August 2014

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

John 4: 34


In this verse Jesus has redefined meal planning, and He has made it very simple. For as it was for Jesus, so it can be for all of us who follow Him. God provides us with a true banquet of His blessing, grace, and purpose. He grants each of us His continuous presence, and He fills the seconds of our lives with the riches of His purpose. Christ calls to us to respond to the same calling that He followed.


Although we are taken from the darkness, the cold, and the starvation of this world and seated in glory in the Kingdom of God; we still need to choose to participate in the feast. Full enjoyment of the bounty that Christ has purchased for us is not found in being present; it is made real by being engaged. While Jesus was living in the flesh with us, He did not live a passive life of reflection on God’s truth. Jesus went into the lives of people, and He touched those lives with love, healing, justice, and grace as the Father instructed Him to do.


Likewise, we will find our true filling, our real satisfaction, as we go into our world and do the will of God. We do still need to be continually prayerful, and we never can stop searching the Word of God to gain understanding of Him and of His will. However, the result of prayer and of study of God’s Word should always be engagement with his Creation. Christ draws us out of our selves and into the places where He walked. He directs His followers to see the great harvest of souls that are all around us, ready to be cared for and loved by the One who can bring them relief from the hardship and the oppression of living under the death sentence that sin imposes. Deep satisfaction is found as we feast on the banquet that is God’s will for each of us.

For this is the will of God, that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of foolish people.

1 Peter 2: 15


It often seems like our world speaks in loud and continual voices. There is a relentless and all-pervasive level of noise that becomes the background to life. We are pounded and pummeled into a sort of insensitivity, and this state of passive acceptance is one of the primary objectives of the one who is behind all of this auditory clutter.


Evil wants us to be bombarded and pounded with half-truths and with misinformation to the degree that we can no longer distinguish what is true from what is false. Then, we can become like soldiers who have been hit by days of artillery fire. We get disoriented, confused, discouraged, and wounded to the degree that we can stop listening to God’s truth and start buying into the destructive message of Satan. His message always contains the need to turn inward in order to protect ourselves, for he tells us to build stout walls around our hearts and to hold on as tightly as possible to everything that we have.


God tells us that one of the answers to the clutter and the noise that surround us is to defeat its intent through action, by doing right. I have found that right doing can involve many different types of action. It can be a good thing done for a neighbor, an encouraging note, an unexpected gift given, or engagement in another person’s life. Right actions are found in our work place and in our community. They are accomplished in a moment and over a lifetime. The most fundamental of all right actions is accomplished by getting onto our knees before God. It is amazing how silent the voices of foolishness become when our ears and our hearts are communicating with the Lord. Wisdom has only one source, and listening to God’s voice directs us to living wisely. Acting on the Lord’s direction silences the foolishness that surrounds us.


For the scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.”

Romans 10:11


The Apostle Paul quotes the Prophet Isaiah and speaks to a fundamental concern that people have had forever. We get so caught up in trying to always be right that we don’t do what is most needful in order to live right. We are focused on the risk of disappointment, on becoming disenchanted, and on our image with others; so, we don’t want to put all of our trust and the totality of our reliance on God. Yet, He does respond to everything that we need, and He does it in a manner that is both constant and consistent. Everyone and everything else that I have ever relied on has had its moments of failure or disappointment. Christ has never come up short for me.


When these writers speak about believing, they are not talking about just recognizing the existence of God, and they are not even considering that this means the mere acceptance of Jesus as Savior; although, that is a part of what Paul is saying. They are telling us that the path to a day by day life that is lived in confident victory over all of the aspects of slavery that evil tries to bind us into is paved with our own acceptance of Christ as Lord of our lives. When Jesus is the true center of existence, there is no longer any shame. There is only a continual path that leads deeper and further into His glory. The rub for me and for most people is in setting and maintaining Christ in that position as lord and master of all of my life. Yet there is no one and nothing that I can surrender all to who will love and care for me perfectly and totally.


Christ is the sort of loving master who frees us to be and to do what we have been given gifts, talents, and interests in. He desires for each of us to utilize our individuality in engaging our world by serving the needs of others. Believing means doing, it means turning over control, and it means acceptance of the outcome regardless of our own anticipation. When we believe, we know that God will always take us where He needs for us to go, and He will always lead us to places where we will be able to show someone else the way to victory over life through Christ. When we trust God and allow Him to direct, lead, and empower our daily lives, there is absolutely no way that we will be left alone wondering why we made that choice. To quote the voices of ancient wisdom, “We will not be put to shame.”


They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Acts 17: 11b


The people who were the subject of this statement were gathering in the city of Berea to listen to Paul teaching the truth of Jesus, and this attitude of open inquisitiveness was something that Paul found appealing and refreshing. He had been faced with the challenge of speaking with other groups who were neither open to hear what he had to say nor were they willing to give the Spirit of Christ an opportunity to work on their understanding. They were set in their thinking, determined to keep it pure, and unwilling to consider the possibility that they might not know everything that there was to know about God.


