March 2019


For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

1 Timothy 4: 4, 5

Although Paul had just indicated that he was discussing the subject of marriage and of setting aside the consumption of certain foods, this statement about the goodness of all of creation is, I think, to be much broader in its application. This statement takes us back to the beginning of earth’s time when it was all formed out of nothing by God’s hand, and when at the end of the phases of that process it was pronounced to be good and very good by the most exacting of all critics, God Himself. Nothing that He made was of any lesser character or quality, and in the end of that process, it was all here for the care, feeding, and nurture of God’s final and pinnacle work, God’s companions in the garden, humanity. Now, not everything escaped the rampage of sin upon the perfection that came forth from God’s touch, but everything was given the promise of redemption from sin and restoration to that sacred point of origin.

Moving ahead from Paul and Timothy’s times to ours, we still live in an age where our understanding of the holy and the sacred becomes confused and distorted. We see some times in our lives as our periods of devotion to God. We may take an hour or two out of a Saturday or a Sunday to commit to worship and to gathering with other people of faith in the name of the Lord. We might also give some part of other days or even of every day to a spiritual practice or devote it to the reading of Scripture and consider that to be serious devotion of our lives to the Lord. But Paul is telling us to live life with a different set of priorities and a reframed perspective on all of the content of our days. When he says that all of God’s creation is good, Paul is indicating that there is little that we will encounter in the universe that falls outside of the realm of the sacred. As Paul talks in terms of the elements and the aspects of life being made holy through prayer and by the word of God, he is providing us with a form of liturgy to be lived out in the course of life.

With this attitude and approach to each and every aspect of life on view, the ratio of the hours of our days that are sacred verses those that are secular is inverted. The perspective that is being stated here makes even the most ordinary of tasks into something that can be devoted to worship of God. It says that we can and even should be giving thanks to God for the pleasure that we find in the company of friends, for the stimulation of a good book, for the simple joy of biting into a crisp apple, and for every other element of this world that we encounter or engage with. It is all good as it is taken before the Lord and dedicated to Him. All of life is thus lived out as an act of worship, and every day is one that is spent in the presence of the same God and Father that walked with the first people in the garden. Now the mundane is sacred, the routine is divinely inspired, and all interactions with our world and especially with God’s preferred of creation, with people, take place in the presence of the Most High God.  

If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?

1 Corinthians 12: 17

Paul is discussing the various wonderful ways that followers of Christ are different from each other in the forms and the types of gifting that God has given to us. There is no question in my mind that this is what the Apostle is speaking about. Yet, it seems to me that there is more here. As I have been reading Richard Beck’s deep and profound book Stranger God[1],I have come to see this expanded view of the body of Christ a little more clearly. It does seem that God has given to us the gift of people. This is a really simple, yet very complicated subject. People are each different and highly distinctive, too. This differentiation exists in the form of our physical appearances, our personalities, our comfort in various situations, and in our capabilities and capacity to engage in each aspect of living within a community. Some may seem to be able to give more, and some are not as able to contribute, or at least that is how it might seem.

One of the challenges that I encounter is found in the way that my thinking has been conditioned over the course of my life. As I meet new people, I am almost immediately assessing them. While thinking that I am being open minded and accepting of the person as an individual, there are various internal filters and analytical tools at work, and these in-grained devices are busily placing this individual into broader categories that are ordered by preconceived definitions that lead me to draw value oriented conclusions regarding this person. None of this is happening at the level of volitional thought. Yet, it is all quite real and present inside of my mind so that this defining of a person has an effect upon my heart’s rendering of their worth as well. This is not at all how Christ sees people, and it has nothing to do with the way that our Lord contemplates the worth or the value of them, either.

