November 2011

The Lord says,

“I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, in paths they do not know I will guide them.

I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains.

These are the things I will do, and I will not leave them undone.”

Isaiah 42: 16


In these words is found one of the really big promises that God has made to me, for he committed that He would give my blind spirit sight and illuminate the darkness that shrouded my heart and my mind. All that I had to do was trust Him and accept Christ as the answer to my deepest needs. However, I still have a hard time with the trust part of this agreement. My nature wants to hold onto the control, and my tendency is to overlay the future with the deep-rooted doubts that my mind brings to life. Thus, I have the capability to slip back into an operational form of the blindness that was my makeup before the Spirit of God entered my life, and this self inflicted blindness still leads to some troubling episodes of tripping and falling down hard.


This world is filled with paths of travel that we can take that are rough, rocky, and dangerous. The routes through life are often shrouded in fog, smoke, and haze. So, when I turn off God’s bright lantern and attempt to travel by the weak light of my own understanding, I am very likely to turn down one of these hard and potentially dangerous paths. Additionally, the landscape is in an ever changing state, for evil keeps moving the street signs, digging craters in the way, and speaking false information into my ears in an attempt to get me disoriented and lost. In case you hadn’t noticed, this world is a hostile environment for people who love God.


This is where God proves especially trustworthy, for despite my weakness and failings, He stays true to His word. He continues to set out the right course for me to follow. The Lord also keeps working in my heart to improve my understanding of Him and of His way to live; thus, God keeps improving the environment where I need to operate. He fills in the holes and He removes the tripping hazards from my path. Some of this He does by preparing the path that I will travel for me, and some of it He does by the transforming work that His Spirit does in me. The result is that, by trusting God, I get to witness the reality of His promises in my life, and I am blessed by His presence continually.


It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5: 1


There was a point to the way that God set about reconnecting with the souls of His wandering and lost children. Since He wants us all back into close contact with Him, the Lord was willing to do anything that was required to reestablish the relationship. Every one of us was born into captivity; we were sold to the slave master, Satan, by our original ancestors, and the price for our bondage was very cheap, too. All that was received was a bite of fruit and a momentary sense of false freedom.


Unfortunately, I find myself trying to live in this same way, for I will set aside most of the great and valuable gifts that God has given to me as His beloved child, and I will think, say, and do things that are outside of God’s clearly stated will. I must admit to my capacity and capability to think, say, and do many things that are certainly not in my best interests and that do not serve to bring light to the darkness of this world. When I live like this and especially when I allow evil’s lies to settle in my heart and my mind so that I am made fearful and filled with doubt, I am effectively selling myself back into slavery.


At these times I need to step back into the light of God’s truth, confess the sinful aspects of my doubting nature, and open my mind to the refreshing wind of Christ’s Spirit as He sets me back on my feet and restores my understanding of His view of me as His own redeemed and completely free person. The price that Christ paid to obtain my freedom was greater than anything that I can measure or even comprehend. The freedom that God has purchased for me is complete, without condition, and applies to every aspect of my life. Thus, the Lord tells me to stop living as a slave and to stay strong in the freedom that Christ bought for me.


As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.

Colossians 2: 6


There is an extraordinary degree of futility in making a decision to believe in Jesus and not also deciding to follow Him. The initial act of faith works to create the relationship with God; thus, it provides for the destination for the soul, but life in the present can be left in an unresolved state. For me, it was never hard to believe in Jesus. He has almost always been truly real and completely believable. However, having the faith and the trust that I need to follow Him has been a different story.


Christ came into this world to impact lives. Jesus made it quite clear that He was not on a mission of political or even social change. His mission was to defeat sin’s grip on humanity and to bring people back to their Creator God. Then He stays with them to give them the Lord’s direction for their lives. We can have a political and a social impact; however, it is more important that we should have a life impact on others. This is where we are called upon by Christ to follow Him. This is why we must seek out His Spirit’s filling and guidance on a continual basis. It is by the Spirit that we are led to follow God’s will for our lives, and it is in the Spirit that we have the Lord’s strength, vision, and the encouragement that we need to follow Him regardless of all that gets in the way.


