February 2012

Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moths nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Matthew 6: 20


There are a number of places where I have things stored. My closet is rather full, the pantry is well stocked, and our garage contains way too much stuff. Storing away for that future need is something that I have worked on for most of my life. I am rather good at it, and trust me on this, there is a very good reason behind holding onto every one of the things that is filling my world. No, this is not hording; this is carefully anticipating the future. Alright, there is far more set aside than I will ever use. It is at that point where clutter has overcome utility and where value is lost to mass. Unfortunately, the sort of useless debris that clutters my house is too often symbolic of the nature of the worth of the images, thoughts, and ideas that I collect and store away in my heart and mind. It is also too much like the things that I hold as important and as worthy objects of energy and attention.


This world is filled with information. It is readily available and easily accessed. Some of it is very good to have. A lot of it is of no real use at all. Some of it is truly dangerous. There is also a very wide assortment of things that we can desire and seek to own. Some of it is necessary, some trivial, and some of these things can bring us harm. In all of the areas and ways that we gather and collect, the item of our interest is seldom the real problem. Most of the time we are challenged and struggle with the attitude that is behind the pursuit of it. When the majority of our time is spent on getting what we want and on becoming knowledgeable in how to get it, there is very little time or personal resource left for caring about and loving others. There is little of myself available to Christ for engaging in worship or for doing His will in this world.


God wants His people to spend our time with Him. He desires for us to worship Him. Seeking after God and gazing upon His face is the most worthy and valuable thing that we can do in this life. Seeking God in His Word leads us into the vast storehouse of truth, grace, and wisdom that fills every need that we could possible encounter. The sort of continual conversation that is life-prayer brings understanding and clarity to every situation and aspect that is encountered. As we talk, Christ speaks His absolutely loving righteousness into my frail and damaged heart. He brings courage to a place where only fear had been, and Christ leads me into actions that glorify Him. Our Lord grants us an understanding of His will that should cause us to enter into the lives of others and to value them and their souls as greatly as He does. Thus, here is that great treasure that God wants us to focus all of our energy upon. As we know God, so we come to know His will. As we know His will, we are led to sacrifice all of ourselves so that others will know Him.


By God’s doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1: 30, 31


There has always been a plan. God was never confused, caught short, or had his balance disturbed by the thoughts, decisions, or actions of angels or of people. He created us in a way that we could and would reach our own conclusions about what was best for us, and He allows us the freedom to follow our own course through life. Everyone starts out with the potential to live in a close, intimate relationship with God, but we all also need to decide that this is what we truly want to do. Thus, we were given Jesus to serve as the point of connection and the focus of the eternal decision that we all need to make.


When we accept that Jesus is God, our Lord and Savior from the evil that controlled our hearts and minds from birth until that moment of yielding to Him, we start a journey that is based on the sort of deep truths, wisdom, and understanding that can only come from God, Himself. Our nature is changed into one that is attuned to the character of perfect good that only exists in God and in those who, as His redeemed, are filled with the Spirit of Christ. The key for many of us is to recognize our need to actually let this new character and identity become our dominate one. So often we continue to seek to live just as we always have, and we find that our sense of worth and our concepts of success are defined by what we do and what we have rather than in who we serve.


We need to accept God’s wisdom and let His Spirit point us toward Jesus and His wise truth about the important things in life. These are the things that have true, lasting, and eternal importance. These are the qualities and characteristics that bring love, grace, compassion, and integrity to the top of our daily priority list. When we define our achievement in life in terms of how well we have served Christ, and we understand that serving Christ means that we need to love the people of this world and sacrifice our selves to that service; then, heaven is given back another piece of this world. Then we are truly standing on the holy ground of God.


Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news;

Lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”

Isaiah 40: 9


Why not speak up, speak out, and be clear about who God is and what He means to me? This is really a question for myself; it is directed at my own silence and the underlying concerns and fears that hold my tongue in captivity when it should be shouting with joy at the relationship that I have with Jesus. Yet, too often and in far too many situations I say little or nothing about the Lord’s involvement in my life. Thus, I hold the best news that there is in this world inside, and I don’t allow the people around me the opportunity to see what could be theirs.


