Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of our mercies and God of all comfort.

2 Corinthians 1: 3


I am not aware of a single individual who is immune to the pain, the heartache, and the stresses of living in this world; therefore, in this short verse Paul addresses two things that everyone needs This place that we call home is flawed, fractured, and is breaking down under the pressures that sin brings to bear every moment of each day. Satan imposes his deceitful logic and evil intentions into our lives in ways that are, at times, subtle and that can strike with the force of a hurricane. All people fall under the impact of this spell that evil attempts to cast; thus, we all need the mercy of a loving, gracious, and redemptive God. Everyone is battered and bloodied by this war that we are caught up in the middle of; so, we all cry out for support, encouragement, and comfort. At day’s end all people have a need to know the true Comforter.


Christ is the answer to all of our needs. When we require restoration from the traps that Satan sets for us, the grace of God that flows from Jesus’ wounds and that covers us like fragrant oil takes our broken spirits and places us in the presence of the Father. As we seek to travel through the war zone of life, God’s word provides the wisdom that we require to fight and to survive, and His Spirit is joined with us for every step of the journey. Still it is inevitable that we will be on the receiving end of painful blows. So, Christ is always there to pick us up, to bind up the wounds, and to provide the strength that we need to continue on.


Additionally, as we are the recipients of God’s mercy and comfort, we have the opportunity to bless God by being people who bring the same healing touch to our world. The greatest way to experience the presence of the Lord in our lives is to bring His light into the lives of others. We are not called to be vessels that God fills with His love, grace, and mercy for our own sakes; rather, we are called to be agents of Christ who act in His name and who provide care to the wounded souls that litter the war grounds of our world. As we feel pain and suffer wounds, we are experiencing life as Jesus knew it. Then, as we turn our pain and brokenness over to Christ, He heals us and sends us out to share the truth of God’s restorative love with others.


Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1: 13


People are wired to dream and to hope in the future. This is something that we do rather naturally in early life, but it is also a part of what is lost as the innocence of childhood is replaced with the much harder reality of becoming an adult. Things happen to us, and we do things that hasten the process of losing that simple and easy ability to live today with a set of aspirations that are at least part hopeful fantasy, the creative work of imagination. Although Peter was very much the realist in the way that he viewed the world and living within it, he is also challenging us to allow that God given creativity some space establishing how we prepare ourselves for engaging with life today.


Peter asks us to do some dreaming as we get ready for our encounter with what life has in store for us. At first glance this may sound like escapism in that much of what followers of Christ encounter in our daily journeys is challenging and often hard to handle; so, dreaming about a better place and time may feel like the non-real world that is found in electronic games. Yet, in Christ, this is something that we can do. We can hope in a future that is promised with such certainty that we can consider it as a part of the reality where we live today. Thus, this fullness of grace that is mentioned as our hope, which will be an earthly reality after Christ returns, is something that we can enter into now through the presence of the Holy Spirit within.


Perhaps the word dream is not quite right. It might be better to say that we envision this fullness of grace as a part of the way that we prepare our minds and our hearts for what is to come today and tomorrow. The grace of Christ that convicts His people, including myself, with our own sinfulness and need for repentance also pours out the forgiveness that is required for us to stand confident in Christ’s presence and go boldly into the world with His purpose and will as the directive that we are following. This dreaming or envisioning is actually what enables us to be clear headed, that is sober-minded, and fully prepared for all that might come along today.

Good understanding produces favor.

Proverbs 13: 15


Unfortunately, I have found that developing a level of understanding that is actually good is not all that easy to do. For instance, let’s look at sessions of midnight toy building. There have been too many occasions when there were still parts left over when the project was finished, and some of those parts were too big and significant looking to label as “extra”. As regards wrong turns and frustration in trying to get somewhere on time when the directions were explained in great detail but I didn’t listen to those details; well, guilty is my plea. It would seem that I have been given far more chances to gain understanding during my life than I have taken advantage of, and my unwillingness to surrender my pride and to take the required time to listen and to study well has resulted in items that don’t work properly, time wasted, hurt feelings, lost opportunity, and damaged relationships.


