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HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 14 (Mt.5:25-26) “Before Court”

“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”
Matthew 5:25-26, See also Luke 12:57-59.

DRINK IT IN:
I humbly suggest a better idea than what Jesus says in this passage. Live your life in such a way that nobody ever wants to take you to court. Jesus actually said this anyway…Its really not my idea. I should give credit where credit is due! This seems like a simple passage. Jesus knows we live in a fallen world and that we are going to face many trials. It seems clear to me that Jesus was using his own advice found in Matthew 10:16 where He says, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” I translate that passage this way, “Sly as a snake — Innocent as a dove!” I love that passage.

Jesus is a strategist. He is a holy and innocent strategist. I think that we as people have to be very careful about this thing called strategy, because every single one of us is tempted to justify our motives of why we do what we do by simply saying, “its just strategy.” It would be very easy to take advantage of people and call it taking Jesus’ advice about being shrewd. But Jesus also commands us to be innocent. And even stronger than innocent, He calls us to live above reproach. The fact though, is this, Jesus calls us the Sheep, and the people of world, the Wolves. You are to live as a sheep, not a wolf.

I grew up on a farm and for many years we had hundreds of sheep…there may have even been a time where we had a thousand sheep…if not…it seemed like it. I learned from my experience that sheep are fast. Sheep can be very dumb and at other times be very smart. Its easy to cause sheep to panic. Sheep will protect the things they love, like their babies. Sheep are very playful with one another. Sheep love to eat. So, in reality, its a fair comparison for Jesus to call us sheep. Does this sound like ewe? (Bad sheep joke there.)

It does sound like us. Now, we didn’t have wolves on the farm, but we had coyotes.(Close enough.) They would sneak in and kill and steal and destroy. Jesus said, “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves.” Are you ready for me to get personal? Here’s the deal. If you behave like a wolf, you are a not a follower of Jesus, even if you give yourself the “Christian” title. People who call themselves Christians but have the behavior of a wolf are what I call “Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing.” (I said it like I meant it.) I’m not talking about a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” I meant it when I said, “sheep in wolves clothing.” These types of people are really very insecure and weak, but they hide behind their title of Christian and their position of power and they appear tough/wise and strategic, but really are not. This type of person is what we, in America, call a Bully. Bullies really aren’t tough like a wolf…they are insecure inside and have the timid character traits of a sheep, but they put on this tough exterior of words, and positional power and hold all that over people, thus, acting like a wolf. A sheep in wolves’ clothing.

Don’t be a sheep in wolves’ clothing.
Be a sheep. (If this title bothers you, then please take it up with Jesus.)

If you are a sheep then you will have to trust in your Shepherd to protect you. You will have to sometimes finish last and rely on the promise of The Shepherd, “The last shall be first.” This one promise is critical, and it encourages us to live like sheep with confidence in the fact that the Shepherd has our backs! Jesus is our Shepherd and He made sure there would be a Bible created, loaded with wisdom, that would help us live our lives as the kind of sheep, He will return for, and spend eternity with. This Hydrate series is simply a form of teaching from the things Jesus said in the Bible. “Hydrate” is a “thinking out loud” about all the things Jesus commanded or taught in the gospels of the Bible. Hydrate is meant to inspire you and induce within you a desire to focus more on Jesus Christ and understand what He believes about you and asks of you.

All Jesus is saying in this teaching is, “If someone is taking you to court, settle it ahead of time.” He is saying, “Don’t let others determine your future.” I think Jesus is saying, “Your future is your reputation, your position, your hard work, don’t hold onto it all too tightly, but don’t let its’ future be determined by anyone else other than you and me.” Jesus is warning you and me in this passage, to make sure we don’t live in such a way, that we end up being controlled by other people. Jesus is saying the best hands to “land” in are God’s hands and the 2nd best hands to end up in are your own. If you allow yourself and your future to be left in the hands of another person…that’s just not smart and its a form of prison. Its especially not smart when its your adversary. IF you are headed to court with your adversary, settle quickly and keep your future in the hands of God and yourself…not anyone else!

