Knowledge


It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5: 1

Comfort can be a hard habit to break. We like to sit in its presence and luxuriate in its softly enfolding sense of security. It is frequently a condition of the inner person that calls upon us when we are tired and troubled; for comfort brings to mind the ways that we have found personal peace and have escaped from dealing with hard times in the past. Unfortunately, the places that many of our minds call upon us to go can be bigger traps and more destructive than the momentary stresses of the current challenges. Our forms of comfort are too frequently escape mechanisms that divert attention away from dealing with the issues of life and out of an attitude that is focused on loving others and resolving conflicts.

When comfort takes the form of the overstuffed chair of religion, it can be very damaging to our ability to truly represent Christ. Everyone whether raised in a home where God was openly celebrated and worshiped or in one where nonbelief was the mantra, comes from a religious background. Then, we all continue to develop our personal concepts and ideas of who God is and of how He is to be served. Christ sets us free from all of the human devised ideas and practices that divert us from the absolutely freeing truth of God’s Word; yet, most of us still continue to go back to old ways of thinking and to devising our own ideas of what God actually meant for us to believe. We continue to seek to find that comfort inside of ourselves rather than through trusting Christ to give us all that we will need.

In Christ we are given the freedom to be sad, to be tired, to be troubled, and to find comfort in Him when these conditions are present with us. In Christ we are free to care about others regardless of who they are, what they are doing, and how they view our God. In Christ we are released from the need to serve the additional gods of tradition and practice. Christ went to the cross so that we could be free, and He leads us to that same cross so that the freedom that He suffered and died for will be ours in its totality. Freedom comes through trust and by faith in the Lord’s totally loving, superior way of viewing life, and His freedom brings all of the comfort that my weary body can ever need.  

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But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3: 4-7

God did not save anyone, ever, because of our goodness or as a result of the work that we have done. Accomplishment in this world is of no value to the Lord. He is interested in one thing, and that is our willing acceptance of Him as Lord over our existence, Savior of our souls, and Perfecter of our hearts. When Paul says that the goodness and loving kindness of God appeared, he does not mean that these Godly characteristics were previously missing; rather, he is indicating that, in Christ, they became present in this world in human form and in His death and resurrection they were made tangible to all of the world in a way that had never been true before. God’s goodness and loving kindness were demonstrated in Christ’s willingness to endure the worst of human violence in order to permanently eradicate sin and death’s true power over people’s lives.

All of this is done because God feels great pain when people reject Him. He desires to be in relationship with all of us, and the Lord seeks after everyone even knowing that many of us will not accept that invitation and realizing that there will be a number of us that will openly and actively reject His love, grace, and offer of mercy. When Jesus taught about the shepherd that seeks after the one percent of the flock that had wandered away and into danger, He was speaking God’s heart for the relentless pursuit of any and all who are, in fact, lost in this world. He will go anywhere and endure everything that the evil of this planet can throw at Him in order to redeem one of us. So, too, should we be open to following Christ’s call and His leading into loving others, caring about and for them, and for going where it is needful in order to bring the love of Christ and the truth of His gospel to them.

This willingness to serve the Lord is a sign that we are true heirs of the great spiritual wealth that comes to people who enter into adoption by God into His family of faith. We are made into people that are able and willing to lay down our lives in service to God because of the work of regeneration that the Holy Spirit does in us and the related renewing of our minds from ones that are focused primarily upon our own desires and wants into ones that follow God’s heart and that seek to live in the full expression of love, righteousness, and justice. In all of this there is freedom, for we are no longer required to do good works in order to appear to be worthwhile people in the world. Instead, Christ’s blood has washed us clean and we are proclaimed to be righteous and holy by Christ so that all that we think, say, and do is oriented by the Spirit toward serving God’s will and all constraints upon our capacity to love others are removed by the presence of Godly grace and mercy in and with us through each hour of every day.    

O God, save me by your name, 

   and vindicate me by your might.

O God, hear my prayer, 

   give ear to the words of my mouth.

Psalm 54: 1, 2

One of the first things that we are taught in life is self reliance. We learn to take care of ourselves and to solve our own problems. An attitude of “I got it, no problem, no help needed” is praised and encouraged by parents, teachers, mentors, and by our culture. This isn’t all bad; for, there is a lot of a best life practice quality to these skills and the attitudes that produce them. But there are times and there are situations when we need help and partnership. There have been far too many times in my life when I really needed help and didn’t seek it. I think that, in fact, we all need help and guidance and counsel every day.

