July 2014

Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate.

Amos 5: 15


God deals with us in a fair and a just manner. That may not always be what we would like to see happen, for there certainly are times when I would prefer to just get away with one. Yet, God makes it clear to me that He knows what I am about and that He does not always approve of it, either. Christ is truly at war with evil in this world, and He is fierce, unceasing, and unstoppable in fighting against evil’s attempts to capture the hearts of people and to destroy our lives.


Soldiers who are in intense combat situations often have a hard time separating the cause that they are fighting against from the people who are shooting at them. In fact, it is not really possible to do this. On the other hand, God does discriminate between the people who allow themselves to become agents for evil and Satan who has deceived them into giving allegiance to his cause and into acting out of that affiliation. Christ has made it possible for grace, forgiveness, mercy, and restoration to be available to everyone who recognizes their need for a Savior and accepts Him.


Christ wants us to follow His lead in the ways that we deal with people and in how we assess their behaviors. His goal is to open people’s eyes to what they are thinking, believing, and doing so that they can see the way that evil is twisting and perverting truth in order to control them. God desires to be allowed into the hearts of all people and to fill those hearts with His love so that they can, in turn, love others with the self-sacrificing love of Christ.


When we establish God’s justice as the filter over the gate to our hearts and our minds, we allow Christ to be the One who judges people, and we are granted the wisdom to discriminate between the evil that has captured a person’s heart and that person, who God loves totally. This is not easy to do; yet, the more we are able to fight our battles against evil, itself, and against the deception and anger that it causes, the more we are able to show Christ’s love to the people that we are engaged against. This is freeing for us, and it can be life changing for others.


But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

2 Timothy 4: 17


Do you feel the hot, smelly breath, hear the growl, and feel the knife-like sharpness of the teeth; then, you are in the lion’s mouth. The heart starts to race uncontrollably, sweat pours from the brow, and you need to decide whether to run for your life or to just surrender to the inevitable, while hoping that the pain will be over quickly. Life is full of lion’s mouth experiences. We are the victims of circumstances in some of them, and we are the ones who jumped over the protective fences and climbed into the cage with the big kitty in many of them.


Despite my own behaviors and actions with their impulsively, unpredictability, and pure foolishness, God stays with me. He pulls me out of the cage, He stops the bad events, and He shows me the way to survive it all. I may still need a shower to wash away the beast’s saliva, I may have some serious wounds that will need to heal, and I may have a lot of relationship damage to repair, but the Lord saves and preserves my life.


So why would God continually do this sort of thing for a silly and headstrong child such as I? He loves me. There is no other answer that is greater than this one; for, my God is the Savior of my soul and of my life. He redeemed me from evil’s grasp so that I could spend an eternity with Him and so that I could start that eternity now. The loving Father that is God wants all of His children to come home, and He wants each of us to be the ones who deliver the invitations to the homecoming. That is a primary role that we have in life here and now. This is what God calls us to do and what he strengthens and equips us for.


Everyone has to confront lions; so, all are in need of the services of a lion tamer. Those of us who already know Christ personally are the ones who are best equipped to make the introductions. Although pain, suffering, and even death are certainties for all people, in Christ, we can live in the sure knowledge that our lions have been defeated. We also know from experience that the love that wins that victory is available to everyone who needs to be saved from the destructive teeth of evil.


Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4: 6, 7


There are days, sometimes strings of days, where the background noise in my head is the buzzing sound of worry, concern, and anxiety. It forms an uneasy and an unsettling sense of almost random motion inside of my body; for, it is like all of the drops of blood in my veins have decided to seek their own, individual courses through me and nothing is working with the harmony that it should. This tension consumes energy and depletes focus. It makes me indecisive, and it makes me irritable, too. This is not a pleasant feeling.


The crazy thing about this state of mind is that I know the answer for it. I have been in this place before, in fact, I have been there too many times to really count. The resolution to this sort of disabling anxiety has always been the same. Still, my nature just seems to need to get to this place and then to stay there long enough so that, in the end, I can’t possibly claim ownership over the resolution. The issues that cause the concern can be specific, and they can be general. They are singular concerns, and they are many. They may be little things, and they may be very large; yet, their resolution is always the same. The specific answers vary widely, but the resolution does not.


Christ tells us that we need to take our worries, concerns, and challenges to Him. There really is no need for them to grow and to multiply until they become anxiety, but, at least for me, that seems to be the way that I function. Maybe, in truth, this is the way that I dysfunction; still, it is the way that I am. Even then, God tells me to come to Him. He doesn’t judge me for my holding on to things for longer than I really needed to. Instead, He tells me that I can open my heart to Him and let go of the worry. The Lord will provide the answers. All of the concerns, issues, and situations that can cause my stomach to churn and my hair to turn grey have resolution in the calm wisdom that the Lord brings to my mind and to my heart. There is nothing that He does not go through with me, and there is nothing that He does not have an answer for.


And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.

Isaiah 32: 17


Unfortunately, the expression “All is right with the world” doesn’t seem to apply to the real world very often; at least, this is true for the one where I live most days. First off, all is way too inclusive, then, the world is far too big a place, and finally, right is just too vague. The absolute complexity of living and the ridiculously fast pace of life seem to work together to defeat even the possibility of rightness. Yet, giving in to the idea that life can’t be lived in a better place does not seem correct either. There is an internal, an innate drive in people to create a better place to live. We desire to reside in a just and a fair community where people are valued and where goodness prevails. This idea that good can prevail over evil is one of the classic themes of drama, and it is one of the common dreams of people. We all desire to reside in a world where the bad doesn’t happen, at least not without reasonable notice.


