February 2009


Jesus said, “Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?”

Matthew 16: 3b

 

The news of the events of our day are with us constantly and continually. We can access real-time, live from the spot accounts of everything that is happening in almost every corner of our globe; then, there is analysis upon analysis of these events that is available as well. The news is even in the palms of our hands and is seen as a side bar on our computers at work and at home. We are fascinated by these events, we are fearful of the impact that many of them might have on us, and we seek to know the future by having all of the present before us.

 

It really is too bad that most of this effort and commitment is directed toward information that is virtually useless for its intended purpose, for most of us spend a lot more time and place a lot more emphasis on reading and watching the news than we do on deep study of our Lord. I’ll admit that there are a lot of days where I consume much more of my time in looking through these events than I do in conversation with God, who can actually do something about my life.

 

All of this is said, in a sense, by way of confession, for telling God about the things that we do and the ways that we spend our time which we would like to change is the starting place in effecting the change. In fact, I find that there is a strange connection between how much time and effort are required to gain an understanding of what is happening in the world around me and the amount of time that I spend in focused communication with God. The more time that I spend with the Creator of all, the less time I require to understand the true meaning of the day’s events; He explains them all in the only clear and absolutely trustworthy manner available.

 

Try this, join me in a commitment to prayer, to reading of God’s word, and to adopting God’s view as your filter for discussing the news with others. There is comfort, there is peace, and there is confidence in this approach.

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A cool, drink of water on a hot day; especially, on a dry day spent in a dusty place while doing physical labor, can be the most luxurious and the richest fluid that I have ever consumed. The choking dust is rinsed away, and that raspy, burning sensation that irritates the throat is eased; then, it seems as if the cells of your body actually soak in the water and become whole again. It’s truly amazing how desirable something that is so ordinary can become.

 

As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.

Psalm 42: 1

 

The image here is even more striking, for I picture a deer that has been running hard for a long time, over a great distance, and as fast as it can move in order to escape a predator. The deer has had to use all of its skill and energy to sprint away from the hungry jaws that are trying to destroy it; thus, the deer is exhausted and its skin is torn from diving through brambles and bushes in its desperate flight. Now, after the chase has ended, wary of the potential for another attack, the deer needs to find water in order to be refreshed and to regain strength for the next struggle.

 

There are predators waiting along the paths of our lives, too; they are aggressive and they are cunning; they come at us from the most unexpected of places and they strike at the worst possible moments. They seem to understand those times when my resources are at their lowest, and they hide out in friendly and safe locations in order to catch me with my defensive shields turned off. In many ways I think that the writers of the Star Trek series got evil right in their creation of the arch foe for the crew of the Enterprise, the Klingons, for they are cunning, deceptive, intuitive of weakness, relentless, and totally focused on their mission of destruction.

 

God grants us much more than just a momentary rest and simple refreshment. He gives us the healing water of His loving grace and forgiveness. Christ removes the toxins of sin that build up in our souls as we fight to survive in life, and He restores our bodies to the strength of spirit that God intends for us to possess. In order to be ready for the inevitable attacks that will come, for the intent of evil to assault people is inevitable, we need to drink deeply from the water of strength and truth that is God’s word; we should wash our hearts in the cleansing streams of prayer; and we need to allow the Spirit of God to lead us away from danger and to God’s purpose.

Indeed we felt that we had received the sentence of death, but that was to make us trust not in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.

2 Corinthians 1: 9

 

I’m sorry if this seems truly selfish, but this verse is mine; I claim it all for myself. This is not because I am so wonderfully and consistently filled with the capacity to trust; rather, I claim it because this is where I fail so badly, and I do it with true consistency.

 

My issues, in part, involve trying to solve all of my problems and challenges alone; feeling troubled and frightened and hiding those feelings; letting the lie of going it alone overcome the truth of Christ’s loving provision; and being unwilling to fully open my heart and my mind to the people that God has placed into my life. All of these behaviors lead to isolation, separation, and frustration. This going it alone approach is a part of the old person who did not know God; it is a legacy from my ancestors who decided that they would be better off making their own decisions rather than trusting God’s direction, and I admit that I do slip too easily back into the trap of this form of living.

 

Trust involves openness, willingness, and receptivity. Trusting in God is actually the only rational and reasonable way to live, for He is the only One who has defeated the evil that causes the true death of our souls.  The Lord also takes us through the hardest and the most challenging of situations in life, the ones that can feel as if death would be better; He fills the bitter loneliness and He removes the chill of isolation from our hearts. The Spirit of God is in us and with us, and God brings people to us who will go with us through everything.

 

Most of us struggle to some degree with the ability to take the risk that trust involves; yet, if the weakness and the compromises that come from going it on our own are to be overcome, we need to turn to the safest place that there is in all of Creation. Christ loves me and will carry my burdens; He will provide me with everything that I need, and He does bring the required help and support to me.

 

For this day, I purpose to fear nothing, to open myself to God totally, and to seek His support as expressed through the people that the Lord brings into my life.   

When was the last time that you raised your arms into the air and shouted loudly while doing the happy dance of joy over the wondrously, miraculously victorious life that Jesus has given to you as a free gift; a gift that He gave because of His love for you? If your days look anything like mine, it’s been a while. Thus, I need to ask myself, why has it been so long? The Lord deserves to be appreciated, praised, and celebrated every day. My attitude about life gets so much better when I am rejoicing in my relationship with Jesus; my heart and my head are truly on straight when I take the time to think about the grace and hope that He gives me for today and for all of my tomorrows.

