January 2012

Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Hebrews 12: 1


The time that is showing on the clock doesn’t matter and my schedule for the day is unimportant. Regardless of the external situation and circumstances, there are too many days when I just don’t see so clearly. These are the times when the words that I keep repeating to myself are words of discouragement and doubt. These are the days that are marked by more disability than by empowerment. The crazy thing about all of this is that the negativity that becomes so all encompassing and that pervades every corner of my mind is mostly self generated. I become my own worst enemy, and Satan is simply delighted when I do this.


Christ wants me to remember the fact that He has surrounded me with people who have walked through the same sort of life course as I have. Their experiences are recorded in His word from its inception. He has literally filled my world with real, skin-wearing, and honest individuals who struggle and weep, who fall down and get back up, and who give in to sin and still end the day victorious. God wants me to look outwardly and to see the lives of others so that I won’t become so inwardly focused that I can’t see His glorious path for my life and hear His voice encouraging me to embrace it fully.


We are intended to go through this life in the company of others. God designed us to live in community and to be contributors to that group, also. I need to keep reminding myself that when the doubt starts to form and I begin to become oppressed and overwhelmed by life, there is a large historical and current family that I belong to. They are with me as I travel along each and every step of today’s path. Additionally, it is my privileged and my responsibility to join others in their journey, for together we have the strength to keep going all the way to the finish.


In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4: 8

The sales of home security alarm systems are reported to be about a 16 billion dollar industry which employees almost 118,000 people. It seems that we really don’t feel all that secure in our environment. There is a natural tension that comes with living in a world where so much can and does go wrong and where there are large numbers of people who seem to set on a course of doing harm to others. Yet here is a seeming randomness to it all that can and will defy all of our best efforts to wall ourselves in with safety and security devices. We can eat well, stay away from drafts, and exercise faithfully; still, illness or injury can strike us down.

Even more profoundly damaging than any of the harm that people, microbes, or rouge cells can cause is the gnawing fear and paralyzing uncertainty that is the product of Satan’s relentless assault on our hearts, minds, and spirits. He gets around all of the protective measures that we install. His voice slips through the smallest cracks in the wall. He tells us that we are helpless and unloved. Satan tries to convince us that we are in this life battle alone. He sells his wares door to door, and he doesn’t skip over any neighborhood in that process. Not a single person on this earth is immune from the disease of doubt. There is no Do Not Call list that can shut him out. Satan is relentlessly trying to increase the amount of damage that he can affect in this world of ours.

However, there is an answer. Christ has given it to every person who comes to Him. In Him there is absolute safety. Christ saves our souls, and He enters into our lives. He moves us out of the bad neighborhood where we were all born, and He brings us into the full presence of God. Doubt is answered by focusing my attention on God’s Word. His Spirit speaks out of the pages in ways that seem to be targeted specifically at my momentary need. Christ enters into my situation. He provides me with the courage that I need to face what life has dealt me with a clear mind and renewed resolve. As I talk with God about the stresses and the concerns of life, these prayers spoken by me become truth revealed by Him. What was dark and torturous becomes enlightened thinking and peaceful rest. Now I can lie down and find renewal. Now I know that I am never alone.

The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the awesome, and the mighty God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.

Deuteronomy 10: 17


O how we desire an honest, just, and trustworthy leader! Someone who continually seeks to do what is best for the people and who does it because it is right in God’s eyes. Yet we also desire that our leaders be powerful enough to get and to hold onto all that we think we need. They should be attentive to our expressions of want and they must look the part, too. We don’t want to be represented by people who don’t dress, talk, and portray themselves as we would like to be perceived ourselves. Frequently, we get exactly what we ask for.


