November 2014


And I pleaded with the Lord at that time, saying, “O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works or mighty deeds as yours?

Deuteronomy 3: 23, 24

 

Moses wants to go on living; there is no doubt about this fact. However, in trying to make his case for why the Lord should change His stated will and allow him more time, Moses speaks great truth. No matter what has transpired during our time on this earth, we have seen only the very tip of the greatness of God. He has designed life today so that Christ continues to reveal Himself and His glorious will to everyone who walks with Him. This revelation is continual. It does not reach a point where there is no more to see. I have not come close to the end of my ability to be amazed by the love, grace, faithfulness, and righteousness of God.

 

For my own sake I also need to keep the answer to the question, “For what god?” in front of my wandering eyes. I do find that many distractions and diversions get in the way of my continual focus on Christ. All of these things can tend to function as a form of god if I am not committed to Christ on an on-going basis. So, staying clear about where and in whom I will find true relationship and real satisfaction is important. The answer to this question has always come back the same. There is no other god who can do what the Lord does. There is no other god who loves and cares about and for me in the way that Christ does.

 

As a traveler, even a wanderer, through the harsh landscape of this world I have been touched by God’s hand of comfort and mercy on too many occasions to count. The glory of His presence is found in the lives that He has made new. The might of His hand is found in the world that He created. It is expressed in the way that He holds it together in direct opposition to the destructive forces that sin continually applies to it. In Christ, every day is a time to experience God’s presence in new and remarkable ways. In the presence of Christ I need no other gods and everything in my life is bathed in His glory.

 

 

 

 

The Lord is at hand; 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: 5-7

 

There are many things about God that are hard for me to understand. There are also almost as many aspects of being His child that are mysterious to me. I believe that these areas of incomprehension are related. God is spirit yet He lived fully in the same sort of flesh as I do. God has existed before and beyond time, and He breathed all that is my universe into existence. The strange, the wondrous and the marvelous are all simple routine to the Lord. My mind, my heart, and my soul stand in thankful awe of His greatness and in deeply humble thanksgiving in the blessing of His grace.

 

Peace is truly one of the greatest wonders in this life. Christ leads us into engagement with our world. He calls upon His followers to care deeply for the people around us, and He even instructs us in how to love all of them with a love that is willing, without thought, to lay down our own lives for the possibility of saving another’s. However, at the same time as He was extending grace to all of humanity Jesus was speaking and living out God’s righteous truth in the face of earthly power and human compromise. So, He calls upon us to follow along this same path.

 

Caring deeply for all of Creation, loving people regardless of who or what they may be, and openly placing God’s truth above all else do not sound like a formula guaranteed to bring about the sort of calm, comfort and ease that we might define as peace. Thus, I see here another aspect of the mysterious. Christ continues to lead us in times of fear and doubt, in times of anxiety, for He took His own hours of searing pain and He turned to the Father in honest prayer. Then, Jesus listened and opened His mind to God’s comforting touch. The peace that God grants to us is not guaranteed to change the trials that surround us, but it will grant our hearts and minds the clarity to engage them with the full confidence and the certain assurance of the Father’s protective hand at our sides.

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

Malachi 4: 2

 

Leaping like calves. What an image that brings to mind! There are all of those young animals bounding and bucking as they are set free from the confinement of the stall. They have unstoppable energy and the appearance of total joy. How different is this from the scene that our neighbors see as we head out to start our days. This is especially true at this time of year when the days are short, dark, and cold. It is easy to start out the day with a sense of tiredness that is left over from the day before and with dread at the thought of the drain on energy that coping with life is about to cause. As dark mornings give way to black nights and the interval between is gray or illuminated by a heatless sun, it is easy to lose energy and to feel the force and the effects of down or even depressive thoughts.

 

This winter state of being is also the reality of living in a world where the days have been made short by sin and there is a continual cloud of spiritual darkness hanging about. People make decisions that are based upon their ease and comfort. They chart the course of their lives from a point of view that is intended to produce instant pleasure and gratification. The future is too vague and uncertain to entertain and righteousness is too readily defined in individual and personal terms. Too many people are trapped in this winter of the soul. Far too many of them are people who know Christ but who choose to distrust His call to stand firm on the platform of God’s truth. Most of us will encounter people who are living in this place. Everyone is faced with decisions that can lead to it.

 

The answer that Malachi states is a very old one. Yet it is foundational to the way that God interacts with people. Thus it is never out dated and always applicable to each and every one of our lives. To fear God’s name is to hold and to contemplate Him with respect and with a deep-seated sense of humility and gratitude. This requires us to continually focus on who He is and on how the Lord works in our lives. This way of thinking is infused into our hearts and minds as we drink deeply from His Word and open our most intimate places to its instruction. The sort of growth that is involved in this process never stops. It is the calling of a lifetime. It demands to be our primary daily practice, and it promises us that we will gain continual relationship with Christ. The brightness, heat, and empowerment of the Son of Righteousness will be ours constantly. Although the days may be dark, in His presence our spirits can bound like those young calves, and with His truth we can face the storm of broken lives that surrounds us.

 

 

 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

1 Peter 5: 6, 7

 

The Message bible states verse 7 this way, “Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.” This is something that most of us would gladly accept and claim as our own, for I think that living in a state of being that is free from care is something that most people desire. Yet, from our point of view this is rarely, if ever, true. Worries, concerns and troubles, the cares of the world, plague us. They cling to our days with such tenacity that they can begin to seem as if they are a part of the created order of things.

