September 2012


For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but the righteousness of faith.

Romans 4: 13

 

When God asked Abraham to leave it all behind; leave his family, their ancestral home, the support that he received there, the counsel of his elders, the food that he had come to enjoy, the certainty of his future inheritance, and everything that provided context and concept for his own reality, the Lord also made some very powerful commitments of His own to Abraham. By accepting the faith challenge that God gave to him, Abraham was going to become much greater than he could ever have imagined. He would be blessed by God in ways and to depths that were beyond his capacity to dream of, and the impact of his life would extend far past any future that he could see.

 

Every step that Abraham took along the dusty trail that led from Ur to Canaan was fueled by the faith that God was going before him. Each misadventure that Abraham brought upon himself was the result of a time when he lost his focus on the importance of continuing to trust God to have all of the answers. As we know from the account of Abraham’s life, God did have of the answers, even the ones to the most unspeakable and unanswerable of questions. My life is too often a weak shadow of the one that Abraham lived. God calls upon me to undertake the journey along His path, He makes His promises very clear to even my thick sculled mind and wavering heart, and I step out with real resolve and conviction. Yet, my steps are diverted, my pace slows to a crawl, I follow the bright and shiny objects that catch my eye, and my fears and doubts obscure the resolve that the Lord empowered.

 

In these times of weakness and wandering, I need to realize that faithfulness is defined and it is modeled by God. He stays with me regardless of where I go, and He always has prepared for me the map that will lead my lost feet back to the center of His will. Getting back onto God’s path takes little more than my smallest measure of faith. Then a tiny particle of trust is all that is needed to empower my feet to step forward. In return for these small expressions on my part, the Lord promises the world.

 

 

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

Hebrews 13: 14

People invest greatly in the places where we live. We also take real pride in these cities, towns, and villages. When we meet someone new we almost always want to know where they are from, and this information shapes a part of the lasting image of that person that we store away in our minds. This interest and the drive that underlies it are, I believe, the product of the way that God has designed this world to function. Both in creation and after sin fractured our relationship with God, the Lord granted humans the right and the responsibility to be caretakers and rulers over the earth. Thus, as we seek improvement and work to create healthy and thriving environments in the places where we live, we are doing the work that God has set out for us. However, I think that this can also get us very far off of the track that is most important in God’s view of life.

If we invest everything that we have and all that we are in developing and building up the communities where we and others live, we are placing our greatest treasures into temporary vessels. When we anticipate that we are simply one or two changes in leadership away from a return to the right path for our governmental units, we are ,frankly, deluded. There is no structure or organizational unit on this earth that will last forever. None of them are worthy when they are considered from God’s righteous and holy point of view. Now listen carefully, I am not saying that God does not want us to be involved and to be engaged in our nations and their governance. What I am saying is that it is too easy to lose all honest perspective in the process of this involvement.

Our nations and their leaders tend to speak loudest when they are talking in terms of power, wealth, control, and an ever shifting ideology. Christ speaks stridently with words that breathe justice, compassion, care, poverty, and rock solid truth that is founded on God’s Word. In God’s economy there is no room for compromise, but there is an infinite supply of the grace that brings the lost back home into the care and the guidance of the Eternal Shepherd. Although God calls His people to be voices of and for righteousness in our nations and to be influential in our culture, He also wants us to remain primarily focused on doing work that is oriented toward the true hope of humanity which is found only in the restoration of this world that is to come when Christ returns to take it back. This is also where our greatest potential for influence in today’s world is to be found. I believe that Christ wants Christians to be committed to being openly out spoken and culturally defiant when it comes to the issues which form the crux of our society’s turning toward God or turning away from Him. These include the sanctity of life, God’s design for marriage and family, peace as it is found through commonality of heart and in a humble desire to understand others, and justice. When these are our primary concerns, we are seeking after building God’s eternal city.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.