When compared to God we all fall short of the standard. In God’s eyes there is no one who is greater or lesser in importance, stature, or significance. Christ joined all of us in life in this world, and He allowed Himself to be sacrificed in order to save all of humanity from our lost and broken state of existence. What we can do is accept Christ for who He is: Lord of lords, King of kings, and God the Almighty. He is the singular expression of the way for us to live in the total presence of God. Christ is our true hope, and His real and demonstrable presence in the lives of people should be our benchmark for their capacity to lead justly.


Nothing can buy justice. It has no monetary price; yet, it is precious beyond counting. The path to being a just and a compassionate person comes with the price of self. We need to be willing to give up our vain and futile striving for power and risk our identity and our security in order to begin to understand what it means to care for our world as God does. True and effective leadership in this world begins with recognition of God as the one and the only true king. It is founded on absolute and total loyalty to the Father. Righteous leaders must be submissive to Christ. Without that profound and fundamental yielding of heart and mind to God, no one has even the most rudimentary understanding of what it means to lead. We don’t need power for it belongs to God. We don’t require fame for all of the glory belongs to God. We don’t need financial gain for, in Christ, we possess all of the riches of heaven.



And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come toZionwith singing;

Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;

They shall obtain gladness and joy;

And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Isaiah 35: 10


We all start off in this life as the downtrodden, the orphaned, and destitute. All of us have been abandoned by our ancestral parents, and the rightful heritage that our Father, the Creator, intended for us to receive has been claimed by another. We are in the exact position of total helplessness and complete absence of resources that the concept of redeemer was designed by God to answer. Even if life seems to be going along fine; without the redemptive work of Christ in my life, I am one heartbeat and a singular action away from facing the stark reality of a very painful personal eternity. Additionally, real meaning in life that lasts and relationships that are founded on the deep love of Christ are outside of my grasp and beyond my understanding.


Yet, the Lord voluntarily stepped into my life and agreed to take on my debts and my obligations in order to free me from the ownership of evil and to place me into a relationship with Him. Although Christ’s redemptive work does truly secure my status as an unending child of God; it also does far more for me. God desires to see me restored to the state of effective, loving living and close, intimate relationship with Him that He intended to be the everyday norm for people. Christ brings me back into His constant presence and remakes every fiber of my being into the image of God form that has always been His intent. Thus my heart is alive with the song of joy that comes from God’s heart.


In fact, the joy that God brings to me is so powerful that it has the effect of actually driving away the negative effects of evil in this world. As we embrace God’s joy and allow it to pour out of us, we can have an impact on the world around us. As people are bathed in God’s goodness, there is an irresistible quality to the change that should lead them to seek out the one who effects this transformation. As I allow the Christ’s restorative work the opportunity to turn my sorrow into singing; I become the Lord’s agent for bringing the same restoration to the world around me.


God shows no partiality.

Romans 2: 11


There are times when we simply want someone to be impartial; thus, we could count on that person not prejudging us and our motives and not entering into a conversation with us with the outcome already determined. Also, this idea conjures up the image of being given equal opportunities and of standing on our own merit and being rewarded for our own accomplishments. This seems like the ideal world; yet, when I consider my merit and worthiness in contrast to God’s standard of righteousness; I think that I would prefer some sort of special treatment from Him.


For impartiality cuts both ways and my efforts at living as the Lord tells me to live are seriously flawed. Still, God means it when He says that He loves, cares for, protects, guides, and relates to everyone with no regard to where we are from, who our parents were, what we have done, and what we may have believed about Him. God takes us where we are and as we are. From there, He gives Himself totally to everyone who will allow the Spirit of Christ the opportunity to perform His transformational work upon them.


The Lord wants me to react to His impartiality toward me by accepting it in its totality. As I embrace the fact that God does take me just as I am and uses all of me as the foundation for performing His amazing and wondrous feats of love in and through me, my sense of worth and status in the eyes of my Father, God, are elevated to the highest of places. Then I am called by God to view others without the prejudices that are natural to people. Instead, Christ shows me how to see with eyes of grace that recognize the beauty, potential, and worth that has been created by God into everyone.


