May 2013

I (Paul) am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.

Colossians 2: 5


We participated in a neighborhood wide garage sale this past weekend; there is almost nothing else that you can do that reinforces just how unstable the value of most of our possessions is that putting them on sale in this manner. We have a few pieces of furniture that we paid some very serious prices for a number of years ago; yet, the concept of deflation of value was clearly driven home when no one was willing to pay even our meager ten dollar asking price for any of them. Actually, if someone had shown any interest, I would have been willing to offer them a three for ten deal, but, alas, there were no takers.


Paul is pointing toward something that made his heart glad, for he could see that the people in Colossae had grasped the idea that there were some things in this life that did hold value. They were showing the sort of discipline that it takes to invest in permanence and in eternity. They were putting their time and their energy into getting to know the Lord more deeply, and they were taking this knowledge and understanding and applying it to the way that they conducted their daily lives. The things that they were buying with their capital were the spiritual treasures that come from a relationship with Christ, and they were growing their investment by putting it to work in their community.


Christ looks at each of us with the same sort of loving pride that Paul expressed when we seek to own the only things that will never be devalued by time, become obsolete or out of style, and that are guaranteed by the highest authority possible to do nothing but appreciate in value. When we seek to know God well and to follow His will fully, we bring the sort of stability into our lives that we will never find anywhere else, and we also touch the world around us with the promise of redemption.


But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

2 Peter 3: 13


Waiting is a natural part of life. Some of us are better at it than are others. Some things are worth waiting for, too. These would include opening gifts on a special day, a long planned vacation, and God’s provision of a special person to share life with. Other waits such as that endless time in the lobby of a dentist’s office and sitting in your car on the side of the road while the police officer is writing out the ticket are less rewarding. All of us need to patiently hang in there while time makes its slow journey through our days. However, for people who know God, it seems that the hardest waiting of all is filled with the daily struggle of living in a world that is desperately broken and viciously evil.


We want the Lord to step in and to change it all. We can easily get caught up in the idea that there is something that I should be doing to change the way that my community, country, and our world system of governance is going. Perhaps if I prayed more, spoke out boldly, or stopped paying my taxes as a form of protest, then things would begin to change. People want answers that we can understand and that we can act upon. We seek to elect the right people to office; then, we are disappointed when they turn out to be filled with their own versions of the same frailty and compromise as were their predecessors. Nationalistic loyalty, what we call patriotism, takes over our hearts and influences our minds into believing that the answer to what is wrong with our world can be found in our particular nation’s heritage and system of government, if only our leaders would stay true to that foundational course.


Most of these ways of acting and thinking, with the exception of not paying taxes, have some merit. Yet, none of them will actually work to change the way that our world is headed. We live somewhere along the continuum of time that is the end of an age. This is a time when Satan and his evil are writhing and flailing about in their death-bed agony. God has informed us that during these days terrible things will happen. Natural and human caused calamity will pound our sensibilities with their relentless destruction and pain. The answer to it all is found in Christ alone. He has singularly defeated all of the evil of this world. Christ is risen from the death that Satan attempts to impose upon all of humanity, and Christ takes all of His own people with Him into that eternal resurrection. For now, we need to trust in God, follow His Word, and live in fearless victory over evil in our world. At this time, in these end of an age days, we are called upon by Christ to live as bearers of light who bring the glory of Christ into the darkness of despair that surrounds us. For we know that God’s promise of newness is true and we can abide in the peace of its anticipation.

God raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2: 6, 7


The idea of kindness brings out certain images in my mind. One of them is that classic picture of the young person (Well, the classic version says, “Boy Scout” but these are modern times where such specifics are generalized for the sake of inclusion. This is actually and usually a good thing, too,) Back to my story; this young person is helping the elderly person across a busy street. Another of these kindness events happens when we let the person with one item or with the baby in her arms who is behind us in line at a store go ahead of us. Kindness is picking up your neighbors tipped over trash can and putting the former contents back into it. Kindness is too rare in our hurried and individualistic world. Yet, these ideas of what kindness is are shallow and weak in comparison to what Paul is describing.


