Appreciation vs Flattery

Praise-Flattery-sign

John 13:34-35 ESV

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Ephesians 4:32 ESV

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Proverbs 29:5 ESV

A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.

Proverbs 26:24-28 ESV

Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly. Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling. A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

Proverbs 28:23ESV

Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.

Chapter 2 of Dale Carnegie’s widely successful book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” discusses “the craving to be appreciated” and quotes John Dewey, an American philosopher who said that the deepest urge in human nature is “the desire to be important”. Now, I’m not encouraging you to follow the ways of the world or to put your trust in the philosophies of men — but I can tell you that they see something that is true about the human nature — men and women alike who have not found and fully trusted in their identity in Christ crave to have their self-esteem stroked and inflated to Christ-like statuses. That book goes on to say of appreciation that “showing sincere appreciation can change a person’s life” and I can appreciate this as truth — and continues to say in contrast about flattery:

“Of course flattery seldom works with discerning people. It is shallow, selfish and insincere. It ought to fail and it usually does. True, some people are so hungry, so thirsty, for appreciation that they will swallow anything, just as a starving man will eat grass and fishworms.”

And those looking to be sincere and effective need to know the difference between the two, so they aren’t so much attempting to manipulate others with flattery, as they are to encourage those who are in need of encouragement. As Carnegie points out in his book, “The difference between appreciation and flattery? That is simple. One is sincere and the other insincere. One comes from the heart out; the other from the teeth out. One is unselfish; the other selfish. One is universally admired; the other universally condemned.” Yes, the two have very different application and intent.

A good leader (and by virtue a good servant first) will see a proud and rebellious man and bring to him or her the correct level of correction to deflate the ego and bring him back down to a reasonable, useful, and practical level — and will also see the one hurt, afraid, unsure and bring to him or her the appreciation that is love wrapped up so beautifully for them to open from their Good Good Father. But those tools weilded without thought or discernment are even more dangerous than taking food away from the starving or giving an abundance of food to the obese diabetic.

James 1:5 ESV

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

James 3:17 ESV

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

The Heart of Praise

And if discerning people can tell the difference between appreciation and flattery, how much moreso can God? I wonder how often we have gone to God with empty words of praise, saying “Thank you God” right through our teeth, because we have something lined up to ask of Him immediately following that false worship, not because it true worship coming from a place of gratitude? If our praise has a selfish purpose and goal, then it is not praise, but it is flattery — this is the very thing that is a stench in the nostrils of many discerning people about things like “prosperity gospel” where people are taught to “do this so that God has to do that”. Praise is sincere, flattery is insincere. One pleases God, while the other is sin.

Lord, give us wisdom to lead and to serve, and give us wisdom to submit ourselves to those in authority as long as it does not lead us into temptation or rebellion. Help us to be sincere in all we do. Lord, teach us to find all of our worth and value in who you have declared us to be so that we might not be swayed by the flattery of manipulators — and so that we might not be hindered from accepting encouragement from others. Yes, we know that anything good in us is Christ — but you have made us a new creation, and we do not find our identity in the old, but in the new — so let anything that is honest appreciation bring glory and honor to YOUR NAME, Oh Lord, and let any flatteries fall dead at our ears and never feed the parts of self that breed pride. Lord, give us discernment and a hunger for you above all else. Teach us to seek first the Kingdom of God and YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS and to not seek to build up our own kingdoms or self-righteousness. Lead us to encourage and appreciate others from our hearts and our actions first, so that any words are clearly demonstrated as love flowing from you. Lead us, oh Lord. Amen.

Fruitless?

When fruit trees don’t bear fruit, what’s the problem?

Do you have an apple tree that hasn’t produced fruit, or a berry bush with no berries? There are several reasons why fruit trees or shrubs may not bear fruit, but you can sift through the alternatives and hopefully find an answer to your particular problem.

REF: https://www.google.com/amp/s/phys.org/news/2007-05-northern-gardening-fruit-trees-dont.amp

Then He began telling them this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree that had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, but did not find any; so he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and have found none. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground [depleting the soil and blocking the sunlight]?’ But he replied to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, [just] one more year until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit after this, fine; but if not, cut it down.’”
LUKE 13:6‭-‬9 AMP

In this story, we find two men — one seemingly in authority and another who is seemingly under authority, if we go simply by our worldly understanding of property owners and hired workers. But it is the man who is seemingly in authority, and who is initially giving commands before knowing or asking the reason “Why…” who does in fact ask his hired vineyard-keeper the question of “Why?” And it is the seemingly wise and understanding vineyard keeper who does not just see the facts of the moment, but the opportunity of the future for this fruitless, seemingly useless fig tree.

