Why would I resist my desires?

Now why in the world would we resist temptation? If I have a desire (of something I want), why don’t I just go get it, and fulfill my desire? Well, not all desires are healthy or good for you. In fact, a lot of the strongest desires will produce more debt in your life, more pain in your life, more poison in your life than the momentary fulfillment.

Harold “Hop” Ballinger, Good Morning Friends, January 27, 2023 https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1719870467

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

James 1:14-15 NLT

What are we looking for and seeing around us?

The self-righteous seek out and find in others and the world around them the evidence of sin and imperfection so that they can act as if they are better.

The humble and contrite know and confess their own weaknesses and imperfections easily and sell and find the evidence of God in the people and world around them.

These two perspectives are very different and produce a different attitude in people towards one another. Teaching this distinction is what art Jesus apart from the religious leaders of His day, and is still today what sets apart walking with God in The Way from practicing religion.

The songs “Where could I go but to the Lord”, “I can’t even walk without You holding my hand”, and “Why Me Lord” come to mind. Also this story Jesus taught  recorded in the book of Luke:

“Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 18:10‭-‬14 NLT

Lord, be merciful to me. I have sinned against you and against so many. Help me to be a blessing and not a curse to all those around me, and help me to see you and praise and worship you for all of it. Amen.

What do I want to be when I grow up?

I was watching a Twitch stream of a friend playing wormate.io last night when the streamer asked us viewers, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

There were all kinds of answers that flooded the chat immediately, but the two fastest answers were “a good father” and “a good friend”. If this had been a high noon, western shootout between two lone gunmen, I would have been dead because that first answer of ” a good father” rang true and resonated with me.

That first answer of “a good father” IS extremely important to me as well, but it seemed a bit too isolated after a second glance because I also want to be a good “husband”, “neighbor”, etc. However, all of those types of answers have a “positional” limitation to them.  Being “a good father” means that I might be great with my children, but says nothing of how I might treat my wife, my neighbors, my colleagues and even my enemies.

My answer of “a good friend” felt like it was less preferential/ exclusive, but it still doesn’t cover being good in my essential being — not just doing no harm to others, but (as much as possible) doing good even to those who might try to do harm to me. That to me sounds like someone who is mature and “grown up”.

I want to be patient and kind; to not envy or boast; to not be arrogant or rude. I don’t want to insist on my own way; I don’t want to be irritable or resentful; I don’t want to celebrate wrongdoing or be unmerciful to people who have done wrong; but I want celebrate what is good, and fair, and just, and is the truth. I want my life to be loud in good, generous, even sacrificial actions towards everyone around me and quieter about myself.

As I recently watched someone ranting about how “Christians” can be like disrespectful, pushy recruiters when they bring up their religion to other people in competely non-religious settings — that also resonated significantly with me (because I’ve seen the ugly side of overzealous yet cold and unloving evangelism that Jesus speaks out against in His seering words in Matthew 23). Hypocrisy is ugly (and clearly “not good”) no matter your culture, background, religion, or beliefs. I would hope that none of us hope to grow up to be a hypocrite. However, life experience tells us that either some people do, or some people “never grow up”. I feel the second option there is the more likely culprit.

So maybe the topic (the underlying precept and principle here) is immaturity. And “immaturity” reveals its ugly head in many different ways, to all of us, everyday – right?

Someone doesn’t put their cart away at the grocery store? Immaturity. 

Someone acts like a Karen when they don’t get their way? Immaturity.

Someone tries to convince you to believe what they say they believe — but you can tell even at a first glance that their life’s actions, or how they spend their money, or how they spend their time, or how they treat strangers and people unlike themselves is not good?

Here’s a twist.  You might expect me to lump this one in there with an excuse of “immaturity”, but I’m not. Because that would be a cop out. It’s one thing if you’re out there just representing your own name and reputation and character by advertising your own immaturity with foolish behavior.

But what about people who say they are “representatives of their god”?

What about people who insist “their god” is “the only god” and “everyone else is wrong and going to hell”?

There is something clearly wrong in rude and hateful people trying to “sign people up” for their exclusive little clubs using fear, emotional manipulation, and oppression — and the wide history of religious atrocities by one group against another shows us this clear and present danger.

