October 2017

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4: 13


This is an extraordinary claim to make. It is not for the faint of heart or the weak minded. It says that I am ready to take on this world and all that it might send my way and that nothing that I encounter can stop me. Actually, Paul is saying that this world and all of its powers and forces are, indeed, impotent when confronted by Christ. For as I serve Him, I too enter into this remarkable capability, capacity, and power that my Lord brings to bear on all that confront Him. As I surrender my will and subordinate my desires to Christ’s, I am granted the sort of vision that sees beyond the walls that my limited understandings place around me and that loves the lost of the world with a form of soul-deep affection that comes only from the heart of the Creator.


This is true in all areas of life. Christ gives us the strength to engage with the trials that come our way. He allows us to face into the darkness of our world and to see beyond its shadow to the glory of God that is ours in and through Christ’s presence in us. The Lord points us toward the eternal truth of His victory over this world as He guides our thoughts into dwelling on the love, grace, and mercy that He pours out on His people. Life will still bring its challenges and even its almost unendurable trials; yet, Christ provides the resources that we need to go forward through those days. He also grants His perspective on it all to us so that we can see beyond the pain, grief, and fear that come about naturally in the moment and we can look hopefully into the future wherein all is made whole and where peace and joy prevail.


Christ also empowers us to engage with this fallen and troubled world in ways that are both confrontational and gracious. We are given the Lord’s wisdom and discernment to apply to all that comes our way. This doesn’t mean that each of us will get it right all of the time or that my understanding will be perfect, but it does mean that as I seek out Christ and the truth of God’s Word, He will reveal righteousness and right thinking engagement to me. In this process of revelation and involvement in my world, Christ also calls upon us to enter into deepening relationship with His body of faith both in our close to home or local setting and on a larger scale. The Lord grants strength to each of His people, and He leads us to stand stronger still as His body in the face of all that is broken and fallen in the culture that surrounds us. In Christ, we can truly take on anything with the assurance of our faith to provide us with confidence and with the knowledge of our Lord’s victory to cover all situations and circumstance with eternal hope.



To Timothy, my true child in the faith: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Timothy 1: 2


What a blessing, what a wonderful way to greet someone! Here is everything that a person could really need to make it through the day and to do it with something extra still left in the tank when the head hits the pillow at night. If we could only start out all of our interactions with others with this sort of mind set, this world would be a considerably better place to live. Consider the impact on others and on your interactions with them if you not only say that you wish them the grace, mercy, and peace of Christ but that you say it from the depth of your heart with a desire that it is so.


As Paul engages with Timothy, he gets that the most important aspect of his relationship with Timothy is their common bond in and through Christ, for Paul knows at his deepest level that the connection that is made through the blood of Jesus to the true family of God is stronger than his human family ties. This is an eternal relationship that is lived out in this life. It seems that I often forget that God wants me to be the bearer of His blessings to the people that I engage with every day. If they have a relationship with Him, they are my family for now and for ever, and if they don’t know Him, I might be the one person who helps them to see what they are missing.


It is my prayer to God this day that I would set aside my cares, concerns, and fears so that I can bear a blessing to the people that I encounter in every corner of my world. I also ask that I would value the people of my family of faith, the living body of Christ, in ways that will bring encouragement to them and glory to God. Lord, I give my heart to You; let its expression be a sweet reflection of Your love and grace.


But to the tribe of Levi Moses gave no inheritance; the LORD God of Israel is their inheritance, just as he said to them.

Joshua 13: 33


People are often very acutely focused on ownership. We want to have and to possess things and places. It makes us feel good, and this ownership helps us to be secure in our world. The ledger sheet or inventory of our stuff gives us a form of status among peers and sets us onto a level of perceived accomplishment in our society. It was also so for the Israelites as they settled into Canaan. Yet, for them the matter of possession of land was also a necessity, as they would be raising their food, constructing shelter, and developing their culture from the base of that land. So, for a significant portion of them to have nothing of their own meant that the rest of the people would need to produce enough excess to care for their needs and would be required to set aside some of their space for the Levites to live. In other words, supporting the priests and their families would require a real and tangible form of sacrifice on the parts of everyone else.


