Monday, March 28, 2011

Test your heart, learn the truth

3/28/11 Monday
I’ll be working on preparing areas for planting. The funds I earned from the woodwork I did for friends will go to purchase plants. Got a bunch of plastic plant buckets from Aldridge nursery. They were old ones they didn’t need any more so I got them for free. Cut the bottoms out of them and set them out. Got 72 in one of the rows where we put up the T posts that will be used for vertical growing. That used up most of them so I’ll go get some more later.

It’s a slow morning. Having a hard time motivating. I suspect this is at least partially due to the pain medications. It’s pretty chilly also this morning and that doesn’t help. Mornings, during the work week when Cherie goes to work, are my time to spend with God. It is now I study the bible, pray, write, and ponder what has gone on.

There is much on my mind. My concern is first the welfare of my wife, what I can do to increase her happiness and security. After that, currently, comes the welfare of our church and pastor. That is a harder one because it’s not as clear regarding how I should proceed, what I can do to help. It seems like there is a stone wall there, a stone wall built with bricks that God is not happy with. How can I turn a stone heart into a heart of flesh. I can’t. Only God can do that and it will only happen when the hardened heart, that is stubbornly set on it’s decided path, humbles itself and submits to the will of God. All I can do is be there, present the truth as best as I am able, when I am allowed too, and wait.

We didn’t go to this church because we wanted to. We were happy where we were before, had friends and acceptance, and are still loved by the family of Christ there. So why did we go to this other church? For two years I would drive past it and every time feel a compelling in my spirit to make contact with it. I resisted that, happy with where we were, but God had plans. Through a series of events it was made clear to me that this is where God wanted us to go. In my prayers I understood there was great need in this church but it wasn’t clear what the need was. It’s clear now.

So here’s a word, for the one who reads to pass along. That which divides is from the devil, that which brings unity and fellowship is from the Holy God. It’s a simple litmus test for the heart. We must always test our hearts, examine our thoughts to see what it is that glorifies God and what does not.

Our enemy is a deceiver, the master of lies who puts on sheep’s clothing and make himself look like an angel, all with the purpose of leading astray and causing discord. He takes any opportunity, any weakness, and subtly moves to exploit it. Could it be a bitterness from times past? Could it be a small dislike for someone you met? Oh yes, and from these roots terrible things grow, like a cancer hidden and unrecognized, until it gets to big to ignore. Then you twist to accept it, deny it’s there, pride unwilling to admit you allowed such a monster to grow in you, and thus you feed pride too, allowing it to grow as well. The religious person then works to make the scripture justify their position, in order to maintain their standing among those around, further hardening their hearts.

2 Peter 3:14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation--as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

That small dislike is the definition of judgment, the kind of judgment that is spoken of in James 2:1 My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. 2 For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, 3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," 4 have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

You see, we all must make judgments in life, we are required to do so. It’s the motive of the heart behind that judgment that makes the difference between good and evil. When you look down on someone because of their position in life, or even the habits they have that keep them down, when you look down on someone period, think you are better than they are, that’s when you sin. I understand deeply that I am no better than anyone else, because I’ve had the privilege of being in the gutter and associating with the worst of the worst. “Privilege?” you say, wondering. Yes, privilege, for this is what Jesus did and I try to follow Him.

Mathew 9:10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."
Here's some of the rapidly dwindling horse manure I'm putting in the pots you saw in the earlier photo. Have another bin composting and that's it.

Who was it Jesus, the son of God, spent time with? The ones that everyone else didn’t think much of. If you want to build a church, these are the ones you should be talking to. The idea of building a church by attracting other religious people, luring them away from whatever church they go to, is so wrong, but it seems to be the only way some people know how to do things. Build a church by seeking the lost, reaching out to the rejected of society, by giving life to the dead. Oh, these people come with problems and responsibility, plus many of them don’t have a lot of money. OOOH, Did I say that? We’ve seen churches built based on marketing demographics, where the leadership picked richer parts of town and advertised, just like starting a business. To them it is a business and it is all about the money when all is said and done. Actually, money and prestige. There’s the big “Look what I did” part of the equation, and with it pride, the root of all sin.

On that final day, the day when we all stand in front of God, what’s important? Listen to what Jesus said. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' 40 And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.' 41 Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.' 44 Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' 45 Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Mathew 25)

One last thought, a continuation of what I started on earlier. Things normally run in sequences, with one event leading to another. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:14) Thus it works with judgment. You meet someone and do what we all do, examine what we see. We don’t have to like what we see, but we need to look through God’s eyes, not our own. We don’t have to be comfortable with them, and sometimes wisdom tells you that you need to keep a distance, but we do have to love them. Love means to choose what is best for that person, to bring the love of Jesus and the gift of eternal life to them.

