September 2015


Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.

Psalm 119: 105

 

If you have ever gone camping and needed to move about at night, you can appreciate the importance of being able to see your feet. It isn’t so much that the feet themselves need to be seen, but being able to see what the feet were stepping on or running into does matter. Our feet are vulnerable, and they carry all of our weight as we move about in life. So, injuries to them can be painful and disabling, and missteps can lead to serious and even fatal falls. As we can see, the writer of this Psalm is taking the familiar scene of a dark night and rough terrain to walk across and fashioning a metaphor for the presence of God in our lives.

 

In our world light comes in two essential forms. One is the tangible form that is made up of electromagnetic radiation waves. This is the light that comes from the sun and that is produced when electrical current passes through a light bulb. The other is the non-tangible form that the dictionary calls “enlightenment.” Although God created the first type, He is the direct source of the second one. This enlightenment is at the heart of the first creation account that is found in Genesis chapter one, and it is what God grants to His people in the presence of His Spirit within us. So, in Christ and through God’s word we gain enlightenment for our journey through this world.

 

The writer of this Psalm is preparing for that journey. He recognizes the need to stay connected to God’s word of truth in order to avoid the sharp objects, the pitfalls, and the tripping hazards that line today’s pathway. He also knows that navigation matters in successful travel. So, he looks to that same word for guidance in setting the course and for the wisdom that is required to correct and to reset it along the way. God’s word provides us with the light that we need to navigate our way as we follow His calling to engage with our world, and His Spirit enlightens our hearts and minds so that we see that world with the eyes of God.

 

Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord GOD, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.

2 Samuel 7: 29

 

There is very little permanence in this world. On a regular basis the things that we hold as examples of longevity die, fall down, or are destroyed. A very long life will reach 100 years, but we know with certainty that it, too, will end. There is decay afoot in our air and in our water, and it has infected everything on this earth from rocks to flesh. Yet, in the face of this same reality, David spoke with confident certainty about God’s promise of his house continuing forever. Through His word and by His presence God granted to David the same knowledge and the same view of life that He grants to anyone who will listen and follow.

 

Unlike some people, God does not hold the granting of His blessings as a tool for controlling others. He approaches, pursues, and grabs hold of people in order to grant us His grace, forgiveness, care, mercy, protection, and provision. In a word, His blessing. God intends to enter into a relationship with people, and He is a relentless and tireless worker in that cause. The answer to the great division that sin caused to exist between humanity and God was made perfect and complete by Jesus’ life and sacrificial death. Then God answered the issue of permanence as He defeated decay and death by raising Christ from among the dead and raising Him back to His place in glory.

 

It is in Christ that God’s promise of forever is written; then, through Him, that promise is made real in the lives of people. Each of us is heir to the great blessings that God granted to David. Christ calls to all people to set aside our self-centered view of life and to accept His grace-filled transformative renewal. As we follow David’s example and humbly submit our deepest selves to Christ, emptying ourselves of the old crumbling and failing foundation that tenuously holds us up, His Spirit will fill us again with an intimate knowledge of God that makes courageous commitment to following Him possible. It is from this state of complete weakness before God that we will find the peace, the joy, and the righteous living that are God’s forever blessing for our souls.

O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you.

Psalm 88: 1

 

We humans tend to want to look so very cool in the way that we go about our lives. After all, image is everything. Perception is reality. Looking like we are in control will lead to control. There are so many ways to spin this idea that considering them makes my head spin. Yet, for most of us, life is not lived in total control; rather, much of it is lived in a state of abject terror at the prospect of crashing ingloriously to earth. As we live in a world where chaos is continually attempting to gain the upper hand, we are fighting against the forces of nature to maintain any Godly order, reason and truth that we can grasp hold of. This is the perspective of the Psalmist as he cries out to God.

