Be a Blessing to Those Who Hear

What a convicting message for me to consider. But when I start looking at what the scriptures, I see that it isn’t just “what I’m loudest about” but that language like “don’t let any” and “only such speech” are the kinds of words used to describe how we are to live and speak and behave as vessels of the holy spirit of God.

Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the need and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear [you speak]. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [but seek to please Him], by whom you were sealed and marked [branded as God’s own] for the day of redemption [the final deliverance from the consequences of sin]. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor [perpetual animosity, resentment, strife, fault-finding] and slander be put away from you, along with every kind of malice [all spitefulness, verbal abuse, malevolence]. Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave you.
Ephesians 4:29‭-‬32 AMP

Lord, help us.

You know what, friend? We have an opportunity to repent in this area of our lives. We have an opportunity to be quick to listen, slow to anger, and show to speak — like Almighty God is with us.

As we’ve heard before, the first step towards recovery is admitting we have a problem.

Instead of getting offended at “such a preposterous accusation” when we read such a convicting question — what if we realize as a Christian that we got mad or dismissed a question where the bar was set much lower than the Word of God calls us to live. And for those quick to throw out any commands as “old law”, that’s Paul in the new testament, friends. That isn’t law — that’s whether we are walking with God as vessels of His holy spirit or not.

Lord, help us. Thank you, Jesus! Amen.

Intentional vs Adaptation

This morning,  I am considering the word “intentional”.

As I woke up this morning to the darkness and the sound of hard rain, my waking prayer was, “Lord, don’t let it be 6:20 yet.” Because 6:20 is pretty much the latest that I can get up 7 days a week to let the dogs out in the morning and it not throw our morning routine completely off schedule (and not leave us with puppy surprises on the floor inside the house). And the Lord was faithful when I looked at the clock and the first digit was either a 4 or a 5, and I settled my mind for a prayer of praise before falling back asleep.

And 6:00 came and my Monday morning alarm went off — reminding me that today usually includes a commute into the office. My normal intention for Monday mornings is to make the hour commute into Greenville, SC (where our office is) from Campobello, SC (where we live) — and work the rest of the week from home. But weather, driving conditions, evening maintenance work requirements, and other requirements can affect that schedule.

This got me thinking about how having intentions and justifying not following through with those intentions can be a bad thing. In fact, the better we are at planning and envisioning the future, and learning from our past, the greater chance that diverting from the intended path is going to be a bad thing. So, as I get older,  I pay attention to these “adaptations” and “reactions” to insure that I’m not slowly giving up on my intentions and direction to be distracted away to something else.

I began to wonder about this from a Biblical perspective. I realize that God is all knowing, and that He does not change — and I realized that we “adapt” either because something happened that we didn’t plan for, or because we have abandoned our original intentions for something else. But God isn’t surprised by anything,  and He doesn’t change because of the circumstances surrounding Him. He has a plan and a purpose that will not be thwarted.

So this had me wondering about my own life and how much of it is intentional versus how much is changed, swayed, moved,  affected by whatever is going on around me. I wondered how easy or difficult it might be for something around me to influence me to react, to adapt,  to divert from my intended plan. To put this in human terms,  think about advertising, and click bait, and sponsored search results, and posts/articles with “trigger words” on the Internet and how these are used to distract us away into where someone wants us to go. Now imagine an unseen spiritual enemy who can do the same thing to tempt us away from our life’s purpose and has learned what bait works generation after generation and time after time.

If I’ve had vision and am pragmatic, my plan is to “Work in the office on Mondays unless I have scheduled maintenance or the driving conditions are bad”, then waking up to rain on a Monday and rejoicing that I can sleep in a bit longer is an intentional plan that I’ve made that makes sense, is efficient,  and is effective. But if my intention is to “Work in the office on Mondays” but I have no solid plan to make this a reality — and I rarely am there because I wake up and “struggle against my intentions” to constantly adapt, or come up with excuses, or justify my abandoning my original intentions — this does not make sense,  is inefficient,  and is ineffective.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to advocate the chains of OCD schedules and plans — but I’m talking about having vision and being pragmatic — both of which are how we see God operating — and both thwart the opportunity enemies to sway or distract us from our path and purpose — and both can be seen as valuable even to a person who isn’t spiritual.

I am given the flexibility to make either wise or foolish decisions — in my life — at my job — with my faith.

If I make foolish decisions (and I do), my best path is to learn from them, communicate honestly and in a timely manner with those involved, and be intentional about how to handle the situation in the future — and to be intentional. But if I’m constantly abandoning “my intentions” to chase after some distraction — a distraction indulged can become a “new intention”. This is how whole lives and families are uprooted and shattered on the rocks when a lack of purpose and firm footing exists and people are dragged this way and that way by circumstances, by feelings, by desires, by manipulations, by temptations, etc.

What do we see as The Way?

  • Follow God’s plan (be intentional)
  • Remain steadfast in trial
  • Ask for wisdom
  • Grow in wisdom and peace walking God’s Way

It is useless getting mad, if instead we:

  • Do it my own way
  • Are ruled by our desires
  • Doubt or don’t ask to know God’s Way
  • Insist on being foolish and resisting the surrender that would free us from slavery to the tricks of the enemy

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross daily [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me]. For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake, he is the one who will save it [from the consequences of sin and separation from God]. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world [wealth, fame, success], and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed [here and now] of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and the glory of the [heavenly] Father and of the holy angels.
Luke 9:23‭-‬26 AMP

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him. But he must ask [for wisdom] in faith, without doubting [God’s willingness to help], for the one who doubts is like a billowing surge of the sea that is blown about and tossed by the wind. For such a person ought not to think or expect that he will receive anything [at all] from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable and restless in all his ways [in everything he thinks, feels, or decides].
James 1:2‭-‬8 AMP

Jesus and Cigars

Tonight,  I walked into a cigar lounge in Boiling Springs where I had never visited before. I grabbed a few sticks, sat down in a big, comfy chair and started reading quietly in Genesis from my phone.