Before we start making one of these in order minds into a hero and the other into a villain, which seems to be a natural progression of our minds — let’s think about the two men and their positions of responsibility and attention.

I find that a key component here is not that the vineyard owner is spiteful or wrathful towards the tree, but that he recognizes the value and resources of the land that he owns, and in his mind, I believe that he wants to manage those resources wisely and responsibly. His view and area of responsibilities is probably over many things other than this one vineyard, as he is the owner and has a hired man who is responsible as the vineyard keeper for this particular vineyard. He prompts the one who is tending the vineyard — the one who knows these trees and plants in his vineyard most closely and personally — about the apparent uselessness of this fig tree. He says he has come 3 years looking for fruit and has found none.

And he says, cut it down, why does it use up the ground and resources and provide nothing back in turn. It doesn’t seem that he has any malicious intent or ill will towards that particular tree, but his goal is to see his land and resources used widely to bear fruit. He sees a fruitless tree as a parasite upon the land, using up its resources but never giving back what is expected of it.

But it is the worker, the man seemingly under authority who offers a solution. And in this solution, he offers a talkin ot possibility to the land owner. What was seemingly a worthless, useless tree — he speaks of the opportunity of it beating fruit in just one more year. This would seem more practical, the opportunity of fruit in just one more year, than tearing it down, planting and waiting for another to grow to fruit bearing maturity. And the vineyard-keeper wouldn’t be very good at his job if he made a habit of keeping worthless plants around forever, so we expect that it is not blind hope that he has for this fig tree, but that he is close enough to it to see and know something about it that tells him this is not just a parasite, a waste, but an opportunity.

And I think that it is pretty amazing that some of the best opportunities before us come from not just being aware and prepared for the moment, but recognizing the opportunity and being bold enough ti step in, take ownership and do our best in that moment of opportunity. Imagine the opportunity that this offers come next year, when the vineyard owner returns — he will see that the vineyard-keeper was willing to put in extra work on behalf of the opportunity. Even if there was no fruit then, he could say to his worker, “Thank you for trying even harder all this past year, when it would have been less work for you to just cut it down and cast it into the fire.” The is an opportunity for praise and appreciation, even in their reaching a point of unity in finally giving up on this tree.

But… what if…

What if, the plea of the vineyard-keeper process itself fruitful and useful. Wouldn’t the owner get what he actually wanted in the first place? Fruit! And wouldn’t the wisdom of his vineyard keeper and his willingness to work even harder on behalf of the owner be a cause for praise and maybe even celebration? Yes, if the goal was fruit, then the man in authority would be happy ther next year for sure!

But let’s stop for a minute, because we may have assumed the “right heartedness” of these two a little too much. What if the owner was more interested in handing out commands, being in charge, and always being right? I wonder if that were the case why he would asked the question why and allowed a response seems an explanation. Many in positions of authority may find themselves ruling from on high, passing down commands, squashing dissent, and never listening to valuable input that might help from training down opportunities that just need a little extra attention rather than having to start over from scratch.

And some wrong hearted people who are under authority do not care to listen closely to those over them and to understand the actual need and reason behind a discussion rather than just resent the “command”. Many are not willing to take upon themselves “more work” than would normally be expected in order to possibly bring more value to the table. Many are just looking for the easiest way through the day and path of least resistance, missing opportunities to shine, to thrive, to excel — uninspired and settled in their complacency and the fruitlessness of their own lives.

I’m glad this man in authority was willing to listen, and this man under authority was willing to offer more than what was expected. Just think if we would behave in this manner in all of our relationships with one another, how much more fruitful things would go fir everyone. Husbands and wives, parents and children, supervisors and workers — leaders and peoples could benefit greatly from regimes that are not oppressive and cooperation that is productive and unified and selfless.

I wonder how many of us can look to areas of our own lives where we have been more like a parasite — whether from a position of authority or subjection — we just haven’t been hearing fruit into those circumstances like we should have been.

I find it interesting that this story of a fruitless tree in verses 6-9 of Luke 13 is right after the call to repentance of verses 1-5, and is followed by Jesus healing on the Sabbath, then by a parable and teachings on the Kingdom of God.