 

It would seem that the shadows of evil are creeping all around him. His story also speaks to the fact that he has contributed to their presence by his own thoughts and actions. The writer of the psalm has not lived a pure and blameless life. He is far too human for that. He is one of us! Yet, he knows that he has been wrong, for he recognizes his own sinfulness that has invited in the evil that was waiting for the opportunity to enter into his life. Now he feels alone and abandoned. He is lost and without resources for recovery. He has reached that well noted end of his rope and there are still hundreds of feet of descent left until he reaches solid ground again. This is the sort of place where we all have been if we are being honest about what is going on in our world.

 

It is from this position of helpless distress that the Psalmist cries out to God. He does it with a passion and an intensity that abandons polished language and careful expression. He bares his soul to the only one in the universe who truly understands what he is feeling. In his need, he surrenders appearances and gives in to his honest need for God’s intervention. I believe that this is what God desires for all of His people to do. When we are on our knees before the Mighty King we tend to become quiet enough to clearly listen to His voice. As we stretch out flat on the floor in complete surrender, we seem to be more receptive to doing what the Lord commands. The Lord, God Almighty, yearns to hear our pleas, and He is loving and just in His response.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2: 4

 

The little phrase “but God” hovers over God’s Word and provides a tension to numerous scenes throughout it. It is a simple linguistic construction, in Greek the but is called a conjunction of antithesis, which sits at the balance point for the eternal destiny of many souls. Contemplate for a moment a god who did not operate in the manner as the “But God’ one does. This would be a god who is not rich in mercy, who does not love people in a manner that is beyond our contemplation, and who did not sacrifice himself for the sake of our souls. This is a god much like the ones that humanity has tried to create for itself throughout our troubled history. This is a god who is completely foreign to my experience of the true and living God, the great I Am, Father, Savior, and Spirit of light, life, and truth.

 

The “But God” enters into the lives of people who are broken and shattered by the corrosive and destructive forces of sin. We are all born into this world as hearers of Satan’s great lies. Each person’s story is different, but this one fact is our common reality, each of us needs to be saved from the certainty of a life that is lived presently and eternally in a state of separateness from God. Christ performed the great intervention. He came out of the perfection of Heaven to join with us in our world of chaos and pain. He brings to our hearts the promise of a love that is great beyond measure and that doesn’t contemplate our worthiness before He embraces us. Christ enters the tomb of our souls and He breathes the breath of life into our lungs. Then, like Lazarus, Christ calls to us to come out of the dwelling place of the dead and to enter into the land of the truly alive.

 

It is in this new land of our inhabitation where we live with Christ. For people who know Him, this is our new home. We may be aliens and foreigners in this world where we journey, but this should not confuse us, for we are now residing in the presence of God, Almighty. Therefore, our new address is the Kingdom of God, and we are called upon by Him to be active players in bringing the truth of the “But God” to the world that we touch with our lives. We are not called by God to be judges, and we are not called to be agents of condemnation. We are to be lovers of people and to be careful gardeners who work diligently to restore order and to bring peace into our world. When the world encounters us it should be able to readily see the effects of the transformative work that the “But God” has performed upon us, and it should know that it is being touched by His mercy, grace and love.

 

 

It is too light a thing that you should be my servant

to raise up the tribes of Jacob

and to bring back the preserved of Israel;

I will make you as a light for the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

Isaiah 49: 6

 

These are the words of the Lord as He speaks to His servant Isaiah. The Lord is sending Isaiah out to engage in the redemptive mission that is at the heart of His divine will. Redemption for all of creation is what God seeks, and the Lord has equipped Isaiah for engaging in this work. The servant has been granted understanding and wisdom, strength and courage, and a heart that is both righteous and merciful. Now God calls upon Isaiah to use these gifts as he engages with the people of his own lands and with those from others.

 

Although Isaiah was specifically called as a prophet to Israel in his time and place, I don’t think that God’s message to him was exclusively for then or about that setting. We may not have had experiences exactly like Isaiah’s, but God has called anyone who has responded to Christ into service to Him. Also, we have been equipped for that commission. In fact, we have more available to us today than did Isaiah in his; for, we have God’s written word with the full narrative of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit to inform our understanding and to help guide our journey.