But fairly quickly, conversations struck up and I was making new acquaintances. And no one batted an eye at my answer that I missed an old gathering of guys where we got together for cigars and Bible study — nor was anyone surprised as we discussed everything from man caves, shooting pool, playing poker, singing karaoke, sports, politics, raising kids, or whatever anyone wanted to talk about.

As people came and left, everyone interacted as if we had all been friends. People from completely different races, political backgrounds, economic levels,  careers, ages and sexes were not only walking through the doors — they were all on equal ground as we talked and shared, laughed, etc. Even as a man from a different race and religion that I had never met mentioned his father’s recent eye surgery,  and I asked about how he was recovering, and even as I asked for his father’s name so that I could pray for him — there was no offense, there was no opposition, there was no pretense.

I couldn’t help but think of Jesus and why he preferred “eating with sinners” to eating with the religious leaders of the day. And I wasn’t looking at these men and assuming they were hellbound and needed me to save them — I was seeing the same need for relationship,  the same need for interaction, the same need for hope, love and truth as the people I will sit beside tomorrow morning in church.

These men weren’t shocked or repulsed by the natural, honest references to Jesus or the Bible that came out in my conversation any more than they were shocked by my talking about my job or my hobbies — because I wasn’t trying to force them to convert to my career or hobby any more than I was trying to force them to convert to my religion. Jesus is just as big a part of my life as anything else (actually bigger), so it was natural for Him to come up in conversation without trying to force or manipulate the conversation in that direction.

I neither had to hide who I am in Christ Jesus,  nor did I have to fit in to their conversations. When the topic of conversation was something I didn’t know anything about, I admitted as much and they didn’t think me less of a man, etc. In this, I saw how I will share my faith openly and genuinely when it is a valued, core part of who I am, and I was not hated, shunned, or rejected — because they respected how I respected them as well.

It also reminded me of the times when I have been able to share my faith naturally in the workplace, in the streets, inside the jail, inside bars, inside strip clubs, in my home, in singing groups, in the presence of drug dealers, prostitutes, criminals, pornographers, convicted murders, rapists and child molesters — and even with people who think themselves to be “quite honorable and religious”.

I understand that many people won’t understand why I more often sit at tables “with those people” instead of at tables with leaders, politicians, and honorable folks that I also know personally. I understand that some would be afraid to be close to the dangers of the dark world that surrounds many of these people and places. I’m not judging you. You go where you are called. I’ll go where I am called.

These are “my people”. I walked with these people when I was still one of them, and the Lord protected me even when I was walking deeper into the darkness with them. Now that I am walking with Him, I carry Him with me. I walk as an Ambassador of Christ — naked and unashamed of my faith, my God, my weaknesses, my conviction, my salvation by grace through faith, and the new creation that I am in Christ Jesus.

I say this to encourage you. Look past what you “think ministry looks like”. Know your own testimony. Know Him so close and personal that His Word is on your lips even more than your greatest hobby or interest. If He is not truly first in our life, we need to fix that. If we are not excited about Him as much as that new purchase, we need to fix that. And when He truly is our first love — there is no fear in our excitement about Him. And genuine excitement is peculiar,  is even so curious to others that it is contagious.

We do not live in a place where people haven’t heard the name of Jesus. People who are in the bushes and the brambles and the shadows around here — many have heard the name of Jesus and seen it blasphemed time and time again by people who neither love them nor truly love the Lord. I know many people who have never turned their back on the Lord, but they have turned their back on the organizations that are loud and proud of their self-righteousness and their expecting people to meet their expectations of holiness — when they are far from guilt beneath all the whitewash. I know children who are abandoning “the church of their youth” because they must in order to not depart from the Word — because they feel Jesus is nowhere to be found in those places. WE MUST REPENT!

I love the Church. I love the Saints. I love the Lord. I love you. I love these new people that I am meeting.

I will not delay in sharing my faith as it is part of me and is clearly and naturally on display as a huge part of who I am — nor do I need to manufacture a pretense in order to walk them through a Roman road tract before they leave my presence each time we meet. I look forward to each time that I get to lift up the name of Jesus in their presence,  and I trust that He continues to draw men to himself. I look forward to those moments the Holy Spirit stirs me to press in deeper and share my testimony and this hope that I have in Christ Jesus — and I’m eager to make disciples and baptize whoever will believe with their heart that Jesus is Lord and Savior and confess with their mouth that God raised Him from the dead to life, just as we have been raised to newness of life.

I want to encourage you to not just be religious, and to definitely not be complacent about your faith. I encourage you to examine your own testimony and to see who might be “where you were”. If (like the elder brother of the prodigal) you were called out of decades of sitting in a church pew and going through the motions to a real, alive, Holy Spirit empowered walk with God — that testimony needs to be shared with the religious and the complacent to know the love of God that stirs us into truly loving and serving others. If (like the prodigal) you ran into the darkness only to turn back to run home to the Lord — that testimony needs to be shared with those in need of the love of God that stirs us to truly loving and serving others. If you don’t have a testimony, you need to spend some time with God and get that right while there is still time.

