October 2010

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.

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and exult in you, I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalm 9:1, 2

When He was through with the process of creating all of the earth, God took time to look at it and to enjoy the intricate detail of the beauty that He had devised. God asks us to do the same thing; for, He wants us to step back from the tasks, take a break from the pursuit, be quiet for a moment and look at what He has done. He wants us to appreciate His presence and His provision, and wants us to be able to do this from deep inside, from our hearts. God has no need for words of thanks; he doesn’t gain anything even when we speak the most eloquent prayer of thanksgiving. The Lord knows that it is very important for our hearts to focus on Him; as, this is the deep worship that brings us closer to Him, that aligns us with His will.

As we go through life, we should be expressing our worship for the Lord by much more than just our words. Christ leads us to care for other people with sincerity of heart and with passion in our souls so that the source of that passion and the depth of that integrity is clearly shown to be found in Christ. Just as Jesus touched the lives of the wounded and desperate people during His days on earth as a tangible form of worship of the Father, He calls upon us to reach out without regard to the cost to the people that we encounter, and those acts of mercy, compassion, grace, and love are the most elevated forms of worship of our Lord.

When we sing praises to God, even if we do it silently, we are recognizing the source of the goodness, and the resource for life strength that is only found in Him. God commands that we praise and worship him, not because He needs to hear how wonderful He is; rather, He commands it because we need to stay focused and to retain clarity. God never waivers from His commitments to us, we are the ones who require time to stop our race through life and recall and reflect on who God is and on just how much He does for us. God doesn’t seek our words, He yearns for our hearts.

Arise sleeper, awake from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

Ephesians 5: 14

When Christ comes into our lives He changes the status of our souls from ones that are dead and already in the process of decaying into ones that are fully alive and that are then in the process of being transformed into ones that shine with the glory of Christ. Turning my life over to the Lord and following His path of righteousness in my life has the effect of quite literally awaking me from the deep and dark sleep of that spiritually dead state into the light of awareness. As Christ shows me truth and His Spirit makes acting upon that truth an imperative, my now wide open eyes begin to see that my world has a profound level of need for a savior.

This awareness is not a part of the thinking of a person who is still asleep, and, I fear, that there are times when those of us who do know Christ are also caught napping. We tune out the voice of Christ as He points us toward the hurt, the broken, and the spiritually needy people around us, and we excuse our untimely slumber by pointing to how much energy we are using in order to survive the day or to all of the really good things that we are already doing for the sale of our religious practices. To Christ, these statements are simply excuses, and He asks, “Am I not enough, am I not all that you need?”

The honest, true, and real answer is, “Yes, You are more than all that I ever need.” Awaken, arise, if your heart and mind have slipped into a drowsy state, it is time to pull back the curtains and let the glory of Christ in; then, it is also time to become like a rooster in your world crying out in celebration of the new dawn of life that is to be found in and through Christ.

Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by.

Psalm 57: 1

There are some days when the air is just filled with a sense that something is going to go very wrong or be incredibly hard to handle. In some of these instances I have a very good idea about the causes of my concern; since, I was likely responsible for causing the situation that is threatening me. At other times, I have absolutely no idea why I am experiencing this sensation of having the hair on the back of my neck standing up and my stomach churning with anticipation of what might come next. This world is certainly filled with enough evil to make anticipatory concern a very rational state of being, and I have an exceptional capacity for providing my own input to the chaos of this world.

That is probably why David’s words strike me with such intensity and with a heart felt realization that he is speaking for me; so, I can readily claim his words as mine and sing along with him this prayer of request for God’s grace to be generously poured out onto me. From experience, my Lord is very quick to provide the sort of gracious mercy, compassion, and protection that I need in these personally challenging times. He protects me from the assault of evil, and He sooths any wounds that I might have incurred in the fight. God’s Spirit hovers over my heart and my soul like a protective mother eagle who will sacrifice everything in order to guard her nest. He provides me with a safe place to be until I have regained the strength and the resources that I need to face the world again.

God’s protective and restorative drive is fundamental to who He is, and He readily gives the gift of His active presence to people. The Lord wants us to turn to Him as our source of encouragement as we prepare to face into each day of our lives. God wants us to remember that through Christ the war with evil has already been won; now, we are dealing with the guerrilla warfare style skirmishes that a defeated enemy uses to cause us to suffer pain and to distract us from bringing the message of Christ’s victory to more of the world. Instead, let’s join David in singing praise to God, the only true source of comfort, strength, and salvation.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

Serve the Lord with gladness!

Come into his presence with singing!

Psalm 100: 1, 2

Do you ever have days when the last thing that you would consider doing is singing, especially singing joyfully? I do; in fact, I do have those sorts of days too much of the time. So what is it that goes wrong? Well, it seems that life is what happens. There are bills to be paid, there are pressures and stresses at work, the world is full of sadness and anger, the news is full of nothing but apprehension, I don’t feel good, my important relationships are going sideways or worse; the list could continue for pages. The point is that there are always issues and events and feelings that make starting out the day in a positive and joyful frame of mind very hard to do.

Life can become a very painful place to exist; and existing is about all that we can accomplish when life is like this. We just hang on and hope that something will change, and if we are feeling especially optimistic, we hope that something will change for the better, too. God gives us a simple antidote to the day starting state of mind that tends to set an already defeated tone for our day; for, He says to crawl out of bed and sing some songs of praise. Now you may find that those who you encounter in the morning or your neighbors may take something of an exception to your operatic style renditions of praise songs. That is not exactly what the writer of this Psalm (a song, by the way) is saying to do.

He is saying to start off the day by talking to God about the peace, the joy, the answers to needs, the protection; about the ways that God is faithful to us; that is, the Lord wants us to sing a joyful song. God still wants to hear about our fears and our pain and our struggles; however, in order to set our minds into a frame of reference that is positively focused on answers, He also wants us to focus on His responses to our needs, and on Christ’s saving love. He is telling us that we can go out into our day with an attitude that is characterized by a heart that is singing the joyful song of a beloved child of the Lord.

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