Clean hands, Pure heart

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered. 
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Psalm 32:1-2 ESV

We all have had dirty hands before. Did we just leave them dirty,  or did we wash them until they were clean? Did we just run some water over them but not scrub them clean? Or did we diligently wash them with soap and water,  getting all of the filth and grime off of them,  even from underneath or fingernails,  because we know that the filth and germs are not good for us?

Isn’t it the same with our hearts,  our Spirit,  our soul? Isn’t it clear to us that it needs to be washed by the blood of the Lamb,  by our faith and belief and following in Christ’s footsteps,  turning away from the filth and enticements and ways of this world to walk in a new way,  bearing the fruit of His Holy Spirit?

So we must encourage one another,  to not play around with empty religious practice by just running our flesh under the water but never really intending our lives to be delivered,  surrendered, washed clean – but to instead seek that fully surrendered, born again life that is renewed daily by the redeeming power of the blood, by the strength of Christ who lives in us,  by the renewing of our minds as we seek God’s will for our lives.  

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord ?
And who shall stand in his holy place? 
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully. 
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
Psalm 24:3-6 ESV

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which  is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of  himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
Romans 12:1-3 NKJV

Attitude & Desires

Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
John 6:27-29 NKJV

What are you laboring for most in your life?

What is your greatest desire?

What is it that you’re all in and won’t stop striving for even until your death?

What is it that you’re willing to suffer for and go through trials and tribulation for?

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Revelation 2:10 NKJV

Let’s remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and their faithfulness. They refused to worship the gold statue set up by King Nebuchadnezzar. They were not willing to compromise all that they believed. They took their stands for the living God, even if it meant death. And even though they were thrown into the fiery furnace,  God delivered them.

As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:36-39 NKJV

Your Reasonable Service

What is “your reasonable service” to Almighty Father God, to Lord Jesus Christ, to the Holy Spirit?

Is it to live in the ways of the world?

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which  is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:1-2 NKJV

Choosing to turn towards sharing in the sufferings of Christ, also means turning away from the ways of the world.

By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
Hebrews 11:24-26 NKJV

Faith is not an idea or a belief in concept only. Is a woman impregnated by just thinking about a man,  or is it only when she surrenders and submits to him that a seed is planned? Isn’t it the same with the Holy Spirit of Christ who lives in us believers?

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
James 1:21-22 NKJV

Even if that worldliness, that compromise, that conforming to the ways of the world,  offers you promises of wealth and prosperity in this world – are you so easily satisfied with your temporary treasure here, or are you seeking those things eternal?

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
Hebrews 11:13-16 NKJV

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
I John 2:15-17 NKJV

And our choice matters:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
Matthew 16:24-27 NKJV

What does  it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does  it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
James 2:14-19 NKJV

What will your reasonable service be today, for Christ who was slain on the cross for you?

And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it —  lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,  saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?  Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?  Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.  So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
Luke 14:27-33 NKJV

“For the kingdom of heaven is  like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.  And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.  Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.  And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.  But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his Lord’s money.  After a long time the Lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’  His Lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’  He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’  His Lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’ “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ “But his Lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.  So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Matthew 25:14-30 NKJV

Truth produces Hope, Faith, Love & War

Hope is found in His mercy.

Have mercy on me,
O God, because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
teaching me wisdom even there.
Psalms 51:1-6 NLT

In order to find Hope, in order to know His unfailing love and His mercy – we must first open our eyes to see our own sins and rebellion. We must yield our rebellious nature of selfishness and pride and sinfulness – to acknowledge and accept what is sinful in His sight. It is only when we recognize our guilt, and when we recognize that His judgement of us is just – that we have learned the wisdom of what He teaches us so that we are ready for change. Yes, then we are ready for those old ways to die, to be cut out and cast off,  for those chains to be broken, for us to be freed from sin.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me— now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
Psalms 51:7-12 NLT

And our faithfulness, even that is, His grace at work. It is not found in our own strength,  but it is found in our own humbling ourselves to seek, find,  follow,  and worship Him as the Lord of our lives.

Once we’ve found enough wisdom to understand the Hope that is available in Christ, our old hunger and thirst for the things of this world is replaced with a new hunger for righteousness. We lay down those carnal things – those treasures and pleasures that the enemy has to offer us in this brief existence to distract us from our only portion and prize. We lay them down,  not as a sacrifice or a tithe or offering to God,  but because we realize they are a temptation, a poisonous snake,  a trap,  an unnecessary burden, and a fruitless path.

