Do you hear what I hear?

When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.
1 Corinthians 2:13 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1co.2.13.NLT

Godly wisdom, spiritual wisdom,  discernment.

These are things that come from being close to the Holy Spirit of God, not from reading and thinking and examining alone. Because the Pharisees,  the religious leaders of the time used human wisdom to examine the law and come up with ways to work around the letter of the law but to still have evil in their hearts – missing the whole point of the law.

This is because their minds were veiled to the truth, they were trying to understand God’s perfect and divine instruction from a perspective of worldly understanding and of intellectual reasoning and of theological debate alone – but their ears were closed to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd who brings the Word of God to life in our hearts. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is written on our hearts,  not just loaded into our minds. Yes, this is an important difference.

A detective who has gathered all of the facts and evidence detailing the events of a crime,  but who has no insight into the desires or motivations or intent of those involved in the circumstances is not going to be very effective in reconstructing the crime – in putting together the “whole picture”. The same can be said for those who call themselves Christians. If we just have our own intellect to rely upon, we might take pieces of the Word of God and use what we like to support our own opinions while ignoring the rest. But the Holy Spirit brings us discernment, it teaches us the value of the whole Word of God, it convicts us in ways that press us into uncomfortable areas of growth,  and it chastise us in those areas where we are not in God’s will.

And just because we aren’t convicted against something doesn’t mean that it is okay for us to do. It might mean that we are refusing to listen to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. There are other spirit voices out there that are more than happy to tickle our ears with deception, giving us something less than God’s will to set our desires upon,  which is why we are given the Word of God to test all spirits.

Salvation isn’t a flip of the light switch and all is perfect, this is a ministry of reconciliation as we are restored to the image of Christ,  as we are taught a lesson at a time,  as we grow trial by trial and struggle by struggle,  as we choose with each breath whether we will respond in our flesh nature or allow the Holy Spirit to shine through.

Salvation isn’t a heaven ticket purchased once upon a time to someday get to turn in after we die as much as it is a race to the finish where we get to participate in seeing God’s Kingdom come and His will be done through us today and each day until we return into the fullness of His presence.

And if that sounds like works, if that sounds like striving, you can’t hear my voice – you are only looking at the written words, with no understanding of the message that I am trying to convey. You see, it isn’t out of obligation that I want to obey the Word of God – it is out of gratitude. And I am grateful because I believe, and I have discernment to understand because of the Holy Spirit alive within me.

This is why belief, faith,  is the requirement. Because without faith, we might fall into empty religious practice, lifting up sacrifices of works and ceremony,  hoping to one day trade them in for a reward,  but having no true love for God,  having no real relationship with God, having no change within our child,  hardened hearts. Because without faith,  we might see a promise of grace and use it as an excuse to remain in the darkness of our sinful lives, never seeking to be doers of the Word of God, because we were never seeking God and His righteousness, we were just hoping to escape punishment and to enjoy the treasures and reward.

But I tell myself this – since Jesus is our portion and our prize,  and since heaven is a righteous place filled with the glorious radiance of His presence all day long, every day – I can understand why before I fell in love with Him that I had no real interest in being there for eternity – but now that I know that there is nothing else worth having,  where else could I turn?

This is why I say to you,  friend,  choose today who you will serve. So not be lukewarm. If you do not love the Lord,  if you are not yet fully surrendered – take heart,  because He is eagerly awaiting you to turn to Him and follow. We,  your brothers and sisters in Christ are eagerly awaiting you to join us in running this race and seeing this fight through to the end. But know that an end is coming,  and the day will come where the goats will be separated from the sheep, and some will be sent to their destruction and eternal torment,  while others will know the glory of His presence. I do not say this to scare you into a religious conversion, because neither fear nor religion alone will bring love to your heart for your Lord and Savior – but I do tell you so that you might know the truth, so that you will not be surprised on the day of judgement. And maybe,  just maybe, you will understand Godly wisdom because you are meant to listen to that voice of the, Holy Spirit bidding you to come home to your father’s house.

He is waiting for you.
Hear His voice.
Answer the call.
Love Him.
Show it.
Serve.
Fight.
Live.