In order to change something as long practiced and deeply held as is this form of thinking, I need to submit my perspective and view of people to Christ in repentance for the way that I have not loved His people well and with an expressed desire to be changed by the work of the Spirit within me. When Jesus met people, He was more interested in their story and in getting to know who they were than He was engaged with determining their role or their worth within the culture. So too should I care more about the life that people are living and the trials and troubles of that journey than I do about their skills or lack of them. Each of us is uniquely and beautifully formed by God to fulfill a role within His body of faith. There are no classes of citizenship in Christ’s community, for each and every person contributes to the whole as the Lord grants to them a place within His kingdom. I pray that as I go about my day that I will love and respect the people that I encounter in a manner that sees each of them as a whole and a contributing person who has a valuable and a vital place within God’s grand plan for His kingdom come to this world.    


[1]Richard Beck, “Stranger God, Meeting Jesus in Disguise” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press: 2017)

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Romans 15: 7

This verse brings up the question, who is it that I do welcome and who do I not? For the reality of it all is that there are people that I give warmth and acceptance to and there are others with whom I do not so readily do this. What makes the difference, and why is it that I even think that I have a right to so discriminate when God does not do this? Jesus was hammered onto that cross for everyone. This is an undiluted and non-differentiated fact. Jesus had demonstrated the nature of God’s grace and His heart for redemption many times; so, there was really no question left about the availability of welcome when it came to God and to admittance into His kingdom. All are welcomed in, Christ has paid for that right for each and every one who will accept His love gift, and God, the Host, desires that each of us would accept the invitation to join in this eternal feast.

So, when it comes to my own attitudes about people, God grants me very little latitude to determine who is acceptable to me. As it pertains to my discriminating mind, the Lord seeks to provide me with opportunities to grow and to expand the length and the depth of my understanding of others so that I can just begin to see them as He does. Additionally, when I encounter people that are troubling to me in any of the ways that my sensibilities are upset, the Spirit is speaking to me to remind me that the person there before me that is causing me such disgust or who is so marginalized in my sight as to not even be visible is, in fact, a living, a thinking, and a feeling person who has been created by God’s own hand in His divine image. Thus, I have no right to turn up my nose or to avert my eyes when I am in the presence of God’s beloved creation.

It seems to me that the most important thing that Paul says here is what he tells us about the purpose of possessing this welcoming heart. We are to view others in this manner for the glory of God. As sinful people who dwell in our shaken and shattered world, we are not ready and willing to welcome people who trouble us into our homes and up to our tables. Acts of hospitality such as this are supernatural in their instigation and in their implementation. So, acts of care for others and extending love to them is a form of worship that carries with it the presence of Christ. This sort of unnatural acceptance of people who would in the usual state of our hearts and minds be ones that we would avoid is the work of the Spirit within us. It comes out of our surrender to the Christ who knew no strangers and who welcomed the most heavily sin stained of all humanity to come and to dine at His grace-filled table of redemption. Thus, in light of these hard truths, my Lord says to me, “My child, go about this day with open arms and with welcome on your lips.”     

Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner,

   but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.

Proverbs 14: 21

The people who live near us are not always nice and pleasant to be around. In fact, they can be utterly nasty and difficult. So, when the concept of neighbor is expanded to include the much wider range of locality that God tends to place into that word by way of meaning, the prospects for being required to engage with people who cause me anxiety, anger, or even who invoke hatred is greatly increased. But Solomon was not finished there when he set down these words of wisdom for the ages to come. He jumps from people who live in some form of proximity to us to the inclusion of others who have little to no economic means, the poor. Although any one of us may not have financial resources that place us among the elite of our world, most of us are also not living at the level wherein meals are doubtful and shelter is not even a dream that we can entertain. Yet, there are large numbers of people who, for various and often complex reasons, exist well below the governmentally defines poverty line.

These poor are everywhere in the world. There is really no culture or location that does not have them in its midst. This has been true for most of the earth’s history, too. In this simple, proverbial statement, the poor of the world are transferred from the realm of those who exist out there away from my door and they are brought into my front yard. Thus, they are defined as people that I need to care about at the level of individuals who have a story to tell and whose lives have an impact upon my own. There is no longer any escaping a certain responsibility to them that is placed upon me by God. Even if society might turn away from them, governments may try to regulate their coming and going, and the world attempt to deny them the basic dignity of recognition as God’s own beloved children, God does not grant His people with the right to think and to act in these ways.

