Great Question (continued)

This is a continuation of a discussion from several days ago.

Please check out the original post here for some context: https://hballinger.com/2018/11/10/great-question/

As you’ll see, Charlotte dropped the religious vocabulary words “free will” as the answer to the question, and Daniel raised some additional questions seeking clarification. The key to his question is that he either doesn’t know the scriptures or didn’t look to see what the scripture

Why?

When things get hard, when they aren’t going the way that seemed right to us, we are tempted to doubt — we are whispered lies about His love for us.

So let’s look to the Word of God in these times:

For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Psalms 30:5 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.30.5.ESV

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

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord . For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8‭-‬9 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/isa.55.8-9.ESV

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
Jeremiah 33:3 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/jer.33.3.ESV

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:3‭-‬12 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/mat.5.3-12.ESV

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3‭-‬5 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/rom.5.3-5.ESV

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/1co.10.13.ESV

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2‭-‬4 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/jas.1.2-4.ESV

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/jas.1.12.ESV

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
Hebrews 10:32‭-‬39 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/heb.10.32-39.ESV

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20‭-‬21 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/eph.3.20-21.ESV

Habitually Righteous, Habitually Loving

Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure. Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him. Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is. Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God. This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous. So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him. And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.
1 John 3:2‭-‬24 NLT

He doesn’t say, “Continue in your sinful ways, believers…” (see James 2:19)

He doesn’t say, “Define for yourself what is sinful and what is holy, subtracting whatever you like and add whatever you like to be Lord over your own lives…” (see Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 12:32, Revelation 22:18-19, 2 Timothy 2:15)

He doesn’t say, “Oppress each other with measurements and expectations and outward appearance and traditions…” (see John 7:24)

He doesn’t say, “Live like hell but still call yourself by my name and encourage others to do the same…” (see 1 Peter 1:16, Romans 1)

Great question:

A friend from high school posted this. I can’t speak to her heart’s reason behind asking the original question —

A) Did she genuinely want to know for herself because she iis becoming interested?

B) Did she have some level of true interest in understanding how a believer could make sense of such a thing, so that she might be more tolerant of their beliefs?

C) Did she want to use a seemingly wise presupposition in an effort to mock and ridicule Bible believing people?

D) Something else?

I could have assumed the worst and lashed out – and lost the opportunity to answer everyone that opens her post.

But her original intent (whether honorable or disingenuous) didn’t have to play into my providing a clear and understandable and reasonable perspective. I didn’t have to be lured into being offended. I didn’t have to let any assumptions or feelings guide my words. I didn’t have to do anything really. I could have ignored it and moved on, but a question about the Word of God was asked, so I remembered the gospel – and provided the answer based on the gospel. And an opportunity to share the gospel was born.

Pretty cool moment, I think. Not because I would say mockingly, “I won, you lose” as if things are “us” against “then”, but as a recognition that “He has won, and His victory is available to all.”

Now, I’ve fallen short so many times before when I saw people as the enemy and let the “troll” in both of us go to war. But iif we can remember who the true enemy is — if we can remember what it was like to be lost, blind, and deaf — maybe we can see the opportunities and actually plant a seed.

What is taught theologically about the details of this question is not quite as important as what is taught to me about how to behave — how to have the very self control and peace and trust come through in HOW it is shared, not just iin WHAT is shared. Thank you, Lord, for still teaching me that your way is best.

Psalm 30 – for everyday

I give you all the credit, God — you got me out of that mess, you didn’t let the haters gloat.

Jesus , my Jesus, I yelled for help and you pulled me back together. Lord , you pulled me out of the grave, and gave me another chance at life when I was down-and-out, depressed and hopeless, when I thought there was no way back.

All you saints! Everyone who knows how merciful and good God has been to you! Sing your hearts out to Him ! Thank Him to his face!

He is frustrated by our foolishness once in a while, but across a lifetime we see there is only love. And our nights of crying give way to days of laughter.