But what if amongst all the lies and the hypocrisy, there is a truth?

A truth that is unique amongst a sea of lies and imposters?

Or maybe a single underlying and unique true precept that people have gotten twisted up into a mix of opposing feelings and opinions based on their own immature understanding, culture, traditions, feelings, and personalities.

So we might best look at the precepts, right? We might look at what people actually believe and how they live, rather than how well they have memorized or can quote their group’s documentation?

I can open up my checkbook register and add up the different ways I’ve spent my money in the last 6 months. That would give us all insight into what I truly believe and what is truly the most important to me.

I can log my time on a calendar by category and add it up. That would give us all insight into what I truly believe and what is truly the most important to me.

You could poll every neighbor and online follower and coworker to score me in categories like patience, kindness, humility, envy, ego, arrogance, rudeness, irritability, integrity, generosity, fairness and justice — and that would give us all insight into what I truly believe and what is truly the most important to me.

I don’t expect that any of us who went through the above 3 exercises — accounting for our money, our time, and our relationships — would score a perfectly mature 100% in every category. And I get the feeling that some folks’ religious dogma and traditions and practices are actually a detriment to us aligning the reality of our lives with the precepts we want to believe. This is evidence of hypocrisy, of immaturity, at its core.

When I grow up, I want to be mature.

I want to have obtained the full measure of the most valuable precepts. And these most valuable precepts are all meant to produce the greatest value for those around me — not just stack up money, properties, experiences, and enjoyment for myself.

I look at how Jesus didn’t just stand around quoting scripture and law but He revealed valuable precept after precept in parables and stories where they had to be sought and found — even though the precepts themselves are clear enough that a young child could understand if they truly listened.

I look at how Jesus went out to the people and revealed valuable precept after precept in how He lived and served and sacrificed on behalf of others in need.

And I know personally how He has touched my life and shown me the value of choosing to truly believe and live out these precepts myself.

I’m still growing up. I hope you are too, my friends!

Lord, I haven’t gone this way before. Hold my hand?

I tried something new tonight. I live streamed interactively on YouTube, FacebookLive, LinkedIn, and Twitch all at the same time.

Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/live/R-aEx1ebPxQ?feature=share

Facebook:

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=863427918037199&id=1095150317&mibextid=Nif5oz

LinkedIn:

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/haroldballinger_good-afternoon-friends-jan-4-2023-powered-activity-7016559595728891904-xg7J?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_android

Twitch:

https://www.twitch.tv/sparklecityhop/v/1697893146?sr=a&t=5s

I hope to eventually add Tiktok and Instagram as well. People on any platform can type questions or comments live in the chat, and I can answer them live.

I’ve done various pre-recorded videos in the past, but the amount of time that I would spend in post-production to try and make everything look and sound right just wasn’t sustainable as a one man team.

Plus, I feel like a prerecorded video is better if I have a specific topic that I’ve studied deeply and have a polished “teaching” message to deliver and to keep a record of long term.

But my intention with live interaction is to just hang out, in an imperfect, unpolished, and unpracticed setting. I want to be genuine and inviting as a person someone might want to talk to or get to know — not as much focused on wanting others to listen to what I have to say. It’s a subtle difference from what I’ve done in the past. And it seems to be more about making myself available and stretching myself to honest and transparent discussions “off the cuff”.

There are plenty of theologians and preachers out there with recorded lessons and sermons to watch — and I have a high school degree, no seminary, and less than a decade of intentional and focused study in The Word. I’m not going to share anything new that hasn’t already been said by one of them, and I sure wouldn’t want to tackle difficult topics and confuse or hinder someone (because even my best of intentions still fall short of perfection this side of glory).

So instead of just “teaching” or gathering others to “listen to me” — I want to make myself available to “listen” and to “interact” (if possible as a friend and a personal connection — on equal footing, not as a leader or teacher up on a stage).

It’s just something different that the Lord has laid on my heart. I still enjoy writing, singing, studying, etc. But I have little interest in debating theological positions if I can instead love people and share with them why I love God. I guess each person has their part in the body, and this is the donkey that He has me chasing. Lol!

