July 2011


The Lord shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and
there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or
crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.

Revelation 21: 4

As I have known several dear people who, in recent days,
have died after battles with painful illness and I do know several more who are
living under the oppressive pain and suffering of harsh illnesses or injuries,
the thoughts that Christ gave to John in this vision seem truly pertinent for today.
Almost everyone knows people who are in these challenging times of life or we
have been there ourselves or we are working hard at living through it all
today. In this broken and sin plagued world our own bodies will become victims
of the universal decay and collapse of a creation that God intended to be
perfect and eternal. There is simply no escaping the reality of human frailty
and mortality.

The pain that people experience during these times is very
real, and it is often devastatingly hard to endure both for the sufferer and
for those who love and care about that person. Yet, that period of endurance is
a mere moment when you contemplate the Lord’s eternity. It is a short journey
down that long and brutal road that Christ walked on His way to Golgotha and beyond as He secured and sealed our right to
freely and totally enter into the presence of God. We are granted a glimpse into
those eternal hours when God’s plan for the redemption of humanity and for the
restoration of Creation was made complete and was consecrated by Jesus’ blood.

It is my belief that in this verse Christ was giving John a
picture of the way that this world will be restored when Christ returns, and I
also believe that He was providing us with a very hopeful and encouraging look
into the new reality that His children experience when they leave this life and
enter into their eternal one. Much of the way that we people process and
understand life is based upon experience. The things that we have thought and
experienced become the overlay and the filter for evaluation and for
comprehension of virtually everything we encounter. Christ is telling us that
when we enter into His presence we will no longer have the pain and the tears
of our human lives as our basis for understanding; thus, there will be no need
for mourning. Death no longer holds us in its grasp and it no longer has any
control over our existence. In that moment when we leave this life and enter
into eternity, we are taken into the presence of Christ who is the author of all
joy, peace, and comfort. Then we are dwelling in a home where there is no more
sorrow or suffering.

But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be
fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the
lion’s mouth.

2 Timothy 4: 17

Do you feel the hot, smelly breath, hear the growl, and feel the knife-like sharpness
of the teeth; then, you are in the lion’s mouth. The heart starts to race
uncontrollably, sweat pours from the brow, and you need to decide whether to
run for your life or to just surrender to the inevitable, while hoping that the
pain will be over quickly. Life is full of lion’s mouth experiences. We are the
victims of circumstances in some of them, and we are the ones who jumped over
the protective fences and climbed into the cage with the big kitty in many of
them.

Despite my own behaviors and actions with their impulsively, unpredictability, and pure
foolishness, God stays with me. He pulls me out of the cage, He stops the bad
events, and He shows me the way to survive it all. I may still need a shower to
wash away the saliva, I may have some serious wounds that will need to heal,
and I may have a lot of relationship damage to repair, but the Lord saves
and preserves my life.

So why would God continually do this sort of thing for a silly and headstrong child
such as I? He loves me; there is no other answer that is greater than this one;
my God is the Savior of my soul and of my life. He redeemed me from evil’s
grasp so that I could spend an eternity with Him and so that I could start that
eternity now. The loving Father that is God wants all of His children to come
home, and He wants each of us to be the ones who deliver the invitations to the
homecoming. That is the primary role that we have in life here and now; this is
what God calls us to do and what he strengthens and equips us for.

Everyone has to confront lions; so, all are in need of the services of a lion
tamer. Those of us who already know Christ personally are the ones who are best
equipped to make the introductions. In Christ, we can live in the sure
knowledge that our lions have been defeated and that the love that wins that
victory is available to everyone who needs to be saved from the
destructive teeth of evil.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time
He may exalt you.

1 Peter 5: 6

We humans do not always do so well with the concept of humility; in fact, we often work
extra hard at demonstrating the many ways that we are capable, competent, and
superior to others. This approach to life is taught by our parents, teachers,
coaches, and bosses, and it is reinforced by the majority of the messages
that we hear continually in our culture. There is a place for the kind of
confidence and self-esteem that allows us to face the day with our heads held
high and to take on challenges with the idea that, when it is all done, we will
prevail. God’s word speaks frequently of the marvelous and highly capable
person that He sees when He looks at us, and the Spirit of Christ speaks to our
hearts and our minds about the wonderful truth of our glorious beauty that is
made real in and is expressed through our relationship with Him.

What Peter is talking about here is the source of our confidence and the force behind our
competence, for when it comes to us, there is a very real connection between
source, resource, and outward expression. The more that we are looking inwardly
at our own skills, intellect, and might as the reservoir of energy for
living a confident life, the more we will live that life for the glory of
ourselves. Yet, as we recognize the Lord as the true giver of strength,
wisdom, and direction, we become more Christ-like in the ways that we move
confidently through the day. As we stay closely connected to God through
His word, prayer, and meditation on Him, we do have the ability to look
inwardly; however, we are then looking to God’s Spirit within us, and that
makes all of the difference.