When things were going great I cried out to the world, “I’ve got it made. I’m God ’s favorite. He made me king of the mountain.” Then you looked the other way and I fell to pieces.

I called out to you, God ; I laid my case before you: “Can you sell me for a profit when I’m dead? auction me off at a cemetery yard sale? When I’m ‘dust to dust’ my songs and stories of you won’t sell. So listen! and be kind! Help me out of this!” You did it: you changed wild anxieties into whirling dance; You ripped off my black funeral clothes and decked me with wildflowers. I’m about to burst with this song; I can’t keep quiet about you. God , my God, I can’t thank you enough.

I looked over and compared several translations to put this Psalm into language that was more true to how I would speak normally, “plainly”. I wanted to tear away anything that would sound out of character from my normal “everyday language”.

If my language has to shift gears and sound pretentious and use religious vocabulary that only the scholarly pew warmers can understand, what good does that serve the lost, the deaf, and the blind?

So I hope no one is religious enough to believe that I have wronged God by not speaking in a perfect recitation of King James or another man’s translation of the Word of God — my goal is not to tear down, or add, or subtract from the Word of God, but to rightly divide pretentious, religious tradition from the power of God that goes forth when His Good News is proclaimed.

May the Lord bless you, because we are loved so deeply by the King!

One Hit Away

Some of you will look at this picture and immediately know what it is saying, while others just don’t get it. And it comes down to a culture and experience difference. Those who have grown up playing video games will immediately recognize the hearts at the top left as health indicators — and will realize that almost of of the health (the red part) is gone from the hearts, indicating that this character is just one hit away from death unless something changes soon.

So to a “gamer”, this picture immediately conjures up images of “I’m about to die” or “I’m one hit away”, etc.

Many times in life, we can face trials and circumstances and challenges that might have us wondering if we are just “one hit away”. When life piles up a lot on you, like in a video game, we can try to run around trying to ignore the dangers around us until one eventually blocks us into a corner — or we can press on forward, trusting that we’r wil find that next healing right on time, exactly where it needed to be to see us through to the end.

And it seems in video games that the difference in the two approaches comes from either an attitude of expected defeat or of expected victory. In fact it reminds me of the movie The Matrix where Neo kept getting beaten and defeated until we hear Morpheus say, “He’s beginning to believe!”

Trust.

Where does it come from?

How do we get it and not just fake it?

How do we go from just SAYING “I trust you” or “I believe” to actually meaning it?

Well, the Bible seems to teach me that trust isn’t a skill that we muster up and hone on our own, but that it is a gift from God. Yes, it is learned and imparted, but it is something that is built upon a foundation not formed by the hands of men. It is an altar made from stones not touched by iron tools or skilled craftsmen. It seems to teach that this good gift of faith comes down from the very God that it is meant to be used to teach us to trust. It seems to teach that it is a fountain of life flowing from Christ.

That’s some pretty circular logic there, isn’t it? That the very thing we are supposed to offer in return, comes from the source it is intended to honor/ glorify? Yes, the gospel at its core is so God centric and exclusionary, that anything outside of God and His perfect righteousness and holiness is an abomination, is an enemy of God, is a perversion of what is good and right and just. Something that tells us that any “good” that “we do” is either NOT GOOD, or WE DIDN’T DO IT (He did it through us and deserves all the glory).

People want to call their children good little boys and girls. People want to call their spouses and friends “good”. But the Word of God makes it clear:

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
Luke 18:19 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/luk.18.19.ESV

All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Romans 3:12 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/rom.3.12.ESV

This is pretty easy to accept when you’re “one hit away”, which is I believe why we read that:

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:6 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/jas.4.6.ESV

because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and its inhabitants, and you have humbled yourself before me and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord . Behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place and its inhabitants.'” And they brought back word to the king.
2 Chronicles 34:27‭-‬28 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/2ch.34.27-28.ESV

Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.
Daniel 10:12 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/dan.10.12.ESV

because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord , when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord .
2 Kings 22:19 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/2ki.22.19.ESV

Do you know that judgement is coming?

