September 2011


Do not quench the Spirit.

1 Thessalonians 5: 19

Have you ever known someone who was always giving gifts? This is that person who never
forgets to bring something to the hostess at a party, who keeps track of
birthdays, and who just hands you a simple but heart-warming package on that
day when you are feeling down and unappreciated. That person is modeling one of
the least thought about attributes of God, for Christ is the perpetual,
everlasting, and unstoppable giver of gifts.

He has given me the life that I live, the very breath in my lungs is a gift from God. The
fact that my soul is alive and that it has permanence is Christ’s immeasurable
gift to me. In His Spirit, the Lord has taken up residence in me, and He
provides all of the wisdom, counsel, and encouragement that I need in
order to live out His victorious life plan each day. Yet, when it
comes to this last aspect of my relationship with God, I am often the one
who acts as if I am ungrateful. I set the glorious gift on a shelf in order to
deal with something that has attracted my attention; thus, I function like an
overzealous fireman by pouring chilling water on the invigorating fire that God
is building in my heart.

The Spirit of Christ is the constant reminder of God’s love for us and for all people. The
Spirit removes the portions of our hearts that have been damaged by sin, and He
fills the voids that are left behind with newly formed living tissue. Our lives
are given focus, direction, meaning, and empowerment through the interaction of
the Spirit. Heart fire is cooled by doubt, fear, self-centeredness, personal
control, and lack of trust. The Spirit’s fire is stoked by prayer, God’s Word,
acting in faith, loving as Christ does, sharing God’s truth with others, and by
seeking His will in all aspects of life. What do you do that cools the flame of
the Spirit in your heart? Turn this over to God and start to live in the
invigorating heat of a Spirit impassioned heart.

 

Advertisements

I am poor and needy, hasten to me, O God!

You are my help and my deliverer, O Lord, do not delay!

Psalm 70: 5

 

If truth were to be known, Oliver Twist got life right, for
when he said, “Please, sir, I want some more.” he was stating the truth
about every one’s relationship to God. As humans living in our broken and dying
world, we truly never have enough of God’s grace, love, righteousness, and
justice. There is not a day that comes my way where I can honestly say that I
have it all handled and that my own resources are more than sufficient to get
me through it all. Every moment of each day I can stand before my Lord and
repeat Oliver’s famous words. The challenge for me is found in realizing and in
admitting my level of need.

 

It is trained in and societally and culturally ingrained in
us to be independent and strong as we face life. As Oliver’s act was radically
defiant of the system that he lived in, so is admitting personal need and
weakness in ours. Yet, God is known at His fullest when we realize just how
much we do need Him. Christ becomes most evident in us when we set aside
ourselves and allow His Spirit of Truth to permeate our beings. As I recognize
my neediness, Christ responds with His total sufficiency.

 

As the new day dawns it is sobering to realize just how
little I have in the way of resources to utilize in handling what will come my
way; however, it is very encouraging to know that there is nothing that I will
encounter that is not completely within the strength and the understanding of
Christ. Also, He wants me to turn to Him, and He desires to enter into my life.
As I cry out, “Lord, hurry, do not delay!” He is already with me.
Christ already has answers to my pleas before they are formative thoughts, and
His wealth and resources are eternally mine.

 

Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out
the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and
spirit to those who walk in it.

Isaiah 42: 5

The question of authorship is sometimes an interesting and a troubling one, for the
creator usually leaves his mark on the creation. A book will carry in its words
the ideas of the author, the colors on the canvas of a painting find their
vitality in the soul of the painter, and a building becomes more than just
shelter due to the creative spark of the architect and the builder. Our lives
are made richer by the personalities that infuse the tangible objects in our
world.

This is even truer when we look at the background fabric of existence.
The creative force behind the earth, the heavens, and all that
populates them is the source for all other creative activity as well.
God’s hand made all that we experience in our universe, and He designed us
with the ability to enjoy and to appreciate the beauty of that creation. The
Lord gave us a creative spark of our own, for this is a part of being made
in the image of the Creator.

When I consider the wonderful way that God designed me and the marvelous people
that He has placed into my world, I am awestruck. When I look at the vast
history of people and the accomplishments that they have achieved, I see the
grand design of God. Our lungs are filled with the breath of our Father,
and the rhythm of our hearts comes from God; thus, the Lord desires
for us to live life with an all consuming vitality that is a true reflection of
Him.

 

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we
know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He
is.

1 John 3: 2

John makes a couple of truly amazing statements here. He says that regardless of the
mess that we make of living and the bad decisions that we make, despite our
tendency to wander far away from the life that God has called us to, and
regardless of how stubbornly we ignore the Lord’s counsel and direction; God
still calls us “My child”. The Lord cares for us, provides for our
needs, and provides us with comfort and with correction. He continually works
in us to give us an understanding of the totality of who He is.

There is also a great and wonderful hope provided to us in our relationship with God,
for His Spirit is not just resident in us, He is also very active in our
hearts. God brings a desire for change to us, and He performs a miraculous and
transformational work in us, too. The nurture and the instruction of God lead
us to a change that is effected at the deepest and most fundamental of levels
in our beings. In life we often seek to change from the outside; we work out to
tone our muscles, we buy new clothes, we gain education, and we move to a
better neighborhood; yet, none of these things changes the way that we relate
to others, and nothing that we do teaches us how to truly love.

