July 2012

This is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

John 17: 3


Strive as we may to achieve eternal living whether it is through such healthy living as intense exercise, careful diet, and getting lots of sleep or should we try to live peacefully and calmly by meditation, contemplation, and other spiritual practices; in the end it will all fail without Christ. Many people claim to accept the existence of God. Some of them say that they actually know him. Yet, not so many really do know Him. The God that we seek to know is a very complex being; yet, He has made getting to that state of knowledge rather simple.


The one and only true God came out of His place in the heavens and surrendered the position that He held in order to engage with humanity directly and personally. It seems to be important to remember that Jesus was sent by God but that this same Jesus is also that one God. They are three persons of this very complex being, and we must know both God the Father and Jesus in order to actually be in relationship with God. Then we will be granted a relationship with the third person, the Holy Spirit. When people say that they can accept the fact that there is a god and that this god is the ancient God of the Bible, Yahweh, while rejecting Jesus as being that same God; according to God’s Word, they really do not know God. Jesus is the answer and the completion of all that was promised by God from the beginning of creation. When we leave Him out of our engagement with God, we are rejecting God’s full and complete Word.


As this is true for people who will not accept Jesus as God, it is also functionally true for people who have made that commitment to Christ but still refuse to yield our lives to Him. Until we fully surrender to Christ and passionately seek after His transformation of us at the deepest of levels, we do not actually know God. It seems that knowing is much deeper that what happens in our minds. God is known in ways that involve all of our being. This state of knowing comes about when we give up the struggle to retain our old ways and start yielding our wills to Christ’s. God makes Himself known to us as we seek Him. Getting to know God is a life-long, never ending journey for people who desire eternity, for eternity comes to us as we grant Christ His dominion in all aspects of life. There is never enough of this knowing of God, and He never stops revealing more and more of His glory to us as we submit more fully to His will.

The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.

Habakkuk 2: 20


My ears are buzzing with the overload of the sound of life that too often becomes the foreground of the day. Maybe its the constant noise of life in the modern world where machines and electronic devices are everywhere. Maybe it’s the way that everyone seems to have an opinion about everything, and they express them continually. Whatever the source, my head is swimming and my mind just can’t keep up with the pace of the stimulation that my ears are letting in to it.


It is too easy to lose sight of the fact that there is one voice that separates the real from the false and that creates order out of chaos. I struggle with simply shutting out the clutter and with not getting caught up in the allure and the energy of the buzz. Yet, I must shut it out in order to allow myself the ability to hear God as He speaks. It is also true that the Lord will filter all of the external information for me if I would reroute my inputs so that I am taking everything in by testing it against what God says in His word and through His Spirit.


The basic truth is that God is ever present, and He is present everywhere. Additionally, as His child, I am His temple; thus, God’s Spirit is in me. It is an inescapable fact that the world will always be a noisy and distracting place to live, but Christ brings calm and peace to our lives. We can choose to turn off the noise and shut out the buzz of this world. When we do this and meditate on God’s truth, His voice will speak clearly despite all of the world’s attempts to drown it out.


Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evil doers,

Children who deal corruptly!

They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel,

They are utterly estranged.

Isaiah 1: 4


It would be easy to look at these words from the prophet and say that they apply to the ancient people of Israel and that they are about a time in their history when the chosen nation had become terribly distanced from God due to their sinful disobedience. This would be true. We could also take this cautionary thought and consider it a warning intended to jolt into an attitude of repentance those other people in our society who are obviously living unrighteously; this would be partially true. These interpretations of Isaiah’s words are, frankly, the ones that are most comfortable and the least personal for me. The problem with this approach is that it seriously limits what God is saying to us, and it does nothing to challenge God’s people to follow Him and to act upon His expressed will.


It is my belief that God is speaking to our time in history. His words are intended for the ears of you and me and describe the place where we live today. Isaiah cries out with words of dire warning that are directed at the way that each of us has chosen to live. No matter where we live, who our parents are, or what we do in this life we are all born and raised into a spirit of sinful disobedience. Unfortunately, even after we have accepted Christ’s gift of a saving relationship, it seems that most of us are not all that willing to place ourselves in that uncomfortable and even risky place of standing up to our depraved culture and joining Isaiah in uttering God’s appeal to repentance and to righteousness.