Lord, let our love be genuine. Let our lives lift a pleasing aroma to you. Amen.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us spreads and makes evident everywhere the sweet fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are the sweet fragrance of Christ [which ascends] to God, [discernible both] among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the latter one an aroma from death to death [a fatal, offensive odor], but to the other an aroma from life to life [a vital fragrance, living and fresh]. And who is adequate and sufficiently qualified for these things? For we are not like many, [acting like merchants] peddling God’s word [shortchanging and adulterating God’s message]; but from pure [uncompromised] motives, as [commissioned and sent] from God, we speak [His message] in Christ in the sight of God.
2 Corinthians 2:14‭-‬17 AMP

You [believers], like living stones, are being built up into a spiritual house for a holy and dedicated priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices [that are] acceptable and pleasing to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:5 AMP

Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]; and walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.
Ephesians 5:1‭-‬2 AMP

Concerning God’s Law

I believe it will be profitable to contemplate the following on this subject.

Christ didn’t lower/eliminate/destroy the law:

“Do not think that I came to do away with or undo the Law [of Moses] or the [writings of the] Prophets; I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you and most solemnly say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke [of the pen] will pass from the Law until all things [which it foreshadows] are accomplished. So whoever breaks one of the least [important] of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least [important] in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them, he will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. “For I say to you that unless your righteousness (uprightness, moral essence) is more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:17‭-‬20 AMP

The purpose of the Law is to increase and expand awareness of what sin is (falling short of genuine holiness), and make clear our inability to meet the true requirements of true holiness, and our need for grace as a free gift of salvation from God (and not of ourselves):

But the Law came to increase and expand [the awareness of] the trespass [by defining and unmasking sin]. But where sin increased, [God’s remarkable, gracious gift of] grace [His unmerited favor] has surpassed it and increased all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, so also grace would reign through righteousness which brings eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 5:20‭-‬21 AMP

But God, being [so very] rich in mercy, because of His great and wonderful love with which He loved us, even when we were [spiritually] dead and separated from Him because of our sins, He made us [spiritually] alive together with Christ (for by His grace—His undeserved favor and mercy—you have been saved from God’s judgment). And He raised us up together with Him [when we believed], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, [because we are] in Christ Jesus, [and He did this] so that in the ages to come He might [clearly] show the immeasurable and unsurpassed riches of His grace in [His] kindness toward us in Christ Jesus [by providing for our redemption]. For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]. For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].
Ephesians 2:4‭-‬10 AMP

The purpose of this grace is not a license to sin, but this call to freedom ands eternal life is a baptism into the death of Christ to be raised to newness and life:

What shall we say [to all this]? Should we continue in sin and practice sin as a habit so that [God’s gift of] grace may increase and overflow? Certainly not! How can we, the very ones who died to sin, continue to live in it any longer? Or are you ignorant of the fact that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We have therefore been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory and power of the Father, we too might walk habitually in newness of life [abandoning our old ways]. For if we have become one with Him [permanently united] in the likeness of His death, we will also certainly be [one with Him and share fully] in the likeness of His resurrection. We know that our old self [our human nature without the Holy Spirit] was nailed to the cross with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin. For the person who has died [with Christ] has been freed from [the power of] sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live [together] with Him, because we know [the self-evident truth] that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has power over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin [ending its power and paying the sinner’s debt] once and for all; and the life that He lives, He lives to [glorify] God [in unbroken fellowship with Him]. Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin [and your relationship to it broken], but alive to God [in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts and passions. Do not go on offering members of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness. But offer yourselves to God [in a decisive act] as those alive [raised] from the dead [to a new life], and your members [all of your abilities—sanctified, set apart] as instruments of righteousness [yielded] to God. For sin will no longer be a master over you, since you are not under Law [as slaves], but under [unmerited] grace [as recipients of God’s favor and mercy]. What then [are we to conclude]? Shall we sin because we are not under Law, but under [God’s] grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that when you continually offer yourselves to someone to do his will, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey, either [slaves] of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness (right standing with God)? But thank God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient with all your heart to the standard of teaching in which you were instructed and to which you were committed. And having been set free from sin, you have become the slaves of righteousness [of conformity to God’s will and purpose]. I am speaking in [familiar] human terms because of your natural limitations [your spiritual immaturity]. For just as you presented your bodily members as slaves to impurity and to [moral] lawlessness, leading to further lawlessness, so now offer your members [your abilities, your talents] as slaves to righteousness, leading to sanctification [that is, being set apart for God’s purpose]. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness [you had no desire to conform to God’s will]. So what benefit did you get at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? [None!] For the outcome of those things is death! But now since you have been set free from sin and have become [willing] slaves to God, you have your benefit, resulting in sanctification [being made holy and set apart for God’s purpose], and the outcome [of this] is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God [that is, His remarkable, overwhelming gift of grace to believers] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:1‭-‬23 AMP

The written law can act as a baby sitter of sorts to the spiritually immature who do not understand what sin truly is (sin is not a checklist that some live up to and some do not — all have fallen short of true holiness and require the grace of God through Christ Jesus):

