October 2019


And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5: 20 

The famous New York City coffee company Chock full o’Nuts uses a marketing tune that refers to their product as “Heavenly Coffee”, and it, no doubt, is quite good; yet, even when brewed with care and perfectly served, there can be no comparison to the rich and full truth about God that John provides for us in these two short sentences. These words are chock full o’life! 

Understanding is the thing that I believe we need most. Ultimately, it matters more than wisdom, for understanding is what directs, focuses, and applies the wisdom that God gives us. Through understanding we are able to pour out love, grant grace, and apply truth in our daily lives. God increases our comprehension of Him and of His ways as we pour our selves out onto His altar of transformation and open our hearts to the filling of His Spirit. Without the unveiling of God’s true self that was accomplished through Jesus, people do not have the ability to fully and completely grasp the totality of God and of His gracious love; thus, the Lord remains a veiled mystery. 

Through Christ our lives are filled with the gifts that God desires for us to have. Among them are peace, joy, comfort, wisdom, grace, purpose, protection, and courage, and by the interaction of Christ’s Spirit in our lives we are granted the great gift of understanding so that these other gifts can be used to truly bless us and the lives of others. Somehow, I think that this is a picture of the true heavenly coffee, and the aroma of this brew can fill the world with the one eternal fragrance.

A post from 2009; used here without edits.

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.

Romans 1: 1

This is the opening thought that Paul expresses in Romans, and he states two really big ideas in this short sentence. First, Paul was called by God; the Lord had something in mind for Paul to be doing, and He communicated that something to Paul. Second, in responding to God, Paul was set apart. He was removed from the place in the world that he had previously occupied, and through the miracle of adoption into God’s household, he was granted a new identity and a new purpose in life. Thus, Paul became a distinctly new individual whose greatest mission was to do the will of God.

These same things are true for everyone else who decides to follow Jesus. You and I are also called by God. He has a plan for our lives, and He has given each of us specific skills and granted us certain gifts that He will use in us to answer that calling. Also, God takes everyone who responds to Him, and He moves us out of the view of the world that was ours before and provides us with a new perspective and a new mission within that life. It is not like we are living in some form of fairy tale, however, where the changes happen to us, and we are not really participants in them. God effects the essential change within us by giving us His Spirit; yet, He continues to dialogue with us over the remainder of our lives. He continues to reveal His calling to us, and we are asked by Him to continue to surrender ourselves to being separated from our old lives.

The daily challenge that I face is in listening to God’s call and in humbly giving up control of aspects of my life to Him so that I can respond to that calling more fully. Christ is speaking every day, and He has a mission in mind for us to respond to during each of those days. So, the big questions is this, am I willing to follow Paul’s leading and set aside my own desires and anticipations in order to answer? The gospel calls us into engaging fully in the adventure that is our new life in Christ, and Christ promises the blessing of God’s love, peace, and grace to all who set aside the old life and accept our new being as servants of the King. In Christ, we are each called to enter into that service. Let us follow the Apostle Paul and respond to Christ’s call to leave the world behind and to give up ourselves as servants to our Lord as we respond to Christ’s leading for our new lives in Him.  

The saying is trustworthy, for if we have died with Him, we will also live with Him.

2 Timothy 2: 11

There are things that are really hard to give up. Some fall under that heading that we call “guilty pleasures”. These include such things as certain television programs, candy and ice cream, and buttered pop corn. Actions like smoking and driving too fast can actually cause harm. Other tenacious aspects of who we seem to be are more sinister. These might involve an addiction to pornography, habitual lying, out of control anger, and other forms of attitude and behavior that are rooted in sinful reliance on our selves as opposed to engaging in radical trust in and dependence upon Christ. All people are born into this world separated from God and His truth and darkened in our understanding of actual righteous living. These sinful aspects of our lives that continue on after we come to know Christ are the remnants of our birthright.

An even more challenging sort of change involves the attitudes that we hold toward our world and the people in it. Christ came into this world to bring an alienated humanity back into intimate relationship with our Creator, God. This salvation and reconciliation are for everyone. There are no exclusions, no exceptions, and there is absolutely no greater and lesser order to this acceptance of people by God. Most of us struggle with this idea. Even if we can readily say that we think that Christ came, suffered, died, and was raised for all, we simply don’t actually believe that this is true. There are always some people, either individuals or groups, who we do not like or trust. It is human nature to consider those who are different and who believe differently as being suspect. We tend to find that it is much easier to extend grace and reach out in loving embrace to people who we do not fear and who look, speak, and think essentially like us. Yet, Christ did all of these things for all of the people He encountered. God’s love, mercy, grace, and redemption are offered to each and every person on this earth.