Christ accepts us as we are; then, He starts to remake us into people who are ever
more like Himself. I think that the slowness of my responses to His work must
surely try God’s patience, but He never stops loving me, caring for me, and
working in my heart. The more of me that I open to Him and the more that I am
honestly seeking His will for the way that I live, the more rapidly the
transformation seems to happen. There is only one thing that limits my
progression in growing as God’s child, and that is my openness to the change.
Each day I need to keep my mind and my heart focused on Jesus and take delight
in the new person that He is revealing in me.

 

Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my
whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

Psalm 111: 1

 

Sometimes it seems that life just goes along its way. The
days come and they go with little regard for just how they turned out as well
as they did. Breath is drawn, food and drink are consumed, and joy is found in
many places; yet, there is little recognition of who designed it all to be so.
As I reflect on this it becomes clear that more of life falls into the category
that could be called blessed than that which lands in some other place. There
is much that is good and worthwhile in my days. There is much that blesses my
day that I know comes directly from the love and grace of God.

 

When I take the time to stop and to speak out my praise for
all that the Lord does for me, it is actually helpful to me. There is something
very comforting and truly encouraging about taking note of the fact that there
is a Creator who has His hand firmly on my life. From the breath that we
breathe to the miracle of birth the Lord designed it all. From the covering
over our heads to the universe that surrounds us God set it all in place. Even
the hard situations, pain, and loss serve to bring glory to His name. There is
no relationship or human struggle that God does not want to see healed, and His
wisdom, compassion, and love are sufficient to bring about the restoration and
healing that is needed.

 

So, I need to open my mouth and reveal my heart to my Lord
and to those who surround me. When I speak out praises for who God is and for
what He does in my world, I am opening my own eyes to His glorious presence. As
I speak of His works with the community of faith I see those same works
multiplied in all of their lives. Christ has redeemed me from a life where the
pain and the futility of death were the best that I could have anticipated. Now
I am surrounded by life. Through Christ my eyes are opened to the hand of God
at work in every corner of my world. Praise God! Let His praises sing out with
every beat of my heart today!

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any
two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and
of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and the intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4: 12

 

This is where the relationship that a Christian has with God
gets very hard. It is also where it gets to be incredibly easy. The fact and
the reality of this relationship being one that exists on a mystical level; a
deep, spirit and soul plane of our existence; makes it unique in the area of
life direction and advice. We can look to many sources for input on both the
big-picture aspects of living and for the situations that we encounter along
the way. There is great, alright, and completely wrong guidance available for
almost anything. Yet, only God and His Word reach deeply into our hearts and
minds with penetrating and totally reliable insight and wisdom.

 

Neither is God a counselor who you have to plan ahead in
order to get the benefit of His wisdom, for He is truly involved in the very
minute details of our existence. God is fully aware of the things that we do,
the struggles that we encounter, and He understands the thoughts that we have
before they are even formed in our minds. I do not know myself as well as my
Lord does. Christ is fully alive in my world as well. He is the center of all
that is vital, and His Spirit is continually present with me. I find great
comfort in this fact, for Christ has taken control of this world away from
Satan. Evil does have an effect and it does influence people and events that
reach out to harm people and our world. However, Christ has turned all of this
evil activity and influence for His glory, God’s purposes, and for our greatest
good.

 

Just as God knows my thoughts and my intentions, so does His
Word speak to them. In the Word are found insights into the ways that every
person we will ever encounter will think and act. Even more powerful to me is
the fact that my entire life story is written there. Each and every aspect of
living in a manner that is concerned, loving, empathetic, understanding,
thoughtful, and righteous is contained in these pages. Although the story that
I am reading may be set thousands of years ago, I am led by the Spirit to see
myself and my world described in clear detail on the pages. The Word of God is
every bit as alive as He is in this day and in the place where I dwell. All
that I need to do to find the advice that is required to live well today is to
dwell on the pages of His Word, in the presence of His Spirit, and in the
company of His community of faith.

 

 

 

I cry to you, O Lord, I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”

Psalm 142: 5

 

This might sound, at first, like a cry of desperation and anguish; the sort of plea for help that we say when things are going really badly and in those moments when the answers are overwhelmed by our needs. This was certainly the situation that David found himself in when he wrote these words; he was hiding in a dark, cold cave with few friends left to count on and with no home to go to. God was completely with him during these dark and dangerous times just as he is always with me and with you during our harshest confrontations with a cruel reality.

 

Yet, I think that there is much more to this expression. There is application for my underlying attitude, for during each day regardless of that day’s danger or seeming lack of it, the Lord is still my refuge. In fact, the more consistently I am able to grasp this truth, the less I need to flee to the cave. There seems to be a direct correlation between embracing God’s protection, provision, and entitlement as His beloved child and the clarity and wisdom that I bring to my daily situations. When I am focused on my own human strength and understanding, I tend to get into the kind of trouble that necessitates cave dwelling. These are the times when I am doing it, as Sinatra said, “my way”.

 

Christ has claimed us out of the desolate wasteland of sin and death which is our natural home. He provides us with a continual covering of His grace, love, truth, and righteousness, and the Lord’s provision contemplates all of our needs and sustains us through all of life. The cry that we utter may be soft, or it may be ear splittingly loud. It may be the constant rhythm of the heart beating, but the cry of recognition of the Lord’s place as the only true source of successful, fearless living is the victory cry of God’s people.

 

Next Page »