Philippians 3: 12

 

It seems that Paul is saying that his best efforts and most sincere intentions are not enough. No matter how much he desires to put to death his old self and to join Christ in His resurrection from death, the odor of decomposition continues to cling to him. This is troubling for the Apostle, and he knows just how hard this fact can be for other Christians. After all, Paul had a lot more going for him than most of us do. He was brought up and trained to be the nearly perfect man of God. At least that was the way that people would have viewed him. By comparison, most of us were raised into purely pagan practices by a God-denying world.

 

Yet Paul’s position in society and his training were of little value when it came to knowing and to serving Christ. In fact, they were a hindrance to him, for Paul fought against Christ and His followers with the stridency of a zealot until Jesus grabbed hold of him and refused to let go. Jesus truly claimed Paul. The Lord took him out of this world and into His in order to teach the powerful rabbi the truth about God. Then the newly formed Paul was sent back into the world in order to bring the message of life to us all. Still Paul realized that even with the direct teaching of Christ he was not perfect for Christ was not finished with him yet. The miracle in this is the fact that living in an imperfect reality was not discouraging to this masterful keeper of the Law. Instead, he found encouragement in the fact that Christ claimed him as His own.

 

As I look at my own life, I find myself in a position that is similar to Paul’s. Not that I can even begin to utter the word perfect when I consider my life; yet, like Paul, the perfection of Christ does dwell in me. Also, Christ has claimed me out of this world and made me His own. This is a truth that all Christians need to recognize and to reflect upon as we stumble and blunder our way through life. Although our steps may falter and we will head down wrong paths, this does not need to be the way that we continue to live. Additionally, we should actually find encouragement in these times of wandering, for Christ wants to take us from these darkest of days and bring us ever closer to His glorious perfection. Just like Paul did in his recognition of the need to be committed to seeking to live as Christ called him to despite his failings, we are called by the One who has claimed us out of this world to press on and to trust Christ as we are blessed by the miracle of transformation.

 

 

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

Psalm 29: 2

 

Sometimes I am forgetful, and at other times I seem to have my eyes closed tightly, for there are too many days that go by where I don’t appreciate the Lord for even a small portion of who He is and for what He does. Days like these may be the ones where I am way too self-focused, or they might be times when I am caught up in the importance of my own influence and impact on my universe. When this is true, I am suffering from a lack of accurate perspective, and the quality of my life is diminished because of this.

 

Everywhere that there is true beauty, and all of the splendors of this world are the handiwork of the Lord; He is the master painter, the skilled architect, and the perfect designer of the environment that sustains life, delights my senses, and that feeds my soul. It is up to me to open my eyes and to allow my heart to soak in all that God has placed before me during each day. His love is expressed in the colors of flowers, in the fragrance of the wind, in the vitality of a hummingbird, in the warmth of a smile, and in the comfort of a friend.

 

O Lord, let me be aware of You, of Your presence, and of Your loving grace. I pray that I will be like the multitudes that surround Your throne in Heaven with my heart lifted up in continual appreciation and praise of You, my God and Creator. Let my eyes never stop seeing You as I travel through my day. Guide my thoughts and direct my actions so that my life will be a living expression of Your glory and righteousness.

 

I proclaimed a fast there at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions.

Ezra 8: 21

It would be fair to ask about what a story that relates how a group of people who lived long before anyone that I ever met making a decision to go without food while they camped by the side of some strange river in what would today be Iraq has to do with the day that I am about to have. That would be a reasonable question. When Ezra was preparing to travel from the land of captivity back to Jerusalem, he knew that he and all of those who were with him would need to be clear about what they were doing, for they were as human as you and I. Thus, they were certainly going to encounter stresses, distractions, and lose heart for the travel and for the work ahead, too.