And we find that in doing this, the one and only worthy sacrifice – of our surrendered heart, of our surrendered life is being offered to our Lord God Almighty – not as a proud “see what I have done” but as a humble “forgive me for what I have done,  change me,  teach me your ways,  and use me for your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Yes, Faith is not our striving under our own power,  but us getting ourselves out of the way for Him to do the work through us.

Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
and they will return to you.
Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you. You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. Look with favor on Zion and help her; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit— with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings. Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.
Psalms 51:13-19 NLT

You see,  once we have found Hope, and once we know the power of His Spirit that is found in Faith, we are walking in a different way than the rebel that we used to be. But we are still amongst the same world of rebellion that used to be our master – and our eyes are opened to those still asleep in captivity,  those still hungering for the only food they have known,  those eating their fill of sin and death – not knowing there is something better. And we find ourselves a soldier,  with a Sword of Truth coming out of our mouths,  and this, Word of God does not slay flesh and blood, but it does shine light on sin and rebellion and hatred and unforgiveness and anything that falls short of glorifying God. But that light has, a warmth and a glow that they have not yet felt – not the cruel coldness of their old master’s traps and addiction and unwanted consequences – but the warmth of the love of a forgiving Father.

Yes, it is this grace poured out in His blood on that cross,  it is the sacrifice that He made for us, that breaks us,  that tears down the walls, that allows us to bring forth a sacrifice – not of “slain evil men”, because our enemies are not flesh and blood,  but are the unseen evils of this world holding our brothers and sisters captive. No, we bring living sacrifices,  slaves set free from their old masters, lives awakened by the undeniable difference in lives that are powered by His Holy Spirit.

We walk with light that shines into the darkness. We walk with a fire in our bones yearning to share this Good News. We walk as the savory salt of Christian love and charity and sacrifice for our fellow man, even for strangers and enemies,  which is clearly different than the taste of the world’s ways. We walk as the trumpeter,  heralding the return of the Lord,  crying out,  “Repent,  for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” We stand guard as the watchman, sharing truth and accountability for the dangers of sin, of worldliness, of carnality, of anything short of a surrendered heart – because we know many do not hear, many turn back, many trample the Son of God underfoot willfully sinning after coming to knowledge of the truth – and as a result,  few walk the narrow gate and path to our intended destination.

Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. For we know the one who said, “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.” He also said, “The Lord will judge his own people.” It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Hebrews 10:26-31 NLT

If this passage hurts you,  friend. If you feel as though you are bleeding from my sword, understand that I am not slaying you, but I am after your sin. It is my goal to drive this sword deep into the beast that holds you captive. But it is not your blood that is being shed. You are not cut and bleeding.

Get up and run to the, Lord,  and do not look back. I have been sent to free the captives, not to make them comfortable in their cages. Those feeding you sugar are fattening you up for the slaughter. Hear the Word of God. Let it touch your heart and motivate you into action. And do not leave your brothers and sisters captive if you are called and chosen. If you are spiritually mature and no longer battling to break free yourself, but you are trusting fully in the Lord this hour – Stand up against the enemy in Truth. Put on the whole armor of God. Prepare yourself for battle.

Because they trust in Him

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord ,
And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the Lord upholds him  with His hand.
Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright;
For the future of that man is peace.
But the transgressors shall be destroyed together;
The future of the wicked shall be cut off.
But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord ;
He  is their strength in the time of trouble.
And the Lord shall help them and deliver them;
He shall deliver them from the wicked,
And save them,
Because they trust in Him.
Psalms 37:23-24, 37-40 NKJV

I want to walk blameless and upright, but I find myself at times – distracted and speeding – saying something negative about my job/workplace – having told someone I would see them on a certain day and circumstances end up making me a liar – or not guarding my thoughts quite closely enough when someone comes against me (even when it might not show outwardly).

You see, I’ve given up and surrendered those big, visible sins of my old life, but I am not yet perfected. There is still room in my life for me to learn and grow and walk out a better life. And you might ask why I would care about such “little things” when the Bible tells us that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ” – and some might even cry out “legalism” without having listened to my whole message – but I would answer that the two reasons for my wanting to walk a more perfect walk have nothing to do with me.

My first, and greatest reason for wanting to walk a life more like Christ is because He gave His best on that cross for me when He didn’t have to – and He is my example. So I want to give Him my best – even though I know that it is not my works that could ever build myself a way to heaven, I want my life to be a living sacrifice,  a testimony of what He has done for me. He has done so much,  forgiven so much,  redeemed so much of my life from my old ways, that I’m now hungering for righteousness. I want to be pure of heart. I want to see His face.

