June 2016

Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time.

1 Peter 5: 6


Humility is a tough concept to grasp. Worldly wisdom says that if you have too much of it, no one will listen to you. Its voice continually directs us to be wise and to exhibit strength so that others will respect and follow us. So there is established a daily challenge for people who know Christ. For during the course of every day of my life there is more than enough wisdom and way more strength available to me than I ever realize and than I ever utilize. This is particularly true on the days when I am most stretched by trying to just keep up with the stresses and the demands that life has covered me with. These are the times when I am most likely to go deep into myself to try to find the resources that my ego tells me are always going to get me through.


My mind tells me that I have it all under control, that I always have the answers, and that I am the captain of my own ship’s destiny. Yet, my relationship with Christ is slowly teaching me that everything that actually works comes from Him. So, I am placed into a quandary of decision, for in the most demanding and stressful of times in my life, I need to become the most submitted to the love, wisdom, and grace of God. In other words, at the moment that my experience, training, and practice drive me toward independence and personal strength, Christ asks me to let all of that go and trust Him first, and this is counter to my well trained, deeply-held and intuitive response.


Still, the truth is that God’s hand is mighty. His loving heart is huge beyond description, and His desire is for me to prosper in ways that matter at the eternal level. When I take the time to pray my way into and through the hard conversations, interactions, and decisions of my day, the Lord never fails to give me wisdom, understanding, and the peace that I need to proceed. As I let God’s Word provide me with guidance and His Spirit mentor my decisions, things become clearer, and my responses take on a loving attitude that is not naturally mine.


So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord, his going forth is as certain as the dawn; and he will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.

Hosea 6: 3


There is no situation or circumstance that I might encounter in life that the Lord does not and will not speak to, for there is nothing in this world that He does not have authority over and that is out of His area of interest. God cares deeply about the people of this earth, and He also has great concern for the rest of His creation. For me the key to understanding the Lord’s perspective on all of this is to seek to know Him better.


God does not attempt to conceal Himself from people, for in and through Christ, God has become knowable. Certainly there is still mystery, and there are aspects of God’s wisdom and of His plan that are shrouded deeply in that seemingly impenetrable cloud. Yet and still, Christ and His Spirit provide the degree of access to all understanding that we actually need. My mind, heart, and spirit are the ones that grow weary and that settle for finding answers within my own understanding. Meanwhile, the Lord continually calls to me to stop listening to the easy but uninformed voice of self and to look closely and deeply into Him.


If I desire to know truth that will respond to everything that I will encounter, and if I want to find the source of wisdom that is solid and unwavering; then, all I need to do is to look into the heart of truth’s author. He comes to me, and He opens His heart to me, and Christ fills me with tangible and actionable insight into living a life that is full and fulfilled. The Lord blesses me with the warm light of His glory, and He refreshes my soul with the mist of His mercy and grace.

The Lord says,” I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground.”

Isaiah 44:3


If there ever were a dry and a thirsty land, this is it. Evil is everywhere soaking up all of the refreshing and life sustaining moisture; thus, this world can be an arid and an inhospitable place for the soul to reside. The effects of dehydration can wear down the will to continue on, and change a forward looking perspective into a survival driven quest. Yet, it is to this very need that the Lord is speaking. He speaks with a voice that is authoritative, reassuring, and convincing. He tells me to stop worrying about my parched throat, for God will give me all of the water that I will ever need, and all I have to do to drink my fill is open my heart to His truth.


It is not that this thirsty condition is not natural or that is in some way wrong. It is actually a useful state of being. Thirst is a powerful driver in people that causes us to set aside other interests and pursuits in order to satisfy its cravings before they reach the level of life or death urgency. So, when my mouth is being chocked with the dust of this world and my personal sources of liquid replenishment have been drained, I am forced to slow down my relentless motion, and I am required to start searching for a source of resupply and restoration. These are the sorts of times when the voice of the Lord seems to speak with a clarity and strength that penetrates through the thirst to overcome all of my self-directed attempts to meet this need.


