Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5: 5

 

When we become totally and completely committed to something or to someone there exists a very real element of risk. For commitment should lead to an open proclamation of the relationship and the deliberate exclusion of contradictory ones; thus, it also puts us in a position where that decision is open to scrutiny and to question. As regards this aspect of life we are on public display and we are open to being challenged and questioned on the validity of that decision.

 

When we have placed our hope in the new car that we have purchased, we are guaranteed that there will be disappointment as it ages and its parts start to fail. When that hope is liked to our portfolio of stocks and other investments, well, maybe yours are doing better than mine; if so, do you have any tips for me? Our broken nature as people makes it certain that hope that is founded in human relationships will be tested and will disappoint. It seems that any time we creatures turn to the created as the foundation and the source of our hope we experience the sense of shame that is caused by disappointment, heartbreak and loss. This is the natural and the inevitable result of turning to that which is more readily understood and grasped, that is the creation, rather than surrendering our selves to the seemingly unknowable God, the Creator.

 

Yet, it is in and through this act of surrender that we become known. In Christ our true selves are revealed. A commitment to God is singular in the entire universe in that it is effected through a contract that was executed by another, by God Himself, paid for by Christ alone, and carried out through the on going actions of the Holy Spirit. The cure for the brokenness of all of creation is found in Christ; yet, God does not ask most of creation to respond to the great question of acceptance and surrender. That opportunity to risk all yet to gain everything through commitment to Christ is something that He grants only to the pinnacle of His creation. For it seems that God desires to pour His love out upon humanity; so, He seeks the opportunity to flood our hearts with His unbounded love. As we hope in Christ, His Spirit fills us with the love of God that sustains us through everything that we will encounter. It is this love that heals us and that makes us God’s agents of healing in the rest of creation.

Do not trust in these deceptive words, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.”

Jeremiah 7: 4

 

As Christians we may think that we hold some form of special place in our world where we have a historically long-standing position of authority in setting the direction for our society. We just might believe that others should listen to us because of what we claim to believe and in light of our sworn affiliation with God’s Word or with the church. I submit to you that this thinking is erroneous and also that it is damaging to our ability to truly follow Christ’s calling upon us in our world. It seems that Jeremiah is either quoting some form of formulaic oath or that he might be stating a belief that the temple itself held God’s power in a way that made it and its name into a form of talisman that could be used to accomplish the personal desires of people.

 

Most of us would readily agree that either of those ideas is wrong and that they are, in fact, rather foolish. Yet, we Christians often enter into equally shallow and wrong-headed thinking. We complain about our world and denounce our culture for their godlessness while holding bitter attitudes regarding the lack of an audience for what we want to say. We wring our hands and speak about God’s judgment when we are assembled together while silently gliding through our days as if we are afraid of someone in our social and work lives seeing us as one of those “crazy Christians” who takes what the Bible says literally. In fact, as it was for God’s people in Jeremiah’s day, our words matter, but our thoughts and actions are of much greater importance.

 

So, I think that this was the Prophet’s point here. What we say, the oaths that we might swear, and the outward affiliations that we claim are meaningless when it comes to our witness for Christ in our world if what we do and the motivation that drives our actions are not in conformity with God’s will, word, and character. Christian witness follows after God in that it needs to be relational. Christ is proclaimed when we step in to care for the weak, the marginalized, the powerless, and the unlovely in our midst. As we sacrifice our comfort and our wealth in order to reach out in love to people who may need food or shelter but who also desperately need a Savior, we bring Christ’s presence into another corner of our world. Thus, it is in loving engagement with our world in the name of Christ that our place of true significance in our world is defined and established.

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking Him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.

Daniel 9: 3

 

We humans are a strong-willed and a stubborn lot. We truly put feet to the old expression that goes like this, “When all else fails, pray!” Personally, I do spend far too much of my time and energy in trying to figure out situations and in attempting to come up with solutions to challenges. I search my mind’s storage space for tried and true answers out of the past, and I look at endless scenarios in order to predict the probable outcomes that will result from various possible actions that I could take. This is all far more complicated than it needs to be.

