November 2017


Teach me your way, O LORD,

that I may walk in your truth;

unite my heart to fear your name.

Psalm 86: 11

 

Truth has an uncomfortable way about it. It doesn’t like to stay hidden, and it is not satisfied for long to remain in the background of life. It wants to be seen out in the open, on the surface as it pilots a path for its disciples through the darkness of moral and ethical ambiguity that fills this world’s air and so attempts to cloud people’s reason and judgement. However, truth has a hard time with the ways of our world, and it attempts to get the attention of each of us when we seek to hide it or reshape it to seem to be made up of our own desired outcomes. I think that the challenge that all of us face when we subvert or deny truth in our own lives comes about because truth, itself, is both a characteristic of God and it is formed up and set loose by Him. It flows out of the totality of God’s Word in all of its expression, and it is a fundamental part of the undeniable foundation of righteous living.

 

Thus, there is no alternate or relevant truth. There is only truth or lie; genuineness or deception. Satan’s statements to Adam and Eve were not mostly true with just a minor salting of convenient reshaping of what is true; they were deceptive and destructive lies, and they were demonstrated as such by God in very short order. Today we live in an environment where people do not seem to value truth all that much. It is twisted, distorted, and manipulated by us in ways that are highly creative, are sometimes subtle or not, and are universally present with us. This move to abandon truth as an absolute is being led and even promoted by our most prominent leaders and it is being championed by large numbers of their followers and supporters. This has little to nothing to do with political affiliation as truth-bending is a tool that people on every side of almost all issues are using with remarkable ease. Relativism is a trap door that once sprung sends its disciples into a downward journey into the darkness that is found at its center. It sends its adherents ever closer to the core of Satan’s anti-God universe; so, it moves then on a continual path the leads away from God and His righteousness.

 

As stated above, truth is as relentless as is its author. It will not be suppressed for long, for the Lord does propel it out from beneath the places where people have placed it in an attempt to deny its existence and into the light of day where it reveals all of the sordid and destructive actions that people have engaged in. Truth’s vindication is a part of the victory that Christ has claimed over evil in Creation. So, it is also something that Christ’s followers can and must claim as we are new beings in Christ. First off, we must think truth and speak truth. There should be no room in our days for strategic partial truths or for convenient reshaping of fact. Where we have slipped into that abys of lie, we can repent and turn away from the sinful way that we have gone. In so doing, God’s grace is present for us, and He will fill our minds and hearts with the truth of His Word as we seek its presence. Where we see lies in our world, we need to call them out for what they are, and we need to engage with our leaders and with the decisions that they make so that truth has a voice in our public square. Even as we live out and speak truth in Christ’s strength, we will not prevail in our world; yet, the Lord will honor our efforts in ways that will bring glory to His name, and Christ will prevail over all when God’s time is at hand.

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The one who scatters has come up against you. Man the fortress, watch the road; strengthen your back, summon all your strength.

Nahum 2: 1

 

Some people say that having faith in an unseen God and following the ways of a spiritual ruler are the actions of a weak and insecure person. Others hold that there is simply no need for this sort of thing; since, they already know where they are going in this life, and they have the method and the skill to get there well in hand. Yet, history, current events, and my own experiences all tell me that having confidence in personal control over life is futile at best, and it can be utterly disastrous, for it is usually foolish thinking.

 

How easy is it for the orderliness that was the game plan for the day to turn into a chaotic jumble that resembles that mass of wires behind your computer? You know the ones that I mean, they are the ones that always seem to twist and tie themselves into knots just before you need to change one of the components. In our world, there is an active force at work that is continually seeking to cause confusion and to bring about this chaos. God designed His world to be orderly so that we could be devoted to our relationship with Him. However; Satan and his forces of evil want to disrupt that calm, peace, and harmony; thus, they bring about anger, greed, oppression, destruction, disaster, and other forces and events that break apart our world and that shatter our lives.

 

When these hard situations strike, it is easy to allow them to shake our faith and to weaken our trust in the Lord. Because of this fact of living in this world, it is vitally important that we prepare purposefully and that we stay on the alert at all times. God tells us to stay inside of the fortress of His word and to keep it manned by actively and continually seeking the truth that it contains. He instructs us to pay attention to where we are going and to how we are getting there so that we stay focused on living righteously. The Lord desires for us to stay engaged with other people who share our faith in Him so that we can guard their backs and they can protect ours, and Christ pours the strength of His Spirit into us and surrounds us with God’s angels to provide us with all of the might and the power of His kingdom to support us in the fight.