Try to settle ahead of time.
Give.
Take the High Road.
Be sacrificial.
Be like Jesus…who was led “like a lamb to slaughter.”
Do what is necessary to make sure you are able to keep your eyes on eternity. That means be “sly” and “innocent.”

If you fight for the things of the world and win…it’s probably the only reward you’re going to end up with. (I Hope you REALLY enjoy it!) Jesus warned us in other passages of the Bible by saying something like this…I paraphrase… “If you do anything on earth for a reward, that is the only reward you are going to get.” Then He says, “Store up for yourselves treasure in Heaven!” Think of it this way…To those who live for this world…this is as close to Heaven as they are going to get. For those who sacrifice now and live for Heaven…this is as close to Hell as they are going to get.

There is so much more to live for in eternity. Don’t fight so hard for the now.
Fight for eternity.

SWEAT IT OUT:
Are there THINGS in your life, that you have in your own grip so tightly controlled, that God can’t even use it, because you won’t let go of it and trust Him with it?
Here are some ideas when I say “Things you control”…
“Your” work’s success.
“Your” Marriage.
“Your” Children.
“Your” Money.
“Your” Security.
“Your” Habits.
“Your” goals.
“Your” material items.
“Your” stress.
The list could go for miles…

I don’t want to get to detailed on this one. You are smart enough to know if you are holding on to something to tightly and controlling it.
The question is, will you be honest enough with yourself to admit that you are trying too hard and holding on too tightly with____________________________________? (I dare you to fill in the blank and then trust God with it!)

Here are some closing thoughts. Jesus says, “settle things quickly before you go to court.” Now, why again? Because if it goes to court you allow your life and future to be determined by someone else other than you or God. That’s not a good place to be. So…think about the following Bible verses and work with a determined heart to live accordingly.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
Romans 14:19

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Matthew 22:21

Is God “speaking” to you right now about some change you could make in your life about anything that you have just read.

Who are you waiting on to make the change for you?
You are “sly” enough to know that you are the one who makes change in your own life.
Stay sly…and remember…its more important to be innocent.
Sly and Innocent are what Jesus asks you to be.
To know Jesus asks us this, is empowering.
You own the daily choices that determine WHO holds your future.
Keep your future in the hands of God and yourself.
That’s the good life.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 13 (Mt.5:23-24) “Reconcile”

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
Matthew 5:23-24

DRINK IT IN:
What the heck does RECONCILIATION really mean?

I think we can all agree on, for the most part, what Jesus is saying about offering a gift at the altar. The whole purpose of offering a gift at the altar is to give thanks to God for how much He loves us and for giving us the gift of forgiveness. Therefore it is hypocritical to offer a gift of thanksgiving for forgiveness and at the same time hold forgiveness back from others in our lives or have unreconciled relationships. Its a double standard.

Do you agree with me that God will not honor double standards? So, when the offering plate is passed and you are withholding forgiveness from anyone, don’t give until you have pursued forgiveness or have given forgiveness. If the communion tray is coming your way during a worship service, same thing, don’t partake until you have pursued reconciliation. If you are about to preach or teach the Word of God. If you are about to Lead Worship or sing on the vocal team. If you are about serve in the Children’s ministry. If you are about to work in your Church’s cafe, fold bulletins, make phone calls for the church, serve in the youth ministry, stack chairs, sweep floors….ANYTHING that you do for your local church as a form of work or volunteering is a form of “offering a gift at the altar” of God. Its ALL worship. Any worship that has a double standard will be rejected by God.

