June 2017


The beasts of the field will glorify Me; the jackals and the ostriches; because I have given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My chosen people.

Isaiah 43: 20

 

The reader of this verse in the times of Isaiah would have understood exactly how amazing it was to consider that God would bless the lives of creatures such as jackals and ostriches; for, these were both in the category of creatures who had earned the disapproval of righteous people due to their behavior. The jackal would wait around until it found a dead or nearly dead animal or one that was either too young or too weak to defend itself; then, it would find its meal there. Ostriches were considered to be so dumb that they didn’t know how to care for their young or to properly conceal themselves when they were in danger. Still, God is glorified by even these members of His created order. The Lord sees the purpose and He has a plan for every thing and for everyone on this earth.

 

Just as the Lord brings water to the very driest places on the planet, and His touch causes rivers to flow in the middle of great deserts, God steps into each of our lives during our times of searing thirst. Then, He provides refreshment and life giving moisture that is completely in keeping with the degree of our need. The abrasive sands that rub our souls raw may be driven by the sinful hardness of our own hearts or they might be propelled on the winds of the evil in our world. The loneliness and the desolation of the wilderness is something that the Lord understands. He never fails to find us even in the farthest corner of that great expanse; for, my God comes looking for me, and He comes ready and equipped to rescue and to restore.

 

All of us spend time in the barren wildernesses of this world. Everyone experiences times of great loneliness and thirst; yet, these are times when the voice of the Lord seems to become even clearer. It is out of the deep darkness of these places that God’s face seems to shine the brightest, and His loving grace truly overcomes the oppression of sin and decay. It is in the wilderness that the dew of Christ’s salvation is the sweetest. There is never a time that is beyond the Lord’s redemption. No place is too far into the heart of the wilderness for Christ to reach. Here, in the center of this desert, is the place and now is the time to lift up my voice in praise to the Lord who does come for me bringing cool water to drink and salvation for my body and soul.

 

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Declare his (the LORD’s) glory among the nations,

his marvelous works among the peoples!

Psalm 96: 3

 

The writer of this psalm has stated that God’s people will declare their relationship with God by singing; in fact, they are commanded to do that. I understand that song is powerful and that singing touches us in ways that simply saying words does not. Singing reaches into our emotions and sets our hearts into motion, and it seems to reach deep inside both the singer and the hearer of the song to engage places and to bring about responses that are unique and profound. Yet, I doubt that the actual intent in these words was to turn life into a musical play style of existence where messages, at least the important ones, are delivered by choruses made up of ordinary people going about their daily lives. This sort of thing makes sense on the stage or in film, but causes genuine confusion and even chaos when it happens on city streets.

 

Yet, the ideas here are important ones, and they are the sorts of things that matter to God. He wants for us to be people who desire to sing out about our relationship with Him. He engages with us and with all the rest of creation in a manner that is more than worthy of the highest praise possible. The presence of Christ in me and His involvement with my life is such that He is the source of all joy, peace, and goodness; thus, my Lord is the reason that there are songs for me to sing. Still, I think that the songs here have a different form so that their nature is made up of an alternative type of melody and lyric to those of traditional music. The writer is telling us that our lives are songs and that the content of those lives, when lived in service to God’s will, is itself a poem that has been set to the eternal music of heaven.

 

When Christ brings about this sort of expression in us, we move beyond the boundaries of place, culture, and language and into humanity’s common ground of love, care, and relationship. The Lord is calling to His people to specifically and deliberately take the expression of our joy that comes out of our relationship with Him out into the world around us so that the hymn of praise that naturally comes forth from us will be on view for all around us to see and to hear. This should lead to questions about this unnatural response to a life that does not always go as we would desire or plan, and these questions provide the opportunity for us to tell about the love of Christ, the redemption that comes through knowing Him, and to invite others to join us in the chorus of praise that we have been declaring openly as we travel through the day.

 

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

2 Corinthians 8: 9

 

People want to be rich. There is no question in my mind that the desire for wealth operates as a basic drive in most of humanity. It doesn’t seem to matter where we live, what our culture looks like, or how much we have, we want to obtain enough more so that we are separated out from the rest of those around us. We desire the power, and we covet the capacity to seemingly make our own choices and enter into control over the decisions that effect the course of our days. In the story telling of various cultures there are few examples of people who are help up for their poverty, and there are multitudes of them about those who achieved great things and obtained the wealth that came from those feats. Simply, we value power and the powerful; so, we seek after the means to posses that power.

