October 2011


You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is,
through the living and abiding word of God.

1 Peter 1: 23

Lasting change comes only from an everlasting source. Real transformation is brought
about through a process that involves personal agreement that something needs
to be different. It starts when we decide to yield ourselves to the change
agent, and it is effected by God through the work of His Spirit in us. When we
submit our lives to God’s authority by allowing Christ into our hearts, we
begin a lifelong journey of regeneration, for God begins to replace the
dead and the dying in us with His living word of truth.

God’s word is broad, far reaching, and multifaceted. It covers every subject possible, and
it is relevant to the current life situation of all people. The expansiveness
of the Word is truly beyond my ability to imagine, for it is found in many
forms and in all places. The obvious source is the Bible, and its words are the
ultimate source for wisdom and understanding to use in my travels through this
life. It also gives me a written frame work of knowledge about God and for
understanding God’s nature, character, and will. God’s word, both as written in
the Bible and as expressed through other means, is brought to life by the work
of His Spirit in me. Without the Spirit, I would not have the ability to
understand what God is saying, for otherwise, His living word would
be spoken in a language that is completely foreign to me.

The word of God is also expressed through and by all of Creation. The hand of the
Creator is on everything in the universe. As we look up and out of our own
needs, wants, and desires and start to seek after God’s will and way of living,
His word becomes more apparent, and His voice becomes louder and clearer. The
voice of the Lord calls each of us to be alive. He desires to transform us into
people who are fully living, and in order to do this, He speaks transformative
life into our hearts and minds.

 

Live by the Spirit.

Galatians 5: 25a

God wants His children to live. He wants us to live it up, to live life fully, and to be
utterly alive. Although, God does tell us to change the way that we live from
one that is controlled by self-directed and self-serving thinking and
uncontrolled actions, He doesn’t mean that we are to spend all of our lives
locked away in sober, solitary, and silent reflection. The Lord wants us to
live in a fully engaged and totally involved manner in our world; if we
consider the way that Jesus lived as an example of the way that God intends for
us to live, then we have a powerful model of what it means to be alive.

Paul gave us two contrasting lists of life qualities that we can examine. The first
includes sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity,
strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,
drunkenness, and orgies; these actions describe the way that people tend to
live when they are finding their satisfaction from within themselves alone and
from the natural world absent the controlling touch of the Creator of that
world. The second list is a description of the fruit that comes from the Spirit
of Christ, and it includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The difference maker between these
lists is Christ, and the difference is made by the continual work of  His Spirit in our lives.

We are called to live!

This is a powerful imperative; we are to live in the fullest and most passionate way
imaginable. The direction, strength, and empowerment behind this sort of life
is from the Spirit, and the key to consistency in living this way is to keep
filling up on Christ’s Spirit. Turn to Him through the Word, in prayer,
and in relationship with other children of God. The life that courses
through our veins brings about engagement with our world and an ever-deepening
knowledge and understanding of God. As we continually allow Christ the
opportunity to keep us living in the center of His very full life, He takes us
to a depth of relationship with God that is the place where true life
dwells.

 

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we
may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His son Jesus
Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5: 20

The famous New York City coffee company Chock full o’Nuts uses a marketing tune that
refers to their product as “Heavenly Coffee”, and it, no doubt, is
quite good; yet, even when brewed with care and perfectly served, there can be
no comparison to the rich and full truth about God that John provides for us in
these two short sentences. These words are chock full o’life!

Understanding is the thing that I believe we need most. Ultimately, it matters more than
wisdom, for understanding is what directs, focuses, and applies the wisdom that
God gives us. Through understanding we are able to pour out love, grant grace,
and apply truth in our daily lives. God increases our comprehension of Him and
of His ways as we pour our selves out onto His altar of transformation and open
our hearts to the filling of His Spirit. Without the unveiling of God’s true
self that was accomplished through Jesus, people do not have the ability to
fully and completely grasp the totality of God and of His gracious love; thus,
the Lord remains a veiled mystery.

