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HYDRATE –Winning from the inside 28 (Matthew 6:16-18) Motives

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18 (NIV)

Motives are a tough thing to judge. Motives originate inside the heart and mind and tend to become evident through actions. I think it is easy to get caught up in being quick to judge people’s motives. We all can have moments of confidence where we think we know why a person is wearing a certain outfit, or why a person is hanging out with that other person, or why they drive that kind of car. The reality is, that confidence that makes us think we know why somebody is doing a certain thing, is actually judging. This whole subject gets complicated in the sheer fact that Judging is preceded by motive. You cannot judge someone without first having a motive. Everything that you and I do is founded on motives. Some examples? A friend recently told me a story about a lady on an airline flight that he was also on. My friend, who is a great and dramatic story teller told the story like this. “The plane was about to pull back from the gate, when it was announced that there was a last minute passenger who needed to board the plane, and that there would be a few more minutes of delay. The passengers already on the plane, almost as if on cue, all moaned in unison. About 5 minutes later the late passenger boarded the plane.” My friend, telling the story, described the scene. “The lady came blasting down the isle, and her size made it difficult for her to fit down the isle, so as she passed by, everybody had to make a little extra room for her to get down the isle and to her seat. When she sat down she demanded rather loudly to the already seated flight attendants to get a seatbelt expander. It was obvious that she had been running, she was very sweaty and her hair was disheveled and it was clear that she was frustrated. When she finally sat down and the plane was able to taxi and take off, it only took about 2 minutes before this lady began to push her flight attendant button and ask for some water. The flight attendant got up from her seat and walked back to determine how she might be of assistance. When the lady requested some water, she was told no by the flight attendant because beverage service wouldn’t begin for another 20 minutes for all the passengers who would like to have a refreshment. The lady, who made the whole flight wait, got very upset and began to raise her voice about how she had to run to catch the plane and that if she didn’t get some water now, she might faint. The flight attendant turned around and walked to the back and with a voice that carried far enough for the back half of the plane to hear, said, ‘that overweight, demanding lady who made our whole flight take off late, just for her, is now demanding that she get something to drink before everybody else on the plane.’ The other flight attendant snickered, just loud enough, and said, some people have such nerve. The lady who requested the water heard the remarks and began to cry out loud. The flight attendant approached the lady with a glass of water and said, I hope you are satisfied. Maybe now we can take care of the others on the plane and not just serve your desires, I’m not sure what your problem is, but I think you are very demanding and rude. Why are you being so dramatic and selfish? The lady, who the whole plane was delayed for, replied I’m really sorry for my poor behavior, I just found out that my mother was in a very bad car accident and is in critical condition at the ICU and that I needed to hurry if I wanted to see her, because she might not make it through the day. I am so afraid I will not see her before she passes away.”

Motives Matter. I think this teaching of Jesus about fasting, is not so much about fasting as it is about motives.

If you reread Jesus teaching above, you will notice that He doesn’t say, ‘if you fast.” He says, “when you fast.” Jesus doesn’t really teach about fasting, how to fast, or what to fast from. He simply teaches about motives for fasting. As Jesus didn’t take the time in this passage to teach about fasting, I won’t either. I will simply say that fasting is sacrificially denying yourself anything for the purpose of showing God that whatever you are fasting from is not more important than He is. Fasting is also a way of showing the Lord how serious you are about whatever it is you are praying and fasting about.

It seems to me that Jesus is teaching about why we fast. He is teaching about fasting with false motives. He says in this passage that if we do anything on earth with the motive of seeking an earthly reward, that it would be the only reward we get. He doesn’t say that we will not be rewarded. I think He is saying that if we seek an earthly reward it will be a good one, but at the cost of a greater reward.

My motive determines my reward.

If I live for this world, then I will receive earthly rewards. This is a good thing.
If I live in this world, with motives that seek an eternal reward at the cost of an earthly reward, then I held out for the greater reward.

Which reward do you desire more.
If you want your reward RIGHT NOW…then you can get it.
If you want your reward to come from God and be eternally focused…you can get that too.

