June 2011


See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of
God; and so we are. The reason that the world does not know us is that it did
not know Him.

1 John 3: 1

You know, estrangement and isolation are not all bad; living as a stranger in this world
is also fine if this sense of separation is due to our movement away from our
old way of being and toward God and into His righteousness. There is a tension
that exists between God and the evil that has taken temporary residence
here in our world; we can feel it when we are conflicted between
doing what Christ tells us is right and what may seem best for us at
a given moment. These are times when the border war for our hearts has flared
up into open conflict.

We are all born into allegiance to God’s enemy; yet, even while we are so aligned,
God sees us as beloved children, as lost sheep. He calls, and He comes
searching, and He never stops loving us. Christ’s blood placed
the official seal on our adoption papers; thus, we already have
a new home for our hearts and our souls with God. All that is
left for us to do is to accept that gift by allowing Jesus in and by
trusting Christ with our lives. Then we become fully invested members of God’s
family; we are children of God in every sense and with all of the entitlements
that go with that status.

Our place and our purpose in this life changes, too. We are given the role of
peacemakers; we are commissioned to seek an end to the strife that exists
everywhere in this world by bringing the news of God’s love to conflicted
people. True peace is found when our relationship with God is active and alive,
and it is this peace with Him that matters totally. We need to embrace the
strangeness of this world in that the more we move into the center of God’s
will and the better we know His love, the more He will place us into contact
with people who need to be loved by God. We should let people see the
difference in us, allow them to know us in our estrangement from the world, and
we need to help them see the way to this new life of living inside of God’s
total love.

 

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“And I will strengthen them in the Lord, and in His name
they will walk.” declares the Lord.

Zechariah 10: 12

There are days when the first thought that runs through the
mind after the feet hit the floor in the morning is along the lines of, “Just
where am I going to find enough strength to make it through the next hour?”
Whatever sleep there had been the night before was in no way sufficient to
recharge the body, and the mind and the spirit are still depleted to a level
that is beyond the red zone. Life with it’s never ending demands and with it’s
unyielding pressures can take any of us to this place of seemingly total
resource depletion. This happens over time; yet, it can become reality with the
events of an instant.

God, Himself, is always strong, and His strength is of a
nature and a depth that goes beyond anything that we experience in this world.
It seems safe to say that God’s strength is, in fact, both the source and the
definition of all righteous strength in the universe. The Lord is not selfish
or stingy with it either. He calls people to Him when we are weak and broken.
Christ came into our world and experienced the pain, suffering, and bone
crushing weariness that is the life experience of all humanity; still, He
overcame this world. Now His Spirit stays with us through all that we endure.
Christ calls to us to turn our eyes toward Him. He gifts us with His strength
and with His wisdom in it’s use.

As the Spirit provides the resources that are needed to
enter into the demands of the day, He also goes with us step by step and moment
by moment to provide encouragement and comfort in the journey. In Christ we
have an almost science fiction like ability to defy the laws of gravity and of
entropy. We are no longer weighted down by the inscrutability of the demands
and the pressures of life, and we are not bound by the inevitability of sin’s
decay and death. We are now transformed and renewed into the likeness of
Christ that was our original creation birthright. True strength comes from deep within, in our
spirits, and it is found at the source in Christ.

We have our hope set on the living God, who is the savior of all people, especially all
of those who believe.

1 Timothy 4: 10

What does it mean to be alive? Is it that respiration is continuing, lungs moving and
heart pumping blood; sure, that is a part of it. What about having a brain that
is functioning so that the patterns of electrical impulse are not too random;
that too is useful in people. Although God does have control over these
essential aspects of what we think of as life, these ways of defining what it
means to be alive have little to do with the way that God is alive. God is
the vital life force of the universe; He set it into motion, and He keeps it
from spinning off into chaos and ruin. The Spirit of God is everywhere in Creation,
He touches it all from the smallest particle to the largest planet, and He
cares about every one of us people who populate this world with absolute love
and grace.

