March 2009

For this is the will of God, that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of foolish people.

1 Peter 2: 15


Our world speaks in loud and continual voices; there is a relentless and all-pervasive level of noise that becomes the background to life. We are pounded and pummeled into a sort of insensitivity, and that is one of the primary objectives of the one who is behind all of this auditory clutter.


Evil wants us to be bombarded and pounded with half truths and with misinformation to the degree that we can no longer distinguish what is true from what is false. Then, we can become like soldiers who have been hit by days of artillery fire; we get disoriented, confused, discouraged, and wounded to the degree that we can stop listening to God’s truth and start buying into the destructive message of Satan.


God tells us that the answer to the clutter and the noise that will surround us is to defeat its intent through action, by doing right. I have found that right doing can involve many different types of action; it can be a good thing done for a neighbor, an encouraging note, an unexpected gift given, or engagement in another person’s life. Right actions are found in our work place and in our community; they are accomplished in a moment and over a lifetime. The most fundamental of all right actions is accomplished by getting onto our knees before God; it is amazing how silent the voices foolishness become when our ears and our hearts are communicating with the Lord.


Wisdom has only one source, and listening to God’s voice directs us to living wisely. Acting on the Lord’s direction silences the foolishness that surrounds us.   


The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee, He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

John 1: 43


This is one of those simple statements that carries much more meaning and implication than the words themselves could possibly state. Jesus makes a request; it is not a command unless Philip decides to actually follow; yet, Philip’s life is totally changed in a moment of decision. He will never again walk the same path through his world as he has before, for he will never view that world from the same vantage point as before. Following Jesus changes our perspective from an earth-bound and self- centered one to the heavenly vantage point of God.


Have you ever been traveling along a highway and encountered a major construction project? A project that is so large that the entire identifiable roadway is gone; so, the contractor needs to stop traffic and provide groups of cars with a guide through the dangers of the construction zone; this guide vehicle is called a “Follow Me” and doing just that is the only truly safe way to navigate through that area. Life is often a major construction project, too.


God knows that our world is full of chaos and confusion, and there is real danger surrounding us. The Lord wants to provide us with complete yet easily followed directions for making it through the day; so, He takes the complexity of living and reduces it to some very simple instruction, Jesus says, “Follow me.”


Following Jesus means deciding to allow His approach to life dominance over my own; it means giving up my own intended direction for the day to travel His path. It means responding in love rather than with justifiable anger, accepting difference instead of defending my viewpoint, seeking to heal when I could be right, giving away what I have worked so hard to get, and standing up against what is oppressive when that could cost me greatly. Yet, Jesus says, “Follow me”, and you will be seated with Me in Heaven; following Jesus takes us to the high mountain where God lives and where we can see life and love the people of our lives as He does.  


The Mighty One, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.

Psalm 50: 1


Song, prayer, joyous greeting, tears, dancing, raising of hands, reading God’s word, teaching its truths, and learning through the Spirit’s touch are all a part of a time that we call worship. God delights in the times that His children gather together and share with each other the expression of our relationship with Him. There is something very special and truly wondrous in the way that God’s voice is heard in the gathering of His people. 


God speaks to everyone; He provides the essential knowledge of who He is and of how He desires to meet the most fundamental needs that we all have. Still, God speaks through people; He gives every one of His children understanding, knowledge, and wisdom to share, and the Lord directs us to interact with each other in ways that bring us closer together as people and that open up our hearts and our minds to the needs and to the possibilities that exist in our communities.


Whether the gathering is with one or with one hundred, God delights in it; in a time of silent prayer and meditation and in a room filled with raucous shouting of praises to our Lord, He is joyfully present. Although God enjoys the artistic expression of our love for Him, He doesn’t actually care if the floor of our worship hall is made of mud and the walls are falling down or non-existent. All of the beauty and the splendor that are required by the presence of a king are provided by the King, Himself. Every bit of decoration that God wants to see in our worship halls is found in the hearts of His people; God is not impressed with the things that we build, His joy is with us.


Come and gather, leave isolation and individuality behind, join together in praise and worship of the Savior of your soul and the protector of your heart. Strength, comfort, and family are found in the gathering of God’s people. 


It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Philippians 2: 13


When I was a youth, there was a summer where growth and change took over my body; I grew three inches taller and actually lost a considerable amount of weight in just a few weeks. From my viewpoint, I knew that things were changing, but my sense of the change was less than that of people who saw me after it had happened. I did experience pain, for my joints ached; and I had some really awkward moments; since, my hands and my feet did not know where they were in relation to the rest of the world.


God does some remarkably similar things in us; I doubt that He will make you much taller, but He will give you the confidence to hold your head a lot higher. He won’t necessarily cause you to lose weight, but He will carry the load of life for you. Just like in my growth spurt, you may not notice the dramatic ways that you are changing, but others will see a new person emerging.


