Do I train like my dad, the Ironman?

And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.
Luke 5:11 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.5.11.NLT

My dad, Jim Ballinger, is 64, and he is an Ironman. In fact,  he is training for Ironman Florida right now. We talked yesterday and he shared with me that the training that he does is tougher mentally than it is physically. He explained that he has no one training with him this time and the long sessions can feel lonely at times. I asked if he ever tries listening to something in one ear while he trains,  but he explained that the distraction is too dangerous since there are situations that come up that you must be prepared for our you could be caught up in an accident. Other people aren’t very mindful or aware enough to look out for someone riding a bike 100 miles or running a long distance as they train for an event that seems foreign or impossible to most of the world.

A few hours earlier, my wife and I had run into, Mark Foster, a great friend, pastor, and fellow child of the One True God in the produce section at Ingles as we gathered our groceries for the week. Our discussion was on the focus and dedication that it takes to successfully walk in the Spirit and to “Go and sin no more.” But our conversation was about that it is possible with great focus and dedication and training,  that we are not yet perfect,  but our goal is to strive after perfection – to live our lives as a sacrifice,  making Christ our addiction,  seeking first the Kingdom of God.

The parallels between training for an Ironman and training for our final destination to be proven before Christ as a good and faithful servant have never been so clear to me as now. As I study this Word of God and learn to recognize those things in my own life that are tricks of the enemy,  I become equipped with the tools to battle and overcome those temptations in my life. And for most temptations, they flee from me once I am equipped in that area. But some return. And some return with stronger friends,  and I must continue to learn and grow and equip myself for battle.

Some would say, but your salvation is complete,  the battle is already won, Christ has completed the work – to which I would say,  “Yes, I am His and He is mine. That work is done and He is faithful and true. My salvation is complete. But my testimony is not.” You see, if I make it only about my own salvation, if I take this heaven ticket,  place it in my back pocket for the day I die,  and do nothing for the Kingdom of God,  if I turn back from the plow and try to use have as an excuse to remain in sin,  not battling to see sin overcome in my life, not sharing this gospel with others who are lost,  not making disciples and baptizing in His name, then how can I say that I’ve “left everything and followed Jesus”?

And as we train and as we grow in discernment, being equipped with more understanding of how to recognize and battle the tricks and traps of the enemy, those areas of our lives that need correction – unfortunately  this healing to our spiritual eyes also comes with the ability to see it in others. And while we are called to use it to strive for righteousness ourselves and do battle against those things in our lives that would spill our garments,  our testimony to the Lord – it can create division and separation and isolation from the world. We can find ourselves on a long,  narrow road, seemingly running forever,  with no brothers or sisters running beside us to the end – but Christ is always with us.

You see,  we are not just meant to look at our own salvation and celebrate when so many of our brothers and sisters are either lost in the darkness or are still soiling their garments. If we only use the grace that we’ve received to remain the same as the world in every other aspect of our lives other than a once a week praise and worship and a check to someone else who is serving the Lord,  then how precious and valuable can we say that the Lord is to us? Are we not like Israel, turning back to our idols in this world? Loving wealth,  comfort,  pleasure,  sports,  hobbies, loved ones,  more than we love God who died for us and offers us His hand in eternity?

So let’s lay down everything. Let’s set our sights on serving the Lord. Let’s count the cost and realize that Christ is the ONLY thing of value that we can cling to. Let’s get addicted to Christ.

And let’s train radically, to the world as if we were racing for the impossible. Let’s set our eyes upon striving for the righteousness of a life where we “go and sin no more”. But let’s remember even when we slip that He will catch us.

Today,  I ask you,  are your eyes set firmly upon your Lord and Savior? Are you training to show yourself approved? Or are you caught up in the distraction?

Focus.

Run.

Train.

Be diligent.

Strive for perfection,  not so that you may be found perfect (because you are not), but so that the Lord may be honored in your continued effort,  and so that your life shines as a living and undeniable testimony to others that the Lord has touched you,  has changed you,  and is doing a mighty work in you and through you. Do not worry about the stumbles,  even when visible to others – let the discipline you receive even be a testimony and a warning for others. Better that the Lord be honored as faithful and true than for me to shrink back from running the race to my best.

Walk it out. Talk is cheap. Love is valuable.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
James 2:14-16 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jas.2.14-16.ESV

What do our works today say about our faith?