We may tend to think that once we have come to know God personally that His saving work
is finished in us, but He continues to be intimately involved
with us. The Lord does this in order to bring each of us closer to Him and
to lead us into love and righteousness. God wants us to love Him and to love
each other in ways and with the depth of commitment that He brings to relating
with us; thus, He continues to show us His heart, and He leads us away from the
evil that tries to disrupt our lives.

God is alive in my life; He is the central living force in the world. The Lord is
dynamic so that He is capable, available, and involved in all situations and
for all aspects of my life. Every drop of true vitality that flows through
me, and all of the impulse to love others well and to live righteously that
drives my better actions come from God and are provided by His Spirit.
Therefore, the best approach to living this day well is to start in close and
focused interaction with God; thus, His hope for the day can take over where,
otherwise, my apprehensions would tend to be in control. Then the love
that the Lord brings will replace the fears that my heart would more naturally
set into motion. Christ, alive in me and vital in my world, is the only true
hope for this day, and there is nothing more that I actually need.

 

Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of
faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies
washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10: 22

 

It may seem as if I am no where near clean enough to be in
the same town as the presence of God. After all, He is righteousness, truth,
justice, love, peace, and faithfulness to their absolute degrees; and I am none
of them to the least. The notion that I need to do something radical about my
state of affairs before approaching God would be very plausible except for one
life changing fact. When Jesus took all of the sin of the world onto His back,
and He shed His perfect blood, Christ was taking care of all of this for every
one of us, and He did it for the rest of time.

 

There is nothing left for me to do except to accept on faith
that Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection are real and that He is the one true God
and Lord of my life. In accepting this fact, I am also accepting all of
Christ’s work on my behalf. There is nothing left for me to do. This radically
altered perspective can be a very hard one to live out of. It seems much easier
to develop a plan of action and to work hard to achieve the goals in that plan,
than it does to trust Christ’s Spirit to work in me to affect the sort of
dramatic change that living righteously requires. Yet that is the simple and
direct calling of Christ.

 

Faith and trust that are founded upon Christ’s actions and
that are grounded in His Word lead to a heart that sincerely desires to follow
His calling to draw near to God. Drawing near to God means that I am choosing
to leave behind my safe and comfortable ways of handling life. It means that I
am willing to set aside my defenses and my protective shields in order to enter
into other people’s realities. It means that I am deciding to love people, to
accept them as they are, and to speak the truth of Christ’s grace and
righteousness regardless of the perceived risk. When Christ’s righteousness is
my own, I can engage fully in a world that is broken by sin. When I do this, I
will bring with me the glorious and restorative righteousness of Christ so that
others can choose to accept His cleansing water of salvation.

What is man, that he should be pure, or he who is born of a
woman, that he should be righteous?

Job 15: 14

The answer to this ancient question is that we humans are
neither pure nor righteous. These are not the characteristics and the qualities
of the creature that we are. This state of affairs is not the product of
upbringing and it is not the result of the conditions that we live in. It is
who we are, and we are defined by a very stridently self-absorbed and God
denying existence. The human animal made a determination to leave the orderly
place that God had designed for our safety, nurture, and pleasure; then, we
stepped defiantly out into that broken land of our own choosing where danger,
starvation, and pain are the community’s welcoming greeting.

Despite our efforts to distance ourselves from the righteous
rule of God, we just can’t seem to shake His presence. When all appeared to be
desperately lost; when humanity had reached the point of collapsing under the
weight of its own depravity, God sent Himself into this world. He came not as
an avenger of His rule of law, but rather, He came as the lamb of love who
brings life to all. Christ the perfect and the pure came to live as a member of
this human race, and we will never be the same. People can now relate directly
to God, our Creator and Lord. We can now live in the possibility of pure love
and grace.

