April 2019


He has told you, O man, what it is and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6: 8

God is a clear communicator, and He makes it rather easy to understand the way of living that He desires for His children to follow. We are to be people who live in a just and a righteous manner without demanding justice for ourselves. We are to be people who show kindness, which is often called mercy, to everyone without the expectation or the prerequirement that they will be merciful to us. This is the nature of God, for He grants the total grace of His loving forgiveness to everyone who will accept it. He does this even knowing that from God’s perspective, we are all antagonistic and hostile to His will, for we are all, in our natural states, unjust and merciless.

God’s Spirit teaches, counsels, guides, and directs us toward decisions and responses to other’s actions that will reflect His concept of what is just and how to grant mercy. Justice and kindness are key threads in the cloth of life that God has woven and that He has wrapped around every one of His children. As we seek to live in the center of our relationship with Christ, His Spirit infuses our hearts with His essential truths and with the values and the ethics that spring forth from them. Christ calls upon us to become people who value the just treatment of everyone at a very high level; so, we need to seek to interact with others in a way that reflects the grace and the mercy that Christ has shown to us.

When we actually live in this manner it means that we are required to place ourselves and our concepts of our own importance on a level that is far beneath that of God’s. Then we can become humble students of the Master, and we are more readily able to stay humble through everything that comes our way. I will not have all of the answers, but Christ does. I won’t always respond well to what others do and say, yet God has already forgiven my failure and guides me into restoration of the relationships that have been harmed. When I see my futility and powerlessness in the face of oppression and hatred in my world, the Lord simply says for me to walk with Him, and He will provide the insight and the wisdom that I require to meet the needs of the victimized and the battered. As I am weak and lacking in knowledge and understanding, Christ is with me to provide everything that I need to be bold, courageous, and loving throughout the day. 

Behold, his soul is puffed up, it is not upright within him,

   but the righteous shall live by faith.

Habakkuk 2: 4

The prophet was looking ahead into a future that would hold many challenges for people who follow God. There were powers in the world that were to be feared, and these nations had rulers that were greedy, prone to the use of extreme violence, and looking out toward other nations with an eye focused on conquest. The world was not a calm or a safe place, and many of the leaders of both the religious and the secular aspects of the nation of Judah were uncertain about how they should respond to all of these threats and the potential for threats that were so visible just beyond the horizon of sight and time. In this verse, Habakkuk is probably referring to the rising world power of Babylon and specifically to its king. It is his soul that is “puffed up;” so, the soul of the nation is also one that is defined by greed and arrogance to the degree that it has become self-important and operates outside of God’s guidance and righteousness.

This king is the sort of bright and shining star in the arena of politics that draws people into his sphere of influence. It is easy to see the success and to be taken in by the charm of power when it seems to be able to overcome many of the perceived ills of the world. In the days of the prophet, the great power in the world was Assyria, and their rule was accomplished through brutal violence and by virtue of a practice of bring about the total destruction of those that opposed them. Babylon was the rising nation to the east, and its approach to power seemed far more enlightened and compatible with achieving the peaceful outworking of a lasting and a beneficial relationship. Even if the king of Babylon was devoted to other gods and despite the fact that the nation was likely to seek to dominate others just as all of its predecessors had done, many of God’s people were drawn to the power, wealth, and accomplishment that they saw portrayed as an outward image. So, they were willing to look only upon the surface and not probe too deeply into the heart and the soul of the man.

This is Habakkuk’s warning. God’s people need to dwell in the realm of the deep. We must look beyond the glitter and the surface charms into the heart of the leader, and this is something that none of us are capable of doing without the involvement of the Holy Spirit in the process of searching and considering what and who are true, just, and righteous. These sorts of times are ones wherein our faith is truly tested. These are days when we are called upon by God to defy what might be common choice and popular courses of action in order to seek out God’s will in matters of civil governance and rule. This approach to making personal decisions and to seeking to inform and to influence the decisions of others may place a follower of Christ in a position of opposition to others who speak of the same relationship with God as we possess. Although we must remain loving and respectful in all thoughts and expressions of our beliefs, we also need to be bold as was Habakkuk in speaking out when we see wrong being perpetrated and as we see people heading into the trap of following power and dominion as if they were the marks of God’s blessing and His seal of authority.  

