January 2010

The one who scatters has come up against you. Man the fortress, watch the road; strengthen your back, summon all your strength.

Nahum 2: 1

Some people say that having faith in an unseen God and following the ways of a spiritual ruler are the actions of a weak and insecure person; others hold that there is simply no need for this sort of thing; since, they already know where they are going in this life, and they have the method and the skill to get there well in hand. Yet, history, current events, and my own experiences all tell me that having confidence in personal control over life is futile at best, and it is often foolish thinking.

How easy is it for the orderliness that was the game plan for the day to turn into a chaotic jumble that resembles that mass of wires behind your computer that always seems to twist and tie themselves into knots just before you need to change one of the components. In our world, there is an active force at work that is continually seeking to cause the confusion and to bring about the chaos. God designed His world to be orderly so that our energy and focus could be on our relationship with Him; however; Satan and his forces of evil want to disrupt that calm, peace, and harmony; thus, they bring about anger, greed, oppression, destruction, disaster, and other forces and events that break apart our world and that shatter our lives.

When these hard situations strike, it is easy to allow them to shake our faith and to weaken our trust in the Lord; so, it is vitally important that we prepare purposefully and that we stay on the alert at all times. God tells us to stay inside of the fortress of His word and to keep it manned by actively and continually seeking the truth that it contains; He instructs us to pay attention to where we are going and to how we are getting there so that we stay on focused on living righteously; the Lord desires for us to stay engaged with other people who share our faith in Him so that we can guard their backs and they can protect ours; and He pours the strength of His Spirit into us and surrounds us with His angels to provide us with all of the might and power of His kingdom for the fight.

Be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing, and her people for gladness.

Isaiah 65: 18

The dawn of this day may not have brought a sense of joy or even the hint of gladness to your mind, for there are dragons of the very fiercest variety waiting just outside your door that you need to face and do battle against; in fact, things may be worse than that, for a dragon or two may have slipped into your house during the night; so, you won’t even get that first cup of coffee down before the hand to hand begins. Life can be truly hard, and unfortunately, God tells us that living in this fallen world will mean that the challenges are going to keep coming our way.

However, the Lord has His heart set on restoration and His mind focused on accomplishing that desire. The total and complete return of this world to the state of perfect peace that was God’s original design is a promised future event; so, we get to live in a world that is full of the strife and discord that evil causes. Although we live in that sort of environment, the Lord wants to set His children apart from it all, for He wants us to fully understand our place in His kingdom and His role in making that place our living reality. God’s promise to me is that He will protect me from the dragons and that He will be victorious over them for me. The moment that we place our trust and our faith in Christ, He starts to reform and to restore us to be like the perfect creation that was God’s workmanship in the beginning.

Now we have the light of God’s truth to brighten the darkest days of our earthly existence, and we also have the opportunity to let that same light shine out from us into the dark void that surrounds us. When the foul breath of that dragon is hot and the steam of its anger is swirling around your heart, look closely at the truth of the promises that God has made to you, and remember the reality of the victory over evil that Christ has already accomplished for you. Then seek the Lord’s will and His approach to the challenge that lies out there to be confronted, and face it with a heart that is filled the gladness that comes from the presence of Christ and that can always rejoice in the victory that is already yours.

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.

Psalm 90: 1

The frequently quoted and famous line from the Wizard Of Oz that states, “There is no place like home.” is a very true statement, and when you throw in the idea that “Home is where the heart is”, the thought behind this ancient prayer is complete. Because of the natures that we possess from birth, people are wanders and nomads, for we are continually looking for that greener spot to settle down and for a better way to fulfill our need for importance, significance, and to find a sense of belonging. Even after we accept Christ as our answer to the homeless condition of our hearts, we still continue to respond to the urge to go off on our own and to seek out a different and a better way to live than the one that God wants us to follow.

So God continues to keep a light on for us to find our way back to Him; yet His light is different from that low watt night light that our parents may have left on for us; since, the light that the Lord displays for a wanderer’s heart to see is the very active and dynamic one that is His Spirit, and He comes looking for us. The Lord has no fear or concern about going into the dark streets and the rough alleys of our lives, and He never stops calling and appealing to a wandering soul to come back to that true home that provides comfort, safety, and restoration.

No matter where I am today or what condition my life is in, it is important to realize that my home is found in the presence of the Lord, and that His presence is continual and constant, for if there is any sense of separation or distance, it is always caused by my actions and attitudes, and that estrangement is the product of my own wandering heart. The Lord wants me to return to Him, and He takes me home with the quickness of prayer and the suddenness of His forgiveness. Then, when I return to God’s perfect place of calm and peace for my soul, He always seems to have a plate of freshly baked cookies and a glass of chilled milk waiting to welcome me back.

Keep me as the apple of your eye,

hide me in the shadow of your wings.