For me and for you following Jesus, walking in Him, is a continual choice. There are moments and days when it seems so easy, and there are others when I just don’t do it. Still, the most important decision is the next one that I make, for that is the moment when I can determine to move forward with Christ. The next situation that I encounter or the next person that I meet will be impacted by me. I pray that I will choose to let that impression be one that is filled with the truth, concern, and love of Christ.

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

2 Corinthians 9: 11


In our world thanksgiving should come easily. We have wealth, convenience, excellent medical care, well-established governments to provide order, and resources of many types to call upon when needed. We live lives that are continually blessed and satisfying. However, this last state of being is seldom the one were our hearts and our minds reside. For the other side of this coin that we know as life is the one where there is much pain, great sorrow, and times that are hard to withstand. There is illness, deceit, oppression, violence, joblessness, homelessness, rejection, and shame. Wherever he has been able Satan has taken his giant mallet of Godlessness and crushed the beauty out of Creation. There are broken and damaged people, institutions, and places all around us.


Still, God’s Word declares that He is offering much to us. Through the rubble there comes a beam of light that promises that we are not forgotten. A voice reaches out to a dying soul and hope is sparked so that Christ’s gift of grace can begin to restore this being to life. People set aside comfort and concern for their own safety so that their hands can start to clear the debris that is crushing the air out of the lungs of people who are trapped under sin’s weight. Christ did not walk down the calm streets of His world and stay safely inside of the walls of His own house. He went out into His community and reached out to touch the hearts of people with God’s promise of healing and restoration. God grants to each of His people the ability and the opportunity to do these same things.


We don’t need health, wealth, comfort, a permanent home, societal or even familial acceptance, or position and power in order to accept Christ’s gift of Himself. God is not a careful screener of the people that He accepts into His presence. He is also not discriminating when it comes to lavishing His generosity upon us. Jesus tells us, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” All of us experience times of labor when the burden is too heavy to continue to bear. He wants to lift the load enough so that we can continue on. Christ joins us in facing the brokenness of our own lives and in our world. He provides an outlook on life that leads to a thankful appreciation of God’s love for us, and Christ takes us into our world with acts of loving service that are great blessings to God.

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

Psalm 19: 7


The human soul seems to have a longing for a touchstone that is true and trustworthy. We go through life with the uncertainties that it throws our way, and our hearts start to race in the anxious anticipation of the next thing that is going to arise that will trip us up, disrupt our progress, or confuse our plans for living successfully. When these unsettling events come my way, I start to doubt my own sense of direction and my ability to create intelligent plans for myself. It is all very unnerving.


My biggest problem is that, when things are seemingly going well, I tend to get too confident in my own abilities and start to trust in my skills, charm, ability, and intelligence; thus, I don’t take the time to consider what God has to say. However, life experience has shown me that it is His input, direction, and guidance that I need at all times. If this were uniquely my problem, that would be one issue, but I read of people in the Bible who suffered from much the same problem, and stories like these are a part of my daily life, too. We tend to be an independent breed of people, and God actually created us that way. He wants us to operate with the sort of freedom and initiative that comes from a heart that has been released from captivity to sin. The great Creator God enjoys the sort of creativity that we bring to solving the challenges of life.


What I and most people need is a fundamental realization that seeking God’s truth and wisdom, listening intently to His voice, and allowing His Spirit to guide my thinking and my actions is not constraining. Rather, these intimately relational actions on my part bring me closer to God and to a place of understanding of His will. He then guides me into the core of my own creativity, for that is one of the primary markers of my God-likeness. Then my heart and my mind are released from their dark cell of doubt and I am able to grant myself permission to walk boldly through life in obedience to God’s will.


Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.

