April 2011


The next day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb
of God who takes away the sins of the world!”

John 1: 29

Oh, to look upon Jesus with this passion, to see Him as the answer for all that has
gone wrong with my life and for everything that I have done, am about to do,
and will ever contemplate doing that is contrary to God’s will. The picture
that I have of the scene from this verse is of Jesus walking along a road that
is very much like my path through the day. He is walking toward the place where
I am living and toward the way that I am living, too. Christ comes to us.
He is not passively waiting and watching, and the Spirit of Christ is very
active in our world, for He does not want anyone to fail to receive the
opportunity to know Him. God has promised that He never leaves any of us
alone.

Jesus came to set every person free from the oppressive hold that evil has on our hearts;
He came to grant the freedom that we need to be close to God, the Father,
forever, and He came to release us from the imprisonment of our daily
fears, doubts, and shame. The entire burden of our hurtful and
damaging actions, thoughts, and intent is carried off of our souls by
Christ. This is freedom of the truest sort. This is the one sure form of
restoration that exists in this life. In Jesus we can find a peace that soaks
through the hardened shell of living to the center of our beings.

We need to be like John the Baptist, recognizing Jesus for who He is and accepting the
blessing of what He does for us. We should want to share this truth
with our world, and we need to share it with John’s passionate joy, for
here with me, always walking along my life-path, is my Lord and
my Savior, Jesus.

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The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be self-controlled and sober-minded.

1 Peter 4: 7

Life is serious business; there are challenges, struggles, and obstacles to joy in the
each of our days. This is that part of history that God has told all of His
children about, for this is the part where evil starts working doubly hard at
causing pain and trying to convince people that God is not in control. Satan
and his followers become like those last flies of summer that are so
annoying when the weather starts to turn cold; they buzz around your head,
and you keep wishing that the frost would come to finish them off. Well,
the finishing off of Satan is near, and he is fighting his last desperate
battle.

In order to be prepared, to face the unknown fight that will face each of us, God wants
us to be thinking clearly. He says that we will need to keep our emotions in
control, not be unemotional or cold, but we need to maintain a sane perspective
when life turns sideways like an out of control truck. Anger, rage, fear,
frustration and all of the powerful feelings that wrong brings out work to
slow our ability to react with clarity of judgment and they make it
difficult to keep our hearts centered in Christ’s love. These
feelings can motivate us to action, but they can also become tools that Satan
uses to decrease our effectiveness as servants of the Lord.

We also need to get ourselves ready for each day. In God’s Word we are told to prepare
for it with as much diligence as we would for the most important business
meeting of our lives, the final exam of our educational career, or the national
championship game. God wants us to face the adversity of life, to look the
adversary squarely in the face and not be concerned about our preparation.
There should be no spots or wrinkles on our shirt, hair perfectly in place, and
our minds sharpened with God’s thoughts and our hearts strong. This condition,
this level of preparedness is achieved through prayer, through study of God’s
Word, and through the interaction of the Holy Spirit. It can be ours always.
Christ will give us the insight, the wisdom, the strength, the focus, and the
love that our daily battles demand. In order to be ready to combat these end
times foes we need to direct our hearts toward Christ every day and in all
situations throughout each day.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4: 8

Even in God’s family there is hurt; even among His children there is anger and
selfishness; even between Christ’s own there is mean spirited and damaging
behavior. We all act in ways that look far too much like the father of lies
rather like Jesus. Yet I know that no believer puts on his What Would Satan Do
bracelet and attitude to consider how to treat others. The problem is that we
just don’t consider the cost of our actions and the harm of our attitudes.
Although redeemed from the final payday that sin demands, we are still fighting
the fight against the sin controlled selves that we were before Christ. The
reality of just how much harm we can do with a few simple words, a
condescending and disrespectful attitude, or self-centeredness should be very
sobering to us. Unfortunately, we will still do these hurtful things; for, the
work that God has started in us is just not completed.

