November 2012


We do not lose heart, but though the outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 4: 16

 

Each passing day seems to bring another sign that time is not all that kind, for the mirror will reveal another spot here or a wrinkle there, and the joints ache a little more the day after activity than they did last year. Even the mind starts to operate just a little less clearly. Maybe it’s just that I am not getting enough sleep or enough of a certain vitamin? Well, maybe it’s simply that I am a year older than I was on this date last year, too. It’s all a reminder of the fact that I will not live forever in this world and with this exact body, for the organs, bones, joints, tendons, and tissues that I was given at birth were all infected with the fatal disease of sin.

 

On the other hand, my soul has been totally cured, released from being enslaved, and freed to rise above all of the pain and loss of this world. That doesn’t separate me from the condition of others or from the inevitability of my own physical decay, but it does change my priorities so that how I deal with the issues that life brings my way becomes more important than the issue itself. God wants me to continually turn to Him and to seek out His will in everything. Then, even the most serious illness and the most disabling injury can become a step along a path of renewal when we open our hearts and minds to Christ’s perspective on those situations. There is no physical or emotional pain that He does not understand, and there is nothing that I can face in this life that my Lord will not and can not take me through.

 

God doesn’t ask me to just grit my teeth and endure my days, and He never leaves me in a state where the day to day experiences of life are empty, futile, and frustrating. Instead, the Spirit of Christ speaks to my heart to provide encouragement and brings insight and understanding to my mind. Then, the disturbing and troubling times that are an inevitable part of living in a failing body that resides in a corrupted world are brought into perspective. It is through and during this daily walk with Christ that the aspects of my being that matter are renewed. For during these times of clear focus on the Lord’s direction and provision for me I gain great insight into who He is and about how He works. My spirit is renewed, transformed, and set free by this deepening relationship with Christ.

 

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“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.

1 Corinthians 6: 12

 

As we are in Christ and He dwells within us, we gain a very great deal of freedom. There is something truly liberating about the presence of God as it becomes a part of the very essence of who we are. God is present in our entire world in that His engagement, control, and concern have never departed from it. Yet, a profound change happened when God, Himself, became human and joined us in our literal walk through life for those few years. Prior to Christ’s coming, people were required to reach out to God and to seek to follow His stated rules for righteous living by applying the Law to their lives. Although personal righteousness was actually achieved only through seeking to know God well and by following His leading in every aspect of life, humanity became increasingly oriented toward the application of the written law as the way and the means for living properly. In so doing, we drifted away from knowing and following God.

 

The mystical was much harder to grasp and to understand than was the tangible that was found in the Law. Since the Law seemed harsh and most people found that it was very difficult to follow, we devised new ways of thinking and of contemplating what was, in fact, righteous. Among these new ways of thinking was one where we developed a concept that essentially separated that which was related to our physical lives from that which was a part of our spiritual existence. In this way of thinking, our bodies could do almost anything that we found pleasing as our spirits were not a part of those activities. This is a form of rationalization that is still with us. We segregate our religious or spiritual lives from our secular ones so that it is difficult for people to see Christ in our daily living. Yet, it is this dichotomy that Christ’s coming, His incarnation, works to eliminate from the lives of followers of God.

 

Although we are no longer bound by the Law and its very specific code of rules, we should be truly constrained by a more exacting standard. As Christ is in us, we are required to live under God’s design for an inside to out, a heart based, rule of life. In this new form of relationship with God each of us is set free from the need to gain God’s approval by our external actions, and we are granted by His grace the ability to determine what is good, beneficial, and worthwhile. Yet, this very freedom is tempered by the command that all that we think, say, and do needs to be engaged in for the glory of God. In simple terms, in Christ we are redeemed from lives that were condemned to sin and death, and we are being transformed from being creatures who lived out of the imperative of our lostness into ones who are in the totality of the image of God. This is a process that is benefitted when we choose to set aside thoughts and actions that we find personally pleasing in order to engage in ones that truly bring glory and honor to Christ.

 

 

 

The one who scatters has come up against you. Man the fortress, watch the road; strengthen your back, summon all your strength.

