Impurity Kills the Soul

2 Cor 7_1.jpg
So then, dear friends, since we have these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
When Christianity was still new, an idea emerged among some that our bodies and our souls are distinct and separate. The new idea was not actually new, but integrated into Christian thought, and basically taught that whatever you do with your body doesn’t matter. Your body is evil and will eventually die. What really matters is what you believe, and how you culture your soul with God’s word (and how well you learn a host of secret passphrases to advance through the levels of spirit beings, kind of like a Mario game for the afterlife. This system was called Gnosticism and became prevalent in the early church as the early apostles were sliding off into eternity.
You would think such would not be the case, as the Scriptures clearly teach, as here, that moral impurity affects your eternity. Can you tell the difference between an impurity that defiles your flesh and an impurity that defiles your spirit? I would argue that they overlap. For an impurity of the spirit, such a wrong belief, will lead to wrong action. For example, if you believe that your spirit is good and cannot be affected by what you do with your body, like fornication or drugs, then you will practice those things without fear of eternal consequences. But when you practice fornication on a regular basis, you feel more and more unworthy to enter God’s presence, and your spirit suffers, just as the body does. Wrong beliefs can make wrong actions. Let me give you another example.
You have heard it said that God will not give you more than you can handle. It is a loose translation of 1 Cor 10:13, where the Scripture says that God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to endure, but will always provide a way of escape from the temptation. Those are actually two different things. Temptation is the thought of doing a certain thing that you know is sin. God says He will not allow such thoughts to overwhelm, or give you more of such than you are able to bear. In addition, God will also offer a way out of these thoughts, which could be a Scripture, or a diversion, or something else that will allow you to resist temptation.
What people often apply this to are situations which have already happened, not thoughts about what you might do. People apply this to crises, or events that have overcome them. They cling to this false promise that they will be able to bear this, because God thinks they are strong enough, otherwise they wouldn’t have to endure it. What happens is that they second-guess God, believing that God either has too much faith in them, or God doesn’t know them, and they buckle under the pressure. Because they cling to a false promise (and thus a false god), they have no resource for hard times. What we might rather do is claim another of God’s promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” No matter what life throws at us, God will never leave our side. We know that even in hard times, God is always present, and we know that in His strength, we can bear all things for, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” That verse is often also misapplied, but I will leave it for now.
If you believe that God will not give you more than you can handle, then when He does give you more than you can handle (without Him), then you will lose your faith in Him and fall away. False belief will lead to faithless action. A spirit defiled will lead to flesh defiled. Such a person will walk away, go their own path, and fall into destruction if they are not corrected. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who have left the church for this very reason.
Rather, we believe that both actions of our flesh and of our spirit have consequences for eternity. We cannot isolate one from the other. We must be Christian in our faith and in our behavior. We cannot take one or the other in isolation. So if you think you can go to Church on Sunday and act like a pagan on Monday, then you don’t understand what this Christianity thing is all about. Time to go back to the Word.
Well, I hope this helps you on your journey. God bless and never stray far from His leading hand.

Grace and Peace to You

www.bible.com/1713/num.6.24-26.csb

One of Paul’s favorite greetings to the young churches was this familiar line offering grace and peace. We have grace through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for us at the cross, but peace also from the blood which satisfies the penalty of our sins.

So when we look back at this verse from Numbers, we ought to be surprised at what we find here. Before Jesus’s sacrifice at the cross, we see both grace and peace being offered as blessing in the form of hope. The blessing was offered and received by those in Israel long before Jesus came. But the reality of both are there. These things can only truly come from the God who offers both from within himself. For eternity, the grace and peace that matters most comes from God.

But to a lesser degree, it is important to remember that we have a role in this too. Just as Paul extended both to his readers, the Israelites were expected to extend this to one another. They were expended to be conduits of God’s grace and peace to one another.

So the question laid upon you this morning. Just as God have you grace and peace through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, will you extend that same grace and peace to others you meet in your travels? Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are expected to forgive others their sins against you.

That unkind word someone said to you. That offense that you took when they cut you off in traffic or stole that cashier from you at the store. That person that hurt you when you were down, or that parent who was drunk. That child that stole from you. That spouse or child that came out to you. That church that broke you. That wife that cursed you and took the kids, or that husband that hit you.