Christ’s Spirit is the great diviner of the type of water that actually works to satisfy the needs of my heart. He leads me deeper into the truths that flow from and through God’s Word. Sometimes they pour out like a great river, at other times they roll gently along with the soft gurgling sound of a mountain stream. There are also truths that need to be dug from deep inside the core. Yet, there is always far more available to me than I can possibly consume, and the Lord is more than generous with this gift. So, when life’s desert starts to fill the day with dryness, look to the true water of God’s word for the unending refreshment and renewal that will not fail.


For the LORD is righteous;

hr loves righteous deeds;

the upright shall behold his face.

Psalm 11: 7


Whether a person is a follower of Christ or not, the first statement in this verse receives almost universal acceptance. The challenge comes in how each of us understands the meaning of that concept. For me, God’s righteousness is the core of His being. It is the platform from which He has done all that He has engaged in, and it is the basis for all that God brings about today. The Lord is right in all that He thinks and in every action that comes out of those thoughts. His state of being right is not grounded in His strength, positional power, or superior capacity. Rather, the righteousness of God is motivated into action by His overwhelming love for all of creation.


Because of this great love for all, God is saddened to the point of grief by the way that we treat each other and this world that He has provided to sustain us. The anger and the violence of people stands in stark contrast to the love that God pours out on us and that He desires for us to operate out of as the basis for our engagement with each other. The righteousness that God calls people to embrace is never angry or violent, and it does not seek to gain power or control over others. The righteousness of Godly people is not judgmental, either. Instead, it speaks truth without fear, and it seeks to bring all of the people that it encounters into the presence of Christ.


It is in this ongoing process of living out of and of entering into the righteousness of God that His people grow in our knowledge and our understanding of who our Lord truly is. Living in the center of God’s will can be hard and challenging, and it can lead to many forms of loss in this world. However, it is also the most rewarding way that people can live. The rewards are found in the certainty that comes from the platform of truth that is contained in God’s Word and through the revelation of that truth by His Spirit. They are also expressed in the reassuring presence of the Spirit who speaks the love of the Father to the hearts and the minds of all who follow the Lord.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6: 19, 20


Why is there any distance between God and people? Did one of us get tired or bored with the relationship and decide to leave, or was there some sort of mutual blame for the breaking up of the relationship? If we choose to believe what the Bible says on this subject, it is clear that all of the blame for what is amiss in humanity’s connection to Creator comes about as a result of people’s willful desire to hold the upper hand and to plot our path through life exactly as we want to go and with our own sense of pleasure and security as our primary guide. We walked away and sought out the divorce, but God answered our foolish desire for absolute independence with His promise of unending love, total grace, and willingness to pay any price to grant us a way back into the relationship.


For a time God provided for the order in our world through the granting of His law and vested the maintenance of it with a chosen group of people who were to both follow that law and teach its principles to the rest of the world. God knew that this approach was nothing more than temporary and also that it was invested with the futility of human endeavor. We would not be able to resist the urge to take control of the law, and the chosen servants of the Lord could not restrain themselves from seeking after personal gain and power. So, from the beginning, God had a better way for the relationship between Himself and humanity to be restored.


Jesus is that answer, and His sacrifice is the way that the brokenness of this world is made whole and that we can enter into the holy presence of God without fear or regret. That veil of separation that was literally present in the temple in Jerusalem and that existed in the reality of all people’s lives was permanently torn and rendered useless by the sacrifice of self that Jesus entered into on the cross. We no longer require that people go before us to prepare the way to God’s presence. Christ has done that and now He serves as the only priest that is necessary for anyone to stand before God and to enter into the fullness of relationship with our Creator.

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.

Galatians 3: 16


The Lord, God is a maker of promises, and He is also the One who keeps them. From the beginning of time He has told people what He will do and how He was planning to do it. Without fail, the Lord has performed. Also, the commitments that God made with the earliest of my ancestors are ones that He makes good on with me, for God’s answer to all of His promises is found in Christ.


