October 2010

Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being of full accord and of one mind.

Philippians 2: 2

Finding unity and harmony, even just getting along with other people is difficult to do. We need our own space and our own viewpoint, and we need ours validated; we need our own way, for we are right, aren’t we? I have a mandate from God to stand my ground and to champion the cause as I see it, right? Those are good questions; they are especially good ones for me to ask myself. The answer to the second one is, yes, but; yes, God does want me to speak the truth in all things; yes, God does want me to enter into the lives of others with this truth; and, yes, God does set absolute and very high standards for the way that we all should live. But, it is my approach to the telling of God’s truth that is usually the issue. 

At this point in his letter to his friends at Philippi, Paul, writing the words that the Spirit of God gave him, is telling them to seek out a singular viewpoint for dealing with life. He tells them to seek a common source for knowledge and wisdom, to hold the same intensity and depth of love, and to apply these common qualities to the ways that they interact together and with their culture. Paul leads them to one, inevitable, conclusion; there is one and only one model to look to in order to understand this type of living, for it is utterly foreign to human behavior.

Jesus lived a life of serving, of caring for others, and of loving people completely; He lived in a manner that demonstrated the true heart of God to us. God is not calling upon us to come together and to seek consensus of viewpoint; He is not instructing us to follow the political process and form a sort of Christian Party statement of beliefs that has unity, one-mindedness, and love as it’s planks. He is calling upon us to meditate on Christ’s love, to read about His life, to pray for His heart, and to purposefully live as He did. The oneness that God calls us to embrace is oneness with Him through Jesus. The Lord feels joyous when we see others as He does and choose to serve them; He is delighted when we trust His Spirit to lead us to the needs of the people around us and when we set aside our own wishes, wants, and desires in order to allow Christ the opportunity to work through us to touch hearts. Understanding and embracing the heart of Christ is a prayer goal for every day; likewise, living in the way that He calls upon us to live is the corresponding action goal for this day.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4: 6, 7

Among my most dysfunctional of times are those where I am trying to deal with something that I don’t have a ready answer to. These can be relationship issues, challenges at work, bills to pay, or a home improvement project that just won’t come together. I get overwhelmed by anxiety and concern; sometimes I get to a place where I can’t function at all. These times are frustrating and the feeling of being bound in tight ropes with no room to move spills over into other aspects of my day; so, I become less capable in general.

When anxiety is afoot, Paul tells us to take the issue, even more importantly, take the anxiety to God. Trust is the center piece of the first sentence; we are instructed to go to God with a spirit of thanksgiving, rejoicing in the consistency of response that we have received in the past and in the anticipation of the Lord’s response to us this time. Talk the situation over with our Father, really open up our hearts to him, pour out the issue and let the rest of the story come out also. When I am in one of these anxiety funks, I can usually trace a history of similar situations that have gone badly, at least in my estimation, and that are now adding to my stress and placing the heavy weight on top of my ability to move forward. Take the story to God, consider his involvement in your life, give him the respect and the honor that he has earned, and listen to his voice. He will not be silent.

Sometimes the voice that he uses is very soft, and sometimes it is as the roar of a jet engine; yet, it is always there. Paul speaks powerfully to me when he says to let the peace of God guard my heart and my mind. Most of the time God has already equipped me with the skills and the reasoning ability to solve the dilemma. The answers may not be so easy, they may require hard work, but they are there. It is the peace of heart and mind that opens me up, that frees me to use the resources that God has provided. My prayer is that the peace of God would wash over us all throughout the day; that we would stay close to Christ in an attitude of life walk prayer where we allow Him to continually wrap us in His warming cloak of clear, peaceful thinking.

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.

Galatians 3: 16

The Lord, God is a maker of promises, and He is also the One who keeps them. From the beginning of time He has told people what He will do and how He was planning to do it. Without fail, the Lord has performed. Also, the commitments that God made with the earliest of my ancestors are ones that He makes good on with me, for the Lord’s answer to all of His promises is found in Christ.

Thus, the answer to everything that is lacking in my humanity is found in Christ. The solution for my need to receive grace and pardon from the sin that separates me from God comes through Christ. He is my true lover and the One who comforts and protects my heart. Jesus, the Christ, shows me how to engage and to love the people of this world and how to care for the rest of His creation. His Spirit leads me to truth and teaches me to use it wisely.

There is one and only one focus for my heart and mind to remain fixed upon, and that is Christ. When I am looking on Him and keeping the eyes of my heart centered on His will, Christ grants me understanding of His desires and direction for my life, and He provides me with everything that I will need to follow Him. Christ, Himself, is the connecting point with all of the people in my life, for through Him, it is possible to actually love them to the degree that I am willing to take the risk of entering into honest relationship with them. God’s promises are great, and His answer to them, Christ, is the complete expression of His glory.

So rejoice, O sons of Zion, and be glad in the Lord your God; for He has given you the autumn rain for your vindication. And He has poured down for you the rain, the autumn and the spring rain as before.

