February 2018


Since therefor, Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

1 Peter 4: 1, 2

 

Let’s face it, most of us do not like pain. We will do almost anything to avoid it and to get rid of it as quickly as is possible when we encounter its presence. We have developed methods for avoiding the sorts of situations that bring it upon us, and our science has created numerous compounds and devices that grant us relief from it. So, to suggest that this sort of discomfort or worse is something to consider as worthy of acceptance is just a bit off center to the way that most people process life. Yet, God deliberately brought extraordinary and overwhelming pain upon Himself in order to bring each of us back into His full and eternal presence. Jesus, the one person in all of history who did not deserve to suffer as He was in all ways without sin, took on our states of lostness so that this restoration could be truly accomplished.

 

Now, we are invited to join with Christ in suffering a small portion of the agony of His cross so that we can put to death the lingering effects of our sinful state of deviation from God’s will and enter more fully into His path of righteousness in our lives. It does seem to be necessary to willingly take on a form of pain in order for some of the aspects of our former lives to be removed from us. There are ways of thinking and forms of action that are deeply ingrained within us so that they have become a too comfortable part of our sense of being. When these vestiges of our former, pre-redemption, selves cling to us, they often do so with a fierce sort of tenacity that makes their removal somewhat like what undergoing dental work must have been like in ancient times. Yet, there is one very real and absolutely significant difference between our human experiences of painful events and this one of entering into Christ’s call to holiness.

 

Christ has gone there before us, and now He travels these hard paths of transformative life with us. When we turn these various aspects and areas of life over to Christ by placing them on His cross of sacrificial pain and death, we are giving up control over a part of ourselves and allowing the Lord to take over this same internal territory. In doing this there can be an excruciating tearing of our spiritual and emotional flesh; yet, God is faithful to provide the sort of healing that brings about a greater form of strength as He moves us closer to His calling for our lives. This way of Christ’s cross is seldom an easy road to travel, but it is the direction through the remaining days of our lives wherein we leave behind ever more of the sinful passions and rebellious disobedience to God that is behind them in order to live in the fuller experience and expression of Christ’s glorious will for our lives.

Advertisements

Since all these things (the heavens and heavenly bodies) are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought we to be in lives of holiness and godliness!

2 Peter 3: 11

 

Most people spend a very great amount of time and energy on building up our world. This is not a bad thing to do. In fact, there is much about this effort that is both commendable and in conformity with God’s stated desire and will for us. Yet, there does come a time when we need to realize that everything that we do for the sake of this world and to improve its environment is headed for final destruction. In other words, we are a bit like the proverbial doctor who has spared no cost in working to save a patient who simply dies of old age at about the same time as the cure is effective. It is all a noble yet futile effort. Again, caring about and for creation is not futile and following God’s will in this matter is true obedience to our Lord; yet, in the end, Christ will return, and all that has been infected and corrupted by sin will be wiped away and then made new.

 

So, it seems to me that the point of our care for this world is about something other than the dirt, trees, and waterways of our planet, and the purpose behind these efforts needs to be aligned with a heart and a desire that is focused on something other than clean air, clear water, and the preservation of species. The very nature and character of God is reflected in the minute details of His creative handiwork. Although some will disagree with me on this, I state uncatagorically that God, Himself, made all of this world and every one of the other ones that proliferate across the heavens. He not only made them, the Lord fashioned them down to the smallest of details in and upon them, and He did all of this in order to set the context and the place for His engagement and relationship with the highest form of His workmanship in the form of people. I do not pretend to understand the whys of it all, and I certainly do not comprehend God’s methodology; however, I do accept that all that surrounds me is important to my Lord and that He desires that I view it in this same manner.

 

Yet, in so viewing creation, I am to maintain a balance and a set of priorities that holds God’s greatest desires as foremost to me. As much as the Lord is pleased by the care that we give to our physical world, He is even more delighted when we reach out to care for other people who dwell upon this earth. God does want us to protect our environment; yet, His intent in imploring us to do this is that there would be safe and sustainable places for humanity to dwell and so that people who do not know Him would see a tangible demonstration of Christ’s love for them in the sacrificial efforts of His followers. God calls upon His people to be holy and godly. We are to walk through our days as women and men who are neither afraid nor are we concerned about what it means to be viewed as different by our co-inhabitants of this world. We become god-like as our thoughts and actions reflect a form of care that will give our all for the sake of other people and that does surrender everything that we hold as dear or precious to serve Christ and to enter into living out His will. Thus, we care for creation with hearts and minds fixed upon the fact that the only thing that actually matters to God in the end of days is the souls of His beloved people.