Through Christ our lives are filled with the gifts that God desires for us to have. Among
them are peace, joy, comfort, wisdom, grace, purpose, protection, and courage,
and by the interaction of Christ’s Spirit in our lives we are granted the great
gift of understanding so that these other gifts can be used to truly
bless us and the lives of others. Somehow, I think that this is a picture
of the true heavenly coffee, and the aroma of this brew can fill the world
with the one eternal fragrance.

 

Having been freed from sin, you became slaves to righteousness.

Romans 6: 18

The drive to achieve freedom is an ancient one in both the history of people and in our
individual stories. It is an essential urge that runs deeply in our hearts and
that helps to define the boundaries of our existence. From Icarus to modern astronauts
we have been compelled by this urge to rethink and to expand the horizons that
create a physical perimeter around our worlds. People will risk all in order to
gain even a momentary taste of the air on the outside of a prison cell.
Oppressive governments grind away the spirits of their subjects to the point
where we can be fundamentally changed when living under their rule.

We can strive to gain freedom throughout life. Yet, there is always an illusive
quality to it, for regardless of how much freedom we have, it is never
satisfying. There will always be something that ties us down and that inhibits
us. We will never have enough resources to acquire all of the land that
our hearts desire to roam. We can jump on the largest motorcycle made, ride as
fast as we can to catch the sun, and there will always be an ocean in our way.
True and lasting freedom will always elude our grasp.

Yet, beyond all of the other boundaries and stronger than any other ropes that tie
us down, there is one aspect to life that is supremely constraining. There is
one law of nature that is stronger than gravity. This is the law of sin and
death. We are all born into bondage to sin, and we will all live out our lives
in a constant struggle for freedom from it. However, Christ gives us the only
freedom that actually matters, for it has no boundaries, no horizon, and it is
not defined by time, by space, or even by death, itself. In and through
Jesus we all gain a freedom that cannot be purchased with anything that we
could ever earn, and as we surrender more fully to being slaves of
Christ, our hearts and our minds gain an ever increasing degree
of freedom. We need to continually pray for understanding of the things
that are enslaving us; then, surrender the control of them to Christ,
and live in His total freedom.

 

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse
us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

We get to make choices everyday of our lives; some don’t matter at all, and one
matters absolutely. The choice to follow Jesus changes everything. Even after
we have made the decision to follow God by accepting Christ as Savior of our
souls, there are still more choices to be made. Yet, most of the ones that
matter revolve around one more issue of personal resolve. You, I, and everyone
needs to choose to yield our own way of thinking and of handling life,
surrender our approach to finding satisfaction in life, and provide the
openness and the emptiness in our hearts that God will fill with His
Spirit.

We don’t much like the word, but sin is what gets in the way. Our own attempts to hold onto
control, our fears of what we will have and of who we will be without our old
comfortable patterns of thought and actions, and our hard headed and
granite-like hearts that stubbornly refuse to yield to the only One who can
teach them how to truly love, this is sin. In and through Christ, it all has
been forgiven. God already knows all about every aspect of it, and Christ will
lead us into an infinitely better way of living. So, and I say this to myself,
give it all up, yield, surrender, confess, tell God the truth, stop deceiving
myself, empty my heart, get on my knees, and accept the forgiveness that is
already God’s gift to me. Hiding out, avoiding, procrastination, and
stubbornness just serve to put off the inevitable, and they make life into a
living hell in the process.

John’s statement here is simple yet truly profound. Confess, talk to God about what is
damaging your relationships, discuss what is filling you up that is not from
His Spirit, and how you are letting your old way of thinking and acting
get in the way of growing closer to Him. Christ promises that He will give us
an understanding of His forgiveness and that He will work in us to remove the
impediments to righteous living. Finally, God commits to each of us that as we
seek Him with a yielded and open heart, He will fill us with the mighty,
joyous, and incomparable presence of his Spirit.

 

And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in
the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found
none.