Now what I mean [when I talk about children and their guardians] is this: as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave even though he is the [future owner and] master of all [the estate]; but he is under [the authority of] guardians and household administrators or managers until the date set by his father [when he is of legal age]. So also we [whether Jews or Gentiles], when we were children (spiritually immature), were kept like slaves under the elementary [man-made religious or philosophical] teachings of the world. But when [in God’s plan] the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the [regulations of the] Law, so that He might redeem and liberate those who were under the Law, that we [who believe] might be adopted as sons [as God’s children with all rights as fully grown members of a family]. And because you [really] are [His] sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave (bond-servant), but a son; and if a son, then also an heir through [the gracious act of] God [through Christ]. But at that time, when you did not know [the true] God and were unacquainted with Him, you [Gentiles] were slaves to those [pagan] things which by [their very] nature were not and could not be gods at all. Now, however, since you have come to know [the true] God [through personal experience], or rather to be known by God, how is it that you are turning back again to the weak and worthless elemental principles [of religions and philosophies], to which you want to be enslaved all over again? [For example,] you observe [particular] days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored [to the point of exhaustion] over you in vain. Believers, I beg of you, become as I am [free from the bondage of Jewish ritualism and ordinances], for I have become as you are [a Gentile]. You did me no wrong [when I first came to you; do not do it now]. On the contrary, you know that it was because of a physical illness that I [remained and] preached the gospel to you the first time; and even though my physical condition was a trial to you, you did not regard it with contempt, or scorn and reject me; but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus Himself. What then has become of that sense of blessing and the joy that you once had [from your salvation and your relationship with Christ]? For I testify of you that, if possible, you would have torn out your own eyes and given them to me [ to replace mine]. So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? These men [the Judaizers] eagerly seek you [to entrap you with honeyed words and attention, to win you over to their philosophy], not honorably [for their purpose is not honorable or worthy of consideration]. They want to isolate you [from us who oppose them] so that you will seek them.
Galatians 4:1‭-‬17 AMP

It was for this freedom that Christ set us free [completely liberating us]; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery [which you once removed]. Notice, it is I, Paul, who tells you that if you receive circumcision [as a supposed requirement of salvation], Christ will be of no benefit to you [for you will lack the faith in Christ that is necessary for salvation]. Once more I solemnly affirm to every man who receives circumcision [as a supposed requirement of salvation], that he is under obligation and required to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, if you seek to be justified [that is, declared free of the guilt of sin and its penalty, and placed in right standing with God] through the Law; you have fallen from grace [for you have lost your grasp on God’s unmerited favor and blessing]. For we [not relying on the Law but] through the [strength and power of the Holy] Spirit, by faith, are waiting [confidently] for the hope of righteousness [the completion of our salvation]. For [if we are] in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but only faith activated and expressed and working through love. This [deceptive] persuasion is not from Him who called you [to freedom in Christ]. A little leaven [a slight inclination to error, or a few false teachers] leavens the whole batch [it perverts the concept of faith and misleads the church]. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view [contrary to mine on the matter]; but the one who is disturbing you, whoever he is, will have to bear the penalty. But as for me, brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision [as I had done before I met Christ; and as some accuse me of doing now, as necessary for salvation], why am I still being persecuted [by Jews]? In that case the stumbling block of the cross [to unbelieving Jews] has been abolished. I wish that those who are troubling you [by teaching that circumcision is necessary for salvation] would even [go all the way and] castrate themselves! For you, my brothers, were called to freedom; only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the sinful nature (worldliness, selfishness), but through love serve and seek the best for one another. For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is fulfilled in one precept, “Y ou shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, you shall have an unselfish concern for others and do things for their benefit].” But if you bite and devour one another [in bickering and strife], watch out that you [along with your entire fellowship] are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts]. For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature; for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever [good things] you want to do. But if you are guided and led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the Law. Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit]. We must not become conceited, challenging or provoking one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5:1‭-‬6‭, ‬8‭-‬26 AMP

And we see that God’s law has been faith not self-righteousness even from the beginning with Abraham:

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather humanly speaking, has found? [Has he obtained a favored standing?] For if Abraham was justified [that is, acquitted from the guilt of his sins] by works [those things he did that were good], he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed in (trusted, relied on) God , and it was credited to his account as righteousness (right living, right standing with God).” Now to a laborer, his wages are not credited as a favor or a gift, but as an obligation [something owed to him]. But to the one who does not work [that is, the one who does not try to earn his salvation by doing good], but believes and completely trusts in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited to him as righteousness (right standing with God). And in this same way David speaks of the blessing on the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed and happy and favored are those whose lawless acts have been forgiven , A nd whose sins have been covered up and completely buried . Blessed and happy and favored is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account nor charge against him .”
Romans 4:1‭-‬8 AMP

And Christianity tells us it is the opposite — that our best is filthy rags — that we are incapable of true selfless love apart from the Lord — that anything pure and true in a believer comes from the Holy Spirit of God and not from self. Yet, we seem surprised and offended by people’s weaknesses, hurts, and struggles — and expectant and demanding of others’ perfect outward appearance to meet our standards.

The Kingdom of God definitely turns the ways of the religious on its head.

Lord, help us.

Epitaph

This morning, I’m reminded that my love for you is my love for the Lord.

Not my studying and digesting and understanding and teaching the Word of God like a good theologian.

Not my defending the Word of God through debate and reason like a good apologist.

Not my singing and praising with voice and instrument like a good worshiper.

Not my touching and healing or casting out evil spirits by the Word of God like a good healer.

Not my speaking prayers with the tongues of angels and tears and pains of heartfelt concern for the needs of others like a good intercessor.

Not my revealing God’s will and bringing a timely and convicting message to the people of God like a good prophet.