Therefor do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

2 Timothy 1: 8-10

In Christ, shame is gone. That is a very big idea, and it is one that, in general, is hard for most people to fully grasp onto. Yet, as people who know Christ and who are also held onto by Him, we have nothing in life or beyond it to be ashamed of. We may have lived a life wherein we did and said things that were highly worthy of rebuke and shame, and we do get to own the damage that we may have done along the way. Yet, the grace that Jesus pours over His people is such that we can be set free from the fear and the doubt that accompanies realization of the sinfulness and the harmful nature of the way we have lived. Christ grants to us a newly formed and discovered strength of will, character, and person that enables us to make radical course changes in life and to also do the hard work of repairing damage done in the past.

It is this dramatic and transformative change that can establish the reason for proclaiming the work of Christ as the cause and motivation for what others are seeing as a new person. In addition to the difference in approach to life that Christ makes in His followers, He also gives each of us a gift or gifts of His Spirit that are to be used in the support and the promotion of the outworking of God’s kingdom upon the earth. The presence of Christ within us should make us bold in our use and application of these gifts. We can go through life with the confidence of Christ in both putting what He has given to us to practical use and also in speaking out about the source of this newly found capability and capacity for doing God’s work in our world. In Christ, we are fully alive, and the way that we live out our days can reflect that reality to others.

Death itself is the result of sinful disobedience to God. Each of us is born into a life that is overshadowed by the prospect of our own mortality, and the weight of that knowledge can work to constrain and to curtail our joy and our freedom in living in the fullest expression of what it means to love and to care about the world around us. Jesus overcame the hold that death has upon humanity, and He put human mortality into its rightful perspective. We all will still die, but in Christ, that is just a momentary change in the location of our residency. For Christ transforms our living spirits into ones that dwell in this life in the presence of the divine as the Holy Spirit comes to reside within us; then, when this life ceases, Christ takes us into the next aspect of our existence with Him as we continue on with a life that is carried out in the presence of God in the spiritual realm of heaven. This certainty of our eternal destiny is also something that we can proclaim to our world in the shamelessly bold manner of one who now lives in the center of the glorious truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Ephesians 2: 14-16

Jesus did all of this a very long time ago. Yet, we are still not living in the reality of what is described here. For there is certainly more than just a little hostility out there in the world, and I cannot see an end to it soon. We just find new reasons to dislike others, to fear them and to seek to keep ourselves separate and apart from many of the people in our world. We can even contemplate and fabricate compelling arguments for the need for these barriers and the laws or rules that are enacted in order to enforce them. In this environment, it is easy to justify the expenditure of extraordinary sums of money on this process of separation, and we name all of it as necessary, acts carried out for the sake of national pride, and in the name of religious purity.

So, you might come back at me with a statement about the fact that Paul, in this letter, was not talking about the same things that I am in the words above, and I will agree with you, to a point. However, I think that Paul’s deeper concept here is one of re-creation or of restoration of that which God designed and devised to be the state of being in our world. When humanity was formed up and established on this earth by the hand of God and with His breath breathed into our lungs, we were not intended to be separated by race, nationality, social or economic status, or by the way that we worship God. These divisions and separations have all come about in the aftermath of our sinful rebellion against our Creator. So, Paul may have been talking specifically about the very broad divisions of Jews and Gentiles, but when that discussion is extended out to its fullest reach, I contend that it is about every form of separation and division that might exist in our world.

Jesus came to break down all of those walls. He entered into His destiny in order to give us the way and the means by which God’s heart for restoration of His creation could begin to be carried out in our world. Now it is our responsibility and duty to follow Christ into that same work of restoration. Where there are divisions, we need to seek reconciliation. As there are barriers to fellowship, Christ’s people must reach out to share a table of grace, understanding, and peace. When people proclaim nationality or other forms of human-devised superiority, Christians and Christ’s church need to raise up a chorus of praise to our only true and sovereign King Jesus as we also stand up and risk defiance of power that is established in this world so that the valid power of the cross is what the world sees standing tall above our heads. There is one road that leads to peace in our world, one path to reconciliation of humanity to God, and a singular way into an eternal relationship with God, and this is the one that takes us to the cross and that leads into the arms of Jesus the Christ.    