Today’s YouVersion Bible app verse and devotional was definitely timely:

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11 NLT
https://bible.com/bible/116/jer.29.11.NLT

Watch Jeremiah 29:11 by Luis Palau Association:

https://www.bible.com/en/videos/39337?orientation=portrait&utm_content=story_clip&utm_medium=share&utm_source=yvapp

REVIEW: Chasing Donkeys, Dwayne Morris

“…he had an affection for people who were searching for their identity in things that were neither healthy nor safe.” – Dwayne Morris, Chasing Donkeys, Chapter 1

These words really hit home for me.

Ever since Jesus touched and changed my life 10 years ago, I have NOT been drawn to spend time with the “religious” and the “churched” that are a part of the many Southern religious traditions where I grew up.

But I have been drawn to make friends and spend time with people who might be labeled names like “homeless”, “addict”, “criminal”, “thief”, “foreigner”, “black”, “asian”, “immigrant”, “illegal”, “muslim”, “gay”, “lesbian”, “homosexual”, “stripper”, “prostitute”, “porn star”, “drunk”, “drug dealer”, “abortionist”, “transvestite”, “divorced”, “orphan”, “widow”, “grieving”, etc. — that clearly do NOT fit into the nice little cookie cutter conforming box of what I thought that White Evangelical Southern Baptist Republican Christianity looked like.

Dwayne continues a page later with “just another guy who loved Jesus and people, especially those who were searching for purpose, but in all the wrong places”. And while some might focus on the words “all the wrong places” as being somehow judgmental — I know what he is getting to here. I’ve tried so many unhealthy and unsafe things myself and excluded others who “weren’t like me” before I realized those were all the wrong places. So, I can’t fault anyone for ending up in the wrong places too, can I?

He continues just a paragraph later with “his passion for people who were living life far from God”, and it was another confirmation that maybe I’m not so uniquely “insane” in my passion and my drive to be close to people who probably don’t agree with or believe what I believe. And it is almost scary to admit that I am not passionate about being close to them in order to “convert them to my religion”, or to “change their mind”, or “win them over to Christ”. I just feel compelled to offer them my love and my friendship — without the judgement, or condemnation, or persecution, or vitriol that they have come to expect from “religious people”. I truly don’t know whether they will see the love of Christ that lives in me, and I truly don’t know if they will ever consider getting to know this Jesus that I know and love. But He rescued me and has filled me with a spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control that is so different than the self-righteous hypocrisy that most unbelievers would attribute to “religion”. My heart hopes that maybe, just maybe, He might reveal Himself to them. And even if He doesn’t, what better gift could I give them than my friendship, if they do not yet have His.

I don’t know that anyone would ever think this of me personally about my Jesus, but when Dwayne says on just the next page “it marked him as one who clearly loved the Lord Jesus Christ”, my heart soared at the thought that my love for the Lord might be so utterly foolish and naive to an unbeliever — yet still so undeniable. Even if they pity me for my belief in something so childishly foolish, maybe they might envy me just the slightest for what love it produces towards them in my life?

And several pages later on page 26, I get to the man’s asking “I need to know more about that Jesus you were talking about…” and the opportunity that came of “talked with Ricky for an hour and a half about what Jesus Christ meant to him”. Many would focus on “eventually guided Ricky in a prayer…”, but I can tell you truthfully that I’m more excited about the “getting to tell what Jesus means to me part”. Because the Lord is going to do what He is going to do, when He is going to do it, when it comes down to someone “surrendering their life”. He doesn’t need my help in that department, and I sure don’t need to act like I should get any credit for any part of it. But to get to genuinely open my heart up about how good He has been to me? That is so very precious, my friends.

So just like Dwayne shares a paragraph later, I too am “just trying to follow the greatest commandments of loving God and loving people”. If you see me sharing scripture or talking about Him, I honestly can’t help it — I just love that He loves me. And He loves YOU TOO.

Check out Dwayne’s book, Chasing Donkeys on Amazon https://a.co/d/gwXW8kn

I’m still reading it myself, and so far, it has really been a blessing.

