May 2011


Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6: 2

There are times when having some of the weight of the day lifted is not only helpful, but
it can be almost life saving. Sometimes that involves something as simple as
having another person come to me and offer to help with a task, talk through a
situation, or pray with me for an answer. My shoulders lift a little higher,
and my heart can beat a bit slower from the relief. On other days and in other
times, I wind up being the one with a part of my friend’s load of bricks on my
back; there seems to be a wonderful balance to the way that life goes in this
regard. God doesn’t give us more than we can handle; however, I think that He
looks at our capacity to take on weight based upon both our own strength
and endurance and upon that of the other people that He will bring into our
lives.

God desires and plans for people to have a form of healthy interdependence that
multiplies each of our strength, endurance, and effectiveness in ways that are
supernatural. The Lord makes us sensitive to the needs of others, and He gives
us the ability and the sense of security that are required to be vulnerable
with others, too. One of the distinctives of the Kingdom of God
is that none of us are all sufficient; yet, none of us are without capacity to
help others. We are each uniquely, specially, and specifically given personal
gifts and areas of strength that when combined create an unbeatable group that
is a living, human image of Christ.

Christ’s law is one of grace, love, and selflessness; although, it does not remove the
stresses and struggles of living in this fallen and fractured world; it
does provide the freedom, the skill, the strength, and the support to go
through that life with our heads high and our hearts made lighter. This
lightness is of an unworldly, a heavenly form, for it can exist in the middle
of pain, crisis, and the hardest of times. It is born out of the certainty that
Christ has walked the same path that I am following, that He is walking with me
in the here and now, and that I am joined on my journey by a world-wide
community of faith. Jesus calls each of us to seek the opportunity to walk
with others and to support them in handling the burden that they are carrying,
and He asks us to trust others enough to open our hearts to let them shoulder
our weight. Although, this may sound like a strange prayer request, Christ will
smile if we ask Him to bring another person’s heavy load for us to help
carry today.

 

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Be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish and at peace.

2 Peter 3: 14b

Face creams, medicated cleansing wipes, and spa treatments are great in the short
term; those nasty skin eruptions and the annoying wrinkles can be removed and
softened so that that youthful glow is restored—for a moment. Then, the
reminders of age and late nights and worry return. We spend money and time on a
remedy that doesn’t ever really work; eventually, we tend to just surrender to
the processes of life and blame all of the ill effects on a thinning ozone
layer or on too much time in the sun and the wind.

When the source of the unsightly condition of our outer selves is found in our hearts,
the fix gets even more problematic and can seem to be totally elusive. You
think that the anger is under control; then, you turn a loved one into
over-done toast in a moment; or you have your thoughts under control; then, the
fantasy overcomes all reason. Each of us can write our own stories about the
ways that the peace of our lives is disrupted by issues that we hoped were
under control. When these events happen in my life, I feel no peace within; it
is as if there is an ugly lump on my nose that the entire world is looking
at.

Christ wants us to live in peace. He knows us, and I am fully aware of the fact that
He knows all about my numerous spots and blemishes. I am also completely aware
of the fact that God forgives me for all of them and that He wants to take me
deeper into my relationship with Him in order to permanently eliminate them.
This may seem rather contradictory to logic and reason, but Christ wants me to
take each and every one of my ugly thoughts and actions to Him. His desire is
that I tell Him about them and recognize the pain that they cause to others,
to myself, and to God; this is the heart of the action that is called
confession. Then as I allow the Spirit of Christ to guide me into
healthier ways of thinking and acting, the magic of God’s grace truly removes
the blemishes and smoothes the wrinkles of sin.

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall
not depart from you,

and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion
on you.

Isaiah 54: 10

Mountains tend to dominate the landscape when they are present; if in the distance, they
frame the skyline and create the backdrop for everything else; and if you
are in them, the mountains surround and loom over your entire immediate
world. My sense of mountains is that of permanence, of a form of long-term
existence; the expression “older than the hills” comes to mind. Yet
they have changed. They can be diminished by forces of nature and by the
efforts of people, and the hand of God has absolute control over them.