 

Yet, God tells us that we can live in this carefree manner. He tells us to place all of these worries, cares, and concerns on Him. Peter goes even further with this idea in that he seems to be saying that pride is at work when followers of Christ holds onto our cares, our anxieties. The answer to pride is humility, and humility often comes about when we gain honest perspective and use the corrective of truth as revealed in God’s word and by His Spirit to view ourselves and what it means to live in this world. God’s truth can be sobering, and it can also set us free.

 

God does not promise that our days will be free from troubles, and our human make up will lead us to have anxiety over many of the things that we will encounter. So, this carefree living that Peter is discussing is not a life that is absent of all challenges. He was a realist, and he certainly acted out of his own anxieties at times. Anxieties, cares, fears concerns and troubles do exist. However, we serve a mighty God who cares totally for each of us, and He asks us to trust Him enough to give over the disabling aspects of our troubles and concerns to Him so that we might live fully in the joy of His presence. Thus, the place of carefree living is found as we surrender the burden of life to Christ and follow Him into His calling for us.

 

Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.

Psalm 55: 22

 

There are times in our lives when the cares; the concerns, worries, fears, and over bearing challenges of simply living start to pile up on our backs to such a degree that we feel crushed by it all. One thing happens, then another, soon it seems like the very forces of nature are conspiring to bring all of the negativity that they can summon up together in one focused attack. What’s worse, their target is you. The very breath can be crushed out of your lungs so that you can’t even get a muffled cry for help or plea for relief out of your mouth.

 

The Lord tells us to take these fears and worries and use every ounce of the energy that we possess to grab them and throw them onto Him. This can look like a simple prayer pleading with God to grant some relief from the struggle. It can be a call to a friend to seek the Lord’s wisdom as expressed through the heart and the mind of another of His children. Also, the casting of our cares happens as we humbly get down onto our knees and open our hearts to His soothing touch of love.

 

God has given His word to all of His people, and He never goes back on His word. The Lord says that He will give us everything that we need to keep going. This includes the food, shelter, finances, love, peace, healing for illness, companionship, and each of the other things that we do now or will ever need. The Lord, my God, sustains my soul and lifts my spirit, for when I turn to Him and recognize His righteous place as the only true source for all that I need, He never lets the weight of this life get so great that I am forced to the ground by it. Instead, Christ lifts me up high to be with Him in the Father’s palace of lasting peace and total sustenance.

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;

we are the clay, and you are the potter;

we are all the work of your hand.

Isaiah 64: 8

 

When Isaiah writes these words, the idea expressed here is not so much a reality as it is a wish or a formative desire. The nation of Israel is not yielded to their Lord. It is rare to find a person who is truly committed to following God’s way, either. They are a prideful, stubborn and stiff-necked bunch that thinks that they can sort out all of life’s great challenges on their own. In light of the actual state of affairs, the Prophet’s words are purely aspirational, at best, and they might even be considered to be delusional.

 

Yet, Isaiah was a man who listened well to God. His life was given over to responding to the calling that God had given to him, to seeking out truth and to stating the will of the Lord in clear and uncompromising terms. When Isaiah speaks about us seeing God as our Father and being yielded to God’s hand as the one who totally shapes us into being useful for His kingdom, the Prophet is speaking about the desire of God’s heart and about the way that God knows things will go in the future.

 

Now we live in a time when God’s desires are being made tangible. In Christ we are a newly reformed people who are being shaped by that very potter’s hand that Isaiah is discussing. We can enter into the Lord’s intent by surrendering ourselves fully to the working of His fingers of love on our hearts, minds, and spirits. This might very well mean that we will come out on the other end of the process looking quite different than we thought we would. This may lead us into forms of service that are frightening or highly distasteful to us today. However, total surrender to Christ also assures us that we will become the beautiful vessel that God’s creator eye has envisioned for each of us.

 

 

 

 

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.

Colossians 2: 6

 

There is an extraordinary degree of futility in making a decision to believe in Jesus and not also deciding to follow Him. The initial act of faith works to create the relationship with God; thus, it provides for the destination for the soul, but life in the present can be left in an unresolved state. For me, it was never hard to believe in Jesus. He has almost always been truly real and completely believable. However, having the faith and the trust that I need to follow Him has been a different story.

 

Christ came into this world to impact lives. Jesus made it quite clear that He was not on a mission of political or even social change. His mission was to defeat sin’s grip on humanity and to bring people back to their Creator God. Then He stays with them to give them the Lord’s direction for their lives. We can have a political and a social impact; however, it is more important that we should have a life impact on others. This is where we are called upon by Christ to follow Him. This is why we must seek out the Holy Spirit’s filling and guidance on a continual basis. It is by the Spirit that we are led to follow God’s will for our lives, and it is in the Spirit that we have the Lord’s strength, vision, and the encouragement that we need to follow Him regardless of all that gets in the way.

 

For me and for you following Jesus, walking in Him, is a continual choice. There are moments and days when it seems so easy, and there are others when I just don’t do it. Still, the most important decision is the next one that I make, for that is the moment when I can determine to move forward with Christ. The next situation that I encounter or the next person that I meet will be impacted by me. I pray that I will choose to let that impression be one that is filled with the truth, concern, and love of Christ.

 

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