Come to my house, Lord

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. 
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock. 
And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord .
Psalm 27:4-6 ESV
http://bible.com/59/psa.27.4-6.ESV

What is the one thing that we want most?

What is it that we spend most of our life’s effort and time seeking?

Do we want to live our lives with Him guiding us and teaching us and using us to fulfill His kingdom work here on the earth?

Do we want to learn more and more about His beauty and perfection,  even when the light is blinding and reveals so many things that need to be cut out and cast away from our own lives?

Do we want to rest in his Holy Spirit or remain restless in our flesh – filled with light or empty in darkness – flowing with the annointing of His living waters?

Do we want to stand firmly upon the rock, the example that Jesus Christ lived out as our path – the truth,  the life,  the way?

Haven’t we found a peace that passes all understanding even during the trials of this life?

Are we burning with a fire in our bones to sing His praises,  to tell about how much He has done for us?

Don’t we have so much to sing about!

Thank you,  Jesus!
Thank you,  Jesus!
Thank you,  Jesus!

Declare me innocent

There was a time (not that long ago) that this Psalm left me in fear,  trembling,  and conviction:

Declare me innocent, O  Lord , for I have acted with integrity;
I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Put me on trial, Lord , and cross-examine me.
Test my motives and my heart.
For I am always aware of your unfailing love,
and I have lived according to your truth.
I do not spend time with liars or go along with hypocrites.
I hate the gatherings of those who do evil,
and I refuse to join in with the wicked.
I wash my hands to declare my innocence.
I come to your altar, O  Lord ,
singing a song of thanksgiving
and telling of all your wonders.
I love your sanctuary, Lord ,
the place where your glorious presence dwells.
Don’t let me suffer the fate of sinners.
Don’t condemn me along with murderers.
Their hands are dirty with evil schemes,
and they constantly take bribes.
But I am not like that;
I live with integrity.
So redeem me and show me mercy.
Now I stand on solid ground, and I will publicly praise the Lord .
Psalms 26:1-12 NLT
http://bible.com/116/psa.26.1-12.NLT

And on one level,  I miss that deep conviction of reading this Psalm that had me in tears at the foot of the cross, recounting the long list of my failings – because it was emotional,  it was moving and powerful and provided a clear direction of what correction needed to take place in my life.

But on another level, as I have decided to follow in His footsteps,  and to walk in the Holy Spirit, it is now encouraging when reading this Psalm that I can edifice the growth and change in my life – but that also produces a new type of fearful humility,  in my hoping that I am not walking in pride, blind to my sinfulness just because it is the type that is better at hiding in the shadows of my still imperfect heart.

But there is no question that there is a change, a process, a movement in the direction of God, away from wickedness,  away from self serving actions, away from those old desires and motivations. And I am not proud of what progress has already been made. It isn’t some type of tall tower that I stand on grateful for how close to heaven I am coming.

No,  I will be honest with you,  friend – it fears me how far I have to fall, because this is no tower that I have built under my own power. Today’s growth and change is as new to me as yesterday’s was. And I can’t rely on the evidence of my past, whether blameless primarily from great forgiveness and mercy and grace, or primarily from faithfully walking close to the Lord. Because I am relying on the Lord for all of it.

And it is this perspective that brings me down from what I thought was the edge of a tall tower, and shows me that my place is not on a tower, but on solid ground. I am no higher than I ever was, I am just still walking along the narrow path. That false perspective of higher or lower was just a lie of the enemy, and was pride,  judgement,  and shame hiding in the shadows waiting to devour me.

And this path I will walk to the end, knowing that I can crush the head of those enemies that used to control and burden me. Run from His wrath,  evil and wickedness – it is not me that you should fear,  but the Lord who walks with me. Your time is short,  your destruction is near.

Thank you,  Lord,  for clearing my path. Thank you,  Lord,  for shining your light upon my path. Thank you,  Lord,  for setting me on the firm foundation,  establishing my direction,  and guiding my steps. Thank you for preparing me with the cleansing blood of your righteousness,  feeding me with the nourishing manna of your Word,  equipping me with the full armor of God,  and leading me along this path where you have won the victory. Let me continue resting on your peace and renewing my strength as I wait on you,  Lord – even as we walk together along this narrow path and do not grow weary.

