August 2015


And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.

1 Chronicles 29: 13

 

We all need to do what David has done as he was speaking the prayer of which this line is a part. It is important to reflect on the many ways that God has entered into our life and to consider the totality of His presence. Sure, we can usually get the big picture of God’s involvement with us, but the breadth, depth, and constant nature of it tends to get lost in the processes of engaging with our everyday existence. From time to time we should do what David is doing and take a good look at the longer view of our personal history.

 

As we do this we can allow God, Himself, to reveal to our minds the many times when He was the real actor in the events that took place. He can open our hearts to acceptance and appreciation of the ways that our Lord took charge and turned the events of the day from ones that were headed toward failure or disaster and how He worked in the forces of nature and in the lives of people to make the outcome one that brought peace, justice, and righteousness into the world. David could see that this was true for him through all of the times and seasons of his life. God had been involved in the lonely and dangerous times in the wild with his sheep, and He had gone before King David in all of the days of his reign. The same is true for each of us. Our Lord is present and engaged always!

 

As this reality of God’s faithfulness, power, and love sinks into the heart and stimulates the mind to see its wonder and uniqueness, the natural response is to express thanksgiving and praise to God. Whether it is done in public prayer or in the quiet of a moment alone, this singing out of our understanding and deep appreciation for who God is and for what He does in our lives should be a daily exercise. My experience is like David’s in that honest reflection on life leads to the inescapable conclusion that the course and outcome of it would have been very different without the involved presence of God. This is a continual fact that leads my heart to want to sing out with words that humbly express my deepest thanks to God.

We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5: 20

 

Do you ever struggle to make sense of this world? I certainly do. We are confronted on a regular basis by the stories of events that totally defy reason and logic. People do things to each other that are too terrible to comprehend, and groups of people often bring greater chaos to the scene rather than aggregate reason. It is in these sorts of times that I am reminded that God has truly blessed me with this gift of His that can be called understanding. That doesn’t mean that I have perfect answers for all of the whys or that I have perfect peace and comfort in all circumstances.

 

Rather, God’s Word describes in thorough detail the world where I live. It is a place where the landscape has been tortured and fractured by the forces of satanic evil that are waging war across its surface. This same ancient conflict brings all of the people of the earth into its battle lines. There is no such thing as a non-combatant in this war for eternity. God’s Word provides clarity and understanding to this picture, for God is not the one who brings about the pain and the heartache of life. God’s design for this world was and remains one where peace and relational love prevail. Satan violently lashes out at this reality and seeks to destroy it. He uses advanced weapons such as disease, anger, jealousy, and hatred as tools of destruction.

 

For me, this knowledge helps to sort out cause and effect in my personal life and in the broader spectrum of the world around me. There is one source of goodness and love in this world and that source is God. There exists one and only one source of truth and that too is God. He has given us His Word as a directly tangible resource, and God has also provided His Spirit to His people in order to guide and counsel us as we search for the eternal truths that it contains. This Godly understanding does not eliminate pain, suffering, and grief, but it does eliminate confusion and doubt. Through all that happens in this life, God’s love is absolute and unshakable, His grace and mercy are present, and He continually holds His people close in the Father’s eternal loving embrace.

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

John 12: 46

 

These are the profound words of a man who knows that He is facing the darkest hour of His life on earth. Jesus is only a very short amount of time away from the cross, and He is aware of the sort of pain that His body and soul will endure. Jesus also understands the nature of the great darkness that will descend upon the land at that time. He is the source of true light in the world. The light that He brings comes from God, and it is the expression of the glory that continually fills the heavens with a radiance that is beyond all imagining. This is not just the light that comes from the sun, for it is more fundamental than that. The light that Jesus brought into the world is formed in the nature and the character of God.

 

Jesus gave tangible earthly expression to that light. His presence among us brought to life the love, truth, justice, and mercy of God. He demonstrated through words and actions the righteous nature of God, and Jesus brought all of that to culmination in His sacrificial death, an act of great love, which God redeems by an even greater act in Christ’s resurrection to life. It is after His death and resurrection that Jesus’ promise of giving light becomes real. Although He brought the light of God into the world, during His earthly life Jesus was limited by place and time. Now Christ, by and through the presence of His Spirit in all who believe in Him, grants this holy light to illuminate every corner of the world for each moment of the day.

