December 2012


Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10: 23

 

Our world is filled with greased ropes. Some are vertical and others are horizontal, but the effect upon life is much the same. We are in a position where we need be able to trust in something to help us get out of the hole or away from the beast. As we search about for that means of escape, our eyes come upon a climbing rope, a stout dangling vine, or that convenient swinging bridge that always seemed to be there for Indiana Jones at the appropriate time of need. But in my view of this scene, the rope is always coated with slippery grease, the vine is thorny, or the bridge is weak and failing. The sure escape suddenly becomes a fatal trap. The object of my faith proves to be untrustworthy; so, my escape is now an illusion.

 

Of course, this is fantasy, the stuff of dreams and of children’s play. Still, there is much of life that operates in the general arena of the action-adventure film. This place where we live is a harsh landscape with many wild and dangerous creatures roaming about in it. In order to live confidently and with the sort of boldness that Christ calls us to possess, we must have faith in something that is greater than ourselves or than those opposing forces that we do encounter. I believe that the someone is Christ, and the something is God’s Word. From a point in existence that is before there was time, God has provided the promise of His unshakable love for His Creation. He has been present for all of our times of struggle, through the danger, and in our periods of doubt and rebellion. Our thoughts and actions can be painful to God, but they do not ever cause Him to abandon us.

 

In light of God’s faithfulness, why should I look anywhere else for answers to life’s challenges? He provides me with truth that is unshakable when my ears are being filled with the polished language of deception. Christ lights my path and leads me out of the twilight of doubt and ambiguity that is at the center of the modern world’s moral dilemma. My Lord calls me to engage with a community of faith where I will find people who are listening to the same voice of truth and who desire to follow the same Master above all others. God, Himself, is defined by faithfulness. He will take us as far and as high in our pursuit of His righteousness as we are willing to go. Christ gave all for me, for you, for all of humanity, and for all of Creation. We can trust Him absolutely. Our confession of faith in Jesus, the Christ, will never be in vain.

 

Advertisements

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to Him, “You know everything; You know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”

John 21: 17

 

There is a quality to this scene on the beach that would be perfect for a film script. The setting is striking with the growing light of the early morning on the shore of the Sea. The fire would provide a dramatic glow to show the faces of Jesus and Peter as they dialogue. The emotion on Peter’s face could be emphasized by the way that the camera focused on his pain and confusion and their resolution in the loving words and actions of Christ. For here He is, the Lord of the Universe, the One who created it all, the King of Kings, and He is cooking fish to feed His wandering followers. Christ has come to bring the life of His grace to Peter’s broken spirit. Christ is reaching out to allow His truth to heal that brokenness and to set His people on the path that will take them into God’s plan and purpose for the rest of their lives.

 

Although Peter is one of the great figures in the history of the Christian faith, he seems to have been a great deal like most of us. He was not very consistent in his courage or in his application of God’s truth to his actual living of life. In simple terms, Peter fell down and acted the fool on far too many occasions. Yet, God had a plan for him and for his life, and God’s desire for Peter’s life would not be defeated by Peter’s own humanity. Instead, the Lord came after Peter with relentlessness and with understanding. As Jesus is talking with Peter, He probes some very sore wounds, and the pain that results is hard to endure. But Peter does come through the procedure. He is healed of the sin that has driven him away from God’s calling. Christ makes Himself evident and present for Peter and for the rest of us, too.

 

Most of us have Peter like stories to tell. We have failure and weakness in our lives and in our personalities that seems to dog us and to bring defeat to our journey. We carry with us the harsh reality of our sinful selves as it continually rises up and knocks us off of our feet. Still, after these dark nights of hopeless wandering, there is Christ. He is waiting for us to come to the warmth of the fire. There we will find the comfort of His presence and the strength that His Word brings to our starving spirits. God has come. He is with us. He asks that we turn away from our fears, get out of our self-focused thinking, and join Him in the light of His truth and loving grace. Christ is here to send each of out into His pasture to, “Feed My sheep.”

 

The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.

