April 2014


Who then is the faithful servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.

Matthew 24: 45, 46

 

Serving may seem like one of life’s easiest tasks. But just talk with people who really do it for any lengthy period of time, and they usually give a different perspective on it all. It seems that serving can be very taxing. At times it is tedious and repetitive, and on other days the requirements of the service become physically and emotionally draining. This is not a role that is suitable for the inattentive or for people who have no eye for detail. Although servants are generally at the bottom of the pay scale, they may encounter responsibilities and decisions that have life or death importance and impact.

 

In other words, this is not an occupation for he faint hearted and the weak spirited. It is not such a good career choice for me and it is not one for most people, either. Yet, God’s Word tells us that we should follow Jesus. We are instructed and guided to model our lives after the example that He set for us, and Jesus was truly a servant. Based upon that sort of advice giving, I might infer that God is a very poor guidance counselor. If He is telling me to enter into a life’s work of service, then He must be reading the test results incorrectly or He might have been thinking of the wrong person at that moment. Yet, the God that I know, the King of Glory, is fully in touch with this world, and He knows me to a depth and in a manner that exceeds all of my comprehension.

 

In these times that came after humanity’s rebellion against God and His original design for Creation, God set forth an order, a plan, and a system of governance in this world that grants to people a very important role. We are to live in intimate relationship with God and He is committed to granting to us all that we need to live righteously and lovingly in and on this hostile terrain. Christ has shown us the way, and He has given us His Spirit to continuously guide and strengthen our journey. Now God employs and commissions each of His people to care for the pasture that is this world. He directs us to feed the sheep of that pasture on the pure grass of His truth and love. Every one of us is also directed to seek out and to pursue the too numerous lost ones of our world with a passion and a focus that is like Christ’s. Thus as we make this service our life’s work, our Lord tells us that He will be greatly pleased and blessing will pour out upon our hearts.

 

“I will feed my flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord God.

Ezekiel 34: 15

 

No matter how far we may have wandered and regardless of the cause of our misfortune God always comes looking for us. The needs that we have are more real to Him than they are even to us. The Lord knows the state of our hearts, and He feels the anxiety of our minds. Christ knows us from the inside, and He understands the nature and the substance of our needs intimately. I have found amazing relief from stress in simply recognizing this fact; simply turning to God with the overwhelming challenge of the moment and resting on the truth that for all of history He has consistently met the needs of His children, and throughout my own history, the same has been true for me.

 

Through my relationship with Christ, I have found an imperishable source of food for my soul, and I have a real and tangible place to put my feet. I know that God’s truths and His perspective will always be the same and that they are correct in every circumstance. Even when I go off onto the worst of tangents and try to create my own, alternate truths, Jesus brings me back to His safe and loving place of rest and restoration.

 

Christ calls to everyone, for He seeks to be the One who cares for the souls and for the life-needs of all people. For those who have accepted that call, He is the absolute provider. All of life becomes a part of Christ’s calling for us. There is nothing that is unimportant to Him; so, He will give us all of the resources that we need to fulfill every aspect of His will. This is a proven, true fact; turn toward God, give the cares and the concerns of the moment to Him, listen to His voice, and He will provide what you need by leading you to His answers and by allowing you to rest safely under the watch of His loving and protective eyes.

 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice.

Philippians 4: 4

 

God gives some really odd instructions, for if you consider the timing that He attaches to the direction to rejoice; God is saying that we should be joyous during the very hardest of times and the very worst of experiences. This is really not how I feel about these situations. This is not even close to how I am inclined to react to them, either. Still, the Lord tells me to rejoice always, and He never directs me to do something that He knows is impossible.

 

God is the master of the possible and the champion of successful living. He directs us toward winning attitudes and into desirable outcomes; so, He never tells us to do something that He can’t or that He won’t take us all the way through. The key to doing this sort of living is found in where we place our trust and on whom we focus our attention. It is also important to anticipate the best, for that is truly God’s desire and His will for us.

 

No matter what challenges are ahead, regardless of how hard and stress-filled today promises to be, and without concern for what others may think, we can plan to do the wildly improbable and the crazy thing by facing the day with a heart that is rejoicing with the joy of our relationship with Christ filling every moment. Start, continue, and finish the journey through today with the knowledge and the assurance that Christ is in it with us totally. The presence of the Lord in this life is a source of rejoicing that can not be suppressed and will not be broken.

The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be self-controlled and sober-minded.

1 Peter 4: 7

 

Life is serious business. There are challenges, struggles, and obstacles to joy in the each of our days. This is that part of history that God has told all of His children about, for this is the part where evil starts working doubly hard at causing pain and trying to convince people that God is not in control. Satan and his followers become like those last flies of summer that are so annoying when the weather starts to turn cold. They buzz around your head, and you keep wishing that the frost would come to finish them off. Well, the finishing off of Satan is near, and he is fighting his last desperate battle.

