October 2011


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.

 

 

The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.

Psalm 33: 11

There are thoughts, ideas, and concepts that last, and there are those that seem profound
and true in the moment and then, even when they are carved into stone, fade
from use. A really good test of the advice and the wisdom that we listen to is
to look at the duration of its validity. Has the same idea been true throughout
history? You see, God has been saying the same things to people from the very
beginning of our relationship with Him. He has not changed his mind. His heart
is constant, His purpose is clear, and the Lord continually loves us.

Another aspect of the way that God relates to me is that He is very active and involved,
and He is truly personal in what He says. The Lord provides me with wisdom and
insight for living that seems as if it were created solely for my situation and
for my life. These thoughts unfold out of His word in ways that are pertinent
to the moment and that seem as if they were written about today as viewed from
my front door. Although it can seem a bit scary to consider how well God
actually knows me, it is truly comforting to realize the depth of His knowledge
and to know that He still loves and accepts me. His thoughts, plans, and
counsel are intended to provide me with everything that I need to live my life
fully and to live it well.

True wisdom is also a gift and a legacy. God gives it to people, and He wants us to
share it with others and to pass it on to the next generation. Christ desires
for us to follow Him through this life, and He calls upon us to go with Him
into the lives of others. As Jesus purposefully walked the streets and entered
through the doorways of homes and of palaces throughout His world, He wants to
take us into the lowliest of huts and into the grandest of mansions for the
sake of His saving truth. A life that is lived by following God’s will and
inside of the framework of His plan is one that stands out in ways that impact
people’s hearts for eternity.

 

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same
mind with one another according to Christ Jesus.

Romans 15: 5

Seeking to have the same mind, to think like and to act like others, does not mean that we
are to be mindless and conformist. After all, we are made in God’s image; we
have the mind of Christ living in us through the Spirit. We have an imperative
from God to act for Him out of our understanding and to be persuasive in our
presentation of God’s truth; thus, we must be thinkers, processors of
information, and people who form clear opinions about what we believe and why
we believe it.

Still, God wants His children to seek to be unified in our faith and to function as one
organism; He tells us to present an undivided and singularly focused face to
the world. This is a serious challenge, for people do hold to numerous beliefs,
and there are many styles and approaches to expressing our faith through
worship. The challenge is thrown down to us in just how tightly we hold
onto our personal perspective of these secondary aspects of our faith;
thus, our beliefs can become a source of division, causing
separation, and leading to dissension and distrust. When this is the
result, the beauty and the power of our witness for Christ is buried
under a mound of rotting debris.

In fact, this is where we need to stick to the discussion with others even when it is
hard. As Paul says, we need to persevere, and we need to seek to understand, to
embrace, and to encourage the faith of others, too. There is one simple truth
that comes to mind regarding the differences that exist in and among the
body of Christ, and that is that the mind of Christ is not conflicted. He is
unified, and His call to us is to likewise be unified. Seeking this sort
of unity requires hard work and a soft heart. It doesn’t always happen
quickly, but when it does, the glory of Christ’s love is
revealed.

 

And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given
through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 1: 16, 17

From the very beginning of our existence, God has provided mankind with order,
structure, and rules to live by. People have always been well versed, coached,
and directed in the manner that God wants us to behave and in the underlying
attitudes that He knows we must maintain in order to actually live that way.
Yet our response, from the very first pair of humans until this person has been
to turn a deaf ear and to head off in our own direction. Thus, we fight,
injure, murder, and oppress each other, and none of these actions are the
result of following the plan that God has laid out for us.

Because I am as guilty of this failure to follow the rules as anyone else, and I have
deliberately turned away from what I know to be right too many times to
recall, I am truly a chief recipient of the grace that God gave to us all
through Jesus. This is the truest and the greatest gift that God has
ever given to me, and this one gift is selected from an array of
them that is too great in number and in wonder to count or to even
consider. Jesus has given me a second chance, a third chance, and every chance
that I have needed. He wants me to live in the full understanding and
expression of His righteous and glorious way.

Still, grace is not an infinite get out of jail free card, for the truth that
accompanies it has a powerful, eye opening quality of directing me to see the
impact of my thoughts and actions. God doesn’t want to relate to us in the
manner of a life guard at a dangerous beach where we continually ignore the
warning signs and need to be pulled from the surf. He teaches us to read the
signs, to assess the tides, and to become more powerful swimmers; then, He
sends us out with a mission to boldly enter into the dangerous waters of
life so that we can lead others to the same life saving knowledge and
relationship with Christ that has retrieved us from sin’s destructive
forces. Grace and truth lead to understanding, wisdom, and strength when
we allow the spirit of Christ to work in our hearts and minds. This is how
we move closer to God and to living in the fullness of His gift of love.

 

Clap your hands, all you peoples;

Shout to God with a jubilant cry.

For Yahweh, the Most High, is awe-inspiring,

A great King over all the earth.

