August 2011


And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

1 Thessalonians 2: 13

 

Words, words, and even more words, they are everywhere. We can read newspapers full of them; there are magazines published to address virtually every topic and audience; a book can be had to numb us or to exhort us or to instruct us or to blind us to truth. There are words flowing like torrents of water through the air; there are more words than anyone could ever read available through the Internet. Even the icon of spoken communication, the telephone, has become a device that can supply all of the above. We are saturated by words. They virtually drown our daily lives.

 

However, words that have real meaning and impact are hard to find. Words that sink beneath the surface and into our hearts are truly rare. I think that the very abundance of information and thoughts and direction that we encounter can lead to a form of over stimulation that then causes us to just stop listening to much of anything. There is also the true risk that we will accept everything as truth; for, there are so many sources of information and very few trustworthy filters for that information.

 

In all of this wordiness, there is only one source of truly living words; words that are alive in our hearts; words that are spoken and interpreted by the author within the heart of the hearer. God is the living word. His nature, character, and love are shown to us in the printed words of the bible. The Holy Spirit is alive in each believer; He brings truth and understanding; He speaks God’s will to us. The test of the validity of these words is in the fact that they are at work in our lives. We can see the changes in others, and, as we are in Christ, we live the changed life our selves.

 

And so not get drunk on wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.

Ephesians 5: 18

 

There are some things that are so important that we are commanded to do them. This is one of the most important of those commands for the Christian. This is an extremely powerful statement that Paul makes, for he could not have constructed the language of it with more force. It is made more powerful by the contrastive negative statement that comes first.

 

“Don’t get drunk” is, of course, a reference to over indulgence in alcohol, but if we stop there, the true point has been lost. In the time that this was written, this was a direct reference to the worship of the god Dionysus, the Greek god of wine; we are commanded to stop filling ourselves up on false gods like worldly pursuits, our jobs, our activities, pleasure, and religion, for when we do this, we don’t leave room in our hearts for the Holy Spirit to take charge and to transform us.

 

Instead, we must, let me repeat that, we MUST continually seek out and yield to the Spirit of God, and allow His very real presence a place of dominance in every aspect of our daily lives. This verse more literally says that we must keep being kept filled with the Spirit. The first step to making this our own reality happens when we realize our total need and absolute dependence. Without this continual filling of the Spirit of God, we are not living in the fullness of the Christian life. With it, the God of the Universe is a part of every breath I breath throughout my day.

 

Like all things in our relationship with Christ, this is a choice that we are allowed to make; yet, Paul, with his deep knowledge of how people function, commands us to keep filling up our leaky vessels with the Spirit of the Living God. Stay in prayer, keep reading the Bible, and become close with people of faith. Get rid of the distractions and all of the empty calories of the soul that we enjoy consuming; then, actively seek God’s Spirit, and delight in the new life that you will be living.

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who
sent Me, and to accomplish His work.”

John 4: 34

 

In this verse Jesus has redefined meal planning, and He has
made it very simple. For as it was for Jesus, so it should be for all of us who
follow Him. God provides us with a true banquet of His blessing, grace, and
purpose. He grants each of us His continuous presence, and He fills the seconds
of our lives with the riches of His purpose. Christ calls to us to respond to
the dame calling that He followed.

 

Although we are taken from the darkness, the cold, and the
starvation of this world and seated in glory in the Kingdom of God;
we still need to choose to participate in the feast. Full enjoyment of the
bounty that Christ has purchased for us is not found in being present; it is
made real by being engaged. While Jesus was living in the flesh with us, He did
not live a passive life of reflection on God’s truth. Jesus went into the lives
of people, and He touched those lives with love, healing, justice, and grace as
the Father instructed Him to do.

 

Likewise, we will find our true filling, our real
satisfaction, as we go into our world and do the will of God. We do still need
to be continually prayerful, and we never can stop searching the Word of God to
gain understanding of Him and of His will. However, the result of prayer and of
study of God’s Word should always be engagement with his Creation. Christ draws
us out of our selves and into the places where He walked. He directs His followers
to see the great harvest of souls that are all around us, ready to be cared for
and loved by the One who can bring them relief from the hardship and the
oppression of living under the death sentence that sin imposes. All that we
need to do to be fully satisfied is to feast on the banquet that is God’s will
for each of us.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

1 John 2: 15

 

One of the most important things that God does as He works in our lives is that He starts to clear up the confusion that tends to reign in our minds without His presence. I have found that in my non-spiritual state of being, that is when I am too earthly focused, I am easily led and readily swayed to pursue any number of goals, objectives, and desires. I want; so I pour all of my energy into the chase; I envision my status, as I would like it to be; then, I will do anything to make it so. Life force and living become focused on self-directed goals and outcomes, and there is very little room for truly loving others or for even caring about them in any way that isn’t related to my own desires. At these times there is certainly little or no room in this life for a true and deep relationship with God.