Bottom line…if we offer gratefulness and love and repentance to God without offering it to others around us, God wont accept our offering. Paul actually warns us in his letter to the Corinthians that if we take communion in an unworthy manner, it is the reason some of us are sick and even have died. This is a serious matter. Let me reinforce this notion a little stronger with a verse from the Bible. Matthew 6:15 says, “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” This is big deal. Unforgiven people do not enter Heaven. If we don’t forgive others or apologize to others then we won’t be forgiven by God. Please do not be unforgiven. I love the passage of 1 John 1:9, ‘If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Please make sure you are offering forgiveness to those who have hurt you. And make sure you are apologetic and repentant to those whom you have harmed. You can’t control how they respond to you, you can only control yourself. I would like to teach on forgiveness here, but there will be a better time in a future Hydrate Devotion. Let me say this before I move on to the subject at hand. Granting somebody forgiveness is more for yourself than for the person who harmed you. Giving forgiveness allows you to let it go and move on with your life. I love what Mother Theresa said about forgiveness. She said, “If you can’t forgive your offender, its like drinking poison and hoping it will kill them.” Think about that. More to come on forgiveness in the near future.

Back to point…
I want to get to something critical that most people have forgotten about. Reconciliation. What exactly is it? My immediate thoughts about reconciliation lead me to think about extreme situations. For instance. What does it mean for a woman who has been raped, to reconcile with her rapist? What does it mean for a child who has been sexually abused by a family member to reconcile with that family member? What does it mean for a man, who has faced harm and heartache from another man in his life, to be reconciled with him? If you have been fired and hold bitterness towards your previous boss, what does it mean to be reconciled? If you have gone through a very nasty divorce and enormous amounts of pain were experienced in the marriage and divorce, what does it mean to be reconciled? If someone murdered your family, what would it mean to reconcile with the murderer? Do see how this issue isn’t so simple?

So what does it mean to forgive and reconcile? Now the Cynic in me wants to write out the typical “Sunday School Answer.” This answer would go something like this, “Well, Trent, you know that Jesus was harmed by you because of your sins. Even though you hurt Jesus, He went to the cross for you anyway. And, Trent, even while you abused Him some more while He was on the cross, He said, “Father forgiven them, for they don’t know what they are doing. So, Trent…when someone harms you, you must ‘Let Go and Let God’ and everything will be alright, so let it go and go in peace.”

I wish it were that easy.

So, let me take a shot at this reconciliation idea, and hopefully when its done, we will have an answer that is actually helpful to us all.

I think we first have to define reconcile. I would like to say that reconcile means “to resolve a problem to the approval of one or both parties involved.” You may ask, “why not both parties?” In the case of a murderer, sexual abuser, and many other kinds of offenders, I don’t think we can resolve the issue to the approval of both parties. In my opinion, when an abuser breaks the law with any extreme case of harm, they quit acting “human” and they may still be human, but in their non-human behavior they lose their rights to decide the resolution process that is necessary. In other words, some offenses are so harmful to others that the offender loses his/her rights as a human to decide for themselves what is best for moving forward towards reconciliation. They must receive swift and strong punishment for their non-human behavior. This offender, in their choice to harm, also gave away their rights to determine their future fate. (Crime never pays…it only kills, steals and destroys.) In fact, nearly every offender…no matter the offense, loses their immediate rights to help set what happens next in the relationship. In their choice to sin and cause harm, they become disqualified to dictate what happens next, and will find themselves at the mercy of other people, especially the person they abused/offended/harmed.

So what is reconciliation in these extreme cases? The answer is really left in the hands of the offended party or the hands of the law, in which, the offended party still has most of the influence and power. i.e. They can Press charges, seek revenge, grant forgiveness, etc.

The individual doesn’t have to have any kind of relationship with their offender into the future if they do not want to. The offender might even be a family member, but that doesn’t mean the one who is harmed has to be fully present in the offenders life again…and then call that reconciliation. (Reconciliation does not necessarily means physically present in each others lives again.)

I think RECONCILIATION means that both parties will stand before God someday in full knowledge that God gave the free gift of His only Son to forgive their sins. These individuals, in order to stand before God RECONCILED, must have either apologized for their offense and changed their behavior (repented), or granted forgiveness to their offender. What happens from this point on between these two parties is solely up to any one of the two parties. If either paty freely chooses not to have any further relationship with the other, then that is still reconciliation and is good.

What reconciliation does do, is fully removes, bitterness, anger, hurt, revenge, or anything else even close to those evil characteristics and actions, but it does not mean that full physical restoration into each other’s lives is essential for reconciliation to take place.