Thus, the answer to everything that is lacking in my humanity is found in Christ. The solution for my need to receive grace and pardon from the sin that separates me from God comes through Christ. He is my true lover and the One who comforts and protects my heart. Jesus, the Christ, shows me how to engage and to love the people of this world and how to care for the rest of His creation. His Spirit leads me to truth and teaches me to use it wisely and with His grace in evidence.


There is one and only one focus for my heart and mind to remain fixed upon, and that is Christ. When I am looking on Him and keeping the eyes of my heart centered on His will, Christ grants me understanding of His desires and direction for my life, and He provides me with everything that I will need to follow Him along that path. Christ, Himself, is the connecting point with all of the people in my life, for through Him, it is possible to actually love them to the degree that I am willing to take the risk of entering into honest relationship with them. God’s promises are great, and His answer to them, Christ, is the complete expression of His glory.


For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:17


The Father had a primary purpose in sending Jesus, the Son, into this world. Jesus came in order to pay the final sacrifice for all of this world’s sin. He came to die in order to end death’s hold on people’s souls. There were many things that Jesus did during His life on earth, but all of them were related to that mission of bringing people back into a relationship with our Creator. Even during the times that Jesus entered into confrontation with people who were living and leading others into lives that were in opposition to God’s will, who were sinning, He did so with redemption as the objective.


It seems to me that there is much for us to learn from this approach to righteousness. As followers of Christ there is no question that we are to live in a manner that is honoring to God and that follows the guidance and the dictates of His Word. Yet, the way that we apply this same righteousness to others is a place where caution, prayer, and consultation with other people who live out mature faith are essential. Jesus, Himself, routinely and regularly went to the Father in prayer for guidance, encouragement, and strength. We can do no less when we seek to serve as a voice of faith in our world.


That is exactly what I believe that we are called by Christ to be. As Christ’s people, we are here to do His will as we live out the day-to-day functionality of His redemptive work in each of us. That means that we can and should speak the truth of God’s Word to others and into this world; however, it also means that the purpose of this utterance of the word of truth is redemptive and not condemnational. The Father has granted Christ the authority to judge and to pronounce the resultant sentence; we are here to speak forth the experience of those who have been redeemed from death by the blood of Christ so that we live in the full freedom of His redemption.


Put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Ephesians 4: 24


This may not be a very popular thought to share, but it does seem that in the world of Christian faith many of us get really focused on the anticipation of the return of Jesus and on all of the good things that we believe will be accomplished at that time. We look forward to the end of the struggles that are so very real in our lives, we anticipate the day that our knees and our backs won’t ache, we dream of a day when we will no longer be forced to count our pennies in order to try to figure out how to handle the mountain of dollars that our bills are demanding, and we fixate on a moment when our hearts will no longer be broken. These are good things to anticipate, but they should not represent our greatest form of hope, and that form of change must not be our primary interest.


You see, Christ has already come. He is here, and He is alive and in command of this world. Certainly there is a promised future time when the Father will send Jesus back to this world to completely take it away from Satan, and at the end of that process, this world will be restored totally to its created state of glory. But there is a much quicker way to get there for people who are willing to respond to God’s call to our hearts and join Christ in the fight for the souls of people. We need to accept the fact that personal changes, the areas where we need Christ to work in us in order to transform us in His image, are even more important for us and for God’s kingdom than that final permanent restoration of all of Creation. For as we are changed from our sin-afflicted human parent images into our grace-of-God given created image, we are made over into people who bring that same grace and love into this world, whose ability to remain hopeful through all that life throws at us is noticeable, and who are never self-satisfied but are always seeking to know the Lord more fully.


