Comfort


The LORD is good,

a stronghold in the day of trouble;

he knows those who take refuge in him.

Nahum 1: 7

 

Motives are not always easy to understand. We think that we know someone and get the way that they think or what drives their actions and then they say or do something that completely disorients us and that turns our world upside down. So, we pick ourselves up, set our spinning eyes on a fixed spot on the horizon, and chalk up the chaos to human nature. There is some real truth to the idea that the inconsistencies and the disruptive actions that pervade our world are a part of the fabric of our human tapestry of life. Now I do believe that they are formed up and compelled onward by forces from beyond the realm of people’s experience, for deception, lies, confusion, violence, and other such destructive actions are devised and empowered by the fallen, anti-God operatives whose allegiance is to Satan. This war between God and the dark angel has been going on continually throughout earth’s history, and it will continue to impact our lives and influence our world until Christ permanently ends it all.

 

Until then, we live in the ongoing drama of this tension, and we do need to understand God’s motives for what He does as they are different from those of His adversary. Everything that God does and all of His interaction with His Creation, especially with the people of this world, is formed up and compelled by His goodness. This is in direct and absolute contrast to the dark evil of Satan and to the deep deception that he attempts to fill our world with. God’s goodness is also what He desires to pour out into our lives. This is primarily done as His Word and its truth become our guidance for thinking and for acting in all aspects of our days. God’s Word is made real and alive in relationship with Him, and relationship with God is entered into through being known by Christ and so by knowing Him. This is something that we choose to do. God does not compel us to accept relationship with Him, but there is truly no other way to enter into the peace and the security of wisdom and truth in our troubled world than through that intimate connection to their author and source.

 

In Christ, we find that safe harbor, that sheltering cave that are the literary images for a secure place to go when there are powerful forces of nature or of human derivation that are ready to overtake and to destroy us. Yet, Christ is far more than just an image. He is the most real and solidly tangible form of shelter that exists in all of this world and beyond. That word of truth, the presence of His Spirit, and the support of Christ’s body of faith are all parts of one great whole that forms a tangible sanctuary for our minds, bodies, and souls. When we enter into this place we are often battered and weary from the journey and because of the fight that we have been engaged in; so, Christ takes us in and He grants us rest and time for recovery. Since He knows us to a degree that is beyond the grasp of human reason, the Lord enters into meeting our real needs and starts working on our restoration. Christ grants to us a place to lie down and sleep in safety, to be fed upon His bread of life, and to fill our thirsty souls with His restorative waters of redemption.

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There are many who sat, “Who will show us some good?

Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”

Psalm 4: 6

 

This is the plea or the cry that should be going out today from every corner of the world, for they are all darkened and each of us is in need of light to show the way home to God’s peace and secure rest. Like sailors caught in an unexpected storm or airplane pilots when weather closes in, the world around us is swirling with fierce clouds of doubt, despair, and danger. They are driven by the unrighteous anger that has become the rallying cry of our day, and this hazardous environment is stirred up by our desires to control all of life in a manner that we see as advantageous to ourselves rather than in one that is responsive to God’s Word and will. It is no wonder that this sort of world is a harsh and a hard place to dwell. This is a landscape that even its own Creator must find hard to recognize.

 

Yet, the beauty that was molded by that same creative hand is present, and the glory of the Creator is not lost or driven away by our godless thoughts and actions. Those exquisite shapes, subtle shadings, and awe-inspiring radiance are simply obscured beneath this world’s false substitutes for their righteousness and truth. When these same substitutes fail to provide what our hearts, minds, and souls actually need for nourishment and for growth, people begin to search for new answers to their needs and desires. Sometimes this searching leads in the direction of God and His Word. At the same time, the Lord is continually reaching out to all of this world and to each of its inhabitants with His unfailing love, grace, and redemptive offering of Himself as the answer to all longing and need.

 

In Christ, we have the light of the Lord to guide our steps into that safe harbor that we all desire. Through Christ alone we can come into the presence of God and shelter in His all-encompassing wisdom and truth. Turning away from this world and from its loud but shallow enticements, we will encounter opposition, troubling relational differences, and hardships and trials of various kinds. However, in so doing, we will also be stepping into the unending light of the glory of God, and it will illuminate a new path for us to follow and an infinitely better direction for our hearts and our minds to turn in our needful search for that safe place to shelter when the storm becomes too strong for us to withstand. Christ brings us into the center of good in all of its forms and expressions. Christ directs our steps along a way where He transforms the darkest of hours into the radiance of new dawn as the truth of His Word grants the Lord’s confident peace to our souls so that we are empowered to live fully and openly for Christ without fear of the stormy and troubled landscape that surrounds us.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Colossians 3: 15

 

We might like to think that we are in charge of our lives, but whether we realize it or not, there are always ideas, concepts, and emotions that do rule over us. Even the most controlled of people and the most mature of personalities get to that managed place by virtue of what rules their hearts and minds. There are things which stir us up and things which bring us down, there are ideas that cause us to act in confidence and others that spread doubt, and at times conflict can grab hold of us while at others we are filled with a peace that defies reason. The amazing thing about being a person that God created is that I have the ability to choose the way that I will respond to life, for the Lord designed me that way.

