August 2018


But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 5: 14

 

This world is a solid food sort of place. The challenges that come our way place demands on the endurance of our bodies and our spirits in such harsh and taxing ways that it is hard to keep going on anything less nourishing. Yet, many people of faith in Christ, and at various times, almost all of us regress into a form of spiritual infancy in which we seek after easy truth and conveniently distorted understanding of scripture’s principles. These are times when the dense logic of God’s wisdom is deemed to be too hard to grapple with, and the reality of what is righteous and just is found to be nonconforming to the way that we want things to be in our universe. During these periods in the lives of followers of Christ, the Spirit’s role in our lives is redefined as one of being a bringer of warm feelings and peaceful images instead of being the one who guides us into discerning truth and the deep wisdom of eternity.

 

Consuming this solid food of faith is hard work. We need to practice at it on a regular basis. The rigor that it demands doesn’t leave much room for just coasting along or for times of vacation from spiritual disciplines. The ability to appreciate and to enjoy this sort of nourishment is formed through reading God’s Word on a regular and even on a continual basis. It is sharpened through discussion of the Word’s content with other followers of Christ, and all of this is brought into deep understanding and sharper focus in prayer and meditation and by the revealing work of the Holy Spirit. A life lived in the strength of a solid food diet is a life lived out in the discipline of a practiced spiritual existence. It is life in which practice is on-going and wherein the exercise of faith is unceasing.

 

All of this discipline and the effort that is attached to it does have its rewards. There is a richly satisfying quality to the Lord’s solid food that is not found in anything else. This diet gives to us the gift of understanding of God’s truth, and its adherents are led into the joy of following God’s will in their lives. Additionally, the ability to discern good from evil is a gift that is beyond value. There are many hard choices to be made in the process of living from day to day in our world, and God’s truth is the only source of real and lasting wisdom to use in making the sorts of choices that all of us are required to make. The Lord also grants us a form of confidence in the way that we choose to live our lives that can come only from the source of all truth. Seeking after the solid food of faith is not an easy thing to do, but its consumption brings with it rewards that are valuable beyond all else. Additionally, this solid food leads us ever deeper into a relationship with Christ and into the glory of His presence in our lives.

Advertisements

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

1 Corinthians 5: 7

 

There is a real sense of urgency in these words. The sacrifice of the lamb has already taken place, and the blood of atonement is poured out. Yet, there is still an element, a trace, of the old sinful self present in the lives of the faithful followers of Christ. This is generally a situation that we all face at times and from time to time as well. We know Christ; yet, there is still sin present in us. We have given our lives to Him, but we are holding onto some aspects of our old self with a tenacity that almost seems to defy God’s ability to pour out grace upon us. As it was in Corinth, these elements of sinfulness in us and so in the fellowship of faith cause trouble and bring about dissention as they shatter our unity.

 

In Christ, we have the way and the means to clean out all that is corrupt, unloving, and broken in our lives. The cleansing property of His blood is far greater than any of the sins or sinfulness that we may be clinging onto, and Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection have also permanently defeated the hold that death had upon us. Christ has granted to us the final assurance that death’s terrible angel will pass us by, for although we all die in the body, in Christ all are eternally alive in the spirit. So, as we have come to know Christ as Savior and Lord, we are made new, and the old self with all of its weakness and unrighteousness is done away with in the eyes of God. It is not any lack of interest or capacity on the part of God that causes us to continue living in various states of rebellion from God, it is our own stubborn and fearful hearts and minds that grasp onto this leavening in our lives.

 

The journey into Christ’s righteousness is not a simple one. It takes commitment, happens over time, and is impossible to accomplish in our own strength and power. Additionally, it is not a solo adventure, for like all aspects of the Christian life, seeking after righteousness is something that is best done in the company of like-minded travelers. Yes, removing the leaven, the sinfulness, from our own lives and out of the body of faith is an urgent need, and we all are caught up in this important endeavor. Yet, Christ has gone before us, and His sacrifice on the cross gives us the power and the capacity to be victorious over all of the aspects of our old selves that are attempting to hold us down in our witness and to defeat our ability to live in the full expression of freedom that is ours as citizens of God’s Kingdom come to earth. Again, living righteously is not simple to do and it is not easy to accomplish, but the Spirit will guide us into knowing our sinfulness, surrender to Christ is effective in gaining His power and resources for change, prayer and meditation will lead us deeper into the Lord’s will, and the fellowship of other believers can be the support that we need to stay the course to its glorious end.