Ezekiel 22: 30

God has really simple desires; He doesn’t need much, and He seldom leaves us guessing
about what He wants. Still, the things that He asks us for can be the hardest
things for us to give. Yet, when we do give the Lord what He seeks, the impact
on our world is profound. Ezekiel presents us with a very Old Testament
sounding proposition that actually is as current as today’s sunrise, for what
else does God seek but people who will listen to His voice and respond to what
He says. Does the Lord need anything from me? The answer to that question is a
simple, no. However, the Lord does desire my heart, my openness to His Word, my
response to the Spirit’s leading, and my willingness to serve Him. How much
direct could He be?

So, let’s suppose that I accept that these words that were written about 2,700 years ago
are more than a history lesson and that they have an application to my world. Now
consider that my city doesn’t have a wall around it and that there are no
marauding armies camped outside its perimeter. Then, I need to reach a
conclusion about what it is that God wants from me.

Here’s what I see, God has very little concern or regard for our cities; He isn’t
interested in preserving our culture or my way of life. The Lord has always
been concerned with and has invested Himself totally in people, and there are
armies of evil camped out around everyone in this world. Christ calls to us and
the Spirit of God directs each of His children to stand between those forces
and the souls of the people that He loves dearly. God created, equips,
empowers, and directs each of us to fill our world with His love,
compassion, grace, and truth. Christ wants us to join Him in a continual battle
for the salvation of people and for the restoration of righteousness. Thus,
through our willingness to serve our Lord, the only thing that truly
matters, the souls of His beloved people, will be preserved.

 

You will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.

Isaiah 12: 3

Giving my life to Christ, making the decision to serve and to follow Him, leads to a form
of freedom that is utterly unique and that is so total that it completely
changes the nature of my being. As the very nature of Jesus penetrates to the
depths of my soul, I am profoundly changed, and the way that I have thought and
lived becomes foreign to my new identity. This is the transformation that
Christ brings to my life, and it that permeates the core of my being. Then,
what was strange and foreign becomes normal and natural, what was antagonistic
becomes comfortable. The Lord works in me and on me to cause the basic
orientation of my life to go from one that is distant, separated, and at odds
with His will to become one that is close, united, and that understands God’s
truth.

God intends for us to find joy in our relationship with Him. He gets pleasure out
of seeing us laugh and out of picking up the weight of living so that we can
walk through our days with our heads held high and our feet bouncing. Although
salvation does refer to the eternal state of our souls, it also applies to the
current state of our hearts and minds. Christ saves us from the oppression of guilt
and sin. He frees us from the burden of a must do life, and He fills us with
the water of freedom that establishes a new standard for performance that is
dictated by the law of love and grace. We desire to do because these actions
bring honor to God and since the result of our actions is to focus others on
Him.

Come and join me by planning to go deeply into your relationship with the Christ, let
Him fill your being with His peace, comfort, and love; then, let these
qualities bring a sense of completeness and understanding to your heart that
will spill out to bless the lives of the people that you interact with today.
Christ calls for us to come to Him and to draw upon Him all through our day. He
continually gives the water of joy to satisfy the deep thirst of our
souls.

 

If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us
from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O
king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods
or worship the golden image that you have set up.

Daniel 3: 17, 18

 

The three young men from Israel, Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego, were faced with a hard dilemma. They could give in the king’s edict
by worshiping the gods of the land, or they could be placed inside of the impossibly
hot furnace so that they would be destroyed by the heat and the flames. This is
a decision that very few people that I have met have faced; actually, I don’t
know of anyone who has faced this one. Yet, it is a type of decision that we
all encounter regularly. There are people and powers in our world who demand
our loyalty and our worship daily. Sometimes the outcome for not giving what is
asked can be as extreme as the threatened end that these three men faced.

 

There are cultural gods, financial gods, and family gods
that demand our attention. We live in a world in which the very systems that
operate our governments and our political processes can be as gods to us. Also,
our churches and other religious institutions can take on a role in our lives that
seems to serve as a substitute for the sort of self-sacrificed vulnerability
that a true relationship with God requires; so, they become our own very real
golden images. Each of us is granted many opportunities to respond to the call
to worship that is sounded from these idols, and every day of living in our
world seems to bring about similar new challenges and temptations. Like the men
in our story, our ability to stand up to the call of these gods may be found in
our knowledge and relationship with the one true God.