 

When I think about the kind of peace that Christ exhibited, I find it remarkable in that His peace was not simply some sort of blissed out, everything is fine, nothing will ever bother me, Zen existence; rather, Jesus found His peace in and through knowing that He was sent by God, empowered by Him, and that eternal truth was His to call upon for wisdom and understanding in all circumstances and situations. This form of peace not only allowed Him to speak and act openly and honestly, but it required Him to live like that. God’s peace never stops loving others, and it always seeks to bring people together as it causes us to engage deeply, as Jesus did, in the lives of others.

 

When peace rules the heart, there is no longer the same compelling need to fight for our own rights. We don’t need to spend so much of our energy in looking out for ourselves; so, we can become open to hearing and to responding to other people’s stories. A heart that is at peace can handle the tensions of this world without needing to add to them. The peace of Christ is one of the greatest gifts that God has given to us, for we would never find this sort of inner calm and sound footing for life anywhere else. Still, it is my choice and it is your decision to let peace rule. It takes time and it requires practice in order to make a peaceful heart a personal reality; still, the realization of that reality is worth every painful step of the journey.

 

 

 

 

To Timothy, my true child in the faith: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Timothy 1: 2

 

What a blessing, what a wonderful way to greet someone! Here is everything that a person could really need to make it through the day and to do it with something extra still left in the tank when the head hits the pillow at night. If we could only start out all of our interactions with others with this sort of mind set, this world would be a considerably better place to live. Consider the impact on others and on your interactions with them if you not only say that you wish them the grace, mercy, and peace of Christ but that you say it from the depth of your heart with the apparent desire that it is truly so for the person that you are speaking to.

 

As Paul engages with Timothy, he gets that the most important aspect of his relationship with Timothy is their common bond in and through Christ, for Paul knows at his deepest level that the connection that is made through the blood of Jesus to the true family of God is stronger than his human family ties. This is an eternal relationship that is lived out in this life. It seems that I often forget that God wants me to be the bearer of His blessings to the people that I engage with every day. If they have a relationship with Him, they are my family for now and for ever, and if they don’t know Him, I might be the one person who shows them what they are missing.

 

It is my prayer to God this day that I would set aside my cares, concerns, and fears so that I can bear a blessing to the people that I encounter in every corner of my world. In order to do this I need to realize that I am blessed by God in this same manner so that I think and act as a person who is graced by the presence of Christ and filled with His Spirit of peace, joy, and love. I also ask that I would value the people of my family of faith, the living body of Christ, in ways that will bring encouragement to them and glory to God. Lord, I give my heart to You; let its expression be a sweet reflection of Your love and grace.

 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

 

This is the sort of thing that we hear a lot in the world of Christian thought and direction for life. Yet, does this really make any sense? Is this a reasonable or even a reasonably human reaction to the sorts of things that happen to us? Even God tells us that He wants to hear our fears, doubts, concerns, pain, and grief. The Bible is laced through with examples of godly people who pour out their agony and dread to the Lord in the hope of relief or comfort or salvation. So, going about life with thanks to God on the tip of the tongue and praise for the Lord as the instant response to bone-crushing situations seems to me to be utterly crazy and not even close to reality. However, if Paul was anything at all, he was a realist. He knew his way through the harder sides of life, and he had experienced Christ’s redemption in a profoundly real and life-altering manner.

 

For Paul and for each of us, the difference maker in all of this is Christ Jesus. Paul knew of and about God. He was devoted as fully as any human had ever been to the pursuit of that knowledge and to the carrying out of God’s will as he perceived it. Yet, without Christ he did not truly and actually know God, and he was not capable of living out the will of this Father who he did not know. This is true for all people. Many of us think that we are following God, and we may consider that we possess all that we need in order to do so. However, God’s Word makes it very clear that there is one and only one way to enter into the sort of relationship that leads to the close, intimate, and life-giving connection that God desires to have with people and that is by and through Jesus the Christ.