 

In order to be prepared, to face the unknown fight that will face each of us, God wants us to be thinking clearly. He says that we will need to keep our emotions in control, not be unemotional or cold, but we need to maintain a sane perspective when life turns sideways like an out of control truck. Anger, rage, fear, frustration and all of the powerful feelings that wrong brings out work to slow our ability to react with clarity of judgment; for, they make it difficult to keep our hearts centered in Christ’s love. These feelings can motivate us to action, but they can also become tools that Satan uses to decrease our effectiveness as servants of the Lord.

 

We also need to get ourselves ready for each day. In God’s Word we are told to prepare for it with as much diligence as we would for the most important business meeting of our lives, the final exam of our educational career, or the national championship game. God wants us to face the adversity of life, to look the adversary squarely in the face and not be concerned about our preparation. There should be no spots or wrinkles on our shirt, hair perfectly in place, and our minds sharpened with God’s thoughts and our hearts strong. This condition, this level of preparedness is achieved through prayer, through study of God’s Word, and through the interaction of the Holy Spirit. It can be ours always. Christ will give us the insight, the wisdom, the strength, the focus, and the love that our daily battles demand. In order to be ready to combat these end times foes we need to direct our hearts toward Christ every day and in all situations throughout each of these days.

 

I call upon You, for You will answer me, O God; incline Your ear to me; hear my words.

Wondrously show Your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at Your right hand.

Psalm 17: 6, 7

 

Did you ever have a day when all you wanted is for someone to listen; you know, just hear your concerns and help you do something about them? I certainly have had them. These are days when troubles, problems, and challenges seem to come faster than breath, itself. These are days that are populated with difficult and even with dangerous people. These are the times that truly stretch all of our best resources beyond the breaking point.

 

Yet, when I get all stressed out about these sorts of things, I am forgetting the fact that I already know who is listening. The greatest listening ear and hearing heart in the universe is with me, and all of my life experience, when viewed clearly, testifies to the truth of this thought. When I talk to God, He always listens, and He always responds. So, how do I know that this is true and is not just some form of self-generated relief from the stress?

 

When I open my heart to God; when I talk through the issues, concerns, and the fears that are troubling me, my anxiety level goes down and answers start to develop. The God-like thing about the answers is that they are frequently very different from the ones that I might have crafted on my own, and they usually involve the skills, knowledge, and resources of people who I would not have considered on my own.

 

It seems like an eternal truth that although the Lord is concerned with saving us from the things in life that attempt to crush us, He is far more interested in taking us through the situation and in making us stronger as the result. The strength of God is often demonstrated through His people; so, when I have needs, He generally leads me to the knowledge, the resources, and especially to the loving care of that group of people that are known as the Body of Christ. It is here that the presence of Christ is most visible, and this is the place on earth where God’s refuge, His peace and calm, are to be found.

 

The next day John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”

John 1: 29

 

Oh, to look upon Jesus with this passion, to see Him as the answer for all that has gone wrong with my life and for everything that I have done, am about to do, and will ever contemplate doing that is contrary to God’s will. The picture that I have of the scene from this verse is of Jesus walking along a road that is very much like my path through the day. He is walking toward the place where I am living and toward the way that I am living, too. Christ comes to us. He is not passively waiting and watching, and the Spirit of Christ is very active in our world, for He does not want anyone to fail to receive the opportunity to know Him. God has promised that He never leaves any of us alone.

 

Jesus came to set every person free from the oppressive hold that evil has on our hearts; He came to grant the freedom that we need to be close to God, the Father, forever, and He came to release us from the imprisonment of our daily fears, doubts, and shame. The entire burden of our hurtful and damaging actions, thoughts, and intent is carried off of our souls by Christ. This is freedom of the truest sort. This is the one sure form of restoration that exists in this life. In Jesus we can find a peace that soaks through the hardened shell of living to the center of our beings.

 

We can to be like John the Baptist, recognizing Jesus for who He is and accepting the blessing of what that means. Here is a lamb, but not any ordinary one. For here He is, the lamb whose sacrifice changes everything, and beholding Him, we are made totally new. So, as we experience life with Christ, we should want to share this truth with our world, and we can share it with John’s passionate joy, for here with me, always walking along my life-path, is my Lord and my Savior, Jesus.

 

Our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us, that

He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Titus 2: 13b, 14

 

Life can be a seemingly endless cycle of lost acts and wounded relationships. I take the pain that I feel and sooth my own soul by transferring it to others, and they, in turn, do the same. It all continues and it even gains energy so that, like a self winding watch, time goes by and days become years which transform into generations. Still, there is no relief from the cycle of hurt and from this history of brokenness. The unrelenting motion of all of this seems impossible to stop; so, its cessation requires something far beyond the ordinary and completely outside of the strength or the capacity of human endeavor.

 

The impossible was made real when Christ entered into the cycle. He irrevocably changed the potential for all of us when He threw His being into the gear works of human sin and death. In His humanity, Jesus asserted His lordship over all of creation, and He did this in a way that was paradoxically humble and glorious at the same time. Christ’s willingness to lay down all and to pay a price that He did not owe has redeemed humanity from the inevitable fate that was cast when our fathers rejected fellowship with God in favor of self rule. Now we need only to claim our redemption by accepting Christ as our rightful God, Lord, and Savior. In absolute love He redeemed us, and it is in faith that we are called upon to accept our redemption.

