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Archive for the ‘Guest Blogs’ Category

The Path in the Dark

Please welcome my third guest blogger!

Steve Miller

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Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path (Psalm 119:105 NIV 1984).

When I helped carry New Testaments into a remote mountain village of the Philippines, we took the truck as far as we could, and then set out on foot. We eased ourselves down the side of a ravine to a river, walked across the planks of a suspension bridge, and climbed up a series of bamboo ladders.

Becher, our Filipino friend and guide, wanted to preach in the next village up the mountain spur, where the good news had not been preached before. Several of us went with him. While he preached, evening came. Few places on earth become as dark as a mountain village in the jungle without lights. I grew uneasy. By the time Becher finished, we couldn’t see the path to get back, and I didn’t know how we would return to the place we were staying for the night.

I need not have been concerned. Becher pressed a button on his cell phone. The light from the phone lit up the pathway enough to see the boulders, roots, and drops in the path. After a few moments, the phone went dark, but he pressed a button again for more light. In that way, we hiked down the mountain and safely arrived at our destination.

A cell phone is a device invented to carry words long distances, but that night it became a light for our path. We could see where to go, instead of smashing into a rock or falling from a misstep. In the same way, the Bible is a device invented for words, but our guide uses it to light up our lives. We can see what to do, rather than crashing into unseen dangers, or walking blindly through life.

Prayer: Lord, help me observe your words so I can remain safe and know what to do. Guide me in all my ways. Thank you for helping me through unseen dangers. Amen.

Steve Miller has served as an editor for both MindFlights magazine and Lilley Press. An author in his own right, Steve’s fiction includes speculative fiction in The Sword Review, humor in The Wittenburg Door, and science fiction in Ray Gun Revival. His nonfiction includes a devotional that appeared in The One Year Life Verse and articles on how to write software in journals such as SQL Server Professional, Oracle Developer, and FoxTalk. He also contributed two chapters to the software book Special Edition: Using Visual FoxPro3. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in linguistics. Visit Steve’s blog at http://stevemillerink.wordpress.com/

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Please Welcome Mary DeMuth.

Mentor. Encourager. Author Extraordinaire!

Check Out Mary’s Website to see all of her books!

http://www.marydemuth.com/

Mary DeMuth

I love Jesus, my family, and my life. Jesus has helped me live uncaged, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

In that place of thanks, I write books and blogs and whatnot.

Many of you know I wrote the book The Muir House. What you might not know is the why behind it. Although it’s a risk for me to share it, I feel it’s important, and it will deepen your experience of the book.

Those who have read my story in Thin Places know I endured some trauma in my childhood. Sexual abuse at five, several parental divorces, the death of my father. All these things served to help me see my gaping need for Jesus. While it’s painful that I had to endure what I did, I can now see those trials as the very means God used to bring me to Himself. To put it simply, my daddy-shaped-hole made me yearn for the Daddy who would never leave me. I’ve been on the journey of healing many, many years now. Although I’ve grown so much, there is one thing I can’t seem to get over: a hole in my memory. Even writing it scares me. What will my extended family think? Will this cause more friction? What if my empty memory is nothing?

The weird thing about my brain is that I remember everything. I have a clear memory of being about two years old, extremely vivid. And then nothing until I am four. Normally I would just chalk this up to being a child and forgetting or simply not remembering, but when I’ve asked my relatives about it, the answer never comes. Some have started crying. “Why would you want to know that? Why go back there?” Others are adamant that nothing happened to me. Others think I’m crazy for asking. But always, there is never a satisfactory answer and lots and lots of evasion. Rumors have flown around about homelessness, but nothing I can pin down.

I need to know. It’s this ache inside me, this agony to know what was missing from my life. What happened? Why won’t anyone tell me?

This search has driven me to become an investigative reporter. I’ve dug up old acquaintances from the past, written letters, sent emails, hoping to unfold the mystery. Nothing. I’ve prayed, but no insight has come. I’ve tried to settle myself, but I’m still antsy.

I wonder if there’s something I don’t know. Or if I have a lost sibling. All my adult life, folks have told me I look like Laura Dern. Imagine my crazy mind when I found out we share the exact same birthday! Same year. Was I a twin separated at birth? (Now you’re seeing my neurosis!)

Something that has helped me with my need to know was remembering something my husband Patrick told me years ago. With words, he painted a picture. He said my distance (at the time) felt like I was pacing the high dive, deciding whether I would jump into the pool. Down below were my children and him, all beckoning me to jump. But I paced. And worried. And fretted. I didn’t jump. Instead, in the word picture, I came off the high dive, then sat on the side of the pool and dangled my feet.

Our discussion after that helped me see an important truth. No matter what may make you pace the high dive (for me it’s this missing memory conundrum), you can still make a choice to live, to enjoy, to engage with people. You don’t have to be trapped up there or be relegated to the side of the pool.

This is why I wrote The Muir House. I wanted to explore the idea that we may never know the exact truth of things. We may investigate until our heart is raw. But even if things are left unresolved, we always have the choice to grow and live anyway. Willa had that choice. I have that choice. Even Laura Dern has that choice.

We can let the past be our excuse to live crippled lives.

Or we can leap into the halcyon air, and jump foot first into life.

Which will you choose?

If you’d like to explore these issues in a page-turning novel, purchase The Muir House here.

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Please welcome my very first guest blogger. 

