March 2015


So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8: 31, 32

 

Where we live does matter. But the address where we receive our mail is not nearly as important as are other aspects of our dwelling place. Let me explain what I am getting at here. Most of us aspire to certain things when it comes to our homes. There are preferred neighborhoods, size of house, styles of design, and numerous other similar factors that we take into consideration when we seek that place where we will sleep at night. Our budget is certainly one of the big influences on all of this.

 

Yet this big decision about the physical location and structure that we call home is of minimal importance in comparison to the decisions that everyone gets to make regarding the place where our minds, hearts and our souls will reside today and for all of the days of our life. Jesus invites us into a totally different sort of dwelling place. Walls made of stone or of wood do not confine it, and it is not limited by any of the factors that define and restrain our choice of a house to rent or to buy. You see, when we enter into a relationship with Christ, God provides us with His infinite budgetary resources to use in the process of living life.

 

As we follow Jesus, He leads us into the all-encompassing and life-defining reality that is called God’s word. This word includes those thoughts and ideas that are written on the pages of the Bible, but it also involves much more. God’s word is relational. It is the great truth that is the center of creation, and it is the on-going personal revelation that comes to each of Christ’s followers through the Holy Spirit. This is the word that leads us into freedom. Our past no longer defines us, and we are loosed from the constraints of parentage and from all of the other factors that people use to inhibit and restrain the full expression of a righteous life. So, when it comes to my dwelling place, let me abide with Christ in the center of the Father’s will.

 

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.

1 Timothy 2: 1

 

Paul sets forth an interesting thought here, for he tells us that we should be engaging in prayerful worship with God that involves a very broad list of people, for “all” is about as inclusive as that group could get. When I am considering a time of prayer, my tendency is to talk with God about my family members, my friends, the people that I might be aware of in other settings that are usually related to these same people, and sometimes national and international leaders. This is a fairly large yet manageable list. Yet, this is only the start of what Paul is saying about prayer and us.

 

This list of prayer forms is also really comprehensive. It is a lot bigger than just the simple, “Thank you for my family” or “Please heal my cousin’s dermatitis”. These are both fine, for they are included in the list; however, take a close look at what is being said. We are being told to engage prayer in a total and comprehensive manner. It is to be done on our knees and standing and shouting praises, framed in humility, seeking God’s intervention and involvement in other people’s lives, grateful and remindful of all that God does for us and for all people. Prayer is passionate, constant, a special event, and an every moment necessity. It is to be engaged in the morning, in the middle of the day, at night, and at every time between, and we are to pray about and for everyone.

 

This last thought is perhaps the most amazing and profound thought to me. I think that the point here is that if I embrace this idea and make it my practice, God will begin to cause a very powerful change in my attitudes toward others. He will redirect my thinking and the attitude of my heart toward many others so that I will begin to see them more like He does. The group that I am instructed to pray for includes people that I don’t like, those that don’t seem to like me, leaders of government, especially leaders who I believe are wrong or who are wrongly motivated, the person at work whose habits infuriate me, the neighbor whose dog is noisy, the person who has profoundly wronged or hurt me, and everyone who I struggle to understand or to relate to.

 

Christ sees the world and the people in it quite differently from the way that I do. He sees the beautiful potential, the perfect child that He created, and the deep sadness and the chaos that is the result of people’s separation from Him. Our Lord sees all people with eyes of love and compassion, and He seeks to be granted the opportunity to graciously redeem everyone from their lost state. Thus, He directs us to put on His attitude, to see the people of this world as He does, and to become active agents for His redemption. Christ directs His people to engage and to energize His calling to us in constant and comprehensive prayer.

 

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5: 14

 

The laws of our society are an interesting aspect of the way that people bring order to our world. We create them so that there are rules to live by for ourselves and for the other people in our community. Generally we support and uphold them. Certainly there are laws that our governing bodies pass that we like far less than others, and there are laws going down today that bring about almost violent disagreement for at least some of us. Yet, at the end of the day, the law is still there, and we must follow it until it is changed or repealed.

 

However, there is law that predates all of the codes that humans have devised. There is an ordering of society that should establish the foundation for all other attempts at bringing civility to our conduct of life, and that is God’s law. God knew that we humans would not do a very good job of living in peace and harmony with each other. So, He gave us a basic and fundamental set of directives to follow if we desired to conduct our lives in a manner that would honor and be pleasing to Him. Then, Christ came into our world to take it all to a very different place. Christ redirected the old order of the means by which we were made right with God from one of external discipline to the more intimate and personal one of individual internal acceptance and submission.

 

This new order is both liberating and more challenging to follow. It frees us from a form of bondage that ridged systems of performance-oriented laws create. However, it makes each of us accountable to a standard of living that requires us to open up our hearts and minds to the transformative work of the Holy Spirit. Christ calls upon His people to live as if grace, peace, and love were our primary reasons for existence. He makes caring about and for our neighbors at the deepest of levels the new primary commandment to follow in ordering our communities, and Christ defines neighbors in the broadest of terms possible. So, Christ wants to make each of us into people who now see others as objects of His love and people who we can do nothing less than cherish as God’s beloved children.

 

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?

Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart.

Psalm 15: 1, 2

 

It may not always seem so apparent, but we all get to make daily choices about where we go, how we get there, and the way that we act while we are on this journey. Although we may need to head out of our homes and go to the same workplace, same school, and the routine stops that populate our lives, it is our own, individual choices that truly define the quality and the nature of the living that we transact during the day. We not only are allowed to make these choices, but we need to make them. It is these choices that create the environment that will direct the way that our mind handles everything that we encounter.