Thank you, Jesus. I’m so grateful that I can trust in you to see me through to the end. Thank you for allowing me to read this Psalm with a bold humility and gratitude for your work still alive and growing in me. I still have hope.

Don’t I know you?

Don’t I know you?

Haven’t we meet before?

I recognize you, it’s you! I knew it!

I have seen you before, friend!

I have seen past the faults and flaws and imperfections, and I have seen you, my friend.

I have seen you because I recognize your love, your value, your heart that shines in their words and their actions.

And I recognize your love,  because I am familiar with it crying out in me as well. It is a light that warms our very souls.

And yes, unfortunately, our love, our Spirit, our heart is not yet completely free from the trials of this life. So we are still a living and growing soul in the midst of a dying flesh, and we can recognize those imperfections and faults in ourselves – and even in others.

But I know that you are more than those imperfections. I know this about you,  because I know this about Him who lives in me.

He lives in you too,  doesn’t He? I thought that I recognized you,  friend. Thank you so much for letting me see my love,  my Savior,  my Lord,  my Savior, in you. It is such a blessing to spend time with Him, with you.

But if you are not sure, if you are weak or unsure – this is not knowledge that I gained from a man,  but wisdom that I have received from the Lord God Almighty. He declares that you are not defined by your faults – that we can lay down those chains and heavy burdens at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ,  and be washed in the blood of Christ,  so that we can walk in clean garments of white,  so that we can live upright and righteously, as we sweep His temple free of wickedness, and as He comes and dwells with us,  teaching us and guiding us and perfecting us until we too will find the stone rolled away from the death of our fleshly tombs, to find we have walked through the narrow gate, and along the narrow path until it has brought us to the face of our Lord, our prize,  our portion – life eternal in the presence of God. This is our purpose,  this is our value, this is our destination, children of God. You who have ears, you who are spiritual, you who wish to live, hear the Word of the Lord.

Do not turn back.

Do not believe the lies of the enemy.

Do not define yourself by your past or your imperfections. Lay them down. Repent of your sins, seek His Kingdom and His righteousness in your life, know His mercy and His grace, and walk in victory.

Does He live in you as well,  friend? Haven’t I recognized His light shining in your life?

Thank you, friend.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he  is  a new creation;
old things have passed away;
behold, all things have become new.
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to  be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
II Corinthians 5:17-21 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/2co.5.17-21.NKJV

Do not lie in wait, O wicked man,
against the dwelling of the righteous;
Do not plunder his resting place;
For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again,
But the wicked shall fall by calamity.
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;
Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him,
And He turn away His wrath from him.
Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the wicked;
For there will be no prospect for the evil man;
The lamp of the wicked will be put out.
My son, fear the Lord and the king;
Do not associate with those given to change;
For their calamity will rise suddenly,
And who knows the ruin those two can bring?
These things also belong to the wise:
It  is not good to show partiality in judgment.
He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,”
Him the people will curse;
Nations will abhor him.
But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,
And a good blessing will come upon them.
Proverbs 24:15-25 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/pro.24.15-25.NKJV

The soul who sins shall die.
The son shall not bear the guilt of the father,
nor the father bear the guilt of the son.
The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself,
and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
“But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed,
keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right,
he shall surely live; he shall not die.
None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him;
because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live.
Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God , “ and not that he should turn from his ways and live?
“But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live?
All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die.
Ezekiel 18:20-24 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/ezk.18.20-24.NKJV

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!
How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in  the  likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the  death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the  life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!
Romans 6:1-15 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/rom.6.1-15.NKJV

“You can’t judge me!”

Sometimes what I’m studying can feel like a hammer,  and I’m almost afraid to share it,  because even though it was helpful to me, it required focus and dedication and determination that I didn’t know that I was even capable of. Part of me screams out, no, they’re barely floating and you’re tossing them an anvil. But it was a lifesaver to me, so who am I to think that it is to heavy for someone else?