God tells us that we should be willing and completely able to speak out with a voice that has been made mighty by the strength of His Spirit. We also have a story to tell that is filled with the loving grace and the perfect care that God blesses us with every day. My life is surrounded by the presence of God, and as I live the life that God has given to me, my world is blessed with the presence of Christ’s Spirit. He is everywhere and in all aspects of life.


Therefore, my mission for today is to live in a manner that shows God to those around me. I need to be ready to do what He calls me to do. Therefore, I should love others without hesitation, and I must be open to those around me about the underlying motivation for the way that I live. When people see me, they should see Christ. When I talk, people should hear of His love, forgiveness, and life changing involvement with me. The message that God wants each of us to convey as we go about our lives is that God is real, totally involved in people’s lives, and available to everyone. We are called to be living testimonies to the statement, “Here is your God!”


You are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

Deuteronomy 14: 2


When we are younger most of us encountered times when sides or teams were being chosen. We always want to be taken early, and we fear being left until the end as that suggests rejection of us or at least of the skills that we bring to the game at hand. Life is filled with situations like this. They tend to create either anxiety or apathy. We get stressed out or we hide out, or we do both. Yet, the game that is most important and that is the only one with lasting value is the singular situation where we don’t need to be concerned.


When it comes to being selected to be in a relationship with God, He has already picked His team. This was done before everything else was formed in the Creator’s hands. God selected a very small group of people who were the direct descendants of the ones that He had formed in those hands to be His image-bearers. The Lord committed to never leave the relationship that He had promised. His marriage vows to humanity can not be severed. There is no irreconcilable difference in His court of righteousness. Jesus is the direct descendant of this chosen and elect group of people. Every one of us who knows Jesus and surrenders our life to Him is married into God’s family.


We are God’s beautiful and treasured ones. He has reached out of eternity to bring us there so that we can be His companions in this world and in the next. Christ speaks clearly, and He speaks our names. He says that every person who draws breath is the one that He wants to be at His side. He does not reject anyone, and there is no place where He does not call out with this voice of invitation. Christ’s calling comes with responsibilities attached. We are not to be passive spectators of the game. God’s people are active worshipers of our Lord. We are married into a life of service where every thought and action should bring praise and glory to God. In Christ, we are God’s beautiful and carefully chosen treasure.

Let all who are under a yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.

1 Timothy 6: 1


Who do you know who is not required to submit to the authority of someone else? Almost everyone on this earth is in a position where there are others who have the ability and even the responsibility to give us direction and orders, and whose position places us within the influence of their power. Their skill and approach to exercising that power is important to us in how well the relationship works, but the skill set and personality of our master is not the critical issue in God’s view of how these interactions should go.


Christ calls upon His followers to trust Him. There is no conditional nature to this call to trust. It also encompasses everything that we are about in life. No area of endeavor or arena of involvement is left out, for Christ is lord over all and He grants favor to us as fits His will and plan. When we are committed from the heart to trusting God absolutely, there is no longer any room for us to take personal offense or to fear for the outcome of situations. Yet in our relentless humanity there will always be times when others will treat us badly, and we will turn around and hurt or harm people in the course of living as well.  This reality doesn’t change anything about trusting Christ in these situations. In fact, it is this sort of totally yielded spirit that is needed when things are not going well.


When we can set aside the hurts, betrayals, and loss that we have encountered in our past experiences, we are ready to engage in honest and vulnerable dialogue with others. It seems that many of the challenged and stressed relationships that we encounter involve situations where we are operating under someone else’s authority or leadership. When someone has either official or perceived power over us it can be difficult to be real and honest while remaining respectfully submitted to that leadership. Fears and concerns weight us down with their heavy protective covering. Anger and frustration bind our hearts and suppress Christ’s loving truth from gaining control of our emotions. So, our Lord says that we are to trust Him. We are to set aside all of the negative concerns and humbly engage the relationship. In these hardest of all situations, our attitudes and responses can become the pole upon which Christ is lifted up and His glory prevails.

How blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.