 

The Lord makes His word and its infinite truth available to us. He even speaks it directly to our hearts by His Spirit; yet, we are the ones who can decide to listen, and we determine the ways of our actions. Now, I’ll admit that there are days when I really don’t want to make the choice that includes seeking God’s perspective and wrapping myself in a warm and protective blanket of truth and love. There are days when I find some sort of perverse pleasure in being sad, lonely, and distant. These are days when I want the false freedom of being able to act badly toward others or to hold onto a diminished concept of my own value and worth. Yet, these moments and days are ones where I am choosing to operate in a reality that is created out of the deception that Satan continually attempts to use in order to distract me from God’s will and to disable me from my calling as Christ’s living witness. These are times of choosing to live in a cardboard hut made of lies and wrapped in failure that sits at the side of evil’s garbage dump. These are days when I could be living in the splendor of Christ’s richly furnished and palatial tent that is anchored at the top of His holy mountain.

 

This is my daily choice, and it is yours, as well. In making this decision to put on God’s truth, we are establishing the way that we want to travel through the day. This decision creates the attitudes that our mind will use to frame our responses to everything that transpires. Now is the moment to seek God’s righteousness and His truth so that the rest of this day can be viewed from the perspective of the same window that God uses to view His world.

 

You shall eat your offerings before the Lord your God in the place that the Lord your God shall choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all that you undertake.

Deuteronomy 12: 18

 

God did not want His people to perform their acts of sacrifice in isolation. He desired that the times of giving these gifts to Him would be times when the community of His people would gather together. These would be festive days of rejoicing together, and they would be times when people would confess, weep, and repent together. There was openness in God’s plan for sacrifice that would bring people closer together. It was important that the central reason for the gathering was to worship the Lord. Unity and commonality are found in God and through His presence.

 

There is also a striking note of inclusion here. Moses did not write a casual or a careless list of people to be included in these gatherings. In direct defiance of the culture of his times, Moses calls together both men and women, young and old, free and slave, the powerful and the underprivileged, and those who were independent and the ones who were cared for. The listing is intended to cover all of the possible individuals and classes of people who were present in the community. It was God’s desire that all people would find their common equality through His all-encompassing love and grace and that these characteristics of God would be made real by the Lord’s presence.

 

We live in a very different world. Our culture bears little resemblance to the one that Moses lived in. Yet, this need to gather in community is still with us. In fact, I think that we need this sort of total and equal gathering even more than these ancient people did. Christ desires for His people to gather together in His chosen place of presence. He wants us to celebrate life in all of its components from birth to death with Him. Where Christ is present there is cause for celebration. Any time that His people are together there is an opportunity to give thanks and to praise the Lord. There is no righteous endeavor that we may engage that should not be done in celebration, for Christ loves a party. As we join in together in experiencing life we can embrace with knowing hugs, laugh with delight, and wipe away the tears that sorrow brings. When we look on each other’s faces, we see a little more of the great beauty that is the Lord our God.

 

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12: 11

 

Everyone experiences a hard day when what we are attempting, either by our own wish or under compulsion, defeats our ability and will. This sort of thing happens in gym classes, when learning a musical instrument, or while attempting to follow complex directions. These situations are stressful and often embarrassing. However, it is much worse when the issues that we are dealing with involve a collision between the way that we have always thought and acted and the life that God is calling us to live. The impact that occurs at these times can jar the teeth from our heads and fill our world with wreckage.

 

Yet it is in order to avoid these disastrous situations that we endure the sore muscles and the tired minds that result from the hard work of training. Additionally, the discipline of the training that Christ leads His people into is the hardest of all. For it requires that we turn away from ideas and habits that have formed our identities from the earliest days of our lives. Then we are asked to retrain ourselves to act out of the righteousness and the love that God provides while leaving behind the false strength of our former competencies.

 

However, at the end of the day, when I look back at what Christ has done in my life, I can relax and be at peace with where my heart and my mind have come in my journey of growing in the grace of the Lord. My life is very far short of perfection. In fact, it seems to have just started its travels along this road called glory. Yet, as I put my weary feet up and lay my head down for rest, most of the time I can thank God and praise Him for the way that He has successfully guided me through all that has come my way so that I have caused little damage and often have accomplished some good in Christ’s name. So, here is the reward for sticking with Christ’s hard driving program, a good night’s rest in the peaceful certainty that I have done my best to know God, to hear His voice, and to follow His will.

How blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.

Psalm 2: 12b

 

There are many places that we can go when this world starts treating us in a rough manner. Many of them will provide relief from the stress and pressure while others promise to help us find a new path to success. However, there are other escapes that do inevitably lead us deeper into the darkness of this world’s chaos and cause us to lose even more of our God-likeness. Some of the ways of escape are packaged in soothing words, others with attractive covers, and some come with exotic looking labels and advertising that suggests the new identity that can be found inside. However, if the Lord is not at the center of the place of refuge, then, there will be no real and lasting escape found there.

 

The forces of this world will always find their way back into our lives, and the only one who can absolutely stand up to them is God, Himself. So, why do I stubbornly continue to go to others and try other means of escape when my life heads in a hard direction? I think that there is an element of self-centered desire to stay in control; yet, that sort of control is false. The Lord alone is actually in control of the universe. There is also an element of fear or concern that God will behave like people have, and He will either reject me or think less of me because I can’t handle my little issues on my own. Yet, rational thought leads me to the fact that God has always proven to me and to all people who choose to let Him that He is the perfect, loving, and gracious Father.

 

When I turn to God and trust my life to Him, He opens up His treasure chest of wisdom, courage, and strength to me. I am allowed full access to everything that the Creator of all has to offer. While I am searching for the answers that I need and trying to find my path through the day, my heart, mind, and body are being sheltered under the protection of God’s warm embrace, and while I am resting in my Lord’s presence, my heart is filled with His blessings.

 

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