“Behold I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;

Your walls are continually before Me.” declares the Lord.

Isaiah 49: 16

 

We all know people who write the things that they really need to remember on their hands. This may include phone numbers, names, or prompts to “get milk.” whatever the important, immediate data or fact, the hand is a very good notepad on which to record it. This works because our hands are always with us and are continually visible. Unlike scraps of paper or even notebooks, it doesn’t require any extra effort to remember where we put them. They can’t even hide behind the back for long or get buried deep inside of a purse or a briefcase.

 

So consider Isaiah’s statement that God, Himself, holds each of us as so important that he writes our existence onto His hands. It seems that there must be a lot of ink on those hands! Yet, there are times when it seems like God must surely have forgotten me. Life feels like there is no hand of God in control or like His attention must certainly be focused somewhere else. Still, He comforts me with the fact that He has me continually before His eyes. There are times and seasons in this life, and God is fully aware of them. He fully feels the pain and experiences the sadness and loss; yet, He also stays true to His promise to restore everyone who loves Him to the fullness of His intended place as beloved children of God. The Lord asks us to trust Him with this and to keep our eyes open to see His presence in even the darkest of times.

 

Christ knows where the attacks upon each of us will come from. He has fully experienced the cunning, the relentlessness, and the furry that Satan brings to bear upon those who love God. He knows what we need in order to remain safe from these assaults, and He knows what defenses we will require in order to survive their most intense moments. We can trust that Christ is on the alert and that He does not sleep or even glance away for an instant. As we trust Him with every detail and each hour of the day, Christ reveals Himself and His responses to our situation. I can have absolute faith in the fact that God has me before Him and that I am completely safe in the palm of His mighty hand.

For I will proclaim the name of the Lord,

ascribe greatness to our God!

Deuteronomy 32: 3

 

To me this seems like a great place to be at the very end of life. There is no note of bitterness in these words. No remorse or regret over failure, and not a hint of anger and frustration at the way that others have let the author down. Finally and most significantly, Moses expresses only his worshipful praise of God and speaks out to bring glory to the name of the Lord. As we know Moses did not lead a perfect life, and his way was not easy; yet, God was there for him through all of it.

 

By this point in his story the all that was Moses’ life was considerable in quantity and in length. He had traveled far and wide, and he had been at the very top of society and he had lived in utter obscurity. He is 120 years old and the greatest goal of his life’s work is right in front of him. Yet, God made it more than clear that Moses would never taste the sweet fruit of success in the form of achieving that which he had spent the last 40 plus years seeking. Still, he sings the praises of his God, his Lord and King!

 

Regardless of age or life experience the relationship with God that Moses expresses is a very good one to hold, and his thoughts and expression of it are worth following, too. In my own experience of life, which is much shorter than Moses’ and is far less spectacular than his, God has been there with and for me at every step of the journey. I have not always been so graciously welcoming of His presence, but at each turn, God’s involvement has been in my best interest. This foundational reality of life is something that I don’t take enough time to appreciate. So, I desire to follow Moses and proclaim the name of my Lord and sing the song of His greatness with the voice of my life song this day.

 

 

It is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1: 16

 

This statement, a directive from God to His people, is quite ancient. Peter takes it out of Leviticus where it becomes something of an on-going theme. Foe people the desire to live holy lives, that is lives that are set apart from the world and from its sinful thoughts and deeds, can be motivated by self determination, by fear, or by imitation. God wants us to imitate Him. Doing this requires us to set aside self and to overcome fear. Imitation demands that we become open and yielded to another in whom we place an ever-deepening trust.

 

The primary characteristic of God that draws most people to Him is love. God loves us with a form and a depth of love that is beyond any that humans can employ. God’s love is accessible and it is universal. God comes after us with a relentless desire to be lovingly close to all people in all circumstances. He brings love to bear when we deserve rebuke and punishment. God brought His bottomless grace into our world in order to save us out of the death that we had self-imposed, and His grace is what enables us to actually seek to live as God has directed from the beginning of creation.

 

No one, not a single person ever in history or today, can live a life that is holy according to God’s standards. Even as we know Christ and seek to live under Hid lordship of our lives, we are still sinners. So, we all fall short of the mark that is holiness. Yet grace, which in and through Christ is unlimited and unending, proclaims that we are clean and guiltless under God’s perfect law. This grace frees us to set aside the burden of yesterday’s anger and today’s doubt, it frees us from the need to work for our right standing before God, and it is grace that tells me to seek to think, act and live a life that is holy and that is fully committed to the love that God pours out on me.

 

I cry to you, O Lord, I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”

Psalm 142: 5

 

This might sound, at first, like a cry of desperation and anguish; the sort of plea for help that we say when things are going really badly and in those moments when the answers are overwhelmed by our needs. This was certainly the situation that David found himself in when he wrote these words. He was hiding in a dark, cold cave with few friends left to count on and with no home to go to. God was completely with him during these dark and dangerous times just as He is always with me and with you during our harshest confrontations with a cruel reality.

