June 2009


You will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.

Isaiah 12: 3

 

Giving my life to Christ, making the decision to serve and to follow Him, leads to a form of freedom that is utterly unique and that is so total that it completely changes the nature of my being. As the very nature of Jesus penetrates to the depths of my soul, I am profoundly changed, and the way that I have thought and lived becomes foreign to my new identity. This is the transformation that Christ brings to my life, and it that permeates the core of my being. Then, what was strange and foreign becomes normal and natural, what was antagonistic becomes comfortable. The Lord works in me and on me to cause the basic orientation of my life to go from one that is distant, separated, and at odds with His will to become one that is close, united, and that understands God’s truth.

 

God intends for us to find joy in our relationship with Him; He gets pleasure out of seeing us laugh and out of picking up the weight of living so that we can walk through our days with our heads held high and our feet bouncing. Although salvation does refer to the eternal state of our souls, it also applies to the current state of our hearts and minds. Christ saves us from the oppression of guilt and sin; He frees us from the burden of a must do life, and fills us with the water of freedom that establishes a new standard for performance that is dictated by the law of love and grace. We desire to do because the actions bring honor to God and since the result of our actions is to focus others on Him.

 

Come and join me by planning to go deeply into your relationship with the Lord, let Him fill your being with His peace, comfort, and love; then, let these qualities bring a sense of completeness and understanding to your heart that will spill out to bless the lives of the people that you interact with today. The Lord calls for us to come to Him and to draw upon Him all through our day; He continually gives the water of joy to satisfy the deep thirst of our souls.

You crown the year with your bounty; your paths overflow with abundance.

The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy,

The meadows cloth themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.

Psalm 65: 11-13

 

For me the most vivid and remember able moment from the film The Sound of Music is the one where Julie Andrews is on the mountain top singing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” As she dances alone with the Alps in the background and the lush green of her world underfoot, she is carried away into a deep part of God’s creation, and her next words, “With songs they have sung for a thousand years”, speak of her real understanding of God’s long term design and plan.

 

We, too, can stand in the middle of a green mountain pasture, a sand dune in the desert, a field of grain, or a pocket park in the center of a city and see and feel the creative energy and the Divine imagination that is behind it all. Everything that is on the earth, every plant, insect, animal, and each geological feature was designed and placed by the Creator, and it was all done for my benefit. God wants to relate to people, to all of us, and His greatest delight is found in the times when we come to Him and share our lives with Him. God’s art gallery is filled with the portraits of His children, and even when He looks at natural beauty, His pleasure is greatest when we are enjoying and being blessed by it. The Father gave us a world that is filled with the resources that we would require to meet our physical needs, and He granted us the responsibility to care for it and to cultivate it. From this we were given the dignity to live purposeful lives, and God also promises to stay close to us through it all so that we can find comfort, direction, and satisfaction from our labor despite the unending struggle that is a part of living in a fallen and corrupted world.

 

Take some time today to look around and see the finger prints of God on the world; slow down the pace of getting from here to there for the moment that is required to smell the fragrance of a flower and to hear the beating of a bird’s wing. Let the cooling breeze touch you cheek and know that this is a part of the love song that God wrote just for you. This world was designed and created for our benefit and pleasure by God, who is delighted when we are joyful.

Jesus said, “Do not fear, only believe.”

Mark 5: 36b

 

I believe.

A simple statement that opens the door to a transformed life; it sets in motion a chain of events that has no stopping place in this life and that goes on into eternity.

 

I believe says:

I can risk taking the first taste,

Being the point person,

Stepping off into the void of space,

Walking along that dark street,

Opening my heart to love.

 

I believe leads me to say:

I trust,

I have faith,

I yield,

I proclaim His glory.

 

I believe means:

I am alive, for Christ is alive in me,

Love replaces fear,

Joy removes sorrow,

Hope drives out doubt.

 

I believe causes me to have trust and faith in the Eternal Constant who won’t let me down, hold me back, or cause me to fail.

 

I believe in Jesus!

When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Matthew 10: 19, 20

 

Although it is possible and people do face formal hearings in courts and before tribunals for their faith in Christ almost every day, this is not the reality that the majority of us have to consider. However, if we are truly living for Christ and letting our world know who we are and why we are that way, there will be many times when we will wish that the attacks we are undergoing were as defined and orderly as those that come in a court of law. Evil comes at us from every conceivable direction, and there is no end to the cunning and the force of these assaults.

 

The first thing that I tend to do when this happens is to try to defend myself; this can be a very frustrating and often futile endeavor, for hurt, fear, and anger take over my reason; thus, the peace, joy, and love of Christ are pushed to the back of my mind. When this is my operating state of being, it becomes almost impossible to be a living testimonial for the God that I serve, and Satan wins that round of the fight.