In addition to what was going to be demanded from the people in the other tribes, the people of the tribe of Levi were also being asked by God to make sacrifices. They would own nothing. They were being required to trust their neighbors for their survival and for their well being. The nature of their work made its value hard to measure in tangible terms; so, it was difficult to validate the worth of giving to their care and maintenance; this was especially true in lean years when everyone was struggling to have enough. Still, God’s plan placed the spiritual life and practice of the people at the center of all that they were about. The Lord had instructed them to keep Him as the singular central focus of their lives and to make worship of the Lord the distinctive element of who they were as people and as a nation. These Levites were given the responsibility for leading the people, their families, and the nation in this direction.


This entire concept seems relatively foreign to us in our cultures and during these times. There are some people in our world who have set themselves apart from the traditional forms of independence and self-sufficiency that are our general standard today. But they are few in number and most of them are, in fact, supported by large institutional church or other religious organizations. Perhaps for our times, this Levitical form of being set apart from the pressures and the necessity of self support and possession looks more like an internal perspective than it does like the external situation that these faith leaders were called to experience. The real point was one of faith and of trust. The Levites were to trust in God for everything and to have faith that He would provide all that they required for life. We too can hold all that we have and everything that we do as loosely as they were asked to do. We can set aside our striving after wealth, position, and power in order to pour our love, devotion, and energy into serving Christ. In this way, the Lord our God will be truly our inheritance too.

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that an idol has no real existence, and that there is no God but one.

1 Corinthians 8: 4


As we start out today, I am making an assumption, and that is that very few of us are concerned about the consumption of foodstuffs that were previously used as sacrifices to various types and forms of gods or in other religious practices. This was a real issue in Paul’s world, and it is simply not as obviously pervasive in ours as it was in his. Yet, the fact that idols exist is something that I think is important for us to consider in our culture and in our lives, and almost in contrast to the approach that Paul took toward the sacrificial foods, I think that the way that we feed our idols and the idolatrous foods that we consume are important to consider.


We live in an age of consumption. It often seems that the primary fuel that feeds our world is made up of the goods and the services that we can purchase and utilize for the sake of personal enjoyment, pleasure, and self-worth appeasement. These things that take on great importance to us are not very different from the idols that were so prevalent in Paul’s times, for they too demand our attention, bring us to a place of worship for their sake, and engage our passion as disciples to their cause and of their personage. We can each look introspectively at our lives and into our hearts in order to determine where this sort of over zealous commitment to things of this world might be found. They can be relatively minor in their impact upon living for Christ, and they can be powerfully consuming and devastating to the same purpose and calling.


Regardless of the depth of commitment to the idol or of the amount of personal resource it demands from us, everything that ascends to this level of ownership over us is something that drives its wedge of distraction and distance between Christ and us. Anything that takes us away from our ability to focus on the Lord’s calling and commission for our lives or that places itself above Christ in priority for us, even if this is only momentary in duration, is an idol, and it will demand that we feed it out of the precious resource that is our love, devotion, and submission to righteousness. Fortunately Paul also gives us an answer to this universal challenge. He points us toward the one singular truth that changes everything in the fact that there is only one real God. All of these other things are false and are made by our hands out of the raw materials that God, Himself, created for us. So, everything in life that takes us away from serving Christ with the fullest possible expression of our heart and the complete engagement of our passions can and should be placed behind Christ so that all of our being is dedicated without distraction or diversion to service to our God.


Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,

In a favorable time I listened to you,

and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6: 1, 2


Paul is making reference to the fact that all that he does by way of sharing the truth of the Gospel is done in conjunction with what Christ has done and with what He continues to do. There is no independent labor on Paul’s part involved. There is nothing that can be done by him or by any of us that is outside of what Christ has undertaken Himself. In other words, no one comes into a relationship with God except by way of Jesus, the cross, and the conjunction of God’s grace and love at that point of sacrifice and redemptive victory. Some people might want and even desire to be granted the comfort of grace for a time or even for a season, but they are not prepared to set aside the shallow pleasures of the life that they have known and surrender fully to the cross of Christ with its hard realities and radical transformation.


So, they walk away from a relationship with God that they had never truly entered into. This is a mark of the vane and foolish nature of people in that we will give up on eternity and on an opportunity to be engaged in life in conjunction with the author of all wisdom, truth, and love. Yet, it does not need to be so. God’s grace is made available to us in an unending supply. He does not hold it back or remove His offer of it from us. There is no set season or finite opportunity for a person’s response to Christ. In fact, the time for repentance is now, the season for acceptance of God’s offer of salvation is here. These are the hours and the days for people to come to the Lord and this is the place where their lives are to be changed.


