January 2013


To You, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise, for You have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of You,

for You have made known to us the king’s matter.

Daniel 2: 23

Daniel was in the sort of position that most of us don’t actually need to face, for he had already received a death sentence from the King of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was a man who had the power and the ability to make whatever he wished happen. Daniel was in need of insight and understanding in matters that were far outside of the human realm, and he needed that wisdom in a big hurry. Since he had taken the time to build a relationship with God, and he trusted his God to have any and all of the answers that each life situation required, Daniel has confidence that the outcome of this death or life situation will be a successful one.

All of us are placed into situations where our responses do have the ability to change the course of people’s lives. Some of those situations involve really small events or actions and some of them involve things which are played out on a much larger scale. Yet, there are real death defeating opportunities in every one’s life. You may not be a person who goes about seeking this sort of adventure, or it may be the very thing that gets your day started; regardless, it is a part of what living as children of God in this world is all about. Like Daniel, we all need to continually seek God’s wisdom and understanding, and we need to come to a place in our relationships with Him where we can absolutely trust the Lord to provide everything that we require to live as victors over this world.

There is no better starting point than now, and there will not be a greater opportunity to trust God with everything in your life than this one. Talk through what you are facing today, open your heart to God regarding the things that are causing concern or worry, and trust His Spirit to speak truth to your mind. If this sort of interaction with God is a well established part of your life, then continue to go deeper with Him, for no one has even scratched the surface of the depth of God’s wisdom and understanding. If this idea is new, then trust the Lord to be faithful with you as He was with Daniel and as He has been with everyone who seeks His face.

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I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide;

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; and You did forgive the guilt of my sin.

Psalm 32: 5

 

We have all seen pictures of the aftermath of a catastrophic storm, a tornado, or a very serious car accident. There is wreckage and debris scattered everywhere. The only sort of reason and order apparent is chaos. Well, sadly, this is the sort of scene that I am capable of causing in my daily life. This is because my very human capacity to think and to act in ways that are far from righteous, in other words, my ability to sin, is an unfortunate part of the person that I still am. It is possible to be engaged in an experience of deep, personal worship of God at one moment and then to have thoughts or to take actions that are hurtful, selfish, and contrary to who my Lord has called me to be. Despite the fact that God knows this about me and about all people, He continues to love us, and He doesn’t become frustrated with us to the point that He gives up on us.

 

What the Lord does want us to do is to talk with Him. He is always patiently waiting to hear the voices of our hearts calling out to Him with an expression of our understanding that the way that we are living is sinful. There is nothing that is too small an issue, and there is certainly nothing that is too great, for the grace that was perfected by Christ is total, absolute, and all encompassing. Additionally, it is rather irrational to try to hide the dark aspects of our lives from God; since, He knows it all, anyway. What God does want from us is for us to recognize our need for forgiveness; then, our hearts are opened to the change that His Spirit will work in them. The weight of the hurt and the pain that these actions cause others can be lifted, and deep healing will begin.

 

The question for me is not what have I done that is sinful; rather, it is what am I trying to hold onto as a secret from God, and why am I still pretending that He doesn’t already know? We all need to open our hearts to the Lord and allow Him to see our deepest selves from our own viewpoint. God has already forgiven us completely, and He will lift the disabling guilt of the sin from us. Once the barriers of secrecy are gone, it becomes possible to work on healing the harm to our selves and to others that the sin is causing. It is this sort of healing that brings us and those involved on step closer to living inside of Christ’s perfectly righteous peace.

 

All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord remains forever.

1 Peter 1: 24, 25

 

Peter looks back across human history to cite words that Isaiah set down which were just as fresh and current in Peter’s day as they were when they were first written. Now, when we look at life in our times, they still apply. For we humans tend to spend a lot of time, energy, and focus a remarkable amount of attention on things which have a very short life and that don’t provide much in the way of real, lasting value. We develop our bodies and we even exercise our minds in ways that make them stronger. These are good endeavors; yet, most of that effort does nothing to gain us a clearer perspective on things that have eternal significance.