Full vent? Or self control?

Proverbs 29:11 ESV
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.

Self control.

Not letting our emotions and desires control our lives.

Not letting our own opinions and our own will lead us, but examining and understanding which voice we are listening to, which master we are serving.

Proverbs 1:7 ESV
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Some who are heading towards destruction will say things like, “I’m not convicted against that” or “I think that we can…” and they will even claim the name of Jesus and talk about grace and forgiveness while they have no interest in loving Him, or following Him, or keeping His commandments, or serving others. They have no interest in learning or being changed. I know this, because that used to be me. I had no interest in a restored relationship with God, but I thought that I had bought my heaven ticket with a prayer and a little bit of religion “once upon a time”.

I was a fool.

I had no self control, I chased after whatever my flesh desired.

I had no interest in God’s will being done on earth through my life – I was only intrigued by the idea of escaping the consequences for my hellish actions.

I was a fool.

I had no fear of God, because I thought of Him as “buddy Jesus” who loved the sinners and hated the religious – which is true – but I had missed the why.

It wasn’t so they could remain where they were. He didn’t bring Good News so things would stay the same – He brings change, uncovering what is on the inside, shining light on the motives underneath that are hidden many times by the masks of outward appearance.

We can all recognize the lost sinners who are bearing only thorns and thistles in their lives, right? Can we agree they are not serving God of they don’t believe – if they have no interest in repentance?

But what about those who want to appear honorable but who have interest only in repentance as far as it is visible to others?

Thrre are those who want to appear religious in their words and who go to great lengths to be seen are the very ones who are working hard to hide their dark hearts. Those who want to be exalted and honored by other men as a “good man” or as someone worthy of honor are the very souls who are most lacking and in need of true integrity and honor. Yes, those areas of deficiency are the areas we try hardest to mask and to hide and to protect when we have no hope of healing.

But there is one who heals both of these ailments, and His name is Jesus Christ. He restores and makes us whole so that we have no need to hide those weaknesses anymore, nor do we have to remain fruitless. In fact, by removing the masks and admitting our weaknesses, He does an amazing thing – He changes us and what was once an embarrassment and a disgrace becomes an area of our lives c touched and changed by the annointing power of Jesus Christ.

My old ways when I had no interest in God’s will led me down some dark paths. Many lessons I had to learn the hard way,  because I didn’t yet believe our understand the value of the Word of God. I didn’t understand that God c truly has provided His divine instruction so that we might have the fullest and beat life by walking in His will and purpose,  protecting ourselves from the influence of the enemy and the inevitable consequences of being wrapped up in their traps.

But today,  those mistakes allow me to go into the jails and talk with others from a common perspective of understanding the struggles that they are going through,  because I have seen a similar path. Today,  those mistakes allow me to talk with someone dealing with addiction and not just be “some preacher with a perfect life that doesn’t know what he’s talking about”. Today those mistakes allow me to counsel someone who is wrapped up in sexual sin, pornography, adultery,  or going through a divorce and let them know without a doubt that Jesus Christ is strong enough to bring them through it and turn it to good – but only when we truly turn to Him.

And I share that turning to Him doesn’t guarantee freedom from the consequences. I see the consequences of my old actions and how it led others down rocky paths. I see how little eyes watched my old example and later followed in my footsteps into consequences of their own. I see that our life choices and our actions have more influence than our words or our Sunday church attendance records.

So I don’t want to be a fool any longer.

I don’t want you to be a fool any longer.

If you think that I’m talking about religion, look into the message within my words,  because my words alone are to weak to explain to your mind what my heart is trying to share with your heart. Don’t try to wrap your head around it. Let your heart chew on it.

Genesis 2:7 ESV
Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

John 3:16 ESV
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”
Luke 3:7-9 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.3.7-9.NLT

Revelation 2:17
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.

Isaiah 62:2
The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.