Nahum 2: 1

 

Some people say that having faith in an unseen God and following the ways of a spiritual ruler are the actions of a weak and insecure person. Others hold that there is simply no need for this sort of thing; since, they already know where they are going in this life, and they have the method and the skill to get there well in hand. Yet, history, current events, and my own experiences all tell me that having confidence in personal control over life is futile at best, and it can be utterly disastrous for it is usually foolish thinking.

 

How easy is it for the orderliness that was the game plan for the day to turn into a chaotic jumble that resembles that mass of wires behind your computer? You know the ones that I mean, they are the ones that always seems to twist and tie themselves into knots just before you need to change one of the components. In our world, there is an active force at work that is continually seeking to cause confusion and to bring about this chaos. God designed His world to be orderly so that we could be devoted to our relationship with Him. However; Satan and his forces of evil want to disrupt that calm, peace, and harmony; thus, they bring about anger, greed, oppression, destruction, disaster, and other forces and events that break apart our world and that shatter our lives.

 

When these hard situations strike, it is easy to allow them to shake our faith and to weaken our trust in the Lord. Because of this fact of living in this world, it is vitally important that we prepare purposefully and that we stay on the alert at all times. God tells us to stay inside of the fortress of His word and to keep it manned by actively and continually seeking the truth that it contains. He instructs us to pay attention to where we are going and to how we are getting there so that we stay on focused on living righteously. The Lord desires for us to stay engaged with other people who share our faith in Him so that we can guard their backs and they can protect ours, and Christ pours the strength of His Spirit into us and surrounds us with God’s angels to provide us with all of the might and the power of His kingdom for the fight.

 

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.

John 16: 20

 

Sorrow seems to come with the territory in this life. Our ability to feel it is a part of the way that God designed us; so, it must be something that God, Himself, feels. We form attachments and develop relationships. Yet, we live in a world that is filled with death. There is no getting out of this place alive, and none of us has any more time to dwell with the people that we love than is our allotted span. Separation, brokenness, loss, and death will come our way, and, as Jesus is pointing out, the strong emotions that follow are an important part of a natural process for us to experience.

 

The impending loss that Jesus is discussing will seen to come about suddenly, and it will shock those who are close to Him greatly. Despite Christ’s warnings, His followers were not ready for Him to be taken from them. It appeared as if all that was evil in the world had gained a victory over that which was righteous and good. As Jesus was led away to face the inquisition of the world with its humiliation and sentence of death, His close friends were sent into a swirling chaos of confusion and doubt. It seemed that their connection to the true light of the face of God had been smothered by the darkness of evil. Now the world was set off into a riot of celebration, and the contrast between its rejoicing and the sorrow of Jesus’ disciples was absolute.

 

However, all of this is within God’s plan, and even the hard emotions that were felt served an important purpose. Satan claims many victories in this world. He contemplates the lives that he controls and the death that sin brings about as cause for celebration. Yet, evil has no victory and its forces have no real power. The very act of taking Jesus from the human fellowship of His followers launched the final death blow that God struck to Satan’s head. People no longer need to live in a world that enjoys its short-lived and shallow celebrations, for, in Christ, we dwell in the joy of eternity. We certainly should feel the sorrow that sin and its death cause; yet, this life and our natural condition are not all that we have. Christ wipes away the tears, and He brings us close to His side. The love and the grace of Jesus go with us through this life, and Christ’s victory provides all of the hope that we need to sustain us along the journey.

Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.

Psalm 119: 35

 

For a human being, especially a modern, western world, male like me to express delight at adhering to a set of rules is truly unusual to the degree of being weird. The oddity of it all gets taken a step further when I ask God to actually take hold of me and lead me along His rule guided path. Yet, as I pray to God in agreement with the writer of this Psalm, that is exactly what I am doing. As I travel along God’s way through life, I am living in the manner that brings me into conformity with the righteousness of God that is my new natural way as a follower of Christ.

