November 2010

To each one grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Ephesians 4: 7

How large is the increment of measure that can include the entire gift that Christ has given to me? It is certainly much bigger than that giant measuring cup that is used when huge batches of cookies are being made, and it exceeds the tonnage that were indicated by the drive across scales that we used to weigh truck loads of hay. Christ’s loving gift of grace and the sacrifice that He made to secure it for me is beyond the limitations that my finite, human mind can grasp.

Yet, Christ tells me that I am now living in a state of being that is defined by His grace and that should reflect that same grace in the way that I think about and treat others in this world. My Lord gave all of Himself for my sake so that I could be set free from the crushing weight that sin placed on me. Jesus went to the very ends of Creation to claim my soul from Satan’s control and to bring me into His eternal presence. In doing this, Christ also claimed the souls of everyone who is willing to renounce the old allegiance to evil and to accept Him as Savior and Lord, and He places all of us into one great, eternal community of saints, His Body.

This is now our great calling. All of us who truly know Jesus are called to live like that new identity in Christ is real and is true. We are to seek connection and to strive for commonality of purpose. We are to love others with the sort of unrelenting and uncompromising love that Christ gives to each of us, and we are to extend the sort of grace to all that leads to the sort of honesty and truthfulness that brings about healing and restoration in individual relationships, families, and communities of believers. Christ’s gift to me is beyond my ability to measure, the least that I can do is to commit all of myself to Him.

The angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with it’s twelve kinds of fruit, yielding it’s fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Revelation 22: 1, 2

These are hard times; there is uncertainty and concern on almost every mind. People are being required to make hard choices about careers, family, and life goals. The assault of bad news seems relentless; so, we desire relief. Most of us have been focusing a lot of attention and putting a great deal of energy into the American political process. I fear that we have anticipated that relief from most of our current national ills would be found in the election of certain candidates. Where that anticipation is true, there will be immediate disappointment for those whose candidate didn’t win.

Additionally, disappointment is guaranteed for everyone who has placed hope in a political process to cure the ills of our world. No individual, no political party, no national system of governance can do this type of healing. This failure is not the result of weakness on the part of any individual, not due to improper political affiliations, nor is it the outcome of following a flawed or a corrupted Constitution. The rub of it all is that the most principled of elected officials, crafting the most worthy of legislation, and following the absolute intent of our founding fathers will not change the real status of the world that we live in.

There is only one source for the type of healing that will actually change our world, and there is only one form of restoration that will not fade and disappoint. I am not saying that we should not be involved in the political processes of our country, for God says that we should. In fact this is the time to be very involved; this is the time for Christians to speak out, to embrace the Lord’s truth, and to let Him speak through us with real clarity. People need to be shown how to look to the only true ruler, to Christ, for answers. Our greatest political calling is to bow down before the throne of God; then, take the leaves of healing to a hurting world, and share the one morning after the election news story that has universal and lasting importance: the only true river of life flows from the throne of God, and the tree that grows along it’s banks provides the only effective source of healing for all the weary and tormented souls of the world.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise.

Give thanks to Him; bless His name;

For the Lord is good

Psalm 100: 4, 5a

Thanks to God for:

Love and compassion

Peace and consideration

Joy set deeply;

Hands that help

A hand to hold

Christ holding me up;

Grace and restoration

Salvation and eternity

The Lord forever;

An unfailing Father

Infinite family


Lifelong purpose

Clarity of vision


His view of me

My worthiness

For He made me;

The greatest love

poured over me

So that I

Can love all in

Purity and truth;

A world to love for Christ

So they can know Him

and join

This chorus of thanksgiving and praise.

“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” Jesus

John 12: 27

The Lord was revealing a very human aspect of Himself, for as He was explaining the fact that the time for His death was near, Jesus also expresses the deep concern and dread that the events that were coming were causing in His heart. Even Jesus felt the sort of anxiety that brings about sweaty palms and a pounding heart. Even Christ needed to talk about the way that He felt and to express His concerns to the Father and to the people who were close to Him.

The same things are true for all of us. Yet there are many times when it seems that it is best to put on a brave front and to continue as if there is nothing to be concerned about. We face into situations that are causing our stomachs to churn and our minds to race in anticipation of the worst with a smile on the face and with all of our honest feelings stuffed deep inside a box that is labeled “Confident and Optimistic”. Christ shows us a different model.