I think that those who are only living for this world…well…this world is as close as close to Heaven as they will get.

I think that those who are bringing the elements of Heaven to earth, and living with Heaven in mind…this world is as close to hell as they will ever get.

Is it just me, or is Jesus saying that if we do anything on earth with a motive of getting the reward now, then that is the only reward we will get pertaining to that action? I think so. Again…this is not a bad thing. Its a good thing at the cost of a greater thing.

Delayed gratification is a hard thing. It takes patience and endurance. Jesus says in other teachings of His that we should store up for ourselves treasures in Heaven. What does that mean? It seems to mean that there is a reward system in eternity. How we live now determines what kind of rewards we get in Heaven. Heaven’s focus is the only time where we actually hear Jesus say to store up for yourself.

Why you live, why you work, and why you play, matters. Test your motives. It has eternal ramifications.

Why do you wear what your wearing right now?
Why did you get that body augmentation?
Why did you sign up to serve as a volunteer?
Why did you give money to that homeless person?
Why did you purchase the specific vehicle you drive?
Why do own the home you have and decorate it the way you do?
Why do you do what you do spiritually?
Are you doing any action today that if you tested your motives you would have to admit that you are doing it to get attention?

Its not wrong to do things for attention(earthly reward), it will just be done at the cost of receiving an eternal, God given reward for it.

I want to challenge you to do good in a stealth way! Do your acts of kindness secretly. When you do this…you will find great joy and you will receive rewards from the Lord!

I want to challenge you to take Jesus up on his teaching. When you fast, don’t let anybody know. Then your reward will be all the greater.

There is no greater reward than being blessed by the Creator of the sun, moon and stars! His rewards are eternal. His rewards are things that can never be taken away.

Motives matter.
What’s your motive?


Church Planting Sequel

Do you remember the old Whitesnake song “Here I Go Again”? It was a #1 hit song. Originally released on their 1982 album, Saints & Sinners, the song was re-recorded for their 1987 album Whitesnake. In 2006, the 1987 version was named the 17th Greatest Song of the 1980s by VH1.

The Lyrics resonate with me as I venture into what will be my 2nd Church plant. Some of the Lyrics go like this…my comments are in parenthesis.

I don’t know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been. (Steve Jobs said, we cannot connect the dots looking forward, only looking back.)
Hanging on the promises in the songs of yesterday (Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Amazing Grace, How great thou art, The Old Rugged Cross.)
And I’ve made up my mind (I’m planting a church again. The first one was amazing, I have no idea how this 2nd one will turn out.)
I ain’t wasting no more time (I’ve been side-lined for more than a year now. Its time to do what God has created me to do, plant a Church)
Here I go again, here I go again (Yep…but the “I” should be a “we.” I can’t do this on my own. Its not mine, its the Lord’s. I want to include people from all around the world who will invest their time, talent and treasure in this church plant. What do you have that you would like to invest in this specific work of the Lord’s?)

There are so many unknowns in the future. I know this Church plant will come with some criticism, but we must move forward. There are thousands…no… millions of people who are far from God that if any Christ centered church out there doesn’t reach them, they will spend eternity is the most formidable and tormenting place ever in existence, Hell. The Church shouldn’t criticize each other. We shouldn’t compete against each other, we should celebrate our differences and march together as the body of Christ. We should complete each other.

So many people think the church is the most segregated organism on the planet. Some would “prove” this by saying that whites go to one church, blacks to another, hispanics go one way, Asians another and right on down the skin color chart….and then they’ll prove their segregation comments further by saying, the youth go to one place, the children to another, men this way, women that way, divorcees here, young couples there, senior somewhere else. This “glass half-empty” mentality says that these facts show that the current church is all a great tragedy.

I’m a “glass half full” mentality kind of guy. I agree with the description above, but I do not see it as segregation. I see it as the body of Christ and just as a heart goes one place, the lungs go to another, the toes, the head, the fingers, the kidneys, the eyeballs, the elbows, the knees….

