February 2014


The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

Psalm 19: 1, 2

 

On some days dawn comes as a golden glow, others as a misty shroud, some with pelting rain, and some with the promise of scorching heat; yet, each is a reflection of the infinite glory that is God’s. No matter what the day is like, regardless of whether my personal dawn comes as the sun is still obscured by the earth’s eastern curve or it comes when the sun is high overhead, looking at the sky, really looking at it and taking it in, contemplating it, always gives me a powerful sense of the splendor, the scope, and the majesty that is God. Everything that I can see is the personal craftsmanship of the Creator; everything that I can imagine beyond what my eyes take in is the same. God has made it all, and He continues to work on his painting every moment of every day. There is no detail that is not important to Him.

 

It is also very comforting to realize that among all of the details that He is attending to, the one that He cares about the most is me. He speaks to me in ways that are constant, consistent, and clear. It is as if nature itself resonates with God’s voice, not so much as the booming outcry of an earthquake but more as a constant hum that comes from deep inside. The Lord says, “Listen, hear, understand”. If we will open our hearts, see from the depths of our souls, quiet our overactive minds and soak in the wisdom and the knowledge that God has surrounded us with, His presence and the knowledge and wisdom that we need for the day will envelope us.

 

The entire created universe was designed to benefit God’s ultimate creation; for, all was given to us as a love gift from as from the bridegroom to us, His church, as Christ’s bride. He wants us to look closely at the gift, to enjoy its beauty; and to live well in it’s midst. God speaks in and through all of it. The heart of the giver shows His love to our hearts, and all that is required from us is to open the eyes of our hearts and let God’s loving gift feed our souls.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

1 Peter 2: 9

 

Our hearts yearn for acceptance and for belonging. We want to be desired and sought after. Yet, people universally struggle with a sense of rejection and with the fear of being unwanted and unlovable. We will often do or say almost anything in order to gain the approval of others. However, one of the problems with this approach to life is that others are doing the same thing; so, no one is being true to themselves or honest with others. We build relationships that are founded on well crafted facades, and we encounter major issues when our true selves are revealed over time.

 

Christ’s way of relating to people is exactly the opposite. He shows us who He is, what He wants from us, what He plans to give to us, and how the relationship will develop. The Lord has always been up front in every aspect of His interaction with people. He also wants to be involved with each of us. God doesn’t use Facebook or any other social networking site to check us out. He doesn’t need to watch us from across a room at a party in order to decide if we are attractive to Him, and He certainly doesn’t need to Google us in order to become aware of our pasts. He is our Creator. Thus, He is responsible for the way that each of us was designed, and He delights in the work that He did.

 

Regardless of what I have done or not done, no matter what I have accomplished, and without regard for my past or my present spiritual state; God promises that He has chosen me to be the recipient of His love, blessing, joy, mercy, and grace. He wants to fill my heart with the brilliance of His redeeming light. He wants to lift me up and embrace me with the warmth of perfect love, and He does empower and equip me to share this love with a desperately lonely world.

You are the salt of the earth…

You are the light of the world.

A city on a hill can not be hidden.

Matthew 5:13a, 14

 

Here it is in simple, everyday terms. Christians are to be the people who make the critical difference in our world. We bring preservation into it by living as Christ in the here and now. We provide the flavor to this life by demonstrating that Christ is the only way to sure and lasting peace and joy. Jesus is telling us that we are to be active doers of the will of God in every corner of our world. Christ wants Christians to bring His special combination of preservation and flavor enhancement into the world around us; and He sends us out to share the truth about the restoration of the soul, mind, and body that comes only through knowing Jesus.

 

We are also told to be willing to let the light that comes from the Lord shine in our world, for He does not want us to be quiet about who we are and why we are that way. God wants His people to share the ways that Christ takes us to that higher place where we are in the presence of God in this life; He wants us to tell about how we are now living in a heavenly palace of God’s grace, mercy, and love even as we are in the middle of the destruction and the decay that fill this world. The Lord wants us to shout out with an unrestrained voice about the life sustaining reality of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

 

We are to be beacons of light that call people out of the cold, the darkness, and the death of a life lived without Christ. We are told to let His brightness shine out from us like that city on the hill; then, the light will lead people to the presence of Christ and His Spirit will provide those whose hearts are open and willing with the truth of salvation. Then we are to continue to live as Christ in this world in the community of faith that is His body so that our personal grain of flavor and our intense but singular point of light will be supported by that multitude of others. Together we can create a beacon of light that is so intense and so welcoming that no one can avoid noticing it.

 

Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6: 12

 

Every day numerous battles that we can choose to engage come our way; still, others envelop us without our permission. Sometimes the conflict is truly spiritual, it is a fight against evil and its attempts to destroy what is good in this world. Other conflicts are in the category of battles of the spirit; these are times when we are not getting what we want in life and we attempt to use the force of our own wills to accomplish the outcome. In the abstract dimension of the written word, there is an obvious distinction between a righteous fight and a self-serving one, but when we look at these distinctions from inside of our daily lives, these differences are a lot harder to discern.

 

The Lord is a truly wise and experienced commander of combat troops. He asks that we give every ounce of ourselves to fight against the darkness of sin that desires to hold all people captive. He sends us into conflict after conflict; some are small and rather easily resolved, while others are fights to the death. Yet, the Lord never wastes his resources, and He never sacrifices His soldiers needlessly. His perspective on the field of battle is established from the highest view possible so His eye is always clear, and He knows all of the moves in the game before the first blows are struck.