And Simeon came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him into his arms, and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, 

   according to your word; 

for my eyes have seen your salvation, 

   that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 

a light for revelation to the Gentiles, 

   and for glory to your people Israel.”

   Luke 2: 27- 32

 There is a form of anticipation that runs deep in all of Creation. Even nature seems to desire a return to its original design where God’s perfection was normal. This same need is found in people; in some of us it is buried far below the surface, and in some God’s Spirit reaches in and awakens a need that takes over life. Simeon had been looking for an answer to a need that he couldn’t truly understand; yet, he continued to wait, hope, and believe. Now, on an ordinary day, in the company of simple people, and in the form of a helpless child was God’s answer to generations of longing, separation, and death.

Simeon was in the presence of the Savior, and he could now stop his vigil, announce the arrival of the king to His earthly palace, and leave this life for the eternal one to follow. The Lord had revealed to Simeon truths that were far greater than his own understanding, for he knew that Christ was here for Gentiles and for Jews. The child had been born to bring all people back into relationship with their God and to make real the potential for restoration of all of humanity to the state of unity as one spiritual family that God had originally intended. Through this man, Jesus, the Spirit of God could come to dwell in people, and our true humanity was returned.

 In the singular event of the birth of Jesus to a young woman who lived in the middle of nowhere, God reached out to my heart, and He reaches out into the lives of everyone on this earth with His desire to have us come to Him in acceptance of His love gift of grace. The light of Christ can penetrate even the darkest places in the most hardened of hearts, and the glory of His presence transforms the desperation of a life lost into the joyous realization of potential brought to new life. Christ is the end and the beginning of all of our life quests for meaning, worth, and value. Christ is the resolution and the compelling force in the story of life that we each are called to live.  

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!

   The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Psalm 36: 7

Our world is filled with children who need to find shelter. Some are displaced from their homes due to the strife and the violence that is running wildly through the streets of their places of birth. Others have been made orphans by various kinds of human caused or natural disasters, and many of us are left out and exposed to the elements of life’s turbulent storms simply because of the persistent nature of the brokenness of this world during the age of man. When the full scope and extent of this vulnerable population is considered, not many of the earth’s inhabitants are left out of the group of people who would benefit from the form of shelter that the Lord provides for anyone who comes to Him. For all who are weary and all who are weak are granted a place of comfort, rest, and safety under God’s great wings of protection.

Yet, many people do not seek out this place of refuge. Instead, they seek to take control of their lives in a manner that leads them away from God’s presence and into the arms of the worldly figures that are causing the strife and the destruction that has formed up their state of homeless wandering. Others hold onto the idea that they possess all that they will ever need to solve any issues and concerns that are causing trouble or that are bringing about distress in their lives. So, reliance is placed upon personal strength or skill rather than looking toward God and yielding to His far superior capacity to provide for the real needs that they have in life. Many people in our world have turned to false gods of various types and descriptions in order to seek out their systems of worldly truth, and thus they rely upon the capability of those distorted images of the eternal for protection and comfort during the various seasons of trial and struggle that come their way.

None of these earth-bound and worldly sources of refuge and provision can truly shelter the heart and the mind from the forces of evil that run rampant in our world, and they are completely powerless to save any souls from the pain of an eternity apart from the love of God. Among all of the religions, gods, belief systems, and moral concepts that people look to and rely upon in this world, none other than Christ provides everything that He grants to His followers out of a love that is so deep and lasting that God, Himself, suffered, bled, and was sacrificed so that each of us would be made free from the necessity of doing the same thing in our flesh. It is this great love that provides anyone who chooses to accept the gift of salvation with the means for that gift of grace to be granted to us. God has given each and every person on the earth the opportunity to find the sheltering refuge that we need under the covering of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us. Thus, we can find a home in this life and an eternal dwelling place in the unceasing love that surrounds us in the Christ’s arms.   

