May 2014


He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.

2 Chronicles 26: 5

 

This is a part, perhaps the most important one, of the story of Uzziah, King of Judah. In these few words we have the entirety of the arch of his life spelled out. He is appointed king, at least co-regent with his father, at the age of sixteen. He has the Godly council of Zechariah, and Uzziah listens to his words of wisdom. The young king prospers greatly in that he reclaims the glory of Judah out of the defeated state that his father had led them into. Yet, there is this one cautionary line in the narrative, “as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.”

 

If you are a reader of mystery or adventure fiction, that statement from the author has to get your curiosity racing. It tells you that this tale does not have a perfectly happy outcome. Let’s face it; we all have a little Uzziah in us. We like the sweet aroma of success, and when we get some of it in out nostrils, we want more and then some more after that. It gets too easy to take the credit for the wins and many of us rapidly start to leave God out of the game. This is Uzziah’s fatal problem. He becomes full of himself, leaves God’s rule and law out of his actions, and he suffers tremendously because of it.

 

Now the account of what happens to this king is horrible (read the story, it is worth it) and it would seem that it should suffice as a warning to us all. But, we fallen beings being what we are, it doesn’t stop much of this sort of god-less behavior. Yet, this is where the story of Uzziah and his fate differs from what we need to experience. Uzziah sinned and suffered because of it; so do we all. Uzziah’s legacy was his sin; because of Christ, ours is the glory of God. Our sinfulness has consequences and brings about pain. It is too terrible to endure. Yet, Christ’s blood wipes it all away so that, unlike Uzziah, no one can walk by our grave and name us as “unclean”. In Christ alone, there is victory over even the darkest of sin.

Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 2:1

 

My mind doesn’t always like to just accept things; I fight against ideas, concepts, certainly rules, and ready agreement. I can’t help it, it is just the way I am; yet, there are times when just accepting something is the best way to go. If someone opens a door for you, just go with it; if your neighbor shovels the snow off your walks, simply be thankful; and when God tells you that He is giving the gift of His unending love and total forgiveness for everything, we need to live like we believe that this is true.

 

No matter how hard we work at it and regardless of what we do, we can’t pay for the sacrifice that Jesus made on our accounts. This remains true even when what we do seems to be directly related to God’s plan and purpose for our lives. So, we shouldn’t try. Instead, God wants us to honor Him, to respect His love, and to behave in a way that when others encounter us, they see Jesus. This takes real strength, not the superficial kind of might that is represented by the hard muscles of power lifting, but rather, strength that comes from the core of your being. This strength is exercised through trust in Christ that is practiced daily and by having faith that He will provide everything that life requires each moment It is made especially strong by extending grace, compassion, and understanding, by bringing unconditional and outwardly focused love, to the people that God brings into your path.

 

So, this is a great day to extend a helping hand, a ready smile, a kind act, or an offer to share the truth of real freedom that is yours in Christ with someone who needs grace and unending strength. This is the day that Christ has given to each of us to stand firmly in the confidence of His presence and to fight back against the destructive forces that Satan brings into this world. Be strong in the knowledge that, in Christ, you are totally free and that He is absolutely mighty in you.

 

 

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Romans 15: 1

 

First of all I want to point to the fact that it is Paul who is speaking here. I do not make the claim to be with him in counting myself among the strong as if that is some sort of mark of superiority or even of greater maturity. Yet, I think that this is the point that Paul is making. We are all weak when it comes to our living in the righteousness that God calls His people to follow. However, Christ works in every one of us to transform us into the new beings that He intends for us to be. This process of change and the tension that exists between maturity in Christ and various people’s areas of weakness is an integral part of the dynamic that is life in the body of Christ.

 

God is telling us that He desires that we would learn to live together in harmony and peace regardless of where we are in this process. Paul is instructing us that one of the important aspects in doing this is to take our obligations seriously. He is saying that followers of Christ have incurred a debt to God that involves following Christ by helping to carry the heavy weight that sin imposes on our less mature fellow believers. Yet, there is a warning here. We are to be careful about engaging in the very human tendency to see ourselves as superior when we are walking with those who are in need of support. We are to remember that just yesterday we were the ones in need and that tomorrow it may be us again.

 

The constant in all of this is Christ. He brings people who are different, in divergent places in our journey through life, and who are distant, holding values and living lifestyles that are significantly in opposition to each other, into a place of singular community that is built upon common faith and that is directed into the true path of righteousness that is found in God’s word. In all of this I am reminded that Christ sacrificed all for me and that He continually picks me up when I am weak and supports me into strength. How can I fail to fulfill my debt to Him by not doing the same for another?

Hear, and I will speak;

I will question you, and you make it known to me.

Job 42: 4

 

Do you ever feel as if no one is listening? Sometimes it seems like all of the words that are coming out of your mouth are just so much noise, and their heart-felt content is meaningless to the people that you are addressing. I fear that at times most of us reduce the expression of other people’s ideas, wishes, and concerns to the value of background noise, and too often we answer by telling our own story as if our experience is all that matters. In this section of Job he has been engaged in an encounter with friends who are responding to Job’s great life tragedies with this sort of self-centered hearing. So, Job has turned elsewhere to seek understanding and wisdom.