The words of the prophet seem to be suggesting that God sees this idyllic dream of mine as possibility, even as promise. He is saying that there can be peace and that we can live in a quiet place where trust relationships are possible. However, Isaiah’s key to that desired outcome is righteousness. God wants us to become the points of righteous, the doers of Christ-like living, in a world that is spinning out of control. The Lord desires for each of us to draw upon Him as our source of internal peace and to allow His calming influence to fill our minds; then, He wants us to interact with the chaos and the distress of our world with the strength of a quiet, Christ-focused heart. We can trust the Spirit of God to take us into this day with calm clarity and purpose, and we can have faith that He will successfully bring us through every twist and turn that we encounter during our journey.


As we seek God’s peace for the worry and the concern of our hearts, open our minds to His quiet and confident voice, and trust in His Spirit’s guidance through the day; then, we will have an influence for Christ in our world. Individuals and the communities of faith that they engage with can be world changers at the level that is most important to God. That is, we can touch the lives of other individual people, and we can influence thinking and policies that are used to create systems of rule that are just, fair, and caring. So, we can become people who not only live in that “all is right” world, but we will be the ones who bring the reality of Christ’s righteousness to others.


Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.

Mark 5: 41, 42


As Luke relates this same event he tells us that the girl’s father is named Jairus. This doesn’t matter much in the process of understanding the nature of what happens here, but it does make all of this very personal. This is not just some father; this is a real man named Jairus. This is not about an unknown little girl; we are witnessing an account of the return to life from death of a specific twelve-year-old daughter of one real man. This is all very personal. Nothing that transpires is for the show of it. Jesus turns from His journey and away from the apparent goals of the day in order to do what He was truly about. That is, He heals the sick. He cares for the most intimate and the most pressing of the needs of individual people.


There is sickness and disease loose in our land. All of us are sick and in need of healing. Everyone is headed along a path that leads to death. However, when we are born, that road is absolute, and it heads in the singular direction that is marked by an eternity of separation from God. In simple human words we call this final resting place Hell. Yet according to God’s Word, rest is not one of its characteristics. What Jesus gives to us is an answer to our distance from our God. He brings healing to this little girl, and He brings it to anyone who accepts Him as Savior and Lord. It was faith that saved Jairus’ daughter, and it is faith that heals us as well.


As I said, all of us are sick. Many, if not most, of us will face real physical, bodily attacks by disease and injury of various kinds. All of us encounter spiritual struggles and instances when sin overcomes our righteous intent. Christ is with us as He was with the girl, that is, personally and individually. He comes to our place of confinement, and He speaks words of healing and restoration. His Spirit comforts us along the way of the journey that we are on. Then, just like He did with Jairus’ precious child, Christ feeds us the sustaining food of His love, grace, and mercy.

Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10: 22


It may seem as if I am no where near clean enough to be in the same town as the presence of God. After all, He is righteousness, truth, justice, love, peace, and faithfulness to their absolute degrees; and I am none of them to the least. The notion that I need to do something radical about my state of affairs before approaching God would be very plausible except for one life changing fact. When Jesus took all of the sin of the world onto His back, and He shed His perfect blood, Christ was taking care of all of this for every one of us, and He did it for the rest of time.


There is nothing left for me to do except to accept on faith that Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection are real and that He is the one true God and Lord of my life. In accepting this fact, I am also accepting all of Christ’s work on my behalf. There is nothing left for me to do. This radically altered perspective can be a very hard one to live out of. It seems much easier to develop a plan of action and to work hard to achieve the goals in that plan, than it does to trust Christ’s Spirit to work in me to affect the sort of dramatic change that living righteously requires. Yet that is the simple and direct calling of Christ.


Faith and trust that are founded upon Christ’s actions and that are grounded in His Word lead to a heart that sincerely desires to follow His calling to draw near to God. Drawing near to God means that I am choosing to leave behind my safe and comfortable ways of handling life. It means that I am willing to set aside my defenses and my protective shields in order to enter into other people’s realities. It means that I am deciding to love people, to accept them as they are, and to speak the truth of Christ’s grace and righteousness regardless of the perceived risk. When Christ’s righteousness is my own, I can engage fully in a world that is broken by sin. When I do this, I will bring with me the glorious and restorative righteousness of Christ so that others can choose to accept His cleansing water of salvation and enter into God’s restorative peace.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you.

1 Peter 5: 6


We humans do not always do so well with the concept of humility; in fact, we often work extra hard at demonstrating the many ways that we are capable, competent, and superior to others. This approach to life is taught by our parents, teachers, coaches, and bosses, and it is reinforced by the majority of the messages that we hear continually in our culture. There is a place for the kind of confidence and self-esteem that allows us to face the day with our heads held high and to take on challenges with the idea that, when it is all done, we will prevail. God’s word speaks frequently of the marvelous and highly capable person that He sees when He looks at us, and the Spirit of Christ speaks to our hearts and our minds about the wonderful truth of our glorious beauty that is made real in and is expressed through our relationship with Him.


What Peter is talking about here is the source of our confidence and the force behind our competence, for when it comes to us, there is a very real connection between source, resource, and outward expression. The more that we are looking inwardly at our own skills, intellect, and might as the reservoir of energy for living a confident life, the more we will live that life for the glory of ourselves. Yet, as we recognize the Lord as the true giver of strength, wisdom, and direction, we become more Christ-like in the ways that we move confidently through the day. As we stay closely connected to God through His word, prayer, and meditation on Him, we do have the ability to look inwardly; however, we are then looking to God’s Spirit within us, and that makes all of the difference.


God’s might is not used to hold us down, and it is never oppressive. He always lifts up, holds up, and elevates our hearts. His mighty hand never crushes us. It protects and provides us with direction; and it holds us in the loving embrace of a Father. God puts His arm around my shoulder, speaks intimately to me, and sends me into life’s game with His purpose, plan, and confidence alive in my mind and resonating through my heart.


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