Psalm 17: 8

There are times when my primary need is to be taken care of, and I am not talking about days when I am physically ill, colds and the flu and such, I am talking about days when my heart is heavy, my feet are made of cement, and dread is my middle name. These are the times when strength is defined by drawing breath and where courage is counted by opening the front door and maybe looking out. These are not attractive, engaging, or pleasant times. Certainly no one wants to be around me when I am like this; that is, no one except God.

At times of extreme uncertainty and doubt, we need a sure thing, and the one real and true sure thing in this life is the love and the protection that God has given to me. It has never failed, and it has never diminished. God looks on every one of His children, each of us, as a total delight for His eyes. Even in our worst moments and even through our deepest personal crises and failures, He desires to be with us. When the need is greatest, He still gives me more than I require.

During some of these troubled times, the thing that I need most is rest, a brief opportunity to stop using my energy reserves and a chance to regain my balance. God understands this, too; so, He seems to just cover me with his arms of protection and comfort. I can stop worrying, slow down, and listen to His reassuring and reaffirming words of love and compassion. As my strength begins to be restored, the Lord always starts to share words of truth and of wisdom; He gives me the insight that I need to step back out into life and to successfully engage my struggles.

There will be times when asking God for shelter is the wisest thing that we can do; there are times when we need to listen while the Lord tells us about our worth and value to Him. There are times when the strongest and the bravest thing that we can do is asking God to meet these needs; then, the wisest thing that we will ever do involves responding with acceptance to the aid, support, and comfort that He brings.

Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

1 Corinthians15: 49

Some of us were borne into this world with parents who loved and adored us and thought that everything we said and did was a clear indication of just how wonderful we were and of how great our potential was. Others breathed the air of abuse, neglect, and were filled with a sense of their own lack of value and worth, and some were totally abandoned by their birth parents. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding birth and upbringing, all of us were born as children of this world with all of the sinful attributes that come from that relationship; also, we were all born with an unlimited potential for developing into people who are living, flesh and blood images of God.

The influences that come from our upbringing and from our personal histories are very real, and they effect us in ways that are obvious and others that are subtle every day of our lives; yet, these influences do not have to rule us, and we have the ability to choose freedom from the power of our original, earthy and sinful, image. Christ is the perfect image of the heavenly, and He came in order to bring us all the opportunity to select freedom from this world’s crushing weight of evil, doubt, and fear. God has provided me with a new image to carry through my day, and that image is one that is continually being molded and shaped into one that is like Jesus’.

The more that I am willing to accept the change that this reality brings in me, and the more I seek God and allow His Spirit to open access to my areas of earthiness, the more rapidly this movement from worldly person in to righteous person will occur. As I choose to seek God by living as He desires, by loving others, by working for their freedom, and by trusting the Lord with all of my mind and heart, He will produce the image changes in me that will make me more and more like the heavenly.

I am writing you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.

1 John 2: 12

This statement reflects one of the most basic and foundational truths of the Christian life; so, it should seem so very simple for someone like myself to accept it totally and not have any times of wavering from this simple expression of fact. Yet, my attitudes and actions suggest something else, for there are times when I start to think about what I need to do or what it is that I am not doing in order to be fully engaged in my walk with God. This list too often leads to thoughts about tasks and accomplishments instead of focusing me back onto the reality of my unchangeable position in the eyes of God.

It would appear that since John wrote this to my spiritual forefathers about two thousand years ago, I am a part of a very long line of people who have struggled with the fact that there is absolutely nothing that I need to continue to do in order to have my sins forgiven, for in accepting the grace, love, and sacrifice of Jesus, the Christ, and allowing Him into my life, that forgiveness before God is finished. Therefore, everything that I do by way of serving God is done in thanks to Him and in order to bring glory, praise, and honor to Him.

In this idea, I find freedom, and through this thought, I find power. There is no need to be concerned over failure, no reason to be held down by doubt, and never a reason to believe that my efforts and actions are insufficient. As Christ paid the full price for my sinful nature, He has also freed me to engage loving Him by giving myself fully to serving the people that He loves so dearly. My sins are forgiven, what a wondrous joy! Now I am free of compulsion and set free to share that possibility with anyone who will listen.

Godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. 1 Timothy 6: 6

When considering the state of my personal fortune, it seems important for me to check the right ledger for my true account balances. During my life, I have put a lot of energy into growing my income, building up my worth, and caring greatly about the things that I own. Unfortunately, most of this has had little lasting positive effect, and there have been too many negative ones. Earning a living, even earning a good living is fine in God’s eyes; after all, He designed us with a drive to do so, and He is the provider of all of the aspects of our ability to work, our drive to succeed, and the need for gainful employment. It’s my attitude toward all of this that matters.