 

This is true story for everyone, it has individual expression in its various forms and degrees of apparent intensity; yet, self centered and spirit denying thinking is universal among people without the transforming work of Christ in our lives. For God defines in His being all of the characteristics of humanity that are oriented toward love, compassion, and true eternal thinking. This type of thinking leads to a way of living that is oriented toward others and not on things, and it brings a level of satisfaction into life that is never obtainable through other means.

 

We need to bear in mind, also, that we aren’t going to change completely in an instant; God plans to stay with us throughout our earthly lives and His Spirit will continue to work on us and with us in effecting the changes that bring us ever closer to being like Christ. Still, this is a step by step, one small aspect of our being at a time sort of process. Christ is committed to us for eternity; He wants us to recognize our need, identify our selfish tendencies, and yield control over these areas of our lives to Him. Then, He will replace each of these things that we have held as important and vital to ourselves with something so much greater that there is no comparison, for the Lord will fill each of these areas of our lives with His presence and with His love.

 

Have I not commanded you? “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1: 9

And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be
afraid.”

Matthew 17: 7

What is there to fear? Why has the subject of fearlessness been on the lips of God
throughout history? God knows that we humans are not so very strong and
courageous on our own. He has watched us shrink away from the brave act and the
bold statement far too many times to count. I am painfully aware that my own experience of boldly going where the Lord calls me
to go is not very different from Joshua’s; and from Peter, James, and
John’s. The Lord felt the need to tell all of us that we did not need to be
afraid when we are in His presence, and we do not have any reason to be afraid
when He is present with us, either.

Through God’s gracious love we can stand tall in this life. This is not because of
prideful arrogance, but it is due to Christ’s transformational work in our
hearts. As we have been dressed in the purity of Christ and given a place in
the throne room of God, our life in the here and now has been elevated to one
that is lived in the glory and the honor that is God’s. We simply need to
recognize our new reality, and we need to decide to live in it.

Jesus tells us to, “Arise”. He wants us to get up out of our self-imposed
misery of fear, and He will take us into the adventure and the glory of His
purpose. Even when there are fearsome giants or powerful Pharisees waiting to
attack us, we can face the day with the boldness of Christ and, we can claim
the victory over evil that He has already won. Christ will take us forward into
the promised land of a life in which every minute is lived in God’s purpose and
with His blessing.

They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Acts 17: 11b

 

The people who were the subject of this statement were gathering in the city of Berea to listen to Paul teaching the truth of Jesus, and this attitude of open inquisitiveness was something that Paul found appealing and refreshing. He had been faced with the challenge of speaking with other groups who were neither open to hear what he had to say nor were they willing to give the Spirit of God an opportunity to work on their understanding. They were set in their thinking, determined to keep it pure, and unwilling to consider the possibility that they might not know everything that there was to know about God.

 

God wants us to be strong in what we believe and to be grounded in our faith; yet, He also wants us to understand that we do not know everything that there is to know about Him and regarding His desire for the way that people should live and behave. Therefore, we listen to teachers who share the thoughts that God has given to them, and we read books that have been written that discuss various aspects of the Christian life, but the final determinate of what is God’s truth and what is God’s message for each of us should come through our own time spent in reading His word and in prayerfully meditating on what His Spirit is saying to us.

 

Not only is there nothing wrong with checking what others are saying and believing against what God’s word says about those things, the Lord tells us that He wants us to do this. He also gives us His spirit to guide us through life and to enlighten us regarding His will for us and to lead us to His truth. We should be like the Bereans, checking out what God says to each of us through His word, prayerfully considering what we believe and how we act on those beliefs, and being open to the enlightenment of the Spirit in all matters of daily life.

 

We love because He first loved us.

1 John 4: 19

The beautiful rhythm of a well crafted poem, the striking harmonics of a richly
constructed musical chord, and the vibrant colors and mind stimulating shapes
of great paintings, these are but weak expressions in comparison to the depth
and the expanse of the tapestry that is God’s love for me. He brings the
Valentine’s chocolates and the perfect bouquet of roses to my heart every day
of my life, and the Lord gives me the dazzling diamonds of His loving presence
every moment of those days. The passion of Christ was poured out for my sake,
and His blood was willingly sacrificed so that mine could be made clean,
purified of the diseased contaminates of sin.

Every act of true love that I perform, each person that I embrace in the name of
love, and all of the love that fills my life are the result of God’s total love
for me. He loved people from the beginning of Creation. All of it was crafted
for us. The Lord has stayed in love with us throughout our history, and
He will continue to be in love with every one of us for the rest of it. It
was love that brought Christ into this world to share its pain with us. He
walked in our shoes in order to elevate us from the lostness of sin into the
radiance and joy of the Father’s eternal presence. It is in love that the
Spirit of Christ walks with us every day of our lives.

God asks us to do only one thing with the love that He brings to us, Christ
desires for us to share some small portion of it with the rest of His beloved
people. He wants us to take the moment to share the joy of Him with another,
take the risk to open our hearts to a friend, be willing to set aside our sense
of need in order to love those closest to us well. This list could continue for
pages because the love that God is asking us to share, His bottomless and
boundless love, has no limits on its application or on its intended
recipients.  Love is the essential essence of who God is; so, who can
you show God’s love to today?

