December 2013

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5: 1

Consider, why is freedom such a big deal to most people? What is there about freedom that is so incredibly attractive, and how is it that most of us don’t perceive that we have as much of it as we would desire? Most of us are free to decide what we are going to do with our time, our resources, and our lives. We are free to go where we want to go, to do the kind of work that we want to do, and to be with the people that we want to be around. There are very few rules or regulations that tell us what we must do or be. We have made and continue to make choices for ourselves. Still, we feel bound, constrained, and powerless. Many of us feel like we have been swept away by a powerful current so that life is sustained only as long as I can keep my head above the water and off of the rocks.

Living like this is not what God intends for us. He wants us to have a clear understanding of what freedom means to Him and for us. From the moment that our ancestors surrendered their free access to God’s presence to the empty appeal of evil, God has had a plan in place for the return of freedom to everyone who accepts it. God gave us the gift of freedom in the sacrifice of Jesus; yet, it is up to each of us to fully accept the gift, to open the package, to live in it’s grace and embrace it’s empowerment.

Freedom is the ability to love others without concern for their response. Freedom is focusing our concern on the needs of other people and not worrying about what we will get in return. Freedom is openness, honesty, compassion, vulnerability. Freedom is taking comfort and finding peace and satisfaction in Christ’s new way of living while refusing to live as we have in the past. The portrait of freedom for us is found in Jesus, and the image of freedom for those around us can be found through Christ in us.

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

James 3: 13


Too often wisdom is presented with an assertiveness and an air of superiority that does very little to encourage those who are on its receiving end. People who are wise in this manner often seem to have a greater interest in how good they look rather than a desire to build up and to strengthen the understanding of those around them. There is simply too much self in this worldly form of wisdom, too much emphasis on personal gain and on winning a contest of achieved superiority. The way that a person would answer the question above, that is if a person who is self-important can also be self-aware, is very telling concerning the type and source of that person’s wisdom.


God’s wisdom is strong but never overbearing; it is all encompassing but not smothering; it is absolute but not authoritarian. As God demonstrates to us through his interaction with people and as Jesus has shown us through his life among us, wisdom and understanding are connected attributes. They exist in a form of natural balance that only God and His perfected creation can achieve completely.


However, the Lord does wish for us to live wisely and to apply wisdom with the type of understanding that marks his children as Godly. Christ calls upon us to be wise lovers of people; showing Him to others through our gentle and understanding handling of them. This is what behaving well in the fullness of the Lord’s wisdom looks like. This is a practical life demonstration of living in the center of the will of God.


The Lord reigns; He is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; He has put on strength as His belt.

Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.

Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting.

Psalm 93: 1-3


Life gets crazy. There is too much to get done and no time; too many obligations and no resources. The things that we think that we need the most at that moment break or hide themselves from us. The frustrations of daily living are more than we can bear. So we ask the questions, “Why can’t things just work like they are supposed to, and why can’t people simply be reliable?”


I think that perhaps God’s answer to these questions, His response to these frustrations is that we are not looking high enough. God tells us that we need to lift our eyes from the floor and look out at His creation. This world is flawed, these things that I have surrounded myself with are fallible, and we people are unreliable at best. So, perhaps the answers to some of the challenges of daily life are found in the orientation of the eyes of my heart. For, instead of focusing on what is broken and flawed, I could be looking at the face of God. Rather than whining and complaining about how hard life is, I need to be expressing praise to my Creator. For the Lord is the same, has never changed, and will never fail me. He is King over all of his Creation, and He is the mighty King.


God’s kingdom has nothing to do with cars or houses or with our monetary wealth. His kingdom is built in our hearts, and it is built up out of relationships and through loving others as Christ does. We share in His majesty and we live continually in the presence of the King of Glory. As we open our eyes to see Him and allow His Spirit to orient our hearts to the Lord’s perspective, the great wealth that surrounds us becomes real and tangible, and everything else in life becomes functional. As we dwell in the presence of Christ living with peace and joy becomes possible, and everyone becomes important.


