May 2010

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,

nor the heart of man imagined,

what God has prepared for those who love him”

1Corinthians 2:9

Take the most extravagant gift that you have ever received, the happiest moment of your life, or your wildest dream and visualize them all combined into one enormous bundle of satisfaction and joy; then, consider that this is just a shadow of the gifts that God has already prepared to give to his children.

There is another important difference between the things and even the moments that we can imagine from our lives and what God is giving to us, God’s gifts have a permanence and a depth of value that is unique. The Lord gives us adoption into his family, salvation from death, the ever present guidance and support of the Creator of everything, and much more.

The Father wants us to open up our hearts to his Spirit and take in the tremendous gift that he gives us. Every moment of every day we have the mind and the heart of God present in us, and we have the ear of God to hear all that is on our hearts; then, we have the hand of God to move away every obstacle that tries to defeat us or hold us back.

Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon, I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.

Joshua 1: 3

Consider the possibilities; think of the potential, embrace the confidence that could come out of owning a promise like this. These are the words of God spoken to Joshua when he had just taken on the leadership of the people of Israel. He was about to take steps that would lead to the completion of a long journey; he was about to move in a manner and a direction that required that he have faith in God and trust him totally. So God told Joshua to believe that everything was already handled.

Now, move ahead in time to now; how does this promise from God relate to this world? Is it possible to go out into our own land, to move through the day with the sort of faith based boldness, the fearlessness and confidence that was given to Joshua? From my perspective, I often spend way too much time in asking the questions rather than in trusting God for the outcomes. He made a promise then; that promise is still good today.

I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous.

Joshua 1: 5b,6a

If we follow the direction of God to live our lives with an attitude of taking back our world, he promises to be with us for every moment of the engagement. What does it mean to take back our world for God? Firstly, it was His and has been temporarily taken over by Satan and his followers; secondly, God wants all of the people of this world to be in a close, personal, member of His family type of relationship with their Creator. Finally, God has created each of us with the skills and the talents that are needed to make the connections with people, and he desires that we would trust him and that his love for us would be important enough for us to share this love and truth with the people that we meet as we go through life.

So, trust God from the beginning to the end of the day; know that he walks with you through all of it; so, every place that you step is holy ground, for he is stepping there too. Feel safe to love those that you meet, share Jesus with them in your actions and thoughts, and through words. Every person that you meet today needs to know Him, and God wants to know everyone of them. Today is the day to claim your corner of this world for its Creator and for your Savior.

Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

Isaiah 40: 2

There are many stories in history that tell of soldiers who continued to fight a war long after it had ended; in some cases they didn’t receive the message that the truce had been signed, in others, they didn’t choose to believe it, and some simply refused to accept defeat; so, they continued to live out in the jungles of their struggle while hiding from most forms of human contact. Most of us face similar situations when it comes to the greatest war that we will ever be engaged in; for, the fight against evil and against the sin that seeks to control and to destroy our lives is a war that exceeds the duration, ferocity, and the scope of all the national conflicts that have ever been engaged.

The Lord cries out to us to accept the total payment that Jesus made for all of our sinful thoughts and actions; since, He wants us to draw near to Him and to interact with Him in an open and fearless relationship of love, God wants us to surrender our areas of guilt and weakness to His healing touch of reconciliation. We no longer need to hide in the bushes and fight a solitary war against the forces of sin that continue to plague our hearts, for Christ settled all of those issues. The treaty of peace that Jesus entered into was for our benefit, and it eliminates every aspect of past failure, fear, and continuing weakness from having control over our lives, and it grants us the freedom to stand with God and to face the forces of evil in this world with bold confidence.

It is not easy to accept this reality, for it is hard to really believe that everything that I have done and that every weakness that persists in me has been paid for twice over by Christ. The Lord spoke this message to Isaiah, “Comfort, O comfort My people.” (Is 40: 1), and He wants us to take up the same idea ourselves. We are to be comforters of others who are still hiding out and fighting on their own. The Lord wants us to seek them out and to provide them with assurances of the forgiveness and the transformative grace and love of Christ. Also, when we are the ones who struggling, He wants us to accept the grace that is already ours, and the Lord wants us to come out of our hiding places and allow His peace to penetrate into the depths of our hearts.

“You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.” Jesus

Matthew 24: 6

This is the story that surrounds us on a daily basis; for, across the world there is conflict, violence, and hatred being played out. Some of it impacts us very personally as very few people do not know someone or know of someone who is directly involved in a war ravaged part of the world. Also, there are wars raging right in our neighborhoods, in our government, schools, and churches; also, there is strife and conflict aggressively dividing many of our own homes. Jesus went on during this conversation to warn about natural disaster, too; He said, “there will be famines and earthquakes.” Essentially we are living in a time when the glue that has been holding our world together is being overcome by the building up of evil forces. This is the hurricane season; we all live in the center of Tornado Alley; and the root cellar that we have always planned to enter when they strike just may not be deep enough to handle the forces that will be unleashed.

Yet, in the middle of these words of stern warning, Jesus says something that is, to me, so typically of Him, a seemingly ridiculous piece of advice, for He says, “see to it that you are not frightened”. Is that not crazy? I live in a world where bullets are flying, people plant bombs in cars in public places, other people who appear to be completely normal commit atrocious acts, earthquake after earthquake brings devastation and death, tornadoes and floods have become the small time items in the news, and mean and oppressive behavior fills our city streets. Thus, is fear not the rational emotion to feel? Again, Jesus says that this is not true, for we are living in a world where the violence and the turmoil are all a part of a much bigger plan, of a Divine plan, that leads to the cleansing and to the restoration of this world.