Then I think about the training and focus and determination that my dad and his triathlon coach have because of the training they put in for Ironman competitions and because of their discipline to put it into action. And my concern fades away,  because I realize people don’t have to eat what I’m eating – but if it’s helpful to me, I’ll leave some crumbs on the table by sharing what is for me, because it might just be helpful to someone else as well.

I also find that sometimes as I’m trying to work on an area of my life, it can make others close to me uncomfortable because I’m no longer wanting something we had in common to be a part of my life. It happens practically every time that we decide to lay something down that we believe isn’t profitable in our lives anymore. The people around us that are still doing those things usually look at us as if our wanting to change is somehow a judgement or condemnation of their choices as well.

I think that many times, people misunderstand their own conviction about things they realize they should probably lay down, especially when they see someone else doing it or talking about it. They misunderstand someone moving away from a thing or practice asmovingaway from them. They misinterpret that as the person judging them, when it isn’t even about them at all.

I’ve found that when someone thinks that I’m “judging them”, it’s often a person mistaking my own personal conviction about what I do or don’t want to be a part of anymore – as me “judging their heart”. It’s as if they think that they have the right to tell me what I can or can’t do because of how it makes them feel about themselves – not about anything that I’ve done to them or said about them.

It’s like they’ve lost their own personal identity and they identify instead as being that “thing”, so if I turn away from the “thing”, they automatically think that I’m turning away from them. It’s just not so!

Do I want to live in a world where people don’t lie, cheat, steal,  gossip,  murder,  tape,  abuse,  slander,  oppress, ridicule, manipulate, trick and hurt each other? Yes! Do I think that right is right and wrong is wrong? Yes. Do I want to participate in those things? No!

Do I think that I need to be your policeman, judge, and jury? No!

If someone says that they want to follow Christ and live like Christ, am I supposed to throw them a life preserver if they are drowning? Yes! But only because they have acknowledged that they want to be saved from that old life.

Throwing a lifesaver to a diver that loves the depths of the darkness is foolish, because they have no interest in using it. In fact, they will likely throw it back at you saying things like,  “You can’t judge me! I don’t need that!” – claiming they are standing on the mountaintop already, as instead, they set their eyes deeper on finding a little more treasure from the depths of the darkness.

Just Blinded by the Light? Or Changed?

Loving Father, even as bright and blinding as it might seem to us – open our eyes to see your way, our example, given in her life of Jesus Christ. Give us – your children, your saints, your chosen, your elect,  your remnant – the strength and power and love and self control to walk in His footsteps. Demonstrate to the world, the difference between a child of darkness and a child of light, so that more might see past those imposters who claim your name but do not seek you or know you. Make it clear even to the the foolish the ways of the lost, the hypocrite, and the faithful.

Let us walk in your Holy Spirit as the faithful – not treating our advocate as an excuse for our sin, but as a humbling reminder of our reliance upon the Holy Spirit to provide the power,  love,  and self-control that guides our steps. Do not let us be the ones who profess with our mouths but never confess with our hearts. Do not let us be the ones who claim your godly name and title, but who deny the very power that can make us godly.

We ask you humbly, Lord, to send more laborers – whose ears will be opened to hear your Word, whose heart’s will be open to love your ways, whose desires will be open to obey your wise guidance,  and whose hands will be open to lift up each other in encouragement,  accountability, and equipping one another. We are eager to see the enemies retreating back into the darkness. We patiently wait for your return, renewing our strength. 

Teach us discernment so that we might seek you with an abandon and an unwavering and undivided loyalty to your purpose – knowing and appreciating the value of your eternal blessings (those fruit of the Holy Spirit) as opposed to the temporary and relative worthlessness of the things of this world. Teach us the heavy responsibility of stewardship, the high cost of discipleship, the weighty matters of forgiveness – so that we can better realize the immeasurable bounds of your grace and mercy and discover that while heavy, none of these are burdensome when relying on your strength.

