Be a Blessing to Those Who Hear

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

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

Lord, help us.

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

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

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

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

How are we Repaid? How are we Repaying?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “AND” really does matter

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
– Hebrews 12:14 ESV

Peace and Holiness.
Christ as Savior and Lord.
Forgiveness received and Repentance lived.

Do we see the AND?

Many will fall to one side or the other, interested in one but not the other,  because that is the goal of the enemy – that there would be those that fail to receive grace. Yes, the very next verse warns us of this great danger.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. – Hebrews 12:15-17 ESV

If we want peace, but have no interest in holiness, the enemy can falsify peace by giving us a life of wealth, comfort, false security or worldly pleasures in this life so that we might ignore and avoid any interest or urgings towards being holy. He will speaks lies of all kinds to keep people on this carnal path of lasciviousness and worldliness – even letting them call themselves Christians and participate in religious ceremonies and practices as long as they keep God at a distance from their actual lives.

If we want holiness,  but have no interest in peace,  the enemy can falsify this by encouraging an air of spiritual pride, offering us works and honor amongst men and the ability to sew and point out the specks in others eyes without seeing the log in our own – so that we might know about law and scripture but know little about love and peace amongst our brothers and sisters. He will speak lies of all kinds to keep people on this prideful path of legalism and loveless religious practice and bitterness towards the lost, the hurting, and the afflicted – even Leyva them call themselves Christians and be leaders as long as they keep others at a distance from the forgiveness and love that they have to offer.

Yes, the path of the AND is critical,  because without it, “no one will see the Lord”. And that path is narrow and few will find it,  but will be satisfied with those broad ways that go to destruction.

Which gutter is the enemy trying to drag you into today? Which of the two would you rather avoid and instead cling to the other? God seeks a greater righteousness be born and grow in us than that of the lawless sinners or the loveless religious hypocrites. This is the Law of Christ. And when strived for as peace with everyone AND with holiness towards God – we understand His commandment:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
– Matthew 22:36-40 ESV

Just like the churches in Revelation needed to examine themselves to recognize their strengths and their weaknesses and then act – we need to examine ourselves and then act.

The life of a Christian is not passive – it is not a powerless mentality of “once saved always saved because I’ve baptized” and “I’m just a sinner saved by grace that will continue to sin every day” – with people existing their remaining a slave to sin when Christ doesn’t just set us free from the consequences of sin – He sets us free indeed to walk as a new creation!

The life of a Christian is not war against flesh and blood or building a tower of works to get to heaven either. It is nothing that would have us standing in front of others, proud of what we have done. If something is commendable in our lives,  He must receive the praise and honor and I must humble myself with the realization that it was Him who lives in me and not me.

Whichever of these two you are most comfortable accepting is not the one that you need to work more on – and that is our tendency – to fall into one ditch and keep digging deeper.

We must climb out. We must get back on the narrow path.

Change, Stress, Decisions, Direction

There is a lot of change going on in our lives. And any change to out normal and expected way of life usually brings an extra level of stress over the unknown that lies ahead.

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And the Lord tells us –

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.
Psalms 32:8 NLT
http://bible.com/116/psa.32.8.NLT

But don’t we have a responsibility to follow His leading? He says that He will guide us and advise us and watch over us – but He doesn’t say that He will force us down His path. So isn’t there a point,  a crossroads at which we might wonder, “Where are we going? Which path should I take?”

In fact, doesn’t the next verse make it clear that He shouldn’t have to force us into following Him –

Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”
Psalms 32:9 NLT
http://bible.com/116/psa.32.9.NLT

Our perspective and relationship with God is not meant for us to be striving against His will, with Him pulling and tugging at us as He tries to keep us from stepping into the traps of this life,  as He tries to lead us into the safety of His stable and away from the slaughterhouse.

“So how does that help me know the right way? I’m looking for answers here,  coach,  not vague warnings about what to be on the lookout against.” This might be a normal response during those stressed out times where we are facing change or major decisions in our lives. It can even be our response when we are overwhelmed by the situations and circumstances of our lives. And isn’t it better for us to be honest and transparent with God in our prayers? He already knows our hearts and our thoughts anyways, right?

