21). We are to preach the whole counsel of God, including the Bible’s teaching on sin (Acts 20:272 Timothy 4:2). We are to gently confront erring brothers or sisters in Christ (Galatians 6:1). We are to practice church discipline (Matthew 18:15–17). We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). (Quote source here).

Along with the above information, there might also be motives behind why we judge others or pass along gossip and untruths about another person–for example, motives involving self interest at the expense of that other another person. We intentionally want to make them “look bad” to others as it will serve our purpose in some way (whether we want their job, or their significant other, or to destroy their reputation, and the list goes on). However, that gets into a whole different area on judging others that is very intentional on the part of those trying to destroy another person’s reputation, career, etc. This post is primarily about how we all judge others on a regular basis with erroneous information and judging by appearances, etc.

And, there’s no getting around the fact that we judge others constantly, presumptuously, and too often negatively. How to stop (if you want to stop)? Here’s some advice from 1 Peter 4:8-11 from The Message Bible:

Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!

So remember that love covers . . .

A multitude . . .

Of sins . . . . 

YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Journeys Not Yet Taken

I just posted this blog post on my other blog, Reflections,” and then realized it would also be a good post to publish on this blog, too, so here it is! 🙂

One never really knows where life might lead them. We can make our plans, and things can look pretty predictable for a while, maybe even a very long time, but one never knows when circumstances might lead them in a totally different direction then they ever thought they might end up going in.

In 2013, Vic Johnson, former founder of a corporate and political communications firm, motivational speaker and author, published a book titled, It’s NEVER Too Late And You’re NEVER Too Old: 50 People Who Found Success After 50.” While I haven’t read the book, I love the title, and if I find a copy of it on sale somewhere, I’m going to buy it. Goodreads gives this brief description of the book:

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” ~George Eliot, 19th Century English novelist [whose real name was Mary Ann Evans]

One of the biggest hurdles people over 50 have to overcome is the mindset about their age. There’s an old cliché of “age ain’t nothin’ but a number.” But as we all know, getting older does have certain obstacles such as dwindling health, limited income, and the end of long-time careers followed by “now what in the heck do I do?”

Yes, age is the number of candles on a birthday cake, and a stark reality of things to come. But getting older isn’t…

…a deal breaker.

…a reason you can’t start a business or any other new venture.

…a limit on success.

…a valid excuse for inaction.

…a valid excuse to give up on your dreams.

Here are 50 people who overcame the very same things you are facing right now. Let them show you the way to outrageous success and happiness regardless of your age or circumstances). (Quote source here.) You’ll have to get the book to read the stories… 🙂

Truth is . . . nobody really knows what tomorrow holds whether you’re 8 or 80 or older. As the saying goes, life could turn on a dime tomorrow. And our journey could take us to the most unexpected places, no matter how old we may be.

In an article titled, 10 Reasons It’s Never Too Late to Be Who You Want to Be,” by Dr. Nikki Martinez, PsyD, LCPC, adjunct professor, consultant, and author, published in June 2017 in HuffPost, she states the following:

I can’t even explain how many people think that their dreams have passed then by. That it is too late for them to go back to school, start a business, or pursue that unique interest of theirs. The truth of the matter is that we are never too old, it is just the story and timeline we have given ourselves. We have told ourselves that certain things need to happen by a certain age, or they will never happen for us. Nothing can be further from the truth, we can choose and make our destiny at any time. Here are some inspirational stories who understand that age is merely a number, and it is never too late to accomplish them dream.

1. At 40, Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run. This was not mere luck of years of playing. This was talent, developed through many hours and many years of practice. He had a passion for something, and he kept at it until he became at the top of his field.

2. At 49, Julia Child FINALLY published her book, “Mastering the French Art of Cooking.” Anyone familiar with the life and story of Julia Child’s know that she spent MANY years writing and re-writing, being rejected, looking for her place, and then FINALLY someone saw in her what had been there all along. Although it did not come until the second half of her life, she became one of the most beloved and respected chefs of our lifetime.

3. At Age 60, George Bernard Shaw finished writing, “Heartbreak House.” This was considered by many to be the greatest work of his career, but it took almost his entire career to come up with the right combination that resonated with people. Imagine working your whole life to finally come into your own? It was clearly possible.

4. At age 72, Margaret Ringenberg made a flight around the globe. While this may not be a common name, it is a very uncommon accomplishment. To have wanted something for so long, to have waited so many year, and to say I will not give up on this dream due to a simple matter of age.

5. At age 77, yes you heard this right 77, John Glenn became the oldest astronaut to ever go into space. Something about this just leaves me in awe. When I think of the training, the physicality, the mental abilities, and the sheer drive to do something in your lifetime, I am continually impressed that he was able to accomplish this. Something that many would never be able to do.

6. At age 86, Katherine Pelton swam the 200 meter butterfly (a stroke I struggle with period), in 1 minute and 14 seconds. Do the words astounding come to mind? Something that many of us could not achieve, something that  many of us tell ourselves we cannot more importantly. She is living proof that we can accomplish great things with practice and perseverance.

7. At age 92, Paul Spangler finished his 14th marathon! One is an accomplishment, 14 a great feat for anyone, but for a 92-year-old man to be out there keeping up with the most elite, and those training, what is our excuse for not getting up and working out in the morning. It takes a little steam out of all the excuses, the snoozes, and the tomorrows.

8. Dorothy Davenhill Hirsch became the oldest person the North Pole aboard a Russian Nuclear ice breaker. Talk about refusing to leave something off the bucket list. That is amazing. Something many of us will never achieve in our lifetimes, she MADE happen. This is not to say we cannot make these things happen for ourselves, it is just that we choose not to. Look what choosing and perseverance get you!

9. Dr. Leila Denmark worked as a pediatrician until her chosen retirement at the age of 103. Talk about loving what you do. A perfect example of when you love what you do, it is not a chore, it is a joy. One that you want to do as long as you are able. I think we all hope to find a calling like that!

10. Talk about a lifelong goal realized! Bertha Wood, born in 1905, dreamed her whole life of writing and publishing a book. This dream was finally realized in 2005, and was based on her memoirs. I suppose there was a great deal to be said in the 90 years it took her to write it!

The common thread of all these individuals is persistence, belief in self, and not putting time limits, age limits, or any type of constraint upon themselves. They simply decided they had a goal they were going to accomplish, and they kept trying until they had. It shows that all of us that it is never too late to do what we want to do, and be who we want to be. (Quote source here.)

So how about that, folks! Persistence and perseverance, and lets not forget hope! James 1:2-8 gives us some very good instruction about perseverance:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

So ask . . . and believe. And don’t doubt . . . ever. Right before Jesus told the parable about the persistent widow and the unjust judge in Luke 18:1-8, his very first words to his disciples were that they should always pray and not give up (verse 1). That goes for us today, too.

So if you’re reading this, you’re not dead yet . . . 🙂 And if you’re not dead yet, you never know what the future holds regardless of your current circumstances, regardless of your age, and regardless of any other circumstances you want to use as an excuse. Trust God and pray. Now would be a good time! As the Apostle Paul wrote from a prison cell, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phillipians 4:13), so we, too, can do the same . . . .

So always pray . . .

And never give up, never give up . . .

Never give up . . . .

YouTube Video: “Miracle” by Unspoken:

Photo #1 credit here (incredible 11-minute YouTube video at this link):

Photo #2 credit here