Teach us to be children of light,  as we become more and more like our teacher,  as we are reconciled and drawn closer and closer to our love, our life, our portion, and our prize, Jesus Christ.

Like Paul, on that road to Damascus, let us be blinded by the light so that we might be healed,  restored,  and put into deeper service. Like Peter, let our heads dip under the waves only momentarily as you teach us the next lesson and lead us out into deeper waters. Like Thomas, let the humbling but loving and gentle rebuke of our doubts be replaced with a renewed faith and purpose and direction.

Do not let us go the way of the purse holder, the betrayer, the one who turned back, the one who loves the world more than Christ,  the one who choose darkness instead of light – but let us head off towards our meeting with our cross, our death, and our resurrection.

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Matthew 5:14-16 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.5.14-16.NLT

Children of Darkness
With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But that isn’t what you learned about Christ.

Transformation
Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like Godtruly righteous and holy. So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.

Warnings Against Traps & How to Escape
And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:17-32 NLT
http://bible.com/116/eph.4.17-32.NLT

Above the Din

Would you like to think like Christ?

Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:]
Philippians 2:5 AMP
http://bible.com/8/php.2.5.AMP

We have two options,  we can either want to think like Christ or we can want to think like the world. The Bible calls that either remaining conformed to this world – or being renewed and reconciled to be like Christ.

Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].
Romans 12:2 AMP
http://bible.com/8/rom.12.2.AMP

Don’t we know that the world has a message to sell us – in its advertisements,  it’s conversation,  and it’s philosophy? This carnal world is engaged in an ugly, gigantic practice of dumping toxic waste into our lives. Billy Graham explains it as,  “The world’s sewage system threatens to contaminate the stream of Christian thought.”

Yes, there is a din – a loud, unpleasant,  and prolonged noise – of this world and its ways and its influences. And this din wishes to indoctrinate us into its ways through constant repetition and practice, like a hammer banging away at our minds – so that we might overlook engaging our heart and the Holy Spirit of Christ who lives in us. Distraction and redirection.

How much time do we spend being influenced by the messages that the world is trying to sell us on television or surfing the Internet? Is God getting a share of our attention? Is the world shaping our mind – or is Christ?

This isn’t a bad question to ask ourselves. It isn’t legalism and it isn’t works. We haven’t said the first thing about the letter of the law or requiring outward,  visible works that someone might boast about. No, this is about who we are choosing to serve,  since we can have only one master.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions, or whatever is trusted in).
Matthew 6:24 AMP
http://bible.com/8/mat.6.24.AMP

And having a divided mind, divided loyalties is a dangerous place to be:

Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind. For truly, let not such a person imagine that he will receive anything [he asks for] from the Lord, [For being as he is] a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything [he thinks, feels, decides].
James 1:6-8 AMP
http://bible.com/8/jas.1.6-8.AMP

Yes, it is the question of desire. Do we really wish to ascend to be more like Christ? Do we talk want to humble ourselves by walking in His footsteps? Are we ready to bear the cross and burdens of others and live walking in His ways, in the Spirit of our holy and righteous and just and merciful God? Or are we satisfied participating in the constant hammering of the ways of the lost – consuming worldly living and consuming religious practice, but not communing with Christ?

Who shall go up into the mountain of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His Holy Place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted himself up to falsehood or to what is false, nor sworn deceitfully. [Matt. 5:8.] He shall receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation [description] of those who seek Him [who inquire of and for Him and of necessity require Him], who seek Your face, [O God of] Jacob. Selah [pause, and think of that]! [Ps. 42:1.] Lift up your heads, O you gates; and be lifted up, you age-abiding doors, that the King of glory may come in.
Psalm 24:3-7 AMP
http://bible.com/8/psa.24.3-7.AMP

Have we heard His voice calling us?