God wants us to be strong in what we believe and to be grounded in our faith; yet, He also wants us to understand that we do not know everything that there is to know about Him and regarding His desire for the way that people should live and behave. Therefore, we listen to teachers who share the thoughts that God has given to them, and we read books that have been written that discuss various aspects of the Christian life, but the final determinate of what is God’s truth and what is God’s message for each of us should come through our own time spent in reading His word and in prayerfully meditating on what His Spirit is saying to us.


Not only is there nothing wrong with checking what others are saying and believing against what God’s word says about those things, the Lord tells us that He wants us to do this. He also gives us His Spirit to guide us through life and to enlighten us regarding His will for us and to lead us to His truth. We too can be like the Bereans, checking out what God says to each of us through His word, prayerfully considering what we believe and how we act on those beliefs, and being open to the enlightenment of the Spirit in all matters of daily life.


For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Luke 19:10


Lost things are an annoyance and a true hassle, for they are always lost at the worst possible time. When you have just enough time left to get to that important appointment, the car keys become shy; when the curtain goes up on the play soon, the tickets go on vacation. When you need or desire to be with them most, some people become invisible. The list can go on and on, but the results are much the same. We become irritated, annoyed, frustrated, angry, sad, and discouraged. Still, if we want the thing or the person that we are looking for badly enough, we will keep looking until we find it.


Christ deals with us in much the same way. He has searched diligently, and He continues the hunt for us to the very ends of the earth and beyond. He gave up His life for us, and He even went into Hell in order to destroy its hold on death for our sakes. God loves every person; for, each individual is special and precious to Him. God wants each of us to know Him in a close, life altering, and eternal way. When we wander far away from Him, the Lord comes looking. If we have been listening to the voice of evil, the Spirit of Christ speaks to our hearts with absolute clarity. Whatever circumstances or situations we are involved in, Christ is there to set us free, to set us right, and to send us out to live well.


The Lord uses every tool at His disposal to conduct the search, too. He speaks through His word, the Spirit calls to our hearts, people are brought into our lives to love us and to share enduring truth, and all of Creation resonates with the voice of God as He sings His love song to all people. We just need to listen, give up on hiding, stop our escapist feet, and let Christ in. This is vitally true for people who haven’t allowed Him into their lives, and it is also true for all of us at times in the course of our lives. What is hidden, why are you running, and aren’t you tired from the effort? Today is the day to stop the futile race and to call out to Christ, “Here I am, I surrender to the relentless love of your pursuit.”


The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5: 22, 23


Let me tell you my impression of this statement; it is, that is one big apple, or orange, or banana! These are qualities and characteristics of Christ, and they should be distinctive of people who know Him. The question for myself, the look in the mirror-type examination that I need to do on a regular basis, is how much of this expression of Godliness actually shows on my face? So, how is Christ seen in and by the world when I am present?


The Holy Spirit works in my heart, in my inner self, and He works in me to bring out the new person that was created when I accepted Jesus into my life. My human nature, the old person or the one that the Bible often refers to as the flesh, continues to try to be dominate in me. However, the Lord has given me the ultimate gift of a new life in Christ. Yet, it is still up to me to provide God the opportunity to work His miraculous renewal on me. Stated simply, God does what I let Him do and He goes where I let Him go inside of me. I can get in the way, or I can open myself to His Spirit. I am not suggesting that God is not all-powerful and that He doesn’t care enough to push His way deeper into my life. He is and He already has pulled me from my old, dead existence. Still, He wants me to want to change, for then the transformation is real, and through the process of yielding to the Lord’s will, I relinquish all claims to the accomplishment.


Staying filled with the Spirit of Christ is a continual and a never-ending aspect of life. We are not ever going to be so filled with God’s presence that we don’t need to keep engaged and involved with Him. For me this is a very good thing, for my natural tendencies are to fill myself up on spiritual junk food and, even worse, on things that are toxic for my soul; then, the nutritious and health-giving qualities that are provided by Spirit fruit are missing from my life. I can’t grow fruit myself; it is a gift that God gives to me, for He owns the only tree that produces goodness of the soul. It is up to me to choose to fill my mind, heart, and spirit with God’s Spirit; so that my life will become an even greater expression of these characteristics of God.


Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.

1 John 4: 4b


This is a statement to delight in, to cling onto, and to claim as personal reality. This is a fact of living in relationship with Christ that establishes the platform for victory over every evil thing that can and that will come your way. The point of convergence of these two absolutely contrastive and opposing forces, God verses evil, is the flash point in the on-going struggle between the Lord and Satan. Like the collision that happens at the end of a full speed, head to head charge of two rams, the collision that results can seem to shake the earth.


The good news is that the Spirit of Christ is infinitely mightier than any and all forces that Satan can bring forth. At times evil seems to be winning or at least seems to be winning in our personal struggles; yet, this is never true. It is an illusion, and any ground gained by evil will be taken back several fold by God. Still, the fight, the struggle, will continue, for Satan simply will not surrender until Jesus, in the perfect timing that only God knows, will totally and permanently defeat him.


