October 2011


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.

For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to
a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord and serve
Him with one accord.

Zephaniah 3: 9

 

Consider how many forms of speech there are that we are
exposed to regularly. There are the obvious ones. There are at least 6,700
recognized languages in our world, and there are many more that have not been
discovered. Add to that all of the languages that have been spoken throughout
history and the possibilities are beyond my ability to calculate. Additionally,
all of the major languages have many forms of personal, regional, and
situational speech in the forms of colloquial expression, professional jargon,
and slang. So how exactly could anyone define “pure speech”?

 

Fortunately for me, God has done the hard work in this area
of understanding. He tells me to love Him and to honor Him with all of my
being. Christ tells me to love my neighbors unconditionally. He leads me into a
form of self-sacrifice that is willing to give up everything out of concern for
the well being of others. Jesus told me to put aside all of my fears and my
reluctance and go into my world to clearly proclaim the message of love and
hope that is found only in Him. According to God’s Word I am to live in a
manner that indicates that I am a committed disciple of Christ so that my way
of life would speak more loudly of that relationship than any words. This is
the speech that God has modeled for me. This is the speech that He desires to
hear coming out of my life.

 

The language of the committed follower of Christ doesn’t
require an interpreter to be understood. It is formed out of a vocabulary that
was created by God before the beginning of our world. There are no words
lacking in it, and there is no need to create new expressions in order to make
it fit with the way we live today. The Lord is greatly pleased when He hears
His people uttering the language of lives given over totally to serving Him.
Spoken words are wonderful and powerful, and God loves to hear our songs of
praise rising up to the heavens. However, a chorus of loving service and
engagement with our world in the name of Christ speaks with the volume of an
eternal chorus.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Therefore,
my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in
the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15: 57, 58

There is so much happening in the world today that can shake our faith and wilt our
courage. Everyone seems to know people who have been negatively affected by big
and small events that are out of their control. Each of us is feeling this
pressure in our own lives, too. We are not helpless, and we are not hopeless.
There are things that we all can do to improve on the way that we make it
through every day. However, before we start to do anything or even start to
plan anything; there is a preparatory step that seems to be very compelling. If
I am to be successful in developing an action plan that will have a real
chance of accomplishing a worthwhile result, my heart and my mind need to be
oriented toward God and focused in on His perspective.

It is crucial that I thank Him for the life that I have and for His involvement
in it. The realization that God is supreme over everything and everyone and
that His righteous love has already won every battle and controls every
meaningful outcome establishes a sound platform for my mind to start from in
moving forward through this day. Through Jesus, I will not fail, and my
struggles will be resolved. With the Lord’s direction, the bad, the terrifying,
and the uncertain will become joy.

In these hard times it is very easy to become distracted and to start to spend my time
and my energy on the wrong objectives. It is very human to set goals and to
create plans for their achievement that are totally off track. That is why I
need to start the process by turning all of my attention toward God and His
will. Then, my plans are set on the things that serve Him; thus, they are
established on things that will always pay the highest returns. Through this
process of finding my strength in Christ and of seeking to serve Him, my issues
and concerns also find resolution.

 

If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians 5: 18

There is an order to the way that the entire world functions. The rules and the
controlling principles were embedded into its genetic coding by
God in order to prevent chaos from ruling. What matters most for people is
where we align our hearts and our minds in order to receive the direction and
guidance that we all need to successfully make it through this complex life
that we live. Although we are all born with hearts that are broken and
controlled by sin, God grants us the gift of a choice that will completely
change all of that. Christ brings all who choose Him into restoration and into
righteousness.

Once we have made a decision to leave behind the controlling influence of evil and turn
our hearts toward God, we still need to take one more very important step. God
designed a rule of law into Creation, and it will get us through the day with
minimal missteps and wrong turns; however, the law demands perfection from us
so very imperfect beings. Errors, mistakes, and wrong choices are inevitable
when we choose to orient our moral compass toward the law. Under the rule of
the law,  we will spend our days trying
unsuccessfully to pay off the constantly growing fines that we receive for our
various sins. Unfortunately we will never possess enough emotional or spiritual
currency to pay these debts.

Christ offers us another choice, for He sent His Spirit to live in, among, and with
us. We can choose to seek out a deep, personal, and powerful relationship
with the Spirit of God that will profoundly change the way that we view life.
When we seek to stay filled with the Spirit, our view of life and the vantage
point from which we view it are changed; we gain a Heavenly perspective on life
that allows us to live boldly, confidently, and in a form of freedom that does
not exist outside of this intimate relationship with God. When I am filled with
Christ’s Spirit, there is lightness and buoyancy to my life that is without
compare.

 

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Galatians 5: 16

In the Christian community we talk a lot about the joy of living in a relationship
with Christ, and this condition of the heart and attitude of the mind is very
real to me; yet, there is another quality of the God-to-me relationship that
seems almost contradictory. For there is a weightiness to it all, and
it is actually vital for me to take this aspect of life in Christ seriously if
I am to truly embrace the joy.

Paul is telling us that we should not be lightweights as we navigate our way through
life; we should be leaving deep, noticeable footprints behind us. Although
Jesus promised us that God’s burden is light, what He actually meant was that
we would be able to live as the Lord calls us to live due to the supernatural
weight handling capabilities of the His Spirit. In other words, we won’t have
to deal with less and what we encounter won’t become less challenging and
serious; instead, Christ actually leads us into engagement with people’s lives
at the deepest and most real levels. We all know that entering into honest and
deep interaction with people puts us on a very heavy journey.

For myself, I know that I would prefer to stay on the surface where things are easy
and people can always say that they are fine, where smiles are always used as
greetings instead of honest tears, and in situations in
which everyone can concentrate on me. The Spirit of Christ doesn’t let me
stay there. When I choose to fill myself with the Spirit, He compels me to
deeper engagement. God also drives me away from the self-centered focus
that my natural self wants to seek. When I look outwardly with the eyes of God
and seek to bring His love into the lives of others, my heart is filled
with the joy of Christ’s presence. Also, the resources, the
understanding, and the capability to meaningfully enter into theses lives are
provided by God. Jesus walked with the heavy footprints of a world
changer; He calls on us to do the same. It matters greatly when we
determine to travel through the day with the serious intent to leave behind a
noticeable trail of steps that lead straight to the throne of God.

 

 

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