Just as God will take all of the time that I require to help me understand everything that I need to function at a very high level in life, He also wants me to be committed to seeking the understanding that I need. In order to gain understanding of God’s truth, I need to get to know Him well; and like any relationship, it takes time and attention to get to truly know the Lord. I need to read His word in detail and keep on reading it until the details begin to reveal themselves to my mind and my heart. I need to talk with God and listen for His response; then, I need to listen as He continues to clarify and to amplify the wisdom that He is providing.


Yet, when I take the time to gain this sort of deep understanding, God promises me that I will receive favor. To me God’s favor is an expression of His grace, for it is not something that I can pay for or earn, and it is something that He wants to grant to me in great abundance. Favor looks and feels like a sense of peace, joy, and contentment that comes from deep inside and that has little connection to life’s circumstances. Still, favor is something that other people will notice even if they can’t define what it is that they are seeing. Favor is to be worn like an exquisite silk scarf that compliments all of my best features, and it comes to me as a present given to me by God in love and in honor of my intimate knowledge of Him.


O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you;

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 63: 1


Here is David in the desert away from the comfort of home and without the surety of water and food that were found inside of the city. But there is something about the way that he turns toward God that suggests a deeper thirst and more fundamental hunger than even the lack of those life-sustaining basics of life would bring about. David wants to be in the presence of the Lord. His heart, mind, and soul are thirsty for the water of life that pours out from the word of God, and his body is weakened by intense hunger for the spiritual nourishment that God provides in order to strengthen and encourage His people.


David’s passion leads me into questioning my own. Do I truly thirst for that same sort of deep and intimate presence of the Lord in my life? Is my hunger directed toward His feast of truth, righteousness, and loving grace? There are many hours of too many days when the practices of my life don’t reflect this form of desire or level of committed trust in Christ to meet all of my needs. That sort of trust is what David is expressing here. He knows that the Lord will enter into his life where he is at that moment and provide everything that he requires to enable David to continue to fulfill God’s calling for his days. The current situation and location where David finds himself do not matter, and I need to realize that the same is true for me.


As a follower of Christ, the Lord is present in every moment of my day. He is with me in my own times of desert travel, and just as the Lord did for David, Christ does for me. He fills my mouth with the sweet water of His Word, and my body is nourished by the wisdom of eternity that His Spirit speaks into me. My times of thirst and hunger are mostly caused by my own thoughts and actions. The sort of desire for the Lord that David expresses is a natural part of the new person that I am in Christ, but it operates in opposition to the old person that I was before Him. That old person keeps looking back to sources of satisfaction that are worldly and seem to provide immediate gratification. Yet, these sources of nourishment are temporary and always fail. Christ is with me, and as I turn toward Him and seek His face, my thirst and my hunger are completely satisfied.

Him (Christ) we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toll, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works in me.

Colossians 1: 28, 29


Paul was a man of rather singular focus. His primary purpose for almost every day that he lived after that moment when Christ had interrupted his life’s work and faced him down with the truth of his own complete sinfulness was to bring people everywhere into this state that he called maturity in Christ. Now there were steps that were necessary along that journey into deep faith. First and foremost among them was for a person to recognize the sinfulness of her own life and turn to Christ as its answer. But I think that even that initial step was secondary to the calling that Paul perceived for himself as a teacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ.


The message that Paul proclaimed was that of the risen Christ, and the new life that Christ would bring about for those who followed Him. This message of reconciliation with God was one of hope, peace, and love, but it also had a very sharp edge to it. This razor-like surface is the place where God’s truth intersects the vagaries and compromises of this world’s view of truth. It also works to demonstrate and to separate out the ways that each of us enter into the delusion and acts of deliberate rebellion that form the core of our own sinfulness. Paul knew that the peace and love that God offers were at odds with the world where we all live so that our only hope of entering into them fully was through facing honestly into the areas of our own lives where we fall short of Christ’s standard of righteousness.


This honest discussion of God’s truth and of the ways that each of us falls short of living it out is the platform from which Paul’s idea of warning is launched. If we desire to be people who are mature in Christ, it is essential for us to face the reality of the ways that we act and think differently than God’s Word tells us to do. When we encounter the conflict between God’s truth and our own lives, we can confess our sinfulness and submit ourselves to the restorative work of Christ. Each of us, like Paul, is tasked with living as Christ in our world and with proclaiming His truth without compromise in the process of so living. Both aspects of this form of life are possible only by the strength of Christ and with the powerful energy that His life within us provides.

And to Adam he said, ”Because you have listened to your wife and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you, in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life.”