Perhaps Isaiah used mountains as a symbol here because love among humans can be such a troubled, fragile, and perishable thing, and we tend to impose the realities of our experience, especially the painful realities, onto everything. We are hurt in a love relationship; then, another one proves to be painful, and we start to anticipate and to expect the pain thereafter. When love fails, it truly feels as if a mountain has fallen on us. The peace is crushed out of our hearts by the force and the weight of the collapse.

God’s love has been a constant for me; no matter what others may have done and regardless
of how badly I have behaved, God has continued to love me, and He has constantly
reminded me of that fact. He stays with me through it all. When my eyes can see
nothing except for the rocks and the boulders that are covering me, God’s hands
are already working to clear a passage for me to breath; then, He lifts the
weight off of my head and my shoulders, and finally, He clears all of the
debris from around me and lifts me back onto my feet. The Lord restores my
life.

This is also what He desires for us to do with each other; God wants each of us to be
committed lovers of people. He wants us to trust and to believe in His love for
us and for everyone else, too. Then, Christ wants us to carry the peace that He
has planted in our hearts into our relational lives. In this way we will demonstrate
Christ’s sacrificial love to all. When you come upon a scene where someone is
trapped beneath a mountain slide of guilt, pain, and loss, Christ wants to help
you lift the boulders off of that person’s heart. Who do you know who needs you
to bring to him or her the peace and reassurance of the imperishable
nature of the love of Christ today?

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.

Job 19:25

When I wake up in the morning, when I go to sleep at night, every step of my day;
there is little that is certain except Job’s simple statement. Yet contained in
it are many deep and remarkable thoughts. I have a Redeemer; One who has
purchased me out of sin’s slavery, One who has provided me with a refuge from
the attacks that are inevitable for God’s family, One who has moved me out
of the shack that I lived in and into his mansion. I am no longer lost,
wandering in the desert of hopelessness with an eternal guarantee of more of
the same. I am redeemed!

My Redeemer is a living one; for, He is as powerful and His presence is as
vital today as it was at the beginning of time. He never changes, He never
diminishes, and He is never distant. The Lord is totally involved with my
life. Christ does not ever look upon His work in me as finished, He holds
out hope when all seems beyond redemption and repair, and He
continually guides me through life. Jesus, my Redeemer, provides the
force of life to my soul.

Finally, God gives us a promise; there is a glorious future as well. In the
end, the Lord will return to earth and Creation’s perfect order will be
restored. I will be living in the sinless world that God intended, and I
will do this with a body and a mind that have not been damaged by sin. I
will be in God’s presence and all of Creation will be singing songs of
joy. Until then, however, my life is filled with worship and praise for the One
who brought me into a life that can be lived today in that future reality.
My Redeemer lives and he lives in me!

For by their own sword they did not possess the land; and their own arm did not save
them;

but Your right hand, and Your arm, and the light of Your presence, for You did
favor them.

Psalm 44: 3

Most of us like to take charge; we want to cause the outcome of our day to fall in our
favor. Being hands on with hands up and ready to engage the fight is human
nature. This approach can get to be very frustrating when the ledger at
the end of the day has more defeat and ground lost counted onto it than
positive movement. It gets hard to own all of the decisions and the
tactics that led to defeat; so, we frequently look for others to blame. Then
our relationships suffer, and the ground lost is increased even more.

The swords that people swing and the strength of the arms that swing them can
lead to accomplishment. We use our intellects, cunning, experience, will-power,
careful planning, and meticulous execution in the pursuit of success. We train
and we practice; we gain education upon education, attend seminars and
workshops, and engage in sports and activities in order to become stronger and
sharper. The greatest problem that is attached to most of these gains is that
they are temporary. We never truly take ownership of the new land. We only occupy
it until something or someone pushes us out. Even worse, I have too often been
the cause of my own failure to retain what I have worked so hard to gain;
for, through my own stupidity and conceit I have been forced to surrender,
turn away, and seek shelter.