I Hear You, Lord

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

Revelation 3:20 NLT

Some great insight on Revelation 3:20  by Pierre Du Plessis – The Father’s House:

https://www.bible.com/en/videos/27189?orientation=portrait&utm_content=story_clip&utm_medium=share&utm_source=yvapp

A great worship song that we can soak into while contemplating and lifting our prayer:

https://youtu.be/GzQpptEdivA

I want Jesus to be my first love. I have played Gomer far too many times in my walk and have been distracted far too many times by my own complacency and life’s circumstances. My grief has overtaken me at times and so has my doubt. Other times it has simply been my lack of love for those He loves. I have walked through too many of my days awake yet asleep, treating time as if each breath wasn’t precious but could be wasted or overlooked — letting the oil in my lamp go too long without fresh oil being poured.

Lord, help me — your wandering Lamb who can’t even walk without holding your hand. I have not been a great warrior in every battle. I have not done great wonders in your name with each opportunity before me. I have not been a great, shining example of your love and a hope to all those in need around me.

Yet, I have seen you work even through someone like me, and I know You can do it again, and that You will finish the work that You have started. I do not need men to remember me or my name. But if even through my weaknesses and my many failures they might see that your flame burns bright within this house — they will know Your mercy and Your grace, and see Your glory, and long to know You. Amen.

Thanks Giving

We slept late and didn’t start moving around until almost 7AM, but the beautiful sky was still there when we woke up this morning. I love how it is uniquely and beautifully painted each morning.

This morning, the blue greys of a cold winter morning behind the naked limbs of all the trees wasn’t flashy or striking — yet it made me slow down and consider how unique and beautiful it is. Like fingerprints and like people, each sky is unique — it even changes moment by moment throughout any given day. And depending on where you are standing on the earth, even at the same moment, we will see a different yet lovely sky.

We may not love every type of weather that comes from the sky. The rain might spoil our outdoor plans for the day. Or the snow might create shoveling work for us. But it all serves its purpose, even while the sky is doing its work dressed quite stunningly.

Today is a day about giving thanks. So I thought to myself and I wondered about folks who don’t believe in a creator, an architect, a painter of the skies. If they have decided it is all chaos, then what room does that leave for thanks? Do they thank themselves? Do they thank their friends, or the parents that birthed their closest friends? Or thank the individual clouds that might in a moment later be raindrops and later be a puddle on the ground? Or thank the sun the moon and the stars? Or is it a thankless life because “it just is the way that it is”? Or are they blind to the beauty of it all? Or do they thank chaos itself?

It was a curious thing for me to think about, so I was thankful to be able to consider and try to understand and appreciate what their perspective might be this Thanksgiving morning. For me, thanks giving isn’t just a one out of 365 day event — it is a way of life. And thanks giving isn’t an obligation as if my God demanded my worship. No, I can see so much blessing in my life that I can’t help but give praise.

In fact, when I’ve missed out on praise and thankfulness and worship, it isn’t God who has lost out on receiving anything, it is me because I didn’t even recognize the blessing so that I could appreciate and learn from it and grow. Blessings aren’t just a bright and sunny day of prosperity and my desires fulfilled immediately. Even the dark, stormy challenges in life bring us blessing, whether or not we are willing to see it and appreciate it.

My God has done all these wonderful things, and I am grateful. And that gratitude — that closeness to Him — is even more of a blessing than the things He gives throughout my life in order to reveal Himself to me.

I pray that you have so much to be thankful for every day, my friends!

When “Obey” and “Listen” Aren’t “Bad Words”

When I was young, the words “obedience” and “listen” were like bad words to me.
I thought that rules existed to keep us away from the fun and the good stuff.
I found that naughty “felt good”, and I wasn’t wise enough to understand that things in life had very real consequences.
I didn’t trust adults, or the law, or religion, or history to teach me anything valuable “in real life” — it was just “the way you’re supposed to behave”.
And I didn’t know God in any real and tangible way that would have me desiring to seek wise and healthy things in my life.
Even as an adult, I can sometimes fall back into those old, foolish, wasteful, harmful habits. But life experience continues to teach me (the hard way) how truly valuable it is to:
1) listen to wisdom
2) obedience isn’t a bad word
3) truly seeking God personally is so very different from “religion”

Harold “Hop” Ballinger

Good News

God doesn’t hate you.