Standing up for justice, truth, and holy living means that we must reject much of what our culture holds up as sacred. Yet, while we do this, God grants us no margin for becoming judgmental and unloving when it comes to relating to people. This is a fine and a hard line to walk. The course that Christ calls us to follow is one that is charted upon the fact that thinking, saying, and doing what is right in the eyes of God is not going to be popular or readily accepted. However, when people follow God’s law and remain faithful to Christ despite the cost, they find life. We are called to be people who bring the life that is found in God’s truth to our darkened land. This starts now. It is done by individuals who determine to stand strong in the face of a culturally endorsed anti-God movement. Finally, God’s voice is heard most clearly when His people set aside their insignificant differences and join together in worship of the true King which leads to repentance and to fearless engagement with our world’s false and destructive doctrines.


In every way you were enriched in God in all speech and all knowledge.

1 Corinthians 1: 5


We live in a world where many things are enriched. Enriched bread and vitamin fortified milk and juice are common. Enrichment courses are taught in schools and in other settings. When you enrich uranium, the release of an extraordinary amount of energy is just around the corner. The idea of being made better, stronger, greater, and more complete through some form of externally applied addition is one that we can easily accept. Sometimes this enrichment leads to a beneficial outcome and sometimes it has been proven to be useless. Much that we gain in this manner is worthy and good, but people are capable of turning that good science into terrible evil. In the end, what matters the most is who we turn to as the source for the sort of enrichment that establishes an eternal basis for all of the rest of it.


God’s Word makes His intent and desire very clear, and His actions over all of time have demonstrated His sincerity. The Lord wants all people to know Him at a level and with a depth of understanding that is deep and intimate. When He speaks of enrichment, God means that we will be changed, transformed, in a manner that involves the essence and the nature of our being. The sort of addition that God desires to impart to people is not so much an increase to what was there from birth as it is an enlivening of what God created in us from the beginning of humanity’s existence. We were designed to be beings that related with and to God at the level of our souls. It is fundamental and intentional in God’s design that everything that we know and all of the expression of that knowledge was to find its foundation in God’s truth, justice, and righteousness.


However, God is something of a relational risk taker. He has never forced His will on people. The Lord grants us the option and the opportunity to enter into and to engage in a relationship with Him. Yet, although we do have choice in the matter, the consequences for turning away from God are severe. The loss that results from rejecting Him is total in both earthly and eternal terms. On the other hand, the gain that we are granted by electing to follow Christ is too great to be measurable. It is in this relationship with God that our hearts and our minds are opened to understanding the truths that actually enrich us. Humbly and openly seeking God with a spirit that is surrendered and yielded to listening and to following His will brings each of us into the grace and the peace that come only from God, the Father, and Jesus Christ, our Lord.


If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

James 1: 5


There is almost a note of challenge in this “if” expression, for should I answer that I have it all, in other words that my wisdom vial is all filled up, thank you anyway, then I am probably labeling myself as a fool. For most people realize that absolute and total wisdom belongs to God alone. This thought also causes me to consider if I have all the wisdom that I need for what I am doing and have going on in my life at this moment. Again, the Lord is quick to show me how little of life I truly get and how much of a difference His grasp on matters can make in my success and in the real quality of my life.


The way that God hands out His wisdom and leads me to the understanding of life that comes out of it is one of the most special aspects of knowing Him. The Lord isn’t like most people and He certainly isn’t like me, for we tend to make a big deal out of sharing our special insights and leading others to the profound truths of the universe that are stored away in our brains. People become overbearing, condescending, and seek to gain an advantage over others through the use and the manipulation of knowledge. Yet, all of these anti relational ways of interacting with others are unwise from God’s perspective. In contrast, God holds out His hand and says that here is a gift. Let me bless your day with all that you need to serve Me well and to bring My presence into the lives of others.


As for myself, and I speculate that this is true for all of us, I can change the conditional “if” of this verse into an absolute “when”, and I need to add that the time for my need for God’s wisdom is always. The Lord grants me total access to His understanding of every situation, circumstance, and condition that I encounter in my day. Also, God uses this learning process as a way of showing me what righteousness looks like; thus, He brings me closer to Him through it all. When I seek God’s wisdom, I am opening up myself to the wondrous, transformational, and restorative work that He desires to do in my heart and in my mind.


