Wednesday, February 24, 2010

To Be Real

My sons bring me great joy on a daily basis, but there is one consistent thorn in my side when it comes to them. They can be messy. After their daily chores, I’ve had occasions when I’ve gone to inspect their room, and it looks pretty good on the outside. However, after opening the closet, I’ve discovered chaos. At times, it has seemed that everything that they had been instructed them to clean up had been carelessly throw into the closet, under the bed, and into the drawers. Even their beds that had appeared to be made up, under closer examination had visible lumps, letting me know that only the top comforter was put on correctly. Sometimes, our spiritual lives can be just like this.

Many times, we can lose focus if we’re not careful. We may start off with good intentions, but lose sight of the big picture. Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah when he says to the scribes and Pharisees, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouths, and honorouth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8). Clearly, you can do the right thing with the wrong motives, and it is useless before God. He will not accept an insincere heart, regardless of how many good deeds we perform, how many scriptures we know or church services we attend.

Over the years I’ve had opportunities to meet fellow authors, musicians, and singers. There have been too many times that I’ve been blessed by an author’s novel or blessed by a singer’s song—only to talk to them and find them to be rude, impatient, or insincere with others. This is hypocrisy. We represent Christ, and regardless of how we may feel, we have to uphold a standard and that standard is our instruction in the Bible. We are to love, to show patience and kindness towards one another, whether we are having a good day or not. II Corinthians 3:2 says, “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of men.” To quote my pastor, “Somebody is watching you—whether you realize it or not.”

Jesus addresses the Pharisees and their ability to follow the details of the law but omit “the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.” He tells them that they “strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel,” and says, “for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess” (Matthew 23: 24-25). Jesus continues, “Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:28).

This will surely seem too simple and elementary for many, but it is so basic that I’m afraid that Satan deceives many into thinking they’re righteous when they’re far from it. I get angry thinking about how many people do things in the name of ministry, but they’re sincere desire is to take advantage of God’s people. Wealth, power, and prestige can be wonderful blessings and by-products from abiding in the vine of Jesus Christ. However, sincere motives and a pure, clean heart before God should always be the foundation from which we operate.

How do we cleanse ourselves from the inside out? It’s very simple. We have to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is our savior. We must read the Word and obey it. We must live surrendered lives before Him. We must abide in the vine. John 15:3 says, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” Apart from the vine, there is no real life, no real power, no real peace, and yes, there is no real way to be cleansed.

I am not all that He would have for me to be, but I am so grateful that through relationship with Him, He shows me myself. I know what Jeremiah meant in Lamentations by saying that His mercies are new every morning. Everyday when I wake up, I have another chance to live for Him, glorify Him, and thank Him for his cleansing and forgiving power.

If you haven’t been real with Him, I pray that you will drop any selfish motives or cares that would separate you from Him. The Word says that he already knows our hearts, so just ask Him to forgive you and surrender your all to Him today. He loves you, and He cares.

Blessings and Love,

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cleaning For Guests or Cleaning For Good?

Have you ever cleaned your house just because you’re expecting company? I’d like to say that my house is always immaculate and that I have never had to run around on a cleaning frenzy when guests are coming. However, I’ve had to do it, and it’s always a pretty sore reminder of what daily work has been neglected. I’ve also noticed that when I clean with the sole motivation that it be nice when guests arrive, it often goes right back to the state it was in before the company. Why? Well, just maybe because the motivation is only temporary.

Our spiritual lives can be the same way if we’re not careful. Our motivation to “clean” up our spiritual lives must develop out of our love for Christ and from our desire to be obedient to Him and His Word. God knows it all. He knows why we do what we do, and we will be measured by not only our actions, but also, or more importantly, by our motivation. For example, some people may go to church, pray, and even fast to get the approval and admiration of others. Some may give money to feed the poor, and many take care of the sick. Others concentrate on reading the Bible with the sole intent on becoming Biblical scholars. All these things are good things to do. However, if the motives for doing these things are not pure and out of our love for Christ, they are all in vain.

While we are cleaning up this year, let’s constantly check our motives. When we identify things in our lives and character that don’t line up with His Word and His will, let’s swiftly act to confess, repent, and do better. Let’s not justify any behavior, words, or deeds that are contrary to His Word. Yes, I understand that our justification comes from Him through our faith, but sin cannot be tolerated by a holy and just God.

David was a man after God’s own heart because of his ability to assess himself, identify his sins, and repent to God. In Psalm 51:2, David says, “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” He recognizes that only God can cleanse him from his sin. He continues, “Behold, thou desireth truth in the inward parts.” David understood that God requires and desires true repentance by being honest with Him, others, and ourselves. God searches every man’s heart, so we must take the time to be honest with ourselves and examine our own.

David explains, “For thou desireth not sacrifice; else I would give it: thou delightest not in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:6-7). We can’t fool God. We can’t simply say we’re sorry and then excuse ourselves for doing the same thing again. True repentance turns away from the sin, and when you confess with a true repentant heart, God is faithful and just to forgive you of all unrighteousness.

Cleaning our spiritual lives up requires us to take inventory of where we are and who we are in Him. Sinful thoughts, acts, and behaviors have to go, much like we toss trash and junk in the garbage. We can’t say, “Well, God knows who I am and how much I can take.” We can’t say, “I can’t help it.” Wherever we fall short, we have a God who will never fail us. He’s given us power to overcome all the tendencies towards sinful actions and thoughts. His Word says that we will be held accountable for every idle word that proceeds out of our mouths.

I pray that none will read this as condemnation because it’s meant to encourage you to get to those secret places where sin may have crept in unaware. It has not been easy to admit some of the areas where I have clearly let Satan get a foothold, but I am grateful because I have the opportunity to repent and do better.

God has expectations from us. He created us to glorify Him and to be the salt and light of the earth. We cannot accomplish this with sin in the camp. Psalm 15:1 says, “Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in His heart.” Our motivation to clean house shouldn’t be out of fear but out of love and obedience. As the cleaning continues, let’s check our motives. When our motives are right, keeping things clean won’t be temporary, but a lifelong process, preparing and assisting us to bear fruit and live productive lives. Let’s walk upright, be righteous, and be truthful with ourselves and Him with a truly grateful and repentant heart.

Drop me a line on the Abiding in the Vine group page or visit I’ve really enjoyed hearing from you all.

Love and Blessings,