June 2012

I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God!

Deuteronomy 32: 3


This statement is a part of the grand and beautiful poem that makes up a large part of Moses’ last words to the people who he had lead out of captivity and to the brink of their God-ordained and granted home of dwelling. Although Moses, himself, knows that he will die in a very short amount of time, he is still concerned with the way that he is passing along God’s legacy. These words form a final, summary statement of intent for every breath that he still has to breath and a charge and a challenge to all that were listening that day and to every one of us who reads these words through the rest of time.


The idea of proclamation that he gives us is intriguing. How do we do this? We can certainly stand on street corners and shout out God’s name. That works, at least it draws attention in some places. In our world this probably looks like using our smart phones to tweet the message to those hundreds or even thousands of truly close friends that we have in our electronic universe. Perhaps the name of the Lord is proclaimed by our political rhetoric or by the stickers that we place on our cars, and maybe He is glorified by the money that we give and in the good works that we perform. All of these can be true, but I suspect that Moses had something more in mind.


It seems that the very best way for people to proclaim God’s name in our world is found in the way that we live. This starts in our most private moments. It begins in the interactions that we have with those who are closest to us, and it is founded upon our relationship with the very One whose name we seek to shout. God’s true name is love, mercy, compassion, patience, truth, and righteousness. His greatness is memorialized by self-sacrifice and humility. When people move out of themselves and their definition of what is needful in our world and engage the hard, messy and pervasive needs of humanity that God’s Spirit leads us to, then His name rings from the mountaintops. As we still our need to be heard and listen with our hearts to Christ’s voice of reason and peace, the greatness of God, His glory, is visible in our world.

Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Ephesians 6: 13


The decision to strap on a suit of armor is not one that should be taken lightly. This is not a suit that is intended to convey a light and jovial message. It doesn’t say that the wearer is prepared for a friendly cup of tea and some casual conversation. Armor says, “I am ready for a fight, and I believe in my odds of winning!” These are tools of war. God designed His armor in a way that it would equip us weak and frail humans to engage Satan in this world and to come out as victors.


However, like warriors throughout the ages, just deciding to put on the gear isn’t nearly enough. Without training, preparation, and continued practice, the armor is nothing more than a costume. In fact, it is a rather dangerous costume, for it signals a readiness to engage that the forces of evil in our world don’t take lightly. They are always spoiling for a fight. When they see the glint of steel or hear the clink of those ready shoes on pavement Satan’s soldiers come to them like wasps to a picnic table. It is up to each of us, as God’s children, to be committed to our King and to be prepared to follow Him into the battle.


The good news is that God’s armor is comprised of the very best materials possible in the universe. Also, it is not hard to learn how to use, for Christ’s Spirit does the training as God’s Word speaks the truth of life that brings strength and confidence to our hearts and minds. Still, we are required to be active participants. As a starting place for preparation we need to submit to the will of God. We also must face our own weakness and sin honestly, confess it openly to God, and enter into deep repentance so that Christ can cleanse and strengthen us. Also, preparation for battle requires us to join ranks with a community of faith who will stand with us, hold us up when we are weak and wounded, and who will speak Christ’s loving truth into our hearts when we waiver from the course that God has set out. God’s armor is perfectly suited for the struggle and wearing it in His will does equip us for the battle that we will need to fight today.

I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless.

Genesis 17: 1b


This is a point in the story of our ancestor Abraham when he has tried to figure out the answers to the most troubling challenge of his life by going his own way and by doing things in a manner that he readily understood. Abraham lacked the ability to just hang in there long enough to see how God would resolve things. He listened to the first person who gave him an idea for resolution that seems like something that he could accomplish on his own. The actions required were understandable to him, for they didn’t require anything supernatural or outside of Abraham’s control. Yet, Abraham was totally wrong, and God was about to fill his world with the touch of that which for the Lord is totally natural.


As our days progress and our personal stories unfold, it seems that we are often in the same place. We believe that God is good to His word, and we trust His accomplishment of it. Still, when the pressures start to mount, the time for resolution gets short, or our nerves become frayed and our patience runs thin, we start working on the solutions, and we become open to suggestions that are too often not ones that God would or could endorse. Then human nature takes hold, and we try to do it all on our own and keep everything that we are doing out of the sight of God.


For Abraham, the Lord made it very clear and understandable, and that is the same for all of us, too. He is who and what He is, for He is the Creator of all, the ruler of everything, and the power to accomplish anything is held in His hands. God also loves each of us absolutely, cares about our needs as the true Father that He is, and continually blesses us in all of the ways that we require. God wants me to live my life in His presence with all of my thoughts, feelings, aspirations, and plans fully in His view. The Lord gives me His word, the people in my spiritual family, and His Spirit to comfort, counsel, and assist me along the journey. He calls upon me and all of His people to walk before Him in full submission to His will and with bold confidence in God’s direction for our travels.

Do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Romans 2: 4


Repentance is a word that most people would prefer to leave out of our functional vocabulary. We can readily embrace the idea of God’s kindness and of His loving grace. We rely upon the fact that God is patient with us as we test the waters of sinful thought and behavior, but it is harder to connect His call to repentance to it all. Yet it is exactly what God does call upon people to do. Repentance was the cry that John the Baptist uttered as he announced the coming of the Christ, and God continues to call to all people to turn away from the sin that entraps and destroys and to embrace the purification and restoration that Christ grants to us.


