As I was driving to a job site yesterday, I noticed this broken-down house on the side of the road. It caught my attention to the point that I actually took the time to pull over and take a photograph of it. I knew the Holy Spirit had a lesson for me. You see, my Heavenly Father is a good and benevolent Father who takes the time to teach me along the way, wherever I am going. I hope you experience the same thing. If you don’t, you can. He desires to have an intimate relationship with you. Anyway, I was on my way to a job site where they just broke ground on a new shopping center. Several years of planning, making deals with tenant anchors, and all the financing and everything has been done. And now I come on the scene to mark where we will be putting the road signs. Its new growth. Its hard work, and investment, and hopes for profit. It’s all good stuff. But it is all temporary - I was struck by this fact as a took a moment to look at this wreck of a house. It was once the pride of a new home owner. Who knows how many memories were made there, children raised, meals shared, and lives lived? I think of my own home, built 120 years ago. No one alive today who first lived here – all dead and gone. There are natural forces at work that have to be constantly addressed… walls to be painted, grass to be cut, trees to be trimmed, floors to be cleaned and maintained. It is a constant march towards rot and decay. Left alone, it would fall down like this old wreck I’m looking at in a matter of years. I think of nations that have risen and fallen throughout the ages – our own nation, falling apart. I think of all of the great plans of proud men and how quickly they come to nothing. It is all so very temporary. Our very life on this earth is fleeting. As I am writing this, the clock is ticking every moment, closer to my last breath. This world is incredibly transient. Every day, people die and people are born. I think of my own children and how they will remember me. I think of their children – will I live long enough to imprint on their memory? And by the third generation, will anyone remember me? Will they even remember that I existed? Man, if my focus is on the things of this world, my life is pointless. If I am caught up in how nice my house looks, how good my hair or clothes are, or how I am perceived by others… I am nothing more than a vapor that will soon dissipate into nothingness. But I am not. I am fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s own image. I am destined for eternity with Him. And, my dear brothers and sisters… you too can have this blessed hope… this eternal outlook. Colossians 3: 2 tells us “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” And 2 Corinthians 4:18 says “we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” God has a plan and a purpose for your life far beyond these temporal things… things of eternal value…. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” - Ephesians 2:10
I encourage you today, as you go about your daily routine, to focus on the eternal. I encourage you to offer yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Your home, your car, your clothes, and even your body… they are all on a path to decay. So, give your all to God. Let him lead you this very day in His perfect will… to do good works He has prepared for you, and you will store up treasures in heaven.
May it be so in Jesus’ name
Today we celebrate one of our most beloved of American heroes. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of conviction, courage, and most importantly… a man of great love. I have spent many hours listening to his sermons and find in them a resounding truth – a truth that has been lost in the chaos, confusion, and destructiveness of the current culture. His message of love overcoming hate, defending the right of every man and women to be treated with dignity and equity, and racial reconciliation inspired me as a young boy and has continued to be a touchstone for me throughout my life. Below are a few quotes worth your consideration, particularly in our current political and sociological climate:
“Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.” – This is such a fundamental statement that applies to all of our endeavors and inter-personal relations. Matthew 16:5 tells us clearly that if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven. Bitterness is like a cancer – it has taken root in our culture and must be removed through repentance and revival.