 

If we want to be involved in efforts that have a life span that exceeds the moment, and we desire to expend our energy on an activity that brings real benefit to ourselves and to others; then, the best investment that we can make is in time with God’s Word. As we read God’s Word, we gain understanding of the Lord’s viewpoint on our own life. As we talk to God about what He is saying, we become more intimate with Him, and He becomes more real to us. The pages of His Word are amazing and even mystical in that they contain meaning and wisdom that is far greater than the sum of the mere words. The Spirit of the Lord speaks to His people in and through the pages of the text. As we read them we are taken into the heart of the author of truth, wisdom, righteousness, and love.

 

Time invested in God’s Word, whether it is a single verse or a long passage, will always pay great rewards. All of the beauty of the universe is contained within, and that beauty is granted context and lasting significance by the touch of its Creator. As we seek out the author and desire to know His heart, God blesses us with His presence in our lives. When we choose to decorate our hearts with the flowers of the Lord’s love, grace, and mercy, He blesses every day of our lives with His eternal presence.

 

You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5

 

If you wanted to select a strange place for a meal, this would be the top of the list. I think of meal time as respite and as refuge. Being on alert and keeping my eyes focused on those around me for signs of dangerous activity is not generally good for digestion. Yet, right in the center of the antagonism and strife that is life in this world, God spreads His cloth of gathering and puts out His very best tableware. All of this effort and the care that God takes in getting the perfect food ready for us takes some time, too. This is not a situation where the Lord works some snap of the fingers magic and it all appears. There is no microwaved, instantly ready food here. Rather, the Lord puts the touch of His love and grace into each and every component of the meal.

 

It seems that there are at least two main points to this verse. The first involves recognition and thankfulness for the care and the provision that God does provide to His people. The perfect food that is God’s love, mercy, and grace is lavished upon us. He provides us with the real nourishment of His Word, and the Lord feeds our souls with the presence of His Spirit. Christ welcomes us in a manner that clearly indicates that He is delighted by our presence at His Father’s table. We are truly home regardless of situation or circumstances. Even in our times of greatest sinfulness and rebellion, Christ welcomes us with His very best. We are honored family members, and the Lord’s cup of blessing is kept full to overflowing by His own hand of service.

 

This is a wonderful, poetic picture of what it is like to live in a relationship with Christ. However, it seems that there is something more here. The fact that God does all of this in the presence of our enemies is a statement of the realities of life in a world where there are very active and aggressive forces that are opposed to Christ and to His followers. It is not possible to follow Christ by being engaged in the world and to not have enemies around us. Yet, I think that God wants us to view the meal time that He establishes for us as a time of fellowship and of offering. Christ asks us to be open about the source of our comfort and strength. He wants His people to freely engage in the banquet and to speak plainly and boldly about our Lord and His love for all people. This feast is not exclusive, for Christ desires to see everyone seated at His table. He wants us to invite our neighbors, our acquaintances, and our even our fiercest enemies to share in Christ’s meal of peace and reconciliation.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Acts 2: 42

 

This is a very brief picture of life among the men and women who made up the early church. This is the impact that the presence of the Holy Spirit had on them. They were brought out of their separate and different lives. Now they had a common bond and singular purpose. As I would understand it, they came from almost all walks of life and levels of status within the culture; yet, here, in the church of Christ, those differences disappeared and were replaced by the common bond of family. They were joined together in their devotion to things which brought them together, to their newly formed commonality. This devotion became a very powerful agent in the process of binding together such a widely divergent group of people.

 

It makes me wonder about my own devotion and about the things that our church today is devoted to. Devotion, prokartereo, means “a steadfast and single-minded fidelity to a certain course of action.” It seems to me that people today are not very good at being single-minded and steadfast. Most of us tend to be fragmented and to follow after whatever catches our eye at any given moment. We also get caught up in our passions and allow those interests, even when they are worthy ones, to take us over so that we are drawn away from the center of fellowship and out of this sort of common devotion. Now I realize that Luke is painting a picture of life in a very singular time during the history of the church. However, I don’t think that he meant for this to be nothing more than a tale of times long ago and far away.

