For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.

Mark 3: 35

 

Jesus is saying something that is very simple on its surface; yet, it is a powerful thought to contemplate. This idea changes the nature of most of our relationships, for it radically alters the idea of family. The usual way of defining family connections is replaced by a greatly expanded one, and this new definition greatly extends the circle of people to whom we each have a responsibility for loving care, concern, and involvement. However, it also brings each of us into intimate relationship with this same circle of support. The nature of life is such that we will all have needs that others can join us in meeting, and we are assured that we will, in turn, be the ones who enter into the lives of others when they are weak, broken, and hurting.

 

When we look into the eyes of others who know Christ, we are looking into the eyes of our closest relatives. The heart of faith that is supplied by the blood of the Spirit of Christ circulates life through the bodies and pushes eternity through the spirits of everyone who follows Christ. We are connected in ways that no natural, blood relative can be without Christ. We should know each other in a manner that is profoundly deep and that makes living in peaceful communion with them a real possibility. Although there will be differences in point of view, and we do need to be very open in discussing the ways that we see the Lord’s will applied to life, in Christ we possess the resources that we need to be able to resolve these differences with love, respect, and humble submission to Christ and to each other.

 

The distinctive qualities and the differences in perspective that are found in such a diverse group of people as this newly defined family brings together will cause the group to be stronger. God’s design for creation intended that all people would stand together in ruling this world, for we would each utilize the gifts that He gives to us to their fullest and freest extent, and we would share them completely with each other so that the sum of us would be much greater than any one alone could ever be. In Christ, we are inside of the new creation that God has ordained to bring restoration to this world. We are called to resolve our differences, to value our distinctive natures, to rejoice in the various gifts that others possess, and to stand as one family of faith that serves Christ with arms locked in the embrace of love that is true family.

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Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

John 15: 13 (NASB)

 

Jesus said this, and we know what He meant by this statement. He would be going to His untimely death in order to provide the sacrifice that sin demanded for the sakes of each and every one of His followers and for all of us throughout the balance of history, too. God holds this strange view of humanity, despite our antagonism toward Him or even our overt rejection of His love, truth, justice, and call to engage in righteous living, God, the Lord of Creation and Ruler of the Universe, is our friend. This is a hard concept to embrace for most of us. When we say the word friend we each probably call to mind certain images and thoughts. Friend is very important to some, and it is vague and unformed for others. God’s idea of what it means to be a friend is very deep and powerful. He literally means that He did give up life in order to bring about the salvation of millions of people that He views as His friends.

 

This idea of salvation carries with it some important aspects as well, for we are saved from spiritual death for sure, but we are also saved into a relationship with God that begins at the moment of acceptance of this gift that we know as Christ, and it cotinues onward for all of the unending duration of the eternal existence of our souls. Here is where I make a bit of a left turn when it comes to considering what Jesus said. This is that strange moment when my GPS tells me to make that unexplained and frankly impossible change in direction as it says, “Turn right (or left)” when there is nothing but air and precipitous drop-off in that direction. Well, I think that my thoughts are sounder than that electronic lunacy. It seems to me that Jesus is also speaking to each and every one of us regarding the way that we care about and for others. Christ would have us adopt the wildly radical concept that our worlds are populated by people that we need to consider to be friends.

 

He also would have us enter into those relationships, whether deep and long-established or of shorter duration and shallower, with the sort of commitment and even passionate desire to serve the needs of these others that He demonstrated in His willingness to give His life for each of us. We encounter friends with every turn of the road throughout all of our days. We also pass by and bounce off of people with needs and hurts and brokenness that need love and care. Jesus wants for us to open our eyes, be available to hear stories, give of our hearts and our resources to meet those needs. In Christ, we have more than we will ever need in this life, and we certainly possess more than will be required to engage with people’s lives and help them with what they need to get through the day. For the most part people do not need our wealth or our possessions, they are dying for a listening ear, suffering alone when a companion for the journey would ease the burden greatly. People need friends who will set aside the urgency of their lives in order to walk a mile with them. We join Christ in laying down life in order to save when we see the people that we encounter as He does; that is, as friends.