“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.” – John 4:20 tells us “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.” – This is such an important statement and it applies to the ongoing fight to end abortion in our nation. To say it is someone’s choice to kill a baby inside the womb is to say that life does not have a right to protection under the law… because we do not value that life. Slavery and segregation laws were unjust in that they did not value every human life… Abortion laws do exactly the same thing. Dr. Alveda King (niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) recently differentiated between the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church — where her grandfather, father, and famous uncle served as pastors — and Horizon’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Warnock (recently elected to the Senate) was pastor. Dr. Alveda King said “Historic Ebenezer was an altar that was raised to God in the Bible. Now, the Horizon’s Ebenezer is an altar to Baal.” We must be a voice for the voiceless until these innocent babies are afforded equal protection under the law.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – The current trend from ungodly organizations such as BLM are a direct affront to this dream. Critical race theory, ravaging our nation, represents the exact opposite of what Dr. King taught and died for. We cannot continue the current trend of racial division or we will tear ourselves apart. For the Christian, Scripture clearly teaches that for those who are in Christ, our identity is in Him alone – male, female, black, white, Jew, Gentile, etc. We are all of one mind and one purpose in Christ and will be known by our love for one another.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – This is where the rubber hits the road. Will you stand for righteousness in a culture that calls good evil and evil good? We live in a culture that says the family unit as God created it is bad. We live in a culture that says men aren’t really men and women aren’t really women. We live in a culture that says the life in the person in the womb doesn’t matter and that a mother has a “right” to the pre-meditated murder of the very child God says she should love and cherish. But who will stand for righteousness? Who will stand against the tide in times of challenge and controversy – who will stand for truth?
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” – Love truly sets us free. When we decide to love our enemies and forgive those who have wronged us, we are set free from the bondage of hate. We are empowered to do good and change the world.
“He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.” – Again, we see the principal of the power of forgiveness. If you cannot forgive someone, you cannot claim to love them. If you cannot love them, you cannot claim to love God. If you do not love God, you have violated the first and greatest commandment and are in danger of hell fire.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – This is my favorite of all Dr. King quotes. We are living in a world of darkness and lies. The light of love and truth must overcome the darkness and hate. We must forgive. We must love one another. And we must reject lies and embrace the truth.
May we all remember the words of Dr. King. May we take them to heart and stand for truth, righteousness, and love.
Here’s my TOP TEN ideas for “making America great”… I borrowed this list from my favorite book. Read’em and see if you can figure out where these great ideas came from:
1. Love and serve the One True God - make him #1 priority in life
2. Don’t worship anything other than God
3. Don’t misuse God’s name. Honor Him – Don’t call him by other names and don’t say stupid stuff like “amen and awomen” – that’s very disrespectful… “Amen” is actually a Hebrew word that affirms the God if Israel and His Holy name.
4. God gave us seven days in a week. Use one to rest and spend special time with God (a great way to do this is to meet with other people who love God and learn more about Him, worship Him corporately, and encourage each other to stay close to Him)
5. Honor mom and dad – I know “honor” is a word we’ve forgotten. It means to treat them with respect and dignity and look after them... the opposite of that would be to ignore them, speak badly about them, and a lot of folks these days even blame all their own problems on their parents - that's definitely not what this means.
6. Don’t murder another human being – that includes the babies in the womb, children at every stage, adults, and old folks. I know you may have heard that people aren't people till they are born - that's just not true... the Bible (oops, I just gave away my source) says so.
7. Don’t have sex with anyone other than your husband (if you are a woman) or your wife (if you are a man) – In case you are wondering which is which, it works like this: If you have a penis you are a man and if you have a vagina you are a woman (kinda’ neat and simple how God made that ain’t it). Oh, and by the way, lookin' at someone who isn't your husband or wife and imagining having sex with them... Jesus said that's just as bad. So keep your eyes on your own paper there sparky.
8. Don’t steal – If you didn’t earn it or if it wasn’t a gift to you from a willing participant. It ain’t yours – leave it alone.
9. Don’t lie about anyone or misrepresent what they say or do. That includes politicians and people who call themselves things like “journalist.” (that would be people who’s job it is to find out what is happening in the world that might be of interest and provide an honest and unbiased account to the public) Yes, that is a real thing! By the way, saying something - even if it's true - out of context... that's kinda the same thing, isn't it.
10. Don’t covet – that means be satisfied. Don’t always be wanting more stuff, particularly other people’s stuff (try just being happy for them if they have something nice). Be thankful for what you have and take care of it. Be generous with it and share with others.