 

This image of what it was like to live in the community of faith that was the early church gives us an aspirational view of possibility. There is no reason why we should not live in a manner where we are as singular in our focus and completely committed to the common bonds of life in Christ that we would not make those same elemental aspects of that life our common experience. If we were to become truly committed to engaging life from a point of view in which our fellowship as the body of Christ was the center of our lives, it seems that our world would be different. What if we could not only say but actually live so that teaching of the Word of God and soul-deep fellowship which celebrates our commonality in Christ was what defined Christians? Consider the possibilities and seek Christ’s will in becoming devoted to their realization.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5: 8

 

Here is a picture from the day to come. Perhaps it is the stage direction for the play that is life. As the curtain rises, things are fine, for life has settled into a day to day sort of truce with the fates that seem to cause strife and stress. Maybe, there has just been a time of great upheaval that has passed by or that has found a form of resolution or at least a flag of truce has been raised over your warring camps. You are able to breathe a full breath for the first time in ages, and you are not opening the door or the mail with trembling hands and dread on your heart. Well, I am sorry to be the one to say this, but you are probably experiencing the eye in the storm or that lull in the battle that happens while your enemy is reloading. The calm won’t last.

 

No matter what you do to live well and regardless of how strong you become; challenges, strife, and hard times will thrust themselves straight into your face. They strike with the intensity of a hurricane, and they hang on with the tenacity of a bulldog. These struggles are fueled by the fury of the soul of anger that is Satan, himself, and his aggressive assault upon everyone whose heart has been or could be surrendered to his great rival, Jesus the Christ, is relentless. So, this is why preparation matters.

 

The best defense against this sort of beast, against the demons and other evil-inspired forces that lie in wait and are hiding everywhere in this world, is to be saturated with God’s truth so that evil’s strongest weapons, which are fear and uncertainty, are overcome by the Spirit of Christ, who is alive and mighty in your own heart. Although the Spirit lives in the hearts of everyone who believes and accepts Christ as Savior and Lord, our hearts are strengthened by the regular process of reading God’s Word and considering deeply what He is saying to us about who He is and how He is transforming us into His perfect image. Then we need to pray, to talk with God, carry on a conversation with Him, that goes to the total depths of our hearts and that opens our minds to hear His voice in response. Strength, courage, and the ability to fight the righteous fight when the beast does strike are found when we are constantly and consistently immersing our hearts and minds in God’s Word and communicating with Him about its truth and relevance for each moment of our day.

 

 

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.

Ephesians 3: 14, 15

 

Some people come from very large families. When they decide that they will gather together, the planning can take years. Moving an army across the globe can require less in the way of planning and preparation than these reunions demand. Others come from families that are small enough that it would be hard to find enough players for a game of basketball at that reunion, even if skill or physical condition were not a factor. However, in Christ, we all are adopted into a new family. Our belief in Him brings about a change in our relational status in that we are adopted by God back into the relationship with Him that was God’s design and intent in Creation. Everyone who knows Christ is inter-related and connected together by virtue of Christ’s blood and through the agency of God’s grace.

 

Unfortunately, the thing that is on my mind as I consider the way that God has worked to restore our relationship with Him and to bring people from across the world and over time together in the common bond of family is just how poorly most of us actually function in this new family. We often put out great effort in our attempts to protect and to preserve ideas and beliefs that are secondary or are minor in comparison to the great foundational truths of God. People who claim to know Christ are too ready to seek out our differences as we build protective walls around church gatherings and stand pridefully atop a watchtower that is constructed out of doctrine. Yet, throughout history, defensive walls and towers have seldom survived the assault of a determined enemy. Make no mistake about it; Christ’s enemy in this world is very determined.

 

God’s desire for all people is that we would recognize Him as Lord and follow him as our sovereign King. In so doing, we become a part of a great family of faith that spans the globe and that recognizes no differences and allows no room for superiority over other people. Our strength for the battle that is life in this world comes from our unity. We gain in our knowledge and our understanding of God as we share perspective and experience together. No human fully comprehends who God is and has a total grasp on His will. When we approach each other with hearts and minds that are open and yielded to the Spirit’s leading, we are likely to learn more of His will and to see a much bigger picture of God’s redemptive working in the lives of people. Like all gatherings of people who have not seen each other for long periods of time, there will be wariness and awkward moments at first. However, as Christ is our common bond, His Spirit will bring us together with understanding and acceptance. In Christ we are members of a great family whose name is Children of God.

 

 

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