August 2012


For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through Him and for Him.

Colossians 1: 16

 

This is a very big, bold statement that requires a little thought and some real contemplation. This is not an easy idea to really get my hands around, for it implies some things about my own life that are important to understand. Yet, that understanding challenges some of my reasoning and my rationale for the way things go in my world. Paul is saying that there is nothing on this earth or in heaven that Christ did not lay His hands on during the creative process. In fact, Paul specifically includes all of the power brokers, rule divisors, and decision makers in this list of people and positions that are from God. That means that presidents, judges, pastors, and even that difficult and problematic boss were placed into their places of power by the hand of Christ.

 

This is where I start to struggle with it all, for I would love to be able to ascribe all of my disappointment with government and all of my struggles with my boss to the fact that there is something inherently evil in the people that fill these roles, that they are flawed in the ways that they function. However, their very authority has been granted by the hand of my loving Saviour, and everything that I know about Him says that He only does things for me that are for my very best. So why do all of these human points of contention exist in the world, and what am I to make of it all?

 

The key becomes one of orientation, understanding, and trust, for I need to accept the fact that Christ put me into this world and has taken me to my current place in this life with specific and valuable purpose. So, I need to keep looking to Him for my focus and to allow my Lord to lead me in His direction through my days. God’s Word will open my eyes to His truth about every situation that I face, but I need to continually seek that truth and open my mind to the Spirit’s revealing of it in order to operate in a wise manner. Finally, I need to trust my Lord to be continually on the look out for me and for my safety and security. I must trust that Christ, the Creator of all, designed me specifically and placed me into the center of His will for my life. I can rest in the assurance that so long as I continue to listen to His voice, I can live in the peace and the joy of His presence regardless of all that is happening around me.

 

If I say, “I will not mention Him, or speak anymore in His name,”

There is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones,

And I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

Jeremiah 20: 9

 

If anyone had a right to question the personal value and even the sanity of God’s calling in his life it was Jeremiah. He was the perfect example of a prophet who received no respect in his own time and among his native people. He was mocked and humiliated, thrown out of his church, dropped into a well to die, his writings were not only banned but they were burned, and he was locked into stocks and beaten in public. Jeremiah suffered through a very large number of bad days as a result of doing what he believed that God had called him to do. That calling was simple and direct. Jeremiah was to go where God sent him and to say what God told Him to say. Jeremiah was called to be the voice of God’s righteous truth and a spokesperson for holy justice.

 

The nation, its leaders, and the people of the land had a very great need to be confronted by God’s truth. They were set on a disastrous path that could only lead to destruction if they continued along their self-determined course. They had stopped caring for the weak, they had little use for justice, life was valued only as a commodity, and God had become an ornament, a mere symbol, rather than the ruler of their souls. They were lost and adrift with a great storm rising up on the horizon when their salvation was already available to be grasped. It was Jeremiah’s task to present that saving knowledge, to confront the sin that separated the people from their God, and to implore them to repent and to return to their Lord and Savior. Doing all of this was exhausting, and it was literally depressing. No one listened. It seemed that everyone openly and personally rejected Jeremiah. He wanted to give it up, and just fade into the background. He wanted to take a very long vacation from the prophet business. But that is not how God works, and it is not the way that a relationship with Christ plays out in our lives, either.

 

Jeremiah found out that he was simply not able to stop doing what God had called him to do. God’s truth was too big and far too powerful to remain held quietly inside. Also, I think that as a man who knew God well, Jeremiah’s heart ached for the lostness of his land. He had a vision for the restorative redemption that was possible for all who follow God, and although he was battered and bruised from the effort, Jeremiah could not hold his tongue or cease in the pursuit of righteousness in the land. The very core of his being burned with a fire that the Spirit of God placed within him. It seems that our times need a Jeremiah. Perhaps this should be our own personal desire and prayer as we seek to hear God’s voice and respond to His calling for us, “Lord, let Your truth fill every cell of my being, fill my heart with a drive to serve You that burns like an unquenchable fire, guide me to speak out continually in loving boldness, and strengthen me with Your unfailing courage. Amen.”

Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech.