Titus 2: 11

 

This is one of the greatest thoughts that has ever been expressed in human history. It is simple and direct yet filled with a power and importance that is greater than anything else. God has fulfilled His promise to restore humans to our creation place at His side, and He has provided the means for this eternal state to be true for each of us. Jesus is the appearance of love, forgiveness, and restoration into our world; thus, He makes the grace of God real for anyone who is willing to accept it.

 

So, why is it so hard to live like this is my personal reality? If I were truly embracing God’s grace as my own state of being, then I wouldn’t be angry, frustrated, hurt, and condemning. If my heart had settled on the truths of God’s promised victory over all of my sin-induced weakness, then I wouldn’t be fearful and indecisive. If? This is a big question which leads to a better one, and that is; Why not?

 

For salvation is much more than eternity, it is this day, my life, and all that happens in it. It is also this world and its propensity to madness and destruction. In Christ we are saved from the fears and the failure of sin, and we are set free to live for the glory of God in our homes, workplace, and in our community. That is why the appearing of grace in the person of Jesus matters so much. Christ grants to us the one thing that we can never provide for ourselves. He brings anyone who accepts Him into a position of righteousness in God’s eyes, and Christ’s Spirit enters us to change us from the inside into people who live as citizens of God’s kingdom throughout our days. In Christ we have the One who shows us how to do it, and He gives us a life story to claim and to follow as our own road map to victory over this world. In Christ I am saved, and His grace will carry me through everything and all that life brings my way today.

 

Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

James 2: 5

 

Poverty can be overwhelming. When we look at images of the people who are living in the poorest of conditions from across the world and from right next door to us, it is hard not to feel a sense of just how oppressive that condition is. Equally challenging for us are other forms of poverty beyond those that are dictated by financial condition and by social status. When the bank account that contains our savings of faith, trust, and hope has been drained by either the long term effects of constantly drawing from it without a plan for replacing what has been removed or when something happens that is so enormously costly that all of our reserves are gone in a moment, we can be knocked to the ground and left with a sense of being near to bankruptcy.

 

These are the times in life when all of the things that have held us up and that have provided the cushion of confidence that we have come to rely upon have either failed us or have suddenly become very fragile. In these days we find that youth, health, human love, education, position, and community status are all things which can be taken from us in a moment. Then, we are left to look to other sources for the underpinnings that keep us from falling into the depths of depression and under the oppression of doubt. This is the answer that Christ gives to us, for when all else and everyone else fails us, He stands with us, and in these times of deepest poverty, the Spirit of Christ brings the riches of all of creation into our lives.

 

When the darkness that surrounds our heart seems to be too heavy for anything to penetrate it and we are at the bottom of that well known as despair, there is a source of light and there is a way out. As we pour out our pain to God and look into the truth of His Word, He starts to bring hope into focus. The Lord has a track record of taking people who are in desperate situations and providing them with His presence Who brings hope, comfort, encouragement, strength, and practical solutions. In our days of deepest poverty, Christ actively seeks to honor our love for Him by filling us to overflowing with the riches of His kingdom.

 

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4: 4-6

 

People sometimes think that faith is something that we exercise at specific times or under certain circumstances. We believe that God is involved in this aspect of our life or that it is important to take Him along for that conversation. We seek His intervention when the thing that we are facing is too big or too frightening to handle on our own. We may try to say that the routine of our day is too trivial for us to involve God with, or we may just not even consider that it matters to seek spiritual influence and guidance for some of the areas of our lives. Yet, it seems that Paul saw his life in a rather different way.

 

There is nothing that people do or that we are involved with in our life that does not have the hand of God hovering over it. Whether we like it or not and regardless of our comfortability or our desire for the involvement, the lives that we live belong to God. Thus, we can choose to seek His wisdom, guidance, and strength; or we can do it our own way and hope that our way is good enough. Regardless of our choice, the Lord will be with us, and He is prepared to enter into the process of the life that we are living at any time. In Christ we are all unified into one organism, bound together by the His Spirit. We become individuals who are intimately connected to other individuals, and we all, individually and collectively, are joined together in Christ.