 

Christ said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witness in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,”

Acts 1: 8

 

These are the last recorded words of Jesus that were spoken in the days after His crucifixion and resurrection. He was delivering those final instructions, what we might call marching orders, to His closest followers. These men and women would be charged with the task of going head to head with the world where they lived and with bringing God’s truth to people who were being deluded and deceived by most of the leaders of their governmental and their religious institutions. This was a dangerous task. It would be a thankless one, too. Almost all of them would be killed for their efforts. Yet, we can thank them with our eternal lives, and we can seek to follow along the trail that they blazed as well.

 

As I think this thought and now write it, it seems rather silly to say, but God is very wise. He knew that we humans would need more than just His written word and more than the testimony of our ancestors to follow and to serve as guidance for living righteously. In Jesus we had God’s presence in totally tangible form. God was with us in a way that was understandable and that was completely visible to the world. As Jesus left this world physically, God planned to leave the Holy Spirit with us. But He didn’t just leave the Spirit as a presence, instead God purposefully entered into us. In a way that is mysterious and miraculous, God, Himself, becomes one with our human existence. In Christ, we mere humans are infused with the personal presence of the Most High. We are granted the ability to begin to see our world through Divine eyes, and we are given understanding and wisdom that comes from their author.

 

God has invested His life in us. Christ’s care, concern, agony, and His very real blood have been spread over our sinful lives so that we would no longer be left searching for life. The question that this brings to mind for me is the one about what do I do with this gift that God has graciously granted to me? I have life, and I have God’s Spirit, God Himself, in residence within me. According to Christ I now have all the power that I need to follow Him absolutely. There is no force of this world or from beyond it that can stand against me. Nothing can take me away from my Lord, and He promises to reveal all of His will for my life to me as it is needed. All that Christ asks of me is that I surrender my life to Him and that I have faith in God’s plan to the degree that I will trust His guidance and live within His provision each moment of every day. This is not easy to do, but, again, I have the power in the Holy Spirit. So, this would be a good day to proclaim the truth about who God is and of the salvation that comes through belief in Jesus, the Christ. Today would be a very good time to live as a sworn witness to the Living King.

 

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 the apparent desire that it is truly so for the person that you are speaking to.

 

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 shows them 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. In order to do this I need to realize that I am blessed by God in this same manner so that I think and act as a person who is graced by the presence of Christ and filled with His Spirit of peace, joy, and love. 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.

 

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

Acts 13: 2

 

Although it is by no means a practice that is mentioned frequently in the Bible, fasting is clearly connected to prayer on a number of occasions. It was something that God’s people had done from very early times, and it appears to have been something that was engaged in as a normal part of seeking the Lord’s wisdom and leading by the participants in the newly formed Christian church of the first century. Fasting, as discussed here, involved a commitment to stop eating and probably to also stop consuming fluids for a period of time while engaging in focused and intensive prayer. These were times when the people needed the Lord to speak and to provide them with His wise direction or when they desired for God to take action that was beyond their doing. Despite the fact that there is not much recorded about the nature of the practice in the early church, it seems clear that they took fasting very seriously.

 

It does aappear to me that the idea of fasting goes far beyond being hungry. Yet it is totally about hunger, and that idea encompasses fasting from food and all other forms of abstinence or refrain that are dedicated to the Lord as a form of fast. Fasting is a commitment of our bodies to a time of concentrated communication with God. It is a practice in which we purposefully empty ourselves, yield control, and lay our comfort on the altar of grace. In my understanding, it should not be an ecstatic practice in which hunger and thirst are used as a physical means to enter into an altered state of being or consciousness. If true hunger and especially thirst have reached that point, the practice is potentially dangerous to one’s health and the focus has shifted away from God’s voice and onto self. Fasting is best when carried out privately and personally or with a small group of like-committed followers of Christ. The point of this is to resist the temptation to make it an act that makes a public statement as this inevitably points toward the person and distracts everyone away from waiting on the Lord.