Aren't those great ideas? Man, every one makes so much sense. I just know, if we start doing this, we’ll have a great county and won’t have to worry about riots, who won what election, who we’re supposed to hate or who we’re supposed to support, out of control national debts (or personal debt)… Heck, that stuff’ll just go away. Really – it will. I think it’s a great idea. How about you?
Oh, and here’s some bonus material… This is REALLY GOOD STUFF... listen to this one: Love each other. Wow, that one is almost right up there with loving God. C'mon folks, let's do our part.
"There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people." – 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Sound familiar? It certainly looks to me a lot like what we are witnessing in our culture today – more than ever, right now. We should expect to see these behaviors from the ungodly unregenerate people of this world. Those who have not received the message of the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ are subject to the tactics of the evil one. But this Scripture warns us about those who call themselves Christians (having a form of godliness) who portray these characteristics. What does it say to do about these people? HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH SUCH PEOPLE. Pastors who preach racial division, those who condone sexual immorality and murdering innocent babies – HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM. There is a falling away happening right now. There is a sifting and a separating that must take place. Why must this happen? Because God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, is preparing a church for His return. We will be a people known for our love for one another. We will be a people who stand for righteousness. And we will be ONE – even as Jesus and the Father are one… that’s pretty darned ONE. But get ready. This oneness isn’t going to just slide on like a silk gown (I’m not sure why I used that analogy – I guess it sounds luxurious and easy). We are warned… “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” – vs. 12-13. Did you catch that? WE WILL BE PERSECUTED
Paul goes on to exhort us as follows: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” - Chapter 4 vs. 1-5 We have an opportunity like never before to be a light in the darkness. We have an opportunity to be conduits of God’s grace and mercy and love. We have an opportunity to stand in stark contrast to a world headed for hell and destruction and point people to the straight and narrow gate – Jesus. Be not afraid. Be strong and courageous. And be of good cheer.
As Paul knows his own execution is to soon be carried out, he ends his letter to Timothy with these words: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Keep your eyes on Jesus my dear brothers and sisters in Christ. For those of us who long for His appearing… do you long for His appearing? For those of us who long for His appearing, we are encouraged to fight the good fight, to keep the faith… and we are promised this in Revelation 2:7 “To the overcomer, I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”
May it be so in Jesus’ name.
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. -Philippians 4:4
Are you disappointed in our government? Rejoice in THE LORD. Have your parents, friends, children, or coworkers let you down? Rejoice in THE LORD. Are you at your wits end with your husband or wife? Rejoice in THE LORD. Has your pastor or your church let you down? Rejoice in the LORD.
In Psalm 62:2 King David exhorts us “He (THE LORD) is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress. I will never be shaken.”
In Proverbs 29:25 his son, Solomon says “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe."
Psalm 118:8 encourages us with these words “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”
Isaiah 26:4 declares “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”
Psalm 56:4 reminds us “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” Remember those words? “In God we trust.” I have searched the Scriptures and haven’t found a single verse that says “in the president I trust” – “in my husband I trust” – “in my wife I trust” – “in my employer I trust” – “in my friends I trust” – Or even “in my pastor I trust.” No, all of our confidence is in the one who will never be shaken. It is in Him that we trust. It is in Him that we have confidence. And it is in Him that we REJOICE.
Rejoice in the Lord… ALWAYS. No matter what things look like, no matter what circumstances you find yourself in… REJOICE IN THE LORD. My fellow Christians, we do not need to go about hanging our head and clicking our tongues with worry and woe. We are not of this world. We belong to another Kingdom. Yes, we should speak out against unrighteousness. Yes, we pray that those who lie and cheat and steal – those who’s father is the devil – we pray that their deception will be exposed. We should, without a doubt – and whoever they are – pray for our leaders. We need to do battle – on our knees – for we battle not against flesh and blood. But don’t let the enemy steal your joy.
REJOICE IN THE LORD… A-L-W-A-Y-S! And again I say REJOICE!
