Tag Archives: judging

The Bride’s Heart

Jesus Cup“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” [Philippians 2:1-7]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I am an opinionated person. I am also “firm of resolve”… a trait that, from time to time, has been referenced (by others, but honest others) as being “headstrong”, “stubborn”, or “stiff-necked”. If you, Gentle Reader, have been with this blog for any time at all, that confession is nothing new to you.

The deepest buried and most persistent “thorns” with which I grapple are my own pride and its consequent tendency to judge and devalue others, or their views.

I suspect I share some of these traits with Paul the Apostle. There is absolutely nothing wishy-washy about Paul. In fact, I wonder if when he wanted someone else’s opinion on something, he gave it to them? Some of what he writes is “divinely inspired imperative” (“here’s how God wants things done”). Some of what he writes is “divinely inspired and influenced imperatives of his (Paul’s) own” (“here’s how, prayerfully, *I* want things done”). Some of what he writes is disclosure and commentary. And some, very little, of what he writes is his opinion alone… and he clearly marks these places (“take this or leave it, as your conscience dictates”).

Of all the Biblical writers, no one gives us so much about the Bride of Christ, the Church. So many times, in so many ways, Paul addresses this glorious mystery. Constantly, his letters address both the practical and sublime about the lives of Christians (individual), and how they are to meld into the life of the Church, the Bride of Christ, the Body of Christ (collective).

But of all Paul’s opinions, positions, imperatives, instructions, reflections… all of that… nowhere do I so clearly hear the passion, the crack in his voice, the urgency of his heart’s need to speak clearly… than in the passage above.

“Here!”… “Here!”… Paul seems to cry… “Here is the HEART of the Bride, the Body! Here is her beauty. Here is her mystery. Here is where I pour out my life.” The mystery of the Resurrection, the truth of Christ in us the hope of glory, the heart “being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose… with humility of mind regard[ing] one another as more important than yourselves…”

There is the heart, as Paul speaks it, of the Church. I see that. I feel that. I yield to that. Yet… sometimes… more often than I care to admit, I struggle with it. How? How, in practical terms, are we supposed to do this? How does this play out in real issues, real questions, real debates? How do we direct our actions between maintaining both our integrity before Christ and one another, and maintaining the same mind, love, and spirit?

When a brother or sister expresses a view or opinion different from our own, an interpretation different, a conviction different… when and how is it right to speak, versus refraining out of deference to their interests being above our own?

I would dearly love to follow that question with… “Well, Gentle Reader, HERE is how we do this!” But that would be dishonest of me. Like so many things of spirit, grace, and truth… I cannot define a “rule” or a “law” that will definitively dispose of all cases with assurance.

But I can, and will, share the single “answer”, or rather writing of Paul’s that has given me the most guidance here. Along with a caution as to some limits of it. But the text is quite clear, as Christians of the early Church found themselves bickering and debating over “right and wrong behavior” on matters of what is sacred and what isn’t, what violates the conscience and what does not. (Which seems to be the root of a huge amount of Christian divisiveness and conflict.)

The passage is from Romans 14:

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

“One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

“But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,

As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall give praise to God.”

“So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”  [Romans 14:1-14]

C.S.Lewis, with his wondrous gift of solid spiritual direction through humorous fictional application, addresses this chapter in Letter XVI from supervisory demon Screwtape to his apprentice tempter Wormwood. Advice is offered on how to keep their “patient” (person being tempted) from experiencing true grace through church attendance, by means of this judgmental distraction as the patient “comparison worships” between two different churches:

But there is one good point which both these churches have in common—they are both party churches. I think I warned you before that if your patient can’t be kept out of the Church, he ought at least to be violently attached to some party within it. I don’t mean on really doctrinal issues; about those, the more lukewarm he is the better. And it isn’t the doctrines on which we chiefly depend for producing malice. The real fun is working up hatred between those who say “mass” and those who say “holy communion” when neither party could possibly state the difference between, say, Hooker’s doctrine and Thomas Aquinas’, in any form which would hold water for five minutes. And all the purely indifferent things—candles and clothes and what not—are an admirable ground for our activities. We have quite removed from men’s minds what that pestilent fellow Paul used to teach about food and other unessentials—namely, that the human without scruples should always give in to the human with scruples. You would think they could not fail to see the application. You would expect to find the “low” churchman genuflecting and crossing himself lest the weak conscience of his “high” brother should be moved to irreverence, and the “high” one refraining from these exercises lest he should betray his “low” brother into idolatry. And so it would have been but for our ceaseless labour. Without that the variety of usage within the Church of England might have become a positive hotbed of charity and humility, [C.S.Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Letter XVI]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Ah… yes… well. I was going to go on, but upon rereading that passage of Lewis’ I don’t think there would be much point.