Jesus wants us to join Him in the working out of the plan. We can choose to become focused on the terrifying events, and we can think in terms of how out of control everything seems to be; thus, we can get caught up in the sort of thinking that leads to a sense of doom, a feeling of helplessness, and that makes us fearful; or, we can look for the hand of God which is actively working to meet the needs of people whose lives have been disrupted by these events, and we can seek to follow Him by reaching out to meet those same needs ourselves. Jesus calls to each of us to take action in this world so that we will not be caught up in fearful thinking, but rather, we will become agents for spreading the word that there is one and only one safe place to go when the storm strikes, and that place is straight into the arms of Jesus.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.

Psalm 111: 10

This verse from Psalm 111 starts off with one of the most repeated expressions of faith that is found in the Old Testament; it means that it is essential to have a level of respect, reverence, and awe for God that recognizes Him as the foundation, the creative initiator, of all that stands up over time as wise in this universe. We can not hope to think, believe, and act wisely if we do not begin to look toward God as the one who brings true wisdom into clear view and focus.

The Lord wants us to model after His approach to acting on this wisdom; for, He is never still, silent, or absent; God is continually engaged with His Creation, and He is especially involved with His people. Likewise, God wants us to seek wisdom; then, He wants us to use it. I believe that the concept of commandments as expressed here is much broader than any formalized list; I believe that everything that the Lord has told us about living in His word, through His Spirit, and by the gathered understanding that is developed by His body equates to God’s commandments.  We are to be people who seek to act wisely from God’s perspective, and we are to be people who demonstrate His wisdom in this world through the way that we fearlessly love others.

People who know the Lord intimately and follow Him passionately bring great joy to God’s heart, for they bring Him into daily contact with multitudes of others, and they are tangible sources of the sort of loving wisdom that everyone needs in order to live in peace and with real joy. The greatest form of worship that we can give to God is expressed by lives that are lived in a state of actively seeking His wisdom in all things, and we praise the Lord when we take that wisdom and make it the foundation of the way that we treat others.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, for He cares for you.

1 Peter 5: 6, 7

When I look at how hard I work to hold onto my fears, concerns, and anxieties, I am amazed. My mind continually goes back to these familiar old scripts where the behaviors that I exhibit are damaging, counter productive, and even harmful; yet, these scenarios are the text of my life, and they have been constructed over time to form a very comfortable shell that surrounds my heart and my mind and that keeps me from straying too far into the risky waters of fundamental change. God sees this behavior as arrogance and as a form of pride.

By holding onto ways of thinking and behaviors that have proven to be unproductive in the past and by continuing to grasp them as if they were my greatest treasures, I am saying to God that I know better than He how I should live my life, and I am demonstrating to those around me that when I say that I trust God and that I desire to follow His will that what I really mean is that I do these things only to the extent and so far as my own definitions of what is safe and acceptable will allow me to venture. Unfortunately, this way of living is self-centered and hypocritical, and it shuts me out of experiencing the full extent of the wondrous blessing that God has in mind for me.

The answer to all of this seems to lie in no longer being concerned about what others will think about me or about my own sense of my short comings or weaknesses; God’s answer for me is found in the extravagant love that He has for me and through the moment by moment reality of His care for me. When I stop looking at myself and start focusing on God’s face, I see the way that His Spirit envelops me, and I hear the reassuring words of His counsel directing me to step forward and to engage the adventure that He has prepared for me in this life. Lord, God, I pray that as I go through this day I will continue to cast away the spirit of anxiety that keeps my eyes focused on myself and that I will continually gaze upon Your face and follow your path into glory.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and the intentions of the heart.

Acts 4: 12

Here it is, friends and neighbors, the ultimate household tool! There is nothing else that you will ever need to own in order to take care of all of those difficult, messy, and seemingly impossible tasks that you encounter during the preparation of that meal that is life. The next thing that we might expect to hear is the easy payment plan and the extra value added items that we will receive if we act now. That is about the point when this parallel between hundreds of infomercials and this Holy Spirit inspired statement of truth breaks down; for, there is no amount of money that we can send that will begin to pay for what has already been purchased for us by Christ, and there is absolutely nothing else that we will need to make the relationship complete beyond what God has already gifted and delivered to us.

The word of God came into existence through the actions of the Holy Spirit, and its words remain actively viable throughout all of time through the presence of that same Spirit in the hearts and the minds of people who read the words. The words and the books that they are printed in are not sacred, and the translations of the words, although these are usually the product of people who are passionately committed to presenting God’s word in forms that are accurate and accessible, are not to be worshiped; yet, the life and the clarity of the truth that is found within the word is sacred, for that is where the Spirit of God communicates with the minds of people in order to make these words a vitally important part of the on-going dialogue that is at the center of our relationship with God.

The word of God will answer every question that we have in life, and it does respond to each of our individual situations with the sort of honest insight that cuts through all of the surface issues and distractions, and with the precision of the finest cutting tool ever made, the sharp edge of truth exposes the real issues that our heart and mind need to be focusing on; then, the Spirit will provide us with a type of understanding that brings righteous thought and action into view. The Spirit also has this annoying habit of showing me the intentions of my heart; for then, as I give up my futile thinking, He has cleaned away the last remnants of the fatty waste that sin has formed in my thinking, and this precise tool that is the word of God has given to me the ability to enter more fully into the great feast that is the Lord’s banquet of life.

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