 

So, I think that you and I are tasked by the Lord with continuing His work of redemption in our world. This calling encompasses all of creation from my family and neighbors to people who are far away and very different in customs and in beliefs. It also covers my approach to the environment and to the resources that God has placed on this earth. Christ has granted redemption to me, and He continues to do His redemptive work in me. Now He calls upon me to engage with all others in a manner that places Christ in front of me and that always sees and values them as He does.

These things I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

John 15: 11

 

Jesus is talking about the basic truth of staying close to Him as we go through life. He is telling us that following His way of living doesn’t require us to just grit our teeth and give up the pleasurable aspects of being alive, either. When we look to God for everything that we need to understand and for the wisdom to apply that understanding to our lives, the results for us will be a form of internal peace that is as the famous ad expression says, “Priceless”.

 

As we follow Christ in every aspect of life, we are granted a gift that exceeds anything that can be purchased. For in choosing to live this way we are filled with the joy of our Creator, and that is how He desires for us to live. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be hard times, days, and situations; however, it does mean that we can trust in God to have a plan for us in those times. We can enter into the hard situations with the joy of Christ to anchor our hearts and to clear our minds. Also, we can be completely confident in God’s promise of protection from the sort of harm that destroys our true selves.

 

Deep-seated joy may be expressed in smiles or it may be seen as a ribbon of tears on the cheek, and there are many times when it is both. Yet, it is always a gift from the Lord. Joy is found in quiet meditation and prayer, and it is discovered in God’s word. Joy springs up out of God’s Word as His truth provides us with the refreshing nourishment that our weary hearts and minds demand. As the breath of the Spirit fills our lungs with life, it implants the joy of Christ within us.

 

The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.

1 Peter 4:7

 

The oldest promise that exists in the history of people is the one where God makes a commitment to us that the fatal disease of sin will be cured. This applies not only to the people who choose to accept Christ’s gracious act of saving sacrifice, but it is also true for this entire evil tainted world. However, in order for the blood of atonement to have its permanent effect on our world, all of the diseased elements must be destroyed. Thus, all things that we know that are in this world and of this world must soon come to an end.

 

This is a good thing; yet, it is a hard and a frightening prospect to consider. It is very easy to lose track of how God calls upon us to live and to wander off the course that He would have us follow. This is where seeking the sort of wisdom that leads to sound judgment comes in. The sort of deep-seated core thinking that can be relied upon in even the most challenging of times comes from the Lord. It is defined by His character. It doesn’t come naturally to us, but it is ours when we seek it through searching God’s word, by staying closely connected to His people in honest and loving relationships, and as we live in the intimacy of God’s Spirit.

 

Understanding, clear thinking, and righteous living are the result of surrendering our fears, concerns, anger, and distrust to Christ. We begin to gain the sort of level headed and sober approach to life that God desires for us to have when we lay all that gets in the way of living life in the fullest expression of Christ’s freedom on the altar of prayer as a love offering to our Savior. There is release from captivity in the prayer; there is strength to be found in the praying; and God’s eternally promised wisdom becomes clearer in a life where prayer is constant.

 

Have mercy on those who doubt.

Jude 22

 

Doubt is both normal and necessary. Experiencing moments of doubt can protect us from impulsive and damaging decisions or actions. This sort of momentary doubt can cause us to seek out God’s wisdom and counsel before we take action on our own. Seasons of doubt are also natural; yet, they are very different. Have you had your doubting times? These are days when very little of what was going on in your life made sense and when confusion, disappointment, and even a sense of deep spiritual aloneness ruled your heart. If this is a part of your personal history, then you are probably in the majority among people of faith, and you are also experiencing what a multitude of people who don’t know Christ on an intimate basis do experience regularly.