While not doubting the Father’s plan or His purpose, Jesus still was able and willing to open up to those who were close to Him, and He was willing to let them know that the course that He was on was not easy and that it would become even harder. He was vulnerable and that vulnerability gave others an opportunity to join Him in the real journey of the heart an the mind. Christ wants us to trust Him and to trust the human spiritual family that He has given to us with the same sort of honest expression of our real state of being. Just as the Father responded to Jesus’ expression of need with reassurance, Christ does respond to our openness with His truth, love, and strength.

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Romans 12: 4, 5

Unity, togetherness, and oneness are all qualities desired by humans; yet, these are qualities of life that are hard to find. Perhaps this elusiveness is the result of the super human nature of the source of these qualities. In Christ, through the Spirit of God, anyone can be brought into one family; through knowing Jesus, everyone has the right to join together as one in spirit. This is a form of unity that embraces our individuality, for uniqueness is considered to be an important aspect of the way that God, Himself, created each of us. In God’s view of our humanity, all of the gifts, talents, and skills that we possess are useful and vital. It doesn’t matter how we came to have them; they can be the result of long, hard work and study or they can be the most natural thing that we do in life; regardless, the Lord will use the total package that we bring to life for His work and for His glory in this world.

The biggest obstacle in the way of recognizing this truth is our own stubborn blindness to it. We tend to be too hard on others, and we tend to be too hard on ourselves. Christ always sees the potential, and He always embraces the person and takes what each of us has at this time; then, He uses whatever it is that we bring to the table and grows us to the next level of maturity in Him.

We need to take what we have and stop spending so much time and energy on trying to sort it out or to find it’s perfect point of application; then, we need to join in with others and put our skills, talents, and gifts to work. This is something that every one of us needs to engage; almost everyone is under using the gifts that Christ has given to us. We also need to become less defensive and more open in the way that we view the abilities of others; we need to embrace God’s viewpoint, which sees the potential, and not the obstacle. Unity, togetherness, and oneness are found through openness; strength, protection, and accomplishment are found together in the body of Christ.

Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4: 16

In this thought lies one of the greatest aspects of the transformed reality that is ours in Christ Jesus. There is a human tendency to fear authority, and this is especially true when the sort of authority that we are facing has power over and control of our comfort, freedom, and feeling of well being. Most of us have experienced the dread that comes with the prospect of going to see the school principle, of having a parent discover our misdeeds, or being summoned to the boss’s office. The heart rate elevates and palms become sweaty, and the mind starts to build images of the worst of all possible outcomes into something that is like absolute fact; so, we don’t want to go and face the music.

However, Christ calls, He summons us, and the Lord seeks after us to come before Him. The words that He needs to say may very well be words of correction, for we might need more than anything else to have the way that we are thinking and living straightened out and changed; still, Christ calls us to receive mercy and to be blessed by the kiss of grace. He hands us the receipt that has been signed and sealed by the highest court possible that tells us that the fine for all of our misdeeds, all of our sin, has been paid in full by Christ; more so, it indicates that the sum that was paid was the sacrifice of the one and only perfect and blameless lamb, Jesus.

Now everyone can come to God under all circumstances, at any time of the day or night, and in whatever state of being that we may find ourselves; and we can do this with total and complete confidence and with the understanding that we will be received with the open arms of love that the Father uses to greet His most beloved children. You see, because of Christ’s sacrifice, an act that He willingly performed for my sake, I am now cleansed of all of the impurity that had previously created a barrier between me and God. Also, I have Christ’s promise that He does stand before the Father to tell God that I am His own, and I know with the sort of confidence that can only come from the word of truth that is Christ that I will be touched by touched by God’ love, healed from my brokenness, and transformed into His glory.

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Matthew 9: 36

What kind of man is this that could look upon the faces of people who would laugh at Him and who would refuse to grant him any respect and have His heart break over how lost they were? What sort of person can know that He will be totally abandoned and still seek to show the foresakers the way to eternal belonging? These are attitudes that I would find impossible to live out, and this is an approach to life that most people would consider to be completely crazy.

That is why this kind of love had to come to live with people, for we would never accept its possibility much less its reality if we had not seen it in the flesh. This is how Matthew described Jesus’ attitude toward the people that they were meeting as they traveled and shared God’s message of restorative love with ever growing and always needy crowds. Sheep can be a remarkably helpless lot; easy meals for predators, worried into collapse and death by simple things, and unable to move on their own the few steps that are required to find food and fresh water. Sheep will crush themselves to death by pressing against a rock wall if not turned in a different direction. Yet, when properly cared for, provided with good food and plentiful water, and protected from danger, they are among the most productive and valuable of all animals.