It doesn’t take much to find someone who sinned against us. Do you have grace and peace for them? Jesus warns us that if we cannot forgive, He will not forgive us either. Those are hard words. Honestly there are some people that if I meet them in heaven I may just punch them in the mouth.

We have the right to be angry when we feel wronged. But we don’t have the right to hold on to it. Be angry, but do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Breathe. Remember who you are in Christ. Remember the cost to forgive you.

Something to think about as we rise for worship this morning. God bless you and share a prayer below if you are dealing with something today.

Isn’t it?

www.bible.com/1713/mat.6.25.csb

Is life more than food? You are reading the words of someone for whom food is life. I am not a foodie, per se, but I like me some good grub. And I struggle with eating no more than I need, have since I was a kid. Call it insecurity or an unhealthy lifestyle, but I eat too much and it shows. So this question is prime for self-reflection.

Back when Jesus said this, the daily acquisition of food was never a done deal. People always worried living day to day, especially the people he was talking to, the downtrodden, the poor, the ordinary folks who worked for a living. They probably made enough day to day to satisfy their most basic needs, but they also had to pay taxes, and pay debts and so on. Getting their daily bread wasn’t certain, and their anxiety often settled there.

Jesus asks them about the flowers and the birds, who seem to love carelessly, but the Father feeds them daily. He asks his audience if they are worth more than birds. Surely the Father cares for them more than birds.

My problem isn’t having enough food. It’s making food my source of comfort instead of God. I know that’s what it’s about. That feeling of fullness and satiety feels good, and for some reason my brain is wired to want that in order to feel good. Now I resist getting that second helping. Because life is more than food. I resist that feeling of anxiety I get when I’m hungry, and try to eat only enough to satisfy the need. I’m not there yet, but weight loss is a goal.

I don’t know what you are struggling with today, but anxiety is not worth it. You have a loving Savior and an Infinite God who provides everything you really need. I am sure you’ve been praying about. You also need to let it go. You have to actually give it God and do the things you can do, not worry about the things you can’t. God loves you and He sees the big picture. He knows what will truly bless you and build you up. So if you’ve been praying for a better job, or a better family, or someone really bothers you, God knows it. He is already working behind the scenes to make it better. It may not be what you want, but it will be good. For God works all things out for the the good of those who love Him and obey His commandments. Don’t expect God to change your circumstances if you aren’t willing to change for Him.

I hope these blog posts are blessing you and helping you in your walk. If so, that makes me happy. I hope you have an excellent day and God bless!

Conflict Resolution

www.bible.com/1713/col.3.13.csb

When I come into a conflict, my sense get really hyped up and I have a significant stress response. I hate conflict. I get really nervous and anxious and it just messes me up. I’ve tried to get better at as I’ve gotten older, but conflict resolution is still challenging for me.

So this verse shows up in the feed this morning forcing me to address my fears. Conflict is the result of people in conflict. Often that conflict isn’t solved right away. The trap is to carry it with you as resentment or as a grudge. You may be carrying one right now against someone who offended you or wronged you years ago. STOP!

Don’t waste years of your life on someone who wronged you. Even if they never ask for forgiveness, never let that stuff poison your soul. But especially, as this verse instructs, never let that stuff happen in the body of Christ. Jesus died and forgave you both for far worse sins that what you’ve done to each other. You have no right to hold a grudge against a fellow believer, because if Jesus forgave them of their sins, you must.

Now I get it. There are some people you don’t like. There are some people you would just as soon not spend time with. That’s fine. But eternity is a long time. If you can’t get along now, heaven may not be so heavenly. Do yourself a favor and let go of the right to be upset at someone.

I relapse as I write this that there are some pretty awful things people can do to one another, especially in the church. I’ve had awful things done to me. And I cannot sit here and tel you I am completely over them. But with age I have perspective and understanding of why people do what they do. I still have scars, but they are healing. I hope and pray your scars are healing too. I think they make you wiser and more cautious, but don’t let them get in the way of true friendships.

God bless you today.

