May 2010

O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.

Daniel 9: 19

What a prayer Daniel offers up to God; we hear the voice of a person who desires from the deepest places in his being for God to take clear and decisive action. This sort of request requires a tremendous amount of faith and an unshakable trust in the Lord; for, what Daniel is asking for God to do removes all human input and control from the equation. This is not a prayer in which the one asking favor from God is stating any of the desired outcomes or providing a list of wants or even of wishes. It is a prayer of total surrender to the will of the Lord.

This is a great model for all of us. You see, it demonstrates the sort of yielding and submission to God’s much more accurate and complete understanding of what we and our world actually need than our frequently self-centered concepts of where and how the Lord should respond to us. Ultimately our own best interests are always served when God deals with the true, root issues of our lives; thus, when we seek out the Lord it is important to let Him know what is on our hearts and on our minds, and He will listen. It is also important to recognize the ways and the areas of our lives where we have failed to follow Him, and He will forgive us; also, it is important to trust the Lord to respond in the manner that will best serve the purposes of His kingdom, and He will act.

If this is the approach that we take to talking with the Lord each day, and this is the attitude of anticipatory trust that we hold throughout our days, we will hear the voice of the Lord, and we will experience His gracious blessing in our lives. This God-focused perspective removes our own anticipated outcome from its usual place of importance. When we live with this sort of close, trusting, and yielded attitude toward God as our daily foundation, we will experience the full calling of the Lord.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.” Jesus said.

Matthew 20: 1

This is something that Jesus did frequently; He told stories that illustrated principles about life in ways that had a framework that was readily identifiable to His audience; yet, the stories always carried within them a depth of meaning that was much greater than the simple facts that were being presented. Since the actual teaching point of the story is concealed or buried within the facts of the tale and requires the reader to think and to consider what the true implications might be, we refer to many of these stories as parables, for they use real life people and situations to teach about a broader life principle.

I think that this must be a way of communicating that God considers to be highly effective in connecting with people; for, the Old Testament is also filled with stories of how people lived, the way that God interacted with them, and the outcomes of those relationships. The entirety of the word of God is filled with stories that are intended to tell us about the people who are featured in them, and that are also intended to guide us into an understanding of just who God is and of how He relates to people just like us. The Lord wants us to continually seek to know Him better, and He has provided us with a full, rich picture of His kingdom and of His ways of ruling it in His word. The Lord also has given us a guide and an interpreter for the mysteries of these stories in the Holy Spirit.

People who know God are already living inside of the Kingdom of Heaven; the Lord has provided us with the perfect, complete, and ultimate guidebook to living in this wondrous place in His word. The more time that we spend in searching out the hidden treasures and the extraordinary sights of our homeland, the more we will get to know our Father who rules over it. Today is a day that will be spent in the presence and in the company of the Lord, today we are living in His land, and today would be a great day to seek out one of those hidden treasures that His guidebook has ready to reveal to anyone who seeks after them.

The Lord says,” I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground.”

Isaiah 44:3

If there ever were a dry and a thirsty land, this is it; for, evil is everywhere soaking up all of the refreshing and life sustaining moisture; thus, this world can be an arid and an inhospitable place for the soul to reside. The effects of dehydration can wear down the will to continue on, and change a forward looking perspective into a survival driven quest. Yet, it is to this very need that the Lord is speaking, and He speaks with a voice that is authoritative, reassuring, and convincing, and He tells me to stop worrying about my parched throat, for God will give me all of the water that I will ever need, and all I have to do to drink my fill is open my heart to His truth.

It is not that this thirsty condition is not natural or that is is in some way wrong, for it is actually a useful state of being. Thirst is a powerful driver in people that causes us to set aside other interests and pursuits in order to satisfy its cravings before they reach the level of life or death urgency. So, when my mouth is being chocked with the dust of this world and my personal sources of liquid replenishment have been drained, I am forced to slow down my relentless motion, and I am required to start searching for a source of resupply and restoration. These are the sorts of times when the voice of the Lord seems to speak with the sort of clarity and strength that penetrates through the thirst to overcome all of my self-directed attempts to meet this need.

God’s Spirit is the great diviner of the type of water that actually works to satisfy the powerful needs of my heart. He leads me deeper into the truths that flow from and through His word. Sometimes they pour out like a great river, at other times they roll gently along with the soft gurgling sound of a mountain stream, and there are truths that need to be dug from deep inside the core; yet, there is always far more available to me than I can possibly consume, and the Lord is more than generous with this gift. So, when life’s desert starts to fill your day with dryness, look to the true water of God’s word for the unending refreshment that will not fail.

“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.

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