March 2012


Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

1 Timothy 4: 4, 5

 

There is much in this world that I take for granted. It is with us. It is a part of the background of life. These may be things that are relatively necessary such as food and water, and they may be the background of existence such as trees, earth, and sky. The point is that I don’t think much about them, for they just are. It comes as no surprise that God might want for me to hold all of this differently as this is a rather frequent occurrence. God has an annoying way of showing me that my perspective is distorted and how my indifference is met by His passion. I guess that this is another in the long list of reasons why He is God and I am blessed to serve Him as my King.

 

In this passage Paul is reminding us that God expressed a benedictory blessing upon all of His creation. In the creation account of Genesis we hear that God proclaimed that it was all good. I believe that He meant what He said. All of creation was good, and it was all intended to be of benefit to the people that God had fashioned in His image to dwell in the land and to hold dominion over it on behalf of and in honor to our Lord. That is how God intended for it to be. However, sin entered in, and all of it became broken and God’s perfect plan was distorted by Satan’s deception and by our acceptance of those half-truths and lies. We have created false rules to live by. We have turned away from God and to the worship of various aspects of creation. Humanity has become diminished from our God-ordained position of authority and responsibility by our fears and our arrogant and self-centered need to gain power and control.

 

God wants us to view our entire world with a thankful heart. Everything that we see, touch, and experience is here for a purpose. Even the smallest of organisms was crafted by the hand of the master craftsman. Whether we view this world through the lens of a microscope or we look out into the universe with a telescope what we see is the handiwork of the King. Yet, none of it, not even the most amazing and magnificent of the things that we see, is worthy of praise or worship. All of creation points to the loving and orderly heart of the Creator, God Almighty. Perspective on it all is gained as we express our thanks to Him for this incredible gift that He made for our benefit. The Lord provides understanding of our role and responsibility in its management and care as we search His heart and will in His Word and through prayer. In this way God reveals the magnificence of His generosity, and He directs His people to live in a manner that points others toward the Creator.

Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking Him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.

Daniel 9: 3

 

We humans are a strong-willed and a stubborn lot. We truly put feet to the old expression that goes like this, “When all else fails, pray!” Personally, I do spend far too much of my time and energy in trying to figure out situations and in attempting to come up with solutions to challenges. I search my mind’s storage space for tried and true answers out of the past, and I look at endless scenarios in order to predict the probable outcomes that will result from various possible actions that I could take. This is all far more complicated than it needs to be.

 

The simple, unmistakable historical fact that I tend to forget in this entire problem solving frenzy of mine is that God has a very good track record of bring about solution to life’s real challenges and issues. He has stayed with His people through our most faithless times of wandering off, and the Lord has not abandoned us or ignored our cries for salvation and for mercy when we found ourselves caught in evil’s traps. Now, in the deep intimacy of Christ’s presence in my life, He seeks to walk through all of life with me. Christ is totally with His people. He speaks truth and righteousness into the chaos that is our world. God has invested Himself into us, and He seeks for us to invest our hearts, minds, and being into serving His will.

 

True solution is found in seeking God’s will. His will is made known by His voice as the Lord speaks to us through His Word and by His Spirit. This revealing is accomplished in large measure through the close and personal conversation that we call prayer. God wants to hear our urgency, our need, and our concerns. He also desires for our hearts to be humbled before Him so that they are open and yielded to His leading. The most honest and sincere times of our lives should be these times of prayerfully opening the deepest recesses of our beings to God. The place, the time, and the company do not matter. All prayer can and should be deeply intimate and personal. There is no one who knows each of us like God does, and there is no one else who will respond to us with the authority and the love that flow out of the heart of God.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”

John 8: 58

 

We have all heard the expression, “He has seen everything”. Well, that is something that could have been said about Jesus; only, in His case, it would have been an emphatic comment that actually included all that had ever happened or that had even been thought. In this radical claim of His that was made to the self-righteous people who had gathered in the Temple to hear Him teach Jesus states an essential truth that we can rely upon at all times in our lives. He has existed since before everything else came into being, and He has knowledge of all that goes on in this world and in all other places as well.

