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.


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

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

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

We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.
2 Corinthians 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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

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

The promise of peace:

Great peace have those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble.
Psalms 119:165 NKJV

The strength offered:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 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

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


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


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.


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

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

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.


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.

Seek Wisdom

JAS 1:5-6 ESV
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.


When we seek God and we pray for wisdom, God will give it to us. It is God’s will for us to grow wise in His ways. If we are His children, and we are praying in His will, He won’t give us a snake when we pray for a fish. So it is clear that we should all pray for wisdom and guidance.

And this wisdom and guidance doesn’t just come from the “snap of God’s fingers” – Yes, it can come that way, but I’ve found that is usually not His way. No, He guides us and teaches us. He taught me my own foolishness in those times that I struck out on my own to gain something, only to see it destroyed before my eyes when the storms or the fire of trials came along. And in teaching me about my own foolishness, I learn His wisdom.

Yes, this is the way that a strong willed, foolish man had to grow in the truth of God. If you are not strong willed, you might read it, follow it, and not struggle in your life. But I am strong willed, and He teaches me by breaking my will.

It is when my eyes are opened to the truth of my life – when I see that those things that I chased did not last, the flavor wore out, I found them to be more of a trap and a source of destruction and damage in my life than a pleasure over time. It is then that I begin to see the truth – that His ways are best.

And I am thankful to have walked this walk of being proven foolish, of having my will broken – because now I am just as strong willed as ever, but my will is coming in alignment with His will. And there is blessing and power and strength in walking in the will of God. I don’t say that in pride, I say it in humble reverence and awe – that God would use even me, the rebellious and strong willed prodigal son. Yes, He forgives even me.

So let’s pray for His wisdom, let’s be bold enough to step out in faith, and let’s know that even when we make mistakes, they are life lessons in wisdom. But I encourage you – the reading, trusting, and following is the easier path – I have the stripes and the battle scars to prove it.