 

Yet, God did not design our world to be like this. There was no inequality in the Lord’s construct and design of Creation. There was really no need for people to seek after more, for God provided them with an abundance of all that was needful and granted them full access to choose from His earthly garden’s bounty with very few restrictions. This was not enough for to meet the desires of our ancestor’s minds and hearts, and we know how that decision went and what it means for all of us who have come after them. That is the point here as the one entity in all of the universe who had the right to posses everything, who was truly rich in the fullest sense of what defines wealth, was willing to set it all aside in order to enter into the singular journey that would lead to redemption for all of humanity. Jesus was not under compulsion to leave behind the splendor and the great glory of Heaven; instead, He chose to do this. He elected to pour out His wealth and the related power of His lordship over all.

 

In doing this, Jesus was willing to hand Himself over to being subject to the abuses and made Himself vulnerable to the oppressive acts of those who seemed to hold all of the real power in the world. Of course, His abusers were existing in a false reality, for in the culmination of that oppressive power’s outworking upon Jesus at the cross, the reality of evil’s feeble hold on life became apparent beyond all disputing. Jesus made Himself poor so that every person who desired to know God could enter into the possession of the true wealth of Heaven and so that we could know that riches here and now and for all of eternity. It seems that in God’s view of what constitutes wealth that there are valuable gems and valid systems of measurement that are weighed out in unending increments of love, grace, soul-deep peace, fellowship, and truth. As we follow Christ along the course of life that leads ever further into His will, we are led by Christ and in response to His example to release our grip upon the wealth and the related power that this world values so highly and enter into our Lord’s sacrificial love for everyone in our world.

Let me dwell in Thy tent forever,

Let me take refuge in the shelter of Thy wings.

Psalm 61: 4

 

There is this image that comes to mind of a person who is fleeing from some form of great danger or from the scene of some terrible happening. As the fear overcomes him he turns from the street into the doorway of the next building that comes along, and trying the door, he finds it locked; so, he pounds on it in a life or death frenzy while shouting, “Let me in!” Maybe I have watched too many films, but it is just possible that the events of life have raised my adrenalin to this level a few too many times. Experience has made me want to find a place to spend my days where living life makes sense and where being alive is a highly desirable state.

 

This safe and secure reality is found in Christ. Its location is not so much a tangible place such as a house, a church building, or a city of refuge. Rather, it is located wherever I am, for God sets up His camp and pitches His tent with and over me continually. The Lord’s tent is a place of cooling rest from the mid day sun, and it is a house where hospitality flows. The citizens of this great hall of blessing are numerous and their love is the love of Christ for all. The door of this place is never bolted shut as Christ calls to “All who are thirsty, all who are weak, just come to the fountain, dip your heart in the stream of life”, and He will give the drink that never stops satisfying to each and every person who answers that call.

 

The Lord also sends His angels to cover and to support His people. He surrounds each of us with the invisible, spirit realm emissaries of His perfect will and total grace. In addition, God places flesh and blood versions of His angelic host into our lives regularly. These people bring the truth of God’s love into clear focus as they serve His will. Then as we go through life, all of us are called upon to be the bearers of these angelic blessings in the lives of others as we live out our days as citizens of the new humanity of Christ. As You, O Lord, have draped me in the glorious tapestry of your eternal tent, may I seek to cover those who are weary and beaten down by life with Your wings of mercy and love.

 

All Who Are Thirsty, written by Brenton Brown, Glenn Robinson

 

When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.

Deuteronomy 24: 21

 

God made Moses very aware of the way that we humans function. So when Moses was setting out the laws for living in a gathered society, he dealt with issues like this one. It would be great if people would treat everyone with care and concern naturally and without the compulsion of the law. However, that is not how we are. People tend to be selfish and self-centered. We tend to either overlook those who are weak or needy, and we often seek to use and exploit them. Our desire to gain strength and status at the expense of those who are in need of our care is not a condition of modern times; rather, it is something that sin has woven into the fabric of this world.

