May 2009

If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians 5: 18


There is an order to the way that the entire world functions; the rules and the controlling principles were embedded into its genetic coding by God in order to prevent chaos from ruling. What matters most for people is where we align our hearts and our minds in order to receive the direction and guidance that we all need to successfully make it through this complex life that we live.


Once we have made a decision to leave behind the controlling influence of evil and turn our hearts toward God, we still need to take one more very important step. God designed a rule of law into Creation, and it will get us through the day with minimal missteps and wrong turns; however, the law demands perfection from us so very imperfect beings. Errors, mistakes, and wrong choices are inevitable when we choose to orient our moral compass toward the law.


The Lord offers us another choice, for He sent His Spirit to live in, among, and with us. We can choose to seek out a deep, personal, and powerful relationship with the Spirit of God that will profoundly change the way that we view life. When we seek to stay filled with the Spirit, our view of life and the vantage point from which we view it are changed; we gain a Heavenly perspective on life that allows us to live boldly, confidently, and in a form of freedom that does not exist outside of this intimate relationship with God. When I am filled with God’s Spirit, there is lightness and a buoyancy to my life that is without compare.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Galatians 5: 16


We talk a lot about the joy of living in a relationship with Christ, and this condition of the heart and attitude of the mind is very real to me; yet, there is another quality of the God-me relationship that seems almost contradictory. There is a weightiness to it all that is actually vital for me to take seriously if I am to truly embrace the joy.


Paul is telling us that we should not be light weights as we navigate our way through life; we should be leaving deep, noticeable footprints behind us. Although Jesus promised us that God’s burden is light, what He actually meant was that we would be able to live as the Lord calls us to live due to the supernatural weight handling capabilities of the Spirit of God. In other words, we won’t have to deal with less and what we encounter won’t become less challenging and serious; instead, Christ actually leads us into engagement with people’s lives at the deepest and most real of levels, and we all know that entering into honest and deep interaction with people puts us on a very heavy journey.


For myself, I know that I would prefer to stay on the surface where things are easy and people can always say that they are fine, where smiles are used as greetings instead of tears, and in situations in which everyone can concentrate on me. The Spirit of God doesn’t let me stay there; when I choose to fill myself with the Spirit, He compels me to the deeper engagement. God also drives me away from the self-centered focus that my natural self wants to seek. When I look outwardly with the eyes of God and seek to bring His love into the lives of others, my heart is filled with the joy of Christ’s presence, and the resources, the understanding, and the capability to meaningfully enter into theses lives is provided by God.


Jesus walked with the heavy footprints of a world changer; He calls on us to do the same. Travel through this day with the serious intent to leave behind a noticeable trail of steps that lead straight to the throne of God.

Jesus said, “The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 22: 34


What does Jesus really mean when He quotes this Old Testament passage? He had just responded to a question that was intended to trick Him, and the first half of the answer, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” makes sense; it may be a very challenging thing to do, for it is an impossibility without Christ, and without His ongoing presence in my life, I don’t even come close to living out this command. Still, this second command that Jesus gives to us is in some ways even more challenging.


If love my neighbor is expressed in kind acts such as clearing snow from their walks or picking up trash from their front yards, that is no real problem; if it looks like greeting them when I see them, this is fairly easy, too. If my neighbor is defined as the people who live close to me, that is also relatively easy, for they are mostly just like me; therefore, they are rather safe people to engage with, at least at this level. I am absolutely certain that this was not Jesus’ definition of neighbor, for none of this applied to Him; He had no permanent house, He didn’t stay on the same well known street of the same town, and He interacted with a wide range of people, none of them like Him.


What Jesus is commanding us to do is a lot bigger and a lot more risky than any of this casual neighborhood interaction, for He is telling us to redefine our concept of neighborhood to include the entire world around us; Christ came to love all of the people of this world in a manner that would bring them back to an intimate, a personal relationship with God. Jesus loved people by engaging with them in their lives, by hearing their sorrows, and by healing their wounds and soothing their greatest fears. He met the soul deep needs of dying people. That is what He commands us to do.


As Christ is in us, we must give away His love to the people that live in our neighborhood; this is not an optional part of our lives as Christians, and it is not something that others who are called to be evangelists or missionaries do. This is the second great commandment from God to each of us. Loving others is the actual expression of the first commandment; this is how the Lord wants us to demonstrate our love for Him. Today is the day to ask someone about their life, be interested in the pain in their heart, and today is the day to tell that person about the real, effective answer to your own needs that you have received through Jesus.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!

Isaiah 43: 1b


How much more would you do, what situations you would engage and which lives would you enter into if you truly believed that there was nothing to fear, absolutely nothing that could harm you in any real way. This is what God is promising; we are already redeemed from everything that can hold us down or that constrains us. This includes all of the big deal type things in our lives and it includes each of those nagging little things, too.


