September 2009


And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” Zechariah 3: 2

This is a strange conversation to imagine with God talking to Satan and saying such powerful yet odd things; although, I do admit that the oddness is not really so far from what I might expect from God, who does say and do some things that are way outside of my usual understanding. So why does God need to speak so sternly to Satan, and what is this little encounter really about?

It would seem that Satan has been going about his usual business of accusing people who love God of being flawed failures, hypocrites, and sinful wrecks so that he can convince us that we are of no earthly good to God’s kingdom and that we should just stop trying to serve the Lord, for we are just getting in the way. This is the sort of thing that evil has been speaking to people since those first whispered lies, and he hasn’t slowed his poisonous outpouring for even a moment since. Thus, when this is the sort of thing that Satan is saying to you or me, we need to consider what is true and what is righteous in our world and tune in our hearts to listen to the voice of Christ as He defends us, and as He provides us with the factual perspective that we need to function well as God’s children.

For the Lord is quick to remind us that we were once much like the stick that is in the center of the blazing fire with our substance being consumed by the heat of sin in our lives; thus, our future was one of waste and certain destruction. Yet, while we were still in the center of the fire, Christ reached out His hand of grace, and He retrieved us and brought us to the safety of His eternal presence; then, the Lord stands mightily before evil and defends us absolutely.

If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

1 Corinthians 8: 2, 3

 

When I think that I know the answers and when I believe that I have gained complete understanding, I am frequently living in the moment right before a big disappointment, for my world often shows me how little of God’s truth about it is in my grasp. When my thinking is out there on its own, and I am feeling confident in what I am thinking; thus, I am not choosing to seek the Lord’s wisdom before I take action, I often find myself lying face down on the floor, trying to figure out who pulled that old slippery rug out from under my feet, and looking for the biggest towel that I can find to get all of the mud off of my chin. 

 

When I need to back up, go back over what I have done and said, and figure out how to start over in the process of solving problems and dealing with people, it is always hard to admit that most of the missteps and wrong solutions were caused because of my own stubborn failure to utilize the best resource available to me in the Spirit of God. 

 

How much better it is to allow that I don’t have the answers and to accept my need for wisdom that is deeper, greater, and more loving than any other form of understanding that is in my world. As I embrace my relationship with God and realize the depth of my love for Him, I am set free from the need to be the authority, and I am empowered to allow that my loving Father will lead me to all the knowledge that I require to handle everything that comes my way in life.

Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech.

Genesis 20: 17

 

This is a story of fear and failure to trust, a tale of how the very human man, Abraham, couldn’t find it in his heart to remain strong, or better, to live in the center of the strength that God grants to His children; thus, Abraham deceived Abimelech and came very close to putting him directly into the path of God’s righteous anger and all of its consequences. Although he was not one of God’s chosen, God came directly to Abimelech and warned him in clear and honestly direct terms about the dangerous coarse that he had entered upon by Abraham.

 

There was a spiritual disaster in the making in these events, for here was a man who God, Himself, had visited and had eaten a meal with, a man who was to become known as a “friend of God”; still, Abraham was allowing fear, uncertainty, and his inability to trust God above his own understanding to cause him to fail miserably in his mandate to bring the Lord’s truth and His loving grace into the lives of the seeking souls around him. Still, the Lord’s plans and His will are greater than anything that we people are capable of doing to thwart them; also, through His grace, God permits us to redeem the catastrophic situations that we create.

 

So God called upon Abraham to enter into a time of focused and concentrated prayer on behalf of Abimelech in order to seek healing for him. Whatever my have been hurting or diseased with Abimelech’s body, it was his soul that needed healing, for he would never be whole until he had surrendered his own life to the God of all Creation; thus, this is what Abraham sought for the his new friend. This is what God asks all of us to do as well; we are all to seek God’s gracious and saving intervention in the lives of all people without regard for what our past experiences with them might have been like; then, we need to watch in amazement and joy as the Lord brings these people into common familial relationship with us and with Him.

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
Proverbs 16: 2, 3
 
Isn’t it interesting how what we think about the quality of our own thought processes and the results of all of that planning and contemplation can be be so far apart from the way that God may view the same efforts. It is very easy to become highly focused on the things that seem important, the issues, plans, and desires that are capturing the majority of our attention and energy at any given time; yet, I know that in those same situations I can so readily miss the real truth of God’s wisdom that the outcome of all of that planning can be far removed from what is right and best.
 