These verses were written by David at a time when he was trying to solve his own problems and when he had run out of resources. He was in fear for his life due to King Saul’s anger, and he had been hiding out among the Ziphites; then, they turned on him and sold him out to Saul. David’s plan was in ruins around him, and he was feeling very exposed and totally vulnerable. He knew where he needed to turn for support, guidance, and deliverance. David had experienced God’s love, care, and strength as these characteristics of the Lord had been significant in other situations during his life. Although not in as dramatic a setting as David, I too have experienced the Lord’s favor in my own life.

The issues that we are facing may not be this big; as, there may not be a spear pointed at our hearts, but they often feel like that is the situation at hand; however, some of our issues are every bit as urgent and dangerous as David’s. When he came to his senses, when he went deep inside his heart and focused on the truth that life experience had taught him to rely upon, he started to focus on his real source of protection and on the only absolutely reliable place to go for direction. We, too, can see that it is through the might of God that we will make it through this world; it is through the sacrifice of Jesus that we are saved from evil. Like David, we can turn our hearts to Christ and speak our fears, concerns, and needs to Him. Then we can hear the blessing of His voice as He leads us to safety for our hearts and minds and into His strength.

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;

   whoever is discerning, let him know them;

for the ways of the LORD are right,

   and the upright walk in them,

   but transgressors stumble in them.

Hosea 14: 9

The things that are to be understood are the ways of the Lord. That is, righteousness, mercy, justice, peacemaking, and love for people who would otherwise be considered as either beneath that sort of care and concern or who would be thought of as enemies. These are not small things, either, for they frame in a life that is committed to God and that is dedicated to following His will and to being His person in the world. The prophet also sets out an opposing approach to living out our days as those who do not wish to seek out the Lord and engage in following His Word will also travel through life in a journey that has its own consequences and outcome. They are seen as people who stumble and who bump into the obstacles of life in ways that are uncomfortable and that result in spiritual bruising and injury.

Yet, that is not how things often seem. The righteous are known to suffer and to be considered as outcasts in society. Godliness is certainly not always found to be desirable or even acceptable in many places on earth. There is a tension that exists between living as God calls upon people to do so and living in a manner that finds acceptance and favor in our world. Still, we are called by God to enter into wisdom, that is, to follow Him and to adopt the truths of Christ’s gospel as our own. We are to be generous people that give of our wealth and that also give away ourselves in ways that demonstrate grace, mercy, and acceptance to people that do not know God and that might not otherwise encounter the presence of Christ in the course of their days.

The Lord desires for His people to follow Him and to do what is right and just as we go. He does this so that our lives will be conducted in a manner that more fully reflects the glory of His holiness and so that the rest of our world will see that contrastive goodness and seek after it for themselves. He also calls us into righteousness so that life in this world will go well with our own souls. There is something troubling and unsettling about knowing Christ and still living outside of the boundaries of God’s will. When we do that our souls are troubled as we are functioning in a manner wherein our thoughts and actions are set on a collision course with the essence of who we have become as Christ’s Spirit has come to dwell within us. Here, like it was with the recipients of Hosea’s message, we are called upon by God to repent, to seek out the Lord and enter into His will, and to turn away from the ways of the world and to embrace the grace, love, and peace that come from walking along the path that the Spirit sets out for us to follow.   

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5: 20

This is the job title that everyone that follows Christ is given. We are the Lord’s ambassadors. He sends us out into foreign lands and commissions us to represent the Kingdom of God in all of our interactions with the inhabitants of those places. This is similar to what an official representative of a government is charged with in being sent to operate in a country other than that person’s native one, but there are certain important differences. Christ’s ambassadors may serve anywhere in the world, and our office is frequently found in our own front yard or at a table in local café. The diplomacy that we practice does not have a direct impact upon international trade agreements and seldom leads to the resolution of tensions that involve armies and the potential for large-scale violent engagements. Yet, the work that we undertake can be even more significant than that, for it contemplates the eternal destinies of souls.

As an ambassador that is sent out from a nation sets aside the rest of life and goes where dispatched by its leaders, so too, are we called upon by Christ to leave behind our concerns, fears, and issues of distrust and discomfort in order to engage with people who do not know Christ in a close and personal manner. We are to go to them with the message of Christ’s gospel of reconciliation, and we are to do this without regard for the potentially hostile attitudes of those to whom we are sent. We might be rejected and our message may even be ridiculed, but that is no loss to us, for Christ sends us out in the full confidence of our faith to speak truth into the lives of people that are lost and that need to know the loving grace that Christ desires to pour out upon them. The message that we are given to proclaim is one of peace between God and people, and it is the story of how any and all of us are brought into full and unfettered relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