If we judged ourselves honestly we would not be judged.

1 Corinthians 11: 31


How honest are you with yourself? In truth, how real, insightful, probing, and comprehensive are your regular examination of the inner workings and the outer expression of your life? Even people who are in touch with themselves and who have incredibly open personalities will struggle with this sort of exacting inward look. When we look closely at ourselves, we will all find too much that is simply ugly. Yet, God wants us to face all of the shortcomings, anger, fear, and arrogance that have taken up residence in the heart that He designed and that He intends to be a pure expression of His heart. Christ then leads us into examining ourselves with the sort of honest clarity that leads to cleansing.


We are never alone in this self examination, either, for the Spirit of Christ talks to us about these very issues. However, for me, actually listening to the Spirit’s voice is the hard part of the conversation. I always seem to have an opinion and an excuse for what is being revealed. So, I need to keep reminding myself to listen, stay calm and still, and take to heart the words of truth that God shows me through His word, family and friends, and the Spirit.


The act of yielding my will and of allowing this process of purification access to my inner self can be very hard and painful, but the result is one of deep growth in my relationship with the Lord. As God clears my heart of these issues, His healing grace prevails. He replaces those sinful thoughts and desires with His loving presence, and I am set free to live in the center of Christ’s victory.


I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud.

1 Corinthians 10: 1


Here are few short thoughts on this idea of our entire existence being played out “under the cloud”. Paul is discussing the well known story of how, as the Israelites were led by Moses through the desert after their escape from Egypt, they were actually led by the tangible presence of God. The Lord was made visible to them all by a cloud that went before them as they traveled and that hovered over them when they camped. It was the cloud that dictated their movement; thus, God was visibly the leader of the movement of His people.


In my life I often fail to recognize the cloud that is hovering over me. It is not usually as physically apparent as was the one that lead the Israelites. Additionally, I can be really bad at responding to the movement of God’s presence, for I am often left standing and wondering what I should be doing and where I need to be going while the Lord has been trying to get my attention and has already laid out a very clear direction for me. It would seem that, unfortunately, I am following more in the stubborn and unresponsive footsteps of my ancestors than I am yielding to God’s will for my life.


However, God remains faithful and is unrelenting in His desire to see His people living in the center of His will. Thus, the cloud that hovers over all of God’s children is the glory of His Spirit. This is the same Spirit that also lives within our hearts; so, the only thing that gets in the way of our ability to live in the center of that same glory is our lack of complete trust in God. If I am willing to look with open eyes and a yielded heart and am responsive to the infinite potential that God has given to my life; then, I am ready to follow my Lord into a life filled with His miracles.


“Why do you contend with Me?

You have all transgressed against Me.” declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 2: 29


Here is a losing proposition for you. Determine to wage war against God. Go ahead and try it. It is something that has been going on throughout history, and the results have been constantly the same. In every case, God wins. In fact, He has been gracious enough to give us the result of the grand conflict that will occur when all of our earthly history reaches its conclusion. In the end, or if you will, in the new beginning, God is victorious, Satan is destroyed. Christ reigns over all. The outcome is an undisputed, without split decision or controversy, the conclusion sees defeat for all that is evil and anti-God.


So, why is it that we all work so hard to fight with God? We may not say it in those terms, but the fact is that all people do it. We start out in life in a state of antagonism with Him, and we continue in this way for a length of time that varies for each of us. Some never surrender and stay in opposition to God for all of eternity. Others recognize Christ as our Savior and accept His invitation to lay down our arms and receive the total amnesty that God grants to us out of His love and desire for reconciliation. Yet, even after that heart and soul surrender, we still contend with God. We allow our shallow and selfish desires control over our minds and our actions. We grow restless and impatient with the splendor of the Kingdom of God, and we roam far and wide in an attempt to taste the momentary delights of the world.


So, God, Himself, pleads with us, and He asks, “Why?” To continue to war with God is futility. It is painful, and it is selfishly damaging to those around us. God demands our total surrender. If we are to follow Him then we are not granted the right to hold onto portions of our old ways. We must accept God’s truth, light, and healing and the way of eternal righteousness as our new identities. Herein lays the challenge, for we humans are not very good at total surrender. However, we have a model, and we have a leader for this hard road. Christ surrendered all when He came into our world as one of us. He gave up His power and position so that He could endure agony in forms that are incomprehensible to me so that I could join in God’s victory over this world. Surrender is possible in Christ. True peace with God comes through Christ and thus becomes the new state of our souls

Jesus laid hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.

