December 2009

We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2: 10

Some days I just feel worked over, wrung out, and soundly punished by whatever it is that has grabbed onto my shoulders and refused to let go until I had been all but turned inside out. Unfortunately, when I attempt to come to grips with the causes for these bad days, the trail of evidence frequently leads right back to my own actions, attitudes, and the state of my heart and mind. Then I am inevitably brought to my knees in thanks for the grace of God that keeps working on my heart despite these times of errant wandering away from His will.

The hand of God reached out and embraced me in His loving arms, and He immediately started to work on my heart in a way that brings about deep, lasting, and real change; however, the Lord’s work in my life and in the lives of all of His children is never finished. God’s purpose and His plan are much bigger than we have the capacity to understand, and His desire for us is that we would trust Him totally so that we can enter into each day and embrace every relationship that comes our way with anticipation of the great things that He will do through us.

As you prepare to engage whatever may be on your calendar for today and look ahead at who you will need to deal with, consider this thought; you are the handiwork of God, the Creator; you were designed and crafted by Him individually; and you were formed perfectly to execute His plan for your life this day. The Spirit of Christ is alive and active in you, and He will continue to shape and to mold you into the person that He knows will be prepared and equipped to walk through all of the days of your life in righteous service to God. The Lord asks only that we be willing to listen, follow, and surrender to His loving direction.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.

Luke 19: 10

God is always seeking, ever pressing on to reach into the darkened depths of the souls of people, for He claims everyone on this earth as His own, and the Lord will not rest from the quest after relationship with us until we have totally closed and locked away any possible access to our hearts. Since God sees nothing but the potential that He designed into us, He continues to view us with that Father’s eye for the potential beauty within until the moment that we draw our last earthly breath.

My Lord wants me to view others in this same way; He tells me to love my neighbor, to forgive wrong doing, to offer up my un injured cheek to the person who just hit me, and to care about the eternity of others more than I care about my own security or comfort. Jesus seemed to actually enjoy the company of such flawed and coarse people as we are; He gathered the imperfect and the self-focused to His side; and He continues to delight in being in the close and intimate company of people such as you and me.

Jesus came after me; He has come after you, and He wants us to join Him in the relentless pursuit of others. This world is filled with lostness and the pain that it causes; Christ provides the answers to the void that sin carved out; and people who know Him are the means that God uses to connect that empty need with His healing love. Jesus desires to walk with each of us through this day of seeking and of providing restorative truth to the hearts of people.

Let the word of Christ richly dwell in you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3: 16

God dislikes separation and distance more than almost anything; He seeks after everyone and He keeps calling to us all even long after we have covered our ears with our hands, locked our hearts away in a steel vault, and given our allegiance to others. So, when we have listened to the call of eternal love and acceptance and come to God, is it any surprise that the Lord would continue to seek an ever more intimate and involved relationship with us?

Therefore, God gave us His word, and He provides His Spirit to guide us into an increasingly deep and comprehensive understanding of it. Still, it is up to each of us to decide to open ourselves up to the deep truths of the Lord, for I have found that the more I seek wisdom, truth, and understanding, the more of them I will gain, and when I apply the understanding that God has given me to the way that I live, His peace and joy fill my soul with a song that can not be suppressed.

We are not called to live each day as if we were actors in a musical play where all of our lines are delivered in song; yet, God wants us to be so closely connected to His love, grace, and mercy that our hearts are continually filled with thankfulness and our words and actions are those of someone whose view of life is framed from an eternal perspective.

Put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Ephesians 4: 24

Most people have dreams and aspirations toward things that we would like to do or skills and qualities that we would like to have; when we are young, these are often at their wildest and most imaginative; then, we aspire to be athletes, super heroes, great thinkers, inventors, and actors. As life progresses we continue to hold dreams and desires for things that we would like to do and for ways that we would like to have influence in our world. God made us with hearts and minds that keep looking outwardly and ahead toward new and greater challenges.

Yet, in our relationship with God, the greatest thing that we can aspire toward is actually found within ourselves, for Christ has called us to become totally new beings, people who are different in all of the ways that are truly important for living lives that have lasting impact and eternal consequences. Thus, the Spirit of God becomes a part of us, and we are married to our Lord in a way that opens us up to the on-going and life long transformational work that God has promised to perform in each of His children.