This is why it is so important for me to slow down my own thinking and to allow time for God to interact with my heart and my mind so that the ideas that I begin to consider have been formed with the involvement of God’s Spirit, and the actions that I plan to take are ones that will bring glory to God. The Lord is the One who knows the actual intent of my heart, and He wants to show me the righteous way to handle each and every situation that I encounter; thus, He wants me to let Him in on my thoughts and my plans, for the Spirit of God will respond to my concerns, desires, and wishes by helping me discover the truth of His will in everything.
 
There is nothing that I desire to do, and there is no issue that is causing me concern that is too small or insignificant for the Lord’s involvement; also, everything that I seek to accomplish, engage in, or pursue commands the complete interest of God; He will provide all of the wisdom, knowledge, and encouragement that I will need to do it all. God wants me to surrender my will and my own attempts to find the answers to life’s challenges and my desires to His infinitely superior understanding; then, He will provide me with a plan that is guaranteed to succeed.

God shows no partiality.

Romans 2: 11

 

There are times when we simply want someone to be impartial; thus, we could count on that person not prejudging us and our motives and not entering into a conversation with us with the outcome already determined. Also, this idea conjures up the image of being given equal opportunities and of standing on our own merit and being awarded for our own accomplishments. This seems like the ideal world; yet, when I consider my merit and worthiness in contrast to God’s standard of righteous living, I think that I would prefer some sort of special treatment from Him.

 

For impartiality cuts both ways, and my efforts at living as the Lord tells me to live are seriously flawed. Still, God means it when He says that He loves, cares for, protects, guides, and relates to everyone with no regard to where we are from, who our parents were, what we have done, and what we may have believed about Him; God takes us where we are and as we are; from there, He gives Himself totally to everyone who will allow the Spirit of Christ the opportunity to perform His transformational work upon them.

 

The Lord wants me to react to His impartiality toward me by accepting it in its totality; as I embrace the fact that God does take me just as I am and uses all of me as the foundation for performing His amazing and wondrous feats of love in and through me, my sense of worth and status in the eyes of my Father, God, are elevated to the highest of places. Then I am called by God to view others without the prejudices that are natural to people, and instead, Christ shows me how to see the potential that has been created into everyone.

Praise the Lord!

How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments.

Psalm 112: 1

 

There is no doubt in my mind that I have experienced many blessings that have come from God through His active involvement in my life; the Lord does interact with my world in ways that make Him known to me, and He continually brings His wisdom, understanding, and grace to the place where I am currently living. Yet, there are other ways that God blesses me, and these are also very important to me, for they help to draw the complete picture of who, how, and what God is for me.

 

It is truly interesting to note that as I seek the Lord and as I align my attitude toward being receptive to His communication with me, the essential aspects of my life seem to improve; this may not be manifest in a change in a difficult situation or a noticeable turn around in a hard circumstance, but my ability to deal with it all is dramatically impacted. Thus, my comprehension of the blessed state that God has placed me in is enhanced; through the process and the practice of focusing on God and on the deeply life enhancing nature of His truth, my core attitude, my heart, if you will, becomes aligned with God’s will, and I can live in the center of the peace that comes from knowing and understanding His loving grace.

 

This all starts with me on my knees before God, for it is necessary for me to humble myself and to get my own ego and self-generated understanding of life out of the way; then, I start to hear the voice of God as His Spirit speaks to my heart, and the eternal truths of His word flow into me as a healing stream of peace, comfort, and joy.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.

1 Peter 4: 12, 13

 

Maybe you view your own life differently than I do mine, but I really don’t use the expressions “fiery ordeal” and “keep on rejoicing” in the same sentence very often; they just don’t seem compatible to me; also, there is no logical connection between going through the ordeal and describing it as bringing on the rejoicing. This would come close to the sort of bizarre thinking that receives funny stares and that most people would consider to be totally nuts.

 

Yet, God doesn’t ask us to do the things that the world around us considers normal, and He doesn’t hide the truth about the potential challenges that we will face because we choose to follow His way, either. There is real opposition to God’s way of living, and it will come after everyone who desires to serve the Lord; however, God is always with us when it does, and He never fails to bring relief for the pain and healing for the temporary injuries that we suffer in the struggle.

 

These times of hardship, struggles, and suffering serve to focus our hearts and minds on the Lord, and they bring about a clarity of vision that is not found through any other means; since, after going through a very hard time or situation and experiencing the peace, freedom, and joy that Christ brings to me out of it, it is only natural to sing out loudly with praise and worship for my savior.

We urge you, brothers, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.