Genesis 3: 17


This text tells us something very important, and this message is not just for men and it does not target women as the cause of all of the trouble that comes our way in this world. I think that the most important aspect of what the Lord says to Adam and to Eve at this pivotal moment in the history of humanity is about trust and it relates to commitment. God had entrusted these first people with the caretaking of the earth, and He had committed to faithfully love and to care for them. As a part of that loving care there were certain laws for living that the people were to follow. These were not arbitrary or capricious on God’s part, and they did not cause an unreasonable burden for the people. They were an integral part of the concept of faith and trust that was foundational to the relationship between humanity and our Creator.


But Adam and Eve determined to do things differently, and in so doing, they defied God in an act of arrogant rebelliousness. The outcome of those sinful moments is one of the fundamental aspects of the reality of our world. This has been true since that day in our initial history, and it will continue to be so until Christ restores everything to the state of God’s original creative perfection. When we read this text, we men often focus on the words, “Because you listened to your wife” and stop thinking about anything beyond some concept of authority and power. I don’t think that God was saying that at all. Instead of wife being the focus word here, God’s real emphasis is on listened. God is concerned about whose voice we seek out when we desire wisdom and direction.


Adam is charged with a failing that is common to people. He sought out a second opinion when it came to matters in which God had already set out clear direction. It was just that Adam and Eve, like us, did not like what God said. They wanted a different outcome; so, they went to a source that was more comfortable and more closely aligned to that place of human desiring. However, what they heard was not God’s truth and following that earthly wisdom had disastrous results. What we do as a result of the counsel that we seek will not impact the world in the same sort of way that Adam’s decision did. We live within the economy of forgiveness and grace that comes through Jesus Christ. Yet, the decisions that we make do matter greatly, and seeking God’s wisdom and truth in all things is the only way to have our decisions be ones that honor the Lord and bring glory to His name.

He who goes out weeping,

bearing the seed for sowing,

shall come home with shouts of joy,

bringing the sheaves with him.

Psalm 126: 6


This Psalm is about restoration and new growth. In it there is hope and there is the promise of God’s blessings that will come to His faithful workers. But there is also something else going on here. As the workers who are committing themselves to working in the Lord’s fields prepare for their calling, their demeanor is not at all what I would have expected. I would anticipate that they would be joyous and filled with the high energy of an athlete who is ready to step out onto the field or the court to seek after a win. There would be confidence and strength on display as the training and the hours of practice that have preceded this moment are now going to be put to good use.


This is not what we are given in this account. The workers who are ready to step out to begin the work of seed planting in the fields that are God’s intended land for harvest of souls are setting out with weeping. Although the writer of this psalm does not give us much more by way of reason for the tears, I would like to speculate on this a little. This world is not an easy place to dwell as a follower of Christ. The truth of God’s Word and the moral and ethical decisions that adhering to it demand will not be met with popular acceptance. Even the love of Christ is rejected and labeled as controlling, discriminatory, and irrelevant by many of the people that we might attempt to care about in His name. Sharing biblical truth is often unpopular and can be dangerous in many ways.


So, part of the cause for the weeping here is the natural response to going into the harsh environment of our world with the intent to plant seeds of hope in Christ. Yet, I think that there is more going on here. Each of us was once lost, and we are still traveling along a road where sin causes us to stumble and to fall down so that Christ’s grace and love are required to pick us up and to again set us out on that road of His calling. God is saying to me that I should enter into the work of sharing His truth in my world with a heart that is sorrowful and repentant for my own sinfulness and for the way that rebellion against God is causing people to live in separation from their source of true hope, peace, and joy. This is a very different attitude from that of the athlete or the warrior preparing for the battle of the game.


A repentant heart is a humble one, and it engages with people out of the humility and the grace that is Christ. A sorrowful heart feels and appreciates the pain of the cross. As God’s tears flow from my eyes, I see the people of my world in a new manner. Their own pain, struggles, and grief are brought into clearer focus, and Christ speaks the truth of their needs to my heart in ways that can make His message of life clearer and more relevant to each person who I meet. This time of weeping is a time of preparation for the true work of service to Christ. It removes me from the front of the effort and places the Lord in His rightful place as the voice of love that I speak while planting His seeds. Then the tears of repentance and sorrow will be replaced by the shouts of joy when Christ’s harvest of souls is completed.