Do you know that Holy, Righteous, Almighty God who is light and has no part in darkness is coming to exact judgement upon the wicked a d to demonstrate His loving kindness and mercy to the faithful?

Even if you mock this in your mind, and in your rebellion, and in the wicked things you do that God tells you are wicked and that your heart condemns you for even now — you know deep down that they are true — you know that you fall short before a God who can see into your internal thoughts and desires even if you have learned to train your pet dragons so they aren’t glaringly obvious to others around you.

If a man is foolish enough to dismiss the idea of God, he must be an utter fool to dismiss the truth of the being a difference between right and wrong, light and darkness, that doesn’t chesnee by the whim of society or culture or what men choose to do and call right or wrong because of their own basest desires.

TO BE CONTINUED….

Dangerous Pets

Would you keep as a pet something whose only goal is to harm you, to kill you?

Those aren’t “pet sins”,
But “familiar demons”.

A great excerpt from a wonderful article I read:

The Lizard Upon the Shoulder

But many have tried. C.S. Lewis depicts this philosophy pictured above in The Great Divorce. In the book, a Ghost who has been kept out of heaven tries to keep his pet sin, a red lizard. In the scene, the Ghost constantly scolds the pet upon his shoulder. An angel asks the Ghost if he would like the lizard silenced.

“Of course I would,” said the Ghost.

“Then I will kill him,” said the Angel, taking a step forward.

“Oh — ah — look out! You’re burning me. Keep away,” said the Ghost retreating.

“Don’t you want him killed?”

“You didn’t say anything about killinghim at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.”

“It’s the only way,” said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the Lizard. “Shall I kill it?”

“ . . . ”

“Well, there’s time to discuss that later.”

“There is no time. May I kill it.”

“Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please — really — don’t bother. Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.”

“May I kill it?”

“Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.”

“The gradual process is of no use at all.”

More excuses are given, but now we overhear the lizard whispering in his ear,

“Be careful,” it said. “He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you’ll be without me for ever and ever. It’s not natural. How could you live? You’d be only a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn’t understand. He’s only a cold, bloodless abstract thing. It may be natural for him, but it isn’t for us. Yes, yes. I know there are no real pleasures now, only dreams. But aren’t they better than nothing? And I’ll be so good. I admit I’ve sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won’t do it again. I’ll give you nothing but really nice dreams — all sweet and fresh and almost innocent. You might say, quite innocent . . . ”

It is easy to fall into patterns of training our sin rather than killing it.

If your biggest reason to fight sin is that you don’t want to confess it again to an accountability group, you’re training your sin. If you only pray about the sin after you’ve “done it again,” you’re training your sin. If you do not seek Christ’s presence, if you do not commune with him in prayer and his word, if you do not invite believers into your life to stick daggers into your sin, you are training your sin to play dead without killing it.

Read the full article here:

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-train-your-dragons

Community / Family

Huge, huge thank you to Tom Pierce and Austin Bruce for working into the night/morning to help finish the electrical.

Wonderful friends. They are family closer than blood. It humbles me to know men like them, and to receive their loving assistance. Because I know that their lives are busy and that their own responsibilities are great, but they see a need around them and they help! Man, I can learn from this example and do better myself in that area for sure!

And the relationships that it builds — doing life together regularly, blending families into a community that helps each other, contributing and helping build each other up, pouring into each other’s lives — that’s so much more close and personal than hundreds we sit with on Sunday mornings, or thousands that “friend” and “follow” us on online apps/sites, or hundreds that share the same blood/legal family ties. It’s something deeper and more personal and more tangible. It’s TRUE FAMILY / COMMUNITY.

Don’t listen to the wrong voice on this post — I’m not slighting anyone else for not being close with me, for not helping me, etc. I feel like that happens far too many times when something is revealed that should encourage us to press in deeper, to change, to try it out and see for ourselves. We look at the messenger as if they are judging us for what we have or haven’t done in the past (that we can’t change), instead of realizing the truth of the message as an opportunity to be an agent for change in our “now”.