I am the Good Shepherd; and I know and recognize My own, and My own know and recognize Me–
John 10:14 AMP
http://bible.com/8/jhn.10.14.AMP

The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand. My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater and mightier than all [else]; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are One.
John 10:27-30 AMP
http://bible.com/8/jhn.10.27-30.AMP

What are we waiting for? Are we awake and aware,  standing in His light, eagerly waiting for His return? Or are we unconscious, asleep, and unprepared,   hiding in the darkness, waiting for the door to be shut?

Thus He showed me, and behold, the Lord stood upon a wall with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand. [II Kings 21:13; Isa. 34:11.] And the Lord said to me, Amos, what do you see? And I said, A plumb line. Then said the Lord, Behold, I am setting a plumb line as a standard in the midst of My people Israel. I will not pass by and spare them any more [the door of mercy is shut].
Amos 7:7-8 AMP
http://bible.com/8/amo.7.7-8.AMP

For if we go on deliberately and willingly sinning after once acquiring the knowledge of the Truth, there is no longer any sacrifice left to atone for [our] sins [no further offering to which to look forward]. [There is nothing left for us then] but a kind of awful and fearful prospect and expectation of divine judgment and the fury of burning wrath and indignation which will consume those who put themselves in opposition [to God]. [Isa. 26:11.] Any person who has violated and [thus] rejected and set at naught the Law of Moses is put to death without pity or mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. [Deut. 17:2-6.] How much worse (sterner and heavier) punishment do you suppose he will be judged to deserve who has spurned and [thus] trampled underfoot the Son of God, and who has considered the covenant blood by which he was consecrated common and unhallowed, thus profaning it and insulting and outraging the [Holy] Spirit [Who imparts] grace (the unmerited favor and blessing of God)? [Exod. 24:8.]
Hebrews 10:26-29 AMP
http://bible.com/8/heb.10.26-29.AMP

THEN THE kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish (thoughtless, without forethought) and five were wise (sensible, intelligent, and prudent). For when the foolish took their lamps, they did not take any [extra] oil with them; But the wise took flasks of oil along with them [also] with their lamps. While the bridegroom lingered and was slow in coming, they all began nodding their heads, and they fell asleep. But at midnight there was a shout, Behold, the bridegroom! Go out to meet him! Then all those virgins got up and put their own lamps in order. And the foolish said to the wise, Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out. But the wise replied, There will not be enough for us and for you; go instead to the dealers and buy for yourselves. But while they were going away to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were prepared went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came and said, Lord, Lord, open [the door] to us! But He replied, I solemnly declare to you, I do not know you [I am not acquainted with you]. Watch therefore [give strict attention and be cautious and active], for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man will come.
Matthew 25:1-13 AMP
http://bible.com/8/mat.25.1-13.AMP

We are what we eat

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Philippians 4:8 NLT
http://bible.com/116/php.4.8.NLT

We decide each day what we want around us, what we want influencing our lives and our thoughts. You might have heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” And that couldn’t be more true than when it comes communing in the bread of life and redeeming blood of Christ’s life.

Each day, we choose whether we prefer the carnal influences of this world or whether we prefer the godly influences of righteous living. We decide what life we want to eat of. We decide which master’s hand we want to be fed from. And whatever we are feeding ourselves and influencing our minds and our flesh with as an example – is what is going to come out in our words and our actions.

When I was immersed in the distractions and the food of the enemy that can be picked up easily and in great quantity from television, books,  conversations, movies, magazines, and music – I walked and talked and lived like what I was consuming. Now I am not saying those things are bad. What I am saying is whatever content we are choosing to consume through those things is going to influence our lives. In fact,  examining the type of content that we are choosing to consume can tell us about our desires. And learning about our desires can many times indicate distractions that need to be replaced with more spiritually profitable alternatives.

Am I saying that we “have to” live perfect lives? No. Am I saying that we should “want to”? Yes.

We are meant to have Christ living in us. We are meant to be following in His footsteps. We are meant to be becoming more like Christ.

But just because we are meant for something,  just because we are intended for something,  just because we are purpose built to win a race – it doesn’t mean that if we never put the right fuel into our lives that we are going to reach our potential.

Let’s choose that fuel of a righteous,  obedient life,  seeking to fill our lives with “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable”.