Genesis 20: 17

 

This is a story of fear and failure to trust, a tale of how the very human man, Abraham, couldn’t find it in his heart to remain strong, or better, to live in the center of the strength that God grants to His children. Thus, Abraham deceived Abimelech and came very close to putting him directly into the path of God’s righteous anger and all of its consequences. Although he was not one of God’s chosen, God came directly to Abimelech and warned him in clear and honestly direct terms about the dangerous course that he had entered upon because of Abraham’s deception.

 

There was a spiritual disaster in the making in these events, for here was a man who God, Himself, had visited and had eaten a meal with. Abraham was a man who was to become known as a “friend of God”; still, he was allowing fear, uncertainty, and his inability to trust God above his own understanding to cause him to fail miserably in his mandate to bring the Lord’s truth and His loving grace into the lives of the seeking souls around him. Still, the Lord’s plans and His will are greater than anything that we people are capable of doing to thwart them. Also, through His grace, God permits us to redeem the catastrophic situations that we create.

 

So God called upon Abraham to enter into a time of focused and concentrated prayer on behalf of Abimelech in order to seek healing for him. Whatever my have been hurting or diseased with Abimelech’s body, it was his soul that needed healing. He would never be whole until he had surrendered his own life to the God of all Creation. Thus, this is what Abraham sought for his new friend. This is what God asks all of us to do as well. We are all to seek God’s gracious and saving intervention in the lives of all people without regard for what our past experiences with them might have been like. We are also to set aside our fears and apprehensions that are based on a person’s race, religion, and affiliations. Then we need to watch in amazement and joy as the Lord works to bring these people into common familial relationship with us as we become one in Christ.

 

Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 3: 20

 

 

I live here, in this house, in this town, and on the earth. This is where all of the visible and tangible things that I do are carried out, and this world’s physical boundaries are what tend to define my home. Yet, Paul saw his world quite differently from just being framed by the people, places, and laws of man that existed where he lived. It seems that Paul was acutely aware of the change in the real, from the heart, allegiance that he had sworn when Christ became his Lord and Savior. At that time Paul and everyone else who has entered into the same transforming relationship with God through Christ were changed from being citizens of this world into holding citizenship in heaven.

 

Citizenship, as used here, is a reference to much more than just the nation that would issue us a passport or a statement of allegiance to a particular governmental entity. The word used refers to the concept of living in community, and it implies the existence of a conversation, a dialogue, with that community. In Christ, this is what we all gain. We become a participant, not just an observer, in the ancient dialogue between God and people; thus, our world view can become elevated from our earth-bound one to God’s heavenly vista.

 

Recognizing this reality and choosing to live in its marvelous possibilities can profoundly alter the way that you and I view our lives. When we seek to open our hearts and minds to the ongoing conversation that the Lord wants to have with us, and we seek to live each minute of every day with that dialogue guiding our thinking; our understanding of our physical world will be altered. Then we can see the sort of potential that God sees in the people and in the situations that we will encounter, and our hearts will be guided through those encounters by the ever present words of wisdom, grace, peace, and love that come directly into our hearts from the Spirit of Christ. As we choose to truly dwell in the righteous and just land that is the Kingdom of God, we expose the parallel world that is this earth to the hope of salvation that comes only in Christ.

How lovely are Thy dwelling places, O Lord of hosts!

Psalm 84: 1

 

There are many magazines that are published with pictures and stories about amazing and wonderful homes. We can watch hours upon hours of television where homes are made nearly perfect. Yet, when I consider the beauty, the glory, and the splendor of God’s house, images that far exceed any of these come to mind. God’s house must be a place where the most extraordinary of all possible colors and textures are ordinary. As I think about living in this place, my heart is lifted and a smile just comes to my face. This is the place of my dreams, and these are the surroundings that my heart yearns for. It is here that all my needs will be met, and it is in these surroundings that I will be in the loving presence of my Lord, God the Father, throughout all of the moments of my existence.