 

Despite all that has happened to him and in his life, Job knows that God has not abandoned him. Even in the most terrible of circumstances the Lord is present, and His presence is filled with concern, care and love. As Job turns his face to God and pours out his heart with its agony and grief in full view, he knows to the depth of his being that he is being heard. Job possesses a form of confidence in God that is founded upon knowing Him well. Although evil has descended upon Job and done catastrophic damage to his life, Job knows in his heart and in his mind that God is sovereign over this earth and that the Lord does care for him and protects him.

 

This is the sort of relational trust that allows Job to cry out to God and to express his deepest feelings. As Job seems to command God to hear he is actually stating something that he already knows to be true. God listens always, and His hearing is perfect. In fact, God hears the heart in a way that seems to translate the poorly crafted and too often inaccurate words that I speak into true and honest expression of my condition and actual need. Although God does know all He still wants to hear from me. This dialogue is a part of the way that He relates to each of us. There is nothing that I need to withhold from Him, and God cares about everything. In all of life I am blessed by the presence of my Lord who listens to my every word.

 

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you.

1 Thessalonians 3: 12

 

It is probable that most of us have something invested somewhere. When we put that money aside for this purpose we have goals and objectives in mind. A good investment advisor will usually counsel us to diversify our portfolio. That means that some of our capital is placed into the sorts of entities that promise growth but may be a bit more risky, and some of it is set aside in savings that don’t really grow much but are very safe. Out of this balanced approach we achieve a combination of increase and security.

 

If this approach to managing something as ordinary as God’s gift of income and financial security is valuable and worthwhile, how much more significant is making as careful and thorough a plan for investing in the Kingdom of God? When we engage in that process, the primary capital that we have to invest is love. This is the abundant riches and wealth that God pours out upon us. Love is the paycheck that grace writes for us despite the fact that we haven’t earned a cent of it. The inexhaustible sum that is displayed on the amount line is written in the blood of Christ for the world to see.

 

Yet, we can choose to keep the state of our investment account secret. We can go through life acting as if our relationship with Christ is a private matter and like love is a rare and easily depleted asset. However this seems to be the opposite of the advice that Paul is giving us. Paul is saying that we don’t need to do anything to earn God’s love other than freely receive that which God does lavish upon us, and in turn, we can open our hearts and lovingly embrace others without reservation or restriction. We can choose to openly display the love that Christ has poured out on us and share it freely with the world, and as we give away Christ’s love, we are investing wisely in things that matter for eternity.

 

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

Isaiah 40: 12

 

Perspective can be frustratingly hard to find. Scale, especially when it comes to what is important, is often obscured by flawed reason and bias. We hold up our measuring tool to the dawn in order to grasp the potential that the day holds, and we are defeated before we start to journey through it. As the clock moves along we lay out the template of our past as a map to follow down the road known as today; yet, many of the turns that we take end up in wrong places.

 

At this point it becomes natural and easy to blame the journey itself for the struggle. We think that whatever failures and hardships we have endured and are encountering are the result of bad choices, poor decisions, or misdirection. This is the point where people often want to blame others for the poor input that we were given or for the evil intent that caused them to send us along this path. Yet, ultimately, we need to own our part in it all. Also, it helps to consider God’s role in the life that we are living.

 

The Lord probably didn’t choose the difficult place that we find ourselves for us, but He is in it with us. So, God can provide us with accurate tools for assessment, and His word lays out a plan for navigating through everything that is before us. The obstacle that stands as an unclimbable mountain before us is like a grain of sand from God’s vantage point. The flood of fear and doubt that is threatening to drown us is swallowed up by the Lord’s reason and peace. All of life can be brought into perspective when we turn our day over to God in humble submission to His will and in prayerful contemplation of His word.

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

1 John 3: 18

 

Expressing how we feel about people is often much easier done through our words than through our actions. The words can be totally sincere and come from deep within us, but if they are not followed by tangible demonstration, they are empty and sometimes actually hurtful. We have all known people who speak about great intentions and express wonderful thoughts regarding commitment; yet, they continually fail to deliver on those words. Many of us can also recall times when we have been the unreliable party.

 

In my experience with God, He has never failed to follow through. When the Lord makes a promise and tells me that He will do something, He delivers. This is especially true when He tells me that His love for me is without bounds and is unlimited, for He demonstrates His love continually. I am cared about and cared for; I am made whole and made holy; and the Spirit of Christ stays with me through every moment of every day. God is totally true to His word.

 

Jesus has demonstrated for us what relationships should look like; because, He is the model for words of love that are turned into life expression of it. God’s consistent follow through on His promises to me in conjunction with His loving honesty are the demonstration of His absolute love for me. Christ wants something really simple from me in return. He wants me to extend the same type of expression of love to others. He wants me to show to people the difference that my relationship with Christ has made in me by the way that I actually engage them with honest and loving connection to their lives.

 

There is no better day than this one to show someone the love of Christ by the way that you treat them. This is the time to honestly care for others in the same manner as Christ honestly cares for you. God’s loving presence in your life will bring light and joy into the lives of others when you love them with caring words of encouragement and with honest and real actions.

 

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