Psalm 47: 1, 2

 

On any given day we can read, see video, and hear the words
of many kings. Our world is heavily populated with individuals who claim to
have superior position and who wield authority over many others. They speak,
and others jump to carry out their desires. They command, and people’s lives
are changed. There seems to be a degree of command and control that surrounds
them that exceeds all other authority. Yet, our world is not well governed, and
our lives don’t seem to be made better by much that they seek to do. It is easy
to become cynical and to lose hope in a future that is governed so.

 

It might be possible to look at the hopeful words of this
Psalm and think that these are fanciful expressions that were the product of a
simpler and better time in history. The accounts of what life was like in those
times just won’t support that thinking. These ancient times were filled with
oppression, violence, and greed. Lives were devastated by sin-fueled passions
and self-centered decisions that were made by kings and were paid for by
multitudes. Still, the voice of God spoke, and He said that there was then and
that there would forever be a true great King who does rule with authority and
with loving compassion over all of the earth.

 

As we know Christ, we know and are known by that King. His
presence in my world gives me a highly valid reason to open the door of my
house and to shout out with exuberant joy for all my neighbors to see and hear.
They might think me a bit strange, but that would be a great opportunity to
explain my reason for singing out in psalms on my quiet street. In all of the
chaos that our world rulers and their unjust systems have created there is
still a voice of hope and of reason that can be heard over all of it. God, the
Most High, is King over all. His truth supersedes all other rules of law.
Christ’s justice reigns supreme. For those who know Him there never needs to be
any doubt and God never leaves those who He knows out of the protective
covering of His rule and authority.

Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2: 10

 

In the United States it seems that we do not understand
the concept of being a people as well as we might. We are such a widely diverse
gathering of individuals who have racial and cultural backgrounds that have
become a collection of most of the stories that are told of people groups from
every corner of the world. In Peter’s time the world that he knew was beginning
to become a little like ours, but the idea of being a people, especially the
thought of being a select and an especially set apart people who were
designated by God for this position, was still clearly understood. Yet, even
then, this concept of a separate people that was based upon nationality was
false.

 

God’s intent was much greater than that. His desire was and
continues to be to see all of humanity brought together. This was His creation
design, and He has not changed the plan in the slightest from the dawn of
creation to this day. God came personally into this world in Christ; the
Messiah, Savior, Reconciler, and Lord; in order to bring about the destruction
of all that divides. He is also the means through which the damage, the
brokenness, of sin is healed. In Christ we people can find the commonality that
bridges all of the fears that cut through our humanity with a jagged knife of
division. In Christ there is race, nationality, gender, and culture. However,
in Christ none these need to keep us apart. In Christ these distinctives are a
part of the story of who we are, and they can be a part of the conversation
that we have in the process of growing together in unity.

 

In Christ we are all a people. A singular, collective
gathering of souls that resides in every corner of our world and that has a
history as long and as richly diverse as the story of all of humanity. In the
body of Christ there is no longer any reason to fear others, to separate from
them, or to isolate ourselves from those who are different. Christ has granted
to each of us the mercy of His grace. He demands that we do the same for
others. As God has gathered us from that far away place of isolation into which
we were born and given us a dwelling place in His presence, so we should reach
out to embrace the various people of our world and show them through our lives
the blessed mercy of Christ’s gift of restoration.

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the
former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.

Isaiah 65: 17

 

There are at least two types of instances where memory can
be the cause of some real life-function type problems. One is the situation
where my old ways of thinking and of acting come to mind. These are the actions
that I am not proud of nor do I actually wish to repeat but that come to the
surface, anyway. These are those times of derisive comments, harsh words, dismissive
glances, and instant anger or frustration. During these episodes, I hurt people
for no good reason, and I do it in an instant; it is as if the action occurs
without the thought behind it ever taking shape. Honest and loving people
call me on this sort of action, help me to understand
when I am doing it, and generally give me the grace that I
need to repent and to change the behavior.

 

The other type of instance is the one where past failures,
bad decisions, and other forms of sinful behaviors and attitudes come back to
the surface as if I am again living in the moment of the sad event. When
this happens, I tend to draw away from the positive things that I was
endeavoring to pursue, and I also move inside of myself for fear of doing harm
to others. The surfacing of these memories and the feelings that are associated
with them can be terribly disabling, for they tend to drive me away from the
direction of God’s calling and toward a self-centered form of paralysis of
faith.

 

Don’t get me wrong, remembering and understanding the sinful
aspects of our lives is important in so far as the remembrance helps us to
prevent and avoid repetition of the behaviors. Yet, evil uses a device much
like this good memory as a tool to disable us, and that is where it is
important to realize the truth of the way that God remembers us. The
Lord is the Creator God, and His creative work applies to the lives of people.
Through Christ, we are given a new reality, a changed way to view our
world, and a grace-infused, love-centered approach to our relationships.

 

Thus, when I start to think of myself and of others in
terms that are related to these old ways of behaving and when I back away
from God’s calling because of my self-imposed concept of worthiness, I
need to redirect my heart and my mind to view myself more as God does. He sees
me as a new person who has been formed by His hands into a complete
and totally worthy individual who God trusts absolutely to serve His
will. My part in this is to accept God’s truth and to claim Christ’s
victory over evil in my daily life.

 

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