In Christ, we are new persons; people who have been reoriented, made right and righteous, and have our relationship to God restored. Whether we are four, forty, or at any age, and throughout all of life, we grow and mature as the Spirit of God does the amazing and loving transformational work that He has planned for each of us. For every personal trainer, mentor, guru, yogi, pastor, and coach who has ever worked with people is a mere shadow of God; He knows us from the heart out, and He plans for our greatest good in ways that are beyond the capability of any human.


The growth pains and awkward moments that do come as we are on this life-long path of transformation are simply minor bumps in the road, reminders of how far we had to go and of how very far we have come in the journey of being transformed into the living image of Christ.

If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would have lived in the land of silence.

Psalm 94: 17


Cut off, shut out, and with no place to go; this is what life can feel like when the bad seems to be so much greater than the good. It can be like a dream where you are swimming alone in the middle of the ocean when you suddenly forget how to swim, and you realize that you are carrying your most precious possession which weighs several hundred pounds; there just are no good options, no obviously desirable choices, and no one to hear your cries of distress.


We are designed to want to have a voice; we need to have an audience for the joy and for the pain of our days, and our best thinking and problem solving is often accomplished when we can do it with another. God created us to be social and interactive beings; so, this is all normal. Yet, we are told to be quiet, to be strong, to tough it out , and to rely on our own resources; there are many voices that we will hear that say that in order to be fully realized and to become all that we are capable of being that we need to live in our own strength. These are not voices that are speaking God’s truth, and they are not truly leading us in a direction that will improve our quality of life, either. These are the expressions, some well intentioned and some deliberately harmful, of  a perspective on living life that is motivated by evil’s desire to see us separated, isolated, and vulnerable.


The Lord seeks for us to draw near to Him; He will always listen, and He will respond. My loving Father, my God, brings me from the place of confusion and of despair to one of supernatural calm and clarity. He lets my heart cry out in joy and in sorrow, and He cares for me in all of the circumstances of life. God also brings people into my day who will listen and who bring encouragement, wisdom, and heavenly perspective to the situations that I am involved with. God never leaves me alone, and He does not want me to ever believe that I need to make any of my life decisions in isolation. In Christ, I am heard; in Christ, I am lovingly supported and provided with wisdom beyond measure.


We have our hope set on the living God, who is the savior of all people, especially all of those who believe.

1 Timothy 4: 10


What does it mean to be alive? Is it that respiration is continuing, lungs moving and heart pumping blood; sure, that is a part of it. What about having a brain that is functioning and where the patterns of electrical impulse are not too random; that too is useful in people. Yet, these ways of defining what it means to be alive have little to do with the how God is alive beyond the important aspect of life in which He has complete control over these and all other operations of each of our bodies.


God is the vital life force of the universe; He set it into motion, and He keeps it from spinning off into chaos and ruin. The Spirit of God is everywhere in Creation, He touches it all from the smallest particle to the largest planet, and He cares about everyone of us people who populate this world with absolute love and grace.


We may tend to think that once we have come to know God personally that His saving work is finished in us, but He continues to be intimately involved with us in order to bring each of us closer to Him and to lead us into love. The Lord wants us to love Him and to love each other in ways and with the depth that He brings to relating with us; thus, He continues to show us His heart, and He leads us away from the evil that tries to disrupt our lives.


God is alive in my life; He is the central living force in the world; the Lord is dynamic so that He is capable, available, and involved in all situations and for all aspects of my life. Every drop of true vitality that flows through me, and all of the impulse to love others well and to live righteously that drives my better actions come from God and are provided by His Spirit. Therefore, the best approach to living this day well is too start in close and focused interaction with God; thus, His hope for the day can take over where, otherwise, my apprehensions would tend to be in control, and the love that the Lord brings to everyone will replace the fears that my heart would more naturally set into motion. Christ, alive in me and vital in my world, is the only true hope for this day, and there is nothing more that I actually need.


Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for You are my praise.

Jeremiah 17: 14


Healing and salvation, salvation and healing, God provides them both; He gives them as the center piece of His gracious love for people. The Lord provides the pathway to His presence, and He heals our souls of the sin that separates us from Him and that sickens our relationships with other people.


God’s approach to us is somewhat like the way that medical practices connect with us. He makes the information about who He is, where to find Him, and how to contact Him readily available. The Lord seeks us out and speaks with a clear voice to everyone, but if we don’t choose to listen and to respond, He doesn’t try to force us to see Him. This has been true throughout my relationship with Him, for God never demands that I turn to His solution for my ailments; yet, His way is always the right one.


It is also true that when God heals, we are healed; and when God saves, we are saved; His power, knowledge, and ability are total, and they are absolute; there is no malpractice, and no second opinions are ever needed.  As God works in us, we are not just restored, we are made better and stronger than we were before. The Lord wants us to be healthy and high functioning, and as we choose to allow Him to heal our hearts, He becomes the source of all that is praiseworthy in and through us.

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