Let’s face it; people are generally not very pleasant to be around. We deserved nothing but disappointment, anger, and condemnation from God. We come into this world dead in spirit, lost to eternity, and separated by a humanly impenetrable division from all that is loving, holy, and righteous. With full knowledge of all of this and with a heart that breaks with the experiencing of our rebellion, God chose to pursue us. He has the power and the ability to wipe us all out and to start over with a new model, but God decided to stay with His original creation. So, He provided us with the way and the means to make a decision ourselves. We can accept God’s loving gift of life that is granted to us through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection; or we can stay as we are and continue to live in the futility of our lost humanity.


When we accept Christ, we are changed. The dwelling place of our hearts, minds, and spirits is relocated from this world and its darkness into the realm of God Most High with its unceasing glory. God gave all for us, and He grants all that is worth having to us as His gracious gift. This is true kindness. Christ’s singular act of obedience to the Father is the pinnacle of self-sacrificial love, and all of that love is lavished upon us in the form of acceptance into ever present and eternal relationship with God. God’s acceptance of a dead-spirited and dark-hearted rebellious soul like me stands as a testimony through time to His desire to heal the brokenness of each person in this world and to the possibility for each of us of that form of deep healing and transformative change. This testimony is spoken most clearly when we choose to live with Christ openly and boldly on our lips and with His love as our foremost expression. As we treat other people and our world in this manner, we touch it with the immeasurable kindness of heaven.




Since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.

1 Peter 4: 1


Purpose is an interesting thing that influences everything that we do. We carry it with us each day of our lives. Purpose helps to set people apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, and its expression is one of the most important things that we have the privilege to do. When we purpose to do or to be something, we are exercising our greatest degree of control, and it is a major contributor to our sense of freedom; thus, taking away the ability to make such personal determinations is a device that oppressors frequently use.


Jesus was fully aware of the sort of pain and anguish that He would endure while He was living among us as a man. Yet, from the very beginning of Creation, He planned for that time and He prepared to take on the suffering that needed to come His way. Even for Christ, this wasn’t easy. He still needed to set His mind, heart, and spirit in focused determination to follow the Father’s will and to do what He was called to do. The purposeful suffering of Christ has provided each of us with the possibility of escape from the oppressive tyranny of sin, and for Jesus, giving each of us this opportunity was more than satisfactory motivation to take it all on.


We, also, need to make up our minds and set our hearts on living in full acceptance of the great gift that Christ has given to us. We are still required to make the decision to suffer and to endure the pain and difficulty that will come our way through following Jesus. The real struggle, the one where the forces of Hell were brought to bear and focused on one man at a singular moment, is completed. We are asked to take our old, comfortable ways, and the fearful, protective, and defensive attitudes that we hold onto; then, we need to purpose to hang them as if on the cross of Jesus. If we will take one issue, thought, or attitude that is separating us from the full and total fulfillment of God’s will for us and recognize that Jesus has already suffered in order to put this one thing to death and surrender that part of our comfort to Christ, then we will be walking more fully in the center of Christ’s righteous will.


Jesus said, “They (my followers) are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

John 17: 16


Here is a fundamental truth regarding the way that a relationship with Christ changes people. We are born into this world, and our identity is formed, framed, and established by the values and the priorities of the world. We are inevitably driven by the forces that are generated from the core of this sin-infused and fatally flawed environment. We are all born as children of wrath and iniquity, and our parents and everyone else who seeks to influence us have no ability to change this. We, however, can choose to claim transformative change. We are granted the opportunity to accept a new identity and a renewed orientation through accepting the offer of grace that God has provided in Christ.


When we have done this, Jesus claims us as one of His own followers, and His Spirit comes to live within us; so that, we are changed from the center of our beings. We no longer find our identity, our values, and our perspective on life in the old places. We now possess God’s heavenly, righteous, and eternal view of what it means to live in this world. We are now empowered and equipped to become people who bring about change in our world, for we gain the ability to see the people, institutions, and organization of this world from God’s perspective, and we have the capacity to embrace His heart of loving grace and His desire to see the fallen restored.