 

A moment here, a situation there, this is all that evil gets in my life, for Christ has already claimed the eternal victory; I am His, and He is in me; yet, Satan still tries to crush our effectiveness as servants of God under the weight of guilt, failure, accusation, and overt aggression. When the crushing pressure and the disabling anxiety start to become overwhelming, it is time to stop trying to create my own defense, and it is time to go deeper into my knowledge and understanding of Christ. God’s word and His Spirit always speak truth to my agitated and scramble mind, and He always provides the necessary words plus the timing and method for delivery of those words.

 

Christ is my lawyer, He advocates for me; yet, unlike attorneys in this world, He has provided me with a total coverage, nothing left out, and nothing extra legal services plan, and He wrote the check for the fee with His own blood. When the accuser comes after us, and he will, be still, open your mind to the voice of the Spirit within you, seek God’s unchanging wisdom and council from His word, and allow your undefeated and unbeatable advocate the opportunity to speak for you. Then, you too will be unbeatable!

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46: 10, 11

 

There are times when the best thing that I can do is to just stop. Stop moving, talking, planning, considering, contemplating, worrying, debating, deciding, and solving; just be … just be truly … just be absolutely … still; go to the level of calm where all I can hear is my own heart beating, and then allow it to slow and embrace the stillness.

 

When I get all settled in, and the world around me stops pulling at my mind, the voice of God starts to fill my heart, and His words are like a whispered promise and like the roaring of ocean waves against the rocks, and they speak of His love and of His peace; the Lord reminds me that He won’t ever leave me for He meant it when He spoke His wedding vows to me. My heart hears God’s love song, and it is a song that seems to have been written especially for me, for He speaks about my life, my fears and concerns, and my glorious future with Him.

 

It is in the stillness that God speaks most clearly; these are the times when my mind just gives up on trying to solve it all and  when I stop feeding my tired heart the adrenalin of my own attempts to run the race of life on my own and in my strength. The Lord says that I just need to listen to Him and reflect on who He is and what He has done throughout history. Just be still, and know with all of my being, know from the depths of my soul that there is only one God, and He is my loving Lord and Savior.

As servants of God we commend ourselves in many ways: … as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

2 Corinthians 6: 4a, 10

 

 

As we navigate our paths through this life, there are many ways that we can seek to be known, and there are also many things that we will be remembered for. Some of the actions of my life to date have been good and worthwhile and others have been considerably less so. What matters now is the life that I choose to live starting with today, the way that I decide that I want to live it, the impact that I seek to have on other people, and, most importantly, how responsive I will be to God’s voice as He seeks to lead me through every day.

 

It seems that it is the personal decision aspect of this relationship with the Lord that Paul is talking about in this section of his letter, for how we commend or approve ourselves, from God’s viewpoint, is based on the way that we live, and it is especially based on the love that we demonstrate to others and the resultant impact that we have on the lives of others. We can either give them a living, breathing image of Christ to help them see His unending and total love, or we can leave people with such a bitter taste that they try with all of their might to avoid anything and anyone that is identified with Jesus. This is the choice that we get to make, Christ is the one who will lead, council, and empower the decision, if we let Him.

 

For this day I seek to let God’s Spirit make me deeply saddened by the pain, suffering, and loss that is found in the lives of the people around me while showing these same people the joy that is found in Christ; thus, I need to live as one who is joyous despite all else. Let me live in a way that empties myself of all ego, self-praise, and glory seeking; and that shares the wealth of the Lord with those around me. Finally, I desire to set aside my position, intellect, and any sign of arrogance; then, I desire to allow Christ to be who and what others see when I speak and act. We each have a list of the ways that we impede others from seeing the glory of God when they meet us; examine your own life and ask the Lord to take these things away and to show Himself through all that you do.

For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

John 6: 33

 

We all become hungry, and everyone needs to find food. For some people this search is what consumes a major portion of the day, and for others the only searching that happens is that evening shuffle through all of the boxes, bags, and jars in the pantry and refrigerator that becomes a nightly ritual as we seek a satisfying snack. Yet, there is another form of hunger that is absolutely universal and that never gets completely satisfied.

 

We are born with hungry souls; they are malnourished, and even the most loving of mothers can’t do more than point us toward the source of that food; we are the ones who decide to accept the giver and thus receive eternal nourishment. Jesus is the imperishable manna that God promised from the very beginning of Creation; He brings much more than a snack to our hearts, for He fills us with the total banquet feast of God.