A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth. 
It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. 
Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. 
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. 
It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools. 
For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity. 
Surely oppression drives the wise into madness, and a bribe corrupts the heart. 
Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. 
Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools. 
Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this. 
Wisdom is good with an inheritance, an advantage to those who see the sun.  For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it. 
Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked?  In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.
Ecclesiastes 7:1-14 ESV
http://bible.com/59/ecc.7.1-14.ESV

Constructive Criticism

I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:4-9 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1co.1.4-9.NLT

Paul wrote this letter to the church at Corinth in order to correct and instruct them in some areas where they needed additional guidance. But he doesn’t just start out immediately rebuking and condemning them, calling them fake Christians, crushing their hope – he first  offers them encouragement for the things that they can hold onto as assurance of their salvation.

It isn’t that hard to find faults in other people. It isn’t hard to find faults in the people you will find in churches. We are very familiar with those faults c we find in others because we ought to recognize them from our own lives. This is the great danger in judging others, because we forget that we too need that undeserved gift of grace to make us right with God. In fact,  many people have been hurt by those who are inside the church buildings participating in religious activities,  sounding religious,  acting religious,  but having no true love for their brothers and sisters. Some would say that the number one reason for atheists today is the hypocrisy of those who call themselves Christians – and they are probably right.

Loving. Forgiving. Merciful. Righteous. Faithful. True. Patient. Peaceful. Meek. Bold. Gentle. Wise. Humble.

Yes,  these are words about you,  child of God. More specifically,  they are words about who you have been given the power to be, due to Christ who lives in you. And I commend you in some of these. And I recognize in myself that I have grown in some of these. But now,  I urge you to press on,  and to press in towards God who is drawing you near to Him. Do not become complacent in your confidence that you are His,  but let it store in you a hunger to be even closer to Him in your walk. Let it urge you to. Walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

For if we are growing,  we can know that we are alive, and we can enjoy this relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. But unfortunately,  how many of us are seeking a relationship with God,  versus how many just want Him “on our side” like a genie or a spare tire when we need the help that only He can provide? And I applaud you for not being like this,  friends of Christ, but for loving and seeking the Lord with your hearts.

But there are some who act like a pimp, perverting and pimping out the gospel truths and twisting them into nothing less than a feel good, self help guide for manipulating others for their own personal gain,  prosperity, and as an excuse / license for their remaining trapped deep in sin and darkness.

I am thankful that this is not you, child of God. But we must continue to press in further, to love one another with even more passion, to seek God with even more dedication and fervor, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in even a wider reach, to prepare ourselves for His return.

And why do we do this? It isn’t because we consider ourselves perfect – no,  that is that liar of pride distracting you from the truth, sinner. It isn’t because we are striving to earn treasures – do you not know that He is your portion and prize – have many blind guides not yet claimed the only inheritance worth having? It is because how can we accept such a gift,  such an undeserved gift, and not be grateful,  and not respond to His love in kind?

And how does He tells us to demonstrate our grattitude? How does He tell us to demonstrate our love for Him in return?

“If you love me, obey my commandments.
John 14:15 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.14.15.NLT

Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.  Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.
John 14:23-24 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.14.23-24.NLT

1 John 4:11 ESV
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another

If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.
1 John 4:20-21 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1jn.4.20-21.NLT

If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.
1 John 3:17-19 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1jn.3.17-19.NLT

Matthew 22:36-40 ESV
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
Galatians 5:1, 4-5, 13, 16-17, 19-26 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.1-26.NLT

Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. So I want to remind you, though you already know these things, that Jesus first rescued the nation of Israel from Egypt, but later he destroyed those who did not remain faithful.
And I remind you of the angels who did not stay within the limits of authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged. God has kept them securely chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the great day of judgment. And don’t forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgment.
In the same way, these people—who claim authority from their dreams—live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings.  But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.) But these people scoff at things they do not understand. Like unthinking animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction.
What sorrow awaits them! For they follow in the footsteps of Cain, who killed his brother. Like Balaam, they deceive people for money. And like Korah, they perish in their rebellion. When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you. They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots. They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the foam of their shameful deeds. They are like wandering stars, doomed forever to blackest darkness.
Enoch, who lived in the seventh generation after Adam, prophesied about these people. He said, “Listen! The Lord is coming with countless thousands of his holy ones to execute judgment on the people of the world. He will convict every person of all the ungodly things they have done and for all the insults that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want.
Jude 1:3-16 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jud.1.3-16.NLT

But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted. They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.
But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit,  and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.
And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.
Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.
Jude 1:17-25 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jud.1.17-25.NLT

Will You Join in my Struggle?

Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:30 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.15.30.NLT

Do we care enough to join in the struggles of other believers?

I have to admit that for me,  the answer is – “Not often enough,  but I’m learning to change.”

In our Friday night small group,  I’ve explained that one of our key goals is becoming a closely knit group that cares about each other. Not just a group that prays the grocery list of prayer requests,  but that digs into the emotions and spiritual struggles of each others’ situations both together in action and together in prayer – so that we mourn together and we celebrate together.

Unity in the body of Christ,  I have to believe is less about the facts and details of our theology and more about being of one mind and direction, seeking God’s will as communicated in the Word of God, being draw closer to the Lord in our walks, and in turn closer to one another. And when we are in unity seeking first the Kingdom of God and righteousness, all those other things, those things that Christ explains to the Pharisees are the lesser things – they will be added to us.

Doesn’t He tell us that love fulfills the law? Doesn’t He tell us that there is no law against the fruit of the Holy Spirit? Doesn’t He tell us that we should keep in step with the Spirit and not walk in the flesh?

So why is there so much bickering and argument over these lesser things, over the details of the law? Why are men so interested in learning about God in their minds but refusing to love in their hearts?

And someone might say, but what if I love someone or something that the Lord doesn’t love? And I say, how can this be unless it is sin,  unless it is evil?

And they will say,  but how can I know if someone is evil? And I say,  the Lord tells us that our enemies are not flesh and blood, that He does not wish that even one should perish, that we should love and pray for even those men and women whom we think are our enemies. Not to pray for their evil or wickedness to prevail,  God forbid! But that we pray that they come to know Christ closer and be delivered from those unseen forces that are influencing their lives because of the sin they have not yet released from their clutches.

Sinners cling to sin, that’s what we as men and women of flesh and blood do until it is cast out – until He who is in us overcomes it. But until then, we hold onto it,  we even try to hide it from ourselves. We act foolishly as if we can hide it from God,  like Adam and Eve in the garden. So we all need to be made aware of sin wherever it exists in our lives, and we need to pray for deliverance through His strength,  not just our own striving. We need to be opposed to sin, both in our lives and the lives of others – not so that we can consider ourselves perfect or expect others to be perfect – but so that we can do our part to minimize sin’s affect on ourselves and others.

You see,  God gives us divine instruction because He knows what is best. He wants to protect us from those things in the world that will harm us spiritually and eternally, and lead us into the life that is most rewarding. Now I must mention, that sometimes, worldly rewards, pleasures, and treasures can lie in direct opposition to us obtaining those eternal treasures. The divine instructions are about eternal treasure, not about the temporary things of this world. But the amazing thing is that once we set our eyes upon the eternal,  He provides for the temporary as well.

So this is the understanding that we want each to come to. And it isn’t a logical conclusion that we have calculated in our minds. It is not a theological proof that we are looking to exercise and manipulate within the world for our own profit and gain. It is a divine wisdom and understanding given to those who are unveiled Children of God, who are seeking His will, and not our own.

And it is foolishness to the wise of this world,  and even to the religious, because it isn’t about things that can be measured and compared between men. It isn’t even about something that we can fully lay claim to for ourselves until this race is at its end and we kneel before the one we call Lord.

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.  On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’  But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
Matthew 7:21-23 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.7.21-23.NLT

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things.
If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made. Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example.
For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.
But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.
Philippians 3:12-21 NLT
http://bible.com/116/php.3.12-21.NLT

It is the most important realization of our lives – that we are not worthy,  and neither are they – but that God in His mercy and grace extends His love to us, who will believe,  and who will follow,  and who will lay down their lives and be raised to a new life in Christ, running this race to the end,  understanding that we are temporary travelers in a strange land, headed along the narrow path back to our Father’s house, where He awaits with open arms.

