June 2013

So, faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Romans 10: 17


Our news is filled with voices, or at least with the words of people whose opinions have a great impact on the world where we live. The expressions of these opinionated voices are followed by an unimaginable volume of others who weigh in on what the original speakers had to say and on what it means. Our society lacks for neither the expression of life-altering edict or for the flood of response to it. Wading into this stream of thoughts and ideas is something that we can’t keep ourselves from doing. It is actually important to engage with the big issues of our times and to have an opinion on them ourselves. Yet, it is very easy to get sucked under by the powerful current that this stream generates. We can lose sight of who we are and of why we were granted minds that can think and hearts that contain passion.


In all of the words that come our way, there are only a few that contain absolute truth. Among the vast array of voices that are speaking at any given time, only one provides life-giving answers. So, when we attempt to respond to what we hear from the basis of our own intelligence and frame our arguments out of national pride, historic understanding of governance, or a general sense of doing what is right; we will inevitably fall short of stating the whole truth as it is set out in the Word of God. Solutions for what is sick, corrupt, and demented in our society will not be achieved by having the loudest voice in the room. Our world, especially its leaders, needs only one thing in order to travel its course in a righteous arch. That is faith in the one and the only Creator God of this universe.


As Paul tells us, faith comes through hearing. This is the deep soaking in of the truth that flows out of the mouth of its source. This hearing is not resident in the ears or even in the neuro-pathways that lead to our brains. The hearing on view is something that happens in and with the totality of our beings. When we are confronted with the sort of anti-God thinking and the decisions that come out of it in our world, our first response needs to come out of God’s spoken and time-tested Word of Truth. The first action that we engage in should be prayer and meditation on that word. The voice that we desperately require in these times is that of God, Himself, whose Spirit will reveal to us the righteous words to utter in response to the evil that surrounds us. The times that we are in are seriously dark and ever darkening. Living well in them requires that we have faith. We must trust in the everlasting and unalterable victory of Christ over the satanic evil of this world. Additionally, we each need to answer God’s call to speak up with a voice that is filled with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy.

Psalm 64: 1


There are times when silence is a very good thing; yet, there are other times when the most productive thing that I can do is speak up and speak out. God wants to participate fully in the things that are going on in my life, and He wants to help me with the process of thinking about and through them, too. Although I am convinced that the Lord knows exactly what I am thinking and the complete details of my state of being, He still wants me to state them so that I can more clearly and accurately identify real concerns and sort out the smoke screens of deception that Satan throws my way.


So, even at the risk of sounding like I am complaining, whining, or self-centered, I should express the concerns and the feelings that are filling my heart and my mind. The Lord does not fail to respond to my expressions of truly felt emotion, and He always brings a reassuring sense of calm to my world. In fact, He seems to speak out in His most powerful voice when I am being overwhelmed by the swirling winds of an out of control day. It seems that God specializes in chaos. It is not that He causes it; rather, the Lord brings the calm and the clear thinking that clear the air so I can breath easily again


The Lord does not promise to remove all of the challenges and concerns from my life, and He certainly does not eliminate the aggressive opposition that His people will face from the forces of evil in this world. Instead, God takes away the doubts, fears, and dread that can work in my heart to disable me. The Lord provides me with the assurance of His protection, wisdom, and insight, and He surrounds me with His loving care. Thus, I can face the challenges of my day with the certainty of Christ’s victory as a solid foundation for my feet.

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

Acts 18: 9, 10

There are a very great number of factors that influence most of us during our journeys through life that cause us to get soft in our zeal for being openly and overtly Christian They take the form of concerns about the feelings of others, fear for our own acceptance, and struggles with how others will treat us. In some situations and in some places in the world the concerns and fears also focus on personal safety. All of these were on the table for Paul as he traveled about his world teaching about Jesus, and this is why Jesus came to him in a dream and shared this thought with him. You see, even the great teacher and writer of the truth of God’s word, himself, was fully human and shared the same sorts of doubts and fears that we all do.