 

So, in Christ everything is changed. Life is ours, and this new life is one that fills our days here and now, and it grants to us the fullness of eternity with God. Christ transforms the perspective that we have on the world where we live as He grants to us His vision of it all as the dwelling place of the Lord and of His heavenly host of angelic beings. As Christ is in me and His Spirit counsels, guides, and directs my reaction to the world and engagement in it, everything looks and feels different. Pain, hurt, disappointment, fear, and grief are not eliminated, but the Lord’s strength and comfort overcome their power over me, and my heart and mind are set free from the oppressive hold that the author of all loss is attempting to gain on me. Christ makes it reasonable and even rational to be thankful in the midst of great trials. As I surrender to God’s will in Christ Jesus, He brings every day of this life into conformity with His desire for me to live with the internal peace and calm reassurance of His presence filling me to overflowing with thanksgiving and with praise.

But I am the LORD your God

from the land of Egypt;

you know no God but me,

and besides me there is no savior.

Hosea 13: 4

 

There is both reminder and warning present here. God is sending them to His people through the words of Hosea, and they are specifically directed toward the people of Israel. However, it would be a very great mistake to simply relegate these words to that shelf labeled History and to an obsolete application. The issues that were troubling the Lord in the days of Hosea are still with us now as we seem to have a remarkably similar capacity to go our own way in life. The Israelites were guilty of worshiping other gods and of behaving in ways that were contrary to God’s will, His Word and Law. There were many times when they were even openly defiant of all that God stood for and entered into behaviors that He expressly forbade or that were significantly divergent from the Lord’s nature and character.

 

If this doesn’t make you think of many of the aspects of our world and of these days, then I think that we are living in on different planets or in alternate realities. This is a world where substitute gods are common. People turn to various forms of idol to pour out their passion in worship and to form up the ethical and moral structures that support their responses to all that comes along in the course of their days. Many of us seem to have little stomach for staying true to the harder aspects of following God. Frankly, we do not trust the Lord enough to enter into the riskier and the less comfortable aspects of loving others in a manner that is truly sacrificial, of serving the needs of the pour and the disadvantaged even when that costs us in terms of real currency, and of pouring out all of ourselves in a life dedicated to worshiping the Lord. It does seem that too many of us desire to be able to shape and to mold our god with our own hands rather than to surrender ourselves to His transformative work upon us.

 

God makes His desires very clear, and He also reminds us of the fact that He has never waivered in what He requires of His people or in the way that He enters into our lives for our benefit. The Lord wants us to commit all of our being to Him. This is true in our public, personal, and most private lives. He wants us to go through our cupboards and closets, our outward and our innermost expressions of our identities, and sweep out all of the idols that we have collected and stored up there. He also tells us to turn to Him as the only source of our salvation, and this is true regarding salvation for our souls and for that saving that is required every day in great and in subtle ways. Then we are to live out our days as an expression of that passionate worship that God so longs to receive from His people. That means that we would be unreservedly loving, compassionate and merciful, caretakers of creation, people who embrace the foreigner and those who are different from us, and actively engaged in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ though our words and our actions. So, in loving and in following God, we will be people who truly surrender our entire beings to the Lord’s transformative work in and upon us.

 

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;

I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and exult in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalm 9: 1, 2

 

When David wrote these words, I don’t think that he was setting out any conditions to their application other than the fact that they were the truth about the way that God interacted with all of his life. There is no note of saying that I am thankful now that I am not a poor youngest son of a shepherd, or that he is appreciative for the current state of peace in his kingdom, or even that David can express his joy in the current depth of his spiritual life. David is saying that he is thankful for it all, for the good, the bad, the joyous and the sorrowful, the times of wealth and the depths of poverty, for dwelling in a palace and for the damp ground of a cave’s floor. Like David, Jesus knew them all; for He experienced all of the highs and the lows of living, and He goes with each of us through all of it. Even before Jesus made it literally true, David seems to have understood the reality of a God who walks with us and who takes us through every step of life.

 

The close and intimate nature of this relationship gives purpose to living, and it provides a focus for my day that takes me outside of my problems, challenges, and concerns. The Lord also brings a powerful sense of hope into my heart. The presence of His Spirit in me continually encourages and motivates me to see the potential in every situation and for each day of my life. As I look at God and focus deeply on who He is and on how He is involved with me, I experience a sense of peace that is centered deep within my heart, and this peace brings freedom to every aspect of my being.

 

As I lift my voice in praise to God, nothing else matters. As I look at His wondrous love and grace, all of my failings and inadequacies are removed; and as my heart sings with the sounds of worship for my Savior, the freedom that He has purchased for me resonates through every fiber of my body. When I turn my mind and my heart away from the things that I am facing in my day and focus on the glorious gift that God has given to me through His love for me and by walking every step of my life with me, my spirits are lifted, my load becomes lighter, and the future becomes framed in the limitlessness of eternity.

 

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