What areas of our life are growing to be more like Christ today?

What is more important to grow in:
– our practicing religion
– giving money to the church
– our knowledge of the law
– our position of honor amongst men
– our ability to rightly divide the Word
– our loving and serving others

Jesus demonstrates His distaste in Matthew 23 for hypocrisy and religious practice. Demonstrations of religious practice is not what he seeks. Religious sacrifices are not what He seeks. Surrendered lives and renewed hearts are the things that He seeks.

Jesus describes hirelings and false prophets and points out the dangers of these wolves in sheep’s clothing. He tells us to be open handed to the point and needy and to be a cheerleader giver to the local church. He gives instructions to the church,  not about building great monuments and buildings,  but about helping the needy,  the poor,  the widows,  and the orphans. He doesn’t say make money and pay someone else to do your good works for you. No, we are all to participate in His Kingdom Work.

Jesus tells us to equip ourselves for sharing and defending the gospel. But He doesn’t say that we have to earn a degree in the law that is a curse to men,  He tells us that we can know all things,  but if we have not love,  we have nothing. He tells every believer to go out and make disciples and baptize in His name. Yes, it is for the elect,  but the elect are not just clergy,  the elect are the children of God. Do not listen to wolves and hirelings who want their payment in silver coins and tell you that the work of sharing the gospel is not for you, but yours is to give money. They are liars.

Jesus tells us to be first we must be last. He says that those who are exalted amongst men have received their reward already. So our goal is not that we be exalted,  but that He be given all the praise. If we are striving for honor and glory and position for ourselves, that is not honoring God,  that is honoring self.

Our ability to rightly divide the Word of God,  our ability to hear and recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd,  our ability to judge between the tricks of the enemy are important to us in our own walk more than they are in our correcting the walks of others. Our example speaks much lower than words. If we know how to rightly divide the Word of God in our speech,  but not in our lives – if we believe that the darkness that we walk in is light,  how deep is that darkness?

But when we walk in the Holy Spirit of Love,  when we see past the veil of the law, when we have the light within to examine with spiritual eyes, we know that Love,  True Godly Love, fulfills the law. All of the law and all of the words of the prophets hang on loving God and loving others. When we walk in this spirit,  the law is fulfilled. And walking is not just talking,  but it is active and doing. It is serving the hungry in the streets,  it is visiting the lost in prison,  it is visiting the afflicted in the hospital, it is sharing this gospel with the lost, it is showing compassion to the strangers,  it is helping those who have no way of repaying us. It is giving of ourselves until it hurts.

Christ’s example was that He traveled from town to town sharing the gospel even to people who hated Him and tried to kill Him, and then He died on a cross for you and for me,  so that He could be raised to life,  as the first of many songs and daughters of God to be raised to life. He told His followers,  pick up your cross and follow me – and they did it,  walking into persecution and death for the gospel message just like their teacher. Loving and serving all along the way.

So are we committed,  friends?

Are we serving daily?

Are we helping those in need? Or satisfied with our own wants?

Do we have compassion for those in need?

Or are we focused on ourselves?

Let’s open our eyes today and see the ways we can be more compassionate to those in need.

Walk it out, Christ followers.

Is the Spirit upon you?

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord ’s favor has come. ”
Luke 4:18-19 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.4.18-19.NLT

Are you ready to make this claim,  my Christian friends?

Or have you not received the gift of the Holy Spirit? Does Christ not live within you?

Test yourself to show yourself approved. Are you a Child of God or are you still sons of wickedness?

Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour,  but striving for righteousness to bring Him honor and glory?

The Holy Spirit of the Lord is upon me. I can tell you this not only boldly trusting in the Lord,  but humbly knowing that I do not deserve it. Nothing that I have done or will do is worthy of this Grace,  this calling, this touch of God upon my life. But nevertheless,  I tell you it is true. And I say it boldly,  not to boast in myself,  but to boast in Christ who lives in me.

He has called me to bring Good News to the poor. And those stockpiling the delicacies and comforts of this world are just as poor as those on the streets tired to their addictions. Those chasing after money and sex and pleasure are just as poor as those sitting in pews practicing traditions and doctrines of men. The treasures that we seek here on the earth are in no comparison to the glories of eternity. The Good News is that He tells us, blessed are the poor in spirit. So if we are going to be poor, let us be humble and seek first the Kingdom of God so that all these things will be added to us.