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. – Romans 12:1
Merriam Websters dictionary defines “reasonable” like this: Possessing sound judgment - not extreme or excessive. So, what Paul is instructing us to do is not extreme or excessive. It should appeal to someone with sound judgment. Reasonable is translated from the Greek “logikos” which is where we get the word “logic.” We can assume then, Paul is not asking us to do something unreasonable. But he is asking us – NO, more than asking… “beseeching” us (parakaleō) which means to beg, to strive to appease by entreaty. Picture a man about to jump off a building and commit suicide. Now picture a police officer standing a few feet away “beseeching” him not to jump… that is the context in which Paul is addressing us! He is warning us not to jump off the building - If we give our bodies over to our own lusts, we will face eternal damnation. If we continue in sin… the result will be the second death. Rather, Paul is pleading with us to “present” (paristēmi / to bring into one's fellowship or intimacy) our bodies as a “living” (zaō - active, blessed, having vital power in itself and exerting the same upon the soul) “sacrifice” (thysia – to slaughter, to slay, to kill). OK – now we seem to have lost the “logic” Paul was claiming to give us, right? What is a LIVING sacrifice? It seems like a nonsensical thing. Part of what makes a sacrifice a sacrifice is that we kill it. Then how do we come to a “logical” or “reasonable” understanding of what Paul is saying? It is vital that we do understand, since he tells us point-blank this is what is “acceptable to God.” What are we to do? We see in MATTHEW 16:25 Jesus says “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.” Do you see the same theme here? In John 10:10 Jesus says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus is offering life - life to the full! So where is the sacrifice? In Galatians 2:20 we read “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” You may have heard "the gospel is simple." But my dear brothers and sisters, many of you have been sold a counterfeit bill of goods when it comes to the gospel. Some of you have been told that to be saved all you must do is “accept Jesus as your savior” or “ask Jesus into your heart.” And you are left to believe that’s it – you’ve got your ticket for free admittance into heaven and are now free to go and live your life the way you see fit. But that is a path to hell just as surely as the one who rejects Jesus completely. We are told that many shall say on that day “Lord, Lord, did we not do this or that in your name?” And he shall say unto them DEPART FROM ME FOR I NEVER KNEW YOU. Jesus said “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Do you see? To be a follower of Christ means accepting him as savior… but it also means declaring him as Lord. 1 Corinthians 6:19 instructs us "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price." Romans 10:9 tells us “If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” He paid the price… he went to the cross and took the shame, the pain, and the penalty. But he says “if you want to follow me… follow my example.” Even Jesus had to struggle… In the garden, sweating drops of blood he cried out “Father, if it is possible, let the cup pass from me.” Jesus didn't skip to the cross with a whistle and a hop in his step. He agonized, and wept, and cried out! And we will not float along this life on a cloud of comfort through the pearly gates. We will be faced with tough choices. We will be called upon to lay down our own hopes and dreams, our own plans for the future we have charted out. There will inevitably be some area of your life that God will put His finger on and say “this I require of you.” It will cost you – and it will hurt. But like Jesus in the garden, we must lay it down and say “nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.” My friends, this is our reasonable service. It is the most logical thing in the world to trust Him once you come to know Him... and to know Him, you must trust Him. We can be at the very edge of the executioner’s blade and have no fear. We can face the fiery furnace like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and say "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it. But even if he does not, we will be faithful to Him." We can be like Job, who lost everything in a single day, and say “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” And all of this we can do by “the mercies of God” – the “chesed” covenant with God… but more on that another day.
Be a living sacrifice today dear saints of God. May it be so in Jesus’ name.