For Pete, Hollie, Barry and Tracie you know what I mean.

I waited patiently for the LORD;

And He inclined to me and heard my cry.

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction,

out of the miry clay,

And He set my feet upon a rock

making my footsteps firm.

Psalm 40: 1, 2 (NASB)

 

There are times and situations in life where waiting on the Lord seems like a pure impossibility. There is too much to handle in front of me, or the weight of the day is so great that breath itself is crushed from my lungs. This is not a fair world, and it doesn’t even pretend to play by fair and just rules. It simply goes after the throat of those who are least able and capable of defending themselves. Then, it seems to sense defeat and pounces upon the downtrodden person with even more ferocity than it put forth at the start of the assault. This sort of scene is, mercifully, not what we go through every day, and it is the exception to what is normal for most of us most of the time. However, when life is like this, it is unbearable, and even one such episode may be enough to undo the stoutest of hearts and unhinge the strongest of minds.

 

David is sharing truth that comes right out of his life. He went through plenty of hard times and faced many stiff challenges. Some of his struggles were of his own making, and many others came to him because of who he was. People seemed to go after him, and it would appear that evil, itself, has painted a target on his back. David, like anyone who loves God, is on the other side from many forces that roam our world and that seek to gain power and advantage over all that is good, righteous, and loving in this place. David’s body, mind, and soul were under attack on many occasions, and these assailants were able to do harm to him on several of these occasions. They did harm, but they did not defeat him. They made his body ache, his heart was grieved, and his spirit was tested; yet, the Lord provided David with the strength and the wisdom that he required to get through it all.

 

In the end, the Lord restored the grieving heart, bound up the gaping wounds in his flesh, and restored the sanity that had been pushed to the brink of breaking. David did not possess the strength to lift himself up. The great warrior, poet, ruler, and devoted follower of the one true God was unable to put himself back together after all that was done to him. But the Lord, sovereign and mighty and also loving and compassionate, was up to the task. God came to the hurting soul and brought the sweet wine of restoration to his lips. So, Christ comes to us when we are desperate and alone, as we are hurting and wounded, and in our hour of darkness and despair, and He speaks love to our hearts. Christ gives peace to our troubled minds, and He counsels us in the ways of truth and justice. We serve a Lord who loves each of us in a way that is impossible for any person to do; yet, He also gives to us a family of His faithful that will embrace and love us for who we are and for who Christ sees within our beautiful souls.

And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Acts 20: 32

 

At the end of his talk with the elders of the church at Ephesus Paul delivered this blessing to them, for he was not going to spend time in their city with them on the current journey, and he had only a moment to personally connect with them. Yet, it strikes me that this simple sentence contains a fundamental truth about making it through this day and the next one with my head held up in righteousness and my spirits filled with Christ’sjoy. Now Paul was a great teacher of God’s truth, and it seems that he probably had a very strong personality and was a compelling leader; still, he knew that people needed more than his presence and personal leadership to live fully in the manner that God intended for them, and he trusted totally in something much greater than himself and more capable than any person.

 

Life will ultimately require each of us to dig deep into ourselves in order to respond to the situations and the pressures that come at us. The way that we do this is going to depend upon the resources that we have stored away in our hearts and our minds and upon the strength of character that we have allowed the Lord the opportunity to develop within us. It seems that something very special, amazing, and even mystical happens when God’s people spend time in reading and meditating on His word, for the words on the page seem to gain new meaning and dimensions of application that exceed the simple scope of the language. This is one of the times when God’s Spirit interacts with us in ways that are a central part of the special gift of faith that God has given to His own, and this is one of the primary ways that God works in us to prepare us to follow Him absolutely through each day of our lives.