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

1 John 5: 12

This is a simple and direct statement. There are two states of being, and one of those is fully and eternally alive, and the other is not. It is up to each of us to decide on which side of this equation we land when our days on this earth end. Essentially, this all revolves around who and what we believe to be true, and the outcome hinges upon willingness to take a singular action that is based upon that belief. God presents the evidence for His perspective in many ways. It comes to us in the form of the testimony of people who have believed in God and who have accepted Christ as the Son of God and as our own Savior and Lord of our lives. God also speaks to us through His word, the Bible, and He reaches out to all of the world through the wordless witness of creation. God is not silent about His presence, and He is never reticent to bring forth His presentation of Jesus the Christ as His Son and the path to redemption for all people.

Yet, God still allows us the right to choose. He does not want to compel us into a relationship with Him, for any relationship that is founded and formed up out of compulsion is not truly a relationship. God desires for each of us to willingly submit ourselves to His will so that we can live out our lives in committed service to His gospel of love. This is a form of service that provides the servant with meaning and with purpose in life that is far greater and more significant that anything else that we may have considered before we knew Christ. By submitting our lives to Christ, we are entering into dwelling outside of the temporary and futile nature of this world as we then begin to live in the fullest sense of what the bigger than life construct of eternal life describes. Living as a follower of Christ means that all aspects of life are framed in and formed up out of material that can be drawn from beyond that which is found in this world.

These resources are infinite in their abundance, and they are readily available to God’s people. Although we do not leave this world, we can operate in a manner that is supported and empowered by Christ so that His great love for all people can overcome our fears and our reluctance to engage with some people. In fact, Christ compels us to become ever more involved with our world as we grow closer to Him. The more we know of our Lord and the better that we understand Him, the more His heart of love, care, and compassion for the people of this world will shape our own hearts to be like His. This is one of the most significant ways that followers of Christ should be distinct from the rest of the world, for we should demonstrate God’s heart of redemptive care and relentless pursuit of the lost in all of our words and actions. So, this is what being alive in Christ truly means. The life that Christ grants to us is one in which we love others in the faith without reservation, and we love all people with a zeal for the Gospel of Christ that is fueled by the desire to see all people from every corner of our world given the opportunity to choose this same form of life for themselves. 

If anyone serves me, he must follow me, and where I am, there will be my servant also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

John 12: 26

In many respects the easiest part of following Jesus is found in saying yes to Him. Yes, I will follow You, and yes, I will serve Your kingdom. The hardest aspect of all of this comes about when Christ shows us where it is that He actually wants for us to go in fulfillment of that promise to follow Him anywhere. Jesus made the same sort of commitment to the Father and to all of creation, and the following that ensued for Him took our blameless Lord to a cross that would normally have been reserved for people whose lives were ruled by the darkness of sin. Yet, in obedience and out of necessity for the sakes of all of us, Jesus suffered and died at the hands of people who were unwittingly tasked with service to God as priests as they offered up and executed that ultimate sacrifice for all sins for the entire scope and span of time.

Now, we do not need to die in spirit, and even these wounded bodies are granted a form of reprieve that leads us to living out our days as instruments of God’s redemptive work in our world. However, we do not escape that cross that Jesus suffered and bled upon. We are called by Him to follow, and the path that He takes us along does inevitably require each of us to go to that place of surrender of will and submission of self to the holy and righteous One, Jesus Christ. This experience is usually not easy or pleasant to consider, and it can be torturous to endure. Yet, the result of such complete and absolute surrender to Christ is a form of freedom that cannot be found in any other way or from a different source. The cross of Christ is the initial point for a life that is lived out in the fullest expression of the wonder and the glory of God’s creative touch upon each and every person that walks upon the earth.

On the other side of the cross was resurrection and life. Jesus departed the tomb of His momentary burial and walked among His people, and He continues to dwell among and within us in the form of His Spirit to this hour. Christ continues to lead us into a type of surrender that sets us free from the earthly forms of servitude that continue to enslave our hearts, minds, and bodies, and in that process of divestiture of those remaining aspects of our old selves, the Lord guides us into the blessings of service to the Father’s kingdom come upon this earth. Christ does this as He grants to us our particular place and purpose in God’s plan for redemption of that which is lost. That cross of obedient surrender to which Christ leads each of us was intended by the world to be an implement of defeat and shame, but God’s redemptive will has transformed it into a place where victory over death is proclaimed and whereby we each gain that place of honor that God bestows upon His faithful servants. 