Some might argue that Jesus is not that way…even after we abused Him, He forgave and His kind of reconciliation is full reinstatement of relationship, physical presence and a continued healthy relationship with one another.

I would reply to that argument that this is the ultimate end goal result of any abusive situation. I think everybody would agree that it would be a miraculous and beautiful thing for this kind of reconciliation to take place. However…People are not Jesus! Jesus’ kind of reconciliation is the ultimate kind. Jesus’ kind of reconciliation is one directional. By this I mean that Jesus, after being abused, laid down His own life to pay for the sins of His offender and this was to Honor the Father more than anyone else. Then, Jesus took up His life at the resurrection and proceeded to approach His offenders/us with an open invitation to reconcile by actually moving into our hearts and living in us, if we the offender accepted His offer. This is the PERFECT and ULTIMATE form of reconciliation and is only possible if the offended party offers it. However it is not the only kind of reconciliation. It is a very different kind of reconciliation when one of the two parties in the relationship is The Perfect Son of God! We live in a fallen world and the relationships we have amongst one another are between two fallen and imperfect people. This fact creates a different kind of reality and creates different kinds of acceptable forms of reconciliation.

So, whatever the example of hurt relationships, offenses and abuses above…full reconciliation does not mean that
both parties have to be “in” each others lives physically again. It DOES mean that somewhere, somehow, and sometime there is/was facilitated a peaceful ENDING of the conflict. There is a mutual acknowledgment that “things” are okay and everybody will do well to move forward with their lives. (To the offenders…prison or other consequences is moving forward.)

Reconciliation also means that there are now firm boundaries that have been set in place, and frankly, both parties do not have to be in agreement, or even like the new boundaries. But boundaries will have been established and they will be followed. The reality is, when boundaries have to be set, it is only the offending party that doesn’t like the new boundaries. Boundaries are set to protect and honor the offended from being hurt again AND they are set to protect the offender from harming again. Reconciliation does not mean free from all consequences. Only offending parties/law breakers/abusers desire to have no consequences. New boundaries are what wise people do as a consequence of evil behavior happening to them. It would be wise to warn the “boundary setter” to guard the motives of “why” the boundaries are being set. If the boundaries are set as a form of revenge or getting even, then true forgiveness hasn’t taken place, and now the boundary setter is beginning to have sinful reactions. This is not reconciliation in any form. However, if boundaries are not set, the abuser/offender might still expect to be in control of your new “reconciled” relationship. You need to set and enforce the boundaries of the new relationship. When it comes to actually setting boundaries and trying to decide what are good boundaries and what are boundaries that go to far, its important to ask a few of questions.

SWEAT IT OUT:
a.) Do you want your abuser/offender in close proximity of you again? (Physically, Emotionally, Mentally, Spiritually, or Socially?)
b.)What do you wish to gain by bringing your abuser/offender back into your life?
c.) Will your life improve by having this person back in your life?
d.) Is the abuser/offender aware, with total clarity, your desires in the answers to the questions above?

Its tiring isn’t it? God never intended for our world and our relationships to be this way. But they are and we need to become wiser in how we deal with it all. This is a serious issue or Jesus would have never taught about it.

If you have been abused by anyone with any kind of abuse, if you are carrying hurt, anger and lack of forgiveness in your heart and life, and you think you can deal with it all on your own. You will be in big trouble. I want to encourage you to seek out a well known and credible Christian Counselor and ask for help. Pay for help. The cost of not handling any of this right is way more expensive than paying somebody by the hour to help you do it right!

Do you have anybody in your life, that when you think of them, you know you have an unreconciled relationship with them? If you do, either apologize for your sinful behavior or tell them you are forgiving them for their sinful behavior. (Remember…you cannot control how they respond, you can only be responsible for your own action.) If you cannot work on reconciliation yet, then please don’t ask God to forgive you for your sins, because He won’t hear your prayer. Don’t give anything to God, for it won’t be accepted. Don’t pretend to be holy because it will be a double standard. Does this sound too harsh? It is harsh. It’s harsh because ETERNITY is at stake and your soul is in the balance. SEEK RECONCILIATION NOW. NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT.