 

Doubt is a tool that Satan uses to cloud people’s minds and to conceal the truth of God’s love, grace, and mercy from us. It is also a part of the path that most of us need to take in order to get from that place of partial commitment to Christ which is the starting point of most faith journeys to the ever deepening and always growing relationship that His Spirit wants to take us to. For, as we explore and deal with issues of doubt, we open up some of the hidden corners of our hearts, and we are forced to face the issues and the fears that we are hiding there. Then, the light of God’s truth has an opportunity to cleanse us of these old-self elements that are causing us so much pain and discouragement.

 

It is completely normal for us to experience these times of doubting, and each of us will encounter others who are going through such a time as well. How we choose to respond to this challenge is what matters most. Christ wants to take the doubt that we are experiencing and show us the reality of His presence in our lives. He wants us to embrace the doubter with our own confident love so that others who are in need will see tangible proof of the Lord’s direct engagement in their lives. Everyone who knows Christ has seen God’s gracious mercy first-hand, now our Lord sends us out to show that same mercy to people who need Him.

 

 

How lovely are Thy dwelling places, O Lord of hosts!

Psalm 84: 1

 

There are many magazines that are published with pictures and stories about amazing and wonderful homes. We can watch hours upon hours of television where homes are made nearly perfect. Yet, when I consider the beauty, the glory, and the splendor of God’s house, images that far exceed any of these come to mind. God’s house must be a place where the most extraordinary of all possible colors and textures are ordinary. As I think about living in this place, my heart is lifted and a smile just comes to my face. This is the place of my dreams, and these are the surroundings that my heart yearns for. It is here that all my needs will be met, and it is in these surroundings that I will be in the loving presence of my Lord, God the Father, throughout all of the moments of my existence.

 

However, as I consider the location of God’s house, His word leads me to the fact that when I granted the Spirit of Christ entree into me by accepting Him as my Lord and recognizing at the level of my heart the truth of Jesus’ sacrificial death and triumphal resurrection, God’s house came to me. Everyone who knows Jesus has become the dwelling place of the Spirit of God. So, we are not just decorated in the splendid outer wrappings of God’s house, but our hearts, minds, and souls have been changed to be in the image of the grace, righteousness, peace, and love of God, and those are the most splendid furnishings that I can imagine.

 

Additionally, all of this redecorating has already taken place. In Christ, I was made new, and the loveliness of God does already reside in and on me. There are still corners of my life where the old, life worn and futile aspects of my former self are hidden away as I try to hang onto them and their false comfort. But God keeps working on His renovation project, and every day, as I grant Him permission to work in these corridors of my heart, the Lord reveals more of Himself in me, and as the writer of this Psalm said,

“How blessed is the man who trusts in Thee!” Psalm 84: 12b

Since therefore Christ suffered in he flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

1 Peter 4: 1, 2

 

Christ did something that most people are very reluctant to consider. He suffered physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Christ did it all in obedience to the Father, and He went to the cross in the place of every one of us. His was the willing sacrifice of self for the eternities of all others. The blood that He shed on that cross was poured out upon the altar of grace as He paid for the rebelliousness of humanity.

 

As a follower of Christ, I am asked by God to follow the path to that cross that Jesus travelled. It is not necessary for me to climb up onto the cross, for that would elevate me to a level that is far too high and that tortured task has already been completed. However, I am asked to enter into the suffering and even into the death that Christ endured. For most people that does not mean facing the literal end of this life. However, it usually means that we are leaving behind the comfort and the safety of the life that we have known so that we can travel the dangerous streets of a true disciple of Christ.

 

In fact, for most people and for significant periods of time, God has plans for us and a Kingdom of God oriented purpose for our lives to fulfill. Yet, as we submit ourselves to Christ and allow Him to replace our desire for pleasure with one that worships Him and seeks God’s will, we are changed. This path that is littered with the suffering and the loss that sin has produced is also the road to holiness. Christ takes us along this way and places us into the middle of the brokenness of this world so that we can reach out with His love, grace, and mercy to touch the wounded with the soul-deep healing of Christ. This journey of love is God’s will for each of His people.

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