 

People who know Christ also know God’s light. We possess it. Yet, this light is not the sort of thing that should be protected or secured away in some secret place. It is a gift that God gives to His people with the intention that we would share it freely and fully with others. The light of heaven was a part of what made Jesus the center of attention wherever He went. It brought comfort to the troubled, and its glory cut through the darkness of sin to open people’s wounded hearts to God’s pure and healing touch. Now that same light is available to the entire world in the presence of Christ in His people. We are to live each of our days in God’s light, and we are to be bearers of Christ’s perfect light of love in our world

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

Luke 19: 10

 

God is always seeking. He never stops pressing on to reach into the darkened depths of the souls of people, for He claims everyone on this earth as His own. The Lord will not rest from the quest after relationship with us until we have totally closed and locked away any possible access to our hearts. Since God sees nothing but the potential that He designed into us, He continues to view us with that Father’s eye for the potential beauty within until the moment that we draw our last earthly breath.

 

Christ wants me to view others in this same way. He tells me to love my neighbor, to forgive wrong doing, to offer up my un-injured cheek to the person who just hit me, and to care about the eternity of others more than I care about my own security or comfort. Jesus seemed to actually enjoy the company of such flawed and coarse people as we are. He gathered the imperfect and the self-focused to His side; and He continues to delight in being in the close and intimate company of these people. People such as you and me.

 

Jesus came after me. He has come after you, and He wants us to join Him in the relentless pursuit of others. This world is filled with lostness and the pain that it causes. Christ provides the answers to the void that sin has carved out. People who know Him are the means that God uses to connect that empty need with His healing love. Jesus desires to walk with each of us through this day of seeking that which is lost. Christ will do the work as He gifts to us the right words and deeds for us to use for this purpose and to His glory.

 

 

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;

bring an offering and come before him!

Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;

tremble before him, all the earth;

yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.

1 Chronicles 16: 29, 30

 

Praise for God is not universal. Many people do not accept Him as true ruler of this world, and many more do not believe that God exists. Even among those who accept the existence of a god, their understanding of who he is and of how he operates varies greatly. So, King David’s words here will not hold the same meaning for everyone. I can only speak about the way that they impact me. I believe in God. He is Lord of all that exists in both tangible and spiritual realms. God is the Creator of all, and He is the one who designed every molecule of my being. God has been actively involved with and in this world from before its beginning, and God; in all three of His persons, Father, Son, and Spirit; works continually to bring every aspect of His Creation back into relationship with Him.

 

The glory that is due to God is beyond the capacity of my words to express. He holds this world together when humanity seems to be committed and determined to rip it to pieces. The Lord refuses to give up on His people. He gave us Himself in the person of Jesus to be the perfect and final sacrifice who restores anyone who accepts Him to an unending relationship with God. This is a gift that is based in love and that is also greater than I can imagine. The life that Christ grants to people is perhaps the grandest expression of David’s “splendor of holiness”. For, as we are in Christ, we are made holy, set apart from the death and the corruption of this world, and we enter into the glory of God’s kingdom of love, grace, and peace.

 

It is in the absolute reign of God over this earth that we find hope. The hope for people who follow Christ is found both in this life and beyond. We know with a certainty that comes through faith that we are moving toward an eternity in the literal presence of God; so, we are a mere handful of breaths away from an existence that is defined by the Father’s total and absolute love. Yet, as we live and draw in the painful air of this world, Christ brings the peace of His presence to us. We are never alone, and we are continually cared for by His Spirit. As the Holy Spirit guides and counsels God’s people to place our feet on the foundational truth of His Word, we are granted access to the wisdom that forms and establishes God’s true intent for the way that life should be lived. It is this life of righteous obedience and trust that God desires as our offering of worship and praise.

