God, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer’s;

he makes me tread on my high places.

Habakkuk 3: 19

 

Habakkuk is frustrated with the world where he lives. He is also impatient with God for allowing things to continue as they are. Justice is rare, mercy scarce, and peace is nonexistent. It seems as if godlessness is ruling the day, and Habakkuk is angry with God because He is allowing the world to go in this direction. So, the prophet engages in a dialogue with God. He pours out his frustrations and concerns before the Lord, and he listens to what God has to say in return. As the issues are great and it takes Habakkuk time to grasp it all, this process continues for some time. This interchange with God involves cycles of pouring out the heart and listening for a response; then doing it all again until God’s view of the world and His calling for His people becomes clear.

 

There is something for us to learn in all of this. This world is just as troubled and concerning as the one in which the prophet lived. Human wisdom seems to rule the day, and its selfish intentions are prevalent in our culture. Even the presence of pagan powers that bring fear of conquest to our gates is a part of the daily discourse of our world. God’s desire to engage with His people in honest dialogue is not any different today than it was in these ancient times. We can pour out our frustrations and concerns before God, and He will listen and respond. Difficult times are not ones in which we should remain silent, but the first place that followers of Christ need to go with our issues and concerns is to the Lord in prayer and with listening to His response as our intended outcome.

 

The reality and the reliability of God’s responses to His people have been proven throughout the long history of this world. The Lord does listen, and in His own time, He speaks wisdom and truth to us. He also provides us with the courage and strength that we need to continue along the journey of faith that He has called us to embark upon. Although the Lord does not promise that there will be some form of miraculous improvement in our world before Christ returns, He does grant His people the gift of His presence as we navigate the troubled waters of this world. The Lord lifts our spirits out of the dark shadows of life’s deep valleys, and He gives us the truth of His Word and the guidance of His Spirit so that we can confidently travel a path that is made bright by the glory of Christ.

You are members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure being joined together grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you are also being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:19-22

 

In a world where people seem to be moving farther apart every day, where separation and isolation become ideals, everyone who knows God is also a member of His household. We each have a specially designed purpose to fill in that family, and we are each designed, shaped and placed in a manner that makes it possible to fulfill that purpose. This is true because God has given to each of us everything that we need to serve those around us right now.

 

However, He also does much more than that. He also continues to grow us, to build us into so much more than we were yesterday and than we are today. We continue to gain wisdom and knowledge of our Lord, and we are made stronger in our ability to use what we know. The person that we are, in Christ, is the dwelling place of God. The Holy Spirit lives in each of us, and His Spirit actively works in our lives. It is as if the hands of God are continually on us, and with great sensitivity they are working on our form so that over the course of a lifetime of living as followers of Christ, we are reformed into persons who by virtue of our love, connection, and interaction with others looks much more like our Creator.

 

The true expression of our new selves is found in the way that we interact with others. When we choose to defend the weak, support those who are injured, and bring love into the angry chaos that evil creates, we are bringing the face of Christ into those places, and we are providing the people that we meet with a look into eternity. The Lord calls to His children to bring His Spirit into the darkness around us, and He promises to use us to reclaim these places and the lives that inhabit them for His kingdom.

 

Jesus said, “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them as you loved me.”

John 17: 23

 

During these final moments before He was arrested, Jesus was praying to the Father; yet, as He prayed in this very intensely emotional and extraordinarily personal time, He talked to God about His followers. Jesus was highly focused on talking through the details of the continuing relationships that His faith family would have with the Father and with Himself. Jesus wanted it to be completely clear to us that He would never leave us. For those present then, the form of the holy presence would change as He would come in the form of Holy Spirit to be our continual companion. Christ was also making it very clear that just as the Father is in Him that He is in us. Therefore, we are united with God, and all of the people of the world who know Christ are of one family, united in faith and in spirit.

 

The world should be able to look at Christians everywhere and see God. The world should be able to listen to our speech and hear God’s voice. We won’t speak the same languages, we don’t say things in the same manner, and there will be differing viewpoints on many issues. However, when it comes to the desire to live so that everyone who comes into contact with us comes into contact with the love and the truth of Christ; then, we should look like the largest group of identical siblings in history. Christ desires that everyone who calls Him Lord and Savior would be living as an expression of the love that has saved us from an eternity of separation from God.

 

Jesus is very clear in His desire regarding how He wants us to live, for He wants all of us to walk in the unity of His love and to experience the strength that comes from being united together through the Holy Spirit with Christ and with the Father. Jesus wants his entire faith family to stand unified in God’s love for us. He also desires for us to move out of our comfortable walls of sacred expression so that we can take our super natural unity into the world to demonstrate that Christ is the answer to all of the barriers that people establish between themselves and with God. When this happens, we glorify Christ and demonstrate His saving love to the world.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true, and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ, He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5: 20

 

As we know Christ, we know truth; so, as we live in the fullness of that relationship with Christ, we are exercising that eternal truth for the sake of our own growth and for the glory of God in the world. Both aspects of being followers of Christ are important. God desires for His people to abide in His word. This expression of God’s nature, character, and will is central to our lives and to our journeys of faith. As Jesus promised, this written word and the life that He calls His followers to live are illuminated and guided by the present voice of the Holy Spirit. So, in Christ, we are fully informed regarding God’s will and His purpose for our lives.

 

However, this information is only a partial image of the truth that is imparted from God, for the understanding that John speaks about is much deeper than truth itself. Understanding suggests that Christ has granted to His followers something that goes beyond that which our minds grasp. He has given to us the gift of seeing God so that we can know God in a way that very few people have from after our ancestral rebellion in the garden until the time that Jesus was with us in the flesh on earth. This close intimacy with God was thrown away in order to consume some perishable fruit, but God would not allow the distance between us to remain.