Psalm 2: 12b


There are many places that we can go when this world starts treating us in a rough manner. Many of them will provide relief from the stress and pressure while others promise to help us find a new path to success. However, there are other escapes that do inevitably lead us deeper into the darkness of this world’s chaos and cause us to lose even more of our God-likeness. Some of the ways of escape are packaged in soothing words, others with attractive covers, and some come with exotic looking labels and advertising that suggests the new identity that can be found inside. However, if the Lord is not at the center of the place of refuge, then, there will be no real and lasting escape found there.


The forces of this world will always find their way back into our lives, and the only one who can absolutely stand up to them is God, Himself. So, why do I stubbornly continue to go to others and try other means of escape when my life heads in a hard direction? I think that there is an element of self-centered desire to stay in control; yet, that sort of control is false. The Lord alone is actually in control of the universe. There is also an element of fear or concern that God will behave like people have, and He will either reject me or think less of me because I can’t handle my little issues on my own. Yet, rational thought leads me to the fact that God has always proven to me and to all people who choose to let Him that He is the perfect, loving, and gracious Father.


When I turn to God and trust my life to Him, He opens up His treasure chest of wisdom, courage, and strength to me. I am allowed full access to everything that the Creator of all has to offer. While I am searching for the answers that I need and trying to find my path through the day, my heart, mind, and body are being sheltered under the protection of God’s warm embrace, and while I am resting in my Lord’s presence, my heart is filled with His blessings.

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?

Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart.

Psalm 15: 1, 2

It may not always seem so apparent, but we all get to make daily choices about where we go, how we get there, and the way that we act while we are on this journey. Although we may need to head out of our homes and go to the same workplace, same school, and the routine stops that populate our lives, it is our own, individual choices that truly define the quality and the nature of the living that we transact during the day. We not only are allowed to make these choices, but we need to make them. It is these choices that create the environment that will direct the way that our mind handles everything that we encounter.

The Lord makes His word and its infinite truth available to us. He even speaks it directly to our hearts by His Spirit; yet, we are the ones who can decide to listen, and we determine the ways of our actions. Now, I’ll admit that there are days when I really don’t want to make the choice that includes seeking God’s perspective and wrapping myself in a warm and protective blanket of truth and love. There are days when I find some sort of perverse pleasure in being sad, lonely, and distant. These are days when I want the false freedom of being able to act badly toward others or to hold onto a diminished concept of my own value and worth. Yet, these moments and days are ones where I am choosing to operate in a reality that is created out of the deception that Satan continually attempts to use in order to distract me from God’s will and to disable me from my calling as Christ’s living witness. These are times of choosing to live in a cardboard hut made of lies and wrapped in failure that sits at the side of evil’s garbage dump. These are days when I could be living in the splendor of Christ’s richly furnished and palatial tent that is anchored at the top of His holy mountain.

This is my daily choice, and it is yours, as well. In making this decision to put on God’s truth, we are establishing the way that we want to travel through the day. This decision creates the attitudes that our mind will use to frame our responses to everything that transpires. Now is the moment to seek God’s righteousness and His truth so that the rest of this day can be viewed from the perspective of the same window that God uses to view His world.

You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.

Deuteronomy 13: 4


When I think about the idea of a servant in a story from a time long ago I have an image of a sort of submission that is both total in its scope and oppressive in its nature. My mental image involves the servant walking an appropriate distance behind the master with eyes looking down and the servant’s spirit doing the same. This is a life without honor, dignity, and satisfaction. In this world the only reward that faithfulness brings is another day of the same life. There will inevitably come a time when the heart either becomes numb to it all or the person is compelled to escape by any means available. This is exactly the kind of service from which God seeks rescue everyone.


The sort of service that denies value and worth and that holds the one so committed under the harsh thumb of his master is the nature of the relationship that Satan engages in with us. Sin is a relentless and a harsh master. It doesn’t allow room for us to find peace and to enjoy a life that is filled with God’s perfect love and grace. However, no one needs to live a life that is ruled by this sort of servitude. Christ gives us the way to move out from under the thumb of obedience to evil as He grants us the opportunity to follow in His steps through life. The Lord calls to people and offers us forgiveness and grants us a new home where truth is the air we breath. When we yield to Christ and enter into the service of the Lord, He becomes the master who we follow behind.