Most importantly, it includes our eternal souls, for Christ paid for us with His life’s blood, and that plan of redemption from the death grip of sin was planned from the very beginning of time. The Lord is in control, and this sovereign God knows me by name; He has always known me, and still, He wanted to pay the heavy price of redemption for me. The Lord boldly and proudly claims me as His own!


Therefore, I think that the greatest antidote to the nagging disability that is fear is to claim and to proclaim the personal and specific way that God knows me. The Lord is completely aware of the inadequacies that plague me; He sees the inner working of my heart, and God designed all of my strengths into me, too. Since He is fully aware of what I can do and of the areas where my skills are weakest, the Lord will lead and direct me into places, situations, and relationships where His Spirit will utilize my strengths and where my weaknesses will be supported. 


Claim the reality of how well God knows you and let that strength and courage lead you to seek out someone who can’t make that claim because they do not know God; then, help that person build a bridge across the chasm of fear that separates that person’s soul from eternity.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.

2 Corinthians 10: 3


Just in case this reality has passed you by, let me say this in very simple terms, for children of God, life is is lived on a battlefield. There are traps and pitfalls, wounds to bind, fear to overcome, and an aggressive and relentless enemy who opposes us. In order to come through the day with our hearts and minds whole we need to stay close to the source of the truth that equips us for the fight and that leads us through it.


This is where the conditioning of a lifetime and the hard work that we have put into developing ourselves comes to odds with God’s way, for when we are dealing with the routine and the human aspects of living, it may seem that this approach is more than adequate; so, logic suggests that it is only when the struggle takes on a spiritual dimension that we may need to employ God’s truth to the conflict. The flaw in this concept is that there is no aspect of life in this world that does not have a spiritual component to it; there is nothing that is exempt from the interaction of evil and from resolution through the involvement of the Spirit of God.


In order to engage the battle of life fully equipped, we must actively seek God’s truth each and every day, stay covered by it as we go through the day, and keep developing the relationship with the Lord that is central to loving His truth. Truth is effective, it works, and as truth works in my life, I come to trust it even more; then, as my trust increases, my desire to know more of it does, too. For me the central element in this process of embracing truth; thus, the core element for living in the center of God’s victory each day is found in continually getting to know the Lord on a deeper and more intimate level. The better I know Him, the more I realize and accept that His love for me is infinite and that His truth is designed to allow me to live in the center of that love.

And so not get drunk on wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.

Ephesians 5: 18


There are some things that are so important that we are commanded to do them; this is one of the most important of those commands for the Christian. This is an extremely powerful statement that Paul makes, for he could not have constructed the language of it with more force. It is made more powerful by the contrastive negative statement that comes first.


“Don’t get drunk” is, of course, a reference to over indulgence in alcohol, but if we stop there, the true point has been lost; in the time that this was written, this was a direct reference to the worship of the god Dionysus, the Greek god of wine; we are commanded to stop filling ourselves up on false gods like worldly pursuits, our jobs, our activities, pleasure, and religion, for when we do this, we don’t leave room in our hearts for the Holy Spirit of God to take charge and to transform us.


Instead, we must, let me repeat that, we MUST continually seek out and yield to the Spirit of God, and allow His very real presence a place of dominance in every aspect of our daily lives. This verse more literally says that we must keep being kept filled with the Spirit. The first step to making this our own reality happens when we realize our total need and absolute dependence; without this continual filling of the Spirit of God, we are not living in the fullness of the Christian life. With it, the God of the Universe is a part of every breath I breath throughout my day.


Like all things in our relationship with God, this is a choice that we are allowed to make; yet, Paul, with his deep knowledge of how people function, commands us to keep filling up our leaky vessels with the Spirit of the Living God. Stay in prayer, keep reading the Bible, and become close with people of faith; get rid of the distractions and all of the empty calories of the soul that we enjoy consuming; then, actively seek God’s Spirit, and delight in the new life that you will be living.

Day and night they did not cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.”

Revelation 4: 8b


As I sit here this morning looking out onto Lake Michigan, I see an absolutely undiminished sun rise; there are no clouds, haze, or anything else restricting the brilliant glory of the sun. It is a powerful yet calming picture; the energy and the intensity of the light coming from the sun is set against the horizon wrapping expanse of softly rippled blue that is the lake. This is an intense God revealed in nature type of moment. Yet, this is nothing, this is as the darkest moment in the blackest of nights in comparison to the scene that John is describing from his visionary visit to the throne room of God in Heaven.


Still, in the presence of all that is glorious, those who know and serve God are continually engaged in prayer; they speak their love, understanding, recognition, adoration, and praise for the Lord of the Universe. This is the constant expression of their hearts as they stand before God. I will point out that they do not have any needs, for they reside in the continual presence of God and He has eliminated all needs, worries, and concerns.