The second reason is the others around me. There are so many that call themselves “Christians” but who look no differently in their daily lives than the worldly and the carnal and the rebellious and the wicked – and these are the very people that at one time made me sick of the hypocrisy of religion and who sent me running away from “the church”. I just don’t want my life to stumble someone else. I’m not just satisfied talking the words of Christ, I want to walk in the footsteps of Christ.

And yes,  I know the warning of Matthew 20:22 just as I know the call of Matthew 16:24. But when I have come to the realization of John 6:68 and I know the warnings of Hebrews 10:26-31, what other choice do I have? I find myself a slave to Christ, a traveler in this temporary world, a messenger sent to deliver this Good News to a dying world that is many times white satisfied being spiritually blind,  naked,  and penniless. And as stark and hopeless as that might sound to our human minds – it is turning out to be the most abundant life. His ways are truly different than ours, and they are so much better – and I’m experiencing it all because I trust in Him.

He has me sharing the Good News to the world daily through this blog. He has me teaching and leading my family daily in devotionals and prayer and service unto others. He has me studying to become an ordained minister. He has me preaching in the jail each week and counseling and helping those imprisoned and their families. He has me providing food and Bible Study weekly in my home for all who will join us. He has me helping those wanting to recover from addiction and step into a life of discipleship by preaching and counseling weekly at a Rehab center. And He has me sharing my testimony daily in my actions,  and yes,  sometimes with words.

Someone will say, what a selfish message,  he just talked about himself the whole time – and if so, you’ve missed the whole point. Because I know what my life looked like when I was the one in control. I’m telling you about what He is doing in my life. This is not Harold Ballinger’ life anymore.

And this is not me standing proud saying look what I’m doing. No,  this is me standing back,  humbled and amazed,  and even a bit frightened – saying, look what the, Lord is doing,  even with someone like me.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
Revelation 12:11 NKJV

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
I Timothy 1:12-17 NKJV

The confidence of the foolish

Listen to this, all of you –
whether the world considers you lowly or honored, whether you are wealthy or in need – these words will share wisdom, and the truth pouring from my heart will give understanding. I have studied true and valuable pieces of wisdom from the Word of God, and I will share with you the dark warning that is uncovered in the light of revelation.

Fools will ask themelves,  “Why should I be afraid when trouble arises, haven’t I made preparations? Even if enemies surround me, like so many snakes and scorpions at my heals, can’t I look down on them from the high place that I have prepared for myself?”

Yes,  fools think much of themselves and of their own preparations. They trust in their wealth and their works (even in their religious preparations),  and boast proudly in their riches and evidence of their works,  while none of these things can redeem their own brother or friend from the coming destruction. They can’t offer a ransom for others (nor do many concern themselves with much more than themselves) – because the redemption of souls is not a cost they are ready to pay,  it is costly beyond what they are willing or able to buy.

And it is true that redemption by cost and sacrifice and purchase has ceased, because of the price paid by the Lord Jesus Christ from the cross to the tomb to the right hand of God Almighty, so that He can continue to live eternally with His children, so that they will not see the pit of destruction that this world so bitterly deserves.

The Lord sees wise men die, and the fools and those with no understanding. They all leave their wealth (those many things they have accumulated) to others. They believe in their things (more than they ever believed in the Lord) that their houses will not fall, that their land and possessions will be passed down through all their coming generations, with it remaining in the names (of men) that they honor so highly (while they give little if any real honor to the name of the Lord).

But the worldly man, the carnal man, even if he is a greatly honored man among men, doesn’t remain. Like the animals, he will die. Yes,  this is the end for the foolish who trust in themselves, and of those who revere their ways of worldliness as being wise.

Like sheep they will die,  and the world having been their master – death, the prince of this world, the end to the things of the world, will consume them (as they rot and are eaten by the worms).

The upright (who fear in the Lord and place their confidence in those things eternal) will have dominion over them in the morning (when the eternal light of His vindication is come into the world), and the essence of their being will be eaten away in Sheol, because they have no communion,  no habitation,  no place, and no memory in the presence of the Lord.

And we say,  “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, For He shall receive me.”

They say, “I won’t be afraid if I become rich, when the glory of my name increases in the mouths of men; because when I die, I’ll carry nothing away; I know that any glory won’t descend after me into the grave.”

But while they live, they bless themselvesselves. And other worldly men will rise up and praise them when they do well for themselves. But these men will go to the same end as their fathers before them. They will never see the light of that morning, because a man who honored by men, but does not understand these things, is just like the animals that will be slaughtered and butchered, their end is in the same destination.