When God made the covenant with Abraham, His mercy was evident at the outset. In this mysterious scene described in Genesis 15 the Spirit of God “passes through” the blood, but he does not allow Abram to pass through when it is his turn. Instead, the Spirit of God passes through twice. Indeed, this covenant is fulfilled through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of his Son – Jesus Christ. Later God tests Abraham by brining him to the very breaking point of sacrifice, requiring that he lay his son (and God’s promise) on the alter. He requires the very same from each of us. He requires that we lay what we hold most dear on the alter. Jesus requires complete surrender… He said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24) In Luke 14:26 he tells us “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple.” Over and over again, we see Jesus make it very clear that to follow him, is to surrender all. And he makes it abundantly clear that there is no other way. He said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” It is one of the most exclusive religious statements ever made. In Matthew 7:14 we read “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” And Jesus says point-blank that he is that gate in John 10:8 we read “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved.” We have all sinned and that sin separates us from God, the source of all life. But He has made a way, through his son. He has made the sacrifice and covered the penalty for our blood guilt. But God’s mercy is always balanced by His justice. His wrath was poured out on His own son on our behalf. But when we refuse to acknowledge His sacrifice – when we choose to reject his Son, we will ourselves encounter that wrath. If you have never been born again into the Kingdom of God, you have that opportunity right now. He says “if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead – YOU WILL BE SAVED.” This is the “good confession” of faith… To proclaim Jesus as Lord of your life. It means laying down your own authority to “do it your way” and yielding to the authority of Jesus. Repent of your sins therefore, and be baptized – to be baptized is to be saturated with a new identity – follower of Christ. John the Baptist declared “One is coming after me who will baptize you in the Spirit – referring to the Holy Spirit. When St. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and preached the gospel, the people cried out “what must we do to be saved?” His answer was to repent, be baptized, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Your part of this equation is to repent of your sin, to proclaim Jesus as Lord, to believe that God raised him from the dead, and to be baptized. And God promises that if you do, He will fill you with His Holy Spirit – who will lead you into all truth. This is the gospel. It is the truth. And it is the reality of the mercy of a loving God who loved you so much that He gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting live.
Are you one of the “inner circle?" Or do you feel like someone who is always on the outside. Where do you fit in? In my life, I have business associates, neighbors, and people with whom I interact on some level… people who are outside of my “inner circle” of friends. Then there are the people I enjoy spending time with… my “inner circle." These are the people I call when I need someone to talk to, share meals with, fellowship with, pray with, invite into my home, and feel at ease with. Some of those friendships last a lifetime, and some are only there for a season. I truly treasure these relationships and consider them worth investing my time and energy in. Then there's my extended family – my mother, and brother, and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and in-laws. They are pretty much a part of my inner circle by default. Then there are my children. They come before anyone else. They get first dibs on my time, my resources, my prayers, and certainly my energy. I will fight for them, protect them, and lay down my life for them. But there is an inner circle even they are outside of… the covenant relationship with my wife. She knows me at my best and my worst. We accept and embrace each other completely with all of our blemishes and scars and weaknesses. For nearly thirty years we have grown closer through the challenges and triumphs of life. We guard our love and treasure each other above and before anyone. But there is one inner circle we are all invited to… an inner circle that is more precious, more costly, and more valuable than any other. If you are excluded from every other inner circle but are a part of this inner circle, you will have all your soul could long for. I am referring of course to the inner circle of relationship with our Creator, available to all through the salvific work of Jesus Christ. Just as there is an intimacy I enjoy with my wife – one that is sacred… there is a fidelity of relationship with God that is His alone. Revelation 2:17 tells us “To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which no one knows except him who receives it.” God says that he “knit us together” in our mother’s womb. He was intimately involved in forming us. He wrote our very DNA. He knows every hair of our head and has numbered our days. He created us to be in relationship with Him. He invites us to know Him and be known by him in the most intimate relationship. And He promises to those who surrender their lives to His sovereign will… to the overcomers… eternal life. And there will be a name known only to you and God… a secret name… the most exclusive ‘inner circle.” No relationship can fill that void. It belongs to God alone. He alone can satisfy the deepest longing of your soul. For those who enter that inner circle of relationship, you are never alone. So come, enter in… where you are loved completely, known fully, and treasured more than you can possibly comprehend. God loves you. He desires you. He wants to spend eternity with you so much that He sacrificed everything to invite you into the most holy space... into the inner circle.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. – James 4:8