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1: 9

 

We don’t always stay true to our commitments or promises, but God does. People are too easily influenced by the attractive enticements of our world; yet, our Lord remains good to His word to redeem us and save us for all of eternity. There exists a stark difference in the way that we humans function and the way that God does; still, Christ works unceasingly to bring us closer to His righteous image as He removes our sinfulness and replaces it with His glory. This is one of the most powerfully significant aspects of what it means to be a follower of Christ. We are redeemed from sin’s death, set free from its slavery, and we are made new, day by day, by the renewing presence of the Spirit and in the counsel and instruction of God’s Living Word.

 

In His own crazy and often unexplainable manner, God wants to be with us people. He can associate with anyone and anything that He chooses, but He so chooses us. This does not really make much sense, but God does not need to explain Himself to me. His desire for relationship with me and with you is so great and runs so deep that He gave all in order to accomplish it. Now, He also pursues us unceasingly in order to hold onto our wandering hearts. Despite the insult of our own weakness and often too prevalent sinfulness, Christ is faithful to redeem us from the disaster that we often make of life, and He is firmly committed to present us before the Father as His own redeemed daughters and sons when we face the final judgement.

 

The sort of connection that God wants to have with us is much deeper and far richer than any relationship that we can imagine on earth. The Lord gives to us a love that is perfect and boundless, grace that overcomes all of our sin, comfort that is more powerful than all of our loss and pain, and peace that penetrates to the depths of the soul. These are some of the gifts from eternity that Christ provides to us as we journey through life in relationship with Him. Jesus does ask that we respond to Him, that we say yes to His call to repentance and to enter into this fellowship of faith that is His love gift to us. Yet, even in offering such an unimaginably great gift as is Christ’s one of redemption and eternal life, the Lord places no conditions upon us, no preconditions on our acceptance by Him, and requires nothing of us except that we surrender to His will. Then we are in deep and lasting fellowship with God, the Lord of the Universe.

For this is he who has spoken by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“’The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

“Prepare the way of the Lord;

Make his paths straight.’”

Matthew 3: 3

 

John’s message was straight forward and rather simple, for he called upon people to repent. He pointed them toward God and to the awful difference that existed between the way that they were living and the standard of righteous life that was set out for all people by the Lord. Interestingly, John went out into the wilds of the countryside to proclaim this message from God. He left the populated centers behind and found his audience out among the open spaces and the scattered villages, long-distance travelers, and assorted wanders that he encountered in those less hospitable locales. His first and primary appeal was to the people at large and not to the powerful or the prominent. John didn’t start out speaking with religious or with governmental leaders, and his message wasn’t directed at corrupt institutions or at their ungodly leaders.

 

John was called by God to go to people who were not so different from any of us, and he was directed to call upon us to turn to the God of our creation as our only valid hope for salvation from the ruinous path that we and that all of the rest of humanity had taken. Although John went out into the literal desert places to start to preach the Lord’s call to return to Him and to the truth of His word, he was restating the words that Isaiah had set out long before when he spoke about God’s promise of restoration and of peace with Him that was given then to the people of Israel and promised in extension to all of the world. In Isaiah we see the idea of wilderness as depicting the vast wasteland of human souls and all of the barriers that we have built up that separate us from God and from doing His righteous and redemptive work in our world. Isaiah speaks of mountains made flat and valleys being raised up, of other forms of impediment gone so that God’s glory is revealed to all of the world.

 

This is done through the lives of people just like us. God works in and through His people to bring this same message of hope through repentance to the world around us. We all reside in a barren landscape like that of Isaiah’s and john’s wilderness of the soul, and every one of us rubs shoulders on a daily basis with people who dwell in the harsh and bitter lands of that wild place. Our first calling is to personal repentance as we hear God’s voice and respond to His Gospel of righteous hope, peace, and love by turning our lives in full measure to Christ and to serving Him. Then we are to turn to our neighbors and to others that we encounter and that we seek out and reveal to them the glory of the Lord as it is made visible and tangible in our redeemed and transformed manner of thinking and living. Christ calls to each of us in our own wilderness, and then He sends us forth to do this crying out to a lost and a needy world. As Christ sends, so we must respond like john did with all of our mind, heart, and soul.

Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

Colossians 3: 5

 

Here is a really tough personal challenge for most of us. At first glance, we might say that I don’t struggle with those things; they were part of the person that I was before Christ, that was what I did before I grew up and realized that there was a better way, or they are just a casual and a controlled aspect of my much greater new self. The problem with all of that is the standard that Paul sets out in the verse, for he says that we should consider ourselves as dead to them. Dead is a rather absolute statement, and it doesn’t leave much room for occasional involvement or for limited activity. Dead equates to none, to finished, and to buried and put away forever.

 

We are given an important clue to how all of this is to come about in the idea that, as stated previously in Colossians, Christ’s death and resurrection are what make this sort of fundamental change possible for us. Then, it is our own decision to fully accept the gift of grace and the transformation of our essential selves that are its result. For it is the grace that comes to us as a result of the cross that takes these destructive elements that tended to control our lives and that also sets the tone for our relationships and places them into the permanently sealed coffin that is supplied by Christ’s gift of redemption.