So I’m saying that community is valuable, and that we all can really thrive when we jump into it and fulfill our purpose towards one another. We are all much better for it in the end. Let’s not isolate ourselves so much from the neighbors and friends around us who could benefit and pour into a thriving community just as much as we could ourselves.

I know as much as the next guy that it is easy to isolate ourselves into little, closed in drywall boxes, with glass windows to the world that we cover up to not let the light shine in — but we are called out into life with others, not to spend our whole lives in front of a screen, behind a keyboard, lounging in our comfortable escapes.

I just want to encourage you to recognize the dividing lines that have been isolating you from the ones that are your community. Step over the lines of anxiety, of depression, of unforgiveness — of whatever excuse that voice in your mind gives you for not drawing close and expanding your relationships with others, and for closing yourself off.

For my Christian friends — On another level, these wonderful friends (and several others recently as well) have shown me that the body of Christ, the family of believers — truly isn’t who sits together on a Sunday morning, but — is a body in unity that loves and cares enough to get into the trenches together in the rough times, celebrate in the wonderful times, spend time together with eyes that don’t see the dividing lines, and praise God together so naturally and encouragingly and in awe every day that gifts are active and flowing and God is being glorified daily.

I’m so blessed to have such good friends, to be able to be a good friend, and I hope that I will see their need and contribute and be alongside them as well. And I truly believe that this “true community” comes from a power source greater than myself, greater than these two wonderful men that have honored me, and that I am seeking to honor as well.

Thank you, Jesus!

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 2:42‭-‬47 ESV

Adultery

A man walks into a single mother’s house amongst her many children and says, “I decided yesterday to cheat on my family and come spend time with your mother, and I’ve found that you are all so much better than the family I have at my old house. So I’m going to start living here instead.”

The same thing happens when we abandon the calling and purpose God has on our lives to instead “live for the world”.

The same thing happens when people abandon the church family they are a part of because a newer, shinier, fancier, more comforting and compromising option is presented to them.

Adultery is not just about sex, but it is about abandonment, it is about being unfaithful in the areas we are supposed to be committed even through the hard times, it is about choosing the broad and easy way instead of the narrow gate. Don’t think that just because something “feels easier” or “seems right in your heart” that it is right, because the Word of God tells us that “the heart is deceptive”, and that there is “a way that seems right” — but are we testing these “feelings” against the Word of God? Are we seeking answers from the Lord to guide us? Are we saying “We will not go unless the spirit of the Lord goes with us”?

I know that life seems to be moving past us at 100mph, and that there are plenty of things out there competing for our attention. But let’s don’t abandon our post! And let’s not be the ones celebrating when someone abandons their assigned post “to choose us”. I see too many single moms, causes, and yes, even churches, celebrating because they have increased their numbers by poaching from the fields of other shepherds, with no effort made to send these little wandering lambs back to their rightful shepherd, or to at least come into unity together with our neighboring shepherd about exactly where the Lord wants and needs someone to be stationed.

And because of this disrespectful treatment towards each other, there is division and competition amongst religious gatherings as they compete against each other for proselyte butts in seats of their divided camps — instead of equipping and sending servants, laborers, martyrs, and disciples in the public square as a unified body of Christ.

Lord, help us to have eyes to see these traps and tricks of the enemy that entangle and snare and hinder us from operating together, and that instead set us in opposition to one another, and in opposition to your will. Help us to be steadfast, faithful, solid and firm in our conviction, in our purpose, in our love, and in our mercy — as you have taught us. Amen.

Flourish

But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord ’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!”
Psalms 92:12‭-‬15 NLT

Lord, help us to flourish not grumble, to grow not to turn back, to produce the fruit of your Holy Spirit not the poison of sinful desires, to remain green and vital not weary and anxious. Help us to declare your glory, proclaim your Good News, sing your praises, love your Word, serve your people, be your disciples. By your power, and to confirm your promises, make us like you. Amen.