 

The simple, unmistakable historical fact that I tend to forget in this entire problem solving frenzy of mine is that God has a very good track record of bringing about solutions to life’s real challenges and issues. He has stayed with His people through our most faithless times of wandering off, and the Lord has not abandoned us or ignored our cries for salvation and for mercy when we found ourselves caught in evil’s traps. Now, in the deep intimacy of Christ’s presence in my life, He seeks to walk through all of life with me. Christ is totally with His people. He speaks truth and righteousness into the chaos that is our world. God has invested Himself into us, and He seeks for us to invest our hearts, minds, and being into serving His will.

 

True solution is found in seeking God’s will. His will is made known by His voice as the Lord speaks to us through His Word and by His Spirit. This revealing is accomplished in large measure through the close and personal conversation that we call prayer. God wants to hear our urgency, our need, and our concerns. He also desires for our hearts to be humbled before Him so that they are open and yielded to His leading. The most honest and sincere times of our lives should be these times of prayerfully opening the deepest recesses of our beings to God. The place, the time, and the company do not matter. All prayer can and should be deeply intimate and personal. There is no one who knows each of us like God does, and there is no one else who will respond to us with the authority and the love that flow out of the heart of God.

The LORD of Hosts has sworn:

“As I have planned

so shall it be,

and as I have purposed,

so shall it stand.”

Isaiah 14: 24

 

The thought in this passage goes on to discuss what will happen to Assyria as a result of its godlessness. So, I could start to speculate about who are the Assyrians in our world today and look at what godless things they are doing. However, that is not what strikes me here as being important. Our world has always had its Assyrians, and it will until Christ puts an end to all that is evil in creation. What I am led to focus on are the facts that the Lord plans and He purposes, and so, those plans serve to develop God’s purposes in a way that is reality from the moment of its inception.

 

God doesn’t engage in speculative planning. There are no trial balloons in His processes. When He desires an outcome or sees a need to be met, those outcomes will be achieved. His timing and those process steps along the way to that achievement may require only moments to reach completion or they might take centuries to get there. Yet, God’s plans are never thwarted and are not debatable. It seems that some of these timing issues are mostly related to the Lord’s desire to bring people closer to Him by and through this working out of His will. God wants us to join Him with our passion for the justice and the righteousness that are always a part of the central goal of His planning.

 

So, as the Lord plans, He also sets His purpose to implement those plans. When God purposes to see something done, He applies all of His resources to that endeavor. As I have observed, the Lord’s storehouse of resources is impressive! Yet, He frequently pours them out into people, and allows us to join Him in effecting the outcome of His plans by joining Him in faith in working out the often miraculous work of His will. It seems to me that as a follower of Christ one of the most important things that I can do is to realize the unrelenting and universal truth of God’s oath above, and then to earnestly and continually seek out my Lord’s will for my life. Also, this life truth should lead me to a place where I can rest peacefully in confident assurance of Christ’s victory over all and in God’s plan and purpose for me and my life as it relates to all that exists in the world.

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of the calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1: 11, 12

 

Our worth and worthiness are not things that we create on our own. In fact, true worthiness, as Paul knows it and as God sees it, is impossible for any of us to gain by our efforts or out of our personal resources. Of course, Paul knew this reality of living from his own experience. He was a diligent and committed worker for what he perceived as being his own place of prominence and value in God’s earthly kingdom. Yet, in fact, he was pouring out his sweat and the blood of others in doing work that was stridently in opposition to God’s purposes. The Risen Christ confronted him, spoke truth into his mind and transformed his heart. It was Christ who changed Paul, and it was this same Christ who continued to grow and mature him in his knowledge and understanding of God and in his efforts to serve Him.

 

It was this transformed Paul that was worthy of being known as a true follower of God. The Lord mightily used the Paul who realized that even his most diligent efforts were meaningless at best and were often destructive to spread His Gospel of love, grace, and reconciliation. Paul surrendered his own powerful drive to the greater love of Christ, and His Lord led him into the realized glory of living, working, and giving all for the Kingdom of God. Thus Paul prays for others who he knows and loves desiring that each of them would come to that same place of surrender of self and full commitment to serving Christ. In this way, anything that God desires to see done is possible and everything that they might do would serve to bring glory to God’s name in the world.