Christ, Himself, is an easy master to follow. He never asks anything of us that is not possible, and He never sends us anywhere where He will not go. Perhaps the hardest part of it all comes from the fact that Christ does demand that we yield our will totally to Him and that we surrender ourselves completely to His service. He does not allow room for us to serve Him and to hold onto other gods. Christ calls us to go with Him exclusively and at all times. There are no vacations or leaves from serving Him, and there is no corner of life where He is fine with our tasting of evil or dabbling in sin. However, as Christ demands us in total, He also gives us the blessing of new life absolutely. He brings us into the joy of heaven as we engage in serving Creation’s King.


They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”; they burned all of the meeting places of God in the land.

Psalm 74: 8


God’s word is amazing in its comprehensive discussion of the issues and the concerns that plague life in this world. Words that were set to paper long before anything that is our culture was contemplated by the human mind are still true. In fact, God seems to cry out from these words with a voice that pierces through our facades of confident modernity to reach to the heart of our sinful pride and stubborn disobedience. These words of poetry strike me as speaking very clearly about a great danger that is faced by the body of Christ today. We face the danger of being subdued. Satan desires for us to grow ineffectual and silent.


Although there are some instances in which the meeting places of God’s people are set on fire, bombed, or ransacked by people who oppose Him; these situations are rather rare. There is a much greater danger that we face. The physical damage that is caused by the flames can be repaired. Even when the building is burned to the ground, after some cleanup it can be rebuilt. It is far more damaging to have the structure standing whole and proud if the people stop gathering there with hearts that are attuned to worship of their Lord. When our primary reason for the assembly is social rather than community, the interaction that results becomes shallow, on the surface, and safe. Christ calls us to come together in a manner that is vulnerable, broken, and where grace is necessary. Christ is not he Lord of safety, but He is the God who brings us to sanctuary.


Our meeting places and our gatherings need to be bathed in worship and praise. These gatherings should be times when we embrace the beauty and the enormous variety of our fellow family members in the body of Christ. They should also be times when we anticipate and wait upon the Spirit of Christ as He speaks truth and righteousness into our hearts and minds. Satan wants God’s children to become indifferent and to become passive about gathering together. The enemy is ready and very willing to reclaim this part of our lives. Apathy, safety, and selfishness are the matches that ignite the sorts of destructive fires that truly destroy our meeting places. On the other hand, the passionate love of Christ for each of His people reaches out to us, and it is this love that binds us together in the sort of humble submission to God that builds a fire-proof community of faith.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

Colossians 3: 12


Almost every day of the year I get up in the morning and soon after that I need to select the clothing that I am going to wear that day. Here is my basic check list to use in reaching a dressing decision; there is the primary activity of the day, the weather, who I am trying to impress and how, what I might be doing after work, what is clean, and how much ironing it will require. By now, I have this getting dressed thing fairly well figured out. Well, occasionally I put a sock on inside out or miss align the buttons, but I usually catch these small issues before long.


The clothing that I wear can seem to be a really big deal, and it helps establish a confident and ready mind set for my day. However, when I consider things that really matter, clothing is inconsequential. It is necessary, mind you, but not of any actual, life impacting, and eternal importance. What does matter is what I choose to put on when I look into the closet of my heart. That is where the truly elegant and impactful wardrobe is stored. As a child of the Living God, His Spirit is alive in me, and He creates in me a new nature that is the true reflection of God, Himself. Unfortunately, the new me doesn’t always take over my functional life, for I get in the way. I keep going back to the old section of my closet, to all of those familiar items of thought and beliefs about life that take me back into selfishness, fear, doubt, anger, and frustration. So I engage my day in the worst possible frame of heart and mind. Then I am a redeemed being living like I have never encountered Christ. I am conflicted and appear hypocritical to the very people that I seek to love, and this is very discouraging and truly frustrating.


Yet, as it so often is in God’s way of dealing with us, He provides very complex things with simple answers. I need to go back to this activity that I have done thousands of times in my life, for by selecting the right spiritual wardrobe to start my day, I am taking the first and the most important step in living successfully throughout this day. Christ has already given me a complete closet makeover; it is up to me to use it. Christ wants me to come to Him. He allows me to talk to my Lord, listen to His words of loving guidance, and put on the exquisite words of truth that He has carefully displayed before my eyes. Then, I can engage my day with the confident and loving heart of Christ as my own true identity.


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