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.

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