And Mary said, “Behold, the bond-slave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.”

Luke 1: 38


Here she is; the young woman, really a girl still, who has encountered a form of being that has been nothing more than a fantastical image that exists only in the stories that her grandmothers tell. Now an angelic figure has told her that her life will never be the same; for, she will become a central figure in the singular world changing event of all time. Whatever dreams, hopes, and plans she had formed would need to be set aside, and events that she could not begin to comprehend were to become her reality. This is the definition of a life turned upside down.


Mary’s response is what is so amazing. She hears the sort of news that would send most of us running for cover or at least to the safety of family or friends, and she opens her heart and her mind to the will of the Lord. This is faith, and this faith requires that Mary trust God to a degree that can not be solely taught. Mary has heard the voice of the Lord speaking to her heart, and she has surrendered her life to His loving will, “Behold, the bond-slave of the Lord.” She is ready and willing to lay it all on the line for her God.


How is it that this young, teen-aged woman who is the product of such a humble, small town upbringing would be so well prepared to surrender herself in the most absolute way possible to do what God was calling her to do? That same question rings loudly in my ears as I think about Mary and consider the fact that her faith stands as a crucial aspect in establishing the way for me to exist in intimate relationship with Christ. Mary did what she did because she trusted God and had an unshakable faith in Him. Christ speaks to me, and He asks me to respond to His much simpler request to love others, to share Him, and to live righteously with the same total surrender and joy that Mary had. O, Lord let me answer, “Be it done to me according to your word.”

The Lord God has given me the tongue of one who is taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.

Morning by morning He awakens; He awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.

Isaiah 50: 4


The prophet is not bragging. He is stating a fact, and this fact is an important one as he goes about living. For his job in this world is to speak God’s truth in all settings, situations, and context. Isaiah was chosen by God to bring the Lord’s message of judgment and that of the hope of salvation to people. So, God instructed Isaiah and gave him understanding of eternal truth. The Prophet was equipped for the task of his calling, and he was commissioned by God to go out and do it.


There are a couple of things that strike me about all of this. The first is that God’s love and grace are deep and very great in that He would send a man with such gifting and equipping to speak when people had been ignoring God’s own voice for such a long time. It was as if God, Himself, were reaching out from heaven to interact with and to walk among His wayward and lost people. Also, it is interesting to me that God is specifically reaching out to those who are weary. The Lord knows us well beyond even our own understandings. He counts the beats of our hearts, and He comprehends the fear, anxiety, and exhaustion of our souls. So, He brings the living testimony of His Word to sooth and to strengthen us as we go about life.


God also walks with us, For Christ came, lived, was crucified and is risen. So, the Holy Spirit of Christ is now among us and is dwelling in us. We are the ones who are comforted by the Living Word that is Christ. Also, we are the sent ones of Christ who are called to be awakened morning by morning to hear the truth and the wisdom that God gives to His people. As Christ comforts us we are to comfort others. As He brings the wisdom of His Word to light for us, we are called to illuminate it for others through the orientation of our hearts, the actions of our lives, and courageous words that speak eternity to the weary souls who dwell in our troubled times.


Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5: 17


I have already spent a lifetime walking this planet in this skin. My identity has been defined by the way that this person thinks and talks and behaves, by the way that this person is. Thus, it is really hard to simply stop being that other person. He doesn’t really want to cease to exist; yet, he actually has no choice, for I did make one for me. The choice to follow Christ is irrevocable, and I wouldn’t want to change it if I could. Following Jesus and all that is encompassed in doing this is the most rational and the best thing that I have ever done. Setting aside my fear of change and my tenacious desire to hang onto certain behaviors and attitudes that are harmful to my relationships with others and to my growth in righteousness is the most important thing that I can do today.


