October 2015


There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4: 4-6

 

People sometimes think that faith is something that we exercise at specific times or under certain circumstances. We believe that God is involved in this aspect of our life or that it is important to take Him along for that conversation. We seek His intervention when the thing that we are facing is too big or too frightening to handle on our own. We may try to say that the routine of our day is too trivial for us to involve God with, or we may just not even consider that it matters to seek spiritual influence and guidance for some of the areas of our lives. Yet, it seems that Paul saw his life in a rather different way.

 

There is nothing that people do or that we are involved with in our life that does not have the hand of God hovering over it. Whether we like it or not and regardless of our comfortability or our desire for the involvement, the lives that we live belong to God. Thus, we can choose to seek His wisdom, guidance, and strength; or we can do it our own way and hope that our way is good enough. Regardless of our choice, the Lord will be with us, and He is prepared to enter into the process of the life that we are living at any time. In Christ we are all unified into one organism, bound together by the His Spirit. We become individuals who are intimately connected to other individuals, and we all, individually and collectively, are joined together in Christ.

 

When we take any part of our lives and try to live it without involving God in it, we are diminishing our own prospects for peace and for success. When we go off on our own and do not engage with the faith body that is around us, we are denying ourselves the use of a powerful resource, and we are decreasing the strength of our community. Christ calls us into unity, into community, and into an all encompassing and ever present journey of faith that takes us through life. Hard times and their tears are made bearable by God’s mercy and compassion. Joy is fulfilled when it springs up from God’s well of truth, and we enjoy peace in and through all of life in the presence of Christ and with the fellowship of His body.

 

Praise the Lord!

How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments.

Psalm 112: 1

 

Fear and blessing wrapped up in one sentence seems like an odd fit at first look. Yet there is no doubt in my mind that I have experienced many blessings that have come from God through His active involvement in my life, and that sort of closeness with God leads inevitably to a state of reverence and respect that is biblical fear. He is an awesome God who is powerful beyond any other and who is due all thanks and praise for the essential nature of His being. Still, the Lord does interact with my world in ways that make Him known to me, and He continually brings His wisdom, understanding, and grace to the place where I am currently living. Additionally, there are other ways that God blesses me, and these are also very important to me, for they help to draw the complete picture of who, how, and what God is for me.

 

It is truly interesting to note that as I seek the Lord and as I align my thinking toward being receptive to His communication with me, the essential aspects of my life seem to improve. This may not be manifest in a change in a difficult situation or a noticeable turn around in a hard circumstance, but my ability to deal with it all is dramatically impacted. Thus, my comprehension of the blessed state that God has placed me in is enhanced. It is through the process and the practice of focusing on God and on the deeply life enhancing nature of His truth, that my core attitude, my heart, if you will, becomes aligned with God’s will, and I can live in the center of the peace that comes from knowing and understanding His loving grace.

 

This process of allowing Christ to align my thinking with God’s truth starts with me on my knees before God. It is necessary for me to humble myself and to get my own ego and self-generated understanding of life out of the way first. Then, in my personal quiet and contemplation, I start to hear the voice of God as His Spirit speaks to my heart. Christ blesses me with His life and true love, and He implores me to touch my world with these same blessings. During these times of worship and praise the eternal truths of God’s Word flow into me as a healing stream of peace, comfort, and joy.

 

 

But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets, but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

James 1: 25

 

Just in case you haven’t taken a moment recently to look around at the world that surrounds you or, for that matter, looked in the mirror, this is a flawed and imperfect place. So, when someone claims to have their eyes fixed upon perfection, the claim and the claimant are highly suspect. Still James is saying that there is something perfect that not only exists but it is accessible to anyone who looks into it. It is a bit like Dorian Grey’s mirror except that rather than deceiving us, it shows us the complete and total truth. Christ’s mirror is wonderfully and graciously honest.

