Confession


And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

John 17: 3

Although Jesus is in the presence of the disciples and some of His other close friends and followers, He is talking only to the Father at this time. These words are uttered during a time of deep and reflective prayer. There is little time left on Jesus’ earthly clock; so, the terrible, marvelous events of His final days of dwelling among us are already starting to unfold. During these hours Jesus is acutely aware of the fact that there is much more to life than just what people experience on our own. Life extends beyond the bounds of a fleshly existence on earth, and even that portion of our time can be greatly expanded in its depth, value, and scope by virtue of the presence of a relationship with God. 

It might seem that Jesus is being very narrow in His approach to the subject of knowing God, but He is speaking from a position of knowledge and of authority. This is the point in which our faith comes into play, for without faith in the truth of what Jesus said and belief in who He is, He is nothing more than a wise person or philosopher and He might be a serious nutcase with His claims about being from God and being, in fact, God. Yet, faith dictates that Jesus was God from before the inception of time, that He was God walking upon this earth and breathing the same air as each of us takes in, and that He continues beyond a human death as He dwells again in that heavenly realm as Lord, and Sovereign King ruling with the Father over all of creation. This is the reality that Jesus was describing in His prayer.

This is also the reality that Jesus invites each of us to join. We are asked to give up the half-formed lives that we were given at birth and join with Him as He grants to us the gift of full knowledge of the one true God and Father of all. It is at this time that life actually begins. As we leave behind the broken and partially realized priorities and allegiances that we have held onto as our anchors for daily functioning and surrender all to Christ, we are reborn into the presence of the love, grace, mercy, and truth that flesh out a full image of who and of what God is and of how He works in our lives. In turning toward God we are also granted understanding of His will and purpose for our lives. In so doing, the Lord provides each of us with the wisdom, understanding, and strength that we will need to enter into that calling and to live it out for the balance of the earthly days that we will be allotted. So, Jesus, in those final earthly hours, was actually praying for me and for you as He calls upon us to leave this world behind and join with Him in the eternal living that is at the center of a relationship with God. 

Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your pegs.

Isaiah 54: 2

This may be a time of serious trouble, concern, or personal crisis. There is certainly much going on in our world to cause considerable anxiety, and I know that my life is influenced mightily by the tension that is in the air all around me. So, this would seem like a good time to focus on protection, self-preservation, and on holding onto what I already have. As is often the case with my perspective and the Lord’s, He sees things differently.

God tells me to keep looking outwardly, for He sees the opportunity in the hard times. The Lord wants me to open up the curtains of my heart and let others inside so that they can get a closer look at the miracle that is found in living life in a relationship with Christ, and He tells me to keep claiming more of the territory around me for His glory. In other words, God fears no one and nothing, there are no circumstances that are greater than His will, and He will not place me in a situation that is beyond His capabilities. The only limits that exist in my life are the ones that I create.

My role today is to be a builder, a seeker, and a giver of Christ’s love. I need to look at the ways that I am closing up the curtains of my heart in an attempt to protect myself and let God’s Spirit open me to His possibilities. Thus I can step out of my established boundaries and touch others with God’s grace and mercy, and as I take these seemingly risky actions, I am granted the opportunity to continually strengthen my foundation through prayer, reading of God’s Word, and connection to my family of faith.  

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1: 1-5

As we have just entered into the season of Advent, this time of waiting and of anticipation, I want to look at its inception. I admit that when I have considered this idea in the past that I have usually started the thread of this part of the story with the coming of the angel to Mary. This is then traced backward in time to Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah which are founded in God’s words about the crushing of the serpent’s head in Genesis 3. All of this would seem to ground the narrative of God’s plan and design for our salvation and restoration into the earliest days of humanity’s earthly existence. Yet, it occurs to me that there is a quality to this that is somewhat like crisis management. By the third chapter of Genesis our ancestors have already defied God and are being set out on their long and wandering journey through life.

Although God is the ever-present and only true answer to all of the crisis that come in life, the God that I know is not surprised or caught short by anything that we do or by what happens in the world. He knows and sees and is prepared to respond to all of it. Even in His power, knowledge, and absolute capacity and capability the Lord God is always the Father. Everything in His dealings with people is framed and motivated by His unending desire for us to have a deeply intimate relationship with Him. God yearns for the time when each of us will surrender our stubborn, isolationist ways and turn to Christ in humility and submission to His righteousness. God knew from a time when the concept that we consider as time had not been created that there would be a fatal break in our relationship with Him. Yet, He proceeded with the creation of humanity, but God did so with our restoration to a relationship with Him in full view.

