February 2010

The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.

Titus 2: 11

This is one of the greatest thoughts that has ever been expressed in human history; it is simple and direct yet filled with a power and importance that is greater than anything else. God has fulfilled His promise to restore humans to our creation place at His side, and He has provided the means for this eternal state to be true for each of us. Jesus is the appearance of love, forgiveness, and restoration into our world; thus, He makes the grace of God real for anyone who is willing to accept it.

So, why is it so hard to live like this is my personal reality? If I were truly embracing God’s grace as my own state of being, then I wouldn’t be angry, frustrated, hurt, and condemning. If my heart had settled on the truths of God’s promised victory over all of my sin-induced weakness, then I wouldn’t be fearful and indecisive. If? This is a big question which leads to a better one, and that is; Why not?

For salvation is much more than eternity, it is this day, my life, and all that happens in it. In Christ we are saved from the fears and the failure of sin, and we are set free to live for the glory of God in our homes, workplace, and in our community. That is why the appearing of grace in the person of Jesus matters so much, for He shows us how to do it, and He gives us a life story to claim and to follow as our own road map to victory over this world. In Christ I am saved, and His grace will carry me through everything and all that life brings my way today.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5: 1

Comfort can be a hard habit to break, and it is frequently a condition of the inner person that calls upon us when we are tired and troubled; for comfort brings to mind the ways that we have found personal peace and have escaped from dealing with hard times in the past. Unfortunately, the places that many of our minds call upon us to go can be bigger traps and more destructive than the momentary stresses of the current challenges.

When comfort takes the form of the overstuffed chair of religion, it can be very damaging to our ability to truly represent Christ. Everyone whether raised in a home where God was openly celebrated and worshiped or in one where atheism was the mantra, comes from a religious background. Then, we all continue to develop our personal concepts and ideas of who God is and of how He is to be served; Christ sets us free from all of the human devised ideas and practices that divert us from the absolutely freeing truth of God’s word; yet, most of us still continue to go back to old ways of thinking and to devising our own ideas of what God actually meant for us to believe, for we still continue to find that comfort inside of ourselves rather than through trusting Christ to give us all that we will need.

In Christ we are given the freedom to be sad, to be tired, to be troubled, and to find comfort in Him; in Christ we are free to care about others regardless of who they are, what they are doing, and how they view our God; in Christ we released from the need to serve the additional gods of tradition and practice. Freedom comes through trust and by faith in the Lord’s totally loving, superior way of viewing life, and His freedom brings all of the comfort that my weary body can ever need.

The Lord sustains him on his sick bed; in his illness you restore him to full health.

Psalm 41: 3

David had been ill; he was weak and his spirit was getting down, for he just didn’t have the energy or the desire to go about the business of life. Additionally, he was facing the usual array of challenges and threats that seemed to plague his life and that seem to haunt most of our days, also. Enemies, opponents, and even people that he thought he could trust were obviously wishing him ill. This is a hard time and place to be in, and it is the sort of place where life takes everyone.

Sometimes the sickness is of the short term physical kind, at other times it has a long duration, and some illness is of the heart and of the soul; whatever form it takes, it all can take us to a place where we just can’t keep going on our own. Maybe that is the point that God wants to get across to us. There simply are issues in life and times of coping with them that require something more powerful than what is contained in the boxes, bottles, and blister packs of magical medicines at the drug store; for these are the times when we need to start our healing process from the spirit and let God’s healing Spirit bring us the strength to deal with the current situation.

Whether it is a cold or the coldness of loss, regret, and fear that are grasping your heart and wrapping your mind in its grip of confusion and uncertainty, the Lord promises a cure. When we start looking closely at who God is and at how He works in our lives, He brings clarity to the mind and strength to the heart. God’s word brings His promises, His Spirit brings hope, and His loving grace provides healing for all that is causing distress.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

Psalm 91: 1

Where do you choose to live; what is the neighborhood like; and how do its inhabitants hold their relationships with God? We don’t always get to select exactly where our home is located or what kind of neighbors we will have, but that doesn’t mean that we have to conform to all of the lifestyle choices that they make. Still, we do get to determine the sorts of input, advice, and direction that we follow, and we can become an influence on the world around us through those decisions.

The residence that matters most is the one where we place our hearts and minds, and God wants to take us into His place of comfort, protection, and nourishment. He has prepared a warm and satisfying spot at His side for us to stay throughout our life’s journey, and the Lord works continually to fill each of His children with all of the truth, wisdom, and knowledge that we will need to travel through the day. In this place there are found peace for the spirit, strength for the journey, and direction for our daily mission. It is here that we get to know our God deeply and to know our true selves well.