 

And God saw everything that he had made, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Genesis 1: 31

 

This world is the work of God’s great creative expression. This includes all of it from the atmosphere around earth, the planet itself, the creatures upon it, and all of the people who have ever populated it. We are all designed, shaped, and fashioned by the hand of the Creator, God. As God completed His work, this entire world was perfect and without flaw. There was nothing lacking and it contained everything that was needed to flourish and to thrive. We all know the story; disobedience and rebellion were brought to the scene by an actor from outside of this perfect creation. So, Satan entices the innocent and they respond by rebelling against the authority of God. It’s a theme that is repeated on a daily basis in our world. The path of rebellion is one that all people choose and by which all of creation is damaged.

 

Like humanity, the rest of creation is a mixture of good and evil: just and oppressive, beneficial and harmful, and loving and hurtful. This world is a crazy-quilt tapestry of all that is righteous and good mixed with everything that is sinful and evil. That which is godly stands shoulder to shoulder with that which is ungodly. We all live among people and things that are clear expressions of God’s glory and among those that are working in opposition to Him. That is the nature of the world in these days. That is why God sent His Redeemer Son to this world. The Father wants to see His creation restored to the peaceful kingdom of His design.

 

Unfortunately, this restoration will not occur without much greater upheaval and turmoil. The evil that is infused into the world will not surrender its hold on existence easily. It is powerful and it operates with great cunning, guile, and deception. Yet, its life span is temporary, its hold upon creation is tenuous, and the destruction and pain that it brings is reversible. Christ is victorious over it all, and He will reign over this world forever. Today, in Christ, we can live in the peace and the joy of His victory. We can bring the glory of God to every person and place that we contact in our day. God’s desire for restoration can become ours as well. We can see and appreciate the beauty of God’s presence in our world, and as followers of Christ, we can accept God’s grace and forgiveness, and we can impart love to sooth the wounds and the pain of living in a place of conflict such as this.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another.

1 John 4: 11

 

John has already made it very clear that God does love people. He loves us to the point of ultimate and total sacrifice for our sakes. This love is without boundaries and goes beyond all human understanding. Christ loves us even when we demonstrate no prospect of returning that love, and He demands nothing from us in return for that love. Yet, if we are willing to turn away from our former lives and surrender our current and future ones to Him, Christ pours out grace, forgiveness, and healing upon our hearts and our minds. This gift of love is so powerful and complete that it transforms the people who receive it into totally new beings.

 

So, if I am a recipient of Christ’s gift, then it is reasonable to expect that I will think, act, and be different. This difference is measured in relation to my life before I knew Christ. However, it is also considered in comparison to the world in general and even in contrast to how I lived yesterday. The transformative work that Christ does in His people is on going and it is progressive. That is not to say that there will not be good days and ones that are not so good. Most of us even experience times of great challenge and apparent defeat as we go through life as followers of Christ. Yet, He remains victorious over all of the forces of evil in this world and beyond, and Christ continues to work in our hearts and our minds through all of the days of our lives.

 

Christ’s victory is based upon love, and His work in the lives of His followers is also grounded upon and infused with that same love which comes from God. As God loves us and Christ imparts that love to us, we are called upon by God to be people who love others. Although we are also led by God to be a righteous and a holy people, we are to follow the example of Jesus in all of life. Thus, we are mandated by Christ to embrace care for others, justice for the weak and the disadvantaged; we are to grant hospitality and acceptance to the foreigner, and to seek to heal the relational hurts that occur in the course of life. This love that models Christ is sacrificial. It seeks nothing for itself, but it gives everything in order to bring people into close proximity to God, and in so doing it presents to them the love that saves the world.

 

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through the one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Romans 5: 17

 

There is one singular inheritance that every human being is granted at birth, and this bequest is death. Each and every one of our bodies will come to its end of days on earth. There is no escape from the enactment of this fate. However, death itself is only a shadow of the true legacy that we gain by virtue of our ancestry in Adam. Of greater significance and impact upon our lives now and upon our eternal futures is the fact that we are born in a state of spiritual separation from God. It is as if there were two races of people who exist. Yet, unlike the race descriptors that we typically use, everyone is born into the race of those who are separated from God by sin; thus, they are spiritually dead.

 

Then, by and through Christ, we are all granted the opportunity to be changed into something and someone who is totally different. Although the chemical makeup of our bodies that can be tested scientifically remains the same, our spiritual composition is radically altered as the Holy Spirit of Christ comes to reside within everyone who surrenders his or her life to Christ. This is what I mean by the idea that there ate only two races; that is, those who are spiritually alive in Christ and those who are dead in the sin that was theirs from birth.