Keep working on your relationships. It is a daily battle that will rage on until your very last breath. It is a worthwhile and holy battle. This battle is all to often a battle that is not about flesh and blood as much as it is about what is called Spiritual Warfare waging all around you. I pray you will do your very best to not have sinful reactions when other people sin against you, but you will forgive, set new boundaries and have a new reconciled relationship. Remember that reconciliation has many different forms. It is easier said than done. Remember this…Hurt people…hurt people. So when someone hurts you, try to discover how they have been previously hurt and are simply having sinful reactions in that hurt. Make sense? Hurt people, hurt people.
When you are hurt…don’t have sinful reactions and repeat the hurt. Break the vicious cycle by seeking “RECONCILIATION.”

I can’t think of anything harder in life to do, than reconciliation.
Let’s end with this…
Hurt people, hurt people.
Forgiven people, forgive people.
Which one are you.
Its a choice.
Choose well…according to Jesus it has eternal consequences.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 12 (Mt.5:21-22) “Words”

“You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You Moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.”
Matthew 5:21-22

DRINK IT IN:

Have you ever called somebody a fool? How about a Moron?

I want you try something. In your head or out loud (if you are by yourself) say, “You Fool,” and then when you have said that say, “You Moron.”

When you said each of those phrases, did you experience a different feeling inside? I did. When I said, “you fool,” I had a gentler feeling about it, when I said, “You Moron,” I had a stronger feeling in “the pit of my stomach.” For some reason, when I say, “You Moron,” I have a stronger way of pronouncing it than when I say fool. Why is this?

Because those phrases cut at the very heart of “WHY” I would call someone those phrases. For me to actually say those phrases to somebody would require of me anger, arrogance and a serious heart problem.

Wouldn’t you agree with me that calling somebody a fool or a moron is far different than saying, “you are acting like a fool,” or “you are acting like a moron?

Jesus gives a serious warning about this name calling. He told His listeners that they could face the Sanhedrin or even the fires of hell.

The Sanhedrin was a group of 70 judges in the Jewish Culture. It sounds like if you called somebody a bad enough name you might end up standing before these judges and facing some sort of a penalty. Hellfire…well…I don’t need to explain what Jesus means by hellfire do I?

Here is the deal. To call somebody a fool or a Moron is not about the words. Jesus is not being so literal here that He means its okay to call someone an Idiot…but not a fool or a moron. Jesus is talking about the heart problem that you and I have when we call someone names of any kind. There is no doubt that the stronger the heart problem the stronger the word we use to accuse someone. There is a long list of names that we could brainstorm together and come up with…but I don’t think it would make us proud or honor God if we actually had that brainstorming session…I confess it would be wrongfully fun. (Insert haunting laugh here.)

The Bible says that we shouldn’t let anything unwholesome come out of our mouth. Jesus also says that when we have what is often called a foul mouth, that its not actually a foul mouth, its a foul heart. WORDS WE CHOOSE TO USE ARE PRODUCTS OF OUR SPIRITUAL HEART CONDITION.

Healthy heart = Healthy words
Foul heart = Foul words
Angry heart = Angry words
Hurt heart = Hurtful words
Forgiven heart = Forgiving words
Encouraged heart = Encouraging words.
Holy Heart = Holy words.

You get the point, right?

To call someone a fool or a moron or “_____________________________” (you fill in the blank of your ‘choice’ words) is to actually diminish God’s Creation. Diminish WHAT God created.

What does God say about people? Maybe that is the wrong question, because actions speak louder than words. So…what do God’s actions to mankind say about how God feels about His belief in us? God did send His only Son to die so that we could be forgiven and be made whole and be restored in our walk with Him.

So when we call people foul or condemning names, we are actually telling God that He must be stupid. To call people names and condemn them is to mock God. Its like saying to God…”What were you thinking Lord in sending Jesus to die for that Moron/Idiot/dumb***/nerd/jerk/fool or any other ‘choice’ word.