 

For this is the will of God, that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of
foolish people.

1 Peter 2: 15

Our world speaks in loud and continual voices; there is a relentless and all-pervasive
level of noise that becomes the background to life. We are pounded and pummeled
into a sort of insensitivity, and that is one of the primary objectives of the
one who is behind all of this auditory clutter.

Evil wants us to be bombarded and pounded with half-truths and with misinformation to the
degree that we can no longer distinguish what is true from what is false. Then,
we can become like soldiers who have been hit by days of artillery fire. We get
disoriented, confused, discouraged, and wounded to the degree that we can stop
listening to God’s truth and start buying into the destructive message of
Satan. His message always contains the need to turn inward in order to protect
ourselves, for he tells us to build stout walls around our hearts and to hold
on as tightly as possible to everything that we have.

God tells us that the answer to the clutter and the noise that surround us is to defeat
its intent through action, by doing right. I have found that right doing can
involve many different types of action; it can be a good thing done for a
neighbor, an encouraging note, an unexpected gift given, or engagement in
another person’s life. Right actions are found in our work place and in our
community. They are accomplished in a moment and over a lifetime. The most
fundamental of all right actions is accomplished by getting onto our knees
before God. It is amazing how silent the voices of foolishness become when our
ears and our hearts are communicating with the Lord. Wisdom has only one
source, and listening to God’s voice directs us to living wisely. Acting
on the Lord’s direction silences the foolishness that surrounds
us.

 

Why do you seek the living among the dead?

Luke 24: 5b

There is a classic nightmare where you find yourself walking along an unfamiliar path
on a very dark and unusually misty night, a night when everything is
obscure; then, you suddenly realize that you are in the middle of a graveyard.
Everything becomes menacing and fear starts to overcome your ability to reason.
At this point rational behavior is thrown out of the window, and you start to
run. Frequently, the next problem you encounter is that you have no idea of
which direction will lead to safety. This is when panic replaces fear, and this
is usually when you awaken from it all with that uncomfortable sense of having
just returned from the gym and with an underlying feeling of irresolution. At
least, this is just a dream.

When the angels spoke to the women who had come to complete the burial preparation on
Jesus’ body, they were speaking a truth that is considerably greater than just
questioning why these followers of Jesus would be looking for the risen
Christ in a tomb. They were challenging us all. They were questioning the very
ways that we consider finding truth in and for our lives. This simple question
should resonate with our hearts and cause us to pause and reflect on how well we
know God and on how much we rely on sources of wisdom that are not provided by
Him.

Life; true, uncompromising, and unending life; has its source and its sustenance in
God. Everything that is truly alive derives its vitality from the Lord, and
everything that is not so connected is dead. The angels are challenging us to
stay focused on life and to stay connected to things that are living. Death is
found in fear, anger, and selfish thinking; life is found in faith, trust, and
loving sacrifice. There is life in God’s word, through prayer and meditation,
and by serving the needs of others, and there is life in righteous living and
thinking. God’s challenge for us is to spend our time with Him, to seek wisdom
from His word, and to be a source of life in our world.

 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O
Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19:14

It isn’t so much the turn of the phrase, the clever combinations of words, or the poetic
rhyme scheme that God wants to hear, and He doesn’t care at all if our
vocabulary is filled with complex and complicated words. The Lord listens to
our hearts whether they are speaking loudly or in a voice that has no outward
expression. You see, the Lord is very interested in what our hearts are saying.
He is connected to us at this level of our beings, and He knows us from the
inside out. God is the Creator of all that I am, and His desire is for me to
share everything that is on my mind and in my heart with Him.

When I am willing to open myself to my God, amazing things happen to me. I may try to
sanitize and to spiritualize the thoughts that are rolling around inside of me,
but there is a very big problem with this attempt at looking good; although,
this might actually work with the people in my life, I can’t fool God, not
ever, not even once! He knows me totally. He knows me completely as I am at
this moment; and, even with this knowledge, He accepts and loves me absolutely.
As I open myself to God, I am revealing a truth about where I am emotionally,
relationally, and spiritually to someone who already knows all about it. So,
when I do this, I am actually acknowledging the truth about my condition to
myself. Also, I am recognizing that if I am willing to focus on Him and on
truly pleasing Him the Lord can and will take all of me deeper into
Christ’s restoration to that better place that is His intended home for me.

God is delighted with us when we choose to meditate on Him and on His wishes
for our lives. It doesn’t matter if we are meditating during the quiet
calm of the darkness or in the rush of midday, the Lord delights in the
communication. So what does God find acceptable? I think that He wants me to
choose to include Him in all of it, in every aspect of living and in every
thought that I have throughout each day. God accepts who I am, and He
accepts me in my weakness and in my wandering times. In fact, He especially
wants me to bring those thoughts to Him, for the Lord has never failed
to redirect them into His way. Make David’s prayer yours,
practice this sort of on-going communication with God, and allow His presence
to fill your heart throughout this day.

 

Next Page »