I will just leave you with the confession that I still struggle with the application of this in my own life, even though I can clearly see where the grace is here. And let us together continue to move forward in our efforts to make of our Church a “hotbed of charity (love) and humility.”

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Posted by on February 23, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized


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The Power of Red Ink

Report CardGreetings, boys and girls. Once upon a time, back in the dark ages B.C. (before computers), THIS is what a Report Card looked like. It was (*gasp*) HANDWRITTEN, had columns for each marking period, passing grades were written in Black Ink, and failing grades were written in Red Ink.

(Now for those of you from the Computer Age, Grade Reports come out in machine generated characters, nearly exclusively in Black.)

Later in life, we associate this color coding with bookkeeping and accountancy. To be “in the black” is to have a positive balance in assets or credit, and to be in debit is noted in red.

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Now, I didn’t expect to be writing this post this evening, but it is one of those “I-have-had-enough-of-this” moments, so I thought I’d share. You are welcome to agree or disagree, but this is my passionate feeling here.

Paulfg reblogged a post by The Culture Monk called Too many people are confused about atheism… REALLY??? with some very good thoughts and excellent discussion in the comment section. I recommend it to you as a good and thought-provoking read. I’ll not try to summarize it here. Nonetheless, the point that has moved me is all the rhetoric surrounding the label “Christian”.

There are people who label themselves, with great pride, as being “Christians”, because they attend church, dress up, tithe, carry heavy showy Bibles, grew up in a home where Daddy-was-a-Deacon and Mama-played-the-organ, and they occupy the community/social position of “Christian of the neighborhood block watch and thought police”. These folks are like “legacy Christians” if churches worked like fraternities and sororities. They hold exalted and esteemed positions, are legends in their own mind, and enjoy the privilege of judging and condemning all those they deem as believing or behaving differently than they do. They hold a definitive relationship with the definitive law and list of righteous behaviors, and you can think their way… or else.

Their spiritual ancestors of Biblical times, Pharisees,  had very mixed relations with Jesus. Some believed in Jesus, let Him utterly rock their worlds, and entered friendship with Him. Others did not, and Jesus said “Woe” to them, for missing the point.

I just have this massive problem with “political labeling of ideology” and the word “Christian”. If, by Christian, we mean “a disciple of Jesus Christ”, then Jesus gave us a perfectly clear “litmus test” of that when He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) I don’t know a better descriptor than that.

I am drawn to the key words there, “By this all men will know”. THAT is really key to what Christ said, isn’t it? Shouldn’t “Christian” be a label applied to us BY OTHERS? Shouldn’t the very power and unexpectedness of our love be our hallmark as a Christian? How do we ever have the audacity and hubris to apply such a label to ourselves, as though it is some sort of endorsement, award, trophy or honor?

Our identity as a Christian should be a conclusion reached by someone else as they observe our attitudes, fruit, and demeanor. It shouldn’t be some accomplishment or honor we claim by virtue of our righteous deeds or organizational association. Such is my view…

Anyway, back to Black and Red Ink.

There is tremendous power to pulling out the Red Ink bottle. Once upon a time, a child’s whole world could revolve around whether their Report Card was covered with Black or Red Ink. I don’t know that families take such things so seriously nowadays, but there is, or at least was, a significant exercise of power to pulling out the straight pen and bottle of Red Ink. (For some reason, grades had to be marked on these little fold-up yellow manila cards, in bottled ink with an actual straight pen. Ball point would NOT do, fountain nib only, please.)

Is it that residual “fear of red ink assigned to us by others… by superior authority”, that childish dread of Report Card Day… that makes the sheer power trip of “grading everyone else on their deportment and morality” so appealing?

I mean, isn’t that what Pharisees and self-righteous goats DO? Sit with their little clipboards and stopwatches, their lists of rules, regulations and requirements, and “keep score” on all the players surrounding them? Maybe blowing a whistle or calling a time out now and again to harangue someone or other, but basically just scorekeeping and chronicling for the great Books of Deeds to be opened at the end of time?

