April 2012

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness.

Psalm 45: 6


Every one of us gives our allegiance to someone and to something. No matter how aloof from the entire political process we may strive to be, this is still true. Unless an individual is remarkably wealthy and utterly independently so and also has no need for a connection to society, we are connected to our culture and our national community in ways that are complex and intricately intertwined. So, it seems to me that the real question does not involve the existence of a connection; rather it concerns where we place our primary loyalty and how we respond to the continual pressure that comes to compromise for the sake of personal peace and security.


It is a well documented fact that national leaders, governments, and even nations, themselves, have very short durations. They come and they go. History deals in a kindly manner with some and records the dreadful and desperate failings of most. God’s Word speaks to the fact that God has granted us our nations, systems of governance, and leaders as a method of establishing order among his unruly children. I think that He also has given us this very flawed system in order to point humanity toward our only lasting, true and righteous source of governance which is found in God.


This is not a call to a monastic form of separateness. Instead it is a directive that I believe comes from God to be fully engaged in our nations, cities, and communities. The critical issue is the one of true leadership. Who is my primary and ultimate ruler? If I am seeking God’s truth, truth should come out of my mouth. When God’s Word is informing my mind, then my thinking should be clear. When I submit my passions to waiting upon God’s voice, He will lead me along His righteous path. The Lord’s scepter is crowned with justice, peace and righteousness. God calls to His people to follow Him by acting as fully engaged citizens of theKingdomofGodwho seek to make those qualities the hallmarks of our times and of our culture.

When you are encamped against your enemies, then you shall keep yourself from every evil thing.

Deuteronomy 23: 9


The battleground is a dangerous place. Not only is there the very real presence of an armed opponent who is seeking your harm, but there are also many situations that can arise to bring temptation and to cause people to turn away from righteous living. It is very easy to become caught up in the fight to the point that anger and self-righteous thinking begin to dominate the heart of the warrior. When this happens, God’s true purpose and mission are too often forgotten. These are times when we tend to head off on our own campaigns in which we attempt to purify the world by cleansing it of the people and the things that we find uncomfortable or threatening.


When the struggle has reached the point where it is very intense, we also can stop being concerned about the practice of fundamental spiritual discipline. Things like regular reading of God’s Word, prayer, and worship in the company of Christian community are set aside in order to stay focused on the fight. Unfortunately, it is these very essential disciplines that help to keep us so focused. These are the practices that God has designed and intends for us to engage in so that our hearts and minds remain aligned with His. When these are set aside, it is far too easy to start to listen to our own voice and to take direction from unholy sources.


God’s Word makes very clear the fact that His people live in a world that is hostile to us. He also calls upon us to engage in an on-going fight with evil for the territory that surrounds us. Anyone who takes God seriously at His word and decides to seek out and act upon His will is guaranteed to become a warrior. Still, even in the harsh circumstances of the battlefield, God wants us to thrive. He has committed Himself to providing us with the resources that we need to grow stronger in Christ as we throw ourselves wholeheartedly into the struggle. At the same time our opponent is trying with all of his might to trip us up and to cause us to lose sight of the Lord’s true character and methods of engagement. We must choose to remain true to God’s righteousness in all things. Then the victory is clearly the Lord’s.

I acknowledged my sin to You, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Psalm 32: 5


There are two basic life facts that come to my mind here; first, it is foolish in the extreme to try to hide anything from God; second, it is harmful and needlessly painful for me to even try. God is absolutely everywhere and possesses total knowledge. He proves this to me all of the time, for the Lord has answers before I know the questions. He also guides, guards, and encourages me on a daily, even an hourly basis. God’s process of care and direction apply particularly to the numerous times and situations when I am living and functioning outside of His will and direction. I would guess that you know what I am talking about, those too numerous episodes of being sinful.


So, if God knows all about me and everything that I do or think, why does it matter if I tell Him about it all? This part is for me, if I don’t recognize, accept, and call out a behavior or an attitude, in other words, if I don’t own it; then, I am very unlikely to change it. The Lord wants to work with me and His Spirit will work in me to make the needed changes happen, but He wants me to want to become transformed. He will let me carry around a weighty burden of anger, hurt, and regret for as long as I am willing to continue wasting my strength and dissipating my energy on that activity. However, as soon as I tell God about the things that are troubling me and open my heart honestly to Him, the Lord starts to help me carry the burden, and He shows me the path to restoration with Him and with the people that my actions and my thoughts have harmed.