 

When we look into the image that appears there, as we are in Christ, we see ourselves as set free beings. This perfect law that James is discussing is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It takes the totality of God’s moral and ethical code that sets out the framework for righteous living and it makes it possible for us. It is by grace that we find acceptance from God, and it is through Christ that we are changed from the condemned sinners that we have been since birth into the beloved co-heirs of God’s Kingdom that is our eternal status. The freedom that we now enjoy does eliminate the need to do any form of work or to put out any type of effort that is done in order to gain God’s acceptance, to achieve status in His eyes, or to secure a place in eternity. However, this newly minted freedom is not passive and it does call upon us to act.

 

There seems to be proven validity to the idea that the things that we hear are not made real until we do something with them. We can fill our minds with ideas and with facts that have no lasting effect; yet, when we convert this knowledge into action, the ideas seem to become incorporated into our very being. As God’s truth becomes more and more of the person that interacts with the world, we encounter the transformative process that Christ promises to His people. The Spirit of Christ informs our hearts and instructs our minds so that we have a sound basis for living in a manner that brings honor and glory to Christ. Then, as we actually enter into every aspect of this living with a sincere desire to engage our world with peace, justice, righteousness, and reconciliation as our intended outcome, we will be blessed by living in the complete liberty that only Christ can grant to us.

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

1 Kings 18: 21

 

This is a hard moment in the history of the people of Israel. Ungodly rulers are leading them into evil ways and unrighteous actions, and they are quietly and passively going along with it all. Admittedly, defying the king or queen would almost certainly result in a very unpleasant outcome, but even the fear of death is for them a failure of faith. These are people who have heard the stories of various miraculous and wondrous ways in which God has saved and preserved their ancestors. Yet, they live in the compromised state that Elijah describes here. Instead of expressing the beautiful and fluid worship practices that are directed to the Lord, they go about in the broken cadence of people who do not know who they are and do not worship any one true god.

 

We do not live in those times. Our nations are not created and designed as theocracies, and our rulers are not the direct appointees of God. They are not intended to establish and guide the spiritual tone and tenor of the land. Yet, there are some striking similarities between the times of Elijah and ours. The challenge that the prophet threw down for the people is still valid today. There are only two paths through life that we can choose. We either choose to follow God, which means that we become committed disciples of Christ, or we follow the ruler of this world and make ourselves into disciples of Satan. I admit that those words sound hard and harsh, and there is much in this life that we encounter that is not absolutely clear.

 

However, when it comes to making our fundamental decisions about what is right and worthy and what is wrong and outside of God’s plan for His people, the only direction that a follower of Christ can go is to submit ourselves to our Lord. His will is found within the pages of His Word, is brought to light through committed prayer and meditation upon that word, is given support and encouragement in the fellowship of Christ’s body the church, and is strengthened and developed as we enter into the struggle of life with the truth and love of the Gospel as our banner. This is not an easy choice to make. But, if Jesus is Lord and He is God, then there is no other path to choose than the one that engages in full-on and total discipleship to Christ.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2: 24

 

God’s Word contains many accounts of the way that Jesus healed people who were sick, diseased, deeply troubled, and suffering from various forms of bodily dysfunction. He even brought the dead back to life. The Old Testament has its own accounts of how God brings about health and restoration of people, and the Apostles engaged in various forms of healings, too. There is no doubt in my mind that God cares about our physical and emotional well-being and that He does work to heal our bodies. Yet, here in this letter, Peter is talking about the far greater form of healing that comes to us by and through Christ, and this is God’s promise of healing that brought me the greatest comfort during my recent time of illness and recovery.

 

Let me say that by nature I am not a person who turns over control readily. I am a manager, planner, and director of events. I am also rather uncomfortable with medical procedures and a person who does not seek medical care unless that is apparently necessary. In other words, unless that care is urgently needed. Yet, in that period of time where I was giving up my control by surrendering my own clothing, signing consent to treat forms, and allowing the administration of pain numbing medication; I did find myself in a state of complete peace and deep-seated rest. My soul was calm, and my mind and heart were satisfied.

