September 2009


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.

I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud.

1 Corinthians 10: 1a

 

Here are few short thoughts on this idea of our entire existence being played out “under the cloud”. Paul is discussing the well known story of how, as the Israelites were led by Moses through the desert after their escape from Egypt, they were actually led by the tangible presence of God. The Lord was made visible to them all by a cloud that went before them as they traveled and that hovered over them when they camped. It was the cloud that dictated their movement; thus, God was the leader of the movement of His people.

 

In my life I often fail to recognize the cloud that is hovering over me; also, I am really bad at responding to the movement of God’s presence, for I am often left standing and wondering what I should be doing and where I need to be going while the Lord has been trying to get my attention and has already laid out a very clear direction for me.

 

The cloud that hovers over all of God’s children is the glory of His Spirit; this is the same Spirit that also lives within our hearts; so, the only thing that gets in the way of our ability to live in the center of that same glory is our lack of complete trust in God. If I am willing to look with open eyes and am open to the infinite potential that God has given to my life; then, I am ready to follow my Lord into a life filled with His miracles.

And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

Luke 2: 25

 

Consider this man who lived so long ago and in a culture that would be completely foreign to most of us, and here Luke describes him as living in ways that I think of as highly desirable. Simeon actually lived a life that was in sync with the law of God, for it must have been characterized by the way that he treated others; since, righteousness only exists when our actions consistently demonstrate the love and the truth of God. He was also committed to this way of living; Simeon devoted himself, his whole being, to loving God and to seeking His will. 

 

Now this ancient man was also focused on one very specific result that comes from our relationship with God; he seems to have been looking continually into the past history of his people and then focusing his gaze intently toward the future with his heart set upon God’s promise of reconciliation and restoration of all peoples from the ravages of sin. Simeon prayed for and sought to bring others to understand the truth of God’s promised comforter, the Messiah, and I would bet the farm on the fact that he never stopped sharing his understanding of these truths with the people that he encountered, either.

 

This is very challenging to me, for here is a man who had been living before Jesus was born; yet, Simeon believed in the Christ totally, and he lived his life in a manner that demonstrated this belief in both words and actions. O Lord, how am I doing? Where do I fall short of Simeon’s example of what is possible? My Lord, I pray that You will purify my heart, give my will strength, and clarify my understanding of You; so that, when people see me, they will be able to say that the Holy spirit is upon me, too.

In hope against hope he (Abraham) believed, in order that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.”

Romans 4: 18

 

If Abraham had lived a perfect life of quiet submission and acceptance of the promises that God had made to him, I would have a very hard time identifying with him, but he was hardly the faith in action poster child for his or for any generation. Still Paul and the author of Hebrews both hold him up as exactly that. Why, what is there that I can learn from this story of inaction followed by impulsively and taking matters into his own hands?

 

There seem to be two main components to the way that the events of his life play out. First, God never waivers in his commitment to Abraham; the promises that God made to him were absolute and they were permanent; also, they required nothing out of Abraham in order for God to honor them. The Lord stuck with Abraham through all of his wandering and every moment of doubt and sinful self determined action; thus, Abraham’s hope was continually being restored by God, for the Lord was Abraham’s only reliable and unchanging source of hope just as He is ours. Secondly, Abraham accepted the truth of God’s grace and His commitment; he kept coming back to God and seeking out His voice of truth and purpose for life.

 

My life has had far too many episodes and even periods of time where I took off on my own and decided that my way was the right way to go; although, I have always been wrong when I have done this, God has consistently stayed with me to redirect my thinking and to pick me up when I have fallen down. Abraham was not really a special case and his situation was not all that different from those that we all encounter, and, like He was with Abraham, God will always fulfill His promises to us.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable are His ways!

Romans 11:33

 

God’s ways are truly mysterious, and His understanding of things has a depth to it that defies my capacity to grasp. Yet, He isn’t slippery like a wet puppy that you are trying to keep from getting all of the furniture wet, and He doesn’t change shape in the way that a water filled balloon does, for the Lord is consistent, solid, and tangible to the degree that He defines these concepts.

 

My God is the foundation upon which I set my feet, and His love is the defining element for my soul; still, He amazes me with His knowledge of my heart and with His capacity to grasp my needs and His willingness to continually meet them. God’s complexity and expansive nature compel me to seek out knowledge of Him; every time that I begin to think that I know Him well, the Lord reveals more of Himself to me, and in each situation where I believe that I have reached the limit of His provision or His involvement in my life, God goes further and does more with and for me. There is no limit to the Lord!

 

God knows us well, and He is fully aware that human nature is such that if we already knew everything about Him and if we had the full picture of God’s involvement in our lives laid out before us, we would become too casual about our relationship with Him; we would tend to take Him for granted and stop seeking His wisdom and grace as the essential activity of each of our days. So, God retains His mysteries, and He reveals Himself to each of us as we trust Him and seek to know Him better; thus, God blesses us daily with the gift of the further revelation of Himself.

The Lord sat as King at the flood; yes, the Lord sits as King forever.

The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.

Psalm 29: 10, 11

 

There is a timelessness to God’s nature that I find to be very comforting, for God has always been in control of all of Creation, and His approach to relating to and dealing with people has remained constant, too. To put things in terms that I understand, the Lord is very comfortable in His skin; therefore, all that He needs from us is our willingness to let Him into our lives at a level that opens our hearts to receive God’s love and grace so that we can, in turn, love Him totally.

 

The story of God’s love for all people runs through the Bible from beginning to end with accounts of the ways that the lives of thousands have been touched by this unending love and of how the lives of these people have been profoundly changed by knowing God. The story of these thousands is also my story, and it is the life giving experience of everyone who accepts God’s truth and accepts Him for who He truly is. 

 

As we come to recognize the truth of who God is and start to live in the comfort of that reality, the Lord brings strength to our hearts and clarity to our minds; His word provides a daily narrative that recites God’s will, direction, and desire for the way that we each should live. The only real and lasting peace that there is to find in this world comes through this close connection to God; this is a peace that resides in our souls, and it is a peace that is as everlasting as is its author.

Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news;

Lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”

Isaiah 40: 9

 

Why not speak up, speak out, and be clear about who God is and what He means to me? This is really a question for myself; it is directed at my own silence and the underlying concerns, fears, which hold my tongue in captivity when it should be shouting with joy at the relationship that I have with Jesus. Yet, too often and in far too many situations I say little or nothing about the Lord’s involvement in my life; thus, I hold the best news that there is in this world inside, and I don’t allow the people around me the opportunity to see what could be theirs.

 

God tells us that we should be willing and completely able to speak out with a voice that has been made mighty by the strength of His Spirit; we also have a story to tell tat is filled with the loving grace and the perfect care that God blesses us with every day. As I live the life that God has given to me, my world is filled with His presence, for I see Him  everywhere and in all aspects of life.

 

Therefore, my mission for today is to live in a manner that shows God to those around me; so, I need to be ready to do what He calls me to do; thus, I should love others without hesitation, and I must be open to those around me about the underlying motivation for the way that I live. When people see me, they should see Christ; when I talk, people should hear of His love, forgiveness, and life changing involvement with me. The message that God wants each of us to convey as we go about our lives is that God is real, totally involved in people’s lives, and available to everyone; we should be living testimonies to the statement, “Here is your God!”

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