Lord, search me and show me what You see in my heart, give me the strength and the openness that I need to reveal my deepest self to You. Provide me with the direction and the courage that I will require to change my way of living and to start to repair the damage that I have done. I trust You with my heart, and I trust my life to Your grace and loving mercy.


He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

1 John 5: 12


There is being alive. This is the state of breathing and moving about while working hard at crafting a meaningful life. Then, there is having the life. When Christ becomes real for an individual, and we surrender our selves to Him, we gain a form of life that is impossible otherwise, and we gain an existence that is both eternal and has eternity written all over it.


The only way to become infused with the wisdom, understanding, and love of God is to have His Spirit enter into our beings. Thus, the only way to gain access to the presence of God in our lives is through trusting Jesus enough to accept who He is. Then, by surrendering control of my life to Him, I am able to enter into a relationship with Him. The yielding was a one time decision that has been followed by a lifetime of accepting the fact that God is continually gracious toward my wandering heart; thus, He needs to keep on redirecting my heart and mind toward His loving purposes. The fact that Christ is gracious and patient with me is one of the most beautiful ideas that I have ever encountered. At the same time, however, His righteousness is unrelenting. He will not allow me to just get away with it. This patience, grace and righteousness in balance with each other is the essence of the life that we have in and through Christ.


In the few simple words of this verse John sets forth the fundamental truth and the basic need of all people’s lives, everyone requires the life if we desire to truly live. Each of us needs to stay in intimate touch with the giver of the life if we want to live fully, boldly and noticeably as children of God. When we live in this manner, Christ will seek to compel us to share the simple truth of the importance of this relationship with others. He commands us to boldly share the truth of the means for others to transition from simply being alive to living in the full expression of the life through Christ.


For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5: 1


This is an interesting choice of words on the part of Rabbi Paul. First off he submits for our consideration that we have been set free. The question would be, “Free from what?” Most people who know Christ can answer that one. We have been set free from the oppression of sin that owned us before we knew Jesus. The chains that tied our hearts and minds to the walls of a prison cell that was defined in terms like anger, lust, hatred, envy, fear and self-gain have been removed. There is a newly found lightness of step and of heart that makes the weight of this world bearable. Christ brings us out of the darkness that we have been hiding in and into the light of His truth. This is quite a lot to consider, but Paul is saying much more about this new life that we have been given.


It would seem that God’s purpose in setting us free is so that we would, in fact, live in freedom. Well, so? This is often the real rub when it comes to experiencing the changed life that Christ promises. Frequently people are frustrated and held down by figuratively continuing to reside in their old prison cells. It is familiar territory, feels safe, and the risk of new relationships and expectations is avoided in there. However, that room is dark, dank and oppressive. The spirit can not soar to the heights that God has promised when it is held down by a concrete ceiling. Christ wants to lead His people into the adventure of engagement with and in our world. He brings us out of an old life, and He takes us into a new one where our potential is almost unlimited. There is peace, joy, and unbelievably great blessing to be found in the new life that Christ has in mind for us.


Yet, there is danger out there, too. Opposition comes at us from many different directions, and fear can quite suddenly drive us to seek cover and to find safety in places that we determine to be best for ourselves. Unfortunately, this can lead us back into those old, familiar ways of thinking and of acting that we have been rescued from. We stumble in life or encounter trials that seem to be too hard for us to handle and we turn back to the life patterns that had previously enslaved us. Although Paul may very well have played with a yo yo, he did not use that expression; still, that is what this life process is like. When we are caught up in it, we move up and down and up again in a cycle of progressive and then regressive thinking and behaviors. Through His blood, Christ has granted us freedom from this uncertain and disturbing way of living. We are the ones who are doing the choosing. We can decide to embrace the freedom, or we can choose to enslave ourselves to the burden of sin. For me, Lord, take me into your freedom!