Christ wants us all to grab hold of the fact that He is actively involved in protecting us from all of the real harm that concerns us. The Lord owns this world, and He is the One who is sending us into it to serve Him. Instead of fearing what is in the shadows, we are to be the ones who bring the light of God’s truth there. Rather than back away from hostility, we are to share the love of Christ with people whose spirits are troubled. When there are voices telling you to be silent and to hold your tongue regarding your faith and trust in Christ, the Lord, Himself, says to check on the real source of those words and to continue to speak boldly and clearly for His name’s sake.

There will be attacks, for there is an enemy, and evil does not like to lose its grip on the people that it uses for its purposes. There is also a God who is infinitely greater than all of the forces that Satan can bring to bear in his cause. Remember that Satan is the creature while God is the Creator. Also, this fight is already won, for Christ has claimed the total victory. It is the calling, the mission, and the purpose of everyone who has joined Jesus in that victory to live as if we understand and fully accept it so that we are not silenced by any personal concerns or doubts. Be brave, be bold, and be fearless in speaking the love and the truth of Jesus as you walk through your day, for truly nothing can harm you.

The Lord sustains him on his sick bed; in his illness you restore him to full health.

Psalm 41: 3


David had been ill. He was weak and his spirit was getting down, for he just didn’t have the energy or the desire to go about the business of life. Additionally, he was facing the usual array of challenges and threats that seemed to plague his life and that seem to haunt most of our days, as well. Enemies, opponents, and even people that he thought he could trust were obviously wishing him ill. This is a hard time and place to be in, and it is the sort of place where life takes everyone.


Sometimes the sickness is of the short term physical kind, at other times it has a long duration, and some illness is of the heart and of the soul. Whatever form it takes, it all can take us to a place where we just can’t keep going on our own. Maybe that is the point that God wants to get across to us. There simply are issues in life and times of coping with them that require something more powerful than what is contained in the boxes, bottles, and blister packs of magical medicines at the drug store. These are the times when we need to start our healing process from the spirit and let God’s healing Spirit bring us the strength to deal with the current situation.


Whether it is a cold or the coldness of loss, regret, and fear that are grasping your heart and wrapping your mind in its grip of confusion and uncertainty, the Lord promises a cure. When we start looking closely at who God is and at how He works in our lives, He brings clarity to the mind and strength to the heart. God’s Word brings His promises. His Spirit brings hope and understanding, and His loving grace provides healing for all that is causing distress. God calls to us, and He asks us to turn to Him in prayer and in contemplation. God seeks us out wherever we have gone. His voice of truth brings restoration to our broken bodies and spirits. The Lord is merciful as He brings us His peace.

You, O Lord, have given people dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under their feet.

Psalm 8: 6


Wow! Do you get a sense of the power that is granted to us by God? We humans are granted total authority and absolute rule over the rest of His creation. This seems to suggest that God trusts us greatly; yet, based upon the way that we have behaved in regards to taking care of this planet and upon the lack of success that many of us have had in handling even the smallest details of ruling our immediate worlds, I am left wondering about how God could have come to the conclusion that any of us are worthy of His trust.


I believe that the answer is found in the fact that God sees beyond past performance, and He anticipates the potential that He formed in each of us. This potential for godly understanding, for great wisdom, and for the courage to utilize these qualities in our daily lives is accessed only through a committed relationship with the Lord. As we allow Him to change our priorities to match His, and we seek to understand His heart so that we can follow His will, we are transformed. He changes us from being self-directed and focused individuals into the God-image bearing members of the Body of Christ that the Lord intends for us to be.


It is in this state of renewal that we become truly trustworthy stewards of the great and the wonderful gift of rule over God’s creative work. This involves an enormous responsibility, for the Lord tells us that we are charged with the continual work of defeating the effects of evil and decay in our world. We are to take every opportunity that we have to show people the light of God’s grace and redemption, and we need to seek to do this through every word that we say, each action that we do, and by the way that we live our lives. The Lord trusts you and He trusts me with all of His Creation, and He knows that, through and in Him, we are absolutely worthy of that trust.