Our part in this process is vital, for each of us needs to recognize the need for change, accept the truth about how God is calling me to think and behave, and stay humbly repentant for the ways that I will fail to live in the righteous manner that the Lord desires for me. I also need to be a seeker after the truth that is the center piece of my new identity; there will be times when that truth is painfully revealing of how far I still have to go in order to have fully accepted my new self; yet, this journey along the road toward the center of my new life is the greatest adventure that I could ever imagine, and the changes in myself that are the result of the travels bring me ever closer to being the person that my heart was created to desire to be.

I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 11: 19

Hard-hearted, cold-hearted, and heart of stone are all descriptive phrases that are used to indicate a person who is capable of separating feelings from actions; these are people who can set aside empathy, sympathy, and compassion so that their seeking after a goal is not impaired by consideration of the others that might get in the way of achieving it. This ability is often considered to be an attribute in our world; yet, its absence is one of the most important distinctions between Jesus and the image of Messiah that His countrymen thought that they desired.

We have focused the energy of untold generations and large amounts of our own lives in the pursuit of personal and corporate strength and in seeking after an ability to move relentlessly toward our goals. When this effort results in sacrificing the hearts and the souls of people who get in our way, we have lost sight of God’s true intent and desire for our lives. The Lord does not call us to be strong in the sense that a well built wall is imposing; rather, He calls us to be strong in our willingness and ability to yield to His greater purposes and to take His love to anyone that we encounter who is in need of it. In God’s view of this world and of our lives in it, His Spirit is our strength; therefore, we can be open, compassionate, and available to bring Christ’s healing to the hurting souls in our day.

My prayer for today is that I would be less strong, more open, and that my own concept of what it means to serve God will become yielded to and changed by His true and accurate image of what that means. May the Spirit of Christ be my strength and His love be my calling card so that someone else will be drawn toward the God who restores the hearts of people.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

From the middle of the history of people’s relationship with our God, comes this future looking statement of truth. Despite repressive and oppressive governments, undiminished by the inhuman cruelty of some people toward others, and in complete disregard for all of our individual and corporate bad deeds and hateful attitudes, God has always had a plan that leads to the total restoration of anyone who desires it and that will culminate in the restoration of His created perfect world.

Jesus was made necessary because of our self-centered, willful, deceitful, and destructive behaviors; thus, the Son of God, the perfect lamb, was given to everyone; it is up to each individual person to decide if we will accept the gift, and it is up to each of us to determine how much of ourselves we will surrender to the transformational influence of the Spirit of God. In Christ there is the total package of all that anyone needs in order to live life in a manner that brings joy, peace, and freedom in everlasting abundance; so, we are all challenged with the question of our own willingness to accept the gift, the openness of our hearts to the giver, and acceptance of the new life direction that He calls us to pursue.

Each step along the journey of life involves decisions, and each day requires that we determine to seek and to listen to the voice of Christ as He continues to make Himself totally available and always provides clearly stated truth to follow. There is no one else who will stay with me absolutely regardless of what is happening in my heart, my mind, or in my life. Jesus, the Christ, is the son who was born specifically for me, and He is the gift that God provided to satisfy every real need that I will ever have.

Merry Christmas

Every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, and cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.

Isaiah9: 5

How many ways do we have of preparing for battle? As a nation we spend enormous sums of money on designing, making, and maintaining weapons and other equipment that are deemed as essential to achieve a position of superiority in our world; when this expenditure is added to that of the other nations of the world and the cost of hiring, caring for, and training the vast numbers of people that are involved in these endeavors is considered, the true expense of this effort is staggering. In our own lives we spend considerable amounts of time, energy, and our resources on getting ready to fight our way through each day.

We may be fighting to make a living or to just stay alive; we go to battle with people who seem set on doing us harm and sometimes we fight our fiercest battles with those who we love; and all of God’s children need to engage in a daily fight against the forces of evil that fill this world. Yet, God’s intent is to make all of the tools, weapons, and tactics of war obsolete. Christ came into our world to provide the only answer that anyone needs to the anger, hostility, and fear that drives us to fight against others. He comes to me and shows me the value and the worth that were created into each individual in this world, and the Lord will lead me to loving each of them more deeply than I could ever imagine on my own.