 

God has set aside for all of His people a very special gift that is a part of His promise of salvation from our lost and sin governed lives, and that gift is in the form of an inheritance. This extraordinary legacy originated before there was time, and it has been preserved in a perfect condition throughout history; although, it has been handed out over and over again, there is no limit to its availability. God wants everyone to enjoy the benefits of a full and complete knowledge of Him, and He also wants each of us to go through our days with our hearts and our minds bathed in all of the love, grace, joy, peace, wisdom, compassion, mercy, and understanding that the Lord has to give. The inheritance that God has for us is restoration. He wants to work in us to bring us ever closer to the state of living that His creation plan intended; all that the Lord asks of us is that we believe in His promises and trust Him, and His word and His Spirit will perform the miracle of restoration in us.

 

 

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Hebrews 11: 1-3

 

This is the sort of thing that is hard to accept. Somehow God makes this world out of a substance that is not visible or even tangible. By some means, it was all spoken into existence, and that word gave it its form, function, and set into motion the forces that keep it all moving onward. These actions occur outside of our cognitive world, and they are too great and wonderful for our simple minds to fully understand. There are times when God truly defies reason and logic. So, there are many aspects of God, of His nature, character, and actions that require for us to engage with them with a form of acceptance, hopefulness, and anticipation of what the Lord might do. There are many times and situations that ask for us to operate out of faith.

 

As the writer of Hebrews describes it, this is not a new idea when it comes to living out life in a relationship with God. People have done this since the earliest days of our existence. Instead, living in faith, with it as a primary guiding principle, and granting that faith is essential for people to engage fully with the spiritual realm that is God’s dwelling place is something that followers of God, His people, do as a natural part of knowing our Creator and Lord. So, this thing called faith may be natural and normal for us to experience, but it is not so native and normal in our world. Skepticism is high in the world around us as most people would much rather put their trust in things that they can touch, manipulate, and control than they would like to do the same with an unseen character and a person who attaches a moral and an ethical code of righteous thought and action to all that He says and does.

 

We enjoy good outcomes such as healing of illness, resolution of conflict, and prosperity and provision of what we need to live comfortably; however, we are not as at ease with trusting these things to God’s hands and in holding that all that we have in this world is a gift that comes from God. Yet, faith grants to us a form of peace that is deep and lasting. We can stop striving against the forces of this world in order to attempt to control and to subdue them. In faith we can know that God has a view of things that far exceeds any that we can gain and that He desires for us to prosper in spirit and that our souls are protected from all forms of evil. Faith gives us the sure knowledge that God does heal our brokenness and that He does remove all of our pain and sooth all forms of grief and loss. Faith is the element that allows us to trust God with all of this in His perfect time and to accept that these desire outcomes may happen in this life or that they are assured in the next. It is in faith that we pray to God, and through faith we anticipate His responses. As we walk in faith, we are transported out of the worldly and the temporary and we carried into the halls of glory where our great Lord and King dwells with love, grace, and redemption as the words that He speaks into our needy hearts.

Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth.

John 17: 17

 

Jesus is praying to the Father. These are those last moments before the great drama that would include Judas pointing Him out, the arrest and trials, and then Christ’s seeming humiliation and crucifixion. In this time of prayer, Jesus pours out His heart and lays bare His deep desires before God, the Father. So, the Lord asks the Father to make His people clean from their sinfulness and so make them worthy to be in the presence of God. This requested outcome is not just one that is for the moment, to be redone over and over again, rather, it is a form of cleansing that is to last for all time. It includes their days of life on earth to come and the entire expanse of time in which their souls will continue to exist beyond this life. Sanctify them, make them holy, set them apart for service at God’s altar of life; this is the plea and the request that Jesus sends upward to His God.