Jesus looks at each of us and sees the pain, the fear, and the hurt that grips our hearts. He looks at us and knows our needs and our insecurities. Jesus not only understands the struggles and the dangers of our lives, He is the good shepherd who will guide, provide for, and protect us. Jesus will never leave anyone in a state of vulnerability, directionless and alone. He is the only reliable shepherd for our souls, and He is the true answer to all that we need in order to be the most productive creatures in all of Creation.

When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me.

John 15: 26

These are the words of Jesus, and He is describing basic and essential truth about God. He will never leave us alone or on our own; for, if we know the Father through our relationship with Jesus; then, we will have the Holy Spirit with us. God’s desire is to never be separated from His children again, and His promise is to always be with us.

There is nothing that we can encounter that the Lord does not have an answer for, and there is nowhere that we can go where He doesn’t know the terrain. We have been provided with God’s word to read and to consider as we seek to understand His will and His way in our lives, and the Lord has given us His Spirit as the only authorized interpreter for when its words seem too mysterious for us to grasp.

The Spirit of Christ is in this life with us without day off and without reservation or hesitation. Whether I am in the middle of a major challenge or a huge decision, the Lord will speak to me and He will direct me to proceed in a way that will bring honor and glory to Him. I have a life resource that is unique to God’s children, the Spirit of Christ, who gives me the kind of constant feed back and guidance that I need to navigate my way through this complex world. I need to do three things in order to allow this relationship to flourish: I need to recognize that the Holy Spirit  is real in my life; I need to allow his voice access to my heart on a consistent basis; and I need to let go of my willful desire to be in control and allow Christ to take me to places that are wonderful beyond my ability to imagine.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.

Hebrews 13: 8

In an uncertain time in the ever swirling history of the world, what is there that is absolutely, undeniably, and permanently unchanged and unchanging? Leaders of nations are in power for only a moment, and their thoughts, ideas, and actions tend to change over time as they are influenced by events and by people. No nation has continued throughout all of time, and every one of them that has long-standing has also changed greatly. Today’s wondrous building is tomorrow’s tourist curiosity; there is nothing that people create that does not eventually crumble.

Still, the hearts of people are made to seek out and to desire someplace to anchor, some solid platform to stand on; one real and tangible place to put our feet that will not shift and tumble during the storm. Unfortunately, so many of the promises of security that we grab hold of are nothing more than illusions; they are momentary and terribly disappointing when they fail, and they can lead us away from the truth and the stability that are found in Christ. 

God’s promise to all people is straight forward and clear; He tells us to accept the safe harbor that is found in Jesus, hold onto Him, let Christ’s Spirit lead the way through life, and you will have the kind of certainty that your soul craves. As we stay connected to Jesus, the swirling chaos that is so much a part of the world around us becomes less disorienting, for we are standing on a platform that has not moved through all of history, and it is the one that will not be shaken and will never change or disappoint us.

Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3: 13b, 14

Here is a life certainty, the path through it is littered with twists and turns, ups and downs, sidesteps and missteps; the plan that we have created may call for clear skies and a gentle following breeze; yet, the day that the trip begins is the one when the typhoon strikes. I find that it is really easy to start looking down to watch for the rocks in my path, and to look back with my focus on the wreckage that has accumulated in my wake. When my eyes are turned back and down, my focus becomes diverted from the Lord’s objective; also, when my attention and my focus are so directed, my heart tends to go along, too.

It is abundantly clear to me that Christ has a plan, He has a purpose, and He has a direction for me to take; this is true in the long view of life, and it is true in a moment-by-moment perspective. I also know that I waste a lot of time in every one of my days. I can be busy, occupied, engaged, and breathless through all of its hours; still, if all of that energy is expended in looking away from God’s upward calling, it is not well spent.

The Lord’s plan and purpose for life includes the things that we are doing, and it involves the people that we are in contact with. He has placed His children into the life roles that we are in; the Lord may move us or lead us or call us to something else, but there is no situation where we cannot serve Him. And that is the point that He seems to be talking with me about. In everything and in every circumstance, stay focused ahead and keep looking up. We need to keep our eyes and our hearts focused on Christ’s way, and when we do this, He is served, our days will be made joyously full, and people are touched by the presence of Christ.

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