Those influences that tell you,  “You don’t have to. Enjoy your freedom. Live how you like.” Understand which direction these influences will guide your life. Understand what these influences will have on the potential of your life. And yes,  if we value those things spiritual and eternal over those things worldly and carnal and temporary – won’t we walk in the Spirit instead of the flesh?

Remember whether or not it is a conscious decision, we each choose today who it is that we will serve. Have you examined your life to be humbled by where your time is being spent? Have you examined your finances to be humbled by where your money is being spent? Have you examined the content that you, are consuming to be humbled by where your life is being influenced? Were you motivated and convicted to do anything about it?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord ’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.
Hebrews 12:1-13 NLT
http://bible.com/116/heb.12.1-13.NLT

Night and Day we Toiled

Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you. You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers. And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory.
1 Thessalonians 2:9-12 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1th.2.9-12.NLT

What a contrast these disciples who worked and toiled day and night to provide for themselves must have been to the richly clothed, well fed priests of the day who were provided for by their followers.

And how much of a contrast were their devout and honest and faultless lives in comparison to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees that Jesus spoke so strongly against.

And how much of a contrast was their pleading, urging and encouragement for the people to live lives in a way that God would call worthy, as opposed to the religious leaders expecting a sinful people to remain under the controls of the religious systems that gave them power and authority to rule.

Isn’t this passage a beautiful picture of the missionaries churches of today across the globe – that show us that close, personal reflection and similarity to the way Jesus and the disciples went about their way, their life example, of spreading the truth at great cost and sacrifice of themselves?

image

Isn’t the demonstrated cost of discipleship and a life of bearing burdens and even martyrdom such a harsh contrast to many “American Christian” lives of comfort and complacency? How quickly do we forget that even today, people are being martyred for their faith, at great personal cost and sacrifice,  while so many are fed cheap grace Kool-aid that requires no more change or heartfelt belief than a country club membership.

And I’m not advocating that anyone intentionally put themselves in harm’s way for foolish reasons. But if we’re serious about following in His footsteps,  shouldn’t we expect some trials and suffering and tribulation and shouldn’t we want to do some work? Not even because it is our due,  but just because we get the opportunity to participate!

Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31 NLT
http://bible.com/116/isa.40.28-31.NLT

These men might have been toiling night and day,  but I guarantee you that it wasn’t a burden. I guarantee you that it wasn’t an obligation. Because they weren’t operating under their own power,  they were operating in His strength.

May you find His Spirit,  a spirit of love,  of self control,  and of power – that will have you walking,  running, and soaring for the Lord.

These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.
Luke 10:2 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.10.2.NLT

You are the answer to my prayer.  Get to work.

Honor

Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other. Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1th.5.12-22.NLT

Leaders
work hard
provide guidance

All Christians
(especially including leaders who set the example in their hard work & guidance)
Live peacefully
Warn the lazy
Encourage the timid
Take care of the weak
Be patient
Do good
Be joyful
Never stop praying
Always be thankful
Don’t stifle the Holy Spirit
Don’t scoff at prophecies
Test everything that is said
Hold onto good
Stay away from all evil

So here’s the secret. If I’m anointed and walking in the Spirit, bearing the fruit of the Spirit – these are not burdensome – they are not an obligation. To the religious lost, this sounds like work – to the new creation, this sounds like blessing.

The religious “works” of a lost man can outwardly appear the same as the abundant life of an anointed Child of God. It really does come down to the desires of the heart. It really does come down to the relationship that we are walking in.

If that sounds like a lot of work, I know where you’re coming from. I used to be in the darkness of religion with little true relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He wasn’t alive and working through me, so obedience and serving others was a chore. I get it. I understand.

But one night, I genuinely was rocked to my very foundation and I was drawn close and I surrendered that old life of living under my own will, under the list of rules for what I “should be doing” – and I received a new life realizing what I “get to do”.