Nova Logo Antwuan Malone is a freelance writer and blogger who desires to engage in conversations that challenge Christians to (re)think about how to love the world and each other. You can learn and read more about his blog. 

Candid Christianity at http://antwuanmalone.com/about
twitter: @antwuanmalone.com    facebook.com/antwuanmalone

View judge-not...jpg in slide showMan, I hope I don’t turn into a grumpy, old man!

I can see it. Me, standing on my proverbial porch, shaking a cane at the next generation of Christians. I can almost hear the yells.

“Stop judging me, Old Man. Get over it!”

God knows I don’t want to be that guy. And yet, lately, I get so frustrated with how we toss around biblical phrases. I’ve already written about the mostoverused word in our society. Now, let’s talk a little about one of the most overused, under-understood, phrases floating about in the winds of conversations. You may even say it yourself!

“Don’t judge me!”

Ah. The crime of the age. The crime de jour. Judging.

It’s amazing how well we know the scriptures that protect us from conviction and feelings of guilt. Sure, we know what sin is, and we know that “no one is perfect “And yes, we all know Jesus said “not to judge.” Swirl all that together and you often end up the idea that your sin disqualifies you from telling me about my sin. And before we know it, that all-powerful “h” word gets tossed around like a ping pong ball at a championship ping pong tourney.

<Sigh.> Oh how I despise the misplaced tossing of a “hypocrite” grenade in otherwise helpful conversations.

But we live in a “don’t judge me” society, in an Age Of Entitleds, a “want it my way” generation who has its own versions of right and wrong. Americans, hate critique, but love criticizing. Myself included. On my blog site I’m critical, often. But the question is: Is critiquing the same as judging, or does the Bible mean something different when it references judging?

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“Don’t Judge Me!”

Right in the middle of Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount, in Matthew 7:1-5, are the magic words. (as you can see, I love the KJV version)

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Paul says it similarly in Romans 14:10-13

“But why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.”

There you have it, the biblical justification for the morally sensitive chap of our day. Interpret these verses at face value and you’ll come away with a false teaching that only the clean can point out the dirty, that only the perfect can mention the sins of the imperfect.

But what about the other verses. Verses like the one immediately following the passage in Matthew 7 (verse 6), where Jesus says,

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

Wait, what?  Who is Jesus calling dogs and swine?  And how will we know them if we don’t performs some judgment? Are these the same dogs Paul mentions in Philippians 3:2 where he says:

“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.”

Evil workers? Wouldn’t we have to judge people by some sort of criteria to know whether they are, as the Bible calls them, swine and dogs? Is Jesus being contradictory?

What Does It All Mean, Basil?

If you know who Basil is, kudos for you!

The answer is no. I don’t think the message is contradictory. Throughout the Bible, “judging” holds several meanings. For brevity, we won’t talk about them all.

But it’s worth considering what “judging” meant to the people Jesus and Paul spoke to. In Matthew 5-7, Jesus’ sermon on the mount was largely to Pharisees and other followers of the Law. These Pharisees classified people in three categories. You were either a hopeless sinner destined for Hell, a yet-to-be-convert, or well, one of them – the righteous. And by righteous, I mean just that. Righteous. Clean. By holding to the law, Pharisees literally considered themselves without fault, “more holy than thou.”

The irony, from Jesus’ perspective, lay in the inability of this group of “religious” people to see God’s real work of Truth through His Son. The “beam,” then, is the blinding misconception of what God desired from them and their ignorance of God’s plan of salvation for all. So when Jesus mentioned “judging” in Matthew, He was attacking the idea that a Pharisee (or anyone) could determine who was “hellbound” based on the Works Model of the Law. The Pharisees were oblivious to the law of Grace Jesus’ death later introduced. Who are they (we) to judge by works if God ultimately will judge by grace?

More simply said, Jesus cautioned them (and us) not to “judge” the destiny of anyone’s soul, whether Hell or Heaven. That’s interesting considering how quickly we send earthly menaces like Hitler, Osama, and the like to Hell, while sending Ghandi, Mother Theresa and others to heaven. Most people would agree with these judgments, and yet these are the very sort Jesus warned against. Jesus is saying we, like the Pharisees, have no idea what we’re doing when we pronounce who goes where.

Further, He is not telling us to ignore the sins of those around us. Quite the opposite. Sin is sin because of its destructive nature. The true heart of a Christian hates sin because of path to disease, disaster, and death it carves. To stand by and do/say noting while someone hurt themselves through their sin in the name of “not judging” is not loving our neighbor as ourselves, or edifying/equipping the saints.

Some of the main functions of the church community is to accept people despite their sin,to make room for the revealing of that sin, and to accommodate accountability for the removal of that sin as we grow more into Christ’s likeness. The latter cannot be done if we’re afraid to admit and repent (change direction) from sin, or are afraid to help urge our brothers and sisters in Christ to repent due to embarrassment or fear.

Jesus has not given us a license to do whatever we want. His statement does not relieve us from “feeling bad” or “looking bad” due to the sin we commit. His point was simple to leave eternal placement to God, but to also (judge) encourage our neighbors toward Christ, and our brothers and sisters in Christ toward holiness.  That’s what’s really going on.

Anything else is probably some form of selfish face-saving.

Question of the Day!

How would you define “judging?”  Do you think Christians should judge?! Check out this post in Candid Christianity and leave a comment if you have one. 

Image Credit: Lisamarie Babik, used under Creative Commons license

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