Not my delivering the Roman road gospel explanation and offering an altar call for response and baptizing many in the name of the Lord like a good evangelist.

Not my feeding and providing for the needs of others like a good philanthropist.

These things alone can become tasks, checklists, routines, practices — dead religion and self- righteous hypocrisy.

But love.

Love makes all the difference.

I love you.

He loves you.

In all the things we will do today, we will show others how much we love them:

  • By our respect or our disrespect
  • By our presence or our absence
  • By our gentleness or our harshness
  • By our selflessness or our demands
  • By our patience or our impatience
  • By our joy or our anxiousness
  • By our forgiveness or our bitterness
  • By our making peace or our opposition
  • By our self-control or our attempts to control others

And the world is in desperate need of love. People are even turning their backs in droves from “the usual religious places” because they are not finding love there — they are looking for Jesus — and are understandably doubtful that He is there amongst all this activity and practice, but where there is so little love.

So let us set our sights on living others, Christian, beloved of God — because they truly are beloved by God. Ands out is our job to show that love to them in the language and manner they can see and understand is real.

Go love greatly! Because we are greatly loved!

Amen.

The story of Mary and Martha immediately following the golden rule in Luke 10 is not by coincidence:

And he replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart , and with all your soul , and with all your strength , and with all your mind ; and your neighbor as yourself .” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this habitually and you will live .” But he, wishing to justify and vindicate himself, asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he encountered robbers, who stripped him of his clothes [and belongings], beat him, and went their way [unconcerned], leaving him half dead. Now by coincidence a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also came down to the place and saw him, and passed by on the other side [of the road]. But a Samaritan (foreigner), who was traveling, came upon him; and when he saw him, he was deeply moved with compassion [for him], and went to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them [to sooth and disinfect the injuries]; and he put him on his own pack-animal, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii (two days’ wages) and gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I return.’ Which of these three do you think proved himself a neighbor to the man who encountered the robbers?” He answered, “The one who showed compassion and mercy to him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and constantly do the same.” Now while they were on their way, Jesus entered a village [called Bethany], and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was continually listening to His teaching. But Martha was very busy and distracted with all of her serving responsibilities; and she approached Him and said, “Lord, is it of no concern to You that my sister has left me to do the serving alone? Tell her to help me and do her part.” But the Lord replied to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered and anxious about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part [that which is to her advantage], which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:27‭-‬42 AMP

Glimpses or Wellspring

Sunrise on the farm

One of our security cameras caught a picture of the sunrise as Mandee left to take Mia to school yesterday. I was talking with a vendor at work who commented on how beautiful it is here where we live, and I had to agree. We have beautiful sunrises, beautiful mountain views, and we see surprises of new beauty from nature every day. We also saw a new resident on the farm that we have named “Charlie”, or “Chuck” for short. We were sitting at the kitchen table eating lunch, and Mandee exclaimed, “What is that?! Is that an animal?” So I grabbed my “good camera” and snapped on a zoom lens and was able to get a quick picture of Charlie.

Charlie the Woodchuck

Since my wife was getting ready and putting on her makeup this morning, I read our family devotional with Mia, Olive, Pompom, and I all snuggled up in our bed. And as I began reading, Mandee chuckled to herself about the fact that it started out “Man looks at the outward appearance but I look at the heart” while she was putting on her makeup.

Jesus Always – Feb 26

But this morning’s devotional wasn’t just about the outward display of God’s handiwork, or just about glimpses of His glory in nature, or just about warnings about letting ourselves get hung up on outward appearances.

No, the most important piece of the devotion that we needed to hear was to “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” And in case we were too sleepy eyed, or distracted, or foolish to realize that was the most important thing — like a good teacher laying hints during review for a test — the Word of God clearly emphasizes this by starting out “Above all else”.

A Wellspring in Nature

“Above all else” seems pretty important, don’t you think?

My mom and I talked about the state of the church in America on the phone last night, and how instead of ” guarding their own hearts” and insisting it is a “wellspring of life” — it seems like much of mainstream conservatism has become complacent and primarily focused on telling people what they should be “afraid of”, what they should be “offended by”, what they should be “loudly opposed to”. Outward appearance and loud demonstration “against things” seems to have grown to be the keynote for too many religious discussions — while too few focus on asking:

“What is the source of this fear? What is flooding fear into our hearts, and therefore flooding words of fear from our mouths and fearful posts from our social media influence?”

“What is the source of this offense? What is flooding offense into our hearts,  and therefore flooding words of fear from our mouths and offended and offensive posts in our social media influence?”

“What is the source of this opposition and divisiveness? What is flooding divisiveness into our hearts,  and therefore flooding words of exclusivity from our mouths and divisive posts in our social media influence?”

