Balance


Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

Romans 12: 9

 

 

God looks at the way that we deal with the personal integrity issue of truth telling, and He tells us to do it like He does. I know from experience, experiences that are especially true during times when I have been trying to delude myself, that the Holy Spirit speaks to my heart and to my mind in ways that are honest and accurate and in ways that can knock me to my knees when needed. He also speaks the most uplifting words of praise, recognition, and encouragement. God is the creator of the concept of truth, He is the source of all that is true, and He always tells the truth.

 

As we are called to live in the righteousness of Christ, we are directed to treat truth in the same manner. Yet, notice that there is a striking balance in this verse. Godly genuineness is found in that balance. The human tendency can be to define “telling the truth” as always pointing out the sin, the error, or the failing in the lives of others, and that is partially true. The challenge that most of us face in the actual practice of this sort of truth telling comes in loving the recipient of this truth with the absolute and tangible love of Christ during the process. As I have experienced as both a giver and a recipient of such truth, we are less likely to define truth telling as always seeking to see the good, which is the Godlikeness, in those around us.

 

Therefore, God tells us to love others by telling them the truth. This is the truth as the Spirit of Christ shows it to us and as His word reveals it to us. Truth is also expressed by seeing, encouraging, and embracing the beauty of Christ’s love that we see alive in others. In order to live with the type of personal integrity that comes from the Creator of Truth, we need to do all of these things equally, with balanced perspective. In order to love in the total and genuine manner that God does we need to imitate Jesus and detest the sin that crushes the life out of people while never hating the person. Christ calls us to hold on tightly to all of the good that we can find in others and encourage its growth, just like He does.

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Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness

will find life, righteousness, and honor.

Proverbs 21: 21

 

There is an old idea in the world of sports. What you focus your eyes on is what you will hit. So, if you are shooting a basketball, be sure to look intently at the basket. Likewise, a pitcher in baseball sets his eyes on the catcher’s glove. The same sort of concept is true in most other areas of endeavor as well. In a real sense this is what setting goals is about in business, families, and other organizations. We determine what we desire, and we state that as a goal in order to remain true to our intended course of action and to achieving the stated end without getting distracted and drifting off of that path.

 

The same sort of thinking is valid in our spiritual lives as well. In fact, I think that setting the right goals in this area is even more important than it is in these others. However, we often struggle with understanding and establishing the sorts of goals that God wants for us. God is more concerned with where our eyes are focused than He is in the number of times that we do something or than the frequency of an action or activity. The Lord wants to be the One who we set our eyes upon as we go through our days. His nature and character provide us with that perfect image of the person that we should be. In Jesus we see the living embodiment of all that makes us truly human and that sets us apart from all of the rest of Creation. So, Christ leads us into living as people who are truly made in God’s image.

 

Going before us we see a man who lived as God intended us all to live. Although Christ’s perfection and sinlessness is beyond our capacity and capability to achieve, we can desire and seek to live in a manner that continually sets aside more and more of our old selves and that is filled by Christ’s Spirit with His nature. We are called to live righteously. Thus we need to know God’s truth and seek after it in all areas of our lives, and we must be committed to its highest calling without regard to personal cost and without compromise. At the same time, Christ wants us to be as focused and committed to living as kind, gracious, and understanding people. We need to be people who have strong characters and soft, warm hands to embrace and to sooth people who are in pain as a result of sin’s relentless terror campaign. So, as we set our eyes on Christ, we will hit the target that is His perfect will.

 

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you;

But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6: 8

 

When I watch high level athletes competing in their sport, I am always amazed at the ease with which they perform so many very hard tasks under the pressure of the competitive environment. There is grace and balance in their movements that is well beyond what most of us are capable of achieving.  It is this same degree of balance that God wants us to seek in our walks with Him. Yet, it is even more important in the spiritual realm than it is in the athletic. For in our spiritual lives the stakes are much higher than any national championship, and the opposition is more focused and considerably more fierce.

 

Micah points out three characteristics to hold onto as we seek to live out God’s will in our world. Each of them is important; however, our most effective approach to life is found by embracing all three in a balanced combination that leads to a graceful and love-filled walk with the Lord. Justice without kindness can be harsh and often becomes self-serving; yet, when kindness stands on its own, people tend to be too accepting of the sinful behaviors and attitudes of others. That is no more loving than it is to stand in front of someone and shout at them about their failure to live up to God’s standards. Finally, if we embrace justice and kindness without the humility to recognize that our ability to understand these complex characteristics comes from God, Himself, we are likely to make them into causes that become greater than the God who we should be serving by engaging in their implementation.

 

So, justice is linked to kindness, kindness is linked to justice, and both are controlled by humility. We need to know God’s standards and view of justice by seeking out His Word on everything. We must be willing to pursue justice in our world with the same zeal that God does. We should also develop a heart that is filled with Christ’s kindness, for this is what keeps the zeal for justice in check, and this is what makes us willing to take the time and to risk truly getting to know people at the heart level. Then it all becomes functional and balance is achieved when we humbly place our own drive, desires, and thoughts under the control of the Spirit. The result is a walk through life that has the grace and the fluid movement of a champion.

 

Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.

Psalm 119: 35

 

For a human being, especially a modern, western world, male like me to express delight at adhering to a set of rules is truly unusual to the degree of being weird. The oddity of it all gets taken a step further when I ask God to actually take hold of me and lead me along His rule guided path. Yet, as I pray to God in agreement with the writer of this Psalm, that is exactly what I am doing. As I travel along God’s way through life, I am living in the manner that brings me into conformity with the righteousness of God that is my new natural way as a follower of Christ.