This is a highly challenging thought; for, my life is still filled with thoughts and actions that look more like those worldly ones that I was born with than they do like the ones that Jesus expresses. Yet, Christ has said that He has taken me out of the world and into His realm; so, the parts of my life that are still oriented to that old, worldly form of thought are the result of my stubborn refusal to let go of them. Lord, take these unloving, self-centered, and defeated attitudes from my life, and fill me with the newness of your Spirit; so that, I can walk through my life as a person who brings the redemptive power of the love of Christ to the world where I live.


To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.

Ephesians 3: 8


This is the great evangelistic teacher and writer Paul speaking, and he was very clear in his understanding of what God had given to him as a life’s work. He also understood that everything that he brought to the table so far as knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and skill was also a gift from God. Paul knew that all of the talent and the hard work that he had invested in preparation for life had been proven to be futile in a few moments of direct contact with the Living God. Yet, the same Lord who brought him to his knees also filled him with all of the knowledge and truth that he would ever need to follow Christ and to serve Him fully.


The thing that strikes me about Paul’s statement here is that it does not apply solely to him. This should be a true statement that anyone who knows Christ can claim. We may not be gifted with the ability of Paul to teach, write, and preach, but we are all given the same sort of grace, and we are given a mission to fulfill in this world. As the Spirit fills us with the ability to understand God’s word, He also grants to everyone the ability to live it. For most of us preaching is not going to be something that we do in front of a crowd, but it is something that we can do every day. Every time that we pick up the neighbor’s wind tossed trash can, when we return kindness for indifference, as we give up advantage for compassion, and through each and every act of loving grace that we engage we are preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.


As we are blessed by the extraordinary riches of Christ’s love, we are called upon by God to do the same for the people of the world where we live. Consider the impact that you can have on your community and on this world by simply showing the fullness of Christ to them. For most people God is at best an abstract concept, a distant image, or something too mystical to be a part of their daily reality. However, you and I have the ability through the grace that Christ has granted to us to change all of that. We can make Christ real for anyone who has a heart to look and to see, and that is our Divine calling.


For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.

Romans 8: 19


Did you realize that everything is waiting on you? Yes, institutions, politics, music, art, your neighbor, your family, the next person that you will meet in line at the grocery store, and everyone and all of the world around you is waiting. Most of them don’t have the slightest clue that they are caught up in this form of suspension, and I also bet that you haven’t given very much thought to this long list of appointments that you need to keep, either. I know that I hadn’t begun to add them into my calendar. Yet, they are there, and the schedule was devised by God, Himself, and He set it up back in the very beginning of time.


The person who God determined would make a difference in our world is you, and me. The Lord is, of course, fully aware of the enormous gap that exists in the way that this world functions and in the one that He designed for it, and Christ is the answer to that gap. However, He has already done His personal first work, and, although, He will do a second and a final work, this work is something that will come at a time that only God knows. Until then, Christ has tasked His followers with the right to pursue redemption, with the responsibility to seek it, and with the power to do His redemptive will. All of creation, that is, all of the world is waiting for the healing touch that can only be found through Christ, and guess what; you and I are the ones who have been given that role and the responsibility for reaching out to touch all around with God’s love.


This is a huge responsibility and an enormous task; yet, it is also one that God wants more than anything else for us to take on. He will grant all of the grace, wisdom, and strength that any of us need to do it. In order to do this we need to seek to live in the center of God’s righteousness, and we need to be open to the opportunities that will come to us as we go about the business of life. There are people all around us who want to be touched by the grace of God, and we are all involved in organizations, institutions, and aspects of our society that can be moved toward redemption by our influence. Put simply, there is a world waiting today for you to reveal Christ to it.


The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Philippians 4: 23


Here is a blessing that cuts to the very heart of our ability and our capacity to live with the peace, joy, strength, and purpose that God desires for each of His children. Although we may understand grace as that uniquely God given gift of His love and forgiveness that comes our way despite our total lack of merit, most of us don’t do such a good job of taking in that grace so that it resides deep within us and acts as a continual agent for transformative change in our hearts and minds. Yet, that is God’s real intent when He grants His grace to us.


