July 2019


Those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.

Galatians 3: 9

Abraham was blessed by God in many ways, for he had a long, close, and very active relationship with God in which the Lord led Abraham to a land of promise, provided him with position and prominence in that new home, and gave him the greatest desire of his heart in the form of a family. Yet, greater than all of these blessings was the promise that God made to Abraham that he would be the starting point of a long line of people that held fast in their faith in God.

Although Abraham was a dynamic leader who exhibited courage and wisdom, for he was an astute manager of his business interests, and he was able to negotiate treaties and contracts to his advantage, the thing that he is remembered for is still his faith. Abraham trusted God, and he allowed that trust to grow under the continual influence of the Lord, too. He was also willing to accept the grace of God as a vital part of the blessings that he was receiving, for Abraham frequently put himself into situations where God needed to save him from himself.

Ultimately, the story of Abraham gets down to a very simple reality. It is one of continuing day after day to just put one foot in front of the other with the confidence that trust brings in the assurance that God will provide a solid place for that foot to land. Even on the days when the swirling winds of uncertainty and fear are trying to obscure the path, I know, as did Abraham, that the Lord will take my hand and that the light of His glory will penetrate any darkness. In Christ we can have faith that we will come through the moment whole, with no real injury, and stronger from the experience. As we journey through this often foreign land that is life in the world, we can join with Abraham in enjoying the blessing of God that comes through faith in His perfect will as we are sustained by the Lord’s infinite grace and love.  

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And it came about that when Christ had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.

Luke 24: 30, 31

This is an amazing scene where Jesus has joined with His followers after they saw Him crucifiedand buried, and He has walked with a couple of them while teaching them. Now, Christ has joined them for an eveningmeal. Still they don’t realize who they are with. Although I don’t believe that anything actually happens to the bread or the wine that we use in our memorial celebrations of Jesus’ sacrificial offering of Himself, there should be something rather mystical about it. Whenever we participate in this event that many in the church call Communion, the Holy Spirit is present with and among us, and we should be taking the time and opening our hearts to reflect on who Christ is and on what He means to me at this time.

Like the bread and the wine, Christ sustains my body and He satisfies my thirst. He does this by providing the most basic of things that I need and by inviting me to join Him in the daily banquet feast of His Spirit. His Word shows me who He is and how that has been true from the beginning of time, and Christ shows me who I truly am and what that reality means. He opens my heart to the love that He has for me, and Christ breaks down my defenses and takes away my fears so that I can open my arms in love to embrace the people that are in my world. The Lord continually reminds me of the person that I have become due to the redemptive work of His grace and the transformativework of His Spirit. This new person is free to celebrate Christ’s victory over sin with all who would join in and worship the God who saves.

As I taste this simple bread and pour the contents of the cup into my mouth, there is truly something wonderful happening, for this is a time when Christ’s presence is profound. He is at the center of the room and in the depths of my heart. So, the Lord speaks the healing breath of His peace, joy, and understanding into me. Christ tells me to open my eyes and see, and He says to open my ears and hear; for, He is always with me to fill me with everything that I need and to sustain my soul throughout the day. Thus, with eyes open and Christ fully present with me, He leads forth into the day ahead, and I am strengthened and encouraged to seek out the Lord’s will and to confidently live it out. 

I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know you have little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

Revelation 3: 8

If we think that the world that we live in is antagonistic toward our faith in Christ, perhaps we should consider the one that this church at Philadelphia occupies. Whatever we face might start looking very tame and civil in comparison. Still, without regard to the nature of our times verses those that are to come in the future, there is something truly important to consider and to hold onto for all of us in the church of Christ today. These people were lifted up as examples of what it means to hold onto their faith as they endure all that the world throws at them and continue to serve Christ in all that He calls upon them to be and to do. This will not be easy for them, and it is certainly not simple or easy for us either.