God doesn’t want your life to be boring, religious, and fit in a box.

Much of what you’ve heard about God from people who don’t actually know Him personally has been a lie.

No matter who you are, no matter the color of your skin, no matter your place in society, no matter where you live, no matter your political affiliation, no matter the mistakes you’ve made, no matter the people you’ve hurt, no matter the intentionally bad things you’ve chosen to do — God loves you and He is not in the business of measuring and weighing these things in order to determine your worth or worthiness.

God wants your life to be filled with awe and wonder. He wants to fill your life abundantly with the best. And He wants everything that is unique and beautiful about you to shine for the whole word to see, because You are made in His image.

He is not far away from you, He has always been with you, and He has never left your side. If you seek Him yourself, you will find Him personally. He doesn’t want you to just know ABOUT Him, He wants you to know Him personally.

The life and teachings of Jesus Christ have revealed this to the world, and we are invited to believe and follow in The Way.

So come, follow Christ and be freed to new life.

How it Is versus How It Would Be

Loyalty reflects our commitment, and dependability reflects our priorities.

Rich Gorecki, God-Buddies.com

Loyalty and dependability aren’t feelings or opinions — they are demonstrated actions.

The words trustworthy and reliable are also similar.

And Proverbs 17:17 ties specific noun titles (friend, brother) to these descriptive adjective traits (loyal, dependable) so that we can know “how it is”, not just “how it would ne” or “how it should be”.

I realize that statement might not immediately make sense, “how it is” versus “how it would be” or “how it should be”. But I want to talk about it because perspective is key on this topic.

If I were to say “I’m a bird”, you might immediately say, “But you have a mouth instead of a beak, you have hair and not feathers, you have and and not wings, you walk and do not fly.” It should seem obvious to us that one set of items are about “how it is” for two different things. “Mouth”, “hair” and “walk” are about how it is to be a human mammal. While “beak”, “feathers” and “wings” are about how it is to be a bird.

“How it is” is the truth and the reality. Any time we step into language like “how it should be” or “how it would be”, we have left the realm of reality and entered into the realm of non-truth and imagination.

Just as it would be stupid for a mother to let her child believe he is truly a bird when they are standing atop a skyscraper, it is equally as stupid for us to say that we are a “friend” or a “brother” if the terms “loyal” and “dependable” aren’t “how it is”.

Hear me again, if “loyal” and “dependable” aren’t “how it is”, we are NOT a “friend” or a “brother”. If you feel like you just got stabbed by a sword, stick with me. I’m not here to hurt you, and you don’t want to give up half way through a surgery just because a cut has been made.

When it comes to truly being a “friend” and a “brother”, the following are cop outs and excuses that are used to avoid repentance — the “how it should be” or “how it would be” perspectives are enablers for continued unhealthy behavior that reveals something about “who we truly are”. We can make excuses and try to pretend, but the evidence is clear if we are not a “bird”, a “friend” or a “brother”.

Most of us know that it would be silly for us to try and transform ourselves into a bird. And quite honestly, if you are not a friend or a brother, if you are not loyal, dependable, trustworthy and reliable — no amount of self-help teaching is going to change who you are at your core. We might hide it and pretend (like a child at Halloween), but that doesn’t make it so.

There is an Almighty God who speaks things and makes it so. He not only creates, but He transforms. It is His will that we truly desire to be a friend and a brother. He can and He will change a person at their core. I have experienced it myself, and those around me can confirm this outwardly visible evidence of a true inner transformation.

Yet, I too have to repent and surrender daily when I see that the truth of “how it is” starts slipping into any excuses of “How it should be”.

Let’s surrender and ask God to heal us in these areas, my friends. Let’s not just commit to striving and trying to be better — Let’s rely upon and trust God in this, so that everyone might feel awe and wonder at what God has accomplished.

Let’s not lie when we say, “I am your friend and your brother.”