 

In light of this reality, there is no one else who can respond to each of our lives with the same understanding, wisdom, and righteous direction as can Christ. His direction is reliable. His Word stands as the supreme answer to all of our enquiry. God’s will is the singular one that we should seek to understand and to follow. He has had a plan that includes every person who has or ever will exist, and that plan is intended for the betterment and for the restoration of each of us. In Christ we are truly and totally alive. The death that has been eroding and corroding our hearts, minds, and bodies since the day we were born has met its match. Christ has already claimed my victory over Satan’s desire for me. All that is left for me to do is to surrender to God’s will and to act on His direction.

 

There is undeniable value and worth in each of us. There is unrealized potential for us to grasp and to achieve for God’s Kingdom. Jesus knows the road map that will lead us along our personal journey. His Word expresses the truths that are required in order to understand our place in this world, and He provides us with a community to travel with. We need to stop denying Christ and surrender to His unrelenting will. He is the only truly unstoppable force in all of nature; so, holding onto my own sense of false security and stubborn pride will be futile. Christ calls and speaks His desire for my life. It is up to me to respond to the great I Am with my humble, “Here I am Lord, use me.”

It (God’s Law) shall be with your king, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them.

Deuteronomy 17: 19

 

In Americawe are in the midst of the political campaign season. In reality, when are we not in that season? Yet, this is a big one, for this is the year that we elect our President, our king if you will. God makes it very clear that He cares about the sort of people who govern our nations. He desires for them to be men and women who seek after His way and who live righteously. The Lord also lets us know with certainty that He is sovereign over and above all of these human rulers. There is only one true and all sufficient king, president, chancellor, or emperor and He is named Yahweh, the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings.

 

Yet, His name will not appear on the ballot that we get to cast, and He doesn’t want us to write Him in either. Choosing to elect God is not, in fact, an option that we have. He is Lord! God wants us to surrender control, yield power, and submit to His will in the way that we engage in our political systems. He wants us to trust in Him and not in any person who might be elected to office. The person who is elected as President will fail us. He will let us down. He will seek after selfish and foolish things. He will be human, indeed. I think that God wants us to make our selection based upon the person who comes the closest to living as one who knows the true King and who keeps His commandments before him all of the time.

 

The primary thing that I desire in my elected officials is someone who not only desires to hold onto the land that we have been given by God, but I seek a person who has a heart for continuing the conquest. Unfortunately, we seem to be electing too many leaders who are eager to enter into the sorts of treaties with Satan that are warned against in this passage from Moses. It doesn’t matter what party affiliation they hold or what label may be affixed to their political philosophy. The key to selection of them to lead should be their commitment to studying and to following God’s righteous law. No matter who is elected and regardless of what they may say and do, the primary responsibility for the direction that our nation goes rests solely on our shoulders. Each of us must do as God has commanded our kings to do. We must live with our hearts firmly planted in God’s will and focused on living in the center of His righteousness. We have a mandate from God to make known our understanding of His will. Then we must trust in the eternal truth that Yahweh is Lord, and His reign is supreme!

Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.

Hebrews 13: 15

 

The first thing that comes to my mind as I consider these words and what a sacrifice of praise might look like is singing songs and reciting poetic prayers. These are words that describe the attributes and the qualities of God and that thank Him for how He takes care of me and the people that I care about. Expressing my praise to God verbally is a valid way to worship Him, and it is necessary for me to do this in order to stay focused on Christ and off of myself. Still, I think that the author of Hebrews had something else in mind here. It strikes me that the sacrifice involved in the forms of worship that I am considering is not really all that great. These cost me some time, a little effort, and, depending on the location and who is around me, some personal comfort.

 

The thing that God is asking me to give to Him in a sacrificial way is my total being. That is my heart, my soul, and my way of living life. God wants it all, and He desires it always. This is a big deal. This is not so simple as opening my mouth and uttering a few words, heartfelt as they may be. God wants the heart that conceives those words, and He asks me for the actions that come out of that heart as well. It is through Christ that this way of living becomes possible, for He is the author and the model of being this way. Jesus is the key to understanding what a life of self-sacrifice is like.