God’s might is not used to hold us down, and it is never oppressive; He always lifts
up, holds up, and elevates our hearts. His mighty hand never
crushes us; it protects and provides us with direction; and it holds us in
the loving embrace of a Father. God puts His arm around my
shoulder, speaks intimately to me, and sends me into life’s game with His
purpose, plan, and confidence alive in my mind and resonating through my
heart.

 

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37: 3, 4

Sometimes where we are is where we should be, and what we are doing is the very thing
that will bring fulfillment to us and put a smile on God’s face. The job
that we have, the city where we live, and especially the relationships that we
are engaged in are usually gifts from Him. What we do with them, and how we act
while doing it are the things that we get to choose.

David is telling us that we need to embrace God’s view of life, for the Lord wants us to
trust Him enough to go deep into our world, to get to know the people who live
there, and to let them know us. When he says that we should dwell in the
land, David is telling us that God wants us to take up residence in our
world in a well invested and deeply committed manner. We need
to demonstrate our faithfulness to involvement in people’s lives.
This is the way that Christ interacts with me, and this is the way that the
Lord wants me to demonstrate Him in my community. When we bring love,
compassion, grace, and humility to our neighborhoods, we share the Lord
with our neighbors in real and understandable ways.

This all starts with trust and with focus. We need to trust God to equip and to
protect us, and we can count upon Christ to produce the outcome as we go out
into our world without the defense mechanisms that we might normally
employ. We need to turn our hearts and our minds toward Christ and
keep Him and His love clearly in view so that the real purpose and
Christ’s motivation for our actions stay continually
defined.

As we delight in the Lord and allow Him access to our hearts and as we live openly in
faith and trust in our community, God brings joy, peace, and
fulfillment to us. Also, our world will become a better place as one
person here and another there come to know the source of peace and love that
does change everything. With the Christ’s purpose in mind and His presence
in my life, this land is my perfect dwelling place.

 

In You, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness
deliver me!

Psalm 31: 1

Why do we seek refuge? In some areas, there are shelters that communities set up as safe
places to go in case of natural disaster; some of us grew up in an era of worry
and fear over the potential for international nuclear war, and we learned all
about radiation proof shelters. Refuge is always a place to go where whatever
it is that is trying to get you can’t grab you; safe and secure, there are
times and places where there are physical or legislative constraints on access
to us.

Fortunately, we never tested the radiation proof shelters, for other shelters certainly do
fail; sometimes people with power simply ignore the societal or the legislative
sanctity of a location and go in after their intended victim. Sometimes our
secure jobs, solid retirement investments, and community stature crumble and
collapse leaving us insecure and anxiety plagued. The life-extending health and
fitness plan is defeated by a singularly devastating disease or by a momentary
misstep.

True security, real and impenetrable refuge comes from the only absolute power and
total authority in the universe. The Lord will hold me close; He always has; He
always will. No matter how hard evil may try to get through to me, God
protects me; sometimes the form that the protection takes troubles me, for God
does not always keep my money, my possessions, my job, or even my
health whole and intact in the manner that I would like for Him to do.
Still, the Lord protects and cares for me; everything that is important to me
and for me is cared for.

No matter what happens, regardless of loss or defeat, when I look to the Lord for my
sense of worth and for my security, I can always hold my head up high, look my
fears in the face, and know that He has made me the victor in this life. The
righteousness of God covers me and directs my life onto paths of right living,
and He protects me in ways that no man made shelter or sanctuary and
no plan that I can develop could even begin to contemplate.

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever
is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if
anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.

Philippians 4: 8

The thought strikes me that I could just stop right here and allow Paul’s
words to speak for themselves, for he has come up with a great list of
qualities to both look at and to desire for myself. If only my own heart and
mind operated in this simple a manner; you know, just dwelling on truth and not
getting distracted toward diverse thoughts and weak actions. However, I am a
wander by nature, still traveling along the roads of life and my heart still
stops at too many of the wrong places along that journey.

So many of the attractive diversions that pull my mind off God’s course have
very little substance, they do nothing to sustain me for the travels, and they
cause me to waste time and energy in the process. Yet, the bright, shiny object
or the flashing lights catch my eye, and off I go. Some of the
distractions that I indulge in are activities, some are attitudes, and some are
ways of thinking. All of them are the result of losing clear heart-focus
on Christ and on the reality of how He lives in and through me.

Therefore, God tells us to keep looking at these qualities of life which
are His gift to us. He calls upon His children to seek those qualities in the
people that we trust deeply, to desire to live so that
people will describe us as possessing those qualities, and to guide others
to their source. I need to prepare for my daily life by taking the
time to focus my mind and orient my heart toward the character
of Christ; then I need to seek His will for me for this day;
finally, as I proceed through this day, I must keep checking
on and redirecting the focus of my too easily wandering mind. For, in
fact, the shiniest and the most enticing of worldly pursuits is nothing
but a shabby, mud covered rag in comparison to the glory that is Christ and joy
that is found in His righteousness.