Be a Do-Gooder

www.bible.com/72/1th.5.15.hcsb

Ugh. I really don’t like that word. A “Do-Gooder” just seems bland and cliched. In he same vein, a “goody two-shoes” comes to mind, which I found out last week was an actual person, and now used as a paragon of virtue, an example for others to emulate and point to. Be again, it smacks of cliche and unreality. Real people have bad days, difficult times where they slip. A real human being has real human problems, which seem so unlike the stellar phrases above.

And yet here is this text stating back at us. Do good. Always seek to do good, and do not repay evil for evil. If I may, I understand this to be an instruction to us, do good rather then evil, especially when evil is expected. I am human. Because I am human, I more often am prone to react in anger when threatened or wronged. This comes with a choice. I can choose to react violently and “fly off the handle” or I can choose not to, and do something else. I used to not have that choice. Because before I started to follow Christ and received His Spirit into my life, I didn’t have that check on my temper. But now, however brief a time I experience it, it is there, and my renewed conscience comes back into play, so that I am now conflicted. I want to react in evil, hurting the one who hurt me. I know better. And that has made all the difference. This verse reinforces that which I know to be true, but I still need to hear it. I hope it has helped you today too.

God bless!

It’s not all Puppies and Rainbows

www.bible.com/72/jas.1.12.hcsb

Sometimes it is trials and suffering. Sometimes it takes a longer perspective than what I am enduring in the moment. Long suffering isn’t just a circumstance, it is a life perspective. Why? Because this world is not our home. The minute we think it is, we’ve been deceived. Oh sure, it’s a nice place to visit. /’c we have many good memories here, but it isn’t home.

Had the conversation yesterday about suicide. Some people will tell you that they have a plan and a means to kill them selves. Those are the folks that need need immediate attention. But then there are the faithful believers who tell you that they don’t mind dying, and that they are ready to go. They are not suicidal, they are simply prepared to die. There is a difference.

As a Christian, you know there is a better place for us, and this world loses its appeal. We look forward to what lay ahead because He is waiting for us. That makes death an unwelcome but necessary transition. And we get that. And that becomes our perspective.

So when you encounter various trials, you don’t like it, but you know the testing of your faith, since you have been found worthy to be tested, will benefit you, and you will see the benefit once the trial is over. Even more, a crown, the sign of victory, waits for you at the finish line. We endure these temporary, light afflictions, light compared to the glory to come. For when we’ve been there a thousand years, the 80 odd years we suffered here will only be a memory.

I grieve with those whose only life here is suffering, and I pray that God will give them glimpses of joy. Help us to know Lord that all of this we endure is worth the price of victory. Help us extend our joy to others. Father this world is so dark, sometimes it is hard to see your purposes, the good that you’ve promised. Help me be light to someone today.

God bless you in your walk with the Lord today. May you shine brightly in this world as a beacon of hope. May others see Him in your eyes.

Devastated but Hopeful

www.bible.com/72/hab.3.17-18.hcsb

My life is in shambles, like a tornado ripped through and left me with debris. In 2012, a powerful tornado whipped through our sister community of West Liberty and many echoed this statement. A church was completely destroyed, along with several downtown businesses. The town was leveled.

Habakkuk reflects upon the devastation that results from agricultural failure. The olive trees, the crops, even the stalls for livestock are all empty. For someone living in sixth century BC Israel, this was a fate akin to death. When the crops don’t come in and there is nothing on the trees, you are done. Habakkuk knew this well and cried out to God. But in the midst of the cry was a note of hope. That despite all of the physical evidence that as a nation, we are finished, God is still a God of salvation.

It’s hard to praise when there is no blessing. It requires a perspective that acknowledges the now, but anticipates eternity. While we suffer in the present, this isn’t all there is. Though the world around us is destroyed, He is not. It is the ability to see past our circumstances.

The people of West Liberty rebuilt their town, but even today you can see the scars. You too can be rebuilt, but there will be scars. If you are suffering today, know that you are not alone. Perhaps God is using this time to draw you closer to Himself. The rich young ruler was told to sell all of his possessions and follow Jesus. Will your faith be in jeopardy if you lose a few things? I would like to say, “Absolutely Not!” But I can’t tell I wouldn’t be shaken either.

We all need a note from Habakkuk today, both to be grateful for the blessings we have (knowing they can be taken away at any moment) and for praying that we don’t follow Jesus for the blessings themselves. God help us.

And may God bless you today. Thanks for reading.