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleans you.

Ezekiel 36:25

When we wash our cars, regardless of how deluxe the program that we select, there is one inevitability, the car will get dirty again. Even worse, this will usually happen within the first few blocks that we drive. Take that morning shower, and guess what, you’ll need another one shortly. Do the laundry, wash the kitchen floor, and run the dishwasher and the result is always the same, more opportunity to clean up the messes that are a part of simply living. Considerably more troubling is the fact that it seems that there are too many times when my internal life is like this also.

Although, in Christ, we have the answer to the totality of sin that separates us from God and from living in His presence, we still live inside of a body that was conceived and that grew and developed under the influence of that old sin infused nature. The more that we try to cleans ourselves and to wash away the filth and the grime that is the result of our living in this world and in a body that clings to its legacy of defiant egocentricity, the more frustrated we become. It seems that when we work so hard at self purification, we are inevitably reusing the same water. So, it is like taking a bath every day without draining the tub. We may get just as wet each time, but eventually we are simply layering old dirt on top of today’s coating of grime.

God brings us clean water from His spring which is the only source of truly pure goodness. He provides the sort of cleansing that gets deep into our hearts and our minds and that penetrates into the dark crevices of our greatest needs. Christ rinses away our most tightly held fears. All that the Lord asks from us is that we continually look to Him for our cleansing and that we open our hearts to the searching of His Spirit. As we allow ourselves to be showered in the blessing of His grace, Christ lifts the weight of carrying the energy draining and life depleting burden of our former lives, and He frees us to experience His love and joy to the fullest extent.



You shall not see your countryman’s ox or sheep straying away and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly bring them back to your countryman.

Deuteronomy 22: 1


It would appear that our modern tendency to look the other way and to pretend that we don’t see what is, in fact, right before our eyes is not so current a trend. God prompted Moses to warn the Israelites about this same sort of thing. Now in part this is an injunction against finding something of value that belongs to another and just choosing to keep it. But this is also a statement about God’s desire for us to look out for each other. He wants us to adopt the attitudes and the concerns that He has. God desires for His people to become something much greater than what our culture might tell us is right, good, or just.


We all encounter opportunities to find that wandering ox or that stray sheep. Most of the time these are shaped like people who are making decisions that will lead to pain and destruction in their lives. They are our friends and our neighbors; they are also total strangers and even people who we don’t like at all. We are all needy souls. We all suffer in our sin and brokenness. At various times every one of us needs to encounter Christ’s truth, righteousness, and grace. God commands us to look these troubled people squarely in the face and let them know that they are not alone in their struggles. Christ wants to engage in our world and He seeks to use His people to do that engaging.


God desires reconciliation. Christ provides us with the opportunity for restoration. People who know Him are mandated with following after our Lord’s leading. We are not given the option of turning a deaf ear to the cries of the lost and the injured that fill the air of this spiritual battlefield where we live. We can be Christ’s agents for change in its ravaged landscape. Christ grants us no other choice but to respond. His mission is clear, and His desire for us is spoken loudly if we will open our ears to listen. We are not left with any choice to make other than to seek out that which is lost. Christ requires us to love and to tend them and to bring them into His redemptive presence.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12: 12, 13


The diversity that is found in humanity is a good thing. It is a part of what makes this world interesting as it helps to create the flavor and the spice that enlivens life. We come from many different backgrounds. The languages that we speak have a variety that is incomprehensible to most of us. Even in our own communities and in our own families we find strikingly large differences in what we look like, how we think, and in our ways of handling life. Humanity is like one of those great canvases on which the artist Jackson Pollock scattered his wildly imaginative swirls, globs, and splashes of paint. Sometimes our imaginations are engaged and we are opened up to new ideas and our minds create wonderful vistas out of the color and shapes. Then there are times when it all seems confusing, chaotic, and disturbing and fueled by our discomfort we can react very negatively.


