December 2013


Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

Psalm 33: 3

Let me start this off by wishing all of Happy Akitu! If you are not familiar with this one, you are not alone. First off, it is not one of the new holidays that reflect various cultural influences that we have been adding to calendars over the past few years. Actually, it is much older than all of the holidays that we typically do celebrate. Akitu is the Babylonian New Year’s celebration from over 4,000 years ago. It was held in the equivalent of our March, on the Spring Equinox, and it did involve the making of promises in the form of resolutions. It would seem that we people have a very long history of seeing a need for change in our lives and for pledging or committing to do something about accomplishing the change. However, I would guess that the Babylonians were, in fact, not much better than us in actually keeping their resolutions.

So, here is a suggestion for a very simple resolution. Whatever it is that is of concern; whether it is health, finances, family, relationships, the job, or any of the many things that tend to land on New Year’s lists; lay it out before God. A natural response for some things might be to say that God can’t possibly be concerned about something as trivial as my – whatever it is. This thinking misses the essential nature of who God is and of how He interacts with us. With great deliberation and purpose God put Himself into our lives. Christ did not need to come into our world, live with us, and be sacrificed for the sake of God’s position, authority, or rule. He did all of this, and the Holy Spirit remains with us for our sakes. It seems to me that God came into our world and into my life in order to bring about a form of transformative change in us that is profoundly deep and effects us from our foundations. That means, among other things, that God cares about everything that we do.

Thus, my suggestion is that instead of creating lists of desired outcomes and commitments to work toward them, the quality of life in our new year would be better impacted by entering into a spiritual quest with God. We can set out our desires and concerns before God, allow Him to reveal to us His perspective on who we are and on what He is calling us to do. Follow that process of revealing by searching God’s Word for passages that relate to the issues at hand; then, pray about it regularly and take the time to listen to how God responds. Additionally, it is always good to find a partner for this journey who will, in turn, allow you into their quest. The New Year is a great time to enter into this process of surrendering our most basic wants, needs, and desires to God. This is a wonderful occasion to begin to sing that new song of praise, grief, repentance, and rejoicing. We can shout it all out with voices bold or still and know that our God will listen and respond.

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid;

for the Lord God is my strength and my song,

and He has become my salvation.

Isaiah 12: 2

 

There is a well known song lyric from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical play The King and I that goes like this;

“Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect and whistle a happy tune,

so no one will suspect I’m afraid.”

The idea here is very similar to the old expression, “Whistling through the grave yard.” It is all about putting on a brave face when encountering terrifying circumstances so that those around us will not know how frightened we are and also so that we might even convince ourselves that everything is really alright.

 

This is the exact opposite of what Isaiah is telling us about his life and how God informs it. Isaiah gives us no brave fronts and no facades. God is his salvation. God has pursued him and has entered into his life. As we can see from our vantage point many years in the future, God has not stopped coming after people. Jesus came into our world and walked with us. Now the Holy Spirit is with us always. We are saved from the small, the great, and the daily concerns of life, and we are saved for all of eternity through Christ. Although life may not go as we would like, and we will not always enjoy the outcomes we experience in this world; we can live with the assurance of God’s good favor and His protection for what truly matters.

 

With God as my salvation, I no longer need the false front of self-generated courage to get me through the day. When I embrace the total scope of this idea, I come to realize that the sort of salvation that God brings into my life is much bigger even than the crucial one of eternity. Christ enters into every day and every moment of my life. I may be battered and I will surly be bruised, but I will not be destroyed. Although my heart will be heavy at times, Christ brings comfort to my spirit. As my Lord surrounds me with the love, grace, truth, and righteousness of His Word; fear is removed, and my throat is filled with songs of joy and worship.

 

We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2: 10

 

Some days I just feel worked over, wrung out, and soundly punished by whatever it is that has grabbed onto my shoulders and refused to let go. Some days this continues until I had been all but turned inside out. Unfortunately, when I attempt to come to grips with the causes for these bad days, the trail of evidence frequently leads right back to my own actions, attitudes, and to the state of my heart and mind. Then I am inevitably brought to my knees in thanks for the grace of God that keeps working on my heart despite these times of errant wandering away from His will.

 

The hand of God reached out and embraced me in His loving arms, and He immediately started to work on my heart in a way that brings about deep, lasting, and real change. However, the Lord’s work in my life and in the lives of all of His children is never finished. God’s purpose and His plan are much bigger than we have the capacity to understand, and His desire for us is that we would trust Him totally so that we can enter into each day and embrace every relationship that comes our way with anticipation of the great things that He will do through us.

 

As you prepare to engage whatever may be on your calendar for today and look ahead at who you will need to deal with, consider this thought; you are the handiwork of God, the Creator. You were designed and crafted by Him individually, and you were formed perfectly to execute His plan for your life this day. The Spirit of Christ is alive and active in you, and He will continue to shape and to mold you into the person that He knows will be prepared and equipped to walk through all of the days of your life in righteous service to God. Christ asks only that we be willing to listen, follow, and surrender our wills to His loving direction.

 

Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Isaiah 2: 5

 

God created the light; as, it was essential for the new world that His hands had made. It brought warmth, it brought the growth/rest cycles that every living thing needs, and it provided the primary source of energy. Yet the sun was by far the lesser light in the world, for God’s presence brought light to the souls of people.