I think the church is the most strategically located entity in the world. It has diversity that reaches to the ends of the earth. IT TAKES ALL KINDS TO REACH ALL KINDS! “Birds of a feather, flock together! Every color, race, tribe and misfit has a place in the body of Christ. A.K.A…THE CHURCH! If it is an organism that believes that Jesus Christ is THE way, THE truth, THE life…then it is a unified, universal, un-defeatable body that is a giant, beautiful, imperfect, spectacular….CHURCH! It isn’t tragic that we are spread out all over the world in like groups…its miraculous and beautiful.

I love the Church…even when her dirty laundry is hanging out for all the world to see. I love the Church. Even in it’s worst form…its beautiful!

That’s why I’m starting a brand new one in Orlando Florida…in a suburb called Oviedo.
I don’t know how it will turn out, but I give this one promise…
I’m going to love joining with a group of people who want to make a dent in this crazy world…where we team together complimenting each other with our different strengths, talents, and spiritual gifts. My greatest passion in life is helping you be successful by leading you to understand your purpose by helping you understand your giftedness that the Lord has blessed you with and then challenging you to storm the gates of Hell at all costs! I’ll storm them with you!

Its going to be an unforgettable, eternal journey.

To God Be The Glory…Great Things He Hath Done…

Here we are Lord…Use us!
TR


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 25 (Mt. 6:5-8) “Prayer Motives”


5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. 7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!
Matthew 6:5-8 (NLT)

DRINK IT IN:
There is no doubt that Jesus brings about a stronger judgement and accountability upon Spiritual leaders. When Jesus was teaching this subject material, the religious leaders must have been present. He called them Hypocrites. The previous post, Hydrate 24, talks about the same motive. This motive of doing anything for recognition. What motivates you to pray? What motivates you to give? Do you pray differently when you are in a private setting than you do when you pray publicly? Why? Jesus may hold spiritual leaders to a higher accountability, but he holds everybody accountable.

As I write this in 2012, I have now been in ministry for the past 20 of my 41 years of life. From my perspective, I have noticed changes amongst pastors over these past two decades. Good changes. I remember when I was in my mid twenties and attending my first pastors conference and we had a breakout prayer session where we gathered into groups of about six to eight for some time of prayer. We were instructed to go around the table and everybody take turns praying. I remember being so uncomfortable as each pastor seemed to want to out-pray the previous pastor. As each pastor prayed, to be followed by another pastor taking his turn, the words became more eloquent and more complicated and more “spiritual” sounding. This prayer time seemed to start a competition of who could outwit, outsmart and outplay their prayer predecessor. It was Prayer Survivor, except there was no prize for the champion. It saddened me. It made me question whether or not I wanted to remain for the rest of the retreat. I did remain, and the rest of the retreat went pretty well. I share this story, because I have attended many more of these retreats in the following years and I have seen more authenticity and less competition when it comes to our corporate prayer time at these retreats. Times are changing. I can only speak for myself, but it seems to me that Christians and Christian Pastors are beginning to be more and more real and vulnerable publicly when it comes to communication and prayer and leadership, and I believe it is a very good thing for the cause of the Kingdom of Jesus of Nazareth. I am convinced that the greatest success for the church is yet to come, and will only come if the churches leaders can be vulnerable and transparent and their greatest motivator be to honor Jesus.

I think that this is what Jesus is saying when it comes to this teaching on prayer. It seems, from this teaching, that Jesus is opposed to praying out loud in public. But, It is obvious from other sections of Scripture that Jesus is okay with group prayers and people praying out loud in a public setting. How do I know this, because Jesus prayed publicly, and sometimes the prayer was said extra loud so that the people around Him could hear what He was praying. The Apostles prayed publicly in the book of Acts. Jesus is not so focused on where we pray, but why we pray.