Polluted Waters

Some might say with pointed fingers that “What THEY are doing is causing us to act this way!” But Jesus explains how defilement happens quite clearly:

After He called the people to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen [carefully] to Me, all of you, [hear] and understand [what I am saying]: there is nothing outside a man [such as food] which by going into him can defile him [morally or spiritually]; but the things which come out of [the heart of] a man are what defile and dishonor him. [ If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” ] When Jesus had left the crowd and gone into the house, His disciples asked Him about the parable. And He said to them, “Are you, too, so foolish and lacking in understanding? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile and dishonor him, since it does not enter his heart, but [only] his stomach, and [from there it] is eliminated?” ( By this, He declared all foods ceremonially clean.) And He said, “Whatever comes from [the heart of] a man, that is what defiles and dishonors him. For from within, [that is] out the heart of men, come base and malevolent thoughts and schemes, acts of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, adulteries, acts of greed and covetousness, wickedness, deceit, unrestrained conduct, envy and jealousy, slander and profanity, arrogance and self-righteousness and foolishness (poor judgment). All these evil things [schemes and desires] come from within and defile and dishonor the man.”
Mark 7:14‭-‬23 AMP

Yes, He is talking about physical food not defiling us, but we “consume” more from television and the Internet these days than we could ever consume with our mouths to fill our newly expanded quarantine bellies. Do we fear that TV show or website or vaccine or implant because we think that it might “defile us” and that it is the “mark of the beast”? Or is the real fear that the real source of the “wellspring of our heart” might be those things Jesus described as the true mark of the beast, the true means of discerning whose are children of a very different Father. Those things that rise up from within the ravenous wolves to be visible beyond the white washed outward imitation of sheep.

Let’s contrast what comes out of the heart of men:

out the heart of men, come base and malevolent thoughts and schemes, acts of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, adulteries, acts of greed and covetousness, wickedness, deceit, unrestrained conduct, envy and jealousy, slander and profanity, arrogance and self-righteousness and foolishness (poor judgment).” – Mark 7:

Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” – Galatians 5:19‭-‬21 AMP

To what springs forth from the Holy Spirit of God:

But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit]. We must not become conceited, challenging or provoking one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5:22‭-‬26 AMP

First, we must ask, “Does His pure life flow through me, or is my wellspring from something polluted and impure?”

If you see the need for change… for a new wellspring inside, beloved…

Do you believe with your heart in Christ as Savior, and confess your faith in Jesus openly with your life?

because if you acknowledge and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [recognizing His power, authority, and majesty as God], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation. For the Scripture says, “W hoever believes in H im [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed [in his expectations].”
Romans 10:9‭-‬11 AM

Do you ask Him for the Holy Spirit, this wellspring of life, an abundant supply of His character, nature, and presence in your life?

So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you, then, being evil [that is, sinful by nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!
Luke 11:9‭-‬13 AMP

Thank you, Lord, for being our wellspring. Amen.

Realize His Presence

There is a difference that I’ve noticed between intimate time in His presence versus trying to “free the mind from worries and anxieties”, or “imagining Jesus by my side and talking to Him”, or “going through the motions of praying”.

What I’ve found is that when I’ve fallen into only meditating and listening, or only imagining and speaking, or only walking through the tradition and practice — that the intimacy is missing in my interactions with the Lord.

Do we truly “realize His presence” here with us — or does He feel far from us?

Are we “naked before God” by confessing our weaknesses and giving Him glory by acknowledging our need for Him to fight our battles for us — or focusing more on how we think our own minds should be clean and we’re wanting to be stronger and more positive in our thoughts?

Are we soaking in the presence of God as we savor our time with Him — or are we doing what we know we’re supposed to do and saying the things we’ve been taught to say?

Are we aware of His actual presence right here with us — or are we trying to imagine God strong enough with our minds so that we can put on a pretty face and ignore our feelings?

We might say these are subtle differences if we were a scientist or mathematician observing and asking questions to record measurements about the physical process itself — but there is an Almighty difference in what is happening spiritually.

Prayer is not something done alone “inside our own minds” — but is intimacy with Almighty God.

Faith is not us being strong minded enough to “put on a happy face” in spite of feelings and circumstances and to not hurt or not be unhappy or only think positively — but Faith is a choice to be honest and vulnerable about our brokenness, our weaknesses, and our need for God to fight our battles, coupled with our trust that He will because He said He will.

In today’s world where there is so much new aged philosophy and self help and religious practice around us to distract us from a personal and intimate relationship with our God — sometimes it helps to remember, to realize who is right beside us, who is with us.

Why would a man turn to pictures on his phone, or flirtations with another, or fantasizing on his own if his wonderful, beautiful, passionate wife is laying beside him? He either doesn’t want intimacy with her, or he doesn’t believe she wants intimacy with him!

And this is how we are with God! We trade actual intimacy with God — for self manufactured imaginations, coping mechanisms, and substitutions.

And don’t feel particularly low about it if you can see it yourself, friend. I said “we” because this is common to man. We have all gone astray and forgotten at times how sweet, beautiful, loving and amazing the Lord is to us. But it is time to return to intimacy with the Lord. It is time to be vulnerable and real. It is time to pray, realizing we are in the presence of God. Amen.

For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord , ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you. Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11‭-‬13 AMP

One thing I have asked of the Lord , and that I will seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, To gaze upon the beauty [the delightful loveliness and majestic grandeur] of the Lord And to meditate in His temple.
Psalms 27:4 AMP

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol (the nether world, the place of the dead), behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will take hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, And the night will be the only light around me,” Even the darkness is not dark to You and conceals nothing from You, But the night shines as bright as the day; Darkness and light are alike to You. For You formed my innermost parts; You knit me [together] in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks and praise to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was being formed in secret, And intricately and skillfully formed [as if embroidered with many colors] in the depths of the earth. Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were appointed for me, When as yet there was not one of them [even taking shape]. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I could count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.
Psalms 139:7‭-‬18 AMP

How are we Repaid? How are we Repaying?

Now David had said, “Surely in vain I have protected and guarded all that this man has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missing of all that belonged to him; and he has repaid me evil for good.
1 Samuel 25:21‭ AMP

We can probably all think of someone in our lives who has “repaid us evil for good“.