Let’s look at 10-17 to see a contrast between wrong hearted and right hearted:

Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had an illness caused by a spirit (demon). She was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are released from your illness.” Then He laid His hands on her; and immediately she stood erect again and she began glorifying and praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, “There are six days in which work ought to be done; so come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” But the Lord replied to him, “You hypocrites (play-actors, pretenders)! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead it away to water it? And this woman, a daughter (descendant) of Abraham whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As He was saying this, all His opponents were being humiliated; and the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things that were being done by Him.
LUKE 13:10‭-‬17 AMP

These Pharisees thought themselves to be in authority in this situation. They thought that they were in a position where they could command and judge without question. They saw themselves as vineyard owners who would have given the command “Cut her down! Cast her into the fire!” Without asking “Why?” If we look back to verses 1-5 where Jesus was calling for repentance, we can get some insight into where they would have been coming from:

Just at that time some people came who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate [the governor] had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus replied to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans because they have suffered in this way? I tell you, no; but unless you repent [change your old way of thinking, turn from your sinful ways and live changed lives], you will all likewise perish. Or do you assume that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed were worse sinners than all the others who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent [change your old way of thinking, turn from your sinful ways and live changed lives], you will all likewise perish.”
LUKE 13:1‭-‬5 AMP

Some (if not all) of these Pharisees would have thought this woman that Jesus healed was bent and afflicted because of her sin allowing the demonic influence to affect her, and that her bent state was a reflection of God’s judgment upon her as compared to what they saw as their own upright and righteous outward assurance that they thought reflected God’s favor and honor upon them. They would have asked, why are our resources wasted on worthless people like her, who bring no value into the community.

We see mindsets throughout history, where the handicapped, the elderly, the weak — where those with challenges are considered cast asides within society — considered more trouble than they are worth. There have even been (and still are nations) that would consider themselves “civilized” who have put down or sterilized their unwanted — even those who kill them in the womb rather than allow them to become a burden and parasite, using up resources that are “better spent elsewhere”. Seemingly reasonable individuals have made seemingly justifiable decisions about avoiding others in all kinds of ways because of their differences. Yes, this is the world we live in, and if you’ve only thought of other names to point a finger at up until this point, when was the last time you had them at your table?

In one more chapter ahead in Luke 14, we will read about Jesus still showing of the Sabbath and he will explain:

Now Jesus began telling a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been selecting the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down [to eat] at the place of honor, since a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by the host, and he who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your place,’ and then, in disgrace you proceed to take the last place. But when you are invited, go and sit down [to eat] at the last place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; and then you will be honored in the presence of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled [before others], and he who habitually humbles himself (keeps a realistic self-view) will be exalted.” Jesus also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or wealthy neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a banquet or a reception, invite the poor, the disabled, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (the just, the upright).”
LUKE 14:7‭-‬14 AMP

I wonder how infrequently fruit of this type has been evident upon our tree: “But when you give a banquet or a reception, invite the poor, the disabled, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you” — has it EVER been found upon your tree? Does this sound like any dinner or banquet you’ve ever had at your home? Or even at your church? Probably not, unless it was some intentional benefit for “their cause” where you patted yourselves on the back for helping them by letting them sit with you for a meal and writing a check to some organization so they can again be sent off ti be given away from sight and mind until conscience bothers us again.

Yes, we all need to repent in this area I believe. I believe that it is so natural in our sinful nature to exclude what appears different — that we must be intentional in this area until that is reversed to the point that we not just see useless people and parasites that are using up our resources — but that we begin seeing opportunities to invest more into the lives of those around us. We need to have wisdom and vision like the vineyard-keeper in the parable and like Jesus healing the bent and bound woman.

Do you think that you know better? Do you think that toy are better? Do you think that they have sinned worse than you so that you might look down your nose at another and withhold forgiveness? That grudge you hold because someone has done you wrong, that division that has seeped in the middle of relationships, that condescending attitude you have taken towards others, that grumbling you have made against others, those lies thou have told to put yourself in a better light, that gossip you have spread to slander the reputation of another, that hardness in your heart that is setting you against your brother or sister — are you bent over and bound today? Do you need healing and restoration in your heart even more than that lady needed in her physical body?

Will you put the only fertilizer to the tree that will see it grow and bear fruit? Or will you refuse to repent and see the tree be cut down and cast into the fire?

Jesus journeyed on through cities and villages, teaching and making His way toward Jerusalem. And someone asked Him, “Lord, will only a few be saved [from the penalties of the last judgment]?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door [force aside unbelief and the attractions of sin]; for many, I tell you, will try to enter [by their own works] and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and closes the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door [again and again], saying, ‘Lord, open to us!’ then He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you are from [for you are not of My household].’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; but He will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from; depart from M e , all you evildoers !’ In that place there will be weeping [in sorrow and pain] and grinding of teeth [in distress and anger] when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out and driven away. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and they will sit down [and feast at the table] in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
LUKE 13:22‭-‬30 AMP

