February 2016


When pride comes, then comes disgrace,

But with the humble is wisdom.

Proverbs 11: 2

 

This is not intended to be a comment on the political climate of our world, but it probably could be. There is enough pride and ego afoot on the campaign trail to fill a thousand hot air balloons with wind left over to propel them along. Yet, before I start pointing at others and calling out their weakness, I should look at myself and ask God to reveal my own arrogance, ego, and pride. It seems that this is one of those areas in life where there can be a very fine line between what is healthy and good and that which damages relationships and leads to self-absorbed and harmful thinking.

 

It is often very difficult to accurately assess my own thinking and actions. I may believe that I am functioning out of a foundation of truth and conviction when, in fact, it is my pride that is speaking. Because it is difficult to look upon myself and honestly perceive my motives and the impact of what I am doing, I need God’s wisdom and revelation to show me the truth about myself. This truth comes by way of several sources. God’s Word is a story of humility and engagement. In it I find described in vivid detail the way that the Lord desires that I would think and act. Through it, in prayer and meditation, I am counseled, directed, and encouraged by the Holy Spirit. God literally speaks to my heart and transforms the thought processes that lead to my actions in daily life.

 

Even with the eternal counsel of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, I require more in order to live in the fullness of God’s design and intent. As God is relational, so are people. God counsels us to follow Him in the context of fellowship with others who also know Him. When it comes to receiving honest input into the righteousness of my actions and the holiness of my thinking, no one is better qualified to provide such input than people who know and follow Christ and with whom I am in regular worshipful fellowship. Pride is dangerous, yet confidence is essential for living boldly in this world; so, Christ leads His people into the essential balance between the these two often competing human characteristics.

Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them,

for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.

Isaiah 3: 10

 

This statement stands in the midst of a very sad and truly depressing commentary. God has shared through the Prophet just how much He is displeased with the way that the people of the nation are living. They have cast aside almost all practice of righteous living. Their leaders are ill equipped for office, and their hearts are filled with evil intent. Yet the people do nothing to change the state of affairs. In fact, they continue to affirm the positions of leadership, and they seem to delight in the direction that they are being taken. It seems that God has been taken out of His place as their true ruler. It is as if the nation has elected Him out of office.

 

But there is a problem with this sort of thinking and living. God is not powerless. He does not depend upon your vote or mine. He will not sell out truth, justice, and righteousness in the interest of securing the agreement of people. Instead, the Lord remains true, just, and pure. He is unchanging in His principles, for He is the bedrock foundation upon which all that is good and holy in the universe stands. So, God presents each of us with a choice. We can follow the easier path of our culture, or we can travel along the eternal way of our Lord. They were not the same in Isaiah’s day and they are not the same now.

 

God also provides assurances to His people. When He says that it shall be well with us, that is a very big statement. I think that the Lord means that regardless of what may befall us as a result of refusing to compromise God’s Word for the sake of embracing the cultural and national standards of thinking, acting, and rhetoric, we will be cared for. God will provide for His people through all times and in every situation. We may not have governmentally sanctioned bread, but we will have the bread of life that is found in the Eucharist. Our bank accounts may be more than empty; yet, in Christ, our resources are without end. Our tables may not be filled by the empty promises of human security; however, our souls will be filled with the sweet fruit of the Spirit of Christ.

 

 

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Acts 2: 21

 

Peter is speaking about the end of time when God’s will for the redemption of His creation shall be completed. This is something that is to take place over a period of time that is outside of human understanding. God doesn’t reveal the details of His timeline or of His methodology to us. What the Lord does say is that He wants us to trust His word and believe in His promise that this work of redemption will be completed. It is in this faith and by this trust that each of us who follow Christ are called upon by God to live in these days of uncertainty and distress.