 

As we have been pulled from the destruction that was our fate absent Jesus, so we are called to enter into the work of spreading the message of this same redemptive opportunity to the world around us. The joy, peace, and love that we have found in Christ can become the source of energy that we need to assertively and continually enter into the lives of others. I now own the same unstoppable love that brought Christ into my life, and His love is the fuel that will fire my zeal for joining Him in working for the redemption of this world.

 

Rescue me and deliver me out of the hands of aliens, whose mouth speaks deceit, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

Psalm 144: 11

 

The Easter story is a tale right out of the action adventure genre. It is an epic saga of people who have been taken captive, and who are being held by an evil ruler who provides no real means of escape. The evil jailer does his job very well, indeed! He convinces these people that they are not actually being held against their wills; He tricks, deceives, and bullies his prisoners into actually joining in his cause. They not only stop seeking their own freedom but they also join in the process of deceiving others into defending the walls of their prison against the attempts by free people to break through and set them all free.

 

Make no mistake, for even with its beautiful decoration and its coat of fresh paint, the world that Satan has trapped humankind in is the darkest and the most oppressive dungeon that exists. Still, the hero of this story has powers, serious powers that He chooses to use to defeat the ruler of this world of pain and death. Jesus came into this world on a mission of rescue. He came to bring out to eternal freedom every captive that was being held and that would ever be held in this spiritual jail. However not all of us want to be rescued, and some refuse to leave, for leaving requires trust, faith, and acceptance of God’s truth. Some people continue to live under the delusion of Satan’s lies, and they often view the rescuer as the enemy and their jailer as their friend. This is where the Hero’s greatest weapon needs to be used.

 

Christ brings the love of all Creation into this world; for, He brings the love that God, the Father, has in abundance to dwell in the lives of people. Christ’s Spirit provides us with the ability to understand the great and deep truths of His word, and His word instructs us in how to love and care for the people that we encounter. It is the sworn duty of everyone who knows Christ to spend our days touching the world with this love. As we have been rescued and set free from the personal hell-on-earth prison where we were born, we are to spend the rest of our days breaking through those same walls, bringing the light of Christ into the darkened cells of Satan’s empire, and claiming God’s beloved creation back into the freedom that it was intended to enjoy.

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead.”

Matthew 28: 5-7

 

We often speak of the “empty tomb”. We do this for very good reason as God’s authoritarian command over the most fundamental aspects of being human, that is over life and death, and Jesus’ resultant victory over death as demonstrated by His resurrection are foundational to Christian faith. Yet the tomb where Jesus was buried is most certainly not empty. Rather, it is almost bustling with activity. This is made even more noticeable by the fact that it is barely the break of dawn there on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

 

Yet, in that dim light of morning, we have seen Peter and John, several of the women who follow Jesus, the now stunned and soon departed guards, and a couple of angels. This would be a serious crowd in an intimate setting like that around and in the tomb. They were all there with one real purpose, and that purpose was not what any of them except the angels had in mind when they went there. Each of these people believed that they were going about some other business whether it was discharging their duty to Rome or caring for the body of the Teacher or seeking that body in stunned wonderment at its reported disappearance. However, they were all gathered in that place by means of Divine appointment.

 

We are all like each of them in that we encounter Jesus and we come to the foot of the cross of grace where we can choose to accept God’s forgiveness and salvation. Then, upon acceptance of Christ as Lord, we are faced with the truth of the empty tomb, for Jesus is alive, and He reigns in heaven with the Father. Like the disciples, Jesus does breathe His Spirit into us; so, we are never without the presence of the Lord in this world. Also, like all of the people who were there at the tomb on that historic morning, God has one primary message for us. He tells each of His people to, “Go quickly and tell the world that Jesus is risen and in His life all people can be redeemed from death!”

Praise the Lord, all nations!

Extol him all peoples!

For great is his steadfast love toward us,

and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 117

 

Here is a dream expressed. These words contain God’s desire for His creation. For the Lord has directed the greatest share of His attention and concern toward the realization of His expressed intent to see all people and all of our nations reconciled to Him. Although the world does not seem to be ready for this to happen, God is not deterred from His mission. However, He is restrained; for, the Lord waits and watches and He speaks truth and engages our hearts. Yet, the time for the final reckoning is not here, and God has not yet set in motion all that ensues.

 

For now, people who know God, those who name Christ as Lord and Savior and proclaim the name Son of God, are called to cross over the barriers that define our separation. We can embrace our differences as intriguing and our individual practices of faith as fuller expression of worship. In the body of Christ we can embrace the fact that God’s Word is our common language, and allow His Spirit to be our translator. Christ sees no difference among His people, and He empowers us to see as He does.

 

God’s heart is delighted when we sing our praises to Him. He enjoys the notes of our solitary choruses, and He gets great pleasure out of choirs of voices joined together for this purpose. Yet even more, God’s heart is gratified when the gathered voices are a rich and a deep symphony that is made of people of all genders, races, and nationalities. The Lord loves the rich tapestry of our distinctive clothing and the depth of expression that comes as our various languages sing out together as we follow Christ and shout our praises to the Lord on high!

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