This point in absolute pre-history would seem to be the true inception of Advent. God always knew that He would come to dwell among humanity. He was actively preparing for that time from before the moment that he first touched the soil of the new born earth in order to form the man whose descendant we all are. God imparted the life that came from His breath, that is His Spirit, into us, and He determined that we would be brought back to life from the self-imposed grave that we entered through disobedience. In our time, God has already come. Christ entered into our world, and the way to salvation and the means to transformation is present with us. Now we wait in anticipation of even more. The advent to come is the one in which all that is broken and diseased in all of Creation will be destroyed and heaven and the new earth will become one. Today we can live in the hope of the light that is Christ in us and the promise of His glory which truly overcomes all that is darkness in our world. 

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Matthew 1: 1

The details of history that Matthew records mattered greatly to his primarily Jewish intended audience. They also matter to the rest of us. Matthew shows that Jesus has a direct relationship to both the foundational prophet for their people in Abraham, and He is also a blood relative of the anointed king, David. Thus, Jesus is the rightful heir to the one and only God-ordained role as ruler over all of God’s people on earth. Although Matthew places Jesus within a Jewish context, God has never been so limiting when He considers the extent of who are inclusive as His own people. The separation of humanity into races, tribes, and separate people groups is something that came about as a result of our departure from God’s righteous path for living. None of them are outside of God’s grace, and no one is excluded from God’s desire and intent to save and to redeem. So, from the beginning of time, the Father planned and prepared to send the Son into our world in order to effect and perfect their plan for setting forth that heavenly redemptive work.

Matthew sets out a part of the careful detail that God included in His plan for the coming of the Savior. There were no accidental twists and turns in this long history of human relationships, for it all led to that point in history when the time was right and the setting was established for God to step into the earthly narrative in a tangible and personal way. Jesus was born in improbability into a family of little to no means and raised in that obscurity; yet, He was filled with all wisdom and understanding in a manner that made His elders wonder when He was still a youth. Then, in or about His thirtieth year Jesus moved out into the public sector and did the Father’s ordained work until the established power structure became concerned about Him so that He was considered too dangerous to be allowed to continue on. As Jesus was not to be intimidated or bought off, His societally legal murder was orchestrated by those same religious and political leaders. However, death was not permanent, and silence was not secured by the cross.

Instead, the cross and the grave that followed it were just the first steps in the Father’s plan for the perfection of His eternal design for the redemption of creation. The initial aspects of this plan are demonstrated by the recitation of many of the names of the people that came before Jesus and that form into His human family tree. The existence of the plan is stated by numerous prophetic citations in God’s Word so that when Mary gave birth to her miraculous son she was in Bethlehem as had been prophesied, and that child had the right by reason of lineage to the designation of Anointed One, which had been proclaimed by God to David through Samuel. God’s heart is made glad when people respond to His call to come to Jesus in order to be reconciled with the Father. When this happens, God’s intricate planning and perfect execution of His means for redemption is fulfilled as we are restored to our place as God’s beloved children.        

Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 6: 4 

This is one of those times when I feel the need to share one of my secrets, reveal a truth about the way that my mind works that is not one that I let out very often. You see, there are far too many ways that I forget the basic and vital fact that I am not the same as I was. In some ways this is the inevitable result of time and age; for, I have less hair, more wrinkles, and my knees creak more than before. Still, in many other ways the changes are much more important and are absolutely progressive and gloriously positive. 

When I start thinking about the negative and the impossible in my life, when these become my mind’s focal point, I have forgotten who I am. On the days when I doubt that God could possibly have anything useful for me to do, I have stopped listening to His voice. When I stop forgiving and start dwelling on the wrong that I think has been done to me, I have closed my heart to Christ’s love. Sadly, the list can keep going, for I do waste far too much of my life living in the past. In addition to this tendency to reside in the dusty halls of history, I also act and react to situations and to people in ways that are triggered and inspired by my old heart and mind.  

The old, earth bound, sin buried person was placed in a lead-lined box and stuck six feet under when I allowed Jesus into my life. A new, Spirit-filled me was reborn and freed to soar. There are still hard aspects to this life, bad decisions by me and evil intent by others will come my way, but I am free to react to it all from the perspective of God’s grand view and with His strength. As aspects of my dead and buried old being surface, and they will, I need to stop and look upon the face of glory that is the Spirit of Christ living in me. I need to speak my fears and confess my weakness to God; then, He always refocuses my eyes and redirects my mind onto the image of Christ that I am now becoming.   