I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Romans 12: 1


There are family members and friends who are truly hard to shop for when gift giving occasions come along. They are the people who have everything, or they are the type of person who truly wants nothing. God is one of these hard to shop for types. Still, although God owns it all, has everything, and is the Creator of each and every valuable object in the universe, there is still a gift that we can give to Him.


The Lord doesn’t want us to do things for Him, and He doesn’t desire our words of praise, thanksgiving, and honor. Clearly these are good and worthy endeavors, but this is not the primary way that God wants us to worship Him. We can present all of our wealth and everything that we own to God, and that would not be close to enough, for the Lord of the universe actually desires one thing only from and with each person on the earth. He wants to have a deep and an honest relationship with us.


That sort of connection with God is made possible for us when we are willing to give ourselves to Him. The Lord is never absent and always receptive to us. We are the ones who create any distance that may exist through our stubborn refusal to fully embrace Christ’s transformational work in our lives. We withhold a portion of ourselves. We test the water to see if we will find it pleasing rather than jumping fully into God’s pool of cleansing and healing love. Yet there is absolutely no reason for anyone to withhold anything. Christ is completely trustworthy and totally gracious to receive all of who we are. He treats this most intimate and special of gifts with great love and respect.


He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53: 5

When we are sick or injured it is not at all hard to accept the idea that somehow it could all be made better. Whatever the cure, if the pain is severe enough, we are usually willing to accept that cost in order to be whole again. Some of these health concerns just improve and go away with the passage of time. Others require the skillful care of doctors or even extreme medical procedures in order to get them under control. There are still other situations where we will live with the illness or the disability for the rest of our lives; finally, some conditions end this life. In each of these situations, the person who is suffering and those close to her desire some form of healing.

Underlying all of these illnesses is a more fundamental and a deeply profound form of brokenness. This is that fatal rogue gene that was introduced into the DNA of our world through the selfish desire of our ancestors to take full control, to “be like God”. Just like all other challenges and struggles in this life, our physical pain and disease serves one great purpose. Although it is not caused by God, it can serve to bring us closer to Him. God responds in love and compassion when Satan attempts to cause us to focus our attention on ourselves by filling us with the fear and the anxiety that comes naturally when we are sick or injured. Christ speaks into these troubled times with a voice that assures us that He has been there before us and that He is here with us in and through it all.

Whatever pain we may be feeling, Christ has endured in twenty fold. However doubt and concern may cast their shadows across our hearts, God’s Word responds in abundance. From that dark and catastrophic day at the beginning of history when humanity’s suffering and separation from God was conceived, God has provided the cure to everything that brings about suffering and pain in our bodies and in our souls. Christ was present in the decision that God made to sacrifice Him for our sakes, and He engaged the life that lead to that permanent solution to our brokenness with complete and passionate surrender to the will of the Father. Our bodies are temporary, yet they are important to God. He does provide the healing and the relief from pain that is required for us to live out His plan for us; yet, He is far more concerned with the state of our hearts and our minds. We can take it upon the absolute assurance of God that, through Christ, He has healed us from everything that truly requires a cure.

Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.

Deuteronomy 9: 8


Wow! What a statement about the way that God views His own people. It throws some very cold water on the idea of personal accomplishment, and it should cause the hearers to startle awake with its implied question of, “Who, me?” However, God is really addressing me, and He means the statement to convey all of His great love and concern for my well-being and fruitful living. I am personally forced to take as my own story this account of on-going failure to let go of sinful thinking and behaviors and of failed trust in the God who has done it all.


God has given me a land, a place in the world that is significant for His purposes. He has not only placed me where I can use the gifts, skills, and talents that He has created in me effectively, He has truly granted me a valid stake in the game. In light of Christ’s sacrifice and victory, I share with God in the ownership of this land. I possess it. It would be easy to start listing all of the reasons why God has chosen me. It would also be very human of me to focus on all that I do for God’s Kingdom and on my righteousness in comparison to this world where I live. It might be easy to do these things, but that listing would be made up of things that are false and infinitely shallow.