 

From experience I have learned that seeking to do those things that God commands, and even more importantly, allowing God to change my way of thinking so that His commandments are the driving forces behind my decision making creates balance and harmony in me that dwells deep in my soul. Thus, it is a foundational resource for daily living and brings peace to my soul. God’s primary commandment is that I love Him, and its close companion is that I would love others. Love is the foundation and the total expression of all that God desires for people. For if we love God, we will seek to do what is pleasing to Him, and if we love others with the sort of deep commitment that God does, we will desire to see their lives brought into a close and a permanent relationship with Christ.

 

So, this is the delight filled life, we need to start each day with personal attention to God’s word and purposefully seek alignment with His will and His guiding touch to direct the way to go through life. Then we should continue to listen to His Spirit and accept His direction as situations and interaction with others unfold. Finally, the day will be made complete by taking the time to reflect on what actually did happen so that we can thank God for all that He did to take care of the needs of this day, and seek His guidance along the path that will be encountered tomorrow.

 

Have mercy on those who doubt.

Jude 22

 

Doubt is both normal and necessary. Experiencing moments of doubt can protect us from impulsive and damaging decisions or actions. Seasons of doubt are also natural; yet, they are very different. Have you had your doubting times? These are days when very little of what was going on in your life made sense and when confusion, disappointment, and even a sense of deep spiritual aloneness ruled your heart. If this is a part of your personal history, then you are probably in the majority among people of faith, and you are also experiencing what a multitude of people who don’t know Christ on an intimate basis do.

 

Doubt is a tool that Satan uses to cloud people’s minds and to conceal the truth of God’s love, grace, and mercy from us. It is also a part of the path that most of us need to take in order to get from that place of partial commitment to Christ which is the universal starting point of most faith journeys to the ever deepening and always growing relationship that His Spirit wants to take us to. For, as we explore and deal with issues of doubt, we open up some of the hidden corners of our hearts, and we are forced to face the issues and the fears that we are hiding there. Then, the light of God’s truth has an opportunity to cleanse us of these old-self elements that are causing us so much pain and discouragement.

 

It is completely normal for us to experience these times of doubting, and each of us will encounter others who are going through such a time as well. How we choose to respond to this challenge is what matters most. Christ wants to take the doubt that we are experiencing and show us the reality of His presence in our lives. He wants us to embrace the doubter with our own confident love so that others who are in need will see tangible proof of the Lord’s direct engagement in their lives. Everyone who knows Christ has seen God’s gracious mercy first-hand, now our Lord sends us out to show that same mercy to people who need Him.

 

 

Where does thankfulness come from? What is it that I am truly thankful for? Why does it matter at all in a world where take is stronger than give and have is far more desirable than relinquish? The questions seem to outstrip the traditions, and the day of gathering and celebration in America has become, for many, just the starting point for the consumer rush of the Holiday Season. Yet, I want to throw out that there is, indeed, much to be thankful for and there is truly a reason to celebrate.

 

This point on the calendar in late November can and should be the start of a very special season. The celebration and the remembrance, the gathering together and the festivities that mark the Christmas Season are good things. In fact, I think that they are more than just good things; I believe that this coming season of Advent is an important part of the cycle of our faith lives. This is a time when we reflect upon the characteristics of God that were given to humanity by and through Christ. During these weeks our hearts should be turned away from our self-imposed necessities and toward our calling in Christ to serve His Kingdom and to glorify His name. This is a time of the year when giving the gifts of kindness, compassion, and care can mean more to a tired soul than any object or fragile token of affection.

 

It seems to me that our greatest cause for thankfulness should be found in the Advent, which is Christ come. This is God with us and God within us. The Spirit of Christ has been given to us to speak truth, love, peace, mercy, and forgiveness into our broken and bitter souls. In Christ we are granted restoration and our lives are transformed from the inside to the out in a manner that grants each of us who know Jesus as our Lord and Savior into persons of real, eternal significance in our world. In all of this resides the cause for thankfulness. It is through Christ and by the results of His coming that we are made alive, and because of His grace and merciful forgiveness, we are granted a life that matters. So, as our thankfulness is focused upon God and reflects on His great gift to all of Creation, we should be motivated to extend the love of God to the world around us and to rest in the certainty of His for us. This is more than enough cause to be deeply and eternally thankful.

 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3: 16

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