I’m not concerned with the party. I’m not concerned with the celebration. I’m not concerned with the house that He’s prepared with many rooms. I’m not concerned with the riches and rewards.  I’m seeking my Father’s arms. Set toot eyes upon your destination, friends. Choose today what you are seeking,  for you will receive your heart’s desires – but will your heart’s desires be what you want in the end?

And if we want these things for ourselves,  shouldn’t we want them for others? If we say we love Him,  shouldn’t we love like Him. So go, get to know your brothers and sisters personally, and grow together during this temporary journey, and prepare yourself to return to His arms.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jhn.13.34-35.ESV

Repent? But I’m saved by faith!

2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Galatians 6:3-5 ESV
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

James 1:23-25 ESV
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
James 1:6-8 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jas.1.6-8.NLT

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
James 2:14-17 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jas.2.14-17.NLT

Lamentations 3:40 ESV
Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord.

Acts 17:30 ESV
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent

1 John 1:9 ESV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Acts 2:38 ESV
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”
Luke 3:7-9 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.3.7-9.NLT

“So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord , then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord .”
The people replied, “We would never abandon the Lord and serve other gods. For the Lord our God is the one who rescued us and our ancestors from slavery in the land of Egypt. He performed mighty miracles before our very eyes. As we traveled through the wilderness among our enemies, he preserved us. It was the Lord who drove out the Amorites and the other nations living here in the land. So we, too, will serve the Lord , for he alone is our God.”
Then Joshua warned the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord , for he is a holy and jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you abandon the Lord and serve other gods, he will turn against you and destroy you, even though he has been so good to you.” But the people answered Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord !”
“You are a witness to your own decision,” Joshua said. “You have chosen to serve the Lord .” “Yes,” they replied, “we are witnesses to what we have said.” “All right then,” Joshua said, “destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the Lord , the God of Israel.” The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God. We will obey him alone.”
Joshua 24:14-24 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jos.24.14-24.NLT

Titus 3:5 ESV
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Revelation 2:5-6 ESV
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Are you dressed for service?

Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning,  as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks.
Luke 12:35-36 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.12.35-36.NLT

So we should ask ourselves:

1) Am I clothed in His righteousness? Am I believing in Him at this very hour?

2) Am I eagerly awaiting His return?

3) Am I ready to open the door and let Him in?

If the answer in your heart cries out,  “Yes,  come,  Lord Jesus,  come!” then I urge you to continue pressing on to see this race to its finish.

But if your mind tells you the answer you are supposed to respond with,  but your heart is not quite yet in step – I urge you to go to the Lord in heartfelt and humble prayer,  asking Him to come into your life and overcome your doubt and unbelief. I encourage you to lay down any unforgiven essential or bitterness you have towards others and accept His forgiveness for your life. My hope is that you might know the hope and joy and gratitude that comes from a life saved by the grace of Jesus Christ.

And this change of direction is just the beginning. He has a life and purpose ahead for you who are willing to follow. He calls out to each of us to go forth, to follow in His footsteps – He calls us to be faithful servants.

And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them.  If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward.  I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns.  But what if the servant thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk?  The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful.
“And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished.  But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.
Luke 12:42-48 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.12.42-48.NLT

The Gospel

He is…

Hospitality or Entertaining?

When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Romans 12:13 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.12.13.NLT

Today, instead of my own commentary I’m sharing directly a few of the resources that I use when studying a topic:

1) Life Application Study Bible
2) http://www.OpenBible.info
2) http://www.WhatChriatiansWantToKnow.com

Life Application Study Commentary
REF: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/59-life-application-study-bible-devotion

“Christian hospitality differs from social entertaining. Entertaining focuses on the host: The home must be spotless; the food must be well prepared and abundant; the host must appear relaxed and good-natured. Hospitality, by contrast, focuses on the guests. Their needs-whether for a place to stay, nourishing food, a listening ear, or acceptance-are the primary concern. Hospitality can happen in a messy home. It can happen around a dinner table where the main dish is canned soup. It can even happen while the host and the guest are doing chores together. Don’t hesitate to offer hospitality just because you are too tired, too busy, or not wealthy enough to entertain.”