Joel 2: 23

The tangible start of the fall season is marked by a very noticeable decrease in the number of hours of sunlight and by changes in the weather. Temperatures become dramatically cooler and the rains come as if they are intended to wash the dead leaves from the trees. God gave the prophet Joel a vision that clearly indicated that the rains were the Lord’s gift to His people, and in that vision it was made clear that even the timing of that rain was something that God managed and designed as a small part of His very intricate plan for this world. The fall rains come and they surround the roots of plants and the in ground seeds with the moisture that they will need to sustain them through the winter; then, in the spring, the rain comes at a time when new life is ready to respond to the warmth of the sun. 

The Lord has a well crafted plan, and He is never quiet or uninvolved in its execution. Just as God does with the rain for the earth, Christ does for each of His people, for He delivers each and every thing that we need to sustain us at the place in life where we are, and He also provides the deep nourishment that we will need in the future. Christ feeds the soul with His love, grace, mercy, and understanding so that we can grow in our own capacity to respond to life with these same qualities. His perfectly timed rain brings about growth that matches the season that each of us is experiencing.

My heart sings with the joy of the certainty of knowing that Christ will pour out His loving rain onto my head today, and I rejoice daily in being soaked in the presence of His Spirit. Christ saves my soul, and He preserves my spirit from the assault that evil launches each day. The Lord gives me the strength to grow and to stand upright despite the forces of this natural world that rage against me. He plants me deeply in the rich soil of His word so that Christ’s glory is revealed through my life.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

1 Corinthians 16: 13, 14

Although it is really easy to get caught up in the contemplative aspects of connecting with God through prayer and meditation, it is important to take what we learn in this manner and to put feet onto it throughout our day. These words are filled with the action of a life lived in a close relationship with Christ. Faith is not something that we hold quietly inside; it is not a passive quality of our lives as Christians; it is the fuel of the words and the actions that are the substance of what we do and of how we are perceived each day. Faith in the God that we have come to know and who knows us deeply, who made us to fulfill the life purpose that we are faced with each day, this is the faith that provides the strength and that opens our hearts and our minds to the ways that the Lord will use us this day.

We are to continually look for and to be attuned to the needs of others, and we should seek out opportunities to speak and to act in the name of Christ; we are also to be alert for the satanic attacks that will go with a life lived for Him. It is important to prepare to stand up for what we believe, sometimes this is in words, more often it is in the actions that we take and in the way that we treat others. This takes courage and strength. We may be required to do and to say things that the world around us will look at as irrational or just plain dumb. We still need to be ready to do it; for, we need to be ready to set aside the rational processes of considering our personal risk and be willing to let the Holy Spirit take charge of the moment; as the famous add campaign says, “Just Do It!”.

One final thing to consider, action can be very powerful and a bit addicting. We can get caught up in the adrenalin rush that comes from our desire to live fully for Christ; therefore, the final instruction here is that we should do everything with one, singular and overarching motive. Faith tells us that we can trust God’s love for us as his primary motive in relating to us. Perhaps the most courageous quality that we are called upon by God to employ in our daily living for Him is that of love. Faith gives us the strength that is needed to drop the sword that we naturally want to let lead our way through life and to open our hands and our arms in order to embrace the lost and the hurting people that Christ will place into our paths.

And because of God you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption

1 Corinthians 1: 30

It seems that Paul was being reminded of all of the years of his life when he thought that he was totally in control, when he had his life’s direction well planned; then, God entered into the picture with such a mighty presence that he was forced to change coarse. If there is ever a time and a place to give up control and to accept what is there for us, it is in our connection to Christ. If you ever feel the urge to let go of the steering wheel and simply allow life to drive itself, do it so that the Lord’s hands do the guiding. 

God is the pursuer, he is the faithful one, and He never stops calling out to us; God wants to be in a deeply committed relationship with Him. When we agree to make that commitment, He opens our hearts to the kind of truth that will sustain the relationship and that will enlighten us in how to live well with others. God gives us a new definition of wisdom, and He provides us with its perfect example and teacher in Jesus. Through Christ we are made right in God’s eyes; thus, we can treat others rightly with loving honor and grace. Through Him we are separated from the world and from the sin that rules it; we are provided with a clearer and a higher view of what it means to live righteously. Through Jesus’ sacrifice we have been reclaimed from the spiritual dead end life that we were living, for now we are truly alive. All of this was done for us, and the results of this change are being expressed through us every day.

It is God’s wish and his will that we would give him credit for bringing us to him; He wants us to live as the new people that we have become through grace; and he absolutely wants us to let others in on the secret. It is a very simple story; lost and heart-dead, then picked up, cleaned up, and placed upon high with Christ. I did none of this for myself; Jesus does it all for anyone who will let Him. Tell the story to all you meet, and shout out its mighty truth through living in holy obedience to Christ’s calling..

And it came about that when Christ had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.

Luke 24: 30, 31

This is an amazing scene where Jesus has joined with His followers after they saw Him crucified and buried, and He has walked with a couple of them while teaching them; now, Christ has joined them for an evening meal. Still they don’t realize who they are with. Although I don’t believe that anything actually happens to the bread or the wine that we use in our memorial celebrations of Jesus’ sacrificial offering of Himself, there should be something rather mystical about it. Whenever we participate in this event that many in the church call Communion, we should be taking the time to reflect on who Christ is and on what He means to me at this time.