 

The impact of all of this on life beyond this earthly one is great, but Paul doesn’t leave us with that hope of eternity as the only aspect of entering into a relationship with God through Christ to consider. For, in Christ, we are also elevated to the status of rulers over our world. Now the power that we gain and the kingdom that we reign over are very strange in human terms. In this kingdom we are granted the same sorts of rights and benefits that Jesus enjoyed. Perhaps the greatest of these is freedom. Through Christ and in His Spirit we are free to love others without regard to the past and to our cultural understandings. Additionally, we are made righteous in the eyes of God so that we can come to Him in full disclosure of our weakness and seek the healing touch of His loving grace. In Christ, we are, in fact, victors over this world and its oppression, and this is true regardless of our situation or our circumstances. Christ reigns in poverty and in wealth, in sickness and in health, and under oppression or in power. Christ reigns!

The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.

Habakkuk 2: 20

My ears are buzzing with the overload of the sound of life that too often becomes the foreground of the day. Maybe it’s the constant noise of life in the modern world where machines and electronic devices are everywhere. Maybe it’s the way that everyone seems to have an opinion about everything, and they express them continually. Whatever the source, my head is swimming and my mind just can’t keep up with the pace of the stimulation that my ears are letting in to it.

It is too easy to lose sight of the fact that there is one voice that separates the real from the false and that creates order out of chaos. I struggle with simply shutting out the clutter and with not getting caught up in the allure and the energy of the buzz. Yet, I must shut it out in order to allow myself the ability to hear God as He speaks. It is also true that the Lord will filter all of the external information for me if I would reroute my inputs so that I am taking everything in by testing it against what God says in His word and through His Spirit.

The basic truth is that God is ever present, and He is present everywhere. Additionally, as His child, I am His temple; thus, God’s Spirit is in me. It is an inescapable fact that the world will always be a noisy and distracting place to live, but Christ brings calm and peace to our lives. We can choose to turn off the noise and shut out the buzz of this world. When we do this and meditate on God’s truth, His voice will speak clearly despite all of the world’s attempts to drown it out.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10: 23

 

Our world is filled with greased ropes. Some are vertical and others are horizontal, but the effect upon life is much the same. We are in a position where we need be able to trust in something to help us get out of the hole or away from the beast. As we search about for that means of escape, our eyes come upon a climbing rope, a stout dangling vine, or that convenient swinging bridge that always seemed to be there for Indiana Jones at the appropriate time of need. But in my view of this scene, the rope is always coated with slippery grease, the vine is thorny, or the bridge is weak and failing. The sure escape suddenly becomes a fatal trap. The object of my faith proves to be untrustworthy; so, my escape is now an illusion.

 

Of course, this is fantasy, the stuff of dreams and of children’s play. Still, there is much of life that operates in the general arena of the action-adventure film. This place where we live is a harsh landscape with many wild and dangerous creatures roaming about in it. In order to live confidently and with the sort of boldness that Christ calls us to possess, we must have faith in something that is greater than ourselves or than those opposing forces that we do encounter. I believe that this someone is Christ, and the something is God’s Word. From a point in existence that is before there was time, God has provided the promise of His unshakable love for His Creation. He has been present for all of our times of struggle, through the danger, and in our periods of doubt and rebellion. Our thoughts and actions can be painful to God, but they do not ever cause Him to abandon us.

 

In light of God’s faithfulness, why should I look anywhere else for answers to life’s challenges? He provides me with truth that is unshakable when my ears are being filled with the polished language of deception. Christ lights my path and leads me out of the twilight of doubt and ambiguity that is at the center of the modern world’s moral dilemma. My Lord calls me to engage with a community of faith where I will find people who are listening to the same voice of truth and who desire to follow the same Master above all others. God, Himself, is defined by faithfulness. He will take us as far and as high in our pursuit of His righteousness as we are willing to go. Christ gave all for me, for you, for all of humanity, and for all of Creation. We can trust Him absolutely. Our confession of faith in Jesus, the Christ, will never be in vain.

 

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