Oh, yes… I almost forgot. Pulling out their great bottles of Red Ink and grading our performance every quarter or so.

Isn’t that the task of the righteous? Isn’t that the point of ministers and Sunday School teachers and Deacons? Isn’t that the very raison d’etre of the local church itself? To point all around, inside and out, feel good about how righteous WE are and score performance of others on the “Holy Report Card Exam”?

Sad to say… it is precisely that for many. Every day, every week, throughout time, clear back to Jesus’ day… dedicated Church attenders and Temple aficionados love to stand on the street corners, dressed and speaking as an admirable and righteous icon of the holy. Only to find that they are whitewashed tombs, destined to be cast far from a Lord they never knew, as they reveled in their condemnation of suffering broken people… rather than serving them with compassion and love.

Ah, but the siren call of Red Ink is so appealing. So much self-gratification. Such power. Such fulfillment and ego satisfaction…

Must I cast it away? Must I stop scoring and judging? Must I give up my power to grade behavior and progress?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Um, no. Not necessarily. We ARE scripturally encouraged to do some “scoring”, some “marking”, some “judging” and distinguishing… but never of other people. And certainly NOT for the purpose of sorting out the superior from the inferior, or putting down some to make others feel good or big. Not even school scores are intended for that (though all too often that is how they are applied). School scores are actually intended as what they’ve come to be called in more modern times… “Progress Reports”. Grades, properly applied, can give us an indication of where we are making good progress, and where we may want to spend more time, attention and care.

One day, a year or so ago… God decided that I should do a “Self-Evaluation Progress Report”. I should sit down and “score” my own progress and performance on what He considered the only “Performance Evaluation Criteria” worth worrying about. I cringed at the thought… all those rules I care so little about… all those pharisees I regularly frustrate or enrage… all those opportunities for grace and good that I don’t even SEE, let alone engage in time.

But no… none of that was what He was interested in. Rather, He had me sit down and write in a column down the left hand side of a page, the following:

Love is patient,
love is kind
is not jealous
love does not brag
is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own,
is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered
does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but
rejoices with the truth;
bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
(1 Cor 13:4-7)

I got out highlighters of 5 different colors, and marked through each line from Dark Green (This is REALLY True for me), the light green (Pretty True), blue (True much of the time), orange or pink (true once in a while, not usually), clear to Red (I really struggle with this).

THIS, it seemed, was the only Report Card this Little Monk needs to be concerned with. And once the task was finished, it was actually encouraging to realize that some elements that have been serious struggle in the past, were no longer so. Further, the areas where I still DO struggle seriously, were no big surprise, and Jesus embraces me WITH those flaws. The point was not to put me down or make me feel bad, but to help me focus here and seek opportunities to improve or be aware, that I let grace flow the more freely.

So, Gentle Reader… there ya go! Want to pull out that Red Ink Bottle? Want to experience the awesome rush of “passing judgment” and “evaluating performance”? Fine. Print out this list, grab yer highlighters or a little box of crayons or colored pencils, and see how you score on your own “Love Quotient”.

Here’s the cool part…

Once you DO this exercise, NOW look around at other people and see if the experience changes. It’s amazing how a few minutes in lovely light, makes others glow so readily.

Grace to thee! — The Little Monk


Posted by on December 13, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized


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Journey – Cybernetic Eye

Desert Caravan“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. [Matthew 5:27-30]

“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” [Matthew 6:22-23]

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. [Matthew 7:3-5]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This evening as we camped, Our Lord appeared towards the end of the day with a spring in His step and sat down across the fire from me and a couple friends.

“Well done, Little Monk,” He began, confusing me a bit (which isn’t that unusual). “A couple weeks ago, I made you a promise. It was about ‘judging’. It was about how you ‘see’. You finally understood how, where, why the sin of ‘judging’ resides so deep in you, you tried to ‘stop’ and realized you could not gaze upon something without evaluating and measuring it. You tried your level best and got totally frustrated when you realized that… of yourself… it seemed you had only two alternatives: to look upon something, or to close your eyes altogether. ‘Judging’ or ‘blindness’ seemed your only alternatives… judging was in your very DNA, your fallen nature and you could NOT rid yourself of it.