Read full chapter here: https://www.bible.com/bible/116/1SA.25.NLT

Those of us who have been beaten down by people who have repaid evil for good in our lives — might have learned over time the same initial self-defensive response as David. David proclaimed that he would go and destroy them all. Almost a “kill them all and let God sort them out” mentality.  This man, David, a man described in the Bible as “being a man after God’s own heart” — set his mind upon the utter destruction of this fool and everything associated with him. I can understand this perspective.

There are people who I feel have wronged me so badly that I could see justice in God crushing and humiliating them, in their businesses and pursuits being dashed upon the rocks, and in their wicked ways being made an example for others to avoid. But I am reminded of what Proverbs tells us on this topic of our enemies falling or stumbling:

Do not rejoice and gloat when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad [in self-righteousness] when he stumbles, Or the Lord will see your gloating and be displeased, And turn His anger away from your enemy.
Proverbs 24:17‭-‬18 AMP

In this story in 1 Samuel 25, neither Nabal, the harsh and evil fool in this story, nor David, the angry and offended warrior king, are the ones that we want to model when it comes to initial responses and reactions. But if you’ve ever felt hurt or betrayed, you can probably at least understand where they were both coming from.

Nabal is thinking to himself,  “Why should I help this person, let him help himself” like we might say when we encounter someone with a request, a need, or a challenge that “isn’t my problem”. Like my reaction just today towards the homeless guy that approached me in downtown Greenville as I bought my Chickfila sandwich for lunch — when I put my headphones back on my ears quickly, just in case he was going to hit me up for some money. Albeit, David was no complete stranger to Nabal, so this was a bit different — but I can put myself in the shoes of this foolish man pretty easily.

And here David was, mourning the death of Samuel out in the wilderness with his men,  being a blessing to Nabal’s men and offering them protection, and he extended a blessing to Nabal:

and this is what you shall say, ‘ Have a long life! Peace be to you, and peace to your house, and peace to all that you have.
1 Samuel 25:6 AMP

Nabal and his men were celebrating a festive day, the time of shearing, and David simply asked if Nabal might show his men favor and let them “have some of the leftovers”.

Ask your young men and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your sight [and be well-treated], for we have come on a good (festive) day. Please, give whatever you find at hand to your servants and to your son David.’ 
1 Samuel 25:8 AMP

Matthew Henry’s commentary has to say of verse 8:

Riches make men look great in the eye of the world; but to one that takes right views, Nabal looked very mean. He had no honour or honesty; he was churlish, cross, and ill-humoured; evil in his doings, hard and oppressive; a man that cared not what fraud and violence he used in getting and saving. What little reason have we to value the wealth of this world, when so great a churl as Nabal abounds, and so good a man as David suffers want!

I have recently encountered a man in India who runs an orphanage,  who messages me most days through Facebook Messenger with blessings:

Having seen similar circumstances in the past,  and having discovered some to be scam artists panhandling for money by targeting Christians in private over the Internet,  I wanted to validate this need, when the inevitable request to send money came. So I checked with a friend who had confirmed that the need in this instance was indeed real. I was immediately reminded of “heroes” like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, George Mueller, and Harriet Tubman (read more: http://www.linnysaunders.com/2017/11/heroes-2.html ).

Day after day, he blesses me with his messages, and many days,  I have ignored them — expecting they were just contrivances meant to open conversations so that he can ask for money. The name Nabal means “fool”, and when I look at how I many times respond to those in need around me,  I feel quite foolish. Yes, I sometimes help, but even then,  I “feel good about myself” for having helped someone in need — it becomes a “big deal” in my own mind that I helped someone else. How foolish is that!!! God has given to me abundantly with excess, and I cling to it with closed fist as if it isn’t meant for me to be a blessing to others! As if helping and loving and serving those in need is supposed to be some unique/odd occasion instead of my very way of consistently doing life.

Lord, forgive me for seeing things wrongly and seeing enemies — either from the perspective of Nabal or David.

So let’s look at the Peacemaker in this story. Her name is Abigail. She is Nabal’s wife and when she sees what her foolish husband,  Nabal, has done,  she “hurries” to make peace. It is pointed out in both verses 18 and again in verse 23 that she did not hesitate, but she hurried to meet the need and to make peace. And in verse 24, she even asks that the blame fall on her. She then proceeds to bless David and his men,  not just with physical provision, but with a proclamation of spiritual blessing upon them in verses 28-31. Abigail shines like a bright light in this moment and reminds me of another one willing to take blame for our sin, willing to intercede on our behalf, willing to provide provision without question or delay to meet the need, willing to be a peacemaker — His name is Jesus,  and He is clearly Lord in this story.

We can read on to see how Abigail was freed by the Lord from her foolish husband,  and how she was blessed greatly. I wonder how many opportunities we might miss to be the blessing for the glory of God because we delay, we procrastinate, we avoid — instead of hurrying to be the peacemaker, to meet the need, to be the light of love in the midst of dark and challenging situations?

If you would like to run towards a need,  I encourage you to reach out to someone in need. Maybe check out this man who has contacted me and communicated his need to pray for them and see how you might be a blessing: https://www.facebook.com/100024177901842/posts/856366498512606/?app=fbl

Maybe consider donating to help him fill the need: https://paypal.me/MallikRao?locale.x=en_GB

I cannot speak to all of the particulars of this man’s orphanage or ministry. But he repeatedly offers me words of encouragement and an opportunity to be a blessing for the glory of God. Abigail didn’t run hurriedly towards the need because she thought she would eventually be blessed as David’s wife — she saw the need was urgent and she interceded. The blessing was “added to her” because she was “seeking first God’s way”.