And remember:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test you [that is, to test the quality of your faith], as though something strange or unusual were happening to you. But insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, keep on rejoicing, so that when His glory [filled with His radiance and splendor] is revealed, you may rejoice with great joy. If you are insulted and reviled for [bearing] the name of Christ, you are blessed [happy, with life-joy and comfort in God’s salvation regardless of your circumstances], because the Spirit of glory and of God is resting on you [and indwelling you–He whom they curse, you glorify]. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or a thief, or any sort of criminal [in response to persecution], or as a troublesome meddler interfering in the affairs of others; but if anyone suffers [ill-treatment] as a Christian [because of his belief], he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God [because he is considered worthy to suffer] in this name. For it is the time [destined] for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not respect or believe or obey the gospel of God? A nd if it is difficult for the righteous to be saved , what will become of the godless and the sinner ? Therefore, those who are ill-treated and suffer in accordance with the will of God must [continue to] do right and commit their souls [for safe-keeping] to the faithful Creator.
1 PETER 4:12‭-‬19 AMP

Does your tree bear fruit?

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 5:16‭-‬26 AMP

If we say that we are “Christians”, if we say that we believe, if we’re say that we have surrendered our lives and asked Him to be our Lord and Savior — if we have been baptized not just by the water of a religious tradition but by the fire of a spiritual transformation, being truly raised ti new life in Christ — then we are proclaiming that He lives in us, that the Holy Spirit of God comes als lovers and abides within us, His vessels, His people, His new creations, His Kingdom of Heaven come down ti earth for His will to be done.

Is this the truth of your life today, “Christian”?

When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are released from your illness.” Then He laid His hands on her; and immediately she stood erect again and she began glorifying and praising God.

Glorify and praise God if this is your story!

Or if it isn’t, then repent, while there is time.

The [Holy] Spirit and the bride (the church, believers) say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take and drink the water of life without cost.
REVELATION 22:17 AMP

Thankful Hearts

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. – Colossians 3:16 NLT

I wonder how often other folks forget how much they have to be thankful about? It happens to me sometimes. It happened to me at least once today. Probably more than once.

I’m very conscious and aware that I grumbled and complained today. And how ridiculous is that – knowing how blessed I truly am – that I should grumble and complain, foolishly thinking that I deserve for things to go better, or easier, or smoother, or “more like I had planned”.

Several things happened today, and I fell short of expectations and commitments and responsibilities — repeatedly throughout the day. Time after time, the circumstances of the day, the immediate needs, and the focus of my attention — left me way behind on looking the part of a “well put together, reliable person”.

And I felt foolish because of all of it. Hindsight tells us, “If you had planned better… If you had allowed more time… If you had insisted on this/that…” the self incrimination never ends if we let it run free in our minds. And then we grumble both at ourselves and at our circumstances for no good or profitable reason but to simmer in it like a slow cooked roast sunk up to its top in the bitter herbs and seasonings. What a sad lot it is when we forget just how much we have to be thankful for!!!

What a sad lot it is when we forget that God has a purpose in all of it. So will I forget my blessings, forget my grumblings, call it a day, resign myself to have been defeated today by my shortcomings, and go to bed restless?

Or will I consider, confess, and commit to examining, learning, and being changed — even overwhelmed — by the thankfulness that I should have for so much more than those specific shortcomings?

Will I be thankful and grateful and full of love and hope — or a prisoner to something else?

The verse above says “to God with thankful hearts” — what if we believed that way, lived that way — “to God with thankful hearts“?

It reminds me of that passage in Colossians:

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
Colossians 3:23 NLT

And what a burdensome command that must be to someone who either doesn’t know or has forgotten how sweet and good the Lord is! I don’t say that with outstretched finger, but with self examining precision in confirming that “He is still working on me”. He is still, by way of the Holy Spirit, of Christ who lives in me, I am being convicted of sin, disciplined in love, and encouraged into obedience and service.

Thankful people can worship wholeheartedly. Gratitude opens our hearts to God’s peace and enables us to put on love. Discontented people constantly calculate what’s wrong with their lot in life. To increase your thankfulness, take an inventory of all you have (including your relationships, memories, abilities, and family, as well as material possessions). Use the inventory for prayers of gratitude. On Sunday, before worship, quit rushing around; instead, take time to reflect on reasons for thanks. Declare Sunday as your “thanks, faith, and hope” day. Celebrate God’s goodness to you, and ask in prayer for all your needs for the week ahead.” – Life Application Study Bible Devotion

So, we must turn away from one way and turn thi the other…

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. – Philippians 4:6‭-‬8 NLT

Lord, help us to not be like the foolish, rebellious generation of Israelites who turned an 11 day journey into 40 years in the wilderness. Stir up that love that comes from knowing and loving you, from realizing your love for us, from recognizing your grace and mercy towards us — so that we might run and not grow faint and fly like on the wings of eagles. Help us Lord. Amen.