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from
faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

Romans 1: 17

 

Faith may be all that there is to cling to, and it might be
the sum total of all of the resources that are available to face the day. When
this is absolutely true, life can seem to be a very long ways beyond scary. Yet
in times when tangible power and quantifiable personal strength are not
present, faith is all that is left. We have faith that the physical laws of
nature are still in operation, we exercise faith that our human relationships
are more or less functioning along the same lines as they were yesterday, and
we accept as true that our society is following the same rules as it did in the
past. Faith takes us beyond control and creates a platform to stand upon in
order to function throughout the day.

 

Still, as important as faith is in these global areas of
life, it matters most when it comes to understanding who we are and our place
in the world. We were placed into this life with a purpose to fulfill. We are
granted the opportunity to have an impact on Creation that is restorative and
transformative. God has given the message of absolute truth to His people, and
He has also gifted us with the ability to understand the deep implications of
that truth for every aspect of our world. People need to embrace this fact and
stay true to the pursuit of righteousness for the sake of Christ, and this
requires faith. There will be times, situations, and circumstances when our
human reason and the voice of the masses will call to us with an utterance that
is too loud and too persistent to ignore; then, the only way to continue on the
course that Christ has set out is found through trust in His gospel of love and
peace.

 

Each step that is taken in response to Christ’s call moves
us deeper into His will. The deeper we go into the will of God the better we
know Him. As we know God we also come to know ourselves as we are intended to
be. This is the true journey of faith. Stepping out of the mainstream of our
world and into the powerful, minority current of righteousness takes a very
special form of courage. This is the sort of courage that Christ took to the
cross and beyond and that His Spirit gives to us. This is the sort of courage
that is formed in our hearts through faith in God.

 

 

For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My
eyes and my heart will be there for all time.

2 Chronicles 7: 16

Then it was a building. In those ancient times it was a beautiful, magnificent, and
breathtaking work of craftsmanship by the best builders that could be found.
Then it was a place where God could be found when people chose to seek Him. It
provided a sanctuary from the evil that consumed the world. In those
days, we needed to pay an ongoing price to draw near to our God, for
all that we had to offer was perishable and temporary. The wages that we could
earn from the spiritual labor of life were still measured out in relationship
to the work of following the Law.

Now the temple of God is as near as our hands and
as personal as our faces. Now the craftsmanship is perfect, for the
singular workman is the Creator of all. Now the sanctuary is resident in
our hearts, and the Spirit of God wraps us in His loving arms of protection
and grace. Christ has paid the price for each of us. He has transformed the
veil of separation into a door of access. The world will never return to its
state of Satanic ownership, and the end of his days of false rule is coming
fast.

Today, we have the permanent presence of the God of Creation, the Lord of the
universe, and He is the savior of our souls and the redeemer of our lives.
God has chosen and He consecrates His beloved children, you and I, as His
permanent house of blessing. Christ came out of the splendor of heaven to bring
its glory to us, and He left His Spirit with and in us in order to do the work
of transforming us into a race that is committed to His holy and righteous way.
So, let the blessings of the Lord fill your heart with His love and allow that
love to fill your world with His presence.

 

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4: 8

The translators here said “keep fervent”, others have said
“earnestly” or “deeply”, and in The Message it says,
“as if your life depended on it”; do you get the idea that Peter
believed and felt that love was essential in our relationships if we were going
to overcome the crushing oppression of a world that is filled with anger,
repression, isolation, and self-centeredness. The Apostle tells me to put this
love “above all”; that would seem to be a rather important place; the
loftiest spot in my world. This needs to be the focal point for guiding my day,
and it should be the moral compass for my actions. Even more so, this should be
the filter for my thoughts.

Why is it that actually loving others can be so hard if it is so important to God; what
gets in the way? For me, I do. My self-directed and fearful heart, my stubborn
refusal to listen to God’s spoken truth about my incredible value to Him, these
hands that I keep clinched tightly in front of my face to ward off blows that
God has already stopped, and the emotional and intellectual shield that I place
around me to keep people at a distance are all powerful barriers to loving others.

Yet, as strong and as deeply entrenched as all of these aspects of my being are, Christ
can remove them in a moment. His love is too great to be ignored, and the
security that He brings to me is so real that my own fears are defeated, and my
heart is freed in love’s embrace. This is a love that transcends passion
and power; it removes the walls that separate; it drives us toward people; and
it defies evil’s attempts at isolating and insulating us. Christ did love us as
if His life depended on it, and He always does love us this way. God loves
each of us totally and without reservation. This becomes our reality as we let
Him remove the barriers to our own open expression of love, we move closer to
our loving Lord, all forgiving Savior, and completely trustworthy Father. In
moving closer to Him, we are able to forgive, to seek forgiveness, to let down
our defenses, and to embrace others with openness and a joyfulness that is the
absolute expression of freedom.

 

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