I think Jesus, for clarification, would add something like this, “if you pray because you like the attention it gets you in public, then you’d be better to not pray than do it for wrong motives.” He might also say something like this, “if the temptation is too great for you to get attention in your prayer time publicly, then retreat to your private closet and pray to the Father secretly, then you will be blessed and God will be honored.” I hope you agree with me in thinking that Jesus would say these things.

Motive matters to Jesus. Motive is an outflow of the condition of our heart. If you are whole in Jesus Christ, if you define who you are based off what Jesus believes about you, and by what Jesus did for you, then you will have no reason to seek approval or grab attention when in public. Motives matter. Motives become very evident when we pray.

Before Jesus actually gives a perfect example of how to pray, He injects one more point into His teaching. In verse seven, He says, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.”

I grew up in the Catholic religion. I am thankful for some of my Catholic roots. As I am now in the Restoration Movement of the faith of Christianity, I am a better Christian because of my old Catholic roots. When I was younger and in the Catholic religion, I had never read the Bible for myself, and I remember wondering, when I was taught to pray the Hail Mary prayer, why we repeated the same phrases over and over. (I don’t have time in this section to cover what I was thinking about being taught to pray to Mary.) Today, I just refer to the redundancy of prayer. This redundancy is a part of why I quit being committed to Catholicism. I knew God was all powerful and I knew that God knew my very thoughts before I even thought them. I was so confused as to why we had to repeat the same lines, while praying, over and over. As a young kid I remember wondering if my Catholic teachers thought God was hard of hearing and so the more we repeated the prayer, the more likely God would be able to decipher what I was praying. Before, I lose all my Catholic friends, I want to acknowledge that I have been personally guilty of using the same phrases habitually in my private and public prayers. I have seen this repetition and false conversation with God happen in all different faiths, denominations and churches. This is a people problem, not a specific religion’s problem.

Instead of being taught the Hail Mary prayer when I was Catholic, I wish I had been taught this teaching of Jesus. The religious recitation of prayer goes against what the Lord of Lords commands. I think the repetition of prayers insults God. Let me put this in a practical setting. Imagine if I called up my earthly dad on the phone and in my talking with him, I would say to him, “Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. I was hoping you were were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. You are a great dad. You are a great dad. You are a great dad.” Good bye.

But I don’t stop there.

Next week, I get him on the phone again and I say to him, “Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. I was hoping you were were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. You are a great dad. You are a great dad. You are a great dad.” Good bye.

But, hold on, to make sure my dad got my point, I call him the very next day and I say to him.”Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. I was hoping you were were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. You are a great dad. You are a great dad. You are a great dad.” Good bye.

Now imagine I repeat this over and over for the rest of my life. I would not be surprised, for one minute, if my dad never came to visit me. I would think he would be completely irritated with me. If this is how I pray to God, then I’m just not a very good conversationalist. Do I make my point? Please don’t be insulted in what I am writing here, see the error, if you are doing such a thing, and turn your prayers into personal conversations with our relational Father in Heaven.

Now, what about this last sentence that Jesus teaches. In verse 8 Jesus says, ” Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”

I have often wondered why God, if He knows exactly what I need before I even ask Him, or as another Bible passage says, knows my thoughts before I think them, then why do I even have to pray at all? And then I had kids. The more my four children age, and I grow in my experience and relationship with them as their father, the more I recognize my Father/Child relationship with my Heavenly Father. I know my four kids very well. Many times my wife and I laugh as we know what our kids are going to say before they even say it. For instance, when we are in the grocery store with our kids, and we arrive at the checkout station to see the lineup of tempting candy and magazines, at the conveyor belt area, we know exactly what our kids are going to ask of us. When I pick up my children from School and then venture home, I know exactly what they are going say as we drive by the local Sonic Restaurant. When one of my kids is on their cell phone with a friend and its a Friday night, I know exactly what that child is going to ask when He gets off the phone. You get the point?