In fact, He promises that He will guide us and lead us. So what is it that we are overlooking? What is it that we are missing here? Why isn’t our direction clear? Why is there a tension?  Why is there stress?

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.16.33.NLT

We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.
2 Corinthians 5:2 NLT
http://bible.com/116/2co.5.2.NLT

While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.
2 Corinthians 5:4 NLT
http://bible.com/116/2co.5.4.NLT

For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.
2 Corinthians 5:7-10 NLT
http://bible.com/116/2co.5.7-10.NLT

So we have to ask ourselves, is our stress over silly things that really don’t matter? Are they over the material things of this world? Or is our struggle truly over which decision would please God – over which is good and which is evil?

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. 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. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:4-9 NLT
http://bible.com/116/php.4.4-9.NLT

So we have to ask ourselves whether or not we’ve asked Him, whether or not we are trusting and following Him, whether we are seeking the road that is in His will. And again,  we might say, “I’m not sure” – and I’ll tell you – if neither path clearly leads you contrary to God’s will, remember that you are free to live your life for His honor and glory. He is not some harsh taskmaster for His children. Not every decision is a test, nor should we be walking constantly in fear and heavy burden if He is our Father God and Lord of our life.

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.
1 John 4:16-18 NLT
http://bible.com/116/1jn.4.16-18.NLT

If you do not trust your own deceitful heart because it has tricked and fooled you so many times before,  that is good. But God does not want to trick you or mislead you.  Trust Him. He is faithful and true. He doesn’t wish that even one will perish.

Trust Him. Have confidence in Him. He is faithful and true. The trust and the closeness is what matters. Maybe this situation is meant to bring you closer into His presence in prayer. Maybe it isn’t the situation itself that matters,  but it is the opportunity that will bring you closer to Him in heartfelt prayer. Maybe it is what is necessary to bring you into a place of greater trust in Him, and less reliance upon yourself. I really don’t know the answer,  friend. But He does.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus. I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ —for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
Philippians 1:6-11 NLT
http://bible.com/116/php.1.6-11.NLT

Learning Repentance, Receiving Peace

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.  Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,
2 Peter 3:9-11 ESV
http://bible.com/59/2pe.3.9-11.ESV

Teach me Your way, O Lord , And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies. Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries; For false witnesses have risen against me, And such as breathe out violence. I  would  have  lost  heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord ; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord !
Psalms 27:11-14 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/psa.27.11-14.NKJV

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the  death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the  life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Romans 6:8-14 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/rom.6.8-14.NKJV

“The Lord  bless you and keep you; The Lord  make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” ’
Numbers 6:24-26 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/num.6.24-26.NKJV

Your ways confound the wise. Men of flesh fear their own deaths, as their instinct is to avoid it at all costs. But you have taught us that death is the way to life. Help us to do what is difficult – to die to ourselves, to kill our old ways and to become new, walking in your will.  Teach us to be genuinely sorry for our sin,  to hate it more and more,  and to run away from it and into the life and purpose you have for us. Teach us to bring glory and honor to your name in the lives that we live. Strengthen us to see our enemies of temptation, rebellion, worldliness, and self fall dead and defeated at the foot of the cross. Amen.

Will we choose peace?

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

The old way of the flesh:

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,  thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
Mark 7:21-23 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/mrk.7.21-23.NKJV

The promise of peace:

Great peace have those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble.
Psalms 119:165 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/psa.119.165.NKJV

The strength offered:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/php.4.13.NKJV

The fruit to be born in our lives:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-25 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/gal.5.22-25.NKJV

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

Waiting for rescue

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The past weeks have been especially challenging. Sickness,  vehicles breaking down, the extra stress work of coordinating for my daughter’s birthday and the holidays, things at work seem to have been falling apart at a greater rate, multiple weekends in a row of late night maintenance work scheduled, more people hurting around us in deeper and more challenging ways. And the impact is cumulative,  almost like a snowball gathering up stream as it swells into an avalanche.