When the struggle between the comfort of the old ways of living and trusting Christ with taking me in a new one is going on, I find that it is useful to look at Jesus and at the new life that He has called me into. As I look at the contrast between the new life and the one that I lived before I knew him, the difference is so stark that I would never consider wanting to go back; so, why hold onto old ways? That is not reasoned or rational thinking. If my fear is that I will be nothing if I give up what I have known before; then, I need to look at Christ’s commitment to me. He says that my former, dead-souled self is gone and that my new, redeemed by Christ self has already come. God never takes away something from us that he doesn’t replace with something much greater. He always gives us more than He asks us to surrender, and everything that He gives to us is of the most superior quality possible.


Every day in Christ is a fresh opportunity to claim more of the newness that He has given to us. Every day the Lord provides us with the ability to set aside another piece of our old dead selves and to start living as the renewed person that Christ’s love has made of us. Claiming and assimilating the change is a personal decision. It is carried out through prayer, by purposefully setting our minds on how God wants us to live today, and with the intent to trust Christ absolutely in all that we encounter. In the end, it is way too simple; for, we need to allow the Lord to take us through our day living as the new person that we have already become.




Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.”

John 4: 34


During such a special time of year as the Christmas season, there is a lot of conversation and information out in our world about food. There are recipes to prepare and special meals that need to be planned. At this time eating often becomes the central point of gatherings of family and of friends. It would be my wish that these times of gathering and celebration would be deeply satisfying and truly rewarding for everyone involved, and I pray that the Lord will bless these times with His presence and with His peace and joy.


Still, there is a much more important way that Christ wants to feed us; for, He wants to provide each of His own with the abundant riches of a diet of pure spiritual food that is provided by His Spirit and that is supplied out of the Father’s will. When the Spirit of Christ is our primary source for nourishment, we will never be hungry; and when we view life as a banquet where our satisfaction comes from doing the Lord’s will, we will always be feasting on the very best. Then we are supplied with a cup of grace that never runs dry, and regardless of our status, financial wealth or lack of it, or physical health; the Lord provides us with a robe of honor to wear and a prominent seat at His table of blessing.


Regardless of what the calendar says, today is the day of feasting. This is the hour for the festival of celebration of Christ’s victory. Now is the time to be filled with His purpose so that you can reach out to others with the hand of invitation that reaches across the great divide that sin causes. The party has already begun, the joyous sounds of heavenly laughter are in the air, and there is always room for more family at Christ’s table of salvation. Be filled with the Spirit and let His light of invitation shine out from you into the darkness.

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2: 5


Peter gives us a really interesting picture of the way that God works in the lives of his children to grow, to mature, and to strengthen us. There have been times in my life where the change has been rapid and times when it seems as if erosion has taken place. Still, over the coarse of my relationship with Christ, a considerable amount of change has transpired. Layer upon layer of new and different material is added, and it is then pressed and molded under the pressure of living. Sometimes these additions come quickly with the explosiveness of a volcanic eruption; however, most of the time they are built up slowly in a daily process of adding a minute layer of sand and soil and a little plant material for color. Then, the result is an ever increasing piece of the living bed rock that is the body of Christ in this world.


The beauty, variety, and strength that we possess have a spiritual basis. God has created us and continues to develop all of us as spiritual beings. This is an extraordinary distinctive for those who know Christ, for our interaction with life; that is, the way that we engage people and situations, handle challenges and struggles, and gain direction and focus can be done from the Lord’s perspective. The decision to live life as spiritual beings is still in our hands. I know that I still struggle mightily with the conflict between my old, non spiritual self and the new one; yet, Christ doesn’t stop building me up. In fact, He uses my negative life decisions as learning opportunities. Grain of sand by grain of sand, day-by-day God continues to shape me and to strengthen my heart.


The same process of development and change is alive in all of his children. We are not alone in this world; rather, we are each single stones in a great building, a living cathedral that is the true body of Christ. God’s intent is that we would never need to enter into life alone. We have companionship, comfort, and protection together in this family of spiritual blood relatives. We have a singular priestly purpose, for we serve Christ by communicating His heart, His love, and His saving grace to each other and to the rest of the world. The sacrifice, the gift that God desires from us is that we would give Him all of ourselves so that we would allow the people that we contact during this day to see the Spirit of Christ alive in us. He wants us to stop painting over the beautiful stone of our spiritual house with culturally safe colors. Instead, Christ has created in each of us a depth of beauty that is too rare and too precious to hide; for, He has provided each of us with the sparkle and the spark of His Spirit.