Yep, it’s pretty crazy. I thought that I had “won my heaven ticket” with a once saved always saved prayer and some water, but I was spending my life packing my bags for a trip to hell, fitting in sin after sin into my luggage for where I was truly headed.

But God is merciful, and loving, and faithful, and true – and He drew me, and He got my attention. And now I know what it is like to be packing my bags for a different destination – and not out of obligation, or burden, or hope for rewards – purely out of a peaceful, cheerful, joy of having my eyes opened to the traps that I once called treasures, and the true treasures that are being poured into my life daily.

I hope you know this feeling, friend. I hope you know His presence. I cannot sell it to you. I cannot argue you into belief. I cannot even scare you into receiving this gift – because it is free if you really, truly want it, and if you are willing to seek it with your heart, and listen to that voice that is calling you home.

Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?
1 Corinthians 3:1-4 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1co.3.1-4.NLT

You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.
Hebrews 5:12-14 NLT
http://bible.com/116/heb.5.12-14.NLT

Yes, when we were still babes at the feet of Christ, needing to be fed milk, we needed to stay at His feet and learn and grow – we didn’t need to be in a battle that would have been a burden or obligation or heavy weight for our infantile spiritual natures – that would have just made us grumble like the older son about the prodigal, or like Martha about Mary not helping with the work.

But we are meant to grow, to become spiritually mature through the discipline and love and power and self control that is given to us, so that we can rise up and be the ones working hard and teaching and running into battle. Because even though the victory is won, there is still plenty of darkness that needs light shined onto it. There are still many lives that need deliverance from sin and darkness and death.

And we aren’t just talking about deliverance from punishment here, we’re actually talking about deliverance into a Godly and righteous life where God’s will is being done in our lives. There is still much dross to be burned away by the refining fires of the trials that lie ahead for us. Turning away from sin in repentance and turning to God so that we are reconciled to be more like our teacher is our path.

So, if the version of cheap grace that you’ve been sold makes you comfortable remaining a slave to sin, I’d look at the life of who sold you that garbage and ask yourself if they are bearing the hard work and spiritual guidance and life of a servant at the feet of others – or if they are most comfortable sitting on high, in a seat of honor, feeding on the flock.

And if anyone is so vain as to think that any part of this message is aimed at them and is anything more than a warning to me, then maybe it really is for you as well. Maybe there is a reason that you are eating the crumbs from my table – but do not think that my sword is raised, do not think that I am targeting you, friend.

I hear it from more than one person that at times they think that I’m singling them out. I’m not. These warnings help to keep me where I need to be. If there is anything of use for you as well, praise the Lord. If there is anything you feel that is in error, let’s examine and find truth together in the light of the Word of God.

What’s ironic is that if I’m seeking honor from men, the honor of God can escape my grasp. But if I’m just seeking to honor God, my humility before Him is the most honorable position that I can maintain.

My life is the song I sing

Suffering.

Cheerful.

We expect these to be at opposite ends of the spectrum, don’t we?

James 5:13 ESV
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.

So we hear that if we are suffering,  we are to pray. And if we are cheerful,  we are to sing praise. And we are quite used to these two being separated by circumstances. This is something easy for even the minds of the worldly to grasp. Hurt and pain equals suffering, equals pray. Good and pleasurable equals cheerful,  equals praise. Right? Yes,  this is easy and simple logic for our carnal and logical minds to process and agree upon.

But what about a person who is cheerful about their suffering?

Now doesn’t that throw a wrinkle into the comfortable agreement in our thinking? Don’t we begin to ask,  well if someone is really suffering,  why would they be cheerful?

But Paul tells the Romans that rejoicing in suffering is exactly the kind of thing that Christians do.

Not only that, but 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.
Romans 5:3-5 ESV
http://bible.com/59/rom.5.3-5.ESV

And Jesus promised his followers that they would face persecution and suffering and trials and tribulation in this world, so what’s with all the singing and praising?

