I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.

John 16: 33

 

Jesus tells things as they are. He had just informed the group of followers who were closest to Him that there would be hard times coming very soon and that during those times, they would fail miserably at being strong, steady, and faithful to Him. Still, during these hardest moments of His life on earth, Jesus would not be alone, for God, the Father, would never leave Him. Likewise, God never leaves us.

 

Living in this world has its tough moments, its harsh hours, and its tragic days. Episodes come to us all where simply living can be a challenge that seems almost impossible. Yet nothing that we are required to endure comes close to the stress, pain, and feeling of abandonment that Christ endured on the cross for each of us. I am absolutely amazed at the fact that Jesus took on so much for me, for you, and for everyone; yet, all the while He knew just how ungrateful and unfaithful we would be. God wants to be close to each of us so much that He would endure anything to make that a possibility.

 

As I go about the business of this day and as I adopt the attitudes that will shape may approach to what comes my way, I am praying that Christ’s Spirit will keep me remindful of the overwhelming victory that is mine through Him. This world in which I now reside is broken and crumbling from the destructive forces of sin, but those ruined halls are no longer my true dwelling place, for Christ has placed me in the center of His victorious kingdom. I am praying that trust in God’s victory and that faithfulness to His calling will allow Christ to direct my mind and fix my heart on Him alone. Therefore, I desire to claim this day and all of my interactions during it for the glory of God.

 

The Lord will not allow your foot to slip;

He who keeps you will not slumber.

Psalm 121: 3

 

Even if we take steps that are slow, steady, and deliberate when we encounter ice storm covered sidewalks or a steep mountainside that is made of crumbling rocks, a fall can come at any moment. With that fall comes disorientation, pain, and fear of serious injury. With the fall comes a loss of confidence and concern about going on with the journey. Most of us have experienced this sort of misadventure at some time, and most of us have dealt with the need to get up off of our backs and to start to walk again, too.

 

However, my important concerns about traveling through life have nothing to do with an icy walkway or even a slippery road. They are related to choices and direction, actions and results. The areas where my feet tend to come out from under me with a disquieting suddenness are found mostly in my relationships with people and in the decisions that I make. There is an absolute certainty that when I fall down badly in these aspects of life, I have taken a path of my own choosing and have not allowed Christ to influence and to direct my thinking and my actions. Off I go headed along with my course charted out of foolish pride or motivated by some selfish fear; then, suddenly, I am flat on my back in the middle of a painful situation trying to recover from the damage that I have done to myself and to others.

 

It would all be so much simpler, and life would be a lot less painful if I would simply accept the guidance that the Lord wants to give me. He never fails to provide what I need to make the right choices. He does not need for me to even ask the right questions. God always knows what will be best for me, and He continually counsels me to make that decision. It is up to me to seek Him, and it is my decision to follow. Those are the choices that I can make now. The God who loves me totally is so much more worthy of this sort of trust than anyone else. Jesus who gave His all to save me from my own chosen path of destruction does go before and with me for every step of the journey through life.

 

Present yourselves to God as ones alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Romans 6: 13b

 

This is another of the ways that we have freedom and responsibility for the way that we behave in our spiritual lives, for God trusts His children with the decision to come to Him or to try to go it on our own. The Lord doesn’t tell us that going it on our own will produce a better result; since, it won’t. He did design and create us with a strong drive toward independence, and He gifted us with amazing capacity and capability. So, consider the fact that He made us in His image and then contemplate what that means in terms of what we might accomplish for Christ in our world.

 

The starting place for accomplishment is found in accepting the leading of Christ’s Spirit for our lives. Then it is brought to action by the ongoing filling of us with His Spirit. This is one of those points where we have a choice to make, for the Spirit fills what has been emptied of self, and the Spirit brings about true life as we yield our will to God’s. The ability to discriminate between what is dead and what is alive is granted to us by God when we are made alive in Christ; since, at that time, we are transformed from people who are eternally dead to ones who are forever alive.

 

How we choose to take advantage of our aliveness is the key to living in the full joy and the complete purpose of the Lord. God leads us to recognize the fact that we are alive so we can stop living in the land of the dead. We must stop trying to stay in control of every aspect of our lives and allow God to take us where He wants us to go. So, when we open ourselves to the Spirit, He will enable and empower us in ways that are beyond our imaginings.

 

For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord and serve Him with one accord.

Zephaniah 3: 9

 

Consider how many forms of speech there are that we are exposed to regularly. There are the obvious ones. There are at least 6,700 recognized languages in our world, and there are many more that have not been discovered. Add to that all of the languages that have been spoken throughout history and the possibilities are beyond my ability to calculate. Additionally, all of the major languages have many forms of personal, regional, and situational speech in the manner of colloquial expression, professional jargon, and slang. So how exactly could anyone define “pure speech”?

 

Fortunately for me, God has done the hard work in this area of understanding. He tells me to love Him and to honor Him with all of my being. Christ tells me to love my neighbors unconditionally. He leads me into a form of self-sacrifice that is willing to give up everything out of concern for the well being of others. Jesus told me to put aside all of my fears and my reluctance and go into my world to clearly proclaim the message of love and hope that is found only in Him. According to God’s Word I am to live in a manner that indicates that I am a committed disciple of Christ so that my way of life would speak more loudly of that relationship than any words. This is the speech that God has modeled for me. This is the speech that He desires to hear coming out of my life.