Hear this, all peoples; Give ear, all inhabitants of the world, Both low and high, Rich and poor together. My mouth shall speak wisdom, And the meditation of my heart shall  give understanding. I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will disclose my dark saying on the harp. Why should I fear in the days of evil, When the iniquity at my heels surrounds me? Those who trust in their wealth And boast in the multitude of their riches, None of  them can by any means redeem his brother, Nor give to God a ransom for him— For the redemption of their souls is costly, And it shall cease forever— That he should continue to live eternally, And  not see the Pit. For he sees wise men die; Likewise the fool and the senseless person perish, And leave their wealth to others. Their inner thought is  that their houses will  last forever, Their dwelling places to all generations; They call their lands after their own names. Nevertheless man, though in honor, does not remain; He is like the beasts that perish. This is the way of those who are  foolish, And of their posterity who approve their sayings. Selah Like sheep they are laid in the grave; Death shall feed on them; The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; And their beauty shall be consumed in the grave, far from their dwelling. But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, For He shall receive me. Selah Do not be afraid when one becomes rich, When the glory of his house is increased; For when he dies he shall carry nothing away; His glory shall not descend after him. Though while he lives he blesses himself (For men will praise you when you do well for yourself), He shall go to the generation of his fathers; They shall never see light. A man who  is in honor, yet does not understand, Is like the beasts that perish.
Psalms 49:1-20 NKJV

Our confidence is in His mercy

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope in His mercy,
To deliver their soul from death,
And to keep them alive in famine.
Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
For our heart shall rejoice in Him,
Because we have trusted in His holy name.
Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
Just as we hope in You.
Psalms 33:18-22 NKJV

Our confidence is in your mercy,  Lord, not in our worthiness. We have nothing to boast in but you,  Lord. Our security is found in you,  not our works,  not our wealth,  not even in our religious sacrifices – only in you.

Hear this, all peoples;
Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,
Why should I fear in the days of evil,
When the iniquity at my heels surrounds me?
Those who trust in their wealth
And boast in the multitude of their riches,
None of  them can by any means redeem his brother,
Nor give to God a ransom for him—
For he sees wise men die;
Likewise the fool and the senseless person perish,
And leave their wealth to others.
But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave,
For He shall receive me. Selah
Psalms 49:1, 5-7, 10, 15 NKJV

Come… and rest a while.

Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.
Mark 6:30-32 NKJV

These few verses are encouraging when we find ourselves overwhelmed by the demands of the world – but seeing them in the greater passage of the whole chapter reminds me that there is little time for rest and that Christ will provide the strength, He will be the source of our strength to continue in the work that He has in store for us. It reminds me that we can find comfort in our trials by opening our eyes to the circumstances of others and comforting them.

The beattitudes in Matthew 5 tell us the recipe for receiving the “for they shall” by being “those who”. Verse after verse, we are reminded to look out upon those around us and offer them what they need – even before we realize the treasures of doing so. These verses are asking us to “just trust me I’m the Lord, I know a better way than yours”.

If you’ve ever been mourning and fretting and concerned over your own troubles – can’t you look out onto those around you and find someone else that is greatly troubled and hurting? And when you do something to help them, or when you just mourn along with them, doesn’t it give you a new perspective of freedom from the chains that were binding you? Doesn’t it open your eyes?

It’s only when we bottle it up inside and keep it to ourselves, when we cling to it that we become imprisoned by it. Let it go by letting others in to help you – bless them with the opportunity to listen and to stand with you. And look for others in need and stand along with them. It is hard to be tired and sad when there is work to be done helping others.

Yes, this is the way of Christ – not religious practice once in a while – but a life lived following His example step by step, day by day. And this is the abundant life with blessings poured out onto those you serve and love – and onto your own life as your purpose becomes about more than self.

Will we choose peace?

We can have the peace that God wants us to find in His guidance and example, or we can participate in the evil rebellion that hurts us and others around us. He offers us delivery from the traps of our old ways, and the strength to overcome and be set free, it is our choice that remains and that will determine the fruit of our lives.

The old way of the flesh:

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,  thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
Mark 7:21-23 NKJV

The promise of peace:

Great peace have those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble.
Psalms 119:165 NKJV

The strength offered:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13 NKJV

The fruit to be born in our lives:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-25 NKJV

Lord, we imagine how much brighter this world would be if filled with lives bearing your fruit abundantly. And even as we hope for a move of your Holy Spirit across our city, our state, our nation, our continent, our earth – even as we pray for and lay claim to your territory – we realize that we are the vessels carrying your Good News, your nourishing fruit, out to serve the world around us. Let our lives shine brightly reflecting your glory, Lord. Let us continue loving each small opportunity to show your love to others, not to just talk about you, but to live like you, too follow in your footsteps, sharing our life as a testimony, walking with you, and not loving our own lives even unto death. Rescue us, Lord, from that old man, that flesh, that enemy of your ways that wants to cling to us like burdensome chains of sin, death, guilt, shame, bitterness, unforgiveness, or unbelief. Free the captives, Lord, starting with us – equipping us, and guiding us, and using us for your glory and honor, forever and ever, Amen.