 

From experience I have learned that seeking to do those things that God commands, and even more importantly, allowing God to change my way of thinking so that His commandments are the driving forces behind my decision making creates balance and harmony in me that dwells deep in my soul. Thus, it is a foundational resource for daily living and brings peace to my soul. God’s primary commandment is that I love Him, and its close companion is that I would love others. Love is the foundation and the total expression of all that God desires for people. For if we love God, we will seek to do what is pleasing to Him, and if we love others with the sort of deep commitment that God does, we will desire to see their lives brought into a close and a permanent relationship with Christ.

 

So, this is the delight filled life, we need to start each day with personal attention to God’s word and purposefully seek alignment with His will and His guiding touch to direct the way to go through life. Then we should continue to listen to His Spirit and accept His direction as situations and interaction with others unfold. Finally, the day will be made complete by taking the time to reflect on what actually did happen so that we can thank God for all that He did to take care of the needs of this day, and seek His guidance along the path that will be encountered tomorrow.

 

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

Hebrews 13: 14

People invest greatly in the places where we live. We also take real pride in these cities, towns, and villages. When we meet someone new we almost always want to know where they are from, and this information shapes a part of the lasting image of that person that we store away in our minds. This interest and the drive that underlies it are, I believe, the product of the way that God has designed this world to function. Both in creation and after sin fractured our relationship with God, the Lord granted humans the right and the responsibility to be caretakers and rulers over the earth. Thus, as we seek improvement and work to create healthy and thriving environments in the places where we live, we are doing the work that God has set out for us. However, I think that this can also get us very far off of the track that is most important in God’s view of life.

If we invest everything that we have and all that we are in developing and building up the communities where we and others live, we are placing our greatest treasures into temporary vessels. When we anticipate that we are simply one or two changes in leadership away from a return to the right path for our governmental units, we are ,frankly, deluded. There is no structure or organizational unit on this earth that will last forever. None of them are worthy when they are considered from God’s righteous and holy point of view. Now listen carefully, I am not saying that God does not want us to be involved and to be engaged in our nations and their governance. What I am saying is that it is too easy to lose all honest perspective in the process of this involvement.

Our nations and their leaders tend to speak loudest when they are talking in terms of power, wealth, control, and an ever shifting ideology. Christ speaks stridently with words that breathe justice, compassion, care, poverty, and rock solid truth that is founded on God’s Word. In God’s economy there is no room for compromise, but there is an infinite supply of the grace that brings the lost back home into the care and the guidance of the Eternal Shepherd. Although God calls His people to be voices of and for righteousness in our nations and to be influential in our culture, He also wants us to remain primarily focused on doing work that is oriented toward the true hope of humanity which is found only in the restoration of this world that is to come when Christ returns to take it back. This is also where our greatest potential for influence in today’s world is to be found. I believe that Christ wants Christians to be committed to being openly out spoken and culturally defiant when it comes to the issues which form the crux of our society’s turning toward God or turning away from Him. These include the sanctity of life, God’s design for marriage and family, peace as it is found through commonality of heart and in a humble desire to understand others, and justice. When these are our primary concerns, we are seeking after building God’s eternal city.

If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me; and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said, “From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.”

John 7: 37, 38

We all thirst, our throats become dry to the point of pain, and our hearts become parched until there is no strength left in us. Life can be draining, it sucks the vital fluids from our cells until we feel as if we are going to collapse in on ourselves. Then, even if we receive a touch of mist that promises to revive us, the fierce wind of discouragement starts to blow, and the mist evaporates before any of its dew has soaked into our flesh. So, when Jesus asks if anyone is thirsty, He already knows that this is true of everyone.

Christ is the answer to whatever form of thirst we may have. He provides the cooling and rejuvenating liquid that is His Spirit, and the Lord gives us the gift of a bottomless and everlasting well filled with the sweet taste of His grace, mercy, and love. God’s Spirit becomes our own continual source of life sustaining water for our souls. Even in times of drought there is no lack of supply. Christ remains with His people and in our lives through all of our disasters, both natural and self-inflicted. You see, He is always with us, for He resides in our hearts.

When the thirst becomes unbearable, and life becomes unsustainable, we need to look inside to the Spirit of Christ. We can also be encouraged and gain the knowledge that leads us to His will from God’s Word. In times of great thirst, Christ calls on us to take comfort in His presence; then, we can start to recover from the struggle of life while He cleanses, refreshes, and restores us with the living water of God’s perfect love.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.

John 6: 63

Try as I may, no matter how much effort I put out, and without regard for my diligence in doing the work, I can’t breath one additional breath of life into my soul. Death is resident in my cellular makeup, and it pervades every corner of my existence; thus, the cold hand of mortality reaches out and chills me to the core. So it is not at all unreasonable to consider that my reaper-owned flesh can do absolutely nothing to move me from the realm of mortality into that of God’s eternity.

Still, God, my Creator and Eternal Father, has committed to bringing me close to His side and to keeping me there forever. In my experience, God is always good to His word; so, there must be a bridge from the short lived existence into which I was born and to which we are all condemned and the unending, immutable, and perpetual aliveness that the Lord promises.

The connection is made in and through Jesus, the Christ, for He brings life to the soul and assures us of the unending nature of our existence in the loving presence of God. As wondrous as is this prospect, there is much more. The Lord does not leave us waiting and wondering about a distant future, and He wants us to live a life that is infused with the blessing of His gracious love and perfect wisdom. Christ gives us His Spirit to bring true life to our hearts, minds, and souls. For me this reality brings freedom; since, the Spirit does in me and for me what I am completely incapable of accomplishing myself, So, I am free to live everyday in the joyous certainty of eternity.

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