Until then, we need to recognize the simple truth of victory through Christ over everything that will try to knock our spirits down. In Jesus, I win; evil loses, and that is all I actually need to know. Even in those days when the blows of life are hard and the painful aspects of living are crushing, I know that I live because my Redeemer lives in me. Although the clouds of despair may try to engulf my spirit, I am certain that the glory of the Lord will reduce them to vapor and disperse them with His soothing breeze. The Spirit of Christ lives in me, and because of this, I am alive, lifted up, and totally victorious!


Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

Psalm 115: 1


When this new day begins, and I face its challenges, where is my mind focused and what does my heart desire? Am I consumed with how others will think about me and how many will praise me for my brilliant skill, knowledge, and accomplishment? Glory, honor, and praise take a lot of effort to seek. Power and control can become the controlling focus of a life. Yet, through Christ, glory surrounds us, and Christ is in control in ways that actually mean something.


Let me direct my thoughts toward God and onto His desired way for me to live. I pray that I will allow Christ’s approach to life to take over mine; then, I will begin to live as an expression of love. The only true and lasting love to be found is in and from love’s source, and that is God. So, for me to even begin to understand faithful, unwavering, and lasting love, I need to stay closely connected to the Lord. Then, as He continues to transform me and to mold me into His image, the ways that I act that are unloving and disconnected will start to change into His way of relating.


My prayer goes something like this. O Lord, let me seek to bring glory to you through the way that I live today. So, I ask that You would change the hard places in my heart into ones that lovingly embrace and that you would remove my self-directed thoughts and replace them with Your face. My Lord, I pray that You will guide and direct me to live as an ongoing expression of Your love. Grant me the endurance to be faithful to the calling of Christ for all of the days of my life. Amen.


Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

1 John 2: 15


One of the most important things that God does as He works in our lives is that He starts to clear up the confusion that tends to reign in our minds without His presence. I have found that in my non-spiritual state of being, that is when I am too earthly focused, I am easily led and readily swayed to pursue any number of goals, objectives, and desires. I want; so I pour all of my energy into the chase. I envision my status, as I would like it to be; then, I will do anything to make it so. Life force and living become focused on self-directed goals and outcomes, and there is very little room for truly loving others or for even caring about them in any way that isn’t related to my own desires. At these times there is certainly little or no room in this life for a true and deep relationship with God.


This is a true story for everyone, it has individual expression in its various forms and degrees of apparent intensity; yet, self centered and spirit denying thinking is universal among people without the transforming work of Christ in our lives. For God defines in His being all of the characteristics of humanity that are oriented toward love, compassion, and true eternal thinking. This type of thinking leads to a way of living that is oriented toward others and not on things, and it brings a level of satisfaction into life that is never obtainable through other means.


We need to bear in mind, also, that we aren’t going to change completely in an instant. God plans to stay with us throughout our earthly lives and His Spirit will continue to work on us and with us in effecting the changes that bring us ever closer to being like Christ. Still, this is a step by step, one small aspect of our being at a time sort of process. Christ is committed to us for eternity. He wants us to recognize our need, identify our selfish tendencies, and yield control over these areas of our lives to Him. Then, He will replace each of these things that we have held as important and vital to ourselves with something so much greater that there is no comparison, for the Lord will fill each of these areas of our lives with His presence and with His love.


The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee, He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

John 1: 43


This is one of those simple statements that carries much more meaning and implication than the words themselves could possibly state. Jesus makes a request; it is not a command unless Philip decides to actually follow; yet, Philip’s life is totally changed in a moment of decision. He will never again walk the same path through his world as he has before, for he will never view that world from the same vantage point as before. Following Jesus changes our perspective from an earth-bound and self- centered one to the heavenly and eternal vantage point of God.


Have you ever been traveling along a highway and encountered a major construction project? A project that is so large that the entire identifiable roadway is gone; so, the contractor needs to stop traffic and provide groups of cars with a guide through the dangers of the construction zone. This guide vehicle is called a “Follow Me”, and doing just that is the only truly safe way to navigate through that area. Life is often a major construction project, too. God knows that our world is full of chaos and confusion, and there is real danger surrounding us. The Lord wants to provide us with complete yet easily followed directions for making it through the day. So, He takes the complexity of living and reduces it to some very simple instruction. Jesus says, “Follow me.”


Following Jesus means deciding to allow His approach to life dominance over my own. It means giving up my own intended direction for the day to travel His path. It means responding in love rather than with justifiable anger, accepting difference instead of defending my viewpoint, seeking to heal when I could be right, giving away what I have worked so hard to get, and standing up against what is oppressive when that stance could cost me greatly. Still, Jesus says, “Follow me”; then, you will be seated with Me in Heaven. When we follow Christ, He takes us to the high mountain where God lives where we can experience true life and love the people of our lives as He does.


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