So what are we to do when we are on the receiving end of the pain; how does God want us to
react to it and to the person who has inflicted it? What do we do when we are
the one who has harmed someone else? God says that the primary thing that we
are to do, the thing that has to be placed above every other priority on our
list, is to realize that, in Christ, all of our relationships should be love
relationships. We need to reflect and remember that regardless of the actions
and the attitudes of others, Jesus still loves them, for God loves everyone of
his children with equal measure as everyone is loved totally.

Grace and forgiveness need to be our starting points in repairing and restoring our
relationships within the community of Christ. Love is the spackling compound
that fills in the dent that our fist of anger caused in the wall of our
spiritual house. When we have been wrong, humility and repentance are the
starting place for gaining back the trust that our sin has diminished. Finally,
we need to seek to love others with an intensity and a focus that is rare in
humans. God says that we need to model a love that gave everything for us, and
we need to stay close to the Lord and allow Him to rule our hearts in a way
that our attitudes and our actions are soaked in the love of Christ. This is
the love that has already removed our multitudinous sins. This is the love that
will transform our naturally self centered selves into people who show to
all the love that can only come from Christ.

They found the stone rolled away from the tomb.

Luke 24: 2

This is a story that I know rather well, for I have read it
and heard it may times; yet, like so much of God’s word, there is always more
to be learned from inside of the living text. I have always taken this short
sentence as a powerful descriptor of the moment of discovery when Jesus’
followers first became aware of the fact that His body was no longer residing
in the tomb where they had placed it. This is a tension filled scene that raises
the great question that is at the center of the Easter story. So, we ask,
“Where is He who was crucified?”

God had sent His angel to that tomb to remove the heavy
stone that was used to seal it and that was intended to protect the body inside
from grave robbers and to separate the dead from the living. God also reaches
into the death that fills the souls of people, and He asks us to allow Him to
remove the stone that seals us up in that place of everlasting decay. Inside of
the tomb that sin has constructed for humanity there is a false sense of
security, and the air is filled with a sweet aroma; however, that fragrance is
the stench of death, and the stone walls that seem secure are actually a
barrier that separates those inside from the true security that is found in
Christ.

Jesus came into this world to be our sacrifice, and He came
out of that tomb to permanently defeat the hold that Satan had on the souls of
people. The Spirit of Christ is in this world to reach into the lives of us
all. He seeks to remove the stones that seal us up in our own tombs, and He
continually strives with the forces of evil that attempt to convince people
that the tomb is a place of comfort and safety. God’s word provides clear
perspective and truth, and His Spirit continually speaks words of love,
encouragement, and righteousness. We need to listen to the voice of Christ and
come out of the tombs that we might have reentered. We also need to keep
calling out to those who don’t know Christ with the certainty and the confidence
of people who are breathing the clean air of salvation, for Christ has come,
and He has rolled away the stone so that they are no longer captives. He who
was crucified is alive, and He will set free all who come to Him.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you,

But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6: 8

It is interesting and strangely contradictory how that area of life that we call human
nature can lead to some very serious questions regarding who God is and how He
wants me to relate to Him. I think that almost everyone at one time or other
struggles with being able and willing to do the things that we think that God
requires from us. We begin to think things like, He wants too much, His
standards are too hard and constricting, and these requirements are simply not
realistic. So what exactly is it that God does require from people? What is it
that is so hard to follow?

Perhaps God does get it that I am too often understanding challenged and that I
need things presented to me in a straight forward and easily grasped
manner; thus, He gave me this very direct and truly simple statement of what
His heart desires to see out of me. We all desire justice, at least until we
are the ones who are on its receiving end; yet, justice is what produces a
solid, trustworthy foundation for truth in life. God’s justice is always
closely linked to His kindness or, as stated in other versions, His mercy,
for justice without kindness is like the Law without grace; its effectiveness
and its ability to truly change lives is very limited. These
characteristics are bound together in our lives by staying close to their
source and by surrendering our own predetermined understanding of them to His
perfect one. That humble, openhearted and continual walk with the Lord is what
affects the type of change in our hearts that makes this Christ-like justice
with mercy a personal operating platform for life.