Whatever it is that each of us is dealing with by way of unrighteous thought and action, big things and small, the foundation for change is ours to pursue. First off, we need to desire that change. Truth is God’s catalyst for change. His Word contains the narrative account of the way that our Lord desires for us to think and to live. Emersion in it is the starting place and the ongoing road to discovery of who God is and who He calls us to be. Time in God’s Word is best accompanied with prayer and meditation. These are times of speaking our hearts to God and of listening to His voice. Study of the word and prayer are inseparable, and these are times when the Holy Spirit speaks God’s deep truths into our hearts and minds. Additionally, God desires for us to live in community. Although real transformative work in us is done by God through His Spirit, He often uses the agency of His body, the church and its people, to support, counsel, and bring accountability to that journey. God has called us to join Christ in death, that is, the death of our birth-life of wastefulness and sin, and then the Lord takes us into the new life of freedom that comes in following our Savior through every step of the day.   

If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians 5: 18 

There is an order to the way that the entire world functions. The rules and the controlling principles were embedded into its genetic coding by God in order to prevent chaos from ruling. What matters most for people is where we align our hearts and our minds in order to receive the direction and guidance that we all need to successfully make it through this complex life that we live. Although we are all born with hearts that are broken and controlled by sin, God grants us the gift of a choice that will completely change all of that. Christ brings all who choose Him into restoration and into righteousness. 

Once we have decided to leave behind the controlling influence of evil and turn our hearts toward God, we still need to take one more very important step. God designed a rule of law into Creation, and it will get us through the day with minimal missteps and wrong turns; however, the law demands perfection from us, and we are very imperfect beings. Errors, mistakes, and wrong choices are inevitable when we choose to orient our moral compass toward the law. Under the rule of the law, we will spend our days trying unsuccessfully to pay off the constantly growing fines that we receive for our various sins. Unfortunately, we will never possess enough emotional or spiritual currency to pay these debts.  

Christ offers us another choice, for He paid that debt in full for us, and He sent His Spirit to live in, among, and with us. We can choose to seek out a deep, personal, and powerful relationship with the Spirit of God that will profoundly change the way that we view life. When we seek to stay filled with the Spirit, our view of life and the vantage point from which we view it are changed. We gain a Heavenly perspective on life that allows us to live boldly, confidently, and in a form of freedom that does not exist outside of this intimate relationship with God. As I know Christ, so, I am filled with Christ’s Spirit, and there is lightness and buoyancy to my life that is without compare. 

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.

Philippians 1: 27

This is a description of what it means to be a follower of Christ in the modern world. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the current date is in the first century of the Christian Era or in its twenty-first century. The day, month, and year in which Christians find themselves living is a time when there will be pressures applied upon that person’s faith in Christ and adherence to the gospel so that the ability to stand up in the face of those forces will be in question. This world can be a harsh and a challenging place to live. There are real and highly active forces in it that are seeking to overthrow the gospel of Christ at every turn, and their target for this attempted coup against the King of the Universe is each and every person that gives their life to Christ as Lord and Savior.

In his process of waging war against Christ, Satan attacks both individual followers and the church. So, we must be prepared to stand up to these assaults by virtue of our deep commitment to Christ and submission to His will and by seeking to be of one mind with other followers of Christ as we gather as His church. Now there is no doubt in my mind that any gathered body of people will see many things differently, one from others. Yet, we can know the same Christ, be led by one Spirit, and submit to the singular Word of God. Then our strength comes through the unity that is hard won and thoroughly worked out by the process of living out together the challenges of life. Christ is fully committed to His church, and we are asked by Him to respond by being fully committed to seeking unity by and in His Spirit.