“Once you realized this fully, after trying for a number of hours, you flopped down on your couch, furious, and gave up. And I was pleased, and I said so. We could not be here today to do THIS, if you had not made the effort and had the experience of being there trying to do THAT. I told you that now that you had surrendered on this, now that you had come to understand through the renewing of your mind about this, that now it would be up to Me to transform. I cannot give you the experience of transformation, until you yourself have walked through the effort of surrendering your body, and renewing your mind. It’s not ‘My rule’, it’s just how experience works.

“So, NOW, Little Monk, go to your pack and bring Me what’s on top.”

LocutusSo I did that, and I found a tech device. A cybernetic device. An optical sensor… in short… a robotic eye. It was dead and artificial. Here you see a Borg eye, but the one from my pack was much more sophisticated. It was dense and heavy, a rather human-looking eyeball, but clearly a “device” rather than a living organ. Grid lines and small symbols marked it as I turned it in my hand. I looked up, to see the Lord watching me.

“Go ahead and open it, Little Monk. There’s nothing messy about it. Go ahead and look inside.”

So I obeyed, and inside found complicated measurement and computing chips. It was an identical model to my own eyes. Size, color, perfect.

“That, Little Monk, was one of your eyes. It was organic, flesh and blood, while you had it. But it was just as artificial, fallen, and lifeless then as it is now. I have REPLACED and transformed your eyes. You NOW have the eyes I always intended for you… eyes with Light to them… eyes that no longer must “judge” and “evaluate” and “score” all that they see. But these eyes, your new eyes, can now “discern” as I intended them to, that you may look upon another and see their needs that you may meet them.”

“Simple, isn’t it? Your nature, your DNA, your fallen nature, your legacy from the Garden, kept you from experiencing what it is to see with MY eyes. That makes it harder to touch with My hands and the rest I call My children to.”

“Letting Me be Me in you… ‘You in Me and I in you and together we in the Father’… will now be vastly easier, if you chose to bring this to its proper close. THIS is what I want you to cast aside this evening… rid yourself of your ‘false eyes’, your ‘lifeless eyes’, now that I have replaced them that you may truly SEE much more closely to how I see.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I looked at the lifeless thing in my hand, this precision instrument, endlessly measuring the comparisons of elements with no significance whatever… and I threw it off into the brush without a care. I could now SEE so much better, with such better colors and vibrance… no comparison.

All I could say was, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you for transformation, for healing, for new eyes that can see with life rather than gridlines. This is wonderful.”

“You’re welcome, Little Monk. I could not do this, replace your very eyes, until you finally reached a moment that you were willing to go without sight, rather than continue to sin in your vision. That flash of surrender, that moment of your frustration, makes this possible. It is My joy to gift the Father’s children… always.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“If your eye offends thee…”

I never truly understood what He meant by this until today. And there is nothing, nothing at all, like transformation. Even one small bit at a time!

Grace to thee, Gentle Reader! — The Little Monk


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When Posts Collide — Train Wreck

I had intended to begin this post with the observation that I have been “hoist on my own petard”… and that…(*someday I must look up what a “petard” looks like. Perhaps I’ll do that to illustrate this post. Sounds painful, anyway… Oops… let that cat go, Little Monk… stay on topic… OK*).

But then I DID look it up, and found THIS… which I could not resist putting here. After looking this up, seeing the etymology of the word and references to flatulence, I’m not sure I’ll ever use this phrase again… nonetheless…

petardA petard was a small bomb used to blow up gates and walls when breaching fortifications, of French origin and dating back to the sixteenth century. A typical petard was a conical or rectangular metal object containing 2–3 kg (5 or 6 pounds) of gunpowder, with a slow match as a fuse. Petard comes from the Middle French peter, to break wind, from pet expulsion of intestinal gas, from the Latin peditus, past participle of pedere, to break wind, akin to the Greek bdein, to break wind (Merriam-Webster). … Read More »

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Anyway, if you have been with me the past couple weeks you’ll recall that I recently came to a painful but profound epiphany on “judging”, (realizing that to judge is a sin, and Jesus wants us not to do it… and He said so… a time or two). My current state is “Jesus gives me training wheels”, a stage in transformation by renewal wherein the Lord graciously sets up kind of a “buzzer” or “alarm” in my spirit when I start to pull out “measurement instruments” in looking upon someone else.