Like the bread and the wine, Christ sustains my body and He satisfies my thirst. He does this by providing the most basic things that I need and by inviting me to join Him in the daily banquet feast of His Spirit. His word shows me who He is and how that has been true from the beginning of time, and Christ shows me who I truly am and what that reality means. He opens my heart to the love that He has for me, and Christ breaks down my defenses and takes away my fears so that I can open my arms in love to embrace the people that are in my world. The Lord continually reminds me of the person that I have become due to the redemptive work of His grace and the transformative work of His Spirit. This new person is free to celebrate Christ’s victory over sin with all who would join in and worship the God who saves.

As I taste this simple bread and pour the drink into my mouth, there is truly something magical happening, for this is a time when Christ’s presence is profound. He is at the center of the room and in the center of my heart, and the Lord speaks the breath of His peace, joy, and understanding into me. Christ tells me to open my eyes and see, and He says to open my ears and hear; for, He is always with me to fill me with all that I need and to sustain my soul throughout the day.

So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord, His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.

Hosea 6: 3

There is no situation or circumstance that I might encounter in life that the Lord does not and will not speak to, for there is nothing in this world that He does not have authority over and that is out of His area of interest. God cares deeply about the people of this earth, and He also has great concern for the rest of His creation. For me the key to understanding the Lord’s perspective on all of this is to seek to know Him better.

God does not attempt to conceal Himself from people, for in and through Christ, God has become knowable. Certainly there is still mystery, and there are aspects of God’s wisdom and of His plan that are shrouded deeply in that seemingly impenetrable cloud; yet and still, Christ and His Spirit provide the degree of access to all understanding that we actually need. My mind, heart, and spirit are the ones that grow weary and that settle for finding answers within my own understanding; while, the Lord continually calls to me to stop listening to the easy voice of self and to look closely and deeply into Him.

If I desire to know truth that will respond to everything that I will encounter, and if I want to find the source of wisdom that is solid and unwavering; then, all I need to do is to look into the heart of truth’s author. He comes to me, and He opens His heart to me, and Christ fills me with tangible and actionable insight into living a life that is full and fulfilled. The Lord blesses me with the warm glow of His glory, and He refreshes my soul with the mist of His mercy and grace.

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

Psalm 90: 17

The singular most favorable thing that God has ever done was to come into my world, Himself, to spend His days with people who were just like me, and then finish those days by volunteering to climb onto the altar of sacrifice in order to make real the fact of salvation. God, the Father, sovereign over all of creation, and owner of everything has granted me the favor of His presence in the world of corruption and loss where my body dwells, and He has given me the favor of a total relationship with Him. There is nothing else that I need that actually counts for much of anything; yet, Christ continues to shower me with gifts both great and small.

The Lord is present in the person of His Spirit throughout every moment of my life, for He speaks courage to my heart and wisdom and understanding to my mind, and His word brings knowledge and grants me perspective on every situation and issue that comes my way. Christ has paced me into a family of people who also know Him, and it is through Him that the barriers that our human, sinful selves construct to keep us safe and others at a distance are removed; so, I am blessed daily by the riches of the diversity of the people that are with me in the body of Christ. Jesus, through His life example, by His blood, and in His Spirit grants to me the favor of His purpose, direction, and capacity for impacting my world with the truth of salvation.

In my humanity it is easy to become confused or to lose sight of the continual fact of Christ’s presence and provision; yet, all I need to do is to open my heart and calmly listen to His voice, and the truth that, in Christ, fills my world becomes evident. What I do matters far less than who I am doing it for, and the results of my efforts are insignificant in comparison to living in the center of Christ’s love and to demonstrating it while I am working. Still, my God does grant me the favor of doing His will, and He makes His delight in my humble and too often flawed obedience clear to me.

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.

Ecclesiastes 4:9,10a

It is a basic principle of God’s design for people that we should live, work, and function in companionship with other people. One of the earliest ideas that God expressed regarding people was, “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). This need is foundational in our creation. We are at our best when we have friendships and spiritual family relationships that are a regular part of our lives.

People need to be connected and to connect; then, when we are engaged in the lives of others, we are in a place where we can do some of the picking up that they require and gain strength through the exercise that is derived through the lifting. Also we are able to be honest and open enough with others so that they can lift us up when we have fallen. In the world of Christian fellowship, we will find people who will laugh and tell jokes, who will cry and wipe our tears away, and who will hold us close and feed our stomachs and our souls.

The proverb that reads, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) refers to the way in which people who are in a real and an honest relationship function with each other to make each other ever stronger. I think that a subtle undertone in this verse is the fact that the people are referred to as iron, I take this to mean that each of them are made up of the strong stuff that comes from being children of God. This is a statement about the value and the benefit of real, interactive, and impactful relationship; for this is a statement about real fellowship between Christians. At times sparks may fly, but the result is a form of sharpness that cuts through life’s darkest moments.

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