June 2009


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.

How precious are your thoughts to me, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!

Psalm 139: 17

 

That period of newness is such an interesting time in our lives; new house, new shoes, new car, new love, and newly committed to Christ have in common a focus, interest, and passion that is hard to find elsewhere. Unfortunately, it always seems to fade, become distracted, and be replaced by a lesser reality, for the roof will leak, the shoes will pinch, the car will stall, your lover will fail to meet all of your needs, and we will become disappointed with God.

 

The Lord wants us to understand His view of all of this; He gives us a perspective that is completely different from our human one; thus, it is quite foreign to my earth-bound soul. When I view the house, shoes, and car as a part of what God gives to me in order to meet good, normal, and natural needs that He designed into me, it is a lot easier to cope with the minor irritants that come along with things that exist in this decaying world. The Spirit of God wants me to understand that God is the source of all love; so, my love relationship is created by Him, and the Lord needs to be at the center of making that relationship successful. As I come to understand these truths, I am led to look at my involvement with my God and to realize that the key to retaining that new love zeal and passion is found inside of my heart and mind.

 

When I look intently at Christ and focus my thoughts on Him, I am brought back toward the intensity of those newly connected days, and my heart is awakened from the apathetic sleep of sameness. As this day unfolds, I need to seek out the Lord’s truth and pursue His understanding for all that I will engage. By seeking out the Lord’s desire for me and by opening my heart to the unlimited potential that He sees for me, I begin to regain the passion for serving Christ and the passionate heart that He has designed to beat in my chest.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5: 20

 

The famous New York City coffee company Chock full o’Nuts uses a marketing tune that refers to their product as “Heavenly Coffee”, and it, no doubt, is quite good; yet, even when brewed with care and perfectly served, there can be no comparison to the rich and full truth about God that John provides for us in these two short sentences. These words are chock full o’life!

 

Understanding is the thing that I believe we need most; ultimately, it matters more than wisdom, for understanding is what directs, focuses, and applies the wisdom that God gives us. Through understanding we are able to pour out love, grant grace, and apply truth in our daily lives. God increases our comprehension of Him and of His ways as we pour our selves out onto His altar of transformation and open our hearts to the filling of His Spirit. Without the unveiling of God’s true self that was accomplished through Jesus, people do not have the ability to fully and completely grasp the totality of God and of His gracious love; thus, the Lord remains a veiled mystery.

 

Through Christ our lives are filled with the gifts that God desires for us to have; among them are peace, joy, comfort, wisdom, grace, purpose, protection, and courage, and by the interaction of God’s Spirit in our lives we are granted the great gift of understanding so that these other gifts can be used to truly bless us and the lives of others. Somehow, I think that this is a picture of the true heavenly coffee, and the aroma of this brew can fill the world with the one eternal fragrance.

Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

1 John 5: 5

 

There are forces all around us in this life that not only can harm us but that  are actively seeking to overcome us; I am not thinking about situations and circumstances that are overwhelmingly difficult; although, they are quite real, I mean that there are spirits and powers that have evil as their core intent. They are set on a coarse of assault, entrapment, and disablement that is placed into every one’s daily path of travel.

 

However, everything that is in opposition to God has already been defeated by Jesus; every human failing, each flawed thought, and all of our unloved and unloving images have become traps with their springs removed by the power of Christ’s love for each of us. We need to accept this reality and believe from the center of our hearts that it is true and that it is my own, personal and absolute truth.

Jesus is the victor in my life and over all that seeks to harm me and to lessen my ability to demonstrate the life changing and transformational love of God in a lost world.

 

Belief leads to faith, which takes us to a place of trust; then, trust allows us to walk with bold confidence through the mine field that is this world while knowing that we are safe in every way that matters. Since I believe in Christ, who has given me the promise of His victory, I can face all of the situations, people, and decisions that will come to me today with the strength and the boldness of the knowledge that the Lord will use them all for His glory.

I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.

John 16: 33

 

Jesus tells things as they are; He had just informed the group of followers who were closest to Him that there would be hard times coming very soon and that during those times, they would not do a very good job of being strong, steady, and faithful to Him. Still, during the hardest moments of His life on earth, Jesus would not be alone, for God, the Father, would never leave Him. Likewise, God never leaves us.

 

Living in this world has its tough moments, its harsh hours, and its tragic days; episodes come to us all where simply living can be a challenge that seems almost impossible. Yet nothing that we are required to endure comes close to the stress, pain, and feeling of abandonment that Christ endured on the cross for each of us. I am absolutely amazed at the fact that Jesus took on so much for me, for you, and for everyone; yet, all the while He knew just how ungrateful and unfaithful we would be. God wants to be close to each of us so much that He would endure anything to make that a possibility.

 

As I go about the business of this day and as I adopt the attitudes that will shape may approach to what comes my way, I am praying that God’s Spirit will keep me remindful of the overwhelming victory that is mine through Christ. I am praying for the trust and the faithfulness to allow Christ to direct my mind, and I desire to claim this day and all of my interactions during it for the glory of God.

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