I am deeply indebted to Paulfg (“Just me being curious“) for following my realization on forward with the question, “Well, in that our nature and DNA are set up to ‘assess’, but God warns us off from ‘judging’, what DID He intend that part of our nature to be rightly used for?” And that made great sense, we are made in His image, so… this HUGE part of the way we perceive can’t just be there as a “stumbling block”. Then Paul actually answered the question himself when he proposed, “perhaps God intends it to be used to realize the needs of others, and provide for them!” EUREKA! Of Course! How OBVIOUS once you see that! It’s not a matter of “measuring and comparing” the strengths or weaknesses of others (or even ourselves), as much as it is a matter simply of “recognizing what is needed” that we provide for it. Simple, eh? Six decades… and I can wake up to a First Grade Sunday School Lesson. Amazing, innit?

So.. I now walk in the shoes of the “reforming addict”… quite sensitive to my own tendency to “judge” and evaluate… sensitive and attentive to any “warning buzz” that Jesus puts to my perception or cognition when I start to move into “white lab-coat mode”… and fleeing like a scalded cat from “proximate occasions of sin” or situations that will tempt me beyond my strength. (Like an alcoholic avoiding bars or taverns. Not necessarily an issue of sin per se… but certainly a proximate occasion and potential trigger of sin for me.)

Fine, so far so good. Please pray for me in my ongoing efforts of reform. So… where does this “Petard” part come in, eh?

Well, I just posted The Jeweler’s Tale regarding the creation and nature of a Bondservant. Here is the relevant scriptural text:

21 “Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them:

“If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment. If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently. [Exodus 21]

All I had intended to highlight in this post is how deeply ingrained this Old Testament concept of a “bondservant”, a “slave” who begins their “slave career” under duress and constraint… but then “falls in love” and volunteers to give up their liberty forever… how deep this Truth reflects our lives as Christians. Or at least, the availability of such a state, when undertaken by choice. That’s ALL I meant to comment on.

In preparing that, I did some research on the concept of “doulos” and “bondservant”, and happened upon what looked like a very scholarly theological consideration of this idea. Reading on through the article, I saw that the author was incredibly critical… condemned the use of the word “bondservant” in the New Testament… argued that the Greek word “doulos” had two, and only two available meanings… “slave” or “servant”… and that all this “bondservant” stuff was fundamentally sentimental mush inserted by a 19th Century lexicographer who totally mistranslated and misinterpreted Paul and the other scriptural authors.

Well, Gentle Reader, just wave a red flag in front of a bull, why doncha!!??

My adrenalin shot up. My sarcasm kicked in. Instantly, I’m talking to my computer screen like, “What the heck! Where did this guy ever do his Bible Studies? Has he even READ Exodus? No, the Greeks didn’t have a word for “volunteer slave”… who’d ever have thought of such a thing but God? That is a Hebrew concept. Paul knew it well. It was the law in Israel, not Greece! What’s WRONG with this guy?” (Do you start to see my problem here? If not, revisit “Pulling the Heads off Flies“, because man oh man, I am gleefully decapitating this so and so like nobody’s business.) Bear in mind, all I’m seeing are words on a page… no names… no idea what’s up with all that.

Right… so… far from the “Petal for the Day” being the beauty of “Doulos” as a Christian concept of “servanthood by love”… apparently, MY “Petal for the Day” is: “Let’s see how serious you are, Little Monk, about learning not to judge?”

Because, when I finished the article and decided to get to the root of the website… come to find out two things… One: This is a BIG NAME Preacher/Pastor/Author/Speaker/Church Expert in the Protestant Universe… (I think I even own one of his commentaries)… and Two: His most recent blog post and theme is “Naming Names” of theologically unsound preacher/teachers, and “rooting heretics out of the Church” when they say “scripturally wrong” things (translate: disagrees with him).

And OK, right about there, the Lord finally just “thumped me in the head”. “NO! Little Monk, NO! Don’t TOUCH!” in His sharpest tones. Thereby, FINALLY, getting my attention!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, Gentle Reader, nothing here but a “journal report along the journey”. Here I sit, convicted and repentant/determined… and confused… in the ruins of my own personal “spiritual train wreck” where the ideas of Doulos and Don’t Judge, just collided full force top speed.

I am backing away slowly from all that adrenalin. I will NOT rise to the bait again. That minister is a dedicated son and servant to Our Father. It is not my role or my right to evaluate his performance. He stands or falls before his own master, because his master strengthens him to stand or fall. (cf Romans 14). But… but…

Feel free to pray for me, Gentle Reader. For this is like a diabetic choco-holic sitting in front of a 5-layer fudge cake, while the Lord sits alongside slowly repeating… “don’t touch it… don’t touch it…. don’t touch it…” It just seems like it’s CALLING my NAME!!!