It is He who changes the times and the epochs: He removes kings and establishes kings;

He gives wisdom to wise men, and knowledge to men of understanding.

Daniel 2: 21


Governments come and go. Presidents, premiers, prime ministers, and princes gain power and lose it; and the times that we live in change in ways that seem good for a moment and seem bad for another. This is the nature of our modern world, and this was the nature of the ancient one that Daniel lived in too. All of the institutions that provide structure to our lives exist because God has ordained it. He created a universe that was orderly, and He gives back to us some form of that order to keep the chaos of our sinful natures in check until Christ returns and the original perfection is restored.


Still, if we want to have the wisdom and understanding that we need to make the best possible decisions regarding these rulers and about the way that we will interact with our world, we need to look much deeper than the current news or than our own feelings and impressions of what is right or what is good. The Lord promises us that He will give all wisdom to those who are wise enough to turn to Him for it. He has also given His Spirit to us to explain the great mysteries of life to our hearts and to our minds.


Wisdom comes to people who realize that they don’t know it all, and true understanding is granted to those who accept that fact that they know nothing in and of themselves. God calls on His people to humble our hearts and to open our minds so that we are prepared to be filled with the eternal wisdom of His Word. He desires that we would be prayerful people who are committed to following the one true King, Jesus the Christ. The Spirit of Christ comes into us in order to show us the righteous way to respond to our world, and the Lord sends us out into life to be sources of the light of truth in our darkened age.

Jesus prayed, “I in them and You in me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that You did send Me, and did love them, even as You did love Me.”

John 17: 23


Sometimes I wonder what Jesus would say about the amount of time and effort that we put into building our own churches. We focus on the distinctives that make us unique, we work on the programs that fill our calendars, the public image that we portray takes on a slick marketing quality, and our focus becomes very fine when we start to discuss the differences between other churches and us. Now, there is nothing wrong with gathering as children of God to praise, worship, and study Him; in fact, God commands us to do this. However, there is a problem with our organizational mentality when the structure of the organization and it’s importance become barriers to moving toward the entire body of Christ.


Jesus came into our lives in order to bring those who were far off near (Ephesians 2: 13); thus, He came to bring us together as we are drawn to Christ. There is strength, power, a voice, gathered knowledge, and mighty wisdom in the assembling of Christ’s body, the church. When we move together, governments topple, systems of rule disintegrate, love moves through the land, hearts are changed, and the gospel of Christ is made more visible in our world. When we come together, setting aside our minor differences and concerns in order to seek out that which we hold as common and that which is the essence of our Lord’s will, we begin to demonstrate the splendor and the majesty of the promised new Jerusalem (Revelation 21), and consider this, what rational being would not want to secure a place in that city?


Worship style, hair style, bible translations, age, political views, minor doctrinal points (most doctrinal points once they move beyond Christ come, crucified, buried and risen are minor), and everything else that we hold onto that keeps us separate are of little to no real Kingdom importance. Why not take the first step toward unity? Consider who you want to get to know from another church gathering, ask your pastor if he meets with pastors of other churches regularly and if he doesn’t ask him why not and offer to help set it up and offer to pay for the meal. Look at the things that other churches are accomplishing in your community and go to them with an offer of help and support. Purposefully pray for them and with them Seek out God’s moving across your entire church community.


Christ is our common bond of unity; God proclaims this to be so. It is up to each of us to make the decision to step out of our comfortable gathering place and group and toward other people of faith. Then, we begin to move toward the perfect unity that Jesus asked the Father to grant us.