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
2 Timothy 3:12 ESV
http://bible.com/59/2ti.3.12.ESV

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
Philippians 1:29 ESV
http://bible.com/59/php.1.29.ESV

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:12-13 ESV
http://bible.com/59/1pe.4.12-13.ESV

Yes, it can seem confusing and foolish to our carnal minds for there ever to be a reason for us to rejoice about suffering. Who would choose a life of “cheerful suffering”?

That’s quite difficult to understand,  isn’t it. So the Bible tells us –

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5 ESV
http://bible.com/59/pro.3.5.ESV

So we’re supposed to trust in the Lord, and do it with all of our heart. We’re supposed to use our heart instead of our mind. Hmm, that’s an interesting shift of perspective,  don’t you think?

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jhn.16.33.ESV

And we are learning about this new perspective so we might have peace. And this peace comes from trusting God with our whole hearts. This peace is meant to carry us through the sufferings. And again,  He mentions taking “heart”, not logic, not mind,  not thought, but “heart” and “trust” that He has overcome. This is quite a shift of perspective indeed.

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 ESV
http://bible.com/59/php.4.6-7.ESV

So this peace,  this whole hearted trusting in the Lord,  guards us against worry so that we can live through everything in prayer and thanksgiving.

Prayer AND thanksgiving.
Prayer AND praise.
Suffering AND cheerful.

That’s quite a story there, don’t you think? This wise book of words is telling us something that is quite contrary to our own logical way of evaluating and reacting to the world around us. The wise of the world might say this is foolishness,  or they might claim that it is false and just trickery for the simple to ensure their control and oppression by the wicked. But the evidence piles up against these claims.

If this advice was just to help someone endure the hardships of their life,  offering the ruling elite a measure of moral control over the masses – would that advice empower people to choose suffering for themselves? Would that advice encourage people to rise up against the powers that be in order to advocate and fight for the weak,  the poor, the afflicted, the needy,  and the unwanted of this world in the face of the powerful?

And you are right that there are many who are religious who have no more care or concern for these “throw aways” of society than the ones who continue to oppress and take advantage of them. In fact, I would guess that many of the “religious” of the world use their own self righteous attitudes as an excuse to look down upon the cold, huddled masses from their big,  warm houses and their life safely protected from any suffering,  any trials, any tribulations. And they might be religious, but they are not righteous, they do not know the Lord, and sadly, they will meet the consequences of their actions because they have chosen their God and it is their belly.

Wow,  preacher,  you went on a tear there,  didn’t you?

Yes, because peace is not a full belly, a full bank account, or a full set of pews at a church on Sunday morning. Peace is a life of faithfully serving the Lord throughout the week. Peace is if we have enough, we give generously to help those who do not. Peace is that if we do not have sufferings of our own that we share in the sufferings of others around us. Peace is that through it all,  we cheerfully rejoice in our sufferings.

But how many miss out on peace because they are satisfied with comfort? How many of us sacrifice something Godly like peace, which passes all understanding – because we more comfortable trusting in ourselves and our wealth and our abilities to provide,  instead of trusting the Lord to provide?

I hope that we will seek the cheerful praise in the midst of prayerful suffering that is peace. And if this is our life,  not just a one time effort,  but a change in perspective – then imagine the beautiful song of praise that will sing out to a world focused only on self and wealth and comfort and pleasure? Maybe they won’t be able to ignore the beauty of His glory and grace and power and wonder, shining in the light of a life truly touched by the hand of God.

Could we hope for a life where we might disappear and all that could be seen was a heart – foolishly, with so little understanding of the ways of this world,  running with abandon into the fiery trials and sufferings and tribulations of this short life, living and serving others who have nothing to give us in return – a heart that had overcome the battles of the mind,  because the victory was complete and the life was surrendered to a new Lord of the house? Could we hope for our life to be filled abs anointed with a type of song quite different to the world – almost as if we had been set apart for His Holy use,  anointed by the presence of His very Spirit and nature,  adopted into His family as a royal ambassador for God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, as, an, example of His will being done?

Yes,  we can.
Yes,  we should.

What will your life’s song be today?

I hope you find a life filled with cheerful suffering, with prayer and rejoicing,  with the peace that passes all understanding,  with Christ.