 

So, as I look honestly at my life and view the actual way that I think and act, I am forced to note the still active and influential idols of my old self sitting in plain view on their shelf. I am forced to recognize that I still turn to them and allow them to take control of moments and of situations in my days; yet, I also know that Christ has eliminated my real need for them, and He has replaced this need with His far greater and totally loving capacity to deal with life. The Lord tells me that when the voices of lust, anger, fear, self importance, and greed call to me that I need to be prepared to tell them to leave me, for they are nothing but the whispers of the ghosts of my past. Alife that has been put to death on the cross and that no longer holds the power to control my life.

 

 

 

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 4: 13

 

According to the author of Hebrews, the Word of God is the instrument that brings people, all people, into a place wherein they must confront their own standing and place in respect to being viewed as righteous, holy, and acceptable before God. That living word leads all of us into a situation where we face the truth of our own relationship with our Creator, and it also takes us to an inevitable moment in our journey through life at which we do stand before the Lord and are confronted by the way that we conducted our days and the fact of our acceptance or rejection of Christ as our Lord. This is something that no one escapes, for there is a day of judgement that comes for each of us, and we will be held accountable for what we did with the singular opportunity, the life, that we were given as a gift from the Lord to use for the sake of the redemption of His Creation.

 

Nothing that we can put on ourselves can influence or change that moment before the judgement seat of God. Our wealth, education, position of power, or profession of piety are all useless in that hour of reckoning, for the Lord sees through and beyond all of the externals and looks deeply into the heart and the soul to discern who we really are in respect to living out God’s call to be people who truly love Him and seek to do His will in all things. Now we will not be judged negatively because we have acquired and accomplished much or little in our lives, but we will be held accountable for what we did with what we had, and this is especially true for the way that we used what we have been given in the days of our lives that came after we entered in a relationship with God. Yet, it is that relationship with God that opens our minds and frees our hearts to accept the totality of the truth that is contained in God’s Word, and the Word of God is the source for the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding that leads us into living lives that will be deemed as worthy, holy and just, when we stand before the Lord and face His judgement.

 

That day of standing before the Lord with all of the reality of who we are and also the way that we have used the life that we were given fully open and exposed is something to be concerned about. There is much in my life that I am not proud of, and there are also many hours, days, weeks, and even years that I have wasted in serving myself and my own wishes and desires; yet, I also know the nature and the character of my Lord. In the light of the truth of who Christ is as it is revealed to me in God’s Word, I also have confidence in my eternal status and also of the grace that sets me free from a form of slavery to my sinful past. I do not need to continue to misuse and to waste my days in the same manner as I may have before, for Christ desires to set me free from all of that and to establish me on the path that He desires for me to travel along. Today is the day where I can start to prepare for that final examination before my all-knowing Lord. This hour can be the one wherein I surrender to Christ those things that are separating me from the full expression of God’s will with the manner that I am living my life. This is my choice to make, and I am fully accountable to Christ for what I choose.

 

 

Trust in the Lord forever, for in God, the Lord, we have an everlasting rock.

Isaiah 26: 4

 

There are things that I trust almost every day. I drive my car at seventy five miles per hour while trusting that wheels will stay on, and I turn on electrical appliances believing that the protective system that has been designed into the wiring will keep the electricity in the machine and not let it run through me. I get out of bed in the morning and trust that my legs will hold me up when I stand; also, I trust that my doctor has knowledge and skill to take good care of my body. The concept of trust is laced through everything that happens in our lives; yet, most of the things and all of the people that we trust will, at least at times, fail to hold up their ends of the bargain, for that is the way things go in this world.

 

In order to find a trust that will not fail and to get to the level where trust becomes the foundation of calm and peaceful living, we need to dig down deep into the center of creation; since, that is where we reach the foundational bed rock that is the nature, character, and heart of God. Underlying all that is true and everything that is trustworthy is the Creator, and He seeks to give us the sort of confidence and the type of courage that makes the challenges and the concerns of daily living manageable.

 

It is good to gain knowledge and it is worthy to develop our skills, but it is essential to put our primary energy into getting to know God. None of us know God fully, and no one that I have ever encountered has come to the place in life where they are immune to situations, events, and circumstances that will upset the order of our days. Still, even when the footing that we have been relying upon has turned to quicksand and our most trusted friends have turned against us, the Lord is there to stop the descent into oblivion and to place His loving arms around us. The God of Creation will place your feet on the solid footing of His Word, will warm your chilled soul with His love, and will show you the way into the light of His glory.

 

Next Page »