OPENBible.info Topical Search
REF: http://www.openbible.info/topics/hospitality

Matthew 25:34-46 ESV
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

What does the Bible say about Hostility? A study by Derek Hill
REF: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/what-does-the-bible-say-about-hospitality-a-christian-study/

Hospitality is a term that seems to be fading away in today’s culture.  People are becoming much more reliant on themselves.  Unfortunately, this is creating a mindset of “I don’t want someone to have to do something nice for me.”  I remember growing up and going to visit my grandma.  I realize now that I am older that I loved going to her house so much because of her hospitality.  She always fed us three square meals a day and she let us use her home as if it were our own.  She loved us through action and not just by saying “I love you.”  Now-a-days, people would rather go out to a restaurant than invite people over and cook for them.  Entertaining can be a chore with all that goes into it, but the benefits outweigh the pains.  Let us look into scripture and see what God says about hospitality:

Hospitality Requires Kindness
1 Peter 4:9 says, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”  Have you ever watched someone do something because they had to and not because they wanted to?  Most of the time people will neither show joy nor gladness when they are doing something simply out of duty.  I remember working in the fast-food industry.  I served people food all of the time.  I was usually doing it out of duty because that was my job.  I also found myself complaining about my job sometimes.  I wasn’t being hospitable towards my customers at all.  Hospitality requires sincerity and kindness.  I should have served my customers with the mind-set of “I care about you as a person.”

Hospitality Should Be Shown To Everyone
Leviticus 19:34 says, “You shall not treat the stranger that sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”  Every single person on this planet deserves love because we have been shown the ultimate love  through Jesus’ death and resurrection for our sins.  Jesus showed us the perfect model for hospitality because “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)  Before you and I accepted Christ, He already paid our debt on the cross.  He loved us enough to die for us all.  I can’t even love someone enough to give them a ride somewhere sometimes.  God calls us to love everyone and hospitality goes a long way, especially to those who don’t expect it from us.  So, give your co-worker a ride home, even if you don’t know them very well.  Share your lunch with other people that have none.  Invite some friends over to your house and entertain them.  You will plant a seed that God can grow.

Hospitality Goes Further Than You Think
God calls us to love everyone, including strangers, but you may be doing much more than you thought when you do this.  Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”  What a phenomenal passage of scripture!  When we show genuine hospitality to a stranger, we may be serving an angel of God.  This is absolutely amazing!  There are stories of angels appearing before men all throughout scripture, but angels still appear before us today.  How amazing will it be when you are in heaven and an angel says, “thank you”, to you because of your hospitality?

Hospitality is the Velcro that Joins us Together
Hospitality comes from deep within your soul.  It is a symptom of the joy that is in your heart.  When you hold the door open for someone, help an elderly person with their groceries, offer to babysit for free, buy the person’s food behind you in the drive-through lane, or any act of kindness, the reaction is almost always the same.  The person that you have helped will usually say, “thank you”, and they will feel good deep inside their soul because of your kindness.  Doing good for others many times makes them want to do good for someone else too.  It feels good to serve others.  Serving others makes them want to be around you more and it makes them better people too.  Look in the New Testament.  Read the Gospels.  Jesus is the model of hospitality.  He had crowds in the thousands following Him because of His compassion for them.  Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7 all encompass the sermon that Jesus gave on a mountain.  He came down the mountain in chapter 8 and healed a leper.  Then He healed a Centurion’s servant.  Then He went into Peter’s house and healed Peter’s mother-in-law.  That evening He healed many who were oppressed by demons.  Then He calmed a raging storm while He crossed the Sea of Galilee.  When He got to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, He healed 2 men with demons.  He left there immediately because He was asked too, so He went back to Capernaum and then He healed a paralytic man.  After that He calls Matthew to be His disciple, and the story keeps going.  Do you see what I mean?  Jesus was hospitable to everyone.  He had compassion to keep going on and healing the sick while spreading His story of redemption.  Look at how many people joined around Jesus because of His “Velcro.”