You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may be regularly set up to burn. In the tent of meeting outside the veil that is the testimony. Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening to morning before the Lord.

Exodus 27: 20, 21


Here is the way it was, and the way that it is for many. God seems to be set up, established in a place, and we are required to perform in a manner that is acceptable and pleasing to Him in order to approach that holy residence. God demanded us to gather some of our best and most valuable possessions, in this case olive oil, and give them as tribute gifts to Him. We also had to stand a working vigil over the flame in order to keep its beacon light glowing. In all of this there was labor with its potential for exhaustion and failure, and there was separation of people based upon an unequal calling to service to God. This is the way that we wanted it to be, for we humans departed from the ready and continual presence of God and moved away to unfriendly wastelands of defiant sin.


All of the process, rules, and procedures that God commanded His people to perform in order to gather to worship Him had a purpose. They forced us to stop taking care of business as we would prefer and to turn our attention to gathering around the Lord and to listening to His word. The sacrificial tribute that we were to bring to God was intended to be painful to surrender. It came from the work that we did, and it was often the source of pride and the focus of our adoration. Giving it up to be consumed required faith that God would replace it and sacrificial turning away from our own wants and desires and toward God’s calling. Yet, in all of this God was doing nothing more than pointing us toward the future when He would first be present in and with anyone who would accept Him, and ultimately when He will reclaim and restore all that is fallen to its creation glory and Christ will reign supreme over all forever.


We now live in the reality that is the middle portion of this three part narrative. Jesus gave Himself. His blood was shed for our sakes. There is no need to surrender our costly and precious goods to earn a place of worthiness before God. Instead, Christ is the total, final, and perfect sacrifice that has already been presented upon the altar of life. The tent which was the holy place of gathering near to God’s presence has been replaced. We, our bodies, are that new dwelling place for the Holy Spirit of God. In Christ, we are sacred and holy. However, the call to sacrifice has not ended. Instead, God demands something far more costly and precious than olive oil or gold, for He requires that we give ourselves, all that we are, over to service to Him. In this new calling, Christ, Himself, becomes the glory that shines through those dark nights, and we are all equally servants of His gospel.





And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and do confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands.

Psalm 90: 17


The singular most favorable thing that God has ever done was to come into my world, Himself, to spend His days with people who were just like me, and then finish those days by volunteering to climb onto the altar of sacrifice in order to make real the fact of salvation. God, the Father, sovereign over all of creation, and owner of everything has granted me the favor of His presence in the world of corruption and loss where my body dwells, and He has given me the favor of a total relationship with Him. There is nothing else that I need that actually counts for much of anything; yet, Christ continues to shower me with gifts both great and small.


The Lord is present in the person of His Spirit throughout every moment of my life. He speaks courage to my heart and wisdom and understanding to my mind, and His word brings knowledge and grants me perspective on every situation and issue that comes my way. Christ has paced me into a family of people who also know Him, and it is through Him that the barriers that our human, sinful selves construct to keep us safe and others at a distance are removed. So, I am blessed daily by the riches of the diversity of the people that are with me in the body of Christ. Jesus, through His life example, by His blood, and in His Spirit grants to me the favor of His purpose, direction, and capacity for impacting my world with the truth of salvation.


In my humanity it is easy to become confused or to lose sight of the continual fact of Christ’s presence and provision; yet, all I need to do is to open my heart and calmly listen to His voice, and the truth that, in Christ, fills my world becomes evident. What I do matters far less than who I am doing it for, and the results of my efforts are insignificant in comparison to living in the center of Christ’s love and to demonstrating it while I am working. Still, my God does grant me the favor of doing His will, and He makes His delight in my humble and too often flawed obedience clear to me.


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