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne,

   steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

Psalm 89: 14

What a strange way to crown a king. The party atmosphere that preceded the coronation itself has been replaced by the angry shouts of a lynch mob. The joyous gathering of family and friends that culminates in the Passover meal has turned somber with the foreboding shadow of betrayal hanging in the room. The night itself is filled with prayer, but these are not the hopeful expressions of a dream of a future of freedom and peace, but instead, they are the anguished cries of the teacher as He faces the torture ahead with absent friends and the sure knowledge of that necessary abandonment by the Father, too. In this ridiculous and scandalous ceremony, Jesus stands singularly suitable to obtain this crown and to sit upon the only righteous and just throne that has or will ever exist in this world.

If these fundamental characteristics that are the expression of the rule of a true king are to be found among us, then they must come from their source, and this is God, Himself. Outside of God’s touch and the provision of His grace, there exist only shadows of what is right and just in our world. There are times when people may attempt to act in such a way, and these moments of peace tend to last for short periods of time, but in the end, the powers of evil that attempt to control all of this place will gain some portion of control, and their chaos will return to cause those peaceful systems of rule to topple over. As people attempt to grasp onto those crumbling icons of goodness and mercy, we are usually left with nothing other than shards of broken stones held tenuously in our fingers. Yet, when we hold onto the mystically tangible presence of Christ in our lives, we find that our hands are being held in the sure grip of the Eternal King.

This is a King who loves each of us with a passion so intense and a love so lasting that He was willing to endure all of the agony and the anguish of that awful coronation in order to establish and perfect God’s plan for redemption for any of us who will accept Him and for the entirety of creation as well. Here we have King Jesus upon His rightful throne of grace, mercy, peace, righteousness, and unfailing love where He pours out God’s true and eternal justice upon this needy world. That bloody crown that was provided by humanity three days prior has been replaced by an unperishable one formed out of the glory of heaven. The wounds in the flesh are still visible, but now rather than bringing about a reminder of pain and death, they provide a soothing touch of healing to anyone who turns to Christ, even to those of us who have participated in placing those painful thorns on His sinless head. Today Christ sits upon His victor’s throne, the blazing light of righteousness surrounds His presence while His voice calls out to all people to come to Him and be healed of all that is hurt, damaged, and broken in our bodies, hearts and minds.  

I have said these things to you, that in Me you would have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.

John 16: 33

These were hard times and painful hours for Jesus and for His followers. After the great shouts of greeting from the crowds in the streets that had been ringing out just a few short days before, the let down of these dark hours of the night of Passover must have seemed even more starkly sobering. Jesus had clearly stated for his people to hear that He was going to join the Father. They would be on their own. They didn’t understand. Like these first followers of Christ, we, too, can often feel alone. Life seems to be making demands upon us that are too big and hard for us to handle. Yet, the truth that Jesus proclaimed to His disciples on that night in Jerusalem is every bit as valid and real for us today as it was then.

One of God’s great strengths is His truthfulness. He lets us know what is on His mind, and He never holds back on the truth even when it might seem painful or hard. Also, He doesn’t try to make us think that life will be perfectly calm and safe after we commit to following Him. We live in a world that has been antagonistic to God for a very long time, and our modern environment has done nothing to change that hard reality. I know that when I honestly search my own heart and view the way that I think and act in the light of God’s righteousness that there can be a very large disconnect. The perfect obedience of Christ is what I desire to see reflected in my mirror, but it is the faithlessness and disobedience of Adam that I too often encounter there. The world with its pressures to conform and to join in has a great pull upon our hearts and minds; yet, Christ exerts an even greater attraction.

Jesus speaks to my troubled soul and He says that I can be at peace. In Him I do find the reassurance that even the very hardest of things that I will encounter in this world are things that He has experienced and has defeated. Christ takes my weakness and the brokenness of my life into His loving hands. He doesn’t just apply a dressing to my wounds or a splint to my broken bones; rather, He breaths healing and restoration into the core of my being. Even when the turmoil is swirling about me, Christ reassures me that He is here and thus, I can be dwelling in the center of His peace. There is no place and no event that is beyond His reach. Everything in this world is subject to His rule. So, in Christ we too can face the world with absolute confidence knowing that we too are victorious.

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