I still want my kids to ask me. I know what my kids need. I know what is good and bad for my kids. I want to bless my children and give them the desires of their heart, and I want them to talk to me about it all. I am a relational dad. I know what my kids dreams are, but I want them to talk to me about these dreams. When I watch my kids compete in their sports games, I watched as they scored and I watched as they made mistakes in the game. I know they are excited about their win or upset about the loss, but I want them to talk to me about it all. I want to hear it from their view point. I want them to sit with me and tell me about it all. I cherish that when it happens. Have you ever been in your car privately with one of your children when they naturally open up and talk to you, and ask you questions, and actually listen to your answers? Its magical. Its healing. Its thrilling. Its relational. As a father I want that from my children. God made us to be like Him. He desires these things as well.

Even when I know what my kids are going to talk to me about. I still want them to talk to me.
I love conversation with the people I love.
Conversation and prayer are the same thing.

Now, go into a private place and converse with your Heavenly Father.
He is anxious to hear what you have to say, even though He already knows what you are going to say.
Tell Him what’s on your heart and mind. Tell Him your hopes and dreams. Tell Him what you are afraid of. Ask Him for things that you desire.
He will enjoy your time and your words immensely.

SWEAT IT OUT:
The next time you pray, do so with an ear to hear what you are actually praying. Do you repeat the same phrases every time you pray? If you do, catch yourself and make a change in your words. Please don’t let your prayer time be just habit and discipline. Can you imagine your child coming up to you on a daily basis and saying, “Hey, my calendar just told me Its time for me to talk with you…I have to talk with you now.” That would be the same as a husband bringing to his wife a dozen red roses on their anniversary day and handing the roses to his wife while saying, “today is our anniversary, I am obligated to get you these roses.” Roses have thorns, they would hurt as they would be thrown in your face for making such a comment, and performing such a dutiful deed. Get it?

If you struggle with being relational in your prayer time with God, then I want to challenge you to try some things outside of your comfort zone. Next time you pray, go to a private place where you will not be interrupted and bring with you an extra chair. Set this chair up and invite God to sit in it, and as you pray imagine Him physically sitting in the chair listening to you. If you have a hard time staying focused in your prayer time, remove your shoes as you pray, and it will help you stay focused as you recognize that your time with God in that moment makes the place a holy place, as you spend time with the creator of the sun, moon and stars.

If you are stuck in a repetitive cycle of praying the same way, the same time, the same words, each day, then practice praying while you are driving by yourself. As you drive, just talk to God as if He were sitting in the seat next to you. People who pull up next to you at the stop light will think you are weird, but who cares! Go for it anyway. If it happens to be somebody you know, and they ask you about it later, don’t lie by telling them you were conversing with someone via speaker phone, tell them straight up, you were praying! This driving practice will help you break ritual habits and make your conversation with God more real-time and relational.

If you have a hard time knowing if you are just repeating phrases or praying in a weird way of any kind, then use the recording device on your cell phone, and when you are praying just record it all, and listen to it later. As you listen to the playback, you will hear things and notice things that will help you be more relational in your prayer time with your heavenly Father.

We all practice things we want to be good at. Practice your praying. You know you want to be good at praying. Practice it.

God wants you to spend time with Him. He is waiting. God never moves far from you. There isn’t anything that will ever make God stop loving you. Knowing that, spend time telling Him how much your appreciate Him. Talk to Him.
Be self aware of your motives.
Pray.


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 18 (Mt.5:33-37) “Oaths”

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
Matthew 5:33-37:

DRINK IT IN:

Have you ever participated in a “swearing in?” That’s what Jesus is talking about here. He is clearly commanding us not to swear to anything other than God Himself. To swear on something is what we do when we want to strengthen our swear/oath by giving credit to the Bible, to death, or to “your mother’s grave, etc.

So what about “being sworn into office?” What about raising your right hand in court proceedings and “swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God?” This is what Jesus is talking about. Jesus is saying, don’t do this anymore. So back in 1772, some people requested a change in the court system.

Did you know that there is an “Alternative Oath” that you can request, so as not to break this command of Jesus, in the American court system? It was created in 1772 in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s oath is derived from colonial Laws of the Commonwealth, enacted in 1772, and reads:

“You [and each of you] do swear by Almighty God, the Searcher of all hearts, that the evidence you shall give this court [and Jury] in this issue now being tried shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and as you shall answer to God on the last great day.”