From the Lord’s perspective, the ledgers and the accounts that matter are covered with attitudes, spiritual growth, and healing. As Christ invested totally in people and in their relationships to God, so we are called to do the same. Gain in our world is an interestingly elusive thing; one day we can be substantially ahead of where we were; then, suddenly, it can all disappear. When our investments are in people, a really similar thing can happen, for some people just stop responding or they turn to follow a different voice; so, this is why contentment is vital in this form of investment. The contentment that God wants us to enjoy doesn’t come from what we accomplish or from how good we are at the task; rather, it comes from the growth in our personal relationships with God that comes through these efforts.

There is great gain to be had from following Christ, and some of it may even be financial; however, God promises us that we will receive a form of riches and wealth that is beyond the levels of our most aggressive investment plans if we do truly follow. The Lord asks us to trust Him with all that we have; that is all of our time, money, assets, ego, fears and concerns, inhibitions, lack of training, fear of rejection, and anything else that stops us from investing in making Christ more real in our world. When we commit and enter in fully to God’s investment plan, the Lord of the Universe promises that He will bring us gain and contentment beyond our ability to dream.

The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.

2 Corinthians 10: 4

It is simply and too constantly true that there is a battle to be fought almost every day of our lives, for there will always be something that comes along to cause tension, strife, discord, and misdirection. People who know God and who claim a relationship with Christ are called upon to fight with great conviction , enthusiasm, and endurance; also, we are instructed by God to have a strategy and to use tactics and weapons that are very different from those employed by the rest of our world.

Most of us have been trained to use power, position, and force of will to overcome all that gets in the way of our objectives; then, we have gone about the business of practicing these skills in order to sharpen them to the point where we can win in most situations. Christ tells us to set aside the fighting skills that we have been developing over a lifetime, and He instructs us to look deeper, to go inside of our hearts, to the center of our souls, where His Spirit resides. It is there that we will find the weapons of our fight against evil and the deception that it brings into our world; the Spirit gives freely of His love, peace, grace, clarity of thought, and endurance, and the word of God provides the ammunition for our fight.

Whether the battle is one that will be engaged with other people, institutions, or with the forces of sin in ourselves, the preparation and the weapons of choice for the fight come from the same source. For as we look into God’s word, stay prayerfully engaged with Him, and actively pursue relationships with people who know Christ, we are planning, training, and gaining the needed strength for the fight. Then, when the fight starts to become real and the tension of it starts to grow, we need to continue to allow the Lord to lead the way and remain yielded to His will so that God’s tactics and weapons are the ones that we rely on to the end.

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.

Galatians 6: 9

Due time is a hard concept to grasp, and it is even harder to out wait. It is particularly difficult when it is someone else who is due and when it is my time clock that is ticking, and I think that this is a big part of the point that Paul is making, for he had a very special and totally real grasp on the concept of the differences between human internal clocks and God’s eternal clock. Christ was willing to out wait Paul’s stubborn heart, and He taught Paul how to view his interactions with others from a perspective wherein he no longer needed to be responsible for the results. This is a difference in viewpoint that changes lives.

We invest in people by giving them our time, understanding, tangible gifts, love, and our view of God’s wisdom and truth, and sometimes these people respond in ways that are amazing and transformative for them. There are other times when the investment seems futile or when the person simply rejects the effort to care for and about them. Yet, people aren’t like a poorly performing mutual fund; we don’t get to just change our investment to a different portfolio and go on with life. When we are involved with people, we need to seek the wisdom of the Spirit of God first; then, we need to react to what He says to us, and we need to be brave enough to always tell others the truth as God reveals it.

The Lord may tell us to change our approach with someone, or He may lead us to simply continue to care about them and to provide a safe place where truth can be heard. Every person is different, and each situation is unique; however, there is one constant in all of this messy business of becoming involved with people’s lives, and that is that God is a shepherd who never stops seeking to save each of His sheep, and He is the unending source of all of the strength, courage, wisdom, and grace that I will need to join Him in that quest.

You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies, You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5

As God takes us through life, through the seemingly never ending troubles and worries, he wants us to be very clear on this point. He takes care of our needs. Period, this is the end of the story. He tells us that there is a banquet table, heaped high with everything that we delight in, ready for us; even at the hardest and the darkest times. There are no days of cold and meager food here for us in our life conflict, rather a feast.

Additionally, he wants us to know that we are an honored guest, he is not just putting up with taking care of our needs; instead, he greets us with the special treatment that is reserved for the most honored of people. The meal is not hurried either; he keeps filling our cup until we have had all that we need and more.

In the real world where we live, this banquet may not be of the literal, sit down variety, but God is always with us, caring for the needs that we have and giving us far more than we even thought that we needed. He wants us strong and alert and full of energy to continue the righteous struggle of the day. He wants us to stay clear headed and fully committed to his path despite what comes our way.

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