 

If Paul were here now, he would be doing the same thing regarding each of us who follow Christ, and this should be our prayer for ourselves and for others as well. As we place our efforts onto Christ’s cross of obedience and recognize that we have nothing of real value to offer to God beyond our own willingness to follow and to serve, Christ’s grace and redeeming love do work in our own hearts to bring about the eternal worthiness in which God sees us as His beloved children. It is from this place that Christ leads us and empowers us to serve the Kingdom of God in ways that demonstrate the great love that God has for all of creation and for all of its people. As people who labor in the power of Christ, we bring the light of His glory into our world and we are made worthy of that calling by Christ’s unending grace.

 

 

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;

righteousness and peace kiss each other.

Psalm 85: 10

 

This is a love story. Boy meets girl and the sparks fly as they begin that process of getting to know each other. Here, people encounter God and His nature and character draw us toward Him in ways that, like lovers, often defy pure reason or logical processing. God’s presence in creation and in each of our personal spaces operates in ways that are practical and tangible and that are, at the same time, highly creative and mystical. This is all a part of the eternal dance of love that God joins in with people. He brings unfailing love with a depth to it that can pierce the hardness of any heart. The Lord also remains true to His promise to bring reconciliation and restoration, and this is true even when we are wandering and faithless.

 

God’s offer of His love was made fully tangible and present in Jesus. He provides that final way to join in God’s dance of love, and Christ grants to us the means to escape the tyranny of sin that holds all people captive so that we can yield our lives to the righteous leading of God’s word of truth. Christ calls us to His side, and He leads us into engagement with the heavenly songs that have been sung throughout the ages by those around the throne of God. As I join in the flow of Christ’s rhythm of life, my heart and my mind are caught up in the pure joy of being in the presence of all that is love, grace, and mercy as I am drawn into harmony with His holiness.

 

As I continue to journey across this dance floor that is my life played out in relationship with Christ, His holiness directs me into righteous living, which is the course of travel that God desires for each of my steps. My Lord does not leave me alone as I take these often uncomfortable and sometimes hazardous steps, He leads the way with strength and assurance as His powerful arms hold me up whenever my weakness leads me to stumble or to waiver away from God’s true dance of life. Christ’s call to righteousness brings me into the center of God’s will where peace is found. Here His lover’s kiss reassures my heart and draws me into the embrace of God’s eternal love and faithfulness.

 

For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver;

the LORD is our king; he will save us.

Isaiah 33: 22

 

There is a warning attached to these thoughts this morning; they are overtly political in nature and in content. Now, I am as tired of that sort of thing as are most of the people that I know, but I simply can’t resist saying a few things along these lines. If I were Flip Wilson I might say, “The Devil made me do it,” but in fact, I do believe that it is Christ who is driving these thoughts. There is no place within our human realm where we can turn for true and completely reliable leadership. None of our governmental leaders or rulers will satisfactorily perform in this role. There is also no system of government that is fully and wholly God’s design and desire. They all have flaws, and every one of them will fail in the end, and that is the penultimate point of the Scriptures.

 

In the end of this age when prophesy tells us that chaos will reign as Christ returns and confronts all of the evil in our world, certain human governments will rise to extremes of prominence only to be overthrown and destroyed. None of them will survive the purifying and cleansing fire of God’s wrath as it is poured out upon a creation that has turned away from its Creator. Although we may look toward an individual leader as the one who will bring about revival or restore the former glory of our nation, that will not happen. We may look toward political promises of laws to be passed or others to be repealed as the desired outcome and the fulfillment of our wants and aspirations, but those pledges will be broken and even when sustained, they will leave God unsatisfied. We humans have muddled through for thousands of years during which we have ruled ourselves, but we have never gotten it right.

 

Isaiah said it all in these few direct and simple words. The Lord is the only ruler who merits our complete, total, and absolute loyalty. Although we do have a responsibility to God to honor the human authority and to respect the government that He has ordained to rule over us, this responsibility and honor do have limits. They are defined and constrained by what God in His Word declares as loving, just, merciful, and peaceable; thus, God calls us to live righteously as our first priority. Every word that we speak or write and even the thoughts that we form should reflect Christ into our world. When our leaders and our governments act in manners and speak ideas that honor God’s will, we need to support them and praise those efforts. Yet, when this is not true, especially when they move away from Godly values and character, we must oppose them. In the end, Christ is our judge, His law is our final authority, and He is the only King that we should bow down to.