There is a longing in our soul – A yearning that can only be satisfied by the nearness of God. In our sinful condition, that nearness is terror and judgement and certain death. But, oh, for the redeemed, it is life! It is the air we breathe! It is the light that vanquishes the darkness within us. God desires intimacy with us. He created us for fellowship. He calls to us… “draw near to me.” But he warns us “cleans your hands!” For God is a consuming fire. He is holy. We are living in a time when you are warned everywhere to “wash your hands” to avoid the spread of the virus plaguing the world. But there is a much deadlier virus that has infected every single one of us – sin. James calls us what we are… sinners. Throughout Judaism, the practice of handwashing is required. There is ritual handwashing before eating, before worshiping, before prayer, before reading Torah. There is a constant awareness of our sinfulness and God’s righteousness. James reaffirms that mindset here. He establishes God’s desire to be near to us and our need to be near to Him. And he reminds us immediately of the “otherness” of God. He is holy – we are sinful. But this hand cleansing is not ritual – it is not a dead religious tradition. It is the cleansing that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 15:1-9 when the pharisees rebuke him for failing to go through the outward ritual hand washing. He explains that true cleanness of hands consists in abstinence from the evil that defiles… that comes from within. And Psalm 24:4 “The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” And 1 Timothy 2:8 “I want men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.” James goes on to warn us to “purify our hearts.” This purifying implies chastity or fidelity of heart… You shall love the Lord your God with ALL YOUR HEART. You might liken it to a husband or wife’s heart that has been compromised… we must always guard our heart. Likewise, God will not share us – He wants all of our heart. And finally, to be double-minded literally means to be divided in interest. Actually, he doesn’t warn us “not to be” double-minded – he just calls us double-minded. Because the fact is – we are. That is the whole reason we have to be wooed back to “draw near to God.” Because we lose our way. We get distracted. We allow other interests to pull us away.
Are you feeling dried up inside? Are you longing for peace and joy? Are you lonely? Are you afraid? Is your mind reeling from the confusion all around you? God wants to comfort you. He wants to be near you. He is calling to you… can you hear Him? He is saying “come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” So, wash your hands, purify your heart, and recognize your double-mindedness. Let go of any and all hurt, forgive every single person who has ever wronged you. And give God ALL of your heart. As you do, draw near to Him. He is waiting. He loves you.
“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” - Romans 8:5-6
Jesus said “come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” In this life, we face daily struggles, life challenges, setbacks and the victories alike. We have days where we cannot possibly do all that needs to be done and it can be overwhelming. And when we try to do it with the wrong mindset we will find ourselves dying inside. The fleshly mindset is one of self-sufficiency and self-will. But the mind GOVERNED by the Spirit is life and peace. To be governed means we yield control. There is a struggle against our own will that must be laid down. Hebrews 4:11 instructs us to “strive to enter that rest.” So (I am exhorting myself here) – let us lay down our “to do” list at the feet of Jesus. My list always has more on it than I can possibly get done. But God says his burden is light. He knows all of our problems, responsibilities, fears, and challenges. We can trust him. He knows what we need to do. He does not call us to be lazy or unproductive. Very much the opposite. But we need to seek first HIS Kingdome and HIS righteousness... then all these things will be added. He must come first. We need to start and end our list with Him. And everything in between needs to be yielded to Him. And we have this blessed hope... that one day we will stand before him and He will say "well done, good and faithful servant - enter into your rest."
Heavenly Father, you know all that I have to do today. You know what I want to do - and what you want me to do. I yield to what YOU want me to do. Let my mind be governed by your Spirit today. Let my thoughts, my words, and my actions be pleasing to you. Help me to be faithful and true. Give me clarity of thought and purpose. And may you be so gracious as to use me to bless those around me, to administer your grace to others. May it be so in Jesus’ name.