Do you see the danger in our words? Its not about the words, it is about something much deeper that causes the words.

God doesn’t get upset at words. He’s not threatened by words. He is concerned about your heart and your spiritual well being.

The words you choose to use are a diagnosis of your spiritual heart’s condition and the condition of your soul.

SWEAT IT OUT:
Next time you catch yourself spilling out some choice words, pause and do a heart check to see what is really going on inside of you to cause those words to spew out of you.

Next time somebody does something so stupid that you want to call them all kinds of names, pause and ask yourself, “Did Jesus die for that person’s stupidity?” The answer will be, “yes.” Then remember that Jesus also died for your stupid moments too. (You do have some stupid moments on occasion…right?)

Our words are our choice. Admit with me that it is a weak attempt at an excuse when we say, “I couldn’t help it, those words just came out of my mouth.” How bad is our spiritual condition if we say we can’t help it?

In his book entitled Killing Giants, Pulling Thorns, Chuck Swindoll has reminded us of this epitaph, etched faintly on a gray slate tombstone on a windswept hill in an English country churchyard:

“Beneath this stone,
a lump of clay,
Lies Arabella Young,
Who, on the twenty-fourth of May,
Began to hold her tongue.”

I think we would all have to admit that Arabella Young began to hold her tongue a bit too late.
I ask you to learn how to hold your tongue now. Don’t be like Arabella Young, who must have had quite a mouth for such an epitaph to be written, reminding all the passers by that death finally silenced her tongue. (I will have to write another devotion about the fact that her tongue really hasn’t been silenced…for there is life after death and Arabella is still alive on the other side of life. I’m not the one to judge to where she is eternally located…but her epitaph isn’t necessarily kind.)

So as a challenge to us all, James the brother of Jesus, wrote in James 1:19-27…
19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger[g] does not produce the righteousness[h] God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.
22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. 26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

Here’s the deal…Don’t wait to hold your tongue. Practice today thinking the best of people. When you find yourself wanting to call someone a foul name…find the extra grace to think about what this person must be going through to cause them to act in such a frustrating way.” It doesn’t do any good to call them names. Remember how patient and kind God is to us and return the favor.

The alternative is to be found guilty of an anger that Jesus says is comparable to murder.
I know you don’t want to be a murderer.
Guard your heart today and tomorrow, and…


HYDRATE –WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 9 (Mt.5:13) “SALT”

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”
Matthew 5:13

DRINK IT IN:
According to the Salt Institute, there are approximately 14,000 different uses for the mineral called SALT.

14,000 different uses for salt! Really?

So when I started going to Sunday School back in the mid 1980’s as a Jr. Higher, and was asked what it means when people say that Christian are to be the salt of the earth, and I answered, “we are to bring purity into every thing we do,” was I wrong? No. That is a right answer. But it is also what I call the typical “Sunday School Answer.” A Sunday School answer is the kind of answer that Christian’s like because its simple, concise and it doesn’t take a lot of thought. Again…not wrong, but not a “full” and insightful or inspiring answer. Its a little “bland” for the kind of answer that God deserves for the creativity that he invented in salt. So…what is a better answer?

I think that if we, as people, can discover 14,000 different uses for salt, then surely we as Christians can have a deeper meaning to what Jesus meant when He said that we are the salt of the earth.

Here’s my attempt at a better answer. Individual pieces of salt all by themselves are pretty much useless. Try it at home. Separate one tiny granule of salt and place it on your tongue. I just did it. It took me a little longer than I thought to actually get one tiny piece onto my tongue. My hands are big and my fingers struggled to get control of one tiny piece. But…I finally got it. Now, you should understand, that I do not have a strong sense of taste or smell in my life. It pretty much allows me to be able to eat anything as long as the texture doesn’t gross me out. So, as I put this individual piece of salt on my tongue, I think I tasted salt, but I couldn’t prove if it was just my imagination telling me it was salty or if I could actually, finitely, maybe, actually taste it. Either way…it was pretty unmemorable as far as experiences go.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Now go back to your salt shaker and do it again, except this time, lick your finger, put it in the salt and then back to your tongue. Big Difference! It actually made me grimace and get one of those faces that we get when we put something really sour in our mouths. It made the glands in the back of my mouth produce some extra saliva. It definitely caught my attention. You? (Don’t tell me that you just sat there reading this without actually doing the “test…if you haven’t…GO DO THE TEST!!”)