Christ calls upon those of us who do know Him to be open and willing to follow Him into engagement with people at all times and in all places. We are not going into all of this on our own. We are not even responsible for leading the effort. Rather, Christ has gone before us in yielding His life to the cross, and He continues to be the one who does the real work of bringing people into acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. We are simply asked to be willing to take the risk of rejection that comes with being confidently open about our faith and that happens when we share Christ with the people that we encounter in the course of our days. So, even people who have walked away from God’s offer of grace, those who have openly and possibly aggressively rejected Christ, and others who are antagonistic to Christ and to us because of Him are loved by God and are among the people that Christ wants us to seek out and to care about for the sake and the glory of the Gospel.

Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Deuteronomy 34: 9


It is here that the great story of Moses is drawn to a close. Yet, his ending does not alter in any way the on going course of God’s engagement and involvement in the lives of people. In fact there seems to be an important point in the way that God works in our lives to be recognized from this moment of culmination for the life of Moses. Notice the fact that Moses seems to have been actively engaged in the process of training and of commissioning the successor that God had selected for them.


It is my sense of things that when the text speaks of the fact that Moses “laid hands” on Joshua that there is more than one activity in view. Certainly there is some form of formal ceremony of commissioning in which Moses turns over the leadership of the Israelites to Joshua. However, I think that there is also much more. Joshua didn’t just suddenly have all of the knowledge, wisdom and understanding that he needed to undertake this enormous task. He surely had not grown on his own into a man who knew God well and who trusted the Lord completely. Joshua and Moses must have spent a great many hours together in which they shared in the joys and blessings that came from the Lord and in which they traveled together through the hardship and the pain that accompanied their trail.


There is a Godly mandate in this process. The Lord directs us to take what we have learned about living within His will and share it with those who will succeed us. Everyone has a legacy to leave behind. Each of us has a story of the ways that God has taken our life and has changed it. These personal accounts of God’s relationship with us are important, for they add tangible flesh to the story that God’s Word depicts. As we live and experience the highs and the lows of life, we need to take others along on that journey. In a bigger sense, this life-long process of relationship is how Moses laid hands on Joshua. This was how Joshua was prepared to be a leader who the Israelites followed along the road that God had laid out for them.


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15: 13


Hope is an amazing thing. It can take a seemingly impossible situation and bring a person through it when all tangible evidence would suggest that surrender was the only rational option. Hope seems to generate a sort of power for life and living that comes about out of that proverbial resource known as “Thin Air.” It is such a glorious thing that it is often likened to the sun and attached to the sense of possibility that arrives with its radiant appearance at dawn. Hope breathes life into the weak, it grants reprieve to the condemned, fills empty hearts with love, and defies reason and logic in doing it all. Hope is a gift, and its greatest expression in all of history is found in the Risen Christ as He goes from death into life and in so doing grants to us that same prospect and potential.


It is this hope, which is fulfilled in knowing Christ, that brings true joy and real peace into our hearts and minds. Although many forms of what is called joy surround us and its sources are made out of a very wide array of causes, none of them truly transcends all that life may throw at us over the course of our days. Also, if joy in its truest form is found in and through Christ, even more so this is true for that form of peace that settles deep in the soul and passes the through the tests that come to us all so that it is found to be genuine, enduring, and sound. This is a peace that redefines reality in terms that are framed in eternity and that are thus taken out of the realm of our control and management and are placed into the far more capable and caring hands of God. The presence of Christ in me has become the reason that I even begin to know and to dwell in the safety and the freedom that come out of knowing these gifts from the Lord that are identified as joy and peace.


So, back to hope. This is something that God has granted to us out of His unceasing and infinite love for us. The Lord is fully aware of the great challenges that each of us faces in life, and He desires to provide us with something that both takes us through those times and that grants to us the ability to endure all that comes our way in a manner that is distinctly different from the rest of the world around us. Christ’s hope places His followers into a new and a redeemed reality that looks beyond today into a future that is reshaped into the perfection of God’s creation plan. The joy and the peace that Christ infuses us with are resources that invigorate and revitalize us as we reach those points of great stress and strain that are a guarantee that comes with living in our world. They become most tangible as we turn our focus and attention away from ourselves and look upon the face of Christ so that the reality of His great love for each of us becomes the source for that enduring hope that releases us from the situation and the circumstances that surround us.


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