 

The language of the committed follower of Christ doesn’t require an interpreter to be understood. It is formed out of a vocabulary that was created by God before the beginning of our world. There are no words lacking in it, and there is no need to create new expressions in order to make it fit with the way we live today. The Lord is greatly pleased when He hears His people uttering the language of lives given over totally to serving Him. Spoken words are wonderful and powerful, and God loves to hear our songs of praise rising up to the heavens. However, a chorus of loving service and engagement with our world in the name of Christ speaks with the volume of an eternal chorus.

“This is the covenant I will make with them

after these days, declares the Lord:

I will put my laws on their hearts,

and write them on their minds.”

Hebrews 10: 16

 

This is a really amazing thing to consider. If I were to consider these words that were taken from the prophet Jeremiah in a literal manner I would have an image of a lot of ink covering my heart and mind. This might look like some of the most elaborate and complex tattoo artistry imaginable. The lines would be perfect and the colors vivid beyond anything else on earth or in the sky. There must be pictures illustrating the concepts as well. My mental image of the final product is more beautiful than any tapestry or painting that I have ever seen, for the artist is the creator of all beauty.

 

Although the means that God has utilized in doing this writing is not pen and ink, it is in every sense real and tangible. When we surrender our lives to Christ, His Spirit comes to dwell within us. So the writing is done in a manner that has a form of permanence to it that exceeds even the strongest ink. It is also an interactive book. God continually speaks to us and gives us insight and direction that comes from the core of His being. Although the presence of Christ’s Spirit profoundly changes us, He also leaves the unique person that we are in tact, we are just more fully whole and we are now spiritually alive.

 

God’s approach to giving us access to His truth and to the capacity to understand it has a greater purpose than just filling our lives with volumes of books like those in a library. Christ wants to speak to us and to live life with us. He knows that this world is complex and that the challenges that we will face and the concerns that will plague us are both real and highly variable. Thus we are given the Living Word that is Christ, and that Word is a part of who we now are. This idea leads me to seek to live more fully in the reality of its impact on my life. Thus, it is my heart’s desire to allow the words of truth that are written in me by Christ to be the expression of all of my actions today.

 

 

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus.

Romans 15: 5

 

Seeking to have the same mind, to think like and to act like others, does not mean that we are to be mindless and conformist. After all, we are made in God’s image, and we have the mind of Christ living in us through the Spirit. We have an imperative from God to act for Him out of our understanding and to be persuasive in our presentation of God’s truth. Thus, God wants us to be thinkers, processors of information, and people who form clear opinions about what we believe and why we believe it.

 

Still, God desires for His children to seek to be unified in our faith and to function as one organism. He tells us to present an undivided and singularly focused face to the world. This is a serious challenge, for people do hold to numerous beliefs, and there are many styles and approaches to expressing our faith through worship. The challenge is thrown down to us in just how tightly we hold onto our personal perspective of these secondary aspects of our faith; thus, our beliefs can become a source of division, causing separation, and leading to dissension and distrust. When this is the result, the beauty and the power of our witness for Christ is buried under a mound of rotting debris.

 

In fact, this is where we need to stick to the discussion with others even when it is hard. As Paul says, we need to persevere, and we need to seek to understand, to embrace, and to encourage the faith of others, too. There is one simple truth that comes to mind regarding the differences that exist in and among the body of Christ, and that is that the mind of Christ is not conflicted. He is unified, and His call to us is to likewise be unified. Seeking this sort of unity requires hard work and a soft heart. It doesn’t always happen quickly, but when it does, the glory of Christ’s love is revealed.

 

Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

Psalm 111: 1

 

Sometimes it seems that life just goes along its way. The days come and they go with little regard for just how they turned out as well as they did. Breath is drawn, food and drink are consumed, and joy is found in many places; yet, there is little recognition of who designed it all to be so. As I reflect on this it becomes clear that more of life falls into the category that could be called blessed than that which lands in some other place. There is much that is good and worthwhile in my days. There is much that blesses my day that I know comes directly from the love and grace of God.

 

When I take the time to stop and to speak out my praise for all that the Lord does for me, it is actually helpful to me. There is something very comforting and truly encouraging about taking note of the fact that there is a Creator who has His hand firmly on my life. From the breath that we breathe to the miracle of birth the Lord designed it all. From the covering over our heads to the universe that surrounds us God set it all in place. Even the hard situations, pain, and loss serve to bring glory to His name. There is no relationship or human struggle that God does not want to see healed, and His wisdom, compassion, and love are sufficient to bring about the restoration and healing that is needed.

 

So, it is good to open my mouth and reveal my heart to my Lord and to those who surround me. When I speak out praises for who God is and for what He does in my world, I am opening my own eyes to His glorious presence. As I speak of His works with the community of faith I see those same works multiplied in all of their lives. Christ has redeemed me from a life where the pain and the futility of death were the best that I could have anticipated. Now I am surrounded by life. Through Christ my eyes are opened to the hand of God at work in every corner of my world. Praise God! Let His praises sing out with every beat of my heart today!

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