 

They knew their God well, and they worshiped Him
continually. They trusted Him for everything that they would need to make it
through this life. They were surrounded by all of the riches, knowledge,
science, and potent worldly magic that was known to people in their times.
Still, they knew from the depths of their hearts that God alone was the One who
gave them the very lives that they lived. They were willing and ready to
sacrifice it all in order to remain true to the commitment that they had from
God and that they had given to Him. They understood their place in God’s
reality as being that of His beloved and cherished bride. They knew that He
would never leave them or fail to keep them safely at His eternal side. Thus,
nothing in this life mattered above that relationship, and nothing could ever
force them to compromise on the vows of faithfulness that they had made to God.
Our God does hold us as His bride, and He will provide all that we need. There
is no idol that can care for us in the way that He does. There is one and only
one God who is worthy of our worship.

Present yourselves to God as ones alive from the dead, and your members as instruments
of righteousness to God.

Romans 6: 13b

This is another of the ways that we have freedom and responsibility for the way that we
behave in our spiritual lives, for God trusts His children with the decision to
come to Him or to try to go it on our own. The Lord doesn’t tell us that going
it on our own will produce a better result; since, it won’t. He did design and
create us with a strong drive toward independence, and He gifted us with
amazing capacity and capability; consider the fact that He made us in His image
and then contemplate what that means in terms of what we might accomplish for
Christ in our world.

The starting place for accomplishment is found in accepting the leading of Christ’s
Spirit for our lives; then it is brought to action by the ongoing filling of us
with His Spirit. This is one of those points where we have a choice to make,
for the Spirit fills what has been emptied of self, and the Spirit brings about
true life as we yield our will to God’s. The ability to discriminate between
what is dead and what is alive is granted to us by God when we are made alive
in Christ; since, at that time, we are transformed from people who are eternally
dead to ones who are forever alive.

How we choose to take advantage of our aliveness is the key to living in the full joy
and the complete purpose of the Lord. We need to recognize the fact that we are
alive and stop living in the land of the dead. We must stop trying to stay in
control of every aspect of our lives and allow God to take us where He wants us
to go. So, when we open ourselves to the Spirit, He will enable and empower us
in ways that are beyond our imaginings.

 

Owe no one anything except to love each other, for the one
who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13: 8

 

The news has been shouting at us for quite a while now and
almost everyone is fully aware that there is a “Debt Crisis” in our world. Our
governments have entered into obligations that can’t be met with the available
resources. Individuals continue to spend money that they don’t have and that
they have no real hope of ever seeing. We also incur debt in many other ways,
for we make commitments and we enter into relational obligations that we really
have very little intention of meeting. As we try to keep pace with our culture
we are driving our personal and our societal balance sheets deeper and deeper
into the red.

 

Christ wants us to stop. Stop writing the checks,
discontinue the charging, and put a hold on the new commitments. He wants us to
step out of the swirling masses that are flocking to the newest and the most
exciting of sales events. He tells us to get on our knees and to seek His face
in prayerful submission to the wonder and the power of truth. In those moments
of quiet meditation God’s Word and His Spirit will speak. When knowing God’s
heart is the desired outcome, He will reveal the truth of what is real love.
Christ demonstrated it for us every day of His life in this world. God has been
relating to people from the perspective of love for all of our history. We are
called by God to respond to Him by loving Him with such totality of being that
we can do little else except to love other people as Christ does.

 

This is an ideal, and the life of absolute and total love is
not an easy one to accomplish. It wasn’t easy for Jesus in that it required Him
to set aside Himself and to sacrifice all to do it; yet, that was what He did
in response to God’s expressed desire. God’s expressed desire for me and for
you is the same. He wants us to live in the simplicity of righteousness. He
tells us to stop entering into agreements that bind our hearts and our minds to
impossibly heavy burdens of debt. Christ leads us down a road that takes us
into a state of being that transcends this world and its earthly obligations
and that brings us into the perspective of the Father. In God’s economy we are
indebted only to Him, and He requires that our payments be made in loving
interaction with our world.

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