May God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.
Galatians 1:3-5 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.1.3-5.NLT

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There is a camp who would tell me,  just think positively and you will see positive results. And I understand the dangers in letting our trials bring us down into the dumps emotionally, but instead of a concept of my own attitude having the power to change either my circumstances of my perspective,  I think that it’s safer if we let our trials draw us closer to the Lord and if we find peace and comfort in handing it over to Him. Yes, there is only a subtle difference between the two,  but it is an important one.

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There is a difference between the blessings of grace and peace and the trappings of self confidence and pride. And it comes down to who we trust to have the strength to bring us through the trials. For those of us who have relied for so long on our own strength,  or own gifts, our own power to bring us through this life and it’s many challenges – sometimes it can be hard to hand it over to God instead of striving to be strong enough on our own.

And especially if we have historically thought of ourselves as a strong and confident person, when we start facing challenges and trials beyond our own control, it can either result in our watching our dreams be shattered as we continue to struggle on our own against the raging ride – or we can trust in the Lord and instead of resisting and insisting on our dreams and plans,  we can learn to be content in what He has in store for us.

Due to sickness, I’ve missed work,  I’ve had to cancel ministry plans, I’ve let down my coworkers, I’ve let down those counting on me for assistance, I’ve let down my family, and I’ve struggled to make it through the basics of each of these past several days as my body has just been too weak for the demands of this world. I don’t know what those consequences might be, I don’t know what opportunities might have been lost, I don’t know the weight being carried by others while I cannot bear it myself. In fact, it might be prideful for me to think that anyone would experience any noticeable extra burden due to my weakness, due to my absence. Maybe I need to be humbled by realizing how very unimportant and replaceable I am in each of those areas that my life touches.

You see,  I don’t yet understand the why behind my sickness. I don’t yet understand if there is a lesson to be learned immediately or if I will one day have my eyes opened to see the beauty of the whys behind all of the struggles and trials of this life. But I can know His grace and find peace and comfort in knowing that He is in control.

You see, I’m off the camp that believes that God is more interested in changing me than changing my circumstances. This is a different camp than those who believe that God is there to service their requests when they call upon His name. You see, one group is interested in crying out to a master that will give them what they want, while the other group is interested in crying out to a master that will teach them what He wants. And shouldn’t we wonder whether or not these two might be very different masters?

I’m so thankful for His grace,  for His peace, that He is rescuing us from this evil world. The tricks and traps of the enemy lie all around us. The enemy strides around, waiting for an opportunity to devour us. But we cannot be snatched from our Father’s hand. And what are the trials of this life in comparison to what awaits us on the other side of eternity?

Praise the Lord,  He is worthy of praise and honor and glory.

NOTE: Please extend some grace in reading my journal entry today. I’m still battling a cold and taking medicine. Today’s entry was probably a lot more of my own thoughts and concerns as opposed to message from the Holy Spirit & Word of God. Love y’all.

Life: A time for Birth, A time for Death

The time passes so quickly. 

Just 5 years ago. 

Excited about the new life on its way.
Crushed by the word cancer.

A new life arrives that touched us so deeply and changed everything.

Little Mia comes home from the hospital just in time for a white Christmas.
But as she comes home from the hospital,  another enters.

Empty seats at the Christmas table as we each faced our torn responsibilities.
Hearts stretched to the limits in joy and pain and searching for understanding.
A family faced with so much change,  so much change,  so much…

And along with the new year’s arrival, we found that our family was the same size it had been,
Missing one we knew and had memories with,  but holding one to make more memories.

Oh,  let’s make those memories count.

I love you Granddad. I miss you.
I didn’t get those last days with you,
You know my heart, you know my love,
Until that day when we are reunited –
We love you,  and hope we can carry the Ballinger name,
To God’s Glory and to your memory,
Thank you for your life,  your example,  your faith.

The ring placed back into my grandmother’s open hand,
I can’t hold back the rush of emotion even now.

The words and handshakes of an endless line of loving people,
Whose words I couldn’t even hear through the deafening numbness.

And the joy of baby Mia and the crushing responsibilities of being a new dad,
Gave me a distraction from my mourning and loss,
I stumbled through it all barely awake,  barely alive,
But we made it,  and we are making it,

And God honors your life and showed mercy on our family greatly,
Knowing the hole would be so great from your departure,
That He gave us Mia as a blessing and a renewal,
Just when His timing was perfect.