Still, what we do with this understanding is the thing that matters. When we enter into
lives with an open-hearted willingness to walk through this day with others and
with a preset determination to value them and to actively listen to the story
that they have to tell, we bring Christ into their lives. Humility before the
Lord brings us to a place where we are compelled to follow Him and to fulfill
His desire to put feet to justice and loving compassion into its application.
When this happens the world is touched by the redemptive hand of God, and The
Spirit of Christ touches the doer with an anointing of grace.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even
when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by
grace you have been saved — and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him
in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2: 4-6

Eternity is not just some far off time and place where we hope and plan to go after this
period of earthly living is done. It is much more immediate and far more
tangible than that. I believe that God wants us to realize that when we accept
the saving relationship with Jesus we are also entering into a this-life
changing one with Him. Since we were created, God has desired to be in daily
contact with people; He wants to talk with us, He seeks to guide us, and He
provides for our needs.

My orientation has been changed by this relationship, also; Christ is a part of me
now; thus, my viewpoint has been altered to one that is more
like God’s. One of the great challenges in this is to maintain an attitude that
is truly righteous; for God does see things differently than I do without
Him. However, instead of being more ridged, demanding, and condemning; God
is understanding, accepting, and all-loving; I need to stay reminded
of the fact that God chased after me when I was a walking spiritual corpse
and that He continues to love me and to pursue me no matter what I do.
Christ directs me to do nothing less with others.

For me the idea that I have a chair, a place of honor, to sit by God’s side is amazing,
and it is humbling. There is something extraordinary about sitting with
God; it means that He wants me to stay for a while and talk, it means that He
wants me to feel safe and that He is accessible, and it means that I have been
invited to dwell with Christ and to live in the splendor of the Lord’s
house. My life has been absolutely altered by this new vantage point
on life and on living, for my soul and my mind can now see with the clarity of
God, and my purpose should become God’s, too.  Each
day we should look around at our environment and truly open the eyes of
our hearts to see Christ’s presence. We need to talk with Him closely,
intimately, and directly so that His view of the day can become ours, and
we need to focus on how Christ is in us and on what it means to be truly
alive in Him.

Our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ who gave Himself for
us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for
Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Titus 2: 13b, 14

Life can be a seemingly endless cycle of lost acts and
wounded relationships. I take the pain that I feel and sooth my own soul by
transferring it to others, and they, in turn, do the same. It all continues and
it even gains energy so that, like a self winding watch, time goes by and days become
years which transform into generations. Still, there is no relief from the
cycle of hurt and from this history of brokenness. The unrelenting motion of
all of this seems impossible to stop; so, its cessation requires something far
beyond the ordinary and completely outside of the strength or the capacity of
human endeavor.

The impossible was made real when Christ entered into the
cycle. He irrevocably changed the potential for all of us when He threw His
being into the gear works of human sin and death. In His humanity, Jesus
asserted His lordship over all of creation, and He did this in a way that was
paradoxically humble and glorious at the same time. Christ’s willingness to lay
down all and to pay a price that He did not owe has redeemed humanity from the
inevitable fate that was cast when our fathers rejected fellowship with God in
favor of self rule. Now we need only to claim our redemption by accepting
Christ as our rightful God, Lord, and Savior. In absolute love He redeemed us,
and it is in faith that we are called upon to accept our redemption.

As we have been pulled from the destruction that was our
fate absent Jesus, so we are called to enter into the work of spreading the
message of this same redemptive opportunity to the world around us. The joy,
peace, and love that we have found in Christ can become the source of energy
that we need to assertively and continually enter into the lives of others. I
now own the same unstoppable love that brought Christ into my life, and His
love is the fuel that will fire my zeal for joining Him in working for the
redemption of this world.

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