The pain of life and of living is real, the challenges are grueling, and the fears that it all generates are intense. Still, these are the elements of our existence that demonstrate the need for a relationship with Christ, and living through these events and times should cause us to seek to know Him better. The Lord does have answers for us, and He seldom responds to our needs by removing the source of the struggle. Rather, God usually brings about another step in the life-long process of change from old self into Christ-like newness. How much we embrace transformation is our choice; yet, as we seek it and focus on it, we bring the glory of the Lord more fully into our lives, and we spend more of our time in the real presence of God.


You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

2 Corinthians 1: 11


Although these words are those of Paul speaking to his spiritual family in Corinth, they could be spoken by anyone who follows Christ to any other like-hearted believers in Christ residing next door or far across the globe. He is sharing the reality of one of the most tangible and significant aspects of a life of faith. For the sort of prayer that Paul mentions involves trusting God with the process and with the outcome of everything that takes place during our days on this earth. It says that I care about others and have certain desires and wishes for where and how their lives would go, but at the same time, I recognize that my care and concern is merely a shadow of that which God holds for these same people.


When followers of Christ turn to prayer as our response to the various types of situations and circumstances that we and those we care about encounter, we enter in with God into the journey of living in the outworking of His will. We join together in a circle of unity that is centered on Christ and is bound together by His Spirit. There is an otherworldly strength to all of this in that in prayer we are not dependent upon the sorts of might and power that this world embraces and trusts; instead, we are entrusting our hopes, dreams, and desires to the word of God and in His loving grace and provision. People of faith who pray together, whether physically in the same place or greatly distanced from each other, demonstrate to the world that there is another way to exist than that which is spoken by the worldly voices of culture.


In Christ, we all encounter the humility of His cross; so, we all need to experience the separation and the rejection that were poured out upon Him by the entire world. The strength that each of us needs to travel along that rough road of separation from the world’s way is supplied entirely by Christ, and the encouragement that is necessary in order to continue the trek comes from His Spirit and is amplified by the chorus of the voices of faith that lift us up to God in prayer. I am thankful and greatly blessed by the prayer that others express on my behalf. I am also blessed to have the privilege to pray for others. As we follow Christ, we may need to separate ourselves from much of this world; yet, as we do this, we join in a mighty family of faith that spans the world and reaches into Heaven as prayer communicates trust, faith, and love that are unending and unstoppable.

And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

Acts 4: 33


If you want to look upon a time in the history of the church when there was great turmoil and personal danger for followers of Christ, these early days were probably as hard as any that ever have come along. Jesus had been defeated, and His band of disciples seemingly had no head. At least that was what those in power in government and religion thought to be the situation. Kill the leader and threaten the followers into submission and all would be well for the status quo of the day. However, God was setting about proving all of them wrong. He was stepping into the world in ways that no one had ever seen before.


In Jesus, God had entered into the daily existence of creation. As the man who was also God, Jesus demonstrated His power and authority over sea and earth, plant and animal, and human life and death. He also entered into the working out of people’s soul-deep relationships with God. However, He was still only one person who interfaced with the world in the locale where He was at any given time. After Christ rose from death, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell with us so that His presence in all places and at all times would provide followers of Christ with the same knowledge, wisdom, courage, and loving heart of grace and mercy as Jesus had provided during His years on earth. It is this presence of the Spirit of Christ that brought the apostles the great power that they exhibited in the manner and the diligence with which they testified to the risen Lord. It is also the Spirit who imparted the grace that infused all of their being.


As we walk through our days in a world that seems to be shouting out in anger and distrust and where violence is all too common, we are entering into those streets of turmoil and struggle that these apostles of old traveled. When we are on this journey, the same Spirit of Christ who went with our spiritual ancestors accompanies us. So, there is nothing to fear. We can clearly and boldly state out testimony to the transformative work that the risen Christ does in our lives. We can hold out for the world to see the only hope for true peace in our personal lives and among peoples and nations that is found in Christ. As we live in full surrender to the cross of Christ and in the power of His living Spirit, we are granted the infinite grace of God’s unending love so that we, too, can be people who extend grace and love to all as our response to the world’s seething hatred.

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