He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released. If we are a captive to our sins and want to be released from them, He tells us to cry out to Him,  to confess our sins in His name, to believe in Him,  to surrender our lives to have Him in authority over our lives, and those chains will be released. But if we cling to those chains,  if we long for the chains,  how can we say we are prisoners. Understand the chains that bind. See that you are in bondage to death and sin, and cry out to Jesus for your salvation.

That the blind will see. If you have no eyes to see and understand those things spiritual and eternal, listen to the words of my teacher, for my teacher is the Word of God, and in it you will find the fear of God that leads to wisdom and understanding. Your eyes will be opened to see the light, and you will no longer stumble in the darkness veiled to the truth of the Word of God. You will find healing both for your soul and for your body in the faith that can move mountains.

That the oppressed will be set free. Yes,  Christ demonstrates to us that the trials,  the persecutions, the actions of our enemies are no longer oppression when we walk with Him,  but they are opportunities to let Him shine forth in our lives. This is because He can turn what the enemy planned as stumbling blocks into a stairway lifting us up close to Him – as the fruit of the Holy Spirit love, joy,  peace,  patience,  kindness,  goodness,  faithfulness,  gentleness,  and self-control in response to challenges is clearly a different response than our nature would produce.

And that the time of the Lord’s favor has come. The favor of the Lord is upon me. I do not seek after riches or wealth or glory or honor amongst men,  but I seek to lift up His holy name by serving others,  by following Him,  by bearing the burdens of one another,  by loving even those who think they are my enemy. And in this surrender,  I have found both treasures that are eternal in Hope, Faith,  and Love – and the Lord is proven Faithful and True by providing everything that I need to fulfill my true purpose and calling white I travel through this foreign land. You see,  I am a Son of the One True God, I am a member of His royal priesthood, I am a Student at the feet of my master, I am a servant at the feet of my fellow man. And He provides overflowing and abundantly.

Do not misunderstand my words, I am not saying look to me or follow me. I am saying see past this flesh suit and see the, Christ who lives in me. Know that His promises are true. Make Him your Lord and Savior. Sit at His feet as your teacher and get the Word of God directly from the source. Know His love upon your life.

And know the anointing upon your life as well, my friends.

I love you. You are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Awake. Arise. Be born again in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior, and walk in His Spirit that is life,  not in the flesh. For the wages of sin is death.

Know the mercies of His Amazing Grace,  live your life as a living testimony of Christ who lives in you. Count the cost of Discipleship and set your eyes upon the true purpose for your life. Give Him the honor and praise and glory that He deserves.

Be the Church

Matthew 16:18

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

bethechurch

In Matthew 16, we see the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, demanding signs even though the could not see and interpret the clearly visible evidence of Christ, the Messiah, standing before them in the flesh of Jesus. These men were deep in religion but blind to the truth. Their faith was tied up in what they could see and measure in this world by the law, not by any understanding of the “heart”, the “why”, the “being”, the spiritual goings on behind the things clearly visible to them. Then after they have departed from the Pharisees, Jesus warns his disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees when their concerns fall back onto food and the concerns of this physical world. He makes the point that it is about faith. If we have faith in God, He will provide.

Continue reading “Be the Church”

Dead things shrink back, what’s alive GROWS!

Acts 20:20

I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes.

Even though we are to do the Lord’s work humbly, we are the stand upon the truth of the Word of God boldly.

notshrinkback

We are not to shrink away from sharing the truth, whether in public or in private. As in Phillipians 1:14, we should gain confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear. And 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that God has not given us a spirit of fear an timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

There are hurting people and lost souls in need of this gospel message – in need of healing and deliverance in their lives. The harvest is great, but the workers are few. Shrinking back from sharing the very thing that can change their lives is not only foolish, but it is not loving them. We are to love our brother and keep watch and warn him of danger. If he refuses to listen, at least a seed of love and truth should be planted. It is our job to sow the seeds.

Are you sowing seeds?

Both publicly in the midst of a lost world –

And privately within a close group of believers seeking to encourage each other and hold each other accountable?

Don’t shrink back. There is much work yet to be done.

Hebrews 10:39

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Prepare for the Sneak Attack

When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.
Luke 4:13 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.4.13.NLT

image

Temptation is opportunistic. Once we resist evil,  it will flee from us to hide in the shadows until another opportunity arises. Just because we have resisted something in the past doesn’t mean that we won’t face a similar attack again in the future.