Did you notice that the swearing was to no one, but God? This is a technical issue. Some might argue that this is a ridiculous technicality and a waste of time. I might push back and say that details matter to God. What if Noah ignored a few details from God about building the ark? Where this command is tricky is in the wording. The command says not to swear and then gives details about not swearing on heaven, earth, Jerusalm, etc. It seems to give us the okay to swear on the name of Almighty God. The dilemma we face is trying to determine which law we want to obey. The Bible tells us to obey the law of the land. If this is the case, then we are called to have a swearing in when we testify in court, or need to be sworn in as a public servant. But, we also must guard swearing on anything but Almighty God. I think the alternative oath is the answer. Next time I am in court or being sworn into office I will request this alternative oath and thus honor this command of Jesus. (Hopefully it will never happen. I have no desire to be involved in something that causes me to testify in court and even though I’ve always had a childhood dream of being President of the US, its highly unlikely!)

This command of Jesus is really simple and not needing deep explanation. The previous devotions I have been doing are longer…but of course…good! (Just ask me.) So…this devotion is shorter.

Jesus is simply saying to all of us, ‘if you commit to do something, don’t over promise, don’t swear on your mother’s grave, just do it!” If you say you are going to do it, then do it. If you say you are not going to do it, then don’t do it.”
This is integrity. This is one area where Christians should be known for doing.

We’ve seen it in the movies. When someone says they are going to do something and then they back it up with all kinds of promises, over promises and then they throw in a few extra guarantees that it is going happen. Its as if the person is trying to persuade themselves. When this kind of thing happens, its like a person saying they are going to come through for you, but as they say it, they don’t recognize that they are shaking their head in disagreement at the same time.

Have you ever met someone that is known as, “a man of his word?” “A woman of her word?” You’ve heard people say, “Back in the day, a handshake is all that was needed.” Or, “If ‘so & so’ says, “yes,” then consider it done!” These are comments of trust and integrity and if you know someone like this, you value them greatly.

Those phrases are earned. That reputation is earned through hard work and integrity. You can’t wake up one day and own this kind of reputation. You and I have to wake up today and begin to do what we say we are going to do. And then tomorrow, repeat. Then the next day, repeat! Over and over again.

SWEAT IT OUT:

Are there things in your life that you have been making promises about, but you are failing in following through on your word?

If you are doing this…do you agree with me that it is creating a horrible reputation of you?

Is there anyone in your life that you need to apologize to for not coming through on your word? If so, contact them and simply apologize and end the conversation. Then, after you apologize, just go about coming through on your word without saying anything else. Let your actions prove your apology.

If you are a person who has been doing a lot of promising and making false oaths…it means that your word means very little to people, and because of this, you will not be a very trusting or trustworthy person. If this is the case for you, then admit it, confess it to God, and start re-earning your new reputation.

If you are a person who comes through on your word…then keep it up! Its a great thing to continue. You will hold high value in other people’s lives.

Today…pay attention to yourself and the people around you and be observant about what they say they are going to do and whether or not their actions back up their words.

I know that you agree with me in the fact, that Christianity needs more people of integrity who do what they say and say what they do!

Its starts with you. Don’t let this devotion make you focus on others and their short comings. Only focus on you.

Make a life long commitment to simply let your yes, be yes, and your no, be no! How refreshing.

Watch how it will impact the people around you.
If you do this…you will be a lot like Jesus and you will win in life, and it will be because you started winning from the inside! This focus is about internal strength and integrity. This is something that is best done when you are focusing on being just like Jesus and keeping in His presence moment by moment throughout your day. Your word matters. Keep it simple. Yes. No.

Keep Hydrating! I hope these are good challenges for you. They are for me.
Do you swear you are going to stay committed?
Swear on your Mother’s Grave that you will!
That was a test.


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.