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place— what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?
Psalms 8:3‭-‬4 NLT

[Mia, Daddy & Friends] Deuteronomy Intro

My daughter and I have been taking a book of the Bible and studying it chapter by chapter, verse by verse, for several years now. About a year and a half ago, we started sharing these studies online as “Mia, Daddy & Friends”. And we’ve really enjoyed the feedback that we’ve gotten from friends, family, and even those who “used to be strangers to us”.

Different times of year and different needs and demands mean that we don’t have a religious schedule that we stick to in turning out these videos — and many times our devotions and studies need to be more situationally specific. Also, we want to be sure that the time and effort involved in setting up and producing these online videos don’t detract from the learning and application in our lives.

We aren’t looking for Internet attention, but are simply sharing our faith openly and transparently with others by virtually opening our doors and welcoming you into our household to see what our Bible study looks like, with all of our fumbles over pronouncing words, asking and answering questions to our best ability, and talking about how it pertains to our faith, or lives, and most importantly to Christ Jesus.

To date, we’ve gone all the way through the gospels of Matthew and Mark, and we are part of the way through the gospel of Luke. However, Mia wanted to start studying a book in the Old Testament as well, and she chose the book of Deuteronomy, because she had heard somewhere “that no one really takes the time to read Deuteronomy”.

So here we are starting this next adventure into Deuteronomy:

Hope you get something from this too, because it sure is a blessing to us.

NOTE: Check out The Bible Project here that has amazing video and study resources that we use in many of our studies:

https://thebibleproject.com

He is still God in the night

Life is easy when everything is going our way, but when we get that call from the emergency room and it’s our loved one…

I pleaded with the Lord through my tears as I drove from Campobello to Pelham to find out what was going on with my mommy. Yes, my mommy. Not just my mom, but MY MOMMY. Yes, I reminded Him of His sweet love for His own dear mother, and I realized how cold and impersonal pain can be when it is “close but not that close”. I realized that my prayers on behalf of others had not been as heartfelt and loving as they could have been, and I repented not as some manipulative deal with the Lord to get my way, but as a very personal and revealing realization about what my faith, my love, even my trust in the Lord comes down to when my back is against the wall. And I was humbled, oh was I humbled.

And the Lord was there the whole time. He had a plan and a purpose, and my mom, dad, and I spent time talking together in that ER room like we haven’t talked in a long time. And those were precious hours, not because they were final hours, because mom will be discharged soon. But because the busy hum of life slowed down long enough to remind us about so many important things.

I had so many pastor friends praying for us tonight and genuinely concerned about what we were going through. They were ready to leave their families to come to the hospital to be with me and mine. And having been on their side of it, having ministered to beloved friends over the past several years when they were in the hospital – I was now on the other side for the first time, and I saw how much comfort and peace came from not being in this “alone”. And they won’t get any awards or great accolades for taking those late night calls, for wetting the floor with their heartfelt prayers on behalf of others, nor do I think any of them would want them. But I’m so grateful for them, and I hope that you too are sowing into and building relationships with folks who won’t run and hide when the wolves come, but who will stand and fight – on their knees, and with arms wide open, and with shoulders to cry on, and hugs to envelope you.

I’m so thankful that my mom’s walking out of that emergency room was not contingent upon me “having enough faith” because when Hambone text me back asking if there was anything I needed as I drove tearfully towards the hospital, I answered truthfully, “I need more faith. Lord, heal my unbelief!” I’m thankful that Christ is suffering and that He is good whether He is giving or taking away. I don’t know why in one case a family faces absence from their loved one and another finds healing. I’m just not smart enough to have it all figured out. But I was praising Him and singing His name as I drove on, so there was some deep seated trust coming from a place that I can’t take credit for myself.

You see, I wasn’t alone in the valley — I never was alone. He has always been with me, since the beginning. I may have not listened to Him at times, and I may have even acted as His enemy and played the role of the Prodigal son worthy of an academy award — but He has always been faithful and true.

Thank you, Lord, for giving my mommy more time to love and serve you by continuing to live and serve others — driven by the same Holy Spirit you have placed, ignited, stirred in me. We are in awe of you, mighty God, Good Father, Holy Holy Holy. Amen.

Life Ain’t Always Beautiful

Sometimes it’s just plain hard…

I have learned to trust the Word of God, and if you know that it is true, let’s look at His promises, His encouragement, His guidance for us in those “hard times”:

James 1:12 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.

Isaiah 41:10 ESV

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Philippians 4:6-8 ESV

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Romans 8:31 ESV

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:18 ESV

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Romans 8:28 ESV

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Psalm 50:15 ESV

And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

Joshua 1:9 ESV

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

John 16:33 ESV

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Psalm 62:2 ESV

He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

But some may say to themselves, “I do not know that I can trust the Word of God. How do I know that it is true or false? What if it is just trickery, another way away up by men to control my mind and subject me to their will?”