Psalm 55: 22


There are times in our lives when the cares; the concerns, worries, fears, and over bearing challenges of simply living start to pile up on our backs to such a degree that we feel crushed by it all. One thing happens, then another, soon it seems like the very forces of nature are conspiring to bring all of the negativity that they can summon up together in one focused attack. What’s worse, their target is you. The very breath can be crushed out of your lungs so that you can’t even get a muffled cry for help or plea for relief out of your mouth.


The Lord tells us to take these fears and worries and use every ounce of the energy that we possess to grab them and throw them onto Him. This can look like a simple prayer pleading with God to grant some relief from the struggle. It can be a call to a friend to seek the Lord’s wisdom as expressed through the heart and the mind of another of His children. Also, the casting of our cares happens as we humbly get down onto our knees and open our hearts to His soothing touch of love.


God has given His word to all of His people, and He never goes back on His word. The Lord says that He will give us everything that we need to keep going. This includes the food, shelter, finances, love, peace, healing for illness, companionship, and each of the other things that we do now or will ever need. The Lord, my God, sustains my soul and lifts my spirit, for when I turn to Him and recognize His righteous place as the only true source for all that I need, He never lets the weight of this life get so great that I am forced to the ground by it. Instead, Christ lifts me up high to be with Him in the Father’s palace of lasting peace and total sustenance.


Let us also walk by the Spirit.

Galatians 5: 25b


If we seek out Christ’s on going, constant, and fill-me-to-top Spirit, then stay alone in our endeavor to live out God’s will, calling, and mission for us, the impact that we will have in this world will be greatly diminished from the wondrous potential that God has in mind for us. Even for people who are very consistent in maintaining their connection to God through prayer, Bible reading and study, and openness to the interaction of the Spirit, this is a hard world to travel in. This is why Paul gives us this second command in Galatians to walk by the Spirit; yet, this one is different from the one in verse 16, for the word that he uses, stoicheo, is different; this is a word which refers to the way that soldiers march in ranks, in step, and with the confidence that their coordinated numbers creates.


This is how we are to take the empowerment of the Spirit into our world. When we join up with others and align ourselves with them in our desire to serve Christ, we are a mighty force to deal with, and this is important, for the forces of evil that are standing against us are also very powerful. They are also truly plentiful. When we become honestly, openly, and sincerely involved with others in the body of Christ, we gain a form of mutual strength that is far greater than anything that evil can throw at us. We also gain the support of friends in those times when we are particularly weak and protection when the arrows fly at us from our blind side.


There is another aspect to this form of walking, too; since, in order to stay in step and in rank, we need to yield our individual desires and personal concepts to those that Christ tells us are His. We are also required to consider the marching style and the pace of the group as we take each of our own steps. This is a very mindful and other focused way to live that is truly not very much like the way that most of us naturally function. For me this sort of yielding requires the involvement and the leading of Christ’s Spirit, for I don’t, won’t, and almost can’t do it on my own. The Lord calls upon us to live in the harmony, peace, and love of His Spirit. Then we will be able to walk through life with confidence and with the boldness of people who know where we are going and who is going with us.


It (the land of the people of Ammon) is also counted as alandofRephaim. Rephaim formerly lived there – but the Ammonites call them Zamzummin – a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim; but the Lord destroyed them before the Ammonites, and they dispossessed them and settled in their place.

Deuteronomy 2: 20, 21


Alright, this is a strange account of an obscure event that is a part of a very ancient history. This is a side note in Moses’ recounting of the history of his people and their relationship with God over the past forty years. This was a time of exile from the promised land ofIsrael’s future. The Israelites had come so very close to this long anticipated place of national settling-in when they had determined that the task at hand was impossible. The people who were in the land were well armed and fierce giants. It seems that they completely forgot everything that God had done for them and all of the ways that He had preserved them from harm. Every one of the people in this wandering band had experienced God’s hand of provision and protection, for they had relied upon it for the essential items of survival. They all would have been aware of the story of how they had been released fromEgyptand protected from a grief enraged Pharaoh by God’s direct actions. Yet, they doubted Him. They allowed fear to overcome their will to obey God and follow His will. Still, God cared for them.