 

Through our Lord Jesus Christ we have also obtained access by faith into His grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5: 2

 

God wants to see us joyous; He doesn’t desire for us to go through life with sober expressions and deep worry lines; He wants our hearts to be light and our worries to have answers. God tells us that we should be living images of Him; so, we should carry the joy of our hope and freedom with us throughout our days. This doesn’t mean that we will always be happy; it doesn’t say that we won’t feel pain, grief, and sorrow; for these are all things that Jesus felt and that He demonstrated. Yet, He always knew the joy of His close relationship with the Father.

 

It is important and helpful to take a moment or two to consider the ways that God has blessed my life and to reflect on the ways that I know that I can trust Him with today and tomorrow. It only seems natural, after a time of prayerful soaking in of God’s grace for me, to jump up and to do a little happy dance of rejoicing. Go ahead, try it, no one is looking; and would it matter if they were?  

Be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish and at peace.

2 Peter 3: 14b

 

Face creams, medicated cleansing wipes, and spa treatments are great in the short term; those nasty skin eruptions and the annoying wrinkles can be removed and softened so that that youthful glow is restored—for a moment. Then, the reminders of age and late nights and worry return. We spend money and time on a remedy that doesn’t ever really work; eventually, we tend to just surrender to the processes of life and blame all of the ill effects on a thinning ozone layer or on too much time in the sun and the wind.

 

When the source of the unsightly condition of our outer selves is found in our hearts, the fix gets even more problematic and can seem to be totally elusive. You think that the anger is under control; then, you turn a loved one into over-done toast in a moment; or you have your thoughts under control; then, the fantasy overcomes all reason. Each of us can write our own stories about the ways that the peace of our lives is disrupted by issues that we hoped were under control. When these events happen, I feel no peace within; it is as if there is an ugly lump on my nose that the entire world is looking at.

 

Christ wants us to live in peace; He knows us, and I am fully aware of the fact that He knows all about my numerous spots and blemishes. I am also completely aware of the fact that God forgives me for all of them and that He wants to take me deeper into my relationship with Him in order to permanently eliminate them.

 

The Lord wants me to take each and every one of my ugly thoughts and actions to Him, tell Him about them and recognize the pain that they cause to others, myself, and to God; and allow the Spirit of God to guide me into healthier ways of thinking and acting

 

When you take a stroll along a path and suddenly, ingloriously find yourself planted face down in the dirt, why did you fall? Was it inattention, moving too fast for the terrain, a lack of adequate knowledge of where you were going, or perhaps it was too dark to see the hazards ahead? The fall is always painful in some way; sometimes, real injuries are the result. It is never a good thing, and we all get to experience the event from time to time.

 

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.

Jude 24, 25

 

When I am navigating my way through my day, the presence of tripping hazards seems guaranteed; they will be there, and they often seem to emerge as if from out of the ground. I have a bad habit of walking rapidly toward someplace, even someplace very familiar, and thinking about an entirely different time, place, and situation than the one that I am in. Suddenly, some part of my body, usually my knee or my forehead, will collide with a solid object like a table or a cabinet door; this is startling and painful, and it makes me feel really silly, too. As painful as this is, it is much worse when the collision is with a relationship or a moral or ethical value; unfortunately, this sort of collision is also way too real to me.

 

In order to avoid as many of these trip and fall incidents as possible, it is important for me to maintain clear and steady focus, to keep my life as debris and confusion free as is possible, and to allow the brightest of light the opportunity to shine on me and on my travels. I need to orient my mind and my heart toward Jesus; like that satellite dish on the roof, when I turn toward Him, I receive input and insight on everything that life brings my way, and I am directed through the day by the loving Spirit of God. What a wonderful partnership that is!

this day with you.

 

Let Jesus, the Christ, into your heart, into your mind, and let His brightest of all lights shine on your path today. Recognize Him for who He is, and seek His guidance and direction; He will take every step of this day with you.

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.

Job 19:25

 

When I wake up in the morning, when I go to sleep at night, every step of my day; there is little that is certain except Job’s simple statement. Yet contained in it are many deep and remarkable thoughts.

 

I have a Redeemer; One who has purchased me out of sin’s slavery, One who has provided me with a refuge from the attacks that are inevitable for God’s family, One who has moved me out of the shack that I lived in and into his mansion. I am no longer lost, wandering in the desert of hopelessness with my eternity in peril; I am redeemed!

 

My Redeemer is a living one; he is as powerful and his presence is as vital today as it was at the beginning of time. He never changes, he never diminishes, he is never distant. The Lord is totally involved with my life; he does not ever look upon his work in me as finished, and he continually guides me through life. Jesus, my Redeemer, provides the force of life to my soul.

 

Finally, God gives us a promise, there is a glorious future as well. In the end, the Lord will return to earth and Creation’s perfect order will be restored. I will be living in the sinless world that God intended. I will be in God’s presence and all of Creation will be singing songs of joy. Until then, however, my life is filled with worship and praise for the One who brought me into a life that can be lived today in that future reality. My Redeemer lives and he lives in me!  

 

 

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