 

Even after we have accepted Christ and entered into that relationship, our hearts and minds still need to be fed; since, without the ongoing and continuous transformational filling of God’s Spirit we won’t grow and develop as rapidly and as completely as we could. Christ not only gives us a soul with an unending existence, He also gives us a present life with no end of strength, encouragement, and purpose. The Lord provides the feast, it is up to each of us to come and eat. Be filled on the Spirit of God throughout this day.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being.

Ephesians 3: 14-16

 

Families take on many forms; what is the norm or traditional in one society is odd in another, and those normative conventions change over time, too. Some of us have very strong connections to large extended families, some have very small immediate ones that we are close to, and others don’t have a need to exchange Christmas cards with even one blood relative. Each person has a story that involves how we got to where we are, and that story always involves a long chain of people that we identify as family.

 

God’s view of this aspect of existence seems to be just a bit different; His definition of family is a lot less changeable and much more consistent than ours. The Lord considers all people to be His family, and He doesn’t ever categorize any of us as people that He doesn’t want to be close to, either. He goes looking for us when we are distant, and He travels to the farthest reaches of the planet to find us; God willingly searches the very depths of our souls to find us when we are hiding in the darkness of fear, denial, and separation. God has given us His Spirit to be with and even in everyone who will allow Him the access so that we won’t ever be alone and so that we will never be on our own, either. He leaves the greatest of celebrations to travel to most miserable places on the earth in order to comfort, strengthen, and restore any one of us who is lost.

 

The Creator’s design for family is much bigger and far greater than what we can imagine from our earth bound viewpoint. He wants us to find the strength, encouragement, and love that we need in order to thrive in life in and through His family. We are connected to people through the Spirit of God; He brings everyone who opens his heart to Him into a family that has an eternal focus and an enormous family tree that runs from Adam and Eve all the way to the last person that will be born. I want to give thanks to God for this family and for each and every person who is a part of it, and I praise God for giving me the strength that comes from being surrounded by people who are my own Spirit relatives.

Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord!

Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord!

May the Lord bless you from Zion, He who made heaven and earth!

Psalm 134

 

When God asks me to come to Him with words of praise and expressions of my recognition of who and what He is and of how the Lord is involved in my life, He needs nothing from me; what He is doing is getting me to stop the whirlwind that is my life and spend some time focusing on the One who keeps those winds from blowing me over or sucking me off the face of the earth. I truly need to push the pause button on my plans for the day, slow my racing heart, and take a break in which I meditate on God.

 

Even when we are actively engaged in serving the will of the Lord, perhaps especially when we are doing this, it is quite easy to become so focused on what we are doing that we don’t take enough time to open our hearts and minds to Him. The ways of the Lord are complex and my understanding of them is simplistic; He will open my understanding to ideas and to actions that are beyond my wildest imaginings if I will take the time to set aside myself and open up to the Spirit’s filling.

 

As I enter into a time of praise for God, He always starts to speak back to my heart, and He brings a message of joy, encouragement, and enlightenment that fills me with His presence. As I lift my hands toward God, He lifts the weight of life from my heart, and the Lord brings clarity and an understanding of His purpose to my day

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus.

Romans 15: 5

 

When I consider things which are nearly impossible, situations that are almost never going to happen, thinking like others, you know, having a synchronized view of the world and acting in consistent harmony of heart and mind with others, gets a spot near the top of the list of the improbable, unlikely, and impossible. Just try driving in moderately heavy traffic for a while and see how hard it is for the drivers of all of those cars to stay in harmonious agreement about where they are going and the rules of the road that they need to follow. People just don’t want to be conformed, and we certainly don’t want to yield our own perspective to another person’s.

 

Since the idea that people can share a common understanding and think in a unified and harmonious manner seems to be important to God; yet, He made us with this strong, independent and continually inquisitive nature, He must have a plan for accomplishing the desired unity of thinking without crushing the strength of our individuality out of us. This is a part of why God gave us His Spirit to live with and in us in an active and intimately interactive relationship.

 

It is through the Spirit that we gain an understanding of God’s true desires, and it is through His Spirit that we are given the strength of character that is required to truly understanding another person’s perspective and the courage to yield our own viewpoint to that person’s. Engaging in relationships to the depth and with the commitment that is required to make them strong and to continue them over time requires the ability to stick with the other person regardless of the way things are from moment to moment; this is perseverance, and it comes from God. Generally, we also need to be encouraged to stick with other people when there doesn’t appear to be anything to gain from doing that; the Spirit of God brings that sort of encouragement into my heart continually.

 

In Christ we do have the ability to believe, think, and live together in unity; we can possess the peace and the joy of honest yet harmonious relationships, and when this happens, God’s glory shines as a radiant sun that warms the hearts of people throughout the world.

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