All of the directions that we will need to take up residence with the Lord are found in His word, and He also provides all of the help and support that we require to do the heavy lifting to get settled in there. God asks us to make an on-going, daily decision that we will stay close to Him and that we will seek to bring others into the shelter of His love. As we choose to live in this close relationship with our Lord, we will spread the shadow of His loving provision over our physical neighborhoods; thus, the world around us can be changed.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3: 16

Since 498A.D. when Pope Gelasius declared February 14th Saint Valentine’s Day, people have marked this date as one on which to commemorate and to honor love. The need for love is a basic one that all people have, and we put a great deal of energy into its pursuit. Yet, all of the effort, anguish, intensity, and expense that every person throughout history has invested in seeking after and holding onto love is as nothing in comparison to what God did in order to perfect His promise to love us perfectly forever.

The card that God sent to us was written in verses so elegant and complete that there is no aspect of human experience that are not covered by them, and they were penned in the blood of Jesus so that they would never fade and their promise would be unbreakable. All of our experience of true love comes from God, and our greatest and only hope for lasting love comes from a relationship with Him. God’s sacrificial love for us is the foundational model for the sort of love that can be self-sacrificingly humble while not abandoning the identity that God has gifted each of us with. His commitment to us is total, and He asks each of us to return that commitment to Him through the way that we choose to be loving toward others.

Receive the heart gift of Christ’s absolutely sacrificial love, reflect on the verses of His life poem to your heart, and delight in His everlasting presence; then, share that gift with others in your life. God desires to be the faithful lover of every soul, and His greatest desire is for each person in the world to know the deep joy of being loved totally. This is the Valentine’ Day blessing that God wants everyone to receive.

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and do confirm the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands.

Psalm 90: 17

When a child has completed a craft project or done a job around the house that required some special effort, she will often come to a parent with that special, expectant look on her face and an uneasy sort of anticipatory tension in her body language. The child is waiting for the look of acknowledgement and words of acceptance of the efforts that she has put out. This need to have the work that we have done approved by one who loves us and who we respect never goes away; we all still want to hear and understand that what we have done is good and worthy.

Unfortunately, many people are reluctant to give praise or to even make mention of the efforts of others; there seems to be an unwritten rule among people that says that everyone should just know when they are doing things well and that too much praise causes others to develop inflated egos or to become lazy. However, the Lord doesn’t seem to function that way, for He never stops bringing words of encouragement to His children. Sometimes they are expressed in the form of a quiet voice that seems to just exist somewhere inside of me, He also speaks from the pages of His word straight into my heart, and God uses the expressions of other people as His way of telling me of His praise and approval. Regardless of the method, my God is never silent.

When I am questioning my direction, when I am wondering about the validity of my efforts, or when I am hearing disapproving voices, I need to stop the busy activity of my mind and open my heart to listen to Lord’s voice. I need to stop and talk with Him, slow down and allow the deeper meaning of His word a chance to be revealed to me, and make my voice be quiet so that I can hear the words of my Lord. For, as a reminder to myself, God is never silent and He is always the One who brings praise and encouragement to my soul.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5: 8

Things are fine, for life has settled into a day to day sort of truce with the fates that seem to cause strife and stress; maybe, there has just been a time of great upheaval that has passed by or that has found a form of resolution or at least a flag of truce has been raised over your warring camps. You are able to breathe a full breath for the first time in ages, and you are not opening the door or the mail with trembling hands and dread on your heart. Well, I am sorry to be the one to say this, but you are probably experiencing the eye in the storm or that lull in the battle that happens while your enemy is reloading. The calm won’t last.

No matter what you do to live well and regardless of how strong you become, challenges, strife, and hard times will thrust themselves straight into your face. They strike with the intensity of a hurricane, and they hang on with the tenacity of a bulldog. These struggles are fueled by the fury of the soul of anger that is Satan, himself, and his aggressive assault upon everyone whose heart has been or could be surrendered to his great rival, Jesus the Christ, is relentless. So, this is why preparation matters.

The best defense against this sort of beast, against the demons that lie in wait and are hiding everywhere in this world, is to be saturated with God’s truth so that their strongest weapons, which are fear and uncertainty, are overcome by the Spirit of Christ, who is alive and mighty in your own heart. Although the Spirit lives in the hearts of everyone who believes and accepts Christ as Savior and Lord, our hearts are strengthened by the regular process of reading God’s word and considering deeply what He is saying to us about who He is and how He is transforming us into His perfect image. Then we need to pray, to talk with God, carry on a conversation with Him, that goes to the total depths of our hearts and that opens our minds to hear His voice in response. Strength, courage, and the ability to fight the righteous fight when the beast does strike are found when we are constantly and consistently immersing our hearts and minds in God’s word and communicating with Him about its truth and relevance for each moment of our day.

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