Paul’s joy and pleasure at hearing about the way that people in Philippi and in other places where he has shared the gospel of Christ are living as upright followers of that message of righteousness, love, and enduring faith reflects Christ’s feelings upon the same response in all of His people. Christ, Himself, is delighted when we lean into Him for strength, encouragement, and wisdom as we engage with the powers and forces in our world that are attempting to overthrow our faith and shatter the fellowship of belief that Christ has formed. In Christ we can find the singularity of purpose that overcomes all forms of difference. The Spirit works among us to focus our hearts and minds in on the redemptive message of that gospel and to make our points of disagreement into issues and concerns that can be set aside for the sake of standing together as we live out our faith in the world and before its eyes as a testimony to Christ.   

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5: 3

John is talking about a relationship that is built upon love. God loves each of us, and He does so in a total, absolute, and infinite manner that is beyond my restricted, conditional, and limited understanding. When God tells us to obey, to keep His commandments, He is not being authoritarian. Rather, the Lord does this out of love, for God’s direction for our lives takes us along a path through our days that is healthy, joyous, and filled with grace and mercy. In a manner that is both hard to grasp on the surface yet becomes very clear as it is engaged in, doing God’s will always leads to freedom and to true empowerment for our souls. Following the Lord’s will releases us from a real and a tangible form of imprisonment that our natural course through life has constructed about our hearts and minds.

God’s commandments bring us closer to Him. They are founded upon His love, and they are grounded in engaging with the world out of that same love. The Lord intends for us to seek Him out in all aspects of life, and He also sends us into the world around us to live out the nature and character of God in the midst of the places where we dwell. Living out our faith can be a challenging thing to do. It is guaranteed to bring contention our way and to cause there to be challenges and trials in our days. In simple terms, there are strong forces in our world that fight hard against this same love, grace, and mercy that God pours out into us and that He desires to see us tender to those around us. Love and control are opposed to each other, and the evil of the world exists to control people.

Therein lies an essential difference in following God verses granting allegiance to the world. God sets us free to accept others without restraint or restriction. He grants us permission to enter into relationships that are based upon grace and to seek to truly know others without needing to judge them. In Christ, we have experienced this same form of unfettered acceptance, and through Christ, we can grant the same openness and fearless engagement to people that are different from us and that have not conformed to this world’s standards for what people should do, say, and believe. The burden of judgement belongs to Christ, and we are no longer required to hold others accountable to a certain standard of performance before we can allow them into our lives. Although we are to live out God’s standards for belief and behavior, we apply them to others with a different intent. For, through Christ, we seek to guide others into acceptance of a way of life that will grant to them this same freedom and joy that we experience through our relationship with the Lord.    

The words of the Lord are pure words,
    like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.

 You, O Lord, will keep them;
    you will guard us from this generation forever.
On every side the wicked prowl,
    as vileness is exalted among the children of man.

Psalm 12: 6-8

David’s words are both a lament and a warning. He cries out in pain at the way that deceitful people rule over the land. David is aware of this evil characteristic in people as he has observed it or has heard of it from the past. In addition, he also possesses the ability to look ahead and to see that not much will change in the future. People will continue to lie, cheat, and deceive in order to gain power, and they will operate out of deception in order to hold onto it. Their words are vile in God’s eyes. This means that they are as unpleasant as it is to enter a closed room in hot weather and find that there is spoiled meat present. The nose is curled and Godly people are repulsed by what they are encountering. 

This is the sort of pollution that these liars and deceivers spread across the land. They fill our ears with words that lead away from life and into a form of death that is the reality of this world when it is experienced outside of God’s holy and righteous presence. Unfortunately, these same vile rulers are successful because their message seems to be a good one to many people’s ears. They like the flattery and they respond to the sense of power and dominance that is often an important aspect of these ungodly leader’s message. As earthly rule is ordained by God, and rulers are placed into power with a form of permission from God, people who serve in these manners are also tasked with following God’s Word and His will when they carry out the work of their offices.

Thus, the warning that is spoken forth in this lament is for them. The Lord may allow the ungodly to have a day to bask in the radiance of their positional power, but He will not let what is so repugnant to Him continue unchecked forever. There will be a day when the people that misuse and abuse God-ordained authority and wield power for their own benefit will be required to stand face to face with the ultimate righteous judge, Jesus Christ. Even before that time, people are held accountable by God for the way that they live and for the manner in which they adhere to His word of grace, love, peacemaking, and truth. The Lord does prevail in this world, and this is true even in days of darkness as well. Instead of listening to these promoters of lies, we can keep our focus on the face of God, remain grounded in His Word of truth, and worship the one true King whose word never fails and whose loving care for us is eternal.  

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