 

It seems to me that these troubled times are situated in a place that is well along God’s timeline for the last days. The violence, angry rhetoric, and injustice of our days are an indicator of the growing divide between God’s will and that of the powers of this world. What is happening around us causes a very significant amount of pressure to be placed upon people of faith in several ways. There is much to fear in our world; so, fearfulness and caution are rational reactions to it all. Many of the actions of our governments are unjust and unrighteous; so, radical change is something that we seek. Also, in a highly relativistic and equivocal world we desire a solid place to set our feet; so, we turn to our national identity for that bedrock of truth.

 

Yet, none of these responses is the one that God calls us to. His Word and the revelation of His Spirit point us toward Christ alone as the answer to the stormy environment of these last days. Then, in and with Christ we can engage with the political and the cultural concerns that trouble our hearts and confuse our minds. God’s desire for His creation is its redemption from the death grip of sin, and followers of Christ are to be workers in the achievement of that plan. At the end of it all Christ will cleanse and then restore all of creation to the glory of God’s original work. Until then, our salvation is found singularly in Christ, and our mission is to proclaim that reality to all who will listen.

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have obtained faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1: 1

 

The apostle Peter wanted the people in the churches that he had taught and shepherded to understand some fundamental truths about their faith in Jesus Christ. So, he starts off with one piece of truth that mattered greatly to him. Regardless of Peter’s position of leadership and the authority that came with it, he was not superior to the people that he was addressing in the letter. Peter had traveled and lived with Jesus and was there to the end and beyond; yet, that granted him no greater standing in the church than had someone who had just come to faith in the Savior. The body of Christ and His church is a place in this world where absolute equality should be the order of the day.

 

In God’s eyes we are all on the same plane as Peter in that we are all sinners, lost and desperately without hope of eternity without Christ. We are born with hearts and minds that operate out of a form of darkness that penetrates to the core of our being, and we live in total separation from the righteousness, justice, and love that are the center of the character of God. As all are born equally into death, so also, are all who come to Christ reborn equally into the fullness of life in the here and now of God’s Kingdom come and they possess equal standing as adopted children of God in the eternity to follow this life. This total transformation comes about solely because of the work of Jesus Christ, the righteous and holy One, who claims us as His own.

 

This equality in status and stature carries with it an equal measure of responsibility. Like Peter before us, we are also tasked by Christ to live righteously in our fallen world, and we are called upon to bring the healing of God’s grace into the lives of everyone we encounter during our days. In fact, living in true equality with Peter is not something that the faint of heart can do, for following Christ fully requires courage and boldness. It sets us apart from the majority of the people in our world as it leads us into conflict and dispute with the forces of evil that are attempting to hold onto the heart, mind, and soul of our culture. Yet, like the Apostle before us, Christ fully equips us for the day at hand, and He goes with us with wisdom and grace that are more than sufficient to claim today for Christ as we proclaim it to be the day of the Lord!

For as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many were made righteous.

Romans 5: 19

 

It would seem that all of our progress as people and all of our learning and technological advances are relatively meaningless. For so much of the way that we live is as it is because of what a pair of singular individuals did at a moment in history that happened a very long time ago. We haven’t changed all that much over time. People still lie, cheat, and steal. Individuals do great harm to others, and groups of us do it with even larger zeal and force. Even the vast array of violence that God has directed His people to engage in as we find it depicted in the bible happens as a result of the sinful nature of us all. This is not the way that God created this world to function. God’s plan and design for humanity was not for us to be angry, fearful, and distanced from each other and from Him.

 

The impact of that rebellious act is our legacy. People live out their lives under the shadow of death because of it. Our world, God’s once perfect and beautiful creation, has become a vast graveyard. That which was originally holy ground has turned into something obscene. There is nothing in our learning that can reclaim it, either. Our technology and our commitment to reclamation are powerless in the face of the evil that infuses its soil. There is no amount of greenness that we can apply to our world that will penetrate even the first layer of its surface. It is all washed away in the flood of tears that the sorrow of loss brings. However, humanity’s lack of power and capacity to deal with the brokenness of our world should not lead us to hopelessness. In God’s view, this time of rebellion and the catastrophe that it brings upon Creation is a short episode, a moment in time. God knew that it would occur, and He was prepared to respond to all of it.