In fact, the nature of the times that we are a part of is such that I think many Christians today do resonate with the fact that we feel powerless. It seems as if the voice of love and of reason that we have learned to utilize as an imitation of the manner and the tone that Christ would have us use to engage with others is no longer useful or even considered to be worthy of hearing. These are days when shouting with the force of a hail storm has been deemed to be the only communication style that will be heard. Yet, no one grants others the respect that is necessary to actually hear what is being said. In fact, very few people today care about what others have to say or would grant the possibility that a differing opinion could possibly be right. This appears to be the case when the oppositional view point is expressed by people on their own, and it is equally true when the other ideas are coming straight out of God’s Word. 

Still, Christ tells us to not lose heart in the face of this violent storm that is the nature of these days. Instead, we are to continue to provide a counter narrative to the one with which our world is filled, for Christ desires for His people to stay steadfast in speaking the truth of God’s Word while also loving the people that we encounter. This might be easy to say, but it is not so simple to do. This requires that we be people of patience who stay true to Christ’s calling to be peacemakers in our world and to be agents for redemption in our relationships. We are to continue to proclaim Christ as the only eternal answer to all that is broken, painful, and lost in our world, and we are to refuse to respond to this world’s call to isolate ourselves from people who are different or who might cost us something real to love and to care for. The door to eternity stands open before us as dose the door to Christ’s cross of redemptive sacrifice. Thus, the path to that desired eternal rest leads straight into the teeth of the storm that is our world as our Lord calls upon His people to remain true to serving Him in His strength with all that we have to give. 

For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind,

   and declares to man what is his thought,

who makes the morning darkness,

   and treads on the heights of the earth—

   the LORD, the God of hosts, is his name.

Amos 4: 13

When we are face to face with God, there will be two possibilities. We will either be looking upon the eyes of one that we know and who knows us with the deep intimacy of a close and loving father, or we will see the folly of our rejection of that same Holy One. On that inevitable day when all that has been the life that each person has lived is counted and given a reckoning by God, it will be too late to decide to repent and turn to Him. On that day and in that moment when eternity becomes existential reality, God’s presence and His holy justice will be too clear to turn away from or to continue to ignore. Beholding the face of the Creator, the one who formed the world that we have walked and the designer of each of us will be an event of joy beyond all human imagining or it will be terrible past anything conceivable.

Amos has been making an appeal to Israel and to its people to recognize the foolishness of their ways in that they have been living far outside of God’s expressed will. Their worship is false in both form and in intent. Their lives are dedicated to serving their own desires rather than to seeking to know God well and to give of themselves in worship of Him. The passage that comes just before this verse describes a number of actions that the Lord has taken to attempt to get the attention of the people of Israel, but they have not turned to Him in any of these instances. God promises that this state of sinful living will not be tolerated by Him for very long. There will be consequences, and in the end, there will be a day when all people will be required to fully behold the Lord.

Where Amos describes various forms of calamity and natural disasters that God has allowed to come upon Israel, in today’s world God tends to pour out His grace, love, and mercy upon us. Yet, we should not take God’s grace or His patience as a sign of either weakness or of permission to say and to do anything that pleases us. For, in the end, God still holds His standards of justice, peacemaking, love of neighbors, and devotion to Him as absolute. Through Christ we can be forgiven of any and all of our sins, but that grace is not a license to live as we might please. Instead, God desires to work in and through each of us for the redemption of a world that is heading along the same path of death and destruction as did ancient Israel. We will each behold God as the conduct of our life is judged; so, how much better would it be to behold His Christ every day of what is left of this earthly term and to be pronounced faithful and worthy at that final hour?  

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you; 

But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6: 8

When I watch high level athletes competing in their sport, I am always amazed at the ease with which they perform so many very hard tasks under the pressure of the competitive environment. There is grace and balance in their movements that is well beyond what most of us are capable of achieving.  It is this same degree of balance that God wants us to seek in our walks with Him. Yet, it is even more important in the spiritual realm than it is in the athletic. For in our spiritual lives the stakes are much higher than any national championship, and the opposition is more focused and considerably more fierce.