Thank you,  God,
Your ways are amazing.

———————

Miss you,  Granddad Ballinger. Love you.

“Remember when old ones died and new were born
And life was changed, disassembled, rearranged
We came together, fell apart
And broke each other’s hearts
Remember when

Remember when the sound of little feet was the music
We danced to week to week
Brought back the love, we found trust
Vowed we’d never give it up
Remember when”

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet 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 NLT
http://bible.com/116/ecc.3.1-8.NLT

Where can safety be found?

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit,  and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.
Jude 1:20-21 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jud.1.20-21.NLT

Some of us are friends – not even because we know each other,  but because we know Christ. Once we know that our enemies are not flesh and blood, the world begins to be filled with the opportunity of friends – because even those imperfect people doing things we might not agree with, or even those that we find opposing us are just in need of the same rescue,  the same grace,  the same deliverance that we ourselves accept daily.

Continue reading “Where can safety be found?”

The Godly are Disappearing

Psalms 12:1-8 NLT
Help, O  Lord , for the godly are fast disappearing! The faithful have vanished from the earth!
Neighbors lie to each other, speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts. May the Lord cut off their flattering lips and silence their boastful tongues. They say, “We will lie to our hearts’ content. Our lips are our own—who can stop us?”
The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do.”
The Lord ’s promises are pure, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times over.
Therefore, Lord , we know you will protect the oppressed, preserving them forever from this lying generation, even though the wicked strut about, and evil is praised throughout the land.

PERSONAL COMMENTARY
——————————————–

This passage was our family’s Life Application devotional for this morning. It takes an especially strong meaning on a morning of family absence and loss.

Yes, the godly are fast disappearing.

Ask me if I rejoice for those that are absent from the body and with God (2 Corinthians 5:8), and my voice will reply truthfully yes.

But ask me if I mourn with my family and with all who mourn the absence of a loved one, and my heart cries out with a voice so strong that I am overcome, with tears and groaning that written, or even spoken, words will not capture.

And yes, we will be surrounded by empty,  but well intentioned words from those who both are and aren’t a part of our lives, but who see the circumstances of this season of our lives. And there are even those who will use flattery and deceit,  because being purely of this world that is the only way they know how to behave.

But what is important right now is that this promise He gives us. It is true. He does rescue us as we have longed for Him to do.

Those of us whose bodies of flesh have worn out from our lives walking and loving and serving and raising families – when the burden of this fleshly body can no longer hold back this new creation from being reunited with our Lord and Savior in fullness of His glory and grace and honor and power. And He rescues us, drawing the unperishable out from inside its perishable vessel.

We know with full confidence,  Lord,  that you are faithful. We know with full confidence,  Lord,  that you preserve and protect your children. Let us use our time that we have in these fleshly vessels to continue your work, to fulfill your purpose,  until these bodies wear out and your promises are fulfilled in their fullness.

Let us see past the evil and wicked and proud ways of mankind around us,  and see their chains – let us see their desperate need for this grace and healing and renewal that only comes through Christ Jesus,  our Lord and Savior. And use us to share this Hope, Faith, Love, and Truth so they might recognize your voice and accept your grace.

I love you,  friend.  But my love by itself would fall so short of the love that we each need to know personally in our lives. This love I share is not just my own love,  but it is the love of Jesus Christ, of God come in the flesh, reaching out to touch our lives today,  so that we might accept this truth,  believe and be saved, hold tight to our faith and be fruitful, share love and see others strengthened and encouraged,  and share truth so that others too might be prepared for that day, when the imperishable is called out from the perishable.

His promises are true.

Do you know Christ dearly and closely today,  friend?

Is he alive in your heart and in your day ahead.

We only get one today,  one opportunity to serve the purpose that He has for our lives today.

Our lives can either be an example to others of His way down the narrow path – or an example to others of our own way, stumbling into darkness.

What example are we setting for those around us that watch our lives? Are our words and actions and decisions leading others around us into the place that we want them to go? Are we leading them into light or into darkness?

Help us,  Lord, in your strength to live the life today so that others might see your light, your love,  your mercy,  your grace,  and your truth.