 

When we take any part of our lives and try to live it without involving God in it, we are diminishing our own prospect of success. When we go off on our own and do not engage with the faith body that is around us, we are denying ourselves the use of a powerful resource, and we are decreasing the strength of our community. Christ calls us into unity, into community, and into an all encompassing and ever present journey of faith that takes us through life. Hard times and their tears are made bearable by God’s mercy and compassion. Joy is fulfilled when it springs up from God’s well of truth, and we enjoy peace in and through all of life in the presence of Christ and with the fellowship of His Body.

 

And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”

Zechariah 3: 2

 

This is a strange conversation to imagine. We see God talking to Satan, and He is saying such powerful yet odd things. I do admit, however, that the oddness is not really so far from what I might expect from God who does say and do some things that are way outside of my usual understanding. So why does God need to speak so sternly to Satan, and what is this little encounter really about?

 

It would seem that Satan has been going about his usual business of destroying and of creating havoc in the world. He has been accusing people who love God of being flawed failures, hypocrites, and sinful wrecks so that he can convince them and us that we are of no earthly good to God’s kingdom and that we should just stop trying to serve the Lord, for we are just getting in the way. Satan wants us to believe that we are weak and ineffectual in dealing with life. This is the sort of thing that evil has been speaking to people since those first whispered lies, and he hasn’t slowed his poisonous outpouring for even a moment since. Thus, when this is the sort of thing that Satan is saying to you or me, we need to consider what is true and what is righteous in our world and tune in our hearts to listen to the voice of Christ as He defends us, and as He provides us with the factual perspective that we need to function well as God’s children.

 

The Lord is quick to remind us that we were once much like the stick that is in the center of the blazing fire with our substance being consumed by the heat of sin in our lives. Thus, our future was one of waste and certain destruction. Yet, while we were still in the center of the fire, Christ reached out His hand of grace, and He retrieved us and brought us to the safety of His eternal presence. Then, the Lord stands mightily before evil and defends us absolutely. It is important to remember this. This is especially true during times when evil and its destruction and pain seem to be prevailing. We can stand strong in the fact that the souls of the righteous are safe in Christ’s hands, that evil will not win the day, and that Satan is defeated and condemned. Although we may come out of the fire singed and smoking, the flame of Christ’s Spirit will continue to burn in us so that the glory of the Lord can bring light to this darkened world.

 

Praise the Lord!

How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments.

Psalm 112: 1

 

Fear and blessing wrapped up in one sentence seems like an odd fit at first look. Yet there is no doubt in my mind that I have experienced many blessings that have come from God through His active involvement in my life, and that sort of closeness with God leads inevitably to a state of reverence and respect that is biblical fear. He is an awesome God who is powerful beyond any other and who is due all thanks and praise for the essential nature of His being. Still, the Lord does interact with my world in ways that make Him known to me, and He continually brings His wisdom, understanding, and grace to the place where I am currently living. Additionally, there are other ways that God blesses me, and these are also very important to me, for they help to draw the complete picture of who, how, and what God is for me.

 

It is truly interesting to note that as I seek the Lord and as I align my thinking toward being receptive to His communication with me, the essential aspects of my life seem to improve. This may not be manifest in a change in a difficult situation or a noticeable turn around in a hard circumstance, but my ability to deal with it all is dramatically impacted. Thus, my comprehension of the blessed state that God has placed me in is enhanced. It is through the process and the practice of focusing on God and on the deeply life enhancing nature of His truth, that my core attitude, my heart, if you will, becomes aligned with God’s will, and I can live in the center of the peace that comes from knowing and understanding His loving grace.

 

This process of allowing Christ to align my thinking with God’s truth starts with me on my knees before God. It is necessary for me to humble myself and to get my own ego and self-generated understanding of life out of the way first. Then, in my personal quiet and contemplation, I start to hear the voice of God as His Spirit speaks to my heart. Christ blesses me with His life and true love, and He implores me to touch my world with these same blessings. During these times of worship and praise the eternal truths of God’s Word flow into me as a healing stream of peace, comfort, and joy.

 

Next Page »