 

The ability to respond to the illumination of the Spirit that leads people to seek truth is what sets humans apart from all the rest of creation. God implanted into people a desire to love and to be loved, to live at a level that is above that of the rest of the animals, and to have an intimate relationship with our Creator. The Lord has continually remained among us; as, He has always stayed connected to us here while we walk through this life. God designed the world to be a place where peace, justice, compassion, understanding, and graciousness were the rule of living, and He gave us the truth of His love to guide us in our interactions. If we desire to follow the Lord and to live inside of His will, these are the qualities that we need to seek. Also, these are the characteristics that we need to show to the people around us.

 

God gave light of the sun to this world so that we could find our way through it, and He gave us the light of His Spirit to make right living the bright and the desirable path to follow. This new life in Christ is the gift that is wrapped with the shinny ribbon and the beautiful paper; we need to open our hearts to see it clearly. As we open this gift from God and live in His light, the qualities that grow in us will bring life changing warmth to our world.

 

Every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, and cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.

Isaiah 9:5

How many ways do we have of preparing for battle? As a nation we spend enormous sums of money on designing, making, and maintaining weapons and other equipment that are deemed as essential to achieve a position of superiority in our world. When this expenditure is added to that of the other nations of the world and the cost of hiring, caring for, and training the vast numbers of people that are involved in these endeavors is considered, the true expense of this effort is staggering. In our own lives we spend considerable amounts of time, energy, and our resources on getting ready to fight our way through each day.

We may be fighting to make a living or to just stay alive. We go to battle with people who seem set on doing us harm and sometimes we fight our fiercest battles with those who we love. Additionally, all of God’s children need to engage in a daily fight against the forces of evil that fill this world. Yet, God’s intent is to make all of the tools, weapons, and tactics of war obsolete. Christ came into our world to provide the only answer that anyone needs to the anger, hostility, and fear that drives us to fight against others. He comes to us and shows us the value and the worth that were created into each individual in this world, and Christ leads us into loving each of them more deeply than any of us could ever imagine on our own.

As I seek Christ’s will and come to understand His heart of love for others more clearly, I am led to stop preparing for a battle each day and to start preparing to wage a campaign of peace. The Spirit of Christ speaks to my heart and challenges me to stop putting on the armor of battle and to take my cherished weapons and throw it all onto the consuming fire of His loving grace and mercy. Instead of striking blows of conquest, My Lord wants me to bring the embrace of His peace to the battle weary souls of this world.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 150: 6

 

The very last stanza of the Psalms says it all. In fact it is rendered in an even simpler form in the Hebrew bible as those translators have often chosen to state the single original text word that forms the second line as “Hallelujah”. Whichever way you say it, the intent and the meaning are unchanged. All of creation owes honor, respect, glory, and praise to God. This is true because all of creation is the handiwork of the Creator, God Almighty.

 

God is greatly pleased when people live their lives in a manner that is itself a song of praise to Him. When we choose to serve others and to love those who are hard to embrace, we are bringing honor to God who cherishes everyone. As we care for our world and preserve and protect its resources, we are singing a chorus of praise to our Lord. At times we are called upon to risk all in order to stand for what is right and that which is righteous. In these times we are living a life that is itself a psalm of praise to Christ.

 

Today is a day of thanksgiving and praise. This is a moment when all breath can be used to sing out a joyous chorus in honor of God. The life that we live is a gift from Him to us. Every step that we take lands on the holy ground of God’s creation. So, let’s make every moment of this day one that lifts up a great Hallelujah to God!

To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.

Acts 10: 43

 

For me one of the most compelling facts about the Christian faith is its absolute truths. God speaks to us of those things that he considers to be non negotiable. Among these bed rock solid, foundational facts, there is none more important than the one contained in these words of Luke. This truth is what every prophet of God was telling us; in all of their stories about events and miraculous happenings, in their telling of calamity and redemption, they point to the final Redeemer. All of these great people who God selected, commissioned, and directed to tell their worlds about the need to live righteously, were even more so directed to show us our need.

 

The Lord’s message for us is one of universal need. There is no one who is born into this world who does not have it; for, it is the singular birthright of each and every person. We are all born naked and crying out, and we are all born with hearts that are shut off from intimacy with God. There is a sure, absolute, and singular way to gain that profound relationship with God and that is through believing in Jesus and by accepting Him as Lord. This is accomplished when we agree to let Him save us from the eternal certainty of separation from God.

 

The most striking thing about this universal truth is that it is clearly intended for everyone; there are no exceptions, and no one is left out. God wants everyone to be close to Him, and He wants everyone to have all of the secrets to living fully and well and to living for all of eternity with Him. That brings me to my part in this story. I am not a prophet, just a person. I am certainly not perfect at living righteously; yet, the Lord wants me to share this truth. His truths are most compelling to people who don’t yet know Him when they are spoken by us. Each of us has a story to tell to those that we meet during the day. Each of us has a life to live that can demonstrate Christ’s loving will to others. Since God has left absolutely no one out of His salvation plan, we don’t get to choose the people that we should share it with. Since it is God’s will that everyone should come to know Jesus, we must tell all. We can tell through our words and we must tell through our actions, and Christ will speak His truth through us to everyone that we do tell.

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