And if this is you, if you are a doubter — if you are not yet a true believer in the “whole counsel of the Word of God”, I ask you if you have treated and examined it in your heart? Have you read the Bible from beginning to end while praying and asking, “God, if you are real, reveal yourself to me through the words.”

Or is the “foolishness” of wasting precious hours of your life that you know for sure — not with interesting to discover about the eternity that you might be missing out on? I would think that even the most practical and pragmatic man, driven by the scientific method, would want to gather all of the evidence to himself avoiding any bias or preconceived notion. For if I am wrong in serving the Lord, I have wasted time living, serving, encouraging and helping others instead of focusing on myself. But if the atheist is wrong, he has wasted his all of eternity on a fleeting breath in this life.

Is it easy to believe?

Not by my flesh alone it isn’t.

Is it easy to choose to die to your own passions and desires to instead seek the will of God?

If I was solely under the power of my own will, it would be an impossibility.

But He doesn’t say to come, believe, get your heaven ticket, and then go back — or even to “give it your best shot” from here forward.

No He says something quite miraculous.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
John 4:13‭-‬15 ESV

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
John 7:37‭-‬39 ESV

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
John 3:3‭-‬21 ESV

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:15‭-‬27 ESV

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Fire and Rain

If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve seen seasons of fire and seasons of rain in your life. Easier times and harder times. Times where you felt dashed against the rocks and times when the wind was full in your sails…

I look around me, and I see people in all kinds of different circumstances of life. For some, there are baby bumps, diapers, teaching little ones to walk and talk. And for others, there is taking care of elderly parents, dealing with death, dealing with sickness and suffering.

And it doesn’t always stay in the “expected order” of death only coming with old age. I even see parents younger than us dealing with the loss of children.

I’m reminded of Ecclesiastes:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1‭-‬8 ESV

Yes, there is fire and there is rain. Sometimes the rain seems to fall down along our cheeks — salty drops flowing seemingly endlessly from our eyes — because the fiery tribal seems so much more than we might even bear.

The song we sang says,

Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus,
You’ve got to help me make a stand.
You’ve just got to see me through another day.
My body’s aching and my time is at hand
And I won’t make it any other way.

It reminds me of:

In my own life, I can tell you that I’ve seen the Lord at work. I’ve seen Him carry me through obstacles, and I’ve seen Him rain down blessings. And sometimes the true and lasting blessings come down in the tears, in the building of a testimony, in the building of endurance and faith, preparing me so that my trial might help me be there for someone else during theirs. It’s a beautiful thing, this tapestry, this beautiful handiwork of the Lord.

Together In the Tent

Laying here in a tent just outside the gates of Carowinds at “Camp Wilderness” with my daughter as the temperature begins to drop and as she sleeps peacefully wrapped up in her fleece pjs, sleeping bag, and blanket — and I’m amazed at how returning to a simpler way of life has proven to be so enjoyable for the two of us.

We had a blast seeing up the tent together and getting everything squared away. It wasn’t a chore, but wad something fun that we were able to do together, and she was great at it! And this wad much different than the two times wee have captured in the back yard where mommy could bring us anything we wanted. But we still had electricity and running water this time, so she wants to go camping up in the mountains next. Wow! I’m loving this!

And even so, we looked at the little pop up campers near us and realized the set up and tear down time that they save versus a “real tent” like ours — and we were already making grand plans for “some day”. Lol.

I’m just thankful for the bonds that are being strengthened, the memories being built, the foundations being laid in her childhood so that maybe I can be there with her through more than just cold mornings in a tent during her childhood — but maybe also trying times through adolescence and beyond.

And I pray that she sees in my life, not just my words — this dwelling place that we have with the Lord that od’s greater than any house or home built by the hands of men. And I pray that you do as well. And I pray that I never forget. Amen.

2 Corinthians 5:1-5 ESV

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Give Me Jesus

I love this song. Some songs have a depth of doctrine and teaching in them that will satisfy the most pharisaic of Pharisees, while others express the simple awe of the redeemed whore washing Jesus’s feet with her hair. This song is of the latter kind.

You’ll find in this song that few words are spoken, and that it isn’t a “teaching song” by most men’s standards — but that it is an “awe and wonder” song — which should in fact, teach us about those “weightier matters of the law” by way of the Holy Spirit. One who is not hardened and leavened — one who is fully relying on Christ alone and not resting in any sense of accomplishment, status, or self- righteousness should find that the heart cries out and the spirit speaks in wordless groanings when this praise is lifted in Spirit and in Truth.