But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

1 Corinthians 15: 20


Death is a big deal. That’s a brilliant thought, right? Not really. Throughout our history people have been concerned about it and have focused attention on its inevitability. When it comes in old age, we can be sad yet accept that the person lived a full life. When it comes to the very young, we are overwhelmed by the lack of fairness; and when the end of breath happens to those in their 20s, 30s, and such, we are frightened and saddened by thoughts of a life cut short. Still, it does come to us all.


What seems even sadder than the end of this life is a life that is lived in the shadow of spiritual death. Life, itself, is the handicraft of God. He designed the circuitry and the plumbing that make these bodies work, and He fabricated the molecules that perform their infinitely intricate functions in such amazing harmony. Even more important than all of this, the Lord breathes the essence of what we call life into us. He provides us with the divine connection that is our soul, and He forms us in a manner that is like Him so that we can relate to Him and interact with other people like He does.


Jesus defeated death. This does not mean that we won’t die, for He did that. However, Christ has given us the solution to the puzzle that is death and has provided us with proof of the absolute certainty of God’s promise of our personal eternity with Him. More importantly, Christ defeated death’s hold on our lives in the present. Jesus is the firstfruit. He is the best, sweetest, and most desirable of the crop. Also, as the first of the fruits, He leads the way for an abundant harvest of God’s precious souls. Each of us alive, everyone empowered to live and all of us sent into life to share the promise of being alive with others.


Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

Colossians 3: 5


Here is a really tough personal challenge for most of us. At first glance, we might say that I don’t struggle with those things; they were part of the person that I was before Christ, that was what I did before I grew up and realized that there was a better way, or they are just a casual and a controlled aspect of my much greater new self. The problem with all of that is the standard that Paul sets out in the verse, for he says that we should consider ourselves as dead to them. Dead is a rather absolute statement, and it doesn’t leave much room for occasional involvement or for limited activity. Dead equates to none, to finished, and to buried and put away forever.


We are given an important clue to how all of this is to come about in the idea that, as stated previously in Colossians, Christ’s death and resurrection are what make this sort of fundamental change possible for us. Then, it is our own decision to fully accept the gift of grace and the transformation of our essential selves that are its result that takes these destructive elements that tended to control our lives and sets the tone for our relationships and place them into the permanently sealed coffin that is supplied by redemption.


So, as I look honestly at my life and view the actual way that I think and act, I am forced to note the still active and influential idols of my old self sitting in plain view on their shelf. I am forced to recognize that I still turn to them and allow them to take control of moments and of situations in my days; yet, I also know that Christ has eliminated my need for them, and He has replaced it with His far greater loving capacity to deal with life. The Lord tells me that when the voices of lust, anger, fear, self importance, and greed call to me that I need to be prepared to tell them to leave me, for they are nothing but the whispers of the ghosts of my dead and buried past.

These things we have heard from Christ and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

1 John 1: 5

It has been my experience that darkness is sneaky. It can overcome a perfectly bright day with a suddenness that is disorienting. At other times it just slowly and subtly moves into my mind and my heart until all of the clear vision that was present has been obscured by its dark curtains of ambiguity. Ideas that were solid, actions that appeared to be righteous, and a path that seemed to lead me along sound footing can become distorted and shrouded with doubt. This is the effect that Satan wants to have on us, and this process of bringing darkness into our lives is one of his favorite devices.

Yet, when the path through life starts getting murky and doubts about what is good and righteous begin to swirl in my mind, this is a true sign that I am trying to figure it all out on my own and that I am not fully seeking God’s will and His desire as I set my course through my day. Where God is, there is light. When Christ is leading, the path is well lit. If I am seeking to know and understand Christ through His word and by the revelation of His Spirit, the Lord’s glory will surround me.

Based upon this fact, I need to examine each and every aspect of my life where truth and love do not overcome fear and anger, and I need to continue to look for that truth in God’s Word until all of the thoughts and the actions that I engage in conform to His righteousness. For the closer I am to God, the more I will be standing in the center of the source of all light; and the longer I stay in this light, the more my heart will be transformed into a light filled vessel.

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