So, Ezra stopped all of the preparations for the trip, called everyone together, and led them in a time of deep reflection on their own relationships with God. They joined together in a process of quietly listening to the Lord’s voice as He provided them with instruction, direction, and encouragement for the days ahead. The act of fasting isn’t about going hungry or even specifically about sacrifice. It is done in order to set aside all of the routine, the usual, and the common things of life that can consume most of our attention and energy so that we can focus totally on God and on His desire for us. It takes real humility to recognize the need for the Lord’s step-by-step involvement in each day of our life’s journey. Yet, when I am humble before God, my heart hears Him more clearly, and I am most ready to yield my will to His.

It is hard to schedule this act of setting aside the necessary routine of living and of purposefully and humbly yielding my plans and desires to the direction of the Lord. There always seems to be something important to do and urgent places to go. However, doing it results in a day that is driven by the orderly purpose of God where His strong will overcomes my distraction, confusion, and uncertainty. Perhaps the most important item on my daily calendar is the time that I take to separate myself from all of the urgent tasks of my life and open my heart and my mind to receive my Lord’s true focus for this day. This is a time when God’s safe route for this day’s journey is made clear.

And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.

1 John 2: 17

 

There is this dream that comes to me from time to time; in it I am holding onto something that I know to be very valuable and particularly precious. Now mind you, in the way of dreams, I can’t tell you what it is, but I absolutely know that it is irreplaceable and has value that I can’t afford to waste. Yet, as the dream goes on, the object becomes harder and harder to continue to hold, for the harder I work to hold onto it, the less tangible it becomes. My elusive prize also seems to always be in motion, as if propelled by a motor, and its movement is always away from me.

 

The futility and the frustration of this chase are like the way that life goes when the things that we are seeking are the treasures of this world. At times it seems like we have it all figured out and are finally out in front of everything that might come our way. Then, it all starts to slip away as our stocks take a dive, the job of a lifetime goes bad, health turns to disease, or our judgment and integrity become compromised. Then the tangible becomes vaporous and we are mocked by the things and the people that we counted on as reliable.

 

Still, there is solid ground to be found and a permanent form of truth that can be counted on in even the hardest of situations. Christ provides us with His understanding of what is truly valuable, and He leads anyone who seeks Him into an ever growing understanding of the righteous prize that will never fail or slip away. When we seek the Lord and pursue His will for our day, we are agreeing with Christ to live in His new world of righteousness. It is here that the elusive becomes tangible. When we choose to dwell in the presence of our lord, our hands will be filled with His eternal riches.

 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.

1 Peter 5: 6, 7

 

There is an almost wildly crazy aspect to the way that God designed us humans, for we have this strong, independent streak that runs throughout our nature and that affects almost everything that we do. Yet, it is this same independence that leads to the sort of self-sufficient arrogance that gets me into many of the situations that cause me so much grief and worry. Then the worry, concern, and stress drive me deep inside myself. They close me off to engaging in healthy and helpful dialogue with other people, and they cause me to hide out from God. In the end, the situation just gets worse.

 

So, in trying to resolve this mystery of my Creator’s design for me and my relationship with Him, I have come to this understanding. God wants me and everyone to desire to be involved in the relationship with Him. The Lord is first and foremost my loving Father. He wants to guide, nurture, counsel, and empower me to live a life that is full and joyous. God delights in the things that we do and in the way that we grow in our understanding of His righteousness. Recognizing my own need for the Lord’s continual guidance and wisdom is the first step toward living in the freedom that God intends for me to enjoy. Then, the next step is the hard one, for I must take my controlling hands off of the outcome and humbly allow God to take charge of the direction that I go in all aspects of my life.

 

There is no instantaneous or miraculous cure for a lifetime of practicing the form of self-directed thinking that results in this type of isolation with its attendant anxiety and loss of peace and joy. Yet, the Lord provides us with great hope, for He is gracious with us. He places no restrictions or preconditions on His acceptance of the desire of our hearts to embrace His truth. As I yield myself to Him, God gives back to me and blesses me in ways that are far greater than I could have imagined. As we turn over everything, each and every challenge, worry, concern, struggle, and uncertainty to our loving Father; we can expect the miraculous, for He will provide the answers to it all.

 

Next Page »