 

However, as I consider the location of God’s house, His word leads me to the fact that when I granted the Spirit of Christ entree into me by accepting Him as my Lord and recognizing at the level of my heart the truth of Jesus’ sacrificial death and triumphal resurrection, God’s house came to me. Everyone who knows Jesus has become the dwelling place of the Spirit of God. So, we are not just decorated in the splendid outer wrappings of God’s house, but our hearts, minds, and souls have been changed to be in the image of the grace, righteousness, peace, and love of God, and those are the most splendid furnishings that I can imagine.

 

Additionally, all of this redecorating has already taken place. In Christ, I was made new, and the loveliness of God does already reside in and on me. There are still corners of my life where the old, life worn and futile aspects of my former self are hidden away as I try to hang onto them and their false comfort. But God keeps working on His renovation project, and every day, as I grant Him permission to work in these corridors of my heart, the Lord reveals more of Himself in me, and as the writer of this Psalm said,

“How blessed is the man who trusts in Thee!” Psalm 84: 12b

 

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you, not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

John 14: 27

 

Peace is a settledness, a stillness, that comes from deep within. In this sense it is different in essential nature from the sort of calm that we can learn to express through practice and by using skills or technique. This sort of practiced and trained calm is like a pot of boiling water when oil is poured on its surface. The water is no longer splashing out of the pot, but the contents are still cooked by the high heat that is inside. Most people can learn to say that everything is fine, and we are able to acquire the ability to even look peaceful on the outside, but Jesus is talking about something else entirely.

 

Remember, as Jesus was saying these words to His followers, He was in a situation that was the farthest thing possible from peace inducing. He knew fully that His next hours would bring stress, pain, and suffering for Himself that would be beyond human endurance. He also knew without question that He was doing exactly what the Father had planned for Him to do, and Jesus, in all of His humanity, trusted the Father completely. Although Jesus would feel powerful emotions and He would express His feelings openly, that inner calm that comes from trust, obedience, and faith in the Father’s perfectly loving will continued to anchor Him. Jesus found His peace in His relationship with the Father.

 

Christ has given us the same gift. His Spirit is with us so that we can know God and be led by Him in all aspects of life. From intimate personal experience, He knows the importance of possessing peace. So, He wants people to accept and to embrace this Godly quality as our own. The simple knowledge that God is walking with me in all situations is comforting. The fact that He knows my journey and its outcome is strengthening, for I trust that His outcome is my best one. Christ does not give me some instructions or a few lessons in how to express calm in the face of my personal storm. Instead, He enters into the tempest with me, and Christ grants me His unshakable peace of heart so that I can stand up and think clearly regardless of what comes my way.

 

We have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

1 Timothy 4: 10

 

Most of us need something to hold onto. We want to believe that there is a future that will be better than the past and that will exceed the present in quality, too. This thing that we call hope becomes an anchor point for us that helps hold us upright when things get crazy in our world, and it gives us the will to face the new day when, otherwise, dawn promises little beyond frustration and futility. Yet, many of the things that we can attach our hope to prove to be weak, temporary, or futile, themselves. Christ is the only point of attachment that is anchored at the center of all Creation. Thus, when we seek to find our hope in Him and hold onto the things of God as its source, we are looking to hope’s true author and its only real Creator.

 

God has made this same potential for living in a hope filled reality available and possible for all people. He brings the brightness of His glory into the lives of everyone who will turn to Him. The Lord does all of this with a willingness that indicates His great desire to have everyone live in the fullest expression of peace and love. However, in order to truly know the hope that God brings into this harsh world, we need to accept His gift of grace that leads to salvation through a relationship with Jesus. For some people this means turning their lives around and submitting it to the great, sovereign King of Glory. For those of us who know Christ, it means accepting and submitting to the fact that we still must surrender control and allow that our hope is in His hands.

 

When we have come to know and to be blessed by this eternal hope that is found in a relationship with Christ, it becomes our responsibility to spread the word about the peace, joy, and freedom that we have found in and through Christ with people who are still seeking their hope in the things that they can do, the work that they perform, and in the status that they can achieve. We live in a darkly hopeless world. People who may seem to have all of life under control surround us, but they are desperate for real peace and joy on the inside. Hope in Christ is to be accepted, pursued, embraced, enjoyed, and shared with others.

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