Anyway, do check out the concept and idea of a Bond-servant. Don’t worry about whether Greeks knew about “love-slaves” or not. This word “doulos” is the word Mary used to answer Gabriel when her maternity was explained to her. The phrase we know as “Behold the handmaid of the Lord…” uses “doule“, and no part of scripture ever indicates that she was legally enslaved either by debt or by war.

Meantime, I’m going to pray to bless, and be grateful for the servanthood and presence of my brother pastor… and wait for my heart, sentiments, and adrenalin to catch up with my conscience, discernment, and will.

Thanks for being here. Thanks for your prayers! We’re all in this together! Grace to you! — The Little Monk


Posted by on February 18, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized


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Keeping Your Head on Straight — Not a Fable

Drosophila melanogasterOnce upon a time… I used to pull the heads off flies.


  • I was only following orders.
  • I did it for the “greater good”.
  • I was swift, steady, gentle, and merciful
  • They were very small flies, (fruitflies, gnats, no-see-ums, the kind of fly we wipe off the back of our necks on a warm summer evening on the porch).

Drosophila melanogaster – the common fruitfly

Biology pre-med major… lots of bio lab courses… histology… genetics… experimenting with fruit flies. Breeding them. Then, measuring them. Anesthetizing a tube of dozens, sprinkling a few out, grasping one with forceps and placing it (the size of a gnat… a no-see-um) on my slide, separating the head from the body carefully to preserve the salivary glands intact, applying stain and solvent then a cover slip to the glass slide, and putting it under the microscope (that had a grid, and measurement scales on it), to measure and classify the results.

Jesus had brought these memories back to me with crystal clarity. He focused, minutely, on the diligence, the care I would take, my hands… steady and careful, my eyes… obsessed with getting just the accurate count of hairs (or whatever criterion evaluated)… the care to focus perfectly… to standardize my scales properly… then notate my results without error. He reminded me of my intensity to attain perfection in this! (For I was very dedicated, indeed.)

What had brought this memory about? What was Jesus teaching me at the time?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

About a week ago… Saturday… I was reviewing some notes on The Lord’s Prayer and Sermon on the Mount. Suddenly these verses stopped me, amplified, and would not let go of me…

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you…” [Matthew 7]

(I’m sure you’ve known such moments from time to time.) And the Lord was present, and intense. Not angry… not at all… just… well, “intense” is the only word I can find. It was clear, He was “teaching”… “renewing”… “transforming”… and I just had to hold still and “hear Him… wait Him out… let Him ‘speak’ into my heart in such a way that He accomplished His purpose”. (I wish I had better words for such moments. They happen seldom, and they are “cosmic” in impact, and I’ve never found the right language to wrap around them, because they are “wordless” moments. All I could do was “wait” and “attend”.)

Don’t “judge”… (And I DO this… all the time… so STOP IT!) That simple!

I mean, really… how simple is that? God said.. “Don’t judge, Little Monk. It’s above your pay grade. It’s not your role. It’s not your right. When you do it, you bring judgment upon yourself! Just… just… DON’T!”

How SIMPLE is that?

And yet… and yet… I’ve done it every day of my life, since I was old enough to… probably about 3 years old or so. At LEAST every day, no doubt every HOUR, sometimes for hours on end! Pride is, and has ever been, my besetting sin. I was raised this way. I was raised “proud”, and “elitist”. I was raised constantly to “keep score”… grades, popularity, wealth, intelligence, social standing, uprightness. Later this translated into piety, dedication, holiness, even servanthood. (How ironic is that? To keep a “pride meter” going on how “humble” you are?! Nonetheless, it can be done, trust me on that!)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

After ruthlessly showing me my ongoing failure to overcome my sin of judging, Jesus had rolled that “instant replay video” of the “white lab-coated me” before my eyes. Reaching out for my specimens, examining them, measuring them, drawing my conclusions, making my notes.