 

In a singular act of obedience, Jesus stepped out of His place in the heavens and engaged in the battle for our world as a part of humanity. He surrendered royalty for infancy, and the outworking of God’s plan for restoration of His Creation had begun. We are the primary focus of it all. Just as the creation of our ancestors was the supreme, pinnacle moment of God’s work in those days of earth’s formation, now the reclamation of people from the grip of sin and out of the walking death that it causes is God’s supreme focus. As we choose to obey God and follow Christ, His presence in us makes us right in God’s eyes. He also changes the very nature of who we are. It is this change in people that carries any real hope for peace and for reconciliation in our world. We can and we should strive for understanding in our world. Also, we should care about the health and the safety of the disadvantaged. God calls His people to love and to care for and about all people. However, the only hope that we can possess for real, valid, and transformative change in our world comes from and through Christ as He is made known by our obedience to His will.

 

O LORD of Hosts,

blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Psalm 84: 12

 

Trust is a big deal. As we go through life we learn a lot about it, and I fear, that much of what we learn is not very positive. As people disappoint us we learn to expect the let down. As they betray our trust in them, we learn to be self-protective and skeptical. Because trust is so often broken in our world, when groups of people come together to work as a team they often spend significant amounts of time and put out great effort in learning to trust each other. Even these hard earned bonds are usually rather fragile. They come apart at the slightest intrusion of suspicion or doubt.

 

Such is the nature of the world where we live. Thus, we all enter into lives where the pain of isolation and the weakness that separation causes are normal for us. Yet, this is not how God made us. In the Lord’s work of creating people in His image, He made us to be relational beings who engage in deep and intimate ways with God and with other people. Trust is foundational to that sort of engagement. We need to be willing to expose our needs and ourselves in a manner that is profoundly vulnerable in order to operate at a deep and a lasting level in relationships. Likewise, we must be open and trustworthy with the deep ideas and feelings that others bring to us.

 

Our greatest and best capacity to trust and to be trustworthy starts with the way that we view God and our relationship with Him. My experience and that of innumerable people in God’s Word is that trustworthiness is a fundamental characteristic of God. He takes my deepest, darkest, and most painful revelations and provides me with truth that engages the struggle and with resources to live fully and well. My capacity to trust other people is grounded in my trust in God. I know that He has my back, and my front, and everything in the middle. I also recognize the fact that the Lord desires that my relationships would be strong and healthy. He wants people to stand together in our faith in the God who is trustworthy, and He works with us to build those relationships.

Of the Son, God, the Father, says,

“Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.”

Hebrews 1: 8 (quoting Psalm 45: 6)

 

We people make decisions about allegiances and memberships all of the time. We join a group that looks like it has common goals and values to us, or we pay the fee and gain admittance into a society that promises to provide us with certain things that we desire to have. Some of these affiliations and relationships are long lasting and some have very short lives; yet, most of us put a significant amount of energy into the process of selecting them and into maintaining them. Still, all of these human connections will suffer from imperfection and instances of failure, and we will wind up abandoning many of them.

 

Here God is pointing the way to entering into the one and the only truly permanent relationship that exists in the universe. God is telling us that Jesus is the ruler of Creation, that His reign has always existed, and that it will never stop. If I want to find consistency, truth, and real durability in this life; then I need to start with the foundation from which all of these things are built. Jesus brings the understanding and the wisdom of eternity to my weak and wandering heart and mind, and He also has the authority, the power, and the desire to actually cause my world to change.

 

Before I sign one more membership application, pledge my loyalty to any other group, or commit to a new affiliation; it would be good to be certain that everything that I am doing fits into Christ’s plan for working through me to redeem this world. He rules the world with righteousness, and He wants all of His people to bring that righteousness with us into every minute of our days. To follow Jesus is to follow the only ruler who will absolutely still be reigning over all at the end of the day. To follow Jesus is to join Eternity’s select group.

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