Continue reading “Prepare for the Sneak Attack”

Greetings even amongst Reproof and Rebuke

1 Corinthians 16:19

The churches here in the province of Asia send greetings in the Lord, as do Aquila and Priscilla and all the others who gather in their home for church meetings.

lovingdiscipline

Paul is extending Christian Love between the churches where he is (modern day Turkey) and the church at Corinth. Even though this letter to the Corinthian church is primarily identifying and addressing problems within the body of believers at Corinth and offering corrections, he is doing it in a gentle manner with the intent of teaching them and bringing them to repentance. By reminding them of the faithful example of Aquilla and Priscilla who he had first met in Corinth and who had even risk their lives for him, he was drawing to their rememberance this couple that they knew personally, which would have underscored their unity as a body of Christ working together even though they were separated by distance.

Additionally, reminding the believers at Corinth of the close intimacy of home church meetings and the unity and accountability that it fosters is exactly the type of correction that the church at Corinth needed to see since it had grown and been infiltrated by the world.

Paul’s example also reminds me personally that when offering correction, the example set forth by God towards His children (see the 7 churches in Revelation) is an acknowledgement of what is glorifying God, and a reproof or rebuke of what needs to be corrected. Encouragement and accountability working hand in hand towards the edification of the church.

Paul does not call those at Corinth false teachers and begin casting stones at them even though their error in several areas is clearly apparent. Instead, he offers them instruction, he holds them accountable, and he encourages them to repent from their ways. We are not peddlers of religious practice or legalism, we are bearers of the Holy Spirit of God, who bears the fruit of godly love – which is manifest in our handling life’s challenges with joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. And especially in times of church discipline as Paul’s letter to the believers at Corinth displays, we must be careful to handle disease and disruption within the body with care so that we do not fall into sin ourselves.

Isolation, either physically or emotionally, is not the way

Spring fog

Proverbs 18:1

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that men’s hearts are deceitful, and Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us not to lean upon our own understanding. Proverbs 15:22 tells us the importance of wise counsel. In the book of Job, they each felt themselves wise until the Lord asks what do they know of the ways of God.

Yes, seeking God involves our studying and rightly dividing the Word of God, but we are not to be monks hidden away, we are to be shining lights on a hill, we are supposed to be loving and serving others. If we isolate ourselves, it may be because we are more interested in believing that we have it all figured out instead of seeking to learn and share and sharpen with others.

Ours is not a calling to knowledge alone, which puffs up, but it is a calling to unity with the body of Christ. Dissention and division are the enemies of unity and love. So we should seek wise counsel, and weigh one another’s words alongside our own opinions on scales that are not biased, but that are seeking truth. Anything less is vanity.

If we find ourselves isolated from others in the body of Christ, we must ask ourselves, are we seeking God’s will, or are we focused on self. We must ask ourselves, are we intent on discovering and applying the Word of God in our lives, or are we focused on defending what we think is right. Are we serving and loving our brothers, or acting as an accuser of the brethren who is intent upon His own foolish purposes? Are we seeking unity or are we intent upon quarrelling?

James 1:19

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Titus 3:9-11

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Baptism

image

One day when the crowds were being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. As he was praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy. ”
Luke 3:21-22 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.3.21-22.NLT

Jesus Christ himself,  God come in the flesh, our Savior, even though He was sinless and without blemish, participated in water baptism,  being plunged beneath the waters of the Jordan river. The baptism itself was not the act that washed Him clean,  because He was already clean from sin. But the testimony of His baptism brought glory and honor to God.

We should look at baptism in the light of bringing glory and honor to God. If we are saved,  if we have been baptized by the Holy Spirit which is a blessing given to us by God,  we should give thanks to God and participate in water baptism as a testimony to bring glory and honor to God. It is one of the ways that we can bless God in return.

Continue reading “Baptism”

Spread the Word

Spread the Word.

Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”
Luke 2:34-35 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.2.34-35.NLT

Jesus leaves no middle ground. When a man comes into this world whose very birth separates our recording of time into BC and AD, when this man makes claim to be God come in the flesh and teaches many wonderful things and performs many great miracles – it leaves us in a position where we must either take Him at his word and believe Him,  or we will deny Him.

Continue reading “Spread the Word”