 

Given my nature, the best that I can do to attempt to make sense of my state of peace is to consider that the message that the Spirit placed on my mind at that time was the one contained in the promise of this verse. I had already been healed. The sickness and the brokenness of my body in this world is nothing more than a momentary disruption in my life. Yes, it did hurt and the situation was dangerous, but none of that has anything to do with the state or the status of my soul. The life that I have is a gift of God that has been given out of the gracious love that He pours out on me. He owns my breath, and I absolutely trust the Savior of my soul with the working out of His righteous will in and upon my body.

I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God!

Deuteronomy 32: 3

 

This statement is a part of the grand and beautiful poem that makes up a large part of Moses’ last words to the people who he had lead out of captivity and to the brink of their God-ordained and granted home of dwelling. Although Moses, himself, knows that he will die in a very short amount of time, he is still concerned with the way that he is passing along God’s legacy. These words form a final, summary statement of intent for every breath that he still has to breath and a charge and a challenge to all that were listening that day and to every one of us who reads these words through the rest of time.

 

The idea of proclamation that he gives us is intriguing. How do we do this? We can certainly stand on street corners and shout out God’s name. That works, at least it draws attention in some places. In our world this probably looks like using our smart phones to tweet the message to those hundreds or even thousands of truly close friends that we have in our electronic universe. Perhaps the name of the Lord is proclaimed by our political rhetoric or by the stickers that we place on our cars, and maybe He is glorified by the money that we give and in the good works that we perform. All of these can be true, but I suspect that Moses had something more in mind.

 

It seems that the very best way for people to proclaim God’s name in our world is found in the way that we live. This starts in our most private moments. It begins in the interactions that we have with those who are closest to us, and it is founded upon our relationship with the very One whose name we seek to shout. God’s true name is love, mercy, compassion, patience, truth, and righteousness. His greatness is memorialized by self-sacrifice and humility. When people move out of themselves and their definition of what is needful in our world and engage the hard, messy and pervasive needs of humanity that God’s Spirit leads us to, then His name rings from the mountaintops. As we still our need to be heard and listen with our hearts to Christ’s voice of reason and peace, the greatness of God, His glory, is visible in our world.

Behold, You delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Psalm 51: 6

 

All people have places of deep secrecy. These seem to be a part of how we are shaped and what develops in us as we grow from childhood into our adult years. This tendency toward secrecy may very well be connected to the nature of sinfulness that has become a part of all of humanity; so, it is very natural to people. It also seems to become stronger and to be buried deeper as we mature in living in our fallenness in this sin-infused world. Now there are places and times for holding secrets that are good, worthy, and righteous. Yet, many of the thoughts that we are keeping tucked and locked away are not those. Many of them are the sorts of things that we would not consider sharing with our mothers, our close friends, our spouses, and God.

 

One of the biggest problems with keeping our sinfulness buried deep inside is that it likes that sort of dark and damp environment in which to grow. While hidden away those small deviations from God’s truth develop into very large drifts toward destruction. The thoughts and the actions that are their result also start to grow and to become stronger and bigger. As their strength increases they start to exert more and more control over our lives until it becomes very hard to distinguish God’s truth from our self-created reality. Under the influence of sin, people become delusional. This state of being is destructive to everyone and everything that is contacted by it. There are no real winners when sin gains control of a person’s life.

 

God wants us to be open with Him. In fact, one of the most irrational aspects of this process of hiding our sin is the delusion that we can hide anything from God. It is also important to remember and to contemplate the fact that if God delights in truth and works to teach wisdom to us; then, He most surly must detest truth and wisdom’s opposite numbers as found in lies and folly. The first step toward wholeness and righteousness is exposure. God calls upon us to confess our sinful thoughts to Him and to be open to His replacing these ideas with the truth of His Word. He also instructs His people to develop close, intimate relationships within His body where we can walk through life together in honesty and mutual strength. The process of exposing hidden sin is neither easy nor pleasant. This process involves pain and hard work for everyone involved. Yet, at the end of the day when the darkness of sin is replaced with the light of God’s gracious truth, we are set free to live in the deep peace and joy of Christ’s presence.

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