As I seek Christ’s will and come to understand His heart of love for others more clearly, I am led to stop preparing for a battle each day and to start preparing to wage a campaign of peace. The Spirit of God speaks to my heart and challenges me to stop putting on the armour of battle and to take my cherished weapons and throw it all onto the consuming fire of His loving grace and mercy. My Lord wants me to bring His peace to the battle weary souls of this world.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

John 1: 4

Everywhere that we go during this busy Christmas season there are lights and bright decorations; people dress in festive clothes and wear bright reds and greens; there are even folks who put on self lighted hats  in the shape of pine trees and with antlers attached; yet, the darkness of living in this world seems to reach its deepest point at this same time of year. The intensity of the focus and the amount of energy that is expended on simply trying to accomplish the impossible and in attempting to meet unobtainable goals can become overwhelming.

Christ came into this world to to be the one who does, not to require more to do lists. He walked among us so that our days would be made simpler rather than more complex, and Jesus wants our hearts to become beacons of a light that is so strong that it will penetrate all of the world’s darkened corners. There is nothing wrong with giving gifts, decorating, the special meals, and the festive gathering of family and friends; yet, the thing that matters in all of this is the way that we go about all of this activity. The question that I need to ask myself is this, “Am I a source of light, hope, peace, and joy to the people that I am encountering; and do these people see Christ’s love and grace when they are interacting with me?”

Therefore, the goal for my day needs to be one of giving life and bringing the hope of light into the lives of my coworkers, friends, family, and even strangers on the street. The crazy thing is that even that goal can become a burdensome task if I am not willing to allow that it actually should be the most natural of all activities, for Christ has already given these gifts to me, and He is the one who will do all of the giving, too. The Spirit of God will work through us if we stay focused on Him, and the Lord will guide our hearts and our minds into His peace if we allow it; then, we will be the bearers of the unstoppable light that is Christ’s hope for the world.

For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

2 Corinthians 1: 5

What a great deal, when we let Christ into our lives we get to let in all of the pain, sorrow, and disappointment that comes along with beginning to understand just how lost and hurting the people of this world are when they don’t know and follow Him. For the Spirit of Christ starts to awaken our hearts to the deeper truths of what He sees and feels, and my Lord experiences tremendous heart ache over the way that people continue to disbelieve and reject His call to an intimate relationship with Him.

Just as Jesus did during His time here on earth, we will get to deal with a spirit of angry rebellion against God that is very active and that seeks to hold down and to defeat the effectiveness of God’s own people. This is the same spirit that holds the hearts and minds of the ones who reject Christ in a state of oppressive captivity, and this is the spirit that the Lord will join His children in fighting against. So, this is where our relationship with Christ brings us back to comfort.

In the battles of life, there will be times when we and our loved ones and friends are wounded; also, it seems that there are people around us who are trying to deal with the fears, insecurities, image issues, and loveless nature of their personal existences, and these are all situations where the comfort of Christ may be the only effective answer for the current situation. We are given the gift of our understanding of the deep suffering of Christ so that we are better equipped to bring the healing touch of His grace and mercy to others who are suffering.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.

Isaiah 9:2

It seems like just like the nature of God, the great poet of all Creation, to provide us with the remarkable contrasts that exist in our physical world and in our spiritual one so that the wonder and the majesty of His gift of salvation is all the more striking. In the north we mark the birth of Jesus, who is our redeemer from the eternal darkness of the soul that is our natural state, at the point in the year when the days are at their shortest and have become much colder. This is the time of year when night seems to rule day and when it feels like cold soaks through everything and even the warmest coat can’t keep the chill out of the heart.

So, God brings the light that is brighter than the core of the sun into the world, and the warmth of this Son’s love is more than sufficient to melt any frozen heart. Yet, some won’t let themselves be warmed; they continue to stand by the weak fires that they have created and insist that there will be enough heat for them to survive, and they hold onto the belief that they already know enough about love to sustain them forever; yet, the One who defines love is ready to give it all to them.

As people who have received the gift of Christ and live in a personal world that is warmed by His radiance, we need to be gift givers. The great light that God wants to use to bring this world’s inhabitants out of the darkness of sin is carried to those individuals by us. There is no reason why these short and cold days of December can’t be the warmest and the brightest of the year, for as we celebrate the birth of the Savior, we can focus on truly sharing the deeper truths of His relationship with us with our world. The real gift of the season is our care, concern, involvement, compassion, and grace; the warming fire of this winter should be fueled by the love that Christ has given to us to share.

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