 

In Christ, God has reached out to people and granted us the way of return to intimate relationship with Him. So, in Christ we are brought into direct contact with the one true expression of God in our world so that we can also understand Him in order to live out God’s calling for our lives. As we engage with our world in the name of Christ, our faith is tested and strengthened by that testing; also, God’s purpose for us is revealed to us and developed. The truth that Christ reveals to us is grown into understanding of God as we dwell in His Word, listen to God’s voice, and lay down our lives in order to follow Christ into this world of need.

Exalt the LORD our God,

and worship at his holy mountain,

for the LORD our God is holy!

Psalm 99: 9

 

As a follower of Christ, I can honestly and sincerely do something that most other people would struggle to engage in with the same zeal, for I can truly sing out in praise of my King. The Lord rules the world with mercy and with justice in perfect balance. That is not so easy to do in these days of rampant violence and selfish greed; yet, I can praise God on a daily basis for the love and the grace that He pours out into the portion of the world that I can see myself. I thank the Lord for the love that fills my heart and mind with the presence of Christ, and that thankfulness is overwhelmed by the reality that the most holy God has gifted this poor sinner with the wealth of His salvation and life.

 

In a very real way God’s holiness is what draws me to Him. The Lord is different from the world in every way, and although He stands apart and separate, He is close by and fully accessible at the same time. God’s values and character are above and beyond the changeable nature of those of this world. People turn our hearts toward the enticing call of contemporary culture. We trade away the wealth of eternity for the momentary pleasure of those current practices and ideas. Thus, we restate ancient truth so that it fits within the confines of our desired behaviors. However, the Lord is not influenced or moved by all of this. He remains above it all, and He continuously speaks His word of truth for all who will hear to follow.

 

So, out of His holiness God calls to people. He gives us a path to follow through the days of our lives that leads us out of the world’s ever-shifting morality and values and takes us to His holy place of righteousness. Christ takes anyone who will follow Him out of a life that is ruled by the forces of this world, and He brings us onto God’s holy mountain where righteousness and love reign so that joy and peace can become the state of our hearts and minds. Thus, in Christ, we are lifted up to that holy mountain of the Lord so that the ground that we cover in our days is territory that we can fill with the presence of Christ. It is here and now that our words of praise to the Lord can be used by Christ to bring His salvation to the portion of the world that we touch.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

Titus 3: 1, 2

 

Paul is giving instruction to his younger disciple Titus in how to lead a fellowship of followers of Christ. Central to Paul’s teaching is the fact that Christians should be actively different than others in their culture so that Christ in them shows clearly to the world by their words and their deeds. Nothing has changed since those days for those of us who know Christ. The wise words that Paul laid out for Titus should resonate with us, and we should live in a manner that causes Christ to be heard clearly through the conduct of our days. This way of life is unceasing and unrelenting, and God doesn’t really grant to us any situational exceptions.

 

So, when it comes to a Christian’s conduct in the arena of government and politics, we are tasked by God with a responsibility for the words that we speak and for the tone with which we deliver them. This is true for those who hold office, desire to do so, and for those who are governed by them. Unfortunately, the description of what a follower of Christ looks like that Paul gives to us here is very different from much of what is seen in our world. People who hold office and who are aspiring to be elected are held to this standard of respectful engagement in so far as they know Christ, and the ability to engage in the battle for office while living out this sort of Christ-like behavior should be an indicator of a person’s spiritual state of being.

 

For the majority of us who are not office holders or seekers, the standard of behavior that Paul sets forth needs to be our guide. When we speak about those who govern us, we are tasked by Christ to be courteous, respectful, and gentle. This does not mean that we are to avoid speaking out against that which is wrong, unjust, or contrary to God’s Word. We are to stand for God’s truth, and He is instructing us to do so in the counter-cultural manner described here so that Christ’s love and peace can stand out as light against the darkness of our world’s political environment. In this setting, the good work that we are to prepare for is to be engaged citizens while doing so with Christ’s truth, grace, and love as the visible signs of our allegiance to the one true King.

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different options? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

1 Kings 18: 21

 

Is this a problem for another time and place? The tension that resonated in a culture that is totally foreign to the one that we know today? Hardly! We may not refer to our alternative god as Baal, and we might not bring sacrifices to his alter, but there is no question in my mind that there is a conflict afoot in our times and within our cultures wherein the God of Creation is being replaced by the various gods of people’s choosing. It is easier and more comfortable to follow a god who I designed and whose requirements of me fit with what I wish to give. It is harder to yield myself to the God who asks me to surrender my heart and my mind to His will and to follow Him along a path of righteousness and holiness.

 

Essentially, this is the tension that exists in this verbal interchange between Elijah and Ahab, and it is the struggle that exists in our world today. The Israelites were attempting to pick and choose the allegiances that they offered up to the gods of man and to Yahweh, God Himself, and the path of man was winning out. Their social order and process of life were moving rapidly away from those that God had set out. So, the culture was becoming ever more secular and increasingly removed from the rules and the values that God desired for people to follow in order to walk closely with Him and, by so doing, to bring His love and peace into the world.

 

The Lord is jealous of our affections and of our attention. He wants all of us, for there is no part of our lives that does not fall under the heading of sacred; so, if we follow Christ, we do not have a secular portion in our lives. Everything that we do, and all of the words that we speak are acts of worship in some form. The Lord desires to inform and guide us through the totality of life. The Lord does not permit us to turn to sources of guidance beyond God’s Word and His Spirit; thus, when we wish to depart from His will in order to do as we wish, we are on our own. Following Christ is a full on, all of the time commitment that informs every aspect of life with the eternal wisdom and with unceasing love and grace.

 

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