Tough Love?

And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
Jude 1:22-23 NKJV

With children, some situations call for compassion and some call for correction. If all we ever offer is compassion,  we will end up with selfish,  manipulative little devils. And if all we offer is correction,  we will end up with resentful,  rebellious little devils. It takes both to be an effective parent. And it takes listening to and receiving both to grow in maturity.

It is the same with the Kingdom of God. We must be willing to receive both His mercy and His discipline. Both are ingredients necessary for growth and survival.

A fool with little vision or understanding, looking at the strong heat of the sun bearing down on plants day after day, might see outwardly that the sun is causing them to bend under its power might, but not having any knowledge or understanding of what is going on inside the plant, this fool might completely misunderstand the purpose for the sun’s brightness shining down on the plants so they can grow closer to the sun.

This same fool might look at the soil of the earth and the rains that come down on the plant and bless the rain for providing the plant with mercy while cursing the sin for the harsh trials that it puts these plants through, not realizing that only through the sun – through its transforming the materials provided by the earth and rain to the plant – can any fruit be grown. Without the sun, no amount of water and soil will rise up to be anything more than water,  dirt,  or mud. It is the warmth of the sun,  and the power of its repeated, powerful shining down on the plants that awakens the seed to burst forth from the ground and reach towards the heavens as it grows.

And this is how our trials grow us. This is why both the mercy and the trials are important. If all we are interested in is the rain of His mercy and the resources of the soil of this earth – if we listen to the twisted message of the enemy and are interested only in receiving the rain of forgiveness and the wealth and comforts of this world,  but we refuse the trials and correction and discipline of repentance – don’t we understand that we are rolling in the mud like the pigs instead of reaching towards the heavens?

And if we will speak to others about Christ, if we will call ourselves teachers of His one way,  one truth,  one life – aren’t we called to follow Him in that way and to share the whole truth of this Christian life – not just the same story of the rain and the soil that even the pigs know how to get excited about – but singing praises of His trials and tribulations and discipline and chastisement and correction and redemption and delivery from the soil to reach for the heavens, yearning to escape the mud and grow closer to the sun?

Yes,  even the pigs get excited about rain and soil. Even the pigs get excited about forgiveness and prosperity. But only the living and growing plants appreciate the heat of the trials and sufferings and persecution that we as, Christians are promised in this life – because we understand that is where the growth happens,  that is where the escape from the ways of this world occurs, that is what draws us closer and closer to the source of our life even while we are still planted in the ground.

The Lord has made the sun shine down,  the rains fall down, and the earth to break open and allow room for our roots to grow deep – not so that we can cling tightly to this world,  but so that we can grow taller and higher and closer to the heavens. But if we are only grounded in the soil and mud, the storms of adversity would tip us over and we would only be useful as wood for the fire. We look to grow upward.

And we are meant to be those who abandon the ways of this world – those who follow Christ faithfully – those who are not just called to grow – those who have been chosen to be grafted into the strong and sturdy vine of Christ. Once we are tapped into that strong vine of Christ, when we are a branch that has been grafted into His tree, when we have Him as our foundation, we are not only growing towards the heavens,  but living alongside and with our Savior daily.

So we should ask ourselves where we are in this journey? Are we still rolling in the mud? Are we just bursting forth from the ground? Are we cursing the strong heat of the trials, wishing we were back in the mud? Are we shooting up fast and high above the mud in pride of our own accomplishments only to be withered away and fruitless because we are looking down on others and not up at the sun? Have we grown in the past,  but we’ve let ourselves become stunted in our growth because of our concern over whether we’ve gathered enough soil and water at the base of our roots,  worried about our toppling over instead of expecting to be grafted into a new vine? Have we been grafted in and we’re excited to see new buds growing on our branches? Have we been bearing fruit for some time but we’re wondering where it all went?

Yes, we are each at a different place in this journey – but we all have the opportunity to continue growing instead of turning back to the mud. There is something much better than the mud, friends, isn’t there? Don’t you know the truth? Tell someone else,  and find out if they also know that there is something better than the mud. Yes,  we all played in the mud at one time, but we have a better destination and purpose available. Are you Called? Following?  Chosen?