1 Thessalonians 5: 14

 

This is something that I don’t really want to admit; yet, I have been all of these people, and my way of behaving has certainly required God and the people around me to need to exercise patience. There may not have been any instances when I picked up the furniture and threw it around the room, but I have been angry and frustrated to the point of acting very badly in the presence of others; my personal failure to trust God and to proceed through life with the courage that is fueled by this trust has happened far too many times; and the utter exhaustion that comes from living in this hostile world has taken all of the energy and the will to keep going out of my legs on several occasions.

 

These are all times when God’s direct and personal involvement in my life has been incredibly meaningful, for the Lord never leaves me in a weakened condition for any longer than I require to understand my responsibility for my situation and God’s answer for it. Frequently, the truth that brings me out of the troubled state is provided by people who seek and understand the Lord’s wisdom, and who are willing to follow Christ’s model of engaging honestly in people’s lives.

 

The hardest aspect of this process of engagement is probably God’s requirement that we do it with patience; since, when I have taken the personal risk that is required to enter into a hard conversation with someone, I am ready for that person to embrace my insight and wisdom and just get on with it. However, this is not the way that most of us function, and God wants us to do what is truly primary to Him; that is, He wants us to enter into a relationship with others.

The Lord says,

“I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, in paths they do not know I will guide them.

I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains.

These are the things I will do, and I will not leave them undone.”

Isaiah 42: 16

 

In these words is found one of the really big promises that God has made to me, for he committed that He would give my blind spirit sight and illuminate the darkness that shrouded my heart and my mind, and all that I had to do was trust Him and accept Christ as the answer to my deepest needs. However, I still have a hard time with the trust part of this agreement, for my nature wants to hold onto the control, and my tendency is to overlay the future with the deep-rooted doubts that my mind brings to life; thus, I have the capability to slip back into an operational form of the blindness that was my makeup before the Spirit of God entered my life, and this self inflicted blindness still leads to some troubling episodes of tripping and falling down hard.

 

This world is filled with paths of travel that we can take that are rough, rocky, and dangerous; the routes through life are often shrouded in fog, smoke, and haze; so, when I turn off God’s bright lantern and attempt to travel by the weak light of my own understanding, I am very likely to turn down one of these hard and potentially dangerous paths. Additionally, the landscape is in an ever changing state, for evil keeps moving the street signs, digging craters in the way, and speaking false information into my ears in an attempt to get me disoriented and lost. In case you hadn’t noticed, this world is a hostile environment for people who love God.

 

This is where God proves especially trustworthy, for despite my weakness and failings, He stays true to His word, and He continues to set out the right course for me to follow. The Lord also keeps working in my heart to improve my understanding of Him and of His way to live; thus, God keeps improving the environment where I need to operate. He fills in the holes and He removes the tripping hazards from my path; some of this He does by preparing the path that I will travel for me, and some of it He does by the transforming work that His Spirit does in me. The result is that, by trusting God, I get to witness the reality of His promises in my life, and I am blessed by His presence continually.

I am the Lord, … I will appoint you as … a light to the nations,

To open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those who dwell in darkness from the prison.

Isaiah 42: 7

 

There are so many times when the thing that we need can be one of the most fundamental and basic components of our universe; yet, despite its seeming abundance, true light can be awfully elusive. I know that I can be standing out in the open on the clearest day of the year with the rays of the sun beating down on me and still have a heart that is shaking from the effects of the bitter cold of helplessness and hopelessness that life has poured on it. This condition is real; yet, it is not necessary, for God will bring the light of His truth and love into the center of my being, and His light is of such a great intensity that it will melt away even the hardest frost of these times of living in the winter of despair.

 

The Lord’s light comes into my life in many ways, too, for He has given it to me through my acceptance of Christ and the resulting infusion of the Spirit of God into me, and He has given me the ability to understand the deep truths of His Word, God literally speaks to His own through the Spirit’s illumination of the printed text. The Lord also brings people into my life who care about and for my needs and who are confident and honest enough to do what ever is required to bring me back to the center of God’s will. God wants all of us to be the recipients of His light so that we can live in the freedom of His grace, and He wants us to be light bearers so that we can bring the truth of His love to anyone who is bound in the chains of captivity that evil tries to keep locked around all people’s hearts and minds.

 

As we live in the freeing warmth of God’s light, we are called by Him to seek those who have been made ill by living in the cold; then, we are directed and empowered to administer the healing medicine of the Lord’s loving touch to them. We are also called to seek out the people and the places where oppression rules and bring the lock smashing blows of God’s hammer of truth to bear against that bondage. In order to fulfill the mission that God has called us to, we need to keep seeking the light of the Lord’s truth, stay close to others who are doing the same, and allow God’s Word the center place in our own reality. The coldness of despair is brought on by Satan; the warmth of God’s light sets us free.

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