Suppose we make a judgment about that person. There are religious people who are very attuned to God, who strive to hear from God all the time and listen to what the Spirit says. That’s good but even in that care must be taken. In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul gives clear instructions for the order of things in the church, an order by the way that I’ve seldom seen practiced. In those instructions he says “29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.” First we need to understand that a prophet isn’t just someone who predicts the future, they are those who speak the words of God and direct others to lead lives that are pleasing to God. By that definition most preachers could be considered prophets. Anyway, the point I want to make is that anytime someone thinks they hear from God that word is to be judged by those in the church. The reason for this goes back to the fact that the devil is out to deceive and can often fool even someone who has a long established reputation for hearing from God, thus this instruction in the bible to make all things known, bring them out into the light to be judged.

What do we use to judge? The scriptures. If you think God has revealed something to you about another person you must examine that, out in the open and the light of God’s word. So here is the sequence of events, what has happened. A person makes a judgment, feels like it’s justified and Godly, and shares that with another. Once those words have left their mouth they are committed. Now they look with eyes that seek to confirm their initial opinion, to prove they were right. This is the poison of judgment, for once made we filter everything we see through those eyes of judgment, and if you look for wrong you find it. In fact you see it where it doesn’t exist for everything is interpreted from that standpoint. Thus the gossip starts. “Did you see what he did? Did you hear what he said? I told you he was wrong” and in that process the gossiper establishes their “righteousness”, building themselves up while they tear someone else down. From this root only evil grows. Gossip spreads the poison like a cancer and the poor focus of all this doesn’t understand why so many are standoffish, because of course all of this is done in darkness, not out in the open for all to see, and the object of this talk is especially kept in the dark.

The “righteous” then make it a religious thing, pulling out scripture to justify their opinion. I’ve had a pastor one time tell me he was “Shaking the dust off his feet” concerning me, misusing what Jesus told His disciples to excuse his, and those under his leadership, actions and attitudes. Someone accused me of being bitter about this, another judgment. I’m not bitter, but sad and definitely bothered, for this can only cause harm in the body of Christ, and should not be.

I’ve heard Jesus’ words “Don’t cast pearls before swine” used to justify such actions and wonder about someone’s doubts regarding my salvation because of how they interpret a scripture in Hebrews 10:26. In the King James version it reads “ For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”

I’ve wrestled with this scripture, because I had turned my back on God and returned to the lifestyle I had before I became a Christian, so I studied the scriptures diligently to determine the truth. There was a great fear in me that I was lost, doomed to spend eternity in hell, because of this, but despite that I decided I would serve God anyway, even if there was no hope.

I studied, and I talked to those I knew who understand the word of God, and thus I have a clearer idea about what this says. First of all we need to look at more accurate translations of the original words. In the New International version it says this “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” And the New American Standard says “Go on sinning willfully” so this speaks of a continuing pattern of activity, with evidently no remorse.

I have great remorse and have repented and turned away from my sins. What I understand is what Jesus told Peter in Mathew 18. Peter asked him, “How many times must I forgive someone who sins against me, up to seven times?” and Jesus replied “Seventy seven times”. Did He mean for us to keep count and call it quits after seventy seven times? No, the point is to always forgive. In Luke 17 Jesus says this “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 "And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him.

I believe that Jesus only asks His followers to do what He already does, and that Jesus wouldn’t ask anyone to do what He isn’t willing to do, so in that I have hope. There are many other scriptures that speak to God’s forgiveness of sin and also many that speak of His judgment of those who sin, and in this there are dangerous lines I take care not to play with.

What I know is that there is no question that God’s hand is on my life. Who am I? I am the prodigal son, I was raised from the dead, my life has been restored, I was lost yet now I am found, I am a walking living example of the love, mercy, and grace of the living God. If I choose once again to turn my back on God and return to sin, then I can expect a fearful end, but I choose life, not death. Judge me, if you will, but be careful in that, for I am here for a reason, and there are no accidents in my presence on this earth. The enemy knows this and so fights tooth and nail against us.

Return to 1 Corinthians 13, where you started when you first came to the Lord. Remember where you have come from and do not let the enemy have a foothold any longer. The bitterness in your soul will cause sickness. Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought, for in that there is grave danger. Humble yourself before the mighty hand of God and, please, stop hardening your heart, stop resisting what you already know is the truth.

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