One tiny piece of salt, all by itself, is pretty uninspiring. It really doesn’t have much saltiness to it. Jesus says, in the passage I’m referring to above, that if “salt loses its saltiness, its not much good for anything except to be thrown out and TRAMPLED by men.”

Is it just me or is there a lot of trampling going on to the Christian Faith in our American Society? I’ve traveled to South America, Africa, Europe and have been to the Holy Lands. I do not sense the “trampling” as heavy in these places as I do here in our very own, “one nation under God.” So here is my thought. America is the greatest country in the world, and we know that its not perfect. I love the independent nature of an American. We as an American society are becoming more and more independent. God said in the very beginning, right after He created Adam, “its not good that man should live alone.” I could retranslate that sentence God said to, “Its not good for man to be totally independent,” and really not change the message that God intended.

One independent grain of salt is a good thing. Its what God made it to be, but all by itself, isn’t that great, doesn’t have that much impact, is kind of invisible. Agree?

If there are 14,000 uses for salt, then we can do better as Christians when it comes to being the Salt of the earth. I’m not going to have a brainstorming session with you right now about all the uses we as Christians could be in our world to prove that we are salt. What I want you to think about is how alone you might or might not be. Do you have other Salt pieces in your life that you team with, and together you are much “tastier” and noticeable to a world that has become a bit “bland.”

I love the passages of Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. There are other Bible passages as well, but these two passages in the Bible talk about most of the SPIRITUAL GIFTS that God gives to Christian when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and have the Holy Spirit move into us. These gifts that we now possess as a Christian are a part of what defines who we are and what we are good at. If you have the spiritual gift of mercy, you are an amazing person to be around when I am hurting. If you have the gift of teaching, you are amazing to be around when I am hungry to learn. If you have gifts of leadership, you are amazing to be around when I need somebody to point me in the right direction. But Hold On! If you are all by yourself…individual…independent…and you have the gift of mercy, but I am in need of the gift of teaching…your mercy will leave me still needing teaching. If you have the gift of teaching and you are all by yourself and I need someone with leadership, then your encounter with me will leave me still in lack of leadership. If I am somebody with the gift of leadership and I encounter you needing someone with great gifts of mercy…then I’m probably going to hurt you as you need more mercy than I am gifted with.

Do you understand what I am saying?

What if…we as a bunch of individual pieces of salt, got together and used our “spiciness” to push each other on to do good in the world. What would we encounter that we WOULDN’T be able to accomplish together? NOTHING! Think about your local church and the total number of people you have together, with all the different gifts you have amongst each other. What can’t you do? You can do anything! Even the average size church in America, which is approximately 85 people, can do anything…together!

We are the Church. We are the Salt of the Earth. We can do anything…as long as we stick together. Please don’t allow yourself to be separated from the “salt shaker.” It takes my breath away when I think about how many people, who fall onto hard times, quit showing up for Church services, and quit serving other people. Think of it this way….What happens to a Zebra when it gets separated from the herd?

The Bible describes the Devil as a roaring lion waiting to devour you. If you separate yourself from your group for any reason…lunch will be served. You are “salty” too! The devil loves a good Christian for breakfast, lunch or dinner…or just a midnight snack.

Stick together! If you don’t have a local church home…keep searching. If you don’t have somebody you can call when you fall on tough times…be one to somebody else and that will solve your independence and separation problem.

SWEAT IT OUT:

Do you know what your Spiritual Gifts are? If you do not, please contact a local pastor of a Christian Church and ask Him to help you. If you can’t find help with this, please ask me to help you. If I can’t personally help you then I will get you connected to a local church pastor that you can trust…wherever you live.