Sometimes I wonder if we are not missing something in the way that we approach our relationship with God; consider that, in and through Christ, we, too, do not have any needs that will not be met; our lives are in the hands of the Almighty Lord of the Universe; and He loves each of us totally. Although, I believe completely that God wants us to talk with Him about everything and to take all of our cares and concerns to Him; I do think that most of us don’t spend enough of our prayer time doing what those who are gathered around the throne of God in Heaven are doing; remember, we are there, too.


Here is a challenge for today; as you pray, focus on God Himself; speak of

his character, attributes, and worthiness; as you do this don’t be concerned about repetition, for those who surround God seem to have reduced it all to a few simple phrases. Try this and see how God speakes back to your heart.

Jesus prayed, “I in them and You in me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that You did send Me, and did love them, even as You did love Me.”

John 17: 23


Sometimes I wonder what Jesus would say about the amount of time and effort that we put into building our own churches; we focus on the distinctives that make us unique, we work on the programs that fill our calendars, the public image that we portray takes on a slick marketing quality, and our focus becomes very fine when we start to discuss the differences between other churches and us. Now, there is nothing wrong with gathering as children of God to praise, worship, and study Him; in fact, God commands us to do this; however, there is a problem with our organizational mentality when the structure of the organization and it’s importance become barriers to moving toward the entire body of Christ.


Jesus came into our lives in order to bring those who were far off near (Ephesians 2: 13); thus, He came to bring us together. There is strength, power, a voice, gathered knowledge, and mighty wisdom in the assembling of Christ’s body, the church. When we move together, governments topple, systems of rule disintegrate, love moves through the land, hearts are changed, and the cause of Christ is made more visible in our world. When we come together, setting aside our minor differences and concerns in order to seek out that which we hold as common and that which is the essence of our Lord’s will, we begin to demonstrate the splendor and the majesty of the promised new Jerusalem (Revelation 21), and consider this, what rational being would not want to secure a place in that city?


Worship style, hair style, bible translations, age, political views, minor doctrinal points (most doctrinal points once they move beyond Christ come, crucified, and risen are minor), and everything else that we hold onto that keeps us separate are of little to no real Kingdom importance. Why not take the first step toward unity? Consider who you want to get to know from another church gathering, ask your pastor if he meets with pastors of other churches regularly and if he doesn’t ask him why not and offer to help set it up and offer to pay for the meal. Look at the things that other churches are accomplishing in your community and go to them with an offer of help and support. Purposefully pray for them and with them; seek out God’s moving across your entire church community.


Christ is our common bond of unity; the Lord proclaims this to be so. It is up to each of us to make the decision to step out of our comfortable gathering place and group and toward other people of faith; then, we begin to move toward the perfect unity that Jesus asked the Father to grant us.

But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

2 Timothy 4:5


Paul to his disciple, Timothy; the Lord to His disciples, you and I, the message has not changed, and it will not ever change; we are to take the business of serving God with a seriousness that makes it the singular most important thing that we do. The challenge to this comes in the form of distractions, disillusionment, and discouragement; so, the message that God lays on our hearts comes out in a weakened and altered form that bears little or no resemblance to the truth that the Lord revealed to us.


Sometimes the hardships that we will need to endure come in the form of tangible fear and loss, these are times of true persecution, rejection, and danger that come our way due to our zeal for living and for sharing God’s truth; at other times, the hardships that we may need to endure are generated in our own minds, these are the times when we fear the response that we will get or when we seek to soften the message of truth that God has given to us. At times like these, I find that the sense of frustration and the degree of personal disappointment that I feel are very real hardships.


At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if we are serving God as our occupation or not, the calling and the mandate are the same; serving God is a full-time, all the time, never off duty type of occupation. Everyone who knows God needs to set aside all of the things that get us off track, seek out the heart of God through reading His word and prayer, and go through our day serving the eternal and the current life needs of people by serving our God.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 1: 20


Here are some of the common themes that are expressed in our culture today:

God is distant

God is distracted

God is an abstraction

There is no God


Yet, when God formed the universe, at the time that he breathed life into this world; he left himself in all of it. look closely at the variety and the exquisite detail in flowers; consider the diversity of taste, texture, growing environment, and abundance of fruit; look into the sky and see the majesty of the Creator. There is so much more; birds, fish, other animals, insects, and micro organisms; they all work in balance to achieve an on going and sustainable world. Think about the complexity of DNA coding and the wonder of speech and language. The mark of the Creator is on everything. Nothing is random, nothing is happenstance.


All that surrounds us and all that we are was designed by God to serve one eternal purpose; all of creation demonstrates the very existence of God, and everything is a part of a portrait that depicts his intimate involvement and total engagement with this world. However, creation’s primary purpose is to draw people to the Lord; every aspect of this world speaks of his loving nature and about his everlasting might; everything was designed to point people to God.

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