Despite all of my failed efforts and willful behaviors, God promises that He
favors me and that His hand will not only protect me from all harm; but He will
bring victory to me. His concept of victory may be a lot different from mine;
however, when I allow the Lord to guide me through the planning
process so that my priorities are aligned with His, and I follow His
example and leadership in how I engage the contest of life, the gains that are
achieved have a quality of permanence. They tend to be the kinds of things
that show the love and the provision of God to others. These times of true
victory of the heart are also times when the presence of the Lord is
strikingly real to me.

Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering
and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

Ephesians 5: 2

The bottles are beautiful and eye-catching, obviously designed by very skillful
professionals; the packaging is striking and the names provocative; and the
aromas tantalize and stimulate the senses; yet, the perfume in the bottle wears
off and even goes stale if left for too long. We go to our favorite store and
shop carefully for just the right expression of our love and devotion, and the
gift is usually highly appreciated for a moment or two, but it will soon become
just another item that is used as a part of a daily routine.

The fragrance, the all-penetrating mist, of the loving sacrifice that Jesus made
for me is totally different. It clings to my heart like the softest of satin;
it is an aroma that doesn’t wash off for it comes from inside and permeates my
being. Rather than losing potency over time, Christ grows ever stronger in the hearts
of His beloved ones, for as we trust Him and have faith in His direction, we
gain the empowerment of the Creator of all. As I look at Jesus, His beauty and
appeal becomes greater, and the closer I get to Him and as I spend more
time with Him, His infinite glory transforms me into an ever more
beautiful person.

Christ wants us to live with His aroma on us, and He wants us to go about our lives
with it radiating off of us. We should be a bit like those women and men who we
encounter in department stores walking through the customers asking people to
try various fragrances. They wear the fragrance that they are demonstrating;
they approach people asking them to try it, explaining its qualities; and they
exhibit the character and the nature of the fragrance through their appearance
and their actions. All of this is done for a perishable product; yet, all of
our lives should be lived for an eternal one. As we go through the day, we need
to reflect on the love that gives all for us so that we can give our hearts
fully to Christ by loving those around us well. Pray with me that God will make
us into a people who turn heads as others smell the wondrous aroma of love that
comes from our hearts.

The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the word of faith that
we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and
believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10: 8, 9

God’s word is His essential truth, essence, and being; the simple and direct reality of
who and what He is, and the complete statement of how He interacts with and
relates to me, surrounds me and infuses my heart. God has made Himself totally
accessible, and He has no off hours, holidays, or situations that are not
covered. When I consider nearness as it relates to the Lord, He is as close as
the molecules that make up my blood. Yet, when the nurse draws a blood sample,
it looks like any other, there is no strange glow to it; and when the lab
results return, there are no foreign bodies present, no mysterious structures
or organisms, for God’s presence in me is not foreign. This is how I was
created to be. This intimate and close relationship with God is what was lost
when our original ancestors decided to defy God and went off on their own
without Him. The influence of evil is what contributes the soul-sickening
foreign bodies to us.

The process of becoming healthy is relatively simple; it requires us to
accept the fact that we need a healing relationship with Christ. That
relationship is achieved through accepting the fact that Jesus has the right,
authority, and the loving desire to direct our lives; and it is made real
through believing in the totality of His sacrifice for everyone. Then the
process of healing begins; Christ starts to filter out the hurtful urges,
the selfish desires, and the other contaminants that have poisoned our
hearts.

Being saved from separation from God happens in a moment but being restored from
the damage that was done when we were separated continues for the
balance of our earthly life. As we grow closer to Him and as we get to know God
better, we are made stronger and the health of our spirits is continually
improved. When I use the faith that is needed to openly
and continually express to others the wonder, joy, and absolute
love that is the essence of my relationship with Christ, I grow
continually closer to Him, and the good effects of the healing that He is
doing in my heart grow ever greater.

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