Repentance requires for us to accept the fact that we are sinful beings. It is based upon the realization that there is a dramatic and total divide between the ways of this world and those of God’s kingdom. Thus repentance demands that we change direction, turn around, and surrender ourselves totally to God’s way of being. Until we accept the necessity of such radical submission to Christ, we will continue to struggle through a life in which we seem to gain ground for a while and then give it all back in times of weakness, discouragement, or doubt. These periods of return to old ways of functioning are discouraging, and they are not the way that God wants to see His people living. He gets no pleasure from our suffering and our struggles.


It is a simple fact that God is very slow to judge. Without question He holds all of the evidence that He would need to convict every one of us of our capital crimes. Still God is the kindly and loving Father who waits with great patience for His children to embrace His truth. He withholds the judgment that we all deserve in anticipation of our turning to Him. God wants for each of us to make the decision to seek Him out. He grants us that ability, and He allows us opportunities to continually seek Him and His righteous way. God’s grace and His kindness are offered to us in order to call to us out of a life of self-determined worldly truth and into an unending, moment by moment state of yielded submission and total surrender to Christ and to His transformative truth. True repentance is not always easy to engage, but it is more than worth the pain that is involved for it leads us into the will of God.

Now there was a man inJerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation ofIsrael, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

Luke 2: 25


Consider this man who lived so long ago and in a culture that would be completely foreign to most of us. Here Luke describes him as living in ways that I think of as highly desirable. Simeon actually lived a life that was in sync with the law of God, for it must have been characterized by the way that he treated others. Righteousness only exists when our actions consistently demonstrate the love and the truth of God. He was also committed to this way of living. Simeon devoted himself, his whole being, to loving God and to seeking His will.


Now this ancient man was also focused on one very specific result that comes from our relationship with God. He seems to have been looking continually into the past history of his people and then focusing his gaze intently toward the future with his heart set upon God’s promise of reconciliation and restoration of all peoples from the ravages of sin. Simeon prayed for and sought to bring others to understand the truth of God’s promised comforter, the Messiah. I would bet the farm on the fact that he never stopped sharing his understanding of these truths with the people that he encountered, either.


This is very challenging to me, for here is a man who had been living before Jesus was born; yet, Simeon believed in the Christ totally. He lived his life in a manner that demonstrated this belief in both words and actions. When Simeon was present, people knew that God was there, for Simeon’s life was ruled by God’s Spirit. Simeon’s example causes me to seek out God’s perspective and will for my life. It causes me to ask, “Lord, how am I doing? Where do I fall short of Simeon’s example of what is possible?” My Lord, I pray that You will purify my heart, give my will strength, and clarify my understanding of You; so that, when people see me, they will be able to say that the Holy spirit is upon me, too.


For when I have brought them (the Israelites) into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and have grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise Me and break My covenant.

Deuteronomy 31: 20


This is strong language that comes from the mouth of the aged and soon to be dead Moses. God has granted to him a view into the future that is thrilling in the way that God will fulfill His promises to provide a dwelling place that is bountiful in all areas of human need. However, Moses also is made aware of the fact that these people who have been so hard for him to lead have not changed all that much. They will enter into the riches of God’s blessing, and they will become complacent and bored with it all. They will go off searching for something better, and they will abandon the hard discipline that righteous living demands.


It seems that there may very well be a cautionary tale in all of this for people today. For the most part we have it all a lot easier than the people that Moses was leading. Yet we still live in a hostile land where the only true and reliable provider of what we need is God. We live today in the shadow of constant peril. There are evil giants roaming our landscape, there are false gods calling to us with their winsome voices, and our culture makes it easy to ignore active involvement with God’s Word and in Christian fellowship. So the words of Moses are speaking loudly to me, and they cry out a challenge and a warning, “You are growing fat; you are acting like you no longer fear God and desire to serve Him with all of your heart.”


The righteous life is not a sedentary one. It requires that we remain active and highly vigilant. In order to avoid becoming fat in our spirits and complacent in our minds we need to continually seek out God. He desires for His people to turn to Him in prayer with worship, praise, and thanksgiving on our lips. Our Lord wants for us to stay lean and light on our feet through the constant practice of reading His Word and discussing its content, meaning and application. Christ implores us to join Him in the daily battle for the souls of people and for the healing of our sin ravaged lands. Regardless of age or physical condition, in Christ we can all remain hungry and stay lean as we passionately serve the King.


The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;

The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

Psalm 19: 8

There is a right way to live. It is a part of the way that we were created. Yet, sinful disobedience entered into our lives; so, it is often buried so deeply beneath layers of self determined personal code and law that it gets hidden and locked away. Righteousness is buried so deeply that our ensuing thoughts and the behaviors that are their result of them don’t look much like those of Christ. There is a sadness and a heaviness that runs through our culture that is the result of the prevalence of this sort of human devised interaction. Our vision is clouded, and our hearts are made heavy.

Yet, there are answers, and there is relief from this oppression. God has implanted a desire for truth in our hearts. People have a deep-seated need for that which is eternal and not situational or convenient for a season. God provides the source of eternal truth to all who seek it. God’s hand made our world, and His law binds it together. Thus, when we act in ways that are contrary to the will of the Lord, the tension and the disconnectedness that follows is nothing more than the natural outcome of acting in a manner that is contrary to the forces of true nature.

Peace, joy, and restoration are readily available through God’s plan for living. His plan is clearly defined in His Word and is communicated by His Spirit. God, the Father, leads us to His Son, Jesus Christ, and He elevates our existence into one that is lived in theKingdomofGodso that we are now dwelling in the presence of our Lord.  When we decide to listen to God’s words of salvation, renewal and hope, He provides the insight that is needed for what we are facing today. As we allow His truth into our hearts, our thinking is changed to reflect God’s loving and righteous ways, and God’s true law becomes the joy of our hearts.

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