This is a message of hope, of love, and of reconciliation. These truths are best conveyed as they are demonstrated through engagement with others, and this direct engagement aspect of the role of ambassador is both the most effective and the most dangerous one. The danger is found in the risk of rejection, ridicule, and even of attacks of various kinds and types. Yet, those are small concerns when it comes to representing Christ in the world, and they are mere wisps of shadows as compared to the sacrifice that the Lord made for us and for the people that we are sent to on His behalf. This calling to the role of ambassador is a holy one, and it is not for the weak of spirit or of heart and mind. However, in Christ, we are all conquerors over the world; so, our concerns, fears, and reluctance can be overcome by the presence of the Spirit with us in all that we do and everyplace that we travel in this world. As ambassadors for Christ we serve the Risen King, and we can go into every corner of our world with our heads held high confidently proclaiming God’s sovereignty, grace, love, and desire for reconciliation with all that reside there.   

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you today, and you have only to stay silent.”

Exodus 14: 13, 14

The word host has many different definitions in the English language, and it comes from several linguistic sources. Many of them refer to large groups, gatherings, or even to armies. So, the idea of being a host is formed out of opening one’s doors to a large number of people, which should be a joyous and a pleasurable activity. The concept behind an army being called a host is that its personnel are numerous to the point of overwhelming an opponent. This is the sort of host that Moses and the Israelite people were facing. Pharaoh’s chariots with their trained warriors on board were being pulled toward them by their war stallions, and the ground between them was diminishing rapidly. Fear of a horrible, painful death was natural; yet, here was their leader standing in front of them and telling them to, “Fear not!” This makes no human sense, for it defies the evidence before them as it also seems to eliminate any prospect of surrender and survival. 

In my experience, no chariots driven by angry spear tossing and arrow shooting Egyptians have come flashing toward me. Still, the experience that the Israelites were having has been mine. There are enemies, challenges, fears, and hurdles to be faced in life today that seem to be as formidable and as relentlessly unstoppable as did that Egyptian army. Although Moses was faced with a choice between the sharp end of a sword and drowning in the sea that stretched out on the other side of them, he knew that he had followed God’s will in doing what he had done and in going to this place. Still, his real confidence came from something other than his execution of God’s marching orders, and it also was found in a place outside of his own skill, strength, and wisdom. Moses knew His God well, and he was aware His faithful heart that would care for them and provide answers for them in any and in all circumstances and situations.

When we are standing in that between place where the opponent, whether human or otherwise, is on one side and the precipice is before us on the other, this is a perfect time to turn to the Lord in prayer and in submission to His wisdom and will. The answer that comes may not be the same as it was for the Israelites wherein their adversary was destroyed as they were granted a miraculous safe passage through the sea. We may suffer pain, disgrace or shame, and be severely buffeted by the forces of this world; yet, the Lord will preserve the soul, and He does bring us out of the situation with our relationship with Him whole and often with it made stronger by the process. Trials and troubles of various kinds are certain to come our way in this life. The Lord’s words that Moses repeated apply to each of us in that we can truly, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord!”  

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: – a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 7

In God’s view of life, there is a perfect balance in and to all. The Lord sees the cause and the effect of each of our thoughts and actions, and He has complete understanding regarding all that we need to think, say, and do. This knowledge of our lives is given direct personal application throughthe way that the Spiritof Christ is continually engaged with me. Thus, there are times when I need to still my racing mind and hold my too quick tongue in order to allow God’s words and their wise counsel an opportunity to be heard. There are other times when I need to speak up and to give human expression to the love, grace, truth and understanding that the Lord has revealed.

In those times of silence, God wants me to wait on Him. The Spirit will speak to and regarding everything, and He always does give me the truth that I need at this time in order to act as He wants me to act in each situation that I encounter. Yet, I am an impatient soul who doesn’t always want to listen for that long a time or to pay that sort of deep attention. Still, the Lord has infinite patience, and He will wait for me to reach a point where I am still enough so that I am able to actually hear and comprehend His voice. In fact, the stillness can be the fullest and the richest time of all, for in that immense quiet, God’s greatness speaks and my heart is filled with the glory of His presence.

With my heart filled and my mind sharpened and focused on the Lord’s will, the Spirit implores me to go into my world and to speak about Christ’s desire to know everyone and regarding the path to salvation that comes only through Him. Sometimes those are very direct words that speak specifically about belief in Jesus, and sometimes the language that is called for is expressed in thoughts and acts of love, humility, and service. Christ is in me, and Christ in me is such a compelling story that it demands expression. So, He gives each of us a continual string of seasons of the Lord. Each of them represents a different but a still compellingly perfect time for giving voice in worship and praise of the Lord for our own salvation song.   

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