Whatever righteousness it is that I bring to this life that I live belongs to Christ. Any goodness that I do is the result of His work in me. Conversely, the pain that I inflict and the harm that I cause are brought about out of my stubborn refusal to yield myself fully to Christ’s will and to His way of thinking and acting. Still, God has lovingly entrusted me with much. He continues to be true to His promise to all of His people that He gives us a land where we can live fully, a mission that is rewarding, a glorious eternity that has already begun, and His never-ending presence in our lives. Christ calls to me and He says that He wants me to come and trust Him fully so that I can rest in His assurance of my place in this world, setting aside the sinful ways that I stubbornly hold onto. By yielding to Him, Christ will transform my stubborn brokenness into His great sufficiency.

If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me; and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said, “From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.”

John 7: 37, 38

We all thirst, our throats become dry to the point of pain, and our hearts become parched until there is no strength left in us. Life can be draining, it sucks the vital fluids from our cells until we feel as if we are going to collapse in on ourselves. Then, even if we receive a touch of mist that promises to revive us, the fierce wind of discouragement starts to blow, and the mist evaporates before any of its dew has soaked into our flesh. So, when Jesus asks if anyone is thirsty, He already knows that this is true of everyone.

Christ is the answer to whatever form of thirst we may have. He provides the cooling and rejuvenating liquid that is His Spirit, and the Lord gives us the gift of a bottomless and everlasting well filled with the sweet taste of His grace, mercy, and love. God’s Spirit becomes our own continual source of life sustaining water for our souls. Even in times of drought there is no lack of supply. Christ remains with His people and in our lives through all of our disasters, both natural and self-inflicted. You see, He is always with us, for He resides in our hearts.

When the thirst becomes unbearable, and life becomes unsustainable, we need to look inside to the Spirit of Christ. We can also be encouraged and gain the knowledge that leads us to His will from God’s Word. In times of great thirst, Christ calls on us to take comfort in His presence; then, we can start to recover from the struggle of life while He cleanses, refreshes, and restores us with the living water of God’s perfect love.

As servants of God we commend ourselves in many ways: … as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

2 Corinthians 6: 4a, 10


As we navigate our paths through this life, there are many ways that we can seek to be known, and there are also many things that we will be remembered for. Some of the actions of my life to date have been good and worthwhile and others have been considerably less so. What matters now is the life that I choose to live starting with today, the way that I decide that I want to live it, the impact that I seek to have on other people, and, most importantly, how responsive I will be to God’s voice as He seeks to lead me through every day.


It seems that it is the personal decision aspect of this relationship with Christ that Paul is talking about in this section of his letter, for how we commend or approve ourselves, from God’s viewpoint, is based on the way that we live, It is especially based on the love that we demonstrate to others and the resultant impact that we have on the lives of others. As Christians we can either give them a living, breathing image of Christ to help them see His unending and total love, or we can leave people with such a bitter taste that they try with all of their might to avoid anything and anyone that is identified with Jesus. This is the choice that we get to make, Christ is the one who will lead, council, and empower the decision, if we let Him.


For this day I seek to let the Spirit of Christ make me deeply saddened by the pain, suffering, and loss that is found in the lives of the people around me while showing these same people the joy that is found in Christ. So, I need to live as one who is joyous despite all else. Let me live in a way that empties myself of all ego, self-praise, and glory seeking; and that shares the wealth of the Lord with those around me. Finally, I desire to set aside my position, intellect, and any sign of arrogance; then, I desire to allow Christ to be who and what others see when I speak and act. Each of us has a personal list of the ways that we impede others from seeing the glory of God when they meet us. Also, everyone who knows Christ possesses the great gift of His Spirit to guide and shape our daily journeys. In repentant humility we can allow Christ to work through us to bring His presence to our world.


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