We are to open our doors to our neighbors and to seek to know and to understand them. In so doing, we have the best opportunity to present Christ and His gospel of redemption to them. We are also made vulnerable and our personal strength and capacity to care for others is severely tested in the process of entertaining these neighbors. Yet, these are also times when we are taken ever deeper into our faith in God and dependence upon Him as the resource that we call upon when we reach the end of ourselves. Now, Christ adds to the mix of people who fill up the neighborhood where we dwell with the poor, the disadvantaged, the homeless, and the troubled people of our world, and He tells us to treat them as we do our neighbors. We are to look them in the eye, reach out with the hand of fellowship and care, and grant them the dignity that is their right as God’s creation. Christ loves these people greatly, and He calls upon each of us who follow Him to do the same.

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his maker,

   but he who is generous to the needy honors him.

Proverbs 14: 31

Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Nehemiah 8: 10

At certain times it is natural to feel contradictory emotions. This is one of those times for the people of Israel. As Nehemiah, Ezra, and the priests were going among them and reading God’s Word of the Law to them, they were struggling greatly. They had much to be thankful for in that the wall that surrounded Jerusalem had been rebuilt and their city was being restored to its former greatness. They had returned to their homeland from exile, and the throngs were gathered in order to celebrate all that God had done for them and to give thanks to the Lord. As God’s Word was read, they heard the story of how God had been faithful to His people throughout all of history. They were given the details of the Lord’s call to holiness and to righteous living, and they were also struck by the stark contrast between God’s faithfulness to them and their sinful departure from His way of truth and life.

It was surely painful for them to face into the reality of how they had acted in response to all that God had done for them. The very ground that they were standing upon was something that God had provided for them. The great work of rebuilding that had just been finished was necessary because they had not remained true to God’s way of living and had allowed the ruin of rebellion against God to overtake their world. The Word of Truth must have been convicting to them, and their hearts were overcome with the need for repentance. Yet, they were being called out into a joyous celebration, for this was a time for a festival of thanksgiving and singing of songs of praise to the Lord. So, Nehemiah calls upon the people to enter into the party. They were to do things that indicated that their hearts were at peace and that their minds were filled with expressions of thanksgiving for all that the Lord had done and hope for where they were headed as a nation and in each of their lives. They felt sorrow, regret, and a need for repentance, and the Lord accepted all of that and called them into a heart-deep attitude of resting upon His grace and understanding that the Lord finds great joy in the return of His people to Him.

Very similar things are true for us today as well. We neglect our walls of truth and holiness. We leave God’s righteous way in order to seek out our own path through life, and the results of all of this can be just as troubling and even similarly disastrous as departing from the Lord’s will and way was for the Israelites. Christ calls upon us to return to Him, and He leads us into doing His work of restoration and rebuilding in our own lives. With grace and mercy He takes us back into the center of God’s will for the life that He has gifted to each of us. And just as it did for the people gathered in Jerusalem with Nehemiah and Ezra, God’s Word presents us with the full scope of His unceasing faithfulness to His promises to us and depicts our need for repentance for each of us in such a stark and powerful manner that it is hard to be anything other than sorrowful in the light of this revealed truth. Yet, Christ tells us to enter into the celebration and to be joyful in the presence of the Lord. These times of returning and of rebuilding bring joy to God’s heart, and His joy is cause for us to join with the Lord and to accept His gift of redemption that comes complete with His provision of the strength that we will need to move forward with the work to which Christ is calling us to engage.      

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
    vindicated by the Spirit,
        seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
    believed on in the world,
        taken up in glory.