 

This is something that does just happen. This cleansing is effective upon our acceptance of Christ as our Savior and Lord; yet, it is something that is never completed in this life. This is also the point that Jesus is making in this prayer. This truth that Jesus references is something deep, profound, and fundamental to all that exists in the universe. For truth as it is related to God is not a mere descriptor of something else, it is a part of the foundation upon which everything is constructed. Truth is an essential aspect of the nature and the character of God. So, it is solid, concrete, and without distortion or deviation over time. This truth that Jesus asks the Father to pour out into His followers responds to all of life, to everything that might come our way, in a manner that puts its adherents into a position to live out our days in conformity to God’s will and as righteous inhabitants of the Lord’s kingdom on earth.

 

The word that Jesus speaks about here is also something more basic than even the written Word of God that we view under the title Holy Bible. It is God’s expressed nature, His perfect character, and the will that defines all of His actions and that frames in all human endeavor on earth and in Heaven. Jesus was very familiar with a part of the written form of this word as it existed in His earthly days, but He was even more intimately involved with the totality of God’s expression of Himself by virtue of His engagement in the statement of this eternal truth. Jesus, in conjunction with the Father and the Spirit, spoke all of creation into existence, and He also gave us all that is loving, just, right, and holy by way of thoughts and actions to follow as a model for living within that creation. When we surrender ourselves to Christ, we are made pure, clean, and holy before God, and as we live out our remaining days in yielded surrender to Christ’s will, under the instruction of His Word, and in the counsel of His Spirit, we continue along the Lord’s sanctification road that takes us to the perfection of eternity.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,”

John 14: 6

 

Life is precious to most people. This is especially true when it comes to our own lives. We like the idea of drawing in breath, and we really embrace the concept of continuing to get up each day and to walk about engaging in the activities and in the relationships that make up the world that we inhabit. Life means something to us, and it meant something to Jesus, too. Still, He gave it up, and He did so painfully, with dread, and in absolute submission to the will of the Father. The life that Jesus surrendered is the reason that He can make the statement that He did here to Timothy and to us. His death and resurrection from the grave that followed it as night does the day have brought about a miracle that defies the powers of this world and that takes anyone who accepts the gift that Christ is offering out of a state of living death and transforms us into beings that experience life as God comprehends it during our remaining days on earth and into all of time beyond this life.

 

This new life that is given to us by and through Christ is not without its requirements. In fact, the Lord is rather demanding of each of us if we wish to truly experience the freedom that comes to us through our new relationship with God. He requires for us to forfeit, to surrender, our old lives in full to Him and to allow the Spirit full and absolute access to each and every corner of our hearts, minds, and spirits. We are not permitted to retain any vestige of hold-back or some parts of ourselves in reserve as a sort of cushion against the shock that change causes or in the form of old pleasures that we can turn to in moments of self-determined need. Jesus held nothing back, and He demands that His followers truly walk in His footsteps without deviation; so, He requires the same of us. This is not to say that there is not grace and understanding in all of this, for Christ is remarkably patient with us, and He knows that this sort of total surrender takes time to enter into and then to accomplish.

 

Yet, as we follow along Christ’s way, we are led deeper into understanding of why God desires for us to think and to act in a certain manner, and we are granted a continuously expanding knowledge of the heart and the manner of our Lord. The Spirit works within us to transform our old selves with their ways of viewing life into a new beings that are more and more like Christ. So, God’s way takes us ever farther and deeper into His truth. We are made to be beings that know truth and that can seek it as near to its source as is possible to do in this life. This is done by virtue of engaging earnestly with God’s Word and by wrestling with it in fellowship with other followers of Christ while the Spirit reveals its deep mysteries to our hearts and to our minds. A life that is lived out in submission to Christ while continuously seeking out the wisdom and guidance of God’s Word is one in which we are truly alive. Then Christ’s blood is our blood, and His love is what defines us. This new life is one in which our purpose is formed around caring for and about others in a manner that demonstrates Christ’s redeeming love to all of the world.