 

Our role in these events is to be faithful and humble followers. We are called upon to be willing to allow Christ to direct our actions and to give us discernment regarding what is truly His fight. The Lord wants us to look at our lives, especially at the spiritual struggles of our lives, with a view toward His eternal game plan. He wants us to ask Him if what we are about to do or what we are already in the middle of fits into God’s desired outcome of restoration of the souls of all people to Him. If what we are doing, how we are doing it, and our motives for doing it do not work toward this end result, then are they truly actions that are motivated by service to Christ? God will send us into the fight, He will train us for it, and He will provide the support that we need. However, Christ also wants us to trust Him to send us into the right battles. He wants us to rely on His Spirit to guide and His love to motivate us. The Lord will send us into the good fight, and He does lead us in the holy and righteous fight that is waged every day for eternity’s sake.

 

Then our mouth will be filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy;

then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.

Psalm 126: 2, 3

 

 

Living a righteous life in full view of a world that is at best apathetic and is more likely antagonistic is serious business. This can become stern, grit your teeth and put your shoulder to it work. Yet, my mental images of Jesus are not all that serious. I imagine Him with a look of love and compassion, I see Him with his arms open wide in a gesture of welcome that prepares for an embrace, and I contemplate Christ smiling and laughing with those around Him. I think that Jesus probably greeted a skeptical world with a smile as his first words; then, perhaps, He let out a disarming laugh at a moment of natural humor.

 

We are beings that were made with the capacity for humor and with a need to laugh and to smile. God created us that way. I think that He enjoyed the smiles and the laughter of Adam and Eve in those pre sin days in the garden. I think that God loves to hear us laughing with the fearless joy of living the life that He has called us to live. The contagious sound of laughter as it ripples like a stream through the hurried noise of life has a soothing and a restorative effect upon this stressful world.

 

Our faces are the most visible indicators of our heart’s condition, and our voices are its expression. Just as God is saddened by our sin, He is delighted by our joy. Sometimes it requires planning and purpose to smile. Some days are not so naturally filled with laughter; however, expressions of heart-deep joy can be present on our faces if we seek God’s peace and plan to show it to the world. When smiles and laughter come from the center of your being, when Christ is their source, the Lord will shine out from your face. His truth can speak more clearly through joyous laughter than through the most insightful use of words. This is a world full of people who are longing for laughter and seeking after a smiling face; so, we can make it so that the face that they see is Christ’s image shining through His own people.

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?

Who shall dwell in your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right

And speaks truth in his heart.

Psalm 15: 1, 2

 

What does the voice of a heart sound like? If you are listening through a stethoscope, you will hear the lub dub rhythmic sound of the muscle as in contracts and relaxes. From the world of film and television we have all seen the electronic track and heard the beeping sound of a heart monitor. Somehow, I don’t think that David was thinking in terms of this type of voice. The heart that he was considering speaks with considerably more eloquence, with greater variety, and expresses a wide range of emotion. As it is the essential core of who we truly are, the heart that God is interested in beats at the very center of our being; The heart that God desires is the organ that pumps the life blood of our spirits through our bodies and governs how we view and deal with the world. This is especially true in regards to the way we deal with people. The Lord surrounds Himself with people whose hearts are pure, blameless and truthful.

 

Unfortunately, those requirements for entry into God’s tent exclude me and everyone else that I know. But, there is a clause, an exemption, a way in. There has been only one man who ever lived on earth who met the entrance requirements, He is Jesus. The Lord says that when we have accepted Jesus into our hearts, God, the Father, immediately starts to view us exactly as he views His Son, as blameless and true. Our diseased and sin damaged hearts are started down a road of recovery and of restoration. We are welcome to dwell with God, to stay in his presence and to put our feet on His holy ground.

 

So the Lord calls us to bring our hearts to Him for healing, for Christ wants our company in His home. Then, Christ’s Spirit wants to walk with us through life so that we can live well in front of Him and other people; so then, our hearts can shout truth. I think that David’s point is that our actions speak volumes about the condition of our hearts, and the condition of the heart is governed by how close we are to Christ. The key to a healthy heart is to stay close to God so that the rhythm of our hearts will become aligned to the beat of His heart.

 

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

 

Jesus is speaking specifically about deep feelings of mourning; that is, knowing profound sadness and regret at the losses that are experienced in life. These are powerful feelings, and the sin that devastates the lives of everyone in this world is one of the things that brings them to God’s heart, and He says that we should feel them, too. Jesus is talking about our own personal sin, forgiven through Him; also, this is a comment on the sin of others that we meet, and about the sin that exists universally in the world.

 

The destructiveness and the pain that sin brings into our lives and into the lives of others is something that Christ knows well. It is an affront to Him and to His purpose for surrendering His place in heaven in order to live with us in the same form of being that we humans know. Still, it was this same sin that caused the Father to give us His Son so that it could be defeated, and we could be restored to the full relationship with God that was His desire and intention from Creation. The sin that is in ourselves, in others, and in this world is something that should cause a deep sadness and a great anger to rise up in each of us. We should not be comfortable with its existence or with its continued presence.

 

Christ tells us to face into the sin. First He wants us to look closely and critically at our own lives and allow His Spirit to direct us in turning the damaged and the broken places that we find there over to Him. The Lord also wants us to keep the eyes of our hearts open to the sin that is infecting our community, and He wants us to enter into the lives of those who are sinning. As we engage in relationship with others, Christ wants to lead us into loving them so deeply that we must take on the hard task of speaking righteousness and truth to them. As we do this, there is a promise that comes from God, Himself; for, like crocus that emerge from the winter snow, Christ brings restorative peace out of the sadness and the mourning.

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