It seems to me that God did not originally intend for all of this discord to exist. He made people in His image so that we possessed a singular focus for our hearts and our minds. God desired for all of us to live in a state of constant relationship with Him and in loving and peaceful relationships with each other. I don’t think that His heart and mind have changed in regards to this desire. God’s primary desire for His creation is that we would be reconciled to Him. It is through this reconciliation to our Creator that we will also become free to love and to care for and about each other in a manner that is similar to the way that God does it. Jesus Christ is the singular way to this reconciliation with God, and He is the answer to everything that is broken in our world. All restoration needs to be founded upon Christ, and all hope for peace comes from and through Him.


The common bond that all of humanity can hope for is found Christ’s Spirit. When we open our hearts to His presence and surrender our wills to His leading, we are transformed. The baptism that His Spirit grants to us washes away the fear and the self-centered desires that work to separate people from each other. In Christ we are made into something that is very different from what we were before. God’s will is that we would begin to see the world around us and all of its inhabitants in the light of His grace and love. As we gather around Christ’s cup of blessing, we can not afford to be concerned about the race, social status, or nationality of the other lips that are touching it. We are literally one in Christ, and when we war against another partaker of Christ we are at war with ourselves and stand in opposition to God’s expressed will.



You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 2: 1


Evil has a purpose in its mind that relates to every person who is alive. The plan for accomplishing that purpose is well conceived and is fully operational. As it goes, Satan casts doubt into our paths so that we stop living with the confidence and in the joy of our calling in Christ. He also tries to bring us to a place in our hearts and minds where we are continually struggling against the truths of God’s word and with our own new, redeemed natures. This is a battle that sucks the energy out of us.


Perhaps the most powerful of all of God’s attributes; thus, His gifts to us, is His grace. It is this remarkable, unending, and total outpouring of the Father’s love that takes the painful poison of sin out of our hearts. Grace sets us free from the oppression of guilt, fear, and the resulting separation from God. We don’t earn it, can’t buy it, and won’t ever use up its favor. We can’t control grace, we just need to accept it, and God gives it more willingly than anyone else ever gave anything to anybody. Although the price was immense for God, His grace is totally free to us.


Living in the center of the glorious truth that we are free from the tyranny of sin’s hold on our hearts is both freeing and mightily empowering. So, we each need to realize that the voices that keep pointing out our weaknesses and our failings are speaking words that are coming from the throat of a defeated enemy. Instead, we can always turn to the truths that the Lord has given to each of His children and allow His Spirit to fill us with the strength that flows out of Christ’s loving grace.



Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; hold not Your peace at my tears!

For I am a sojourner with You, a guest, like all my fathers.

Psalm 39: 12


It is both troublesome and comforting to realize that God openly invites us to freely express our true emotions. He is available, and He does respond. Yet, as David is expressing in this Psalm, we don’t always really want to hear all that God has to say. Truth can be too painful to bear. Reality is a harsh and a bitter pill to swallow. When it is my sin and failure to follow God’s righteous way that is the topic of our conversation, I can get totally overwhelmed by the words. Still, my heart knows that it is all for my good. God’s words of rebuke and correction come from His deep and absolutely committed love for me.


Also like David, I need to remind myself of my place in this world and in life. I am on an unending journey that takes me from the moment that I surrendered to Christ’s call for my soul all the way until this body ceases to be. This world where I wander is not a settled place. It doesn’t grant me much in the way of safely peaceful places to settle down and relax. Like Abraham long ago God has called me to leave the place where I was born and had settled into a comfortable life. He leads me on a path that is at times very direct and at other times seems to have no terminus. What matters in all of this is the fact that God is the one doing the leading. He stays true to His commitment to go before His children in this life. Christ also joins us in the travels. Just as He walked those steps of sacrifice and shame on the way to the cross, Christ walks them step by step with our weary feet during our days on the foreign soil of our world.


O Lord, my body grows weary. My sinful heart is crushed by my shame. My spirit seeks relief and rest. So, I turn to Your truth and find what I so dearly require. Even when the words that You speak are ones that sear my ears with the bitterness of rebuke, I know that Your love is in them. You do not leave me, and You never abandon me to the aloneness of my flight from You. Lord, I cry out and You answer. I speak from the passion of my pain, and You bring my heart peace. You hear my prayer and I am secure in Your presence, O Lord!


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