“Therefore I tell you, stop being worried or anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted) about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, as to what you will wear. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow [seed] nor reap [the harvest] nor gather [the crops] into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by worrying can add one hour to [the length of] his life? And why are you worried about clothes? See how the lilies and wildflowers of the field grow; they do not labor nor do they spin [wool to make clothing], yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory and splendor dressed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive and green today and tomorrow is [cut and] thrown [as fuel] into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Therefore do not worry or be anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted), saying, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ For the [pagan] Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; [but do not worry,] for your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:25‭-‬34 AMP

https://bible.com/bible/1588/mat.6.25-34.AMP

“Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever]. “Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they will be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted]. “Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the gentle [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they will be [completely] satisfied. “Blessed [content, sheltered by God’s promises] are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed [anticipating God’s presence, spiritually mature] are the pure in heart [those with integrity, moral courage, and godly character], for they will see God. “Blessed [spiritually calm with life-joy in God’s favor] are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they will [express His character and] be called the sons of God. “Blessed [comforted by inner peace and God’s love] are those who are persecuted for doing that which is morally right, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever]. “Blessed [morally courageous and spiritually alive with life-joy in God’s goodness] are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you because of [your association with] Me. Be glad and exceedingly joyful, for your reward in heaven is great [absolutely inexhaustible]; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:3‭-‬12 AMP

And Your godly ones will bless You

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works [the entirety of things created]. All Your works shall give thanks to You and praise You, O Lord , And Your godly ones will bless You.
Psalms 145:8‭-‬10 AMP

All Your works shall give thanks to You and praise You, O Lord , And Your godly ones will bless You.

The distinction at the end of verse 10 stirs us. There are two categories mentioned:

  • All your works
  • Your godly ones

There is a distinction made between the first and the last — that all of His works will give Him thanks and praise Him — but that His godly ones will bless Him.

I pray that we will give Him thanks and praise Him, but not be satisfied with only that. I don’t even pay that we would give Him thanks and praise and “want to” bles Him. We need to pay that we will be a blessing to the Lord, AND we need to live our lives to be a blessing to the Lord — because there is a great distinction between the two.

May our lives bear fruit, actions, deeds, service — not just words and songs — but let our lives be a sweet song lifted to you in the language of love.

…let our lives be a sweet song lifted to you in the language of love.

“Beware of the false prophets, [teachers] who come to you dressed as sheep [appearing gentle and innocent], but inwardly are ravenous wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them [that is, by their contrived doctrine and self-focus]. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the unhealthy tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruit you will recognize them [as false prophets]. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day [when I judge them], ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and driven out demons in Your name, and done many miracles in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them publicly, ‘I never knew you; depart from M e [you are banished from My presence], you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].’

Therefore, by their fruit you will recognize them [as false prophets]. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.

So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man [a far-sighted, practical, and sensible man] who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them, will be like a foolish (stupid) man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods and torrents came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great and complete was its fall.”
Matthew 7:15‭-‬27 AMP

So everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, will be like a wise man [a far-sighted, practical, and sensible man] who built his house on the rock.

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory and majesty and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him [for judgment]; and He will separate them from one another, as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right [the place of honor], and the goats on His left [the place of rejection]. “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father [you favored of God, appointed to eternal salvation], inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me [with help and ministering care]; I was in prison, and you came to Me [ignoring personal danger].’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You as a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it for Me.’ “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Leave Me, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels (demons); for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me [with help and ministering care].’ Then they also [in their turn] will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or as a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will reply to them, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, to the extent that you did not do it for one of the least of these [my followers], you did not do it for Me.’ Then these [unbelieving people] will go away into eternal (unending) punishment, but those who are righteous and in right standing with God [will go, by His remarkable grace] into eternal (unending) life.”
Matthew 25:31‭-‬46 AMP

The King will answer and say to them, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it for Me.’

God is not a Liar

God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken and will He not make it good and fulfill it?
Numbers 23:19 AMP

At times, especially during times of difficult challenges, I have found myself tempted to doubt that God is good and has good in store for me. But every single time, He has proven to be faithful and shown me in due time that the storm wasn’t there to bury me, but to clear the way for what He had in store for me.

However, even though it is true, telling someone “God has good in store for you” or “God is faithful” in the middle of a storm where it feels, looks, tastes, and seems like they are about to drown may not be comforting — in fact, it may be like pouring salt in the wound. It may sound like “fix it” advice when they need love delivered in a different language than just a spoken truth.

God provides love in so many more ways to us than just written words in a book. So if I follow His pattern, I will love in more ways than just quoting words from the book or sharing lessons online.

Help me, Lord, to be faithful when the orphans communicate a need to free the purse strings. Help me, Lord, when the widows need a comforting hug and a warm place to sleep and food on their plate to appreciate the opportunity. Help me, Lord, to see a friend in need of something I have and to be open handed. Help me, Lord, to find a friend in need of the type of healing that only you can bring and to be prayerful. Help ne, Lord, to love and be faithful like you are faithful to me all my days. And I begin to realize that when my time is spent being faithful and loving to others — it is such a blessed opportunity. Then, even the sting of betrayal or abandonment but others doesn’t leave me with less love to pour out, because you are my source of love to give. And the depths of your love for me to tap into and receive in order to give never runs out. Amen.