Conclusion
Hospitality is an action of love shown to those we love and those we do not love.  It is contagious and warms the hearts of those it touches.  I encourage you to be as hospitable as possible while you are still here on earth.  God calls us to it and He deserves our all.  God bless you as you continue to live a life worthy of the calling.

Self Defense

If you have questions about God’s position on Self Defense, War, etc. – I suggest contemplating these scriptures and their implications for both physical and spiritual defense of yourself and your family. Remember, God weighs the heart – so consider and examine your heart (your intent, desire, and the true reasons behind your actions – reflect your willingness to obey God’s will as opposed to your own personal opinions or desires).

We have an ability and a responsibility to provide for and protect our families.

Luke 11:21 ESV
When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe;

1 Timothy 5:8 ESV
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Be prepared to defend yourself

Luke 22:36 ESV
He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.

Psalm 144:1 ESV
Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;

Nehemiah 4:17-18 ESV
Who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me.

Live peaceably if it is possible

Romans 12:18 ESV
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Matthew 5:39
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

But do not give way before the wicked. Stand up for truth.

Proverbs 25:26 ESV

Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.

Psalm 94:16 ESV
Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers?

And be prepared even to die for the protection of others if necessary.

John 15:13 ESV
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

There will be times when we are at peace and times when we are at war.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 ESV
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

Do not let yourself fall into a spirit of revenge, ours is to protect, vengeance is His to repay.

Romans 12:19 ESV
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Rulers have the authority to bear the sword as an avenger on behalf of God’s will.

Romans 13:1-14 ESV
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

Numbers 31:3 ESV
So Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute the Lord’s vengeance on Midian.

1 Samuel 25:13 ESV
And David said to his men, “Every man strap on his sword!” And every man of them strapped on his sword. David also strapped on his sword. And about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage.

Joel 3:10 ESV
Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, “I am a warrior.”

Esther 8:11 ESV
Saying that the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods,

Not all killing is murder. In fact, sometimes not killing is not obeying God’s will.

1 Samuel 15 (ESV)

The Lord Rejects Saul

15 And Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord. Thus says theLord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction[a] all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

So Saul summoned the people and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand men on foot, and ten thousand men of Judah. And Saul came to the city of Amalek and lay in wait in the valley. Then Saul said to the Kenites, “Go, depart; go down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them. For you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. And Saul defeated the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt.And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves[b]and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.

10 The word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11 “I regret[c] that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the Lord all night.12 And Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning. And it was told Samuel, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself and turned and passed on and went down to Gilgal.” 13 And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” 14 And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” 15 Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.” 16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! I will tell you what the Lord said to me this night.” And he said to him, “Speak.”

17 And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And theLord sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” 20 And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. I have gone on the mission on which the Lordsent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” 22 And Samuel said,

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
    as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to listen than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
    and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
    he has also rejected you from being king.”

24 Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may bow before the Lord.” 26 And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” 27 As Samuel turned to go away, Saul seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore. 28 And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. 29 And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” 30 Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel,and return with me, that I may bow before the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel turned back after Saul, and Saul bowed before the Lord.

32 Then Samuel said, “Bring here to me Agag the king of the Amalekites.” And Agag came to him cheerfully.[d] Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” 33 And Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hacked Agag to pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.

34 Then Samuel went to Ramah, and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. 35 And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.

 

Believe?

believe
v. to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so

Confidence in the truth. Confidence NOW.

And in John 3:16, “believe” is used in the present tense – not in the past tense (not I “once believed”, I “once said a prayer”) – nor in the future tense ( not I’m “learning how to believe” )

John 3:16 ESV
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

——

hope
v. want something to happen or be the case

Our hope is for things to come. Hope is about the FUTURE.

Romans 5:2-5 ESV
Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

——

forgive
v. cancel a debt

Forgiveness is about a debt already incurred. Forgiveness is about the PAST.

1 John 1:9 ESV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

——

Let’s make sure that we have them in order.