 

Like all other ways in which sin has damaged, broken, and destroyed God’s created beauty and love, there is a cure for this issue. We are called upon by God to hold our possessions with hands that are very open. In this instance, the Israelites were given instruction about leaving part of the harvest behind in the fields, orchards, and vineyards. Implied in all of this is the fact that the harvest is not really ours. It is a gift from God, and He gives out of a bounty that is unending. This law does not contain a stipulation about the quantity or the quality of the harvest, either. This concept of leaving part of the crop for those who were in need applied to every year and to each person’s crop. God’s approach to helping the people who were in greatest need involved both the provision of food and a means where by those people could get it with dignity by picking it themselves.

 

Most of us don’t tend vineyards, and frankly, our modern culture doesn’t function like the one where Moses lived. But, there are still people who are in need. Our world has its share of individuals who are weak, disadvantaged, and unable to fully care for themselves. God cares for them greatly, and He wants His people to care for others out of Christ’s love. It seems that God wants us to learn to trust Him fully. He promises to provide us with all that we need. As we give away what is truly not ours, God will either replace it so that we don’t starve or He will demonstrate to us the fact that we did not actually need what we gave away. This sort of demonstration of loving others because of Christ’s love for me is a powerful form of witness in this world where self interest is normal and prevalent. As we enter into providing for the real and tangible needs of others, we become living examples of God’s redemptive drive as we speak the peace, grace, hope, and restoration that come only from Christ into the lives of the people we touch.

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

Romans 12: 16

 

Harmonious living in the body of Christ is a very different creature than the concept of harmony that is often portrayed in our culture where it is frequently discussed in terms that relate to compromise. It is expressed in the idea of not making waves, of seeking the middle ground, and of peaceful coexistence. These ideas sound good and the image of the calm, restrained communication that should result promises a more civil society. Yet there is a flaw in this idea, for we humans don’t actually function well in this sort of environment, and honesty, truth, and righteousness suffer under the requirement to surrender God’s values to the world’s ethics.

 

It seems that there are two primary requirements for remaining true to God’s word while continuing to live in harmony with others in the world. The first involves an attitude of total submission. We need to remain continually humble before the Lord’s mighty capacity to communicate accurately and honestly and our own flawed skill in this area. Christ speaks to our hearts and into this world with language that demonstrates His total love and His willingness to go to the lowest of places and to embrace the least lovely of people in order to bring them into the presence of God. We need to continually realize that each of us is the recipient of this sort of absolute grace; then, we need to give it, in Christ’s name, to others.

 

Next we should stay continually aware of the true source for all of our wisdom, understanding, and capacity to solve challenges and problems. Every skill, talent, and gift that I posses was granted to me by God, my Creator. The wisdom that forms the foundation of my thinking comes from His word, and any ability that I have to understand and to apply that wisdom comes as a result of the instruction and the guidance that God’s Spirit continually provides. The Lord does want to see people living in harmony; however, His harmony is focused on truth and righteousness, and it is centered on Christ.

 

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”

John 8: 58

 

We have all heard the expression, “He has seen everything”. Well, that is something that could have been said about Jesus; only, in His case, it would have been an emphatic comment that actually included all that had ever happened or that had even been thought. In this radical claim of His that was made to the self-righteous people who had gathered in the Temple to hear Him teach, Jesus states an essential truth that we can rely upon at all times in our lives. He has existed since before everything else came into being, and He has knowledge of all that goes on in this world and in all other places as well.

 

In light of this reality, there is no one else who can respond to each of our lives with the same understanding, wisdom, and righteous direction as can Christ. His direction is reliable. His Word stands as the supreme answer our entire enquiry. God’s will is the singular one that we should seek to understand and to follow as well. He has had a plan that includes every person who has or ever will exist, and that plan is intended for the betterment and for the restoration of each of us. In Christ we are truly and totally alive. The death that has been eroding and corroding our hearts, minds, and bodies since the day we were born has met its match. Christ has already claimed my victory over Satan’s desire for me. All that is left for me to do is to surrender to God’s will and to act on His direction.

 

There is undeniable value and worth in each of us. There is unrealized potential for us to grasp and to achieve for the sake of God’s Kingdom. Jesus knows the road map that will lead us along our personal journey. His Word expresses the truths that are required in order to understand our place in this world, and He provides us with a community to join with us in our journey. We need to stop denying Christ and surrender to His unrelenting will. He is the only truly unstoppable force in all of nature; so, holding onto my own sense of false security and stubborn pride will be futile. Christ calls and speaks His desire for my life. It is up to me to respond to the great I Am with my humble, “Here I am Lord, use me.”

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