These things we have heard from Christ and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

1 John 1: 5

 

It has been my experience that darkness is sneaky. It can overcome a perfectly bright day with a suddenness that is disorienting. At other times it just slowly and subtly moves into my mind and my heart until all of the clear vision that was present has been obscured by its dark curtains of ambiguity. Ideas that were solid, actions that appeared to be righteous, and a path that seemed to lead me along sound footing can become distorted and shrouded with doubt. This is the effect that Satan wants to have on us, and this process of bringing darkness into our lives is one of his favorite devices.

 

Yet, when the path through life starts getting murky and doubts about what is good and righteous begin to swirl in my mind, this is a true sign that I am trying to figure it all out on my own and that I am not fully seeking God’s will and His desire as I set my course through my day. As I head out into the dark corners of this world, places where there is great need for Christ and for His true light, forces that are oriented toward darkness do attempt to cause confusion and distress in my mind and in my heart. Still, I cling to the fact that where God is, there is light. When Christ is leading, the path is well lit. If I am seeking to know and understand Christ through His Word and by the revelation of His Spirit, the Lord’s glory will surround me.

 

Based upon this fact, I should examine each and every aspect of my life where truth and love do not overcome fear and anger, and I need to continue to look for that truth in God’s Word until all of the thoughts and the actions that I engage in conform to His righteousness. For the closer I am to Christ, the more I will be standing in the center of the source of all light; and the longer I stay in this light, the more my heart will be transformed into a light filled vessel, which will lead me confidently into the way of the Lord’s brilliant truth.

 

Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a pledge.

2 Corinthians 5: 5

 

Promises, promises, promises; our lives are interlaced with commitments received and given, others that are kept or broken, and trust or lack of it that is developed through these interactions. Sometimes people fail to keep their pledges because they honestly tried yet failed to follow through. Other people can be disingenuous or even deliberately deceitful; and circumstances can conspire to defeat our best intentions. Additionally, we all know that governments and large corporate entities often lack the sort of fundamental integrity that makes their word good; at least that is how it too often seems.

 

Here, Paul gives us a promise from God that we can truly count on, for this is one that we can stake our lives upon. In the verses just before this one Paul has been discussing the fact that this life is filled with pain, struggles, and hardship and that the very fabric of our earthly existence is flawed, failing, and will be destroyed. He also has shared with us the fact that, in Christ, this is actually a good, hopeful, and desirable state of affairs. As the old person with our sin damaged and ravaged makeup is set aside and surrendered to the transformative work of Christ in and on us, we begin to be reformed into the new beings that God has planned for us to be. This process will not be completed in this life, and it is, at best, just a preview of the glory that we will know in eternity with Christ. Yet, God promises this new relationship with Him and this new life in His complete presence to everyone who accepts His gift of salvation through Jesus.

 

Throughout the history of human interaction with God, He has continually provided us with a clear picture of His intent to have an active and ongoing relationship with us, and the Lord has made the sincerity of His intentions known to us by making promises to us. This is another of those promises. Here God has done more than give His word. Here God has provided His presence in our lives as a tangible sign that functions much like the earnest money that we put down when we commit to make a major purchase such as a house. The Spirit of God is with us throughout our lives, and He is an ever present and very tangible reminder of the fact that God has promised to never leave us in this life, and He helps us to see and to hope for the promise of our eternal future.

 

Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 1: 1, 2

 

The proverbial phrase, “You are what you eat,” has been around for a long time. It has been adopted and adapted into the title for books, lectures, television programs, songs, and other forms of popular expression. I think that its wide-spread use is an indication of the fact that there is truth contained in these words, for it may not be literally and absolutely accurate but it does convey a sense of functional reality. What we put into ourselves does directly and significantly effect how we live and even, to some extent, who we are. The author of this psalm is talking about something more important and considerably greater in its life-altering capacity than any of the meat or vegetables that we might encounter. He is speaking about the consumption of truth, righteousness, and all the rest of what is entailed in truly knowing God.

 

We all face this same choice. We can listen to the voice of God or we can select other ones to fill our minds and hearts. In fact, we will hear a wide range of input as we go about life, and we will all be subjected to good ideas and to poor ones in this process. Not everything that is said in the name of God will be true and useful, either. However, all of God’s Word is true, everything contained within it is holy, and the counsel of the Holy Spirit is unquestionably reliable. So, even when the words come from within the context of the church or out of the mouths of people who share a profession of faith, there needs to be a form of testing of the validity and the value of those ideas and concepts. That testing always involves holding the idea or direction up to the template of God’s Holy Word of truth, allowing His Spirit to reveal the application of that truth, and then in evaluating all of this prayerfully within the fellowship of trusted fellow followers of Christ.