When I realize that no matter how big a mess I make of my life, how far I wander from God’s righteousness, and how difficult I am to love that my Lord will remain faithful to His promise to never leave me, I am, at first, humbled; then, His Spirit works within me to start to change the ways that I think and act so that I am made more like the God-image bearer that I was created to be. As grace works in and on us, we should begin to see that it also cries out to be shared with the world around us. The Spirit of Christ filling our spirits with His love and grace should be leading us to need to pour out this same grace upon our families, friends, neighbors, and communities.


The transformation that receiving grace can accomplish in our own lives can also be the force that brings about true change in our world. Grace needs to be taken in deeply, but it should never be held onto as if it is a finite and irreplaceable commodity. Instead, we should make it the filter through which we view the rest of our world. Then grace can become the way that we connect with others in a way that brings the living Christ into their lives.


Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in holy array.

Psalm 29: 2


Yesterday was Sunday; thus, it was time to worship God. This is the day where we set aside a few hours for this purpose, and that is a good thing to do. Maybe your dedicated time for worship is on Saturday; perhaps, it is on Wednesdays, or you give some time throughout the week to spend with God. All of that is good and worthy; yet, none of it truly responds to the sort of worship that the Lord wants us to give to Him, and it doesn’t correspond with the desires of our own redeemed and transformed hearts, either.


When I consider the sort of credit and the praise that is due to God based upon what He has done for me and the work that He continually performs in me, in other people, and in the world, I am faced with a task that is impossible to perform in a limited amount of time or in any one specific location. God’s glory is the light that brings life saving clarity to challenging situations, and it provides the heat that melts away the heart-numbing chill of sin. The glory of God reaches into every corner of this world and seeks to provide a loving and a nurturing environment for each individual soul on this planet. In order to truly recognize the Lord and to give Him the credit that He is due, I need to make worship the primary activity of my entire life; thus, the way that I live, the manner that I deal with other people, and the respect that I exhibit for creation are continual acts of worship for God, the Creator of it all.


Additionally, the Lord does want me to dress in my “Sunday Finest” when I engage in worship; however, I really don’t think that He cares much about what it is that I am wearing. The Lord wants me to respect Him and to honor Him by seeking to grow deeper in my knowledge of His ways, in my understanding of His will, and in the continual practice of righteous love. These are the garments of a truly holy array; for, God wants the world to see Christ when I interact with it. When that happens, true worship is the result.


The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life.

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in

from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121: 7, 8


Alright, I admit it; these verses are actually taken from a children’s fairy tale. They were written by someone who wanted to provide a rosy-tinted, false sense of security to some young people so that they would go to sleep and stop bothering their adult care givers. Well, no. That simply isn’t true, either. These lines come from one of that wonderful body of writing that is known as the Psalms of Ascents. These are traveler’s tales. The sorts of reminders that whole families would recite and sing together as they took the often dangerous journey from their homes to Jerusalem so that they could worship God together with their entire nation. Although they were intended to ease the journey and to make the miles go by faster, they had a much greater purpose than that.


These songs are intended to remind the singers of God. As the travelers recited the lines from them their hearts were being prepared to enter into deep and transformative worship. The author of these lines was not attempting to gloss over the hardships of life. Instead, he deals with them from the perspective of an extreme realist. In these verses we see the great challenge that confronts all of us as we go about our own travels. Evil is out there; it is everywhere. It crouches and lurks among the shadows of the street where we live. It comes at us from far away, and it even attempts to set its traps in our own homes. Evil tries to worm its way into our minds and whisper the lies of Satan to our hearts. Although defeated by Christ, evil just hasn’t gotten that message; so, it is relentless in its desire to disrupt the lives of people who do know God.


Since this was the world that these ancient travelers knew, they sang about the truth of God’s protection, preservation, and salvation. As this same reality is ours, we can do the same thing. There is an old popular image of a person who is walking along a dark and frightening lane; so, in order to get his courage up, he starts to whistle. This idea was expressed in The King and I as Anna sings, “Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect and whistle a happy tune, so no one will suspect I’m afraid.” There is one very big difference between the experiences of these fictional characters and those of God’s people. Their courage was a façade; it didn’t penetrate to their hearts. However, we can trust that God is truly protecting us. He will take us along the road that we are traveling, and our souls will be safe. There is danger in the journey, but the outcome of it all is never in question. During every minute of each day, Christ holds us close and keeps us secure.


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