In the morning

So let’s take a closer look at its content:

“In the morning, when I rise
Give me Jesus”

Oh, how beautiful and wonderful the mornings are when we rise with our Jesus close by our side. And how strong our longing can be when we feel that we have risen somehow “far and away” from our precious Lord. But either way, don’t we long for Him even closer, even as the deer panteth for water, don’t we thirst for that precious fount of living water?

Do you long for the Lord with your waking breath? It will be so with your daily life as well, especially in those awakening moments of fiery trial that appear unexpectedly. And so it will be for you on the day of the Lord. Are you ready?

Mark 1:35 ESV

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

Psalm 119:147 ESV

I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.

Psalm 88:13 ESV

But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you

Psalm 143:8 ESV

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

So, we have addressed the first fruits of our day — our morning — and now we will look onward to our true worship — to the song that we will sing about what truly is first in our life today.

Just Jesus

The lyrics continue:

“You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus”

Yes, the busy distractions of this world offer us many idols to choose from — and will we say “Give me the world and a side order of Jesus!” Or will we say, “Just give me Jesus!” And if we say it, do we mean it? What if health, prosperity, reputation, loved ones, freedom — what if these were taken from us, would we still cry out “JUST give me Jesus!”

The existence of that word JUST cannot be ignored, or one of us — even you, even me — might miss the whole point of this type of praise altogether.

James 4:4
You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.

Alone

The lyrics continue:

“Oh, when I am alone
Give me Jesus”

And when we have turned away from the world, when our proclaiming the Gospel so boldly, loudly, and seemingly foolishly has left us with “nary a one left behind” and it seems we are alone in our solitude and our silence — isn’t it there in that humbled, surrendered silence that He is truly found?

Psalms 46:10‭ NLT

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”

Lord, teach us that a multitude of words and teaching and movement and activity doesn’t always leave us much time for the awe and wonder and faith that pleases you.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
Hebrews 12:28‭-‬29 ESV

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38‭-‬42 ESV

Additional Reading
https://www.esv.org/Matthew+26:6%E2%80%9313;Mark+14:3%E2%80%939;Luke+7:36%E2%80%9350;John+12:1%E2%80%938/#

New Clothes

Last night as my 7 year old daughter was getting ready to go to to Spout (our church’s Wednesday night program for kids), and as her mother and I were getting ready for the Bible study that we have in our home during that same time — Mia pointed out a hole in the crotch of her leggings. Without hesitation, I told her that she “couldn’t go out like that”. In her innocence, she was both surprised and disappointed, wanting to pout because she loved the outfit she was already wearing. But Mia took them off, mommy grabbed her skewing kit, and we had them back on her “good as new” before she headed out the door.

And like many things these days, this teachable moment reminded me of scripture.

My daughter would be oblivious to the importance of clean clothes that aren’t torn to shreds or that don’t cover her body properly if her mother and I weren’t there to teach, guide, and help her. Just as many of us would be oblivious to the importance of godly living if we weren’t indwelt by the Holy Spirit of Christ in us. We would still be just as hopelessly wandering through the darkness, ignorant of the sad state of our being, maybe even mad if anything made us aware of our pitiful state, ready to pout and pitch a fit rather than see ourselves cleaned up and set on the right path.

I thought about it and looked it up to find that there are a lot of verses in the Bible about washing or mending clothes. From looking in the Old Testament alone, we can find verses like these (and many more):

Exodus 19:10
The LORD also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments;

Exodus 19:14
So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people, and they washed their garments.

Leviticus 6:27
‘Anyone who touches its flesh will become consecrated; and when any of its blood splashes on a garment, in a holy place you shall wash what was splashed on.

Leviticus 11:25
and whoever picks up any of their carcasses shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening.

Leviticus 11:28
and the one who picks up their carcasses shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening; they are unclean to you.

Leviticus 11:40
‘He too, who eats some of its carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening, and the one who picks up its carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening.

Leviticus 13:6
“The priest shall look at him again on the seventh day, and if the infection has faded and the mark has not spread on the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only a scab. And he shall wash his clothes and be clean.

Leviticus 13:34
“Then on the seventh day the priest shall look at the scale, and if the scale has not spread in the skin and it appears to be no deeper than the skin, the priest shall pronounce him clean; and he shall wash his clothes and be clean.

Leviticus 14:8
“The one to be cleansed shall then wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe in water and be clean Now afterward, he may enter the camp, but he shall stay outside his tent for seven days.

Leviticus 14:9
“It will be on the seventh day that he shall shave off all his hair: he shall shave his head and his beard and his eyebrows, even all his hair. He shall then wash his clothes and bathe his body in water and be clean.

Leviticus 14:47
“Likewise, whoever lies down in the house shall wash his clothes, and whoever eats in the house shall wash his clothes.