BELIEF is a CONFIDENCE NOW.
IF WE BELIEVE, our PAST is FORGIVEN.
IF WE BELIEVE, there is HOPE for our FUTURE.

But WITHOUT BELIEF, we cannot ignore our PAST, nor claim our FUTURE.

2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 ESV
Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

——

Are you interested in believing, but you aren’t really sure what to do to get there? Contact me anytime. There is NOTHING in your past that cannot be forgiven. There is NOTHING in your future that cannot still be claimed. I encourage you to seek Him while you still can, friend. Start believing today, now – even with this very breath.

Imaginary, pretended, phony – or real?

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
Romans 12:9-10 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.12.9-10.NLT

1) Love people. Genuine love
2) Hate what is wrong.
3) Delight in honoring each other

I’m realizing that many that I hear speaking religious/spiritual messages are good at 2 out of the 3, but few encorporate all 3 equally into a message. Yes, even my own imperfect delivery at times leans to one or the other – that’s why I’m still growing and learning. 

Many worldly churches of the day are excited to talk about loving others and honoring each other, but they carve out the parts of the Word of God that talk about hating what is wrong,  about living a righteous life, about the cost of Discipleship,  about being fit for the kingdom of God,  about God being a righteous God. The excuses given are that is will scare people away from coming and hearing the Word of God, that it will limit their attendance, and their reach – and clearly,  we know that it will hurt their income as well if those uncomfortable with hearing the whole Word of God were being fed. Many would say things like,  it’s all up to God to change me – if I’m still sinning,  it’s because, He hasn’t changed that yet – but I have faith that He will one day (while they continue happily in their lives of sin,  with no real interest in a life following Him).

But also,  many loveless churches focus on hating what is wrong and honoring each other – focusing on the letter of the law and using it to measure and compare one another,  even dividing themselves into classes and levels of believers with words like clergy and laity. They overlook mercy and grace and forgiveness and become cold to the struggles of those in captivity and powerless to see fruit in their own, because they are examining their lives from a perspective of what they can accomplish under their own power. They are striving to live up to the standard of Jesus Christ,  while denying the very power that might save them.

And the two are veryvgood at pointing fingersateachother and casting stones, and crying “false teacher” towards one another, but right down the middle between those two well worn, broad paths to destruction, there is a narrow path.

If you think that grace is a license to continue in your sinful ways,  you are mistaken. Repent,  and seek first the Kingdom of God and RIGHTEOUSNESS. If you think that you can earn God’s favor, if you think that you can hate sin enough to make up for your lack of love for other people,  you are mistaken. Repent, go and learn what it means that He desires MERCY and not sacrifice.

The challenge is that if we have people who have been hurt and who have seen the error in the teachers sitting happily on “either side” instead of firmly upon the narrow path – they may move to a teacher who is on the “other side” – and we may end up with folks blown back and forth by the wind. Or we get someone already heavily influenced towards one side being fed more and more in that direction as they are seeking a message that suits their itchy ears, instead of receiving correction that sets them back on the narrow path. If we are not being challenged and convicted by a teacher but it is only reinforcing our existing stance,  we should ask ourselves if we are being fed,  if we are growing, or if we are just content and complacent warming a familiar pew/seat.

And I tell you, the problem is not as much the false teachers as it is the people not being genuinely interested in a relationship with their creator. Many would rather listen to a teacher than seek the Lord themselves – so we end up with a world of sheep and goats running around, becoming familiar with the roaring voices of hirelings, but how few are listening for the still, quiet voice of the Good Shepherd? There is a demand from this fallen world and the lost for teachings of darkness masked as if they were light, and as a result,  you find wolves and hirelings.

And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.  All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.  But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants. ”
John 3:19-21 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.3.19-21.NLT

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!
2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT
http://bible.com/116/2ti.3.1-5.NLT

The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.
Romans 13:12-14 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.13.12-14.NLT

Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.
In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.
So why do you condemn another believer ? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord , ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God. ’” Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.
Romans 14:1-13 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.14.1-13.NLT

May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.
Romans 15:5-7 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.15.5-7.NLT

I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.
1 Corinthians 1:10 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1co.1.10.NLT