Hear, you peoples, all of you,

   pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it,

and let the Lord God be a witness against you,

   the Lord from his holy temple.

For behold, the LORD is coming out of his place,

   and will come down and will tread upon the high places of the earth.

Micah 1: 2, 3

Micah lived a long time ago. In fact, almost three thousand years have elapsed since these words were written. Yet, they were true then, and they remain so now. So, we need to be mindful of the way that we are living just as those ancient Israelites were warned to do. God is remarkably consistent in how He views righteousness and in what He thinks of those who oppose it. He is also not willing to allow people to live our lives in a manner that makes a mockery of His standards for holiness, justice, and peacemaking. There is another reality that Micah was made aware of by God’s Spirit of prophesy, and that is the fact that the Lord is not far away and distant from all that transpires here. Instead, He is close at hand, and He does reach out into our world and engage with the events and the people here as He sees fit to do.

None of us are out of His reach, and in fact, we should not actually wish to be beyond the Lord’s point of contact. The Lord is not primarily interested in correction or in rebuke. He would much prefer for us to turn toward Him in loving respect and willing obedience to His word. Still, even when we rebel and turn away from the Lord, He pursues us and seeks to bring us back home to dwell in truth, love, and righteousness. He does this with grace and mercy as His first response, and He uses every resource that He possesses in order to get each person on earth to look upon His face and to turn toward Christ as our Lord and Savior. However, we should not think in terms of Christ as being gentle, patient, and without the capacity to engage with this world’s rebellion and sin in a decisive and a definitive manner.

Christ is neither afraid to utilize hard and heavy-handed methods to get people’s attention, nor is He concerned about our reaction to Him when He does this. Instead, Christ desires for us to be close to Him. He wants to walk through life with each of us in a manner that brings our lives into conformity with God’s holy calling for creation. That means that we love fearlessly, speak truth even when it is not popular, promote justice for all people and in every situation, and that we engage in seeking to eliminate all forms of violence and hatred by promoting peace with all despite any differences that may exist between us. These are the actions of a righteous people, and this is the form of living that Christ calls upon His people to adopt as our own. The Lord does not prefer to engage in the form of purification and reclamation of this world that will come when we do not turn toward Him in repentance and obedient submission, but He promises that He will come and do this work. It seems to me that it would be far better to submit now to Christ and to serve His will by living in a holy and a righteous manner today than to await that day when Christ forces each person to face His righteous sentence of judgement upon our lives. 

I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Ezekiel 36: 27

When I made the decision to give my will over to God’s desire for me and to surrender my lame attempts at controlling my life to the Lord’s mastery of the universe, I was not left with less than I had before. There was no gaping hole in the functional areas of my heart, mind, and total person. I am not trying to suggest that my journey has been smooth or without some very large detours that took me far outside of God’s desired way of living, but through everyday and in all ways conceivable, my Lord has been with me, and He has continually been available to guide and to direct me. It has been through His specific interaction and, at times, intervention in my life that I have known what relational and spiritual successes that have come my way. In simple words, everything and everyone who is good in my life has come to me through the direct involvement of God, for I am not worthy of any of the goodness, and I am not even capable of recognizing and properly responding to it.

The relationship that God wants to establish with His children is a two way, fully involved, and totally engaged one. He has never operated from far off in the manner of one who dictates the rules of living and then waits for our failures so that He can correct or punish us. Rather, the Lord gets into the middle of my life; He walks with me through all of the aspects of my day, and He stays with me even when I am stubborn and self-centered. Then, He lovingly yet firmly draws me back into His will. This is what the Spirit of Christ does with and for me; just as Jesus promised, He is within me, and the Spirit continually guides me into living more and more fully as the transformed, image of God person that I became when I entered into the relationship with Christ.

In addition to giving me the gift of His Spirit, God has also provided a frame work for how I should live if I am to truly function as His image bearer in this world. Although there are many concrete statements about what living as God intends looks like, the real essence of God’s rules and His statutes is found in the very simple concepts that have always been at the center of His word and that are at the heart of His plan for restoration of our world to its intended state of peace and harmony. This restoration is available for each individual, all relationships, and the entire world. Jesus gave us the central focus for living as God intends when He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourselves.” (Matthew 22: 37-39) This is what the Spirit is leading me toward every day; so, I pray that I will soften my controlling grip on this day and allow His will to prevail.

Next Page »