Are you using your spiritual gifts in the local church? Don’t forget that the local church is really just a big salt shaker. You are a granule with millions of other granules spread around the world in a bunch of different “salt shakers.” Be encouraged by that powerful fact! If there are 14,000 different uses for Salt, but you, as salt, do not use your “use,” then the church is really only 13,999 uses. Not bad…but not complete! Jesus wants COMPLETION, when it comes to the huge things He would have us being responsible for.

You are the salt of the earth! What a huge compliment Jesus gives you. Please don’t take it for granted. Make sure you are adding your spice to this world. The world hungers for what you can provide. You are needed.

The world is a better place because you live in it right now.
I hope you believe that. I believe it about you.

Today and from now on…use your strengths and giftedness to add some great spice to other people’s lives. I know that you will agree with me when i say that little things matter to people. So, how can you use your “saltiness” in a way that makes a little impact in the life of someone you now today? Try it. What do you have to lose if you try?

I say it again…the world is a better place because of you.

I hope you will live like you believe that!


HYDRATE –WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 8 (Mt.5:10-12) “Persecution”


“God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in Heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”
Matthew 5:10-12

DRINK IT IN:
When was the last time you were persecuted for being a follower of Jesus Christ?

Now…don’t misunderstand me here. Please don’t be like the people who stand out on street corners and yell from their megaphones, spew hate by picketing military funerals, or demand that people follow Jesus. These groups of people think they are honoring Jesus. They get more ‘pumped up’ when they get arrested, make the news and stir up controversy, because they think they are facing persecution on behalf of Jesus for doing good. This is not a biblical thing. This is not a holy thing. This is not something that Jesus did. These groups or individuals will state that their 1st Amendment rights give them the right to behave the way they do. They are right in the fact that legally, their 1st Amendment rights allow them to behave this way. However, the “laws” of God take priority over the “laws” of the land. In this case, they honor their 1st Amendment rights and dishonor their Lord and Savior. Jesus was always very kind and gentle to the people who were far from Him. I think that Jesus would use a mega-phone to let these kinds of people, who are behaving this way on street corners, know that they are actually doing harm to the Kingdom of Heaven…but I think He would “one-up” them…He would use a whip!

So, back to my question. When has your holy behavior landed you in “hot-water?” When have you been demoted for standing for Jesus in a gentle way? When did you not get the promotion because you refused to do things “under the table?” When were you left out of the circle of friends because you keep the “bar” to high? When were you last seen carrying your Bible to a lunch break to spend time with God? When was the last time you actually had to pay more taxes because you refused to lie about your income? When was the last time you dropped your ego and actually agreed to go to marital counseling with your spouse? When was the last time you got flipped off because you simply refused to drive ‘that’ fast? When was the last time people rolled their eyes at you for leading your family in prayer before your meal at a nice restaurant? When was the last time you gently spoke your biblical opinion about a hot “political” topic during a discussion about abortion, illegal immigration, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, or other “hot” topics? When was the last time you took one of your Saturday’s off and helped a neighbor in need? When was the last time you “persecuted” your bank account and personal lifestyle because you chose to give 10% of your income to the Lord’s work? The questions could go on for miles, but I think we get the idea.

Persecution comes in many forms. I’m simply asking when was the last time you faced any on behalf of Jesus Christ?

The following is a passage in Scripture that explains what happened to some Christians a long time ago for taking a stand, in love, for Jesus Christ.
“But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.”
(Hebrews 11:35-40, NLT)

SWEAT IT OUT:
Would you take 30 seconds and sit quietly and see if God would remind you of an area(s) in your life where you could take a gentle, stronger stand for Him? And If you do, take a gentle stronger stand for Him, it might have you being a bit persecuted?

I pray for you that you will take that gentle strong stand. I pray that you will be persecuted for doing it. I pray that you will be happy about it. I pray you will be glad about it.

For if you do…You know that the Kingdom of Heaven is Yours.
Well…that is what Jesus says.