He likened all of that to “judging”, and said that across my whole life, I had tried to overcome my sin of judging by trying to rid myself of my methodical diligence. I’d tried to learn not to tear apart the bug. Not to stain the glands. Not to mount the slide. Not to measure the outcome. Not to notate the results… I tried to “unlearn diligence”, thinking I was “doing right”. And, He concluded, rather matter-of-factly… I’d failed. My whole life, I had tried to correct this sin this way, and failed. Not utterly… I’d succeeded in muddling the process up to now. He said I’d made some progress… I no longer came up with my “quantitative result”, and I never ever “wrote the results down in my notes” anymore. Good show! But…

But… I had missed His point entirely. “The sin,” Jesus said, “is not in the means you use to measure and evaluate the specimen. The sin, is in believing that you have a ‘specimen to evaluate’ in the first place! Your sin of judgment isn’t in how you treat the fly to measure it. Your sin is in ‘seeing a fly’ and reaching for it at all!

“Don’t you see, Little Monk? Your judging isn’t in ‘HOW you answer the question of another’s worth’. You sin by judging when you think you have the right to ASK the question at all! From that point on, you’ve violated their sacredness, and all the rest is just a matter of degree.

“I’m not telling you just to quit measuring and evaluating everything. I’m telling you to stop even asking the question, even framing the thought, or allowing your mind to reach out to anyone or anything else to ‘evaluate’… beyond simply distinguishing or identifying it, him, or her.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It took me a while, Gentle Reader, even to UNDERSTAND what He was saying. Wondrously, He almost seemed to “still time” for me, for a number of hours to grapple with my own “hardness of heart and head”, until I could SEE, I could HEAR, what He was saying here. When at last I did…

When finally I did… I was horrified. I DID see, I DID hear. And it horrified me. I got it. Now, to make a long story short, having now embraced this conviction, I renounced it, and tried to resolve never to do this again.

But you know what? I failed. For hours I tried… until I realized that it was as if there were “gridlines” in my very eyes. For me to THINK about anyone, anything, ideas, positions, opinions, people… was for me REFLEXIVELY to evaluate them… reach out and grasp them, define their “edges”, and then “measure them” according to my own criteria and judge them, good/bad, like/don’t like, right/wrong, want/don’t want… on and on without pause or reflection. I tried, for several hours I tried… and failed dismally. I could not stop myself.

I wondered why? I asked Him why? Where had I learned this? Why was this so deeply a part of how I even LOOK AT things, let alone think about them? Where did I pick this up, that I could learn to “put it down”? How could I “unlearn” this?

The Lord was gracious enough to respond…

“It is in you from the beginning. It is part of Original Sin. It IS the original sin of Eve. The Serpent posed her a proposition, a different view of God’s will, and she BOUGHT IT. That there was some ‘conceivable good’, some good thing, some advantage available to her and Adam, that was outside of and contrary to, the will of God. She conceived the possibility that God’s mind and words held something less than their utter, and absolute, good. She ‘tested this hypothesis’, and ‘measured’… looking upon the fruit and measuring it against three criteria of her choice… that it was a delight to the eyes, good for food, and desirable to make one wise. She MEASURED, then concluded, decided, and acted.

“Your drive to do this, Little Monk, is a part of your very DNA, your legacy from Adam and Eve.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now… I want to do something unusual here.

I am going to stop. I will offer “my” conclusion to this post tomorrow (Lord, willing). But this was a very VERY “experiential” moment of prayer in my life. I want to invite you, Gentle Reader, to experiment on your own.

No, don’t go pulling the heads off fruitflies, or anything else. But take a few minutes, see if you “judge” as regularly as you see me convicted of here, see if after a few minutes you can “Get it”, as I struggled to do…

It’s not… murder, but anger… not adultery, but lust…. not measuring, but asking… “Sin”, as Jesus would have us avoid it, is not in “what we DO to others”, but how we “LOOK UPON others”. That was a tough, tough realization for me.

Jesus gave me time. Quiet time. To hear, to ponder, to consider His words, to look at scripture, to see those words… before He concluded this episode and lesson for me.

So, I want to give YOU time as well. Consider all this, “look upon Your Rose” with all this, and let the Holy Spirit speak into your own heart. Then come back, and see whether you and I come to the same, or similar places.

This has a happy ending, I assure you. It may surprise you, or it may not, but it’s nothing to shrink away from… truly. No pain here, no guilt, shame… in fact… how Jesus dealt with THAT may actually make you laugh.

Meet you here tomorrow, Good Lord willin’ an’ the creek don’ rise (as my mother used to say)…

Blessings and grace to thee, Gentle Reader! — The Little Monk


Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized


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