 

The Lord has provided His followers with a truly marvelous banquet feast of truth, and the life that we are given by ingesting it is remarkable as it makes all of the difference in the joy and the peace that we will know in our journey through our days. Yet, at times we still decide to dine at the table of the unwise or, even worse, we fill ourselves up on the deadly counsel of those who stand in opposition to God and to His righteous way. In these times, Christ’s invitation to turn to Him, to repent, and to take a seat at His table of grace, love, and life remains open for us. The Lord invites each of us to come, sit in His presence, and be filled to overflowing with the law that brings life and by its hope and promise of eternity. This is a place where we are granted the opportunity to meditate deeply upon Christ, to be filled with His presence, and to prosper and grow stronger for this day of service to God’s kingdom.

 

 

Then Pilot said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

John 18: 37

 

Early in the twentieth century Albert Einstein stated his two theories of relativity, general and special, and set out to demonstrate their implications and impact upon all manner of actions and events in our journey through the universe. In reality, he was stating a small aspect of truth as it related to our physical world. Einstein’s relativity was accurate and valid for use in making certain decisions. Sadly, there is much more relativity among us in our world than just his true form. The concept of what is true has become distorted and is routinely manipulated for the sake of people’s personal viewpoints and to their advantage. Truth is too often framed by ideology or by passion rather being used as the foundation for those outcomes; thus, truth is manufactured out of the desires of people and formed and shaped to meet the needs of our human institutions. This is very far from the truth that Jesus is explaining to Pilot.

 

Although Jesus was born into this world to “bear witness to the truth,” He was a part of the conception of all that is true, and He was also engaged in that process whereby truth as an essential aspect of the Creator God’s nature and character was spoken forth into the universe. Jesus knew truth, for truth was intrinsic in Him, and He lived out God’s truth in every manner and way during His life on this earth. Thus, Jesus became our living model of what truth is and of what it means to stand for truth and pour truth out into all that a person thinks, says, and does. In reality, living as a person who engages in truth-saying and who grants truth its place of highest honor in the conduct of life is going through the day as one who enters into the holy place of worship of the Lord as a part of the routine practice of living. In our world today, truth is rare, and the practice of this sacrament has been corrupted too much of the time; so, truth has been made into something along the lines of the sordid temple practices that so enraged Jesus when He was in Jerusalem.

 

It is time for people who know Christ to repent of our untruthful ways and to turn toward the Lord in His proclamation of all that is true. Truth is not relative. It is not shaped by the needs of the day or by conformity to a desired outcome. This thing that is truth is eternal, for it preexisted the creation of our universe, the earth, and all that is on our planet. Truth is, and all else is falsehood and deceit. God’s Word brings truth to us throughout its pages, and the Spirit of Christ grants us insight, wisdom, and application of this holy word of life to everything that comes our way. It is up to me and up to you to listen to the truth that Christ continually bears witness to, and it is our worshipful duty to live out that truth in the conduct of our lives. Truth is eternal, and these convoluted and twisted relative truths that our world sets forth as its gospel will perish from the earth in due time. So, for me, I desire to walk through my days with the voice of truth in my ear and Christ’s redeemed path of righteousness under my feet.

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

Ephesians 1: 3

 

It is amazing, totally remarkable, and almost beyond my understanding that God, the Creator and the Ruler of the entire universe, would be so interested in me that He would grant to me a gift such as this. As magical and special as many of the gifts that I have received during my life have been, none of them starts to compare with the gift of relationship with Him that the Lord has handed to me. Yet, as extraordinary as that is, there is much more, for the Spirit of God opens the eyes of my heart to a new dimension of life that is also mine through my acceptance of Christ.

 

God has changed me from being spiritually dead to being fully engaged with the totality of His realm. I do not understand all that is of God or see everything that God sees, for His knowledge and understanding go far beyond my capacity and the Lord doesn’t need to or choose to reveal everything that is happening in the dimension of spirit to me. Still, in Christ, heaven has come to live in me, and my perspective on my world can now be a heavenly one. God grants to me the gift of His insight, wisdom, understanding, compassion, mercy, and love; and He tells me to bless Him by living in a different manner than people who don’t know Him.

 

You see, it strikes me that God wants me and all of His own people to live each day like we are, in fact, living in a heavenly place. God gives us a picture of what that looks like in the way that Jesus lived His life on earth, and Christ says that He wants us to follow Him. We need to take the view and the vision of life that we have gained due to our spiritual awareness and live in a manner that clearly demonstrates that we are different. The difference that God wants me to bring into this world is not one that is expressed in a superior air of separation; rather, the Lord wants the people that I touch to know that they have been touched by heaven.

 

Next Page »