 

As we can see from the example of the early church, fasting is not a somber event. They were engaged in worship while they fasted. The strength that they needed to engage in the singing of songs, praying, sharing God’s Word, perhaps doing a little holy dancing, and all of the rest of the activity that was worship came from God and was provided by and through Christ’s Spirit. When we enter into a time of fasting, the point is, in fact, to become increasingly hungry. Yet, the hunger that should be desired is that of the person who “hungers and thirsts for righteousness” as this is a state of being that God reaches into and fills with His holiness. Here, in the midst of the fast, we will be fed as our souls are seated at the banquet table of Christ’s love, truth, and grace.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

 

This is the sort of thing that we hear a lot in the world of Christian thought and direction for life. Yet, does this really make any sense? Is this a reasonable or even a reasonably human reaction to the sorts of things that happen to us? Even God tells us that He wants to hear our fears, doubts, concerns, pain, and grief. The Bible is laced through with examples of godly people who pour out their agony and dread to the Lord in the hope of relief or comfort or salvation. So, going about life with thanks to God on the tip of the tongue and praise for the Lord as the instant response to bone-crushing situations seems to me to be utterly crazy and not even close to reality. However, if Paul was anything at all, he was a realist. He knew his way through the harder sides of life, and he had experienced Christ’s redemption in a profoundly real and life-altering manner.

 

For Paul and for each of us, the difference maker in all of this is Christ Jesus. Paul knew of and about God. He was devoted as fully as any human had ever been to the pursuit of that knowledge and to the carrying out of God’s will as he perceived it. Yet, without Christ he did not truly and actually know God, and he was not capable of living out the will of this Father who he did not know. This is true for all people. Many of us think that we are following God, and we may consider that we possess all that we need in order to do so. However, God’s Word makes it very clear that there is one and only one way to enter into the sort of relationship that leads to the close, intimate, and life-giving connection that God desires to have with people and that is by and through Jesus the Christ.

 

So, in Christ everything is changed. Life is ours, and this new life is one that fills our days here and now, and it grants to us the fullness of eternity with God. Christ transforms the perspective that we have on the world where we live as He grants to us His vision of it all as the dwelling place of the Lord and of His heavenly host of angelic beings. As Christ is in me and His Spirit counsels, guides, and directs my reaction to the world and engagement in it, everything looks and feels different. Pain, hurt, disappointment, fear, and grief are not eliminated, but the Lord’s strength and comfort overcome their power over me, and my heart and mind are set free from the oppressive hold that the author of all loss is attempting to gain on me. Christ makes it reasonable and even rational to be thankful in the midst of great trials. As I surrender to God’s will in Christ Jesus, He brings every day of this life into conformity with His desire for me to live with the internal peace and calm reassurance of His presence filling me to overflowing with thanksgiving and with praise.

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

Deuteronomy 7: 6

 

Let me start out by saying that I do know that this verse is about Israel and that it is situated in a passage about God’s choosing of these people to be His enclave of righteousness and also His point of human outreach into the world. However, God’s plan for redemption of this world was bigger than that, and it remains much greater to this day. In Christ, we all are granted the gift of inclusion in the Lord’s grand plan for adoption into the heavenly family of grace. By the blood of Christ all people are now included based solely upon our belief in Him as there are no longer any racial, familial or other external qualifiers for such earthly and eternal status. We are now the ones who carry on the charge to be holy and the calling to be righteous that was originally placed upon Israel. We are the laborers that God has called to do His work in this rich field of spiritual harvest that is the earth in our days.

 

Although this task can be great and carrying it out can seem overwhelming due to the numbers of people who do not know God, in reality it is a very light burden that we carry, for the Lord goes before us in it and He provides the strength and wisdom for doing the work. Additionally, Christ takes full responsibility for the outcome. Our role is to be willing, available, and forthright in our proclamation of our relationship with Christ. It seems that God wants for us to respond to His love for us by bringing that same love into our world so that the way that we are held as treasure by God is reflected onto the people that we encounter along the path of life, and the love that God pours out onto us by virtue of His intensely paternal attitude toward us provides the way and the means for us to truly love others as well.

 

God does set His people apart from this world in that we are to avoid embracing its broken and evil aspects as our own. We are to remain separate from its idolatry, violence, and selfish ambitions so that we are led by God’s Word and infused with His Spirit to live out Christ’s calling to bring the Gospel of Christ to every person that we can contact as we lovingly embrace them in full appreciation of their unique, God-image bearing creation at the hands of the Father. This is a primary purpose for God’s sacrificial work of calling us into relationship with Him. He has set us apart from this world so that we can enter into it as people who are clearly different from the rest; yet, this is not a difference that is born out of superiority but rather it is one that is formed up in humility and by service to the Lord. As we are God’s treasured possession, God desires for us to be people who hold that status with open hands by pouring out Christ into our world and by sharing the truth of His redemption as we go along our way.

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