 

A life that is surrendered to Christ, dedicated to His love, and committed to living in the totality of grace is what God seeks from us. The praise that God desires most comes out of the relationship with Him that is formed through our relationship with Christ. It is expressed most profoundly by the very way that we live. Although Jesus spoke words that were powerful and had great impact on the ways that people live and on our understanding of God, it was His actions that spoke most clearly. Jesus filled His days with acts of love, compassion, care, concern, honesty, and grace that give us a living portrait of our God. He related to His world and to its inhabitants without regard to their status, lifestyle, or personal history. He was utterly without concern for His own welfare, image, or personal gain.

 

Although the sacrifice that God seeks is costly, for He desires for us to give ourselves totally, the promised reward is much greater. Christ does fill us with His Spirit, and He fills our lives with the fact of His view of our worth, strength, and purpose. As we acknowledge Christ through our lives, God blesses us in ways that are too great to even imagine in my simple mind.

 

For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

John 6: 33

 

We all become hungry, and everyone needs to find food. For some people this search is what consumes a major portion of the day. For others the only searching that happens is that evening shuffle through all of the boxes, bags, and jars in the pantry and refrigerator that becomes a regular ritual as we seek a satisfying snack. We eat something, and we are satisfied for the moment. Yet, there is another form of hunger that is absolutely universal and that never gets completely satisfied.

 

We are born with hungry souls. They are malnourished, and even the most loving of mothers can’t do more than point us toward the source of that food. We are the ones who decide to accept the giver and thus receive eternal nourishment. Jesus is the imperishable manna that God promised from the very beginning of Creation. Yet, He brings much more than a snack to our hearts, for He fills us with the total banquet feast of God. Christ invites us to join Him at the sacred Eucharist table, and He grants His people the right to dwell in community there.

 

Even after we have accepted Christ and entered into that relationship, our hearts and minds still need to be fed. Without the ongoing and continuous transformational filling of God’s Spirit we won’t grow and develop as rapidly and as completely as we could. Christ not only gives us a soul with an unending existence, He also gives us a present life with no end of strength, encouragement, and purpose. The Lord provides the feast, it is up to each of us to come and eat. Let us be filled on the Spirit of God throughout this day.

 

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.

1 Timothy 2: 1

 

Paul sets forth an interesting thought here, for he tells us that we should be engaging in prayerful worship with God that involves a very broad list of people, for “all” is about as inclusive as that group could get. When I am considering a time of prayer, my tendency is to talk with God about my family members, my friends, the people that I might be aware of in other settings that are usually related to these same people, and sometimes national and international leaders. This is a fairly large yet manageable list. Yet, this is only the start of what Paul is saying that we should be doing.

 

This list of prayer forms is also really comprehensive. It is a lot bigger than just the simple, “Thank you for my family” or “Please heal my cousin’s dermatitis”. These are both fine, for they are included in the list; however, take a close look at what is being said. We are being told to engage prayer in a total and comprehensive manner. It is to be done on our knees and standing and shouting praises, framed in humility, seeking God’s intervention and involvement in other people’s lives, grateful and remindful of all that God does for us and for all people. Prayer is passionate, constant, a special event, and an every moment necessity. It is to be engaged in the morning, in the middle of the day, at night, and at every time between, and we are to pray about and for everyone.

 

This last thought is perhaps the most amazing and profound thought to me. I think that the point here is that if I embrace this idea and make it my practice, God will begin to cause a very powerful change in my attitudes toward others. He will redirect my thinking and the attitude of my heart toward many others so that I will begin to see them more like He does. The group that I am instructed to pray for includes people that I don’t like, those that don’t seem to like me, leaders of government, especially leaders who I believe are wrong or who are wrongly motivated, the person at work whose habits infuriate me, the neighbor whose dog is noisy, the person who has profoundly wronged or hurt me, and everyone who I struggle to understand or to relate to.

 

Christ sees the world and the people in it quite differently from the way that I do. He sees the beautiful potential, the perfect child that He created, and the deep sadness and the chaos that is the result of people’s separation from Him. Our Lord sees all people with eyes of love and compassion, and He seeks to be granted the opportunity to graciously redeem everyone from their lost state. Thus, He directs us to put on His attitude, to see the people of this world as He does, and to become active agents for redemption. Christ directs His people to engage and to energize His calling to us in constant and comprehensive prayer.

 

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