Now Moses reminds them that the thing that intruded into their willingness to trust God was, in fact, something that God had already taken care of in a territory near by. I think that there are at least two main points for us in our world to consider here. Although I am not traveling in the company of a couple of million of my closest family members and friends, and I am not concerned with finding pasture and water for my herds of sheep and goats, I am engaged in the process of taking land away from dangerous giants. God’s mission for His people has not changed all that much in these past hundreds of years. We are also still asked to face our fears and to respond to God’s call to trust Him. Every day brings about new opportunities to have faith in the Lord and step forward or to focus on the perceived danger and retreat. We get to choose.


Unfortunately, on far too many occasions I have decided to focus on my own capabilities and to choose fear instead of possession. So, herein lays the other main point of this story. The Israelites had done the same thing, and God was granting them another chance to go where He wanted them to go and to do what He was directing them to do. Even when I have failed to enter in, run away, and cowered in fear of those giants, God continues to call me to engage His work. He never leaves me stranded and alone in the wilderness of my own fear and failure. Instead, the Lord grants me a new perspective, a renewed understanding of His purpose, and opportunities to claim lands for His kingdom and glory. The land of promise is there before us, and God calls His people to boldly enter in and to trust completely in His victory.


O. Lord,

Draw the spear and javelin against my pursuers!

Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.”

Psalm 35:3


The way that we humans are wired to handle challenging, difficult, and dangerous situations is really interesting. Most of the time we rather automatically go into a state of mind and body that will either engage the opposition with every ounce of our being, or it will get our feet running away from the risk at a pace that is beyond our normal ability. This is a powerful response that comes to good use in certain situations. It is also the sort of thing that sets us up for a lot of unresolved conflict and hurt relationships. It seems to me that in daily life the situations that truly require me to put up the fight or to escape are rare, but the human encounters that cause the adrenaline rush and the powerful emotions of this state of being are more common.


David is telling us about his own life-experience-derived thoughts on how to prepare for the physical and for the emotional dangers of living in this world. He was no stranger to the reality of facing conflict, and he was painfully aware of just how much harm and damage that he was capable of inflicting to his relationships with others when he took action that was based on his own understanding. David was good with swords and he could drive the point of a spear deep into another person’s heart. He also knew that God had something greater in mind for him. David became aware of the fact that his own strengths were also his greatest liabilities.


We all face situations that make us feel threatened, vulnerable, or fearful. We have been trained by our culture, by others, and by life to be competent and to show strength in handling these challenges. Yet, God says that He will be our strength. He desires to go before us. The Lord desires to speak to our hearts and to provide us with His reassuring truth about the conflict that we are facing. His weapons of choice are intended to heal the brokenness in others, and His approach to engaging the enemy is intended to bring about reconciliation rather than ruin. Christ came into a world that is hostile to Him and that rejects His truth. Still, without regard to our own anger and rejection, He comes into our damaged hearts and restores us to a position of peace and love in the presence of God. As Christ goes before us into the hostility of the day, He desires to equip us to be agents of restoration rather than to be people who bring about destruction. Christ speaks peace to the heart that is open to His voice.

Jesus said, “Do not fear, only believe.”

Mark 5: 36b


I believe.

A simple statement that opens the door to a transformed life and to restoration of the
body, mind, and soul. It sets in motion a chain of events that has no stopping
place in this life and that goes on into eternity.

I believe says:

I can risk taking the first taste,

Being the point person,

Stepping off into the void of space,

Walking along that dark street,

Opening my heart to love.

I believe leads me to say:

I trust,

I have faith,

I yield,

I proclaim His glory.

I believe means:

I am alive, for Christ is alive in me,

Love replaces fear,

Joy removes sorrow,

Certainty drives out doubt.

I believe causes me to have trust and faith in the Eternal Constant who won’t let me
down, hold me back, or cause me to fail.

I believe in Jesus!

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