Micah points out three characteristics to hold onto as we seek to live out God’s will in our world. Each of them is important; however, our most effective approach to life is found by embracing all three in a balanced combination that leads to a graceful and love-filled walk with the Lord. Justice without kindness can be harsh and often becomes self-serving; yet, when kindness stands on its own, people tend to be too accepting of the sinful behaviors and attitudes of others. That is no more loving than it is to stand in front of someone and shout at them about their failure to live up to God’s standards. Finally, if we embrace justice and kindness without the humility to recognize that our ability to understand these complex characteristics comes from God, Himself, we are likely to make them into causes that become greater than the God who we should be serving by engaging in their implementation.

So, justice is linked to kindness, kindness is linked to justice, and both are controlled by humility. We can know God’s standards and view of justice by seeking out His Word on everything. We must be willing to pursue justice in our world with the same zeal that God does. We should also develop a heart that is filled with Christ’s kindness, for this is what keeps the zeal for justice in check, and this is what makes us willing to take the time and to risk truly getting to know people at the heart level. Then it all becomes functional and balance is achieved when we humbly place our own drive, desires, and thoughts under the control of the Spirit. The result is a walk through life that has the grace and the fluid movement of a champion for Christ.

Owe no one anything except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13: 8

The daily news has been shouting at us for quite a while now so that almost everyone is fully aware that there is a “Debt Crisis” in our world. Our governments have entered into obligations that can’t be met with the available resources. Individuals continue to spend money that they don’t have and that they have no real hope of ever seeing. We also incur debt in many other ways, for we make commitments and we enter into relational obligations that we really have very little intention of meeting. As we try to keep pace with our culture we are driving our personal and our societal balance sheets deeper and deeper into the red.

Christ wants us to stop. Stop writing the checks, discontinue the charging, and put a hold on the new commitments. He wants us to step out of the swirling masses that are flocking to the newest and the most exciting of sales events. He tells us to get on our knees and to seek His face in prayerful submission to the wonder and the power of truth. In those moments of quiet meditation God’s Word and His Spirit will speak. When knowing God’s heart is the desired outcome, He will reveal the truth of what is real love. Christ demonstrated it for us every day of His life in this world. God has been relating to people from the perspective of love for all of our history. We are called by God to respond to Him by loving Him with such totality of being that we can do little else except to love other people as Christ does.

This is an ideal, and the life of absolute and total love is not an easy one to accomplish. It wasn’t easy for Jesus in that it required Him to set aside His position and its glory and to sacrifice all to do it; yet, that was what He did in response to God’s expressed desire. God’s expressed desire for me and for you is the same. He wants us to live in the simplicity of righteousness. He tells us to stop entering into agreements that bind our hearts and our minds to impossibly heavy burdens of debt. Christ leads us down a road that takes us into a state of being that transcends this world and its earthly obligations and that brings us into the place where we are dwelling in the perspective of the Father. In God’s economy we are indebted only to Him, and He requires that our payments be made in loving interaction with our world.    

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Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.

Psalm 118: 5

Stress leads us to seek answers, and the need for answers usually causes people to look for help in finding them. When challenged, threatened, beaten up and down, and just completely overwhelmed, I have turned to many different sources of knowledge, strength, encouragement, and protection. Some work for a time, and others don’t ever seem to get the job done. There are situations where the tactics, strategies, and sources of supposed wisdom actually take me further into the bad place that I am attempting to escape.

On the other hand, the Lord has always answered my true need. He responded to me when the need was as basic as it can get; for Jesus took me in, accepted my lost soul, and released me from the death grip that Satan had on my life. Since that moment, Christ has continued to stay with me through it all. There have been fires and floods, plagues and famines, and disobedience and deceits with all of it coming from within the hearts of people. Some of the damaging actions and events have been of my own doing and others have been done to me. Regardless of the cause of my distress, Christ stays with me totally, completely, absolutely, and always.

When I reach out to God in prayer, raising my voice to Him with expressions of the desires and the needs of my heart, He responds. What is the extra weight that you are carrying around with you, where is your heart torn or weary, what is making you fearful and apprehensive? The Spirit of Christ, who resides in you, already knows the answers, and He is ready to provide those answers and so much more. God desires for us to reach out to Him and to trust Him with our own understanding of our needs as expressed in the passion of the moment. In response the Lord speaks into us with love, compassion, understanding, and solutions, for His truth is the answer to all that we encounter in this life.

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