         1Timothy 3: 16

Jesus does present us with a great mystery. There is nothing else in all of human experience that is quite like Him. No person and no angelic being fulfills all that Jesus did or matches up with everything that He was. His presence on the earth brought about a special moment in history when all that had gone wrong with humanity’s occupation of this world was granted the blessing of redemption, and when the separation that our rebellion and sinfulness had caused was permanently repaired and bridged. Yet, all of this is mysterious, for grace of this magnitude, restoration of something so broken, and the love that caused God to go to this great a length to give His Son in sacrifice for each of us is all beyond the experience and the grasp of human reason. It is all the result of the character and the nature of God.

This nature of grace and redemption is something that God offers up to all people in every corner of this earth. There is no exclusivity and no exception to the offer of the gift of redemption and the eternal life that follows upon it. God’s gift is available and present for the entirety of this world’s inhabitants. This fact is also one of the great mysteries that comes out of the ways and the means in which God operates in the world, for I really do not have any idea of exactly how God goes about communicating His truth of salvation, the Gospel message of Christ, to all of the corners and to every one of the people on this earth. I do know that followers of Christ are commanded by Him to go into the world and to take that message there with us in order to bring the people that we encounter into discipleship with Jesus. But that does not fully accomplish the mission of taking Christ to all people in each place.

It is our calling and purpose to continue to flesh out people’s awareness and understanding of the mystery of Christ with people in all situations and context in which we find ourselves, and it is also God’s desire for us to seek out people who are not exposed to the Gospel so that Christ can be revealed to them through our love, concern, and care for them. God’s desire for the redemption of this world was devised in Heaven, actualized in the coming of Jesus into the world, made apparent and tangible through the life and the work of Jesus here, and brought to fruition on the cross. Then, in the vindication of resurrection from the dead, God’s intent to bring about total restoration of His creation was set into motion. Now we live in anticipation of that final return and the unending glory that it will bring about. So, in the interim, we can live in the reality of Christ’s presence in and with us, and we can go through our days proclaiming to the world the redemption that comes through Jesus Christ alone.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,

   for my hope is from him.

He only is my rock and my salvation,

   my fortress, I shall not be shaken.

Psalm 62: 5, 6

David knew what opposition and trouble looked like. He faced plenty of it during his days. Some of it was the result of his own poor decisions and some was caused by his overtly sinful behaviors. Much of it was born out of the jealous or otherwise evil intent of others. That is the way that life in this world tends to go for many people. We face into things that put us on trial, that cause us trouble, and that challenge our ability to continue on, and we are the cause of some of these situations, and we are the victims of others. Yet, through all of these times of challenge and trial, David’s words of hope and encouragement remain true and valid. Today’s shelter and tomorrow’s hope are found in the Lord and in Him alone.

We may plan and scheme regarding the ways that we will take control of life and get things going in the right direction, but I have found that I frequently don’t even begin to understand the compass heading for that positive travel. The view from my swirling eyes is obscured by a cloud of doubt and my mind is addled by the vertigo that stress and pain have caused to settle into its processing center. In these times I have a real need for the perspective of another, and I also benefit from wisdom that possesses perspective that is greater than any that I can summon up in my current state of being. These are times when the Lord, His Word, and the fellowship of His body are of vital importance to me just as they were to David thousands of years ago.

Yet, knowing this ancient and on-going truth is not quite enough, for it is very hard to wait on the Lord’s answers when the pressures of life are building up to the point of crushing body, mind, and spirit. Still, God asks us to wait on Him. These challenging times are ones in which our trust in God’s provision is tested. These are moments in life when we are dwelling in the balance point between taking actions that might be rash, hasty, or foolish and continuing to pray and wait on God’s wisdom and provision. These are usually times when it is wise to pray earnestly and to listen for the Lord’s answer in submission to His grace, love, and mercy with endurance that might need to exceed anything that we have experienced previously. In these days of prayer and silent listening we can also devote ourselves to study and meditation upon God’s Word with its message of hope, provision, and the care of the eternal shepherd, and finally, we should seek out the supportive prayer and the mature wisdom of others who dwell within the fellowship of faith in Christ. Trials and troubles will come, but like David, we can say,

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,

   for my hope is from him.”

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