January 2010

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4: 4-6

People sometimes think that faith is something that we exercise at specific times or under certain circumstances. We believe that God is involved in this aspect of our life or that it is important to take Him along for that conversation; we seek His intervention when the thing that we are facing is too big or too frightening to handle on our own. We may try to say that the routine of our day is too trivial for us to involve God with, or we may just not even consider that it matters to seek spiritual influence and guidance for some of the areas of our lives. Yet, it seems that Paul saw his life in a rather different way.

There is nothing that people do or that we are involved with in our life that does not have the hand of God hovering over it. Whether we like it or not and regardless of our comfortability or our desire for the involvement, the lives that we live belong to God; thus, we can choose to seek His wisdom, guidance, and strength; or we can do it our own way and hope that ours way is good enough. Regardless of our choice, the Lord will be with us, and He is prepared to enter into the process of the life that we are living at any time. In Christ we are all unified into one organism, bound together by the Spirit of God; we become individuals who are intimately connected to other individuals, and we all, individually and collectively, are joined together in Christ.

When we take any part of our lives and try to live it without involving God in it, we are diminishing our own prospect of success, and when we go off on our own and do not engage with the faith body that is around us, we are denying ourselves the use of a powerful resource, and we are decreasing the strength of our community. Christ calls us into unity, into community, and into an all encompassing and ever present faith journey through life.

And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into the world, that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind.”

John 9: 39

Perhaps this is overly simplistic, but there seem to be two basic ways of viewing a personal relationship with God; in one, the person lacks an awareness of who God is and of how He works in this world and, more specifically, of how He seeks to relate to each of us. In the other, the person believes that he or she already possesses all the knowledge and understanding of God that are required and that there is no need for any change in these beliefs; this is essentially an attitude of self control, determination, and reliance. Fortunately, God understands both of these perspectives, and He seeks to communicate truth to all of us regardless of where we are coming from.

From my own experience, these states of being at times blinded to the truth and at other times overly confident in my own understanding and application of it continue throughout life; although, I have known Christ and have been seeking to live in an intimate relationship with Him for a very long time, there are times when I still need to apply His healing mud to my sin obscured eyes, and there are others when I need to have the Spirit of Christ grab me by the shoulders and shake the delusional thinking from my mind. The extraordinary thing about God is that He will continue to do both of these things for me for as long as I need Him to, and He never stops seeks to bring all people into a place of sound, solid, and complete understanding of His loving truth.

It is true that Christ came into this world in order to judge our sinfulness; however, the story doesn’t stop there, for He also came in order to bring healing and restoration to our wounded souls. For people who do not know Him, Jesus removes the blindness from their eyes and lets the light of relationship with God into their hearts, and for those who do know Him, Jesus is the answer to our need for ongoing guidance and direction in order to navigate the dangerous path that is the landscape of this life. Like He did with the blind man and the Pharisees, Jesus asks each of us to trust Him for our vision, to open our hearts to His truth, and to follow the path that He sets before us.

Faithful is He who calls you, and He will bring it to pass.

1 Thessalonians 5: 24

Everyone faces issues and challenges that are hard to deal with. There are the long standing personal characteristics and traits that continue to plague us, and the issues of sin that are wound around our hearts and minds in a manner that makes them resist our best intentions and our genuine desire to change. The hard to win battle may be wrapped in a seemingly impenetrable covering of fear, doubt, and uncertainty, or it might be anchored by the hardened cement of our stubbornness. However, whatever it is that is causing you to hesitate to commit fully to Christ, to trust Him absolutely with everything, or to release your grip on the remnants of your old way of thinking and acting; God has an answer for it, and He will do all of the hard transformational work for you.

All that the Lord requires of us is that we be willing; He wants us to desire the change and to seek the relationship with the change agent; that is, with His Spirit. As we become open to the need for a new or a different way of viewing various aspects of our lives and we allow God access to those areas of our hearts and minds, His Spirit will start to change us, and this change will always be for the better. The Lord never requires us to give up something that He doesn’t replace with something far greater, and He always stays with us all the way through the process. 

This all starts with accepting Christ as the One who makes that crucial difference; the difference between life and death, and the difference between futility and fulfillment in this life. Then, once we are engaged in that relationship, true living can begin; for then, the Spirit of God becomes engaged with us in molding our hearts into ones that function more and more like God’s, and He provides us with the direction, process, and strength to make these changes. The Lord calls us to live a life that is full of promise, hope, and joy, and He will make it all real for anyone who desires to allow the needed change.

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.

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