September 2009


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.

Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring,

Who gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk in it.

Isaiah 42: 5

 

There is one overarching truth that runs through all of our life experiences, and it has existed from the moment of creation to this very instant; all of this, the earth, the heavens, the animals, the plants, and certainly all of the people were brought into existence and were carefully designed by the singular creative being who is the Lord, God Almighty. Therefore, the Lord cares greatly about everyone and about everything; He desires that we all experience a quality of life that satisfies the soul and that brings us closer to Him, for God’s greatest wish is that all people would come to know Him truly and that we would all desire to become agents for restoration of His Creation.

 

From God’s vantage point it is good to “Be Green”; it is worthy to care about the environment and to seek after its improvement, for as we do that, we are doing a work of righteous restoration; yet, it is even more righteous to seek the same kind of healing for the hearts and the minds of other people, for God cares about plants, rocks, and fresh water, but He is passionate about people. To the Lord, it is both appropriate and natural to care about the environment and people; all of the natural universe was given by God as a gift to his children; everything was designed for our benefit, and we have been given responsibility to care for all of it in the same loving manner that God cares for us.

 

For me the caution in all of this is to keep a clear perspective on priorities, for God is the Creator of all, and He needs to be the One who defines my attitudes and my efforts regarding the environment and the people in my life; then, I need to keep in mind the fact that the Lord set people at the center of His Creative effort. He enjoys the beauty of the earth, and I believe that He finds pleasure in such things as the silly antics of puppies and kittens, but the Lord’s true delight is found in our responses to His love and in our longing to be close to Him. It is in this relationship with God that people find their true spirit, vitality, and life.

I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations.

Isaiah 42: 6

 

God’s calling to people comes from the point of view of His righteousness; yet, the righteousness of God is very different from what we often consider to be righteous, for in our human weakness, we tend to establish a set of rules and values regarding the behaviors that we deem acceptable in others, and these usually set ourselves up as superior to others; thus, this form of false righteousness works to separate and to isolate. Since God’s righteousness is open, accessible, and flows out of His love for people, it works to draw us to Him and to bridge the chasm of sin that keeps people out of the glory of the Lord’s presence. Although God’s righteousness sets the highest of all standards for us, He works continuously to make attaining to it possible for anyone who seeks it.

 

As we seek to live inside of God’s will and to believe, think, and act as His true children, God doesn’t just send us out into life with a hearty send off and good wishes for our success. Rather, He takes us by the hand and leads us along His way with all of the support, encouragement, and forgiveness that we require to not only be sustained but also to thrive and to grow. For the Lord has not only made a promise to us that He will redeem our souls but also that He makes us a living part of His ongoing promise of redemption for all of the world. 

 

We are called by God to be the sources of the righteous light that our world needs in order to see the path to hope and freedom that is only found in Christ. In times like these where absolute truth is illusive and genuine love is rare, the Lord’s unshakable and unfailingly consistent character, His righteousness, stands apart as the only enduring and fully accessible point of reference for joyous living.  God calls on you and me to embrace His righteousness and to take it as an offering of love to the people that life brings our way.

If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me; and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said, “From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” John 7: 37, 38

We all thirst, our throats become dry to the point of pain, and our hearts become parched until there is no strength left in us. Life can be draining, it sucks the vital fluids from our cells until we feel as if we are going to collapse in on ourselves; then, even if we receive a touch of mist that promises to revive us, the fierce wind of discouragement starts to blow, and the mist evaporates before any of its dew has soaked into our flesh.

So, when Jesus asks if anyone is thirsty, He already knows that this is true of everyone. Christ is the answer to whatever form of thirst we may have. He provides the cooling and rejuvenating liquid that is His Spirit, and the Lord gives us the gift of a bottomless and everlasting well filled with the sweet taste of His grace, mercy, and love. God’s Spirit becomes our own continual source of life sustaining water for our souls, and He is always with us, for He resides in our hearts.

When the thirst becomes unbearable, and life becomes unsustainable, we need to look inside to the Spirit of God and take comfort in His presence; then, we can start to recover from the struggle of life while He cleanses, refreshes, and restores us with the living water of God’s perfect love.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5: 6, 7

There is an almost wildly crazy aspect to the way that God designed us humans, for we have this strong, independent streak that runs throughout our nature and that affects almost everything that we do; yet, it is this same independence that leads to the sort of self-sufficient arrogance that gets me into many of the situations that cause me so much grief and worry. Then the worry, concern, and stress drive me deep inside myself; they close me off to engaging in healthy and helpful dialogue with other people, and they cause me to hide out from God; thus, the situation just gets worse.

So, in trying to resolve this mystery of my Creator’s design for me and my relationship with Him, I have come to this understanding; God wants me and everyone to desire to be involved in the relationship with Him. The Lord is first and foremost my loving Father; He wants to guide, nurture, counsel, and empower me to live a life that is full and joyous. God delights in the things that we do and in the way that we grow in our understanding of His righteousness. Recognizing my own need for the Lord’s continual guidance and wisdom is the first step toward living in the freedom that God intends for me to enjoy; then, the next step is the hard one, for I must take my controlling hands off of the outcome and humbly allow God to take charge of the direction that I go in all aspects of my life.

There is no instantaneous or miraculous cure for a lifetime of practicing the form of self-directed thinking that results in this type of isolation with its attendant anxiety and loss of peace and joy; yet, the Lord provides us with great hope, for He is gracious with us; He places no restrictions or preconditions on His acceptance of the desire of our hearts to embrace His truth. As I yield myself to Him, God gives back to me and blesses me in ways that are far greater than I could have imagined. Turn over everything, each and every challenge, worry, concern, struggle, and uncertainty to your loving Father; then, expect the miraculous, for He will provide the answers to it all.

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