In our old humanity, Job’s question has nothing except
negative answers. In the state that we were in at our births, we can never be pure and righteous;
so, we can never draw near to the glory of the all righteous and holy God.
However, through Christ and in His grace, we are brought out of the old and
transformed into the new form of humanity that is crafted by God in His perfect
image. Purity and righteousness should now be our normal state. Selfless love
and fearless grace can be the characteristics that mark and measure our days.

And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness,
quietness and trust forever.

Isaiah 32: 17

Unfortunately, the expression “All is right with the world” doesn’t seem to apply to
the real world very often; at least, this is true for the one where I live most
days. First off, all is way too inclusive, then, the world is far too big a
place, and finally, right is just too vague. The absolute complexity of living
and the ridiculously fast pace of life seem to work together to defeat even
the possibility of rightness. Yet, giving in to the idea that life can’t
be lived in a better place does not seem correct either. There is an
internal, an innate drive in people to create a better place to live.
We desire to reside in a just and a fair community where people are valued and
where goodness prevails. This idea that good can prevail over evil is one
of the classic themes of drama, and it is one of the common dreams of
people. We all desire to reside in a world where the bad doesn’t happen,
at least not without reasonable notice.

The words of the prophet seem to be suggesting that God sees this idyllic dream of mine
as possibility, even as promise. He is saying that there can be peace and that
we can live in a quiet place where trust relationships are possible.
However, Isaiah’s key to that desired outcome is righteousness. God wants us to
become the points of righteous, the doers of Christ-like living, in a world
that is spinning out of control. The Lord desires for each of us to draw upon
Him as our source of internal peace and to allow His calming influence to fill
our minds; then, He wants us to interact with the chaos and the distress of our
world with the strength of a quiet, Christ-focused heart. We can trust the Spirit
of God to take us into this day with calm clarity and purpose, and we can have
faith that He will successfully bring us through every twist and turn that we
encounter during our journey.

As we seek God’s peace for the worry and the concern of our hearts, open our minds
to His quiet and confident voice, and trust in His Spirit’s guidance
through the day; then, we will have an influence for Christ in our world.
Individuals and the communities of faith that they engage with can be world
changers at the level that is most important to God. That is, we can touch the
lives of other individual people, and we can influence thinking and policies
that are used to create systems of rule that are just, fair, and caring. So, we
can become people who not only live in that “all is right” world, but
we will be the ones who bring the reality of Christ’s righteousness to
others.

 

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;

to the one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God.

Psalm 50: 23

We can set out all sorts of things that we plan to give to God. There is nothing
wrong with the idea and the fact of giving up the elements of life that
distract and that divert us from focusing on Him and that interfere with
serving His will. Yet, the primary thing that God desires for us to give to Him
is our appreciation for and understanding of His centrality in our lives.

If this verse is to be an honest expression of our hearts, then God must actually
be the central focus of our days. We need to orient our minds and our hearts
toward receiving and acting upon His input, and we need to seek God’s loving
perspective on the events and the activities that we will engage throughout
life. When I do make God the central focus of the day, I find that everything
starts to make more sense; for, a sort of super natural order begins to develop
out of the swirling winds of people and tasks and priorities that otherwise can
tend to overwhelm me. The Lord is the master of orderliness and of calm. He
will cause the solutions to the most stressful and chaotic moments
and to the crises of the hour to unfold in my mind. He also gives
my soul the peace that it requires to stay strong and to trust God’s way
regardless of contrary external input.

There is only one right way to order and to orient
our hearts, and that is to reclaim the order of Creation. Jesus has answered
the need for a path back to that soul and life saving state of being,
and He takes the hand of anyone who desires to start the journey into
the center of God’s will; then, His Spirit walks every step of those
travels with us. Thanksgiving and praise make the long days short and the
hard times bearable. Take the moment to thank God for His role in your life;
recognize His will for this day; and open your heart to the peace, calm, and
order that Christ grants to us as we seek Him.

 

 

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