 

Yet, I think that there is much more to this expression. There is application for my underlying attitude, for during each day regardless of that day’s danger or seeming lack of it, the Lord is still my refuge. In fact, the more consistently I am able to grasp this truth, the less I need to flee to the cave. There seems to be a direct correlation between embracing God’s protection, provision, and entitlement as His beloved child and the clarity and wisdom that I bring to my daily situations. When I am focused on my own human strength and understanding, I tend to get into the kind of trouble that necessitates cave dwelling. These are the times when I am doing it, as Sinatra said, “my way”.

 

Christ has claimed us out of the desolate wasteland of sin and death which is our natural home. He provides us with a continual covering of His grace, love, truth, and righteousness, and the Lord’s provision contemplates all of our needs and sustains us through all of life. The cry that we utter may be soft, or it may be ear splittingly loud. It may be the constant rhythm of the heart beating, but the cry of recognition of the Lord’s place as the only true source of successful, fearless living is the victory cry of God’s people.

 

Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;

do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.

Isaiah 54: 2

 

At the end of many days the thing that I want most is to just get home, close the door, turn off the phone, and settle in with my immediate family. Note these key words here: close, turn off, and immediate. There is little room here for any one or anything from the outside of my home, and there is little interest in expanding that environment either. Now Isaiah 54 is about the nation of Israel and it is not written to give me personal instruction; so, I don’t really need to listen to it beyond enjoying the poetry. Well, I think that last idea is wrong.

 

Yes this is about the nation of Israel who are God’s people, and in Christ, we are God’s people. Also, national character influences the actions of its citizens, and the actions of each of us build our character, which has a tangible influence on our nation’s character. So, what is Isaiah talking about when he tells Israel to expand the perimeter of its tents? He is saying to be hopeful and to be open to take in each and everyone who comes your way. God is telling His children to open our hearts and our homes to the prospect of an increase in our numbers that will come from God’s blessing us with natural children and with the spiritual family made up of those who come to us from the outside.

 

God wants me to set aside my weary self-protection and open my doors to my neighbor. He tells me to tie back the flaps to my tent as a sign of hospitality so that the outsider will know that it is safe to come to my house for comfort and rest. The means and the methods of doing this vary greatly depending on our differing situations and various local cultures. Yet, even with these differences, God’s commitment to us remains the same. He promises an increase in our families that is based upon His provision of peace and reconciliation God asks us to open our hearts and our minds to His understanding of neighbor and of family, and the Lord wants us to approach our world with open arms that are ready to greet the foreigner with a welcoming embrace.

 

 

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through the Spirit who dwells in you.

Romans 8: 11

 

In one short statement we see the basic truths of what Christians believe, the foundation of our faith. God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all present, and each of their roles in our lives is mentioned. However, even more important to Paul’s message to us is how all of this has a life-changing impact on the lives of people who know Christ. The Father sent Jesus into this world knowing that He would live a life that was the perfect image of the lives that God had intended for all of humanity to live and also fully aware of the way that we would reject, torture and kill the Christ.

 

Yet our sinfulness was nothing more than a catalyst that led to the revelation of God’s supremacy over all of creation including its greatest power, which is death. But God did not stop there. His plan for redemption and restoration is not bound by time and place so that it entered into a period of hiatus with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus; rather, God gave us His Spirit to reside within His children. This act of God’s is a very real and tangible life changer for us.

 

God desires to be in an unending, eternal if you will, relationship with all of humanity. So He sent Jesus to be the way and the means to that desired end. Still God seeks more. He wants to see the people of His creation living in the righteous center of His will during this earthly life. As that is a gut wrenching, grit the teeth impossibility on our own and God takes no delight in our failure, He provided the way to redeem life for His people out of the death that sin has brought about in us. As the Spirit dwells in us, we have the presence of God’s perfect love, grace, mercy, and truth, and the nature and the character of the Father as demonstrated through the Son are ours to live out and to bring the touch of life to this dead world.

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

1Peter 4: 7

 

Although the events of our days might suggest that this world is ready to explode into a form of chaotic and cataclysmic self-destructive furry that will culminate in the return of Christ, that is not necessarily any more true today than it was when Peter wrote these words. What is true is that everything that was essential in preparation for that time of purification and restoration of creation to the righteous glory of God’s intent has been accomplished. Jesus has come, He has died the sacrificial death of the crucifixion, and He is risen from that death to ascend to the glory of Heaven so that the Holy Spirit could come to dwell with and in God’s people.

 

God has completed all of this. Now we are living in these end times, and the nature of our times are such that the return of Christ would be highly desirable. However, that event is far beyond our control, and it is God’s intent that none of us will have even the slightest clue as to when and even to exactly how all of that will happen. Instead God wants His people to live in the here and the now with Christ on full view to our world through our words and our actions.

 

As we are in Christ and His Spirit is in us we are different from this world. We are now dwelling in the presence of God, Himself, and we also bring the essential nature of the Kingdom of Heaven into our immediate world. I think that what Peter means by being self-controlled is that we are under the influence of the Holy Spirit rather than being people who are tossed about by the fears, the anger, and the lies that permeate our world. Likewise, being sober-minded does not mean that we are serious to the point of being joyless. Instead we are to be clear headed and informed by God’s truth as we live our lives under the direct counsel of God’s word and His Spirit.

 

 

 

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