Leviticus 15:5-8
‘Anyone, moreover, who touches his bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening;

Leviticus 15:10-11
‘Whoever then touches any of the things which were under him shall be unclean until evening, and he who carries them shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.

Leviticus 15:13
‘Now when the man with the discharge becomes cleansed from his discharge, then he shall count off for himself seven days for his cleansing; he shall then wash his clothes and bathe his body in running water and will become clean.

Leviticus 15:17
‘As for any garment or any leather on which there is seminal emission, it shall be washed with water and be unclean until evening.

Leviticus 15:21
‘Anyone who touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.

Leviticus 15:22
‘Whoever touches any thing on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.

Leviticus 15:27
‘Likewise, whoever touches them shall be unclean and shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.

Leviticus 16:26
“The one who released the goat as the scapegoat shall wash his clothes and bathe his body with water; then afterward he shall come into the camp.

Leviticus 16:28
“Then the one who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body with water, then afterward he shall come into the camp.

Leviticus 17:15
“When any person eats an animal which dies or is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or an alien, he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening; then he will become clean.

Numbers 8:7
“Thus you shall do to them, for their cleansing: sprinkle purifying water on them, and let them use a razor over their whole body and wash their clothes, and they will be clean.

Numbers 8:21
The Levites, too, purified themselves from sin and washed their clothes; and Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the LORD. Aaron also made atonement for them to cleanse them.

Numbers 19:7
‘The priest shall then wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward come into the camp, but the priest shall be unclean until evening.

Numbers 19:8
‘The one who burns it shall also wash his clothes in water and bathe his body in water, and shall be unclean until evening.

Numbers 19:10
‘The one who gathers the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening; and it shall be a perpetual statute to the sons of Israel and to the alien who sojourns among them.

Numbers 19:19
‘Then the clean person shall sprinkle on the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day; and on the seventh day he shall purify him from uncleanness, and he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and shall be clean by evening.

Numbers 19:21
‘So it shall be a perpetual statute for them. And he who sprinkles the water for impurity shall wash his clothes, and he who touches the water for impurity shall be unclean until evening.

Leviticus 13:54
then the priest shall order them to wash the thing in which the mark occurs and he shall quarantine it for seven more days.

Leviticus 13:58
“The garment, whether the warp or the woof, or any article of leather from which the mark has departed when you washed it, it shall then be washed a second time and will be clean.”

Numbers 31:20
“You shall purify for yourselves every garment and every article of leather and all the work of goats’ hair, and all articles of wood.”

Genesis 49:11
“He ties his foal to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; He washes his garments in wine, And his robes in the blood of grapes.

Wow, that’s a LOT of washing!

And the New Testament talks about washing as well — the type of washing that the Blood of the Lamb does for us:

Hebrews 9:11-28 (NLT)

So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come.He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.

Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant.

Now when someone leaves a will, it is necessary to prove that the person who made it is dead. The will goes into effect only after the person’s death. While the person who made it is still alive, the will cannot be put into effect.

That is why even the first covenant was put into effect with the blood of an animal. For after Moses had read each of God’s commandments to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, along with water, and sprinkled both the book of God’s law and all the people, using hyssop branches and scarlet wool.

Then he said, “This blood confirms the covenant God has made with you.” And in the same way, he sprinkled blood on the Tabernacle and on everything used for worship. In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.

That is why the Tabernacle and everything in it, which were copies of things in heaven, had to be purified by the blood of animals. But the real things in heaven had to be purified with far better sacrifices than the blood of animals.

For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. And he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.

And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.

Yes, we see that just like my wife and I make sure that my daughter’s clothes are washed or replaced before we send her out each morning, the Lord washes and replaces our spiritual garments as well. If I know how to be a good Father and look out for my own daughter, how much more does our Good, Good Father know how to do even more for His children?

We can all rejoice in the encouragement that we find all the way back in Lamentations:

Lamentations 3:22-24 (NLT)
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”

We can rejoice in the promise we find in 1 John:

1 John 1:9

But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

And we can be mindful of the warnings in Revelation:

Revelation 3:4
‘But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.

Revelation 7:14
I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Lord, we are so grateful that you are faithful to forgive us, to wash us clean from all of our sin and wickedness. And because of that grateful understanding of the sacrifice that you made at Calvary, on the hill at Golgotha, upon the cross for our sake — we plead with you to help us keep from soiling our garments. There is nothing good in us apart from Christ Jesus, so we long to abide with you and not be apart from Christ Jesus — but to be set apart from the world, as a holy, sanctified people to be used by you for your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. And not for our own glory or honor, but so that we might not stumble others, so that we might not be hypocrites, so that we might not be the same as we were before. We ask you to not only be our Savior, but to be our Lord. Take our lives and make them yours. Deliver us into your will, Our Beloved Father. Amen.