Luke 13: 13


This is an extraordinary moment. It is so far outside of the expectations and of the rules for living that existed that this event had to be stunning to those who witnessed it. Yet, even in their amazement, they could not come close to appreciating what they were seeing. As Jesus was teaching the people who had gathered on this Sabbath day in the synagogue, He first spoke the words of truth in saying to the woman that she was free; then, Christ reached out to her and touched her. The audience for this event was shocked that He would even speak to a woman, especially to one who was unclean by virtue of the obvious disability with which she was afflicted. This was a disability that their theology attributed to sin. Then Jesus goes beyond shock as He actually touches her while proclaiming that she was healed.


This story is wonderful and even magical in its portrayal of God’s capacity to heal and with its clear demonstration of compassion, mercy, and grace. But I think that there is something else on display here. God has no particular need to come out of His place in the heavens in order to touch our world and its inhabitants. My mind can not contemplate anything that He is lacking or any rational reason for God to deal in such a gracious manner with us. After all, we are the ones who decided to distance ourselves from Him. We chose to go it on our own and to depend upon our own knowledge, wisdom and interpretation of truth. Just as our initial ancestors determined to move away from the Tree of Life in order to select their own nurture, all people are born dwelling outside of God’s eternal word. Then almost all of us choose to continue to live on the far edges away from eternity until Christ brings about His radical transformative work in us.


Like in the story of the woman in the synagogue, God in the person of Jesus the Christ reaches out to us. He speaks His truth in a manner that penetrates deep into the hearts of anyone who is willing to hear. God’s Word is powerful and speaks of a profoundly insightful new identity that He desires to grant as a free gift to all people. Yet God does not stop there. He entered into our world in the person of Jesus, and God continues to dwell among us and in those who accept Him in the person of His Spirit. God, the Almighty, the Creator and King, reaches out His hands to everyone. He touches us with love and acceptance. Christ tells us to stand and walk with heads held high for we are healed. It is in our new redeemed lives that we become living testimonies to the glory of the God who chooses to dwell among us.

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11: 36


All is a really big word. Those three letters carry with them a wide range of inclusion. Although we often say “all” when indicating that something is exceptionally expansive, we seldom actually mean it. For example, “All you can eat” rarely means exactly that, for there are limits that the restaurant has established in order to survive. Yet when God inspired Paul to say “all”, I believe that He absolutely meant it. He is saying that there is nothing that we can touch, see, hear, or experience that does not have its origin and its terminus in God. Our world is populated and furnished by the hand and by the word of God. Also, all of God’s workmanship is intended to be dedicated and committed to Him. It is all, this includes people too, here to bring glory to the name of the Lord.


This idea is troubled by all of the sadness, loss, oppression, disease, death, and hatred that we run smack into as we live in our world. No one can escape the pain, hurt, and frustration that life will without exception provide. So, how does all of this come from a God who is loving and caring, the perfect Father? Where does brokenness fit into the handiwork of the Great Creator? How does suffering allow us to have the ability to sing songs of praise to the glory of God? These are among the questions that must trouble the hearts and the minds of all people. The way that life goes is hard to understand, and God can seem to be far away and uninvolved when evil rules those days. Yet, Paul says, “All”, and he ascribes to God the glory for it all.


In order to make sense of it, we need to do some spiritual time traveling. We need to look at the two ends of the great story of Creation that God has given to us in His Word. There was a point when God brought our world into existence in which He proclaimed that it was good. Everything that He made was perfect and without the damage that sin causes. There is also a promised and foretold time to come when Christ will reclaim all of Creation from the Satan’s destructive influence and presence; so, that original perfection will be restored to all. We live in the time that is between these two great epochs. Living in these days requires people to have faith in God. We also need to allow that faith to bring us to a place where we trust Him completely and with all things. Faith and trust lead us to hope and to obedience. These should lead God’s people to a place in life where we desire to bring glory to His name by living in a manner that is righteously and graciously redemptive in all aspects of our daily lives.

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