Life Balance


He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.

1 Thessalonians 5: 24

 

When God calls to us, and, by the way, He always does, the Lord doesn’t just leave us alone to figure it all out. He always has a plan for how we can respond to Him and for what sort of support we will need in order to accomplish His mission in our life. Yet, I have discovered an interesting thing about the way that God works in my life in that His plan is not ridged. Therefore, He allows me to make choices and to reach decisions that are my own, and He still supports me in making them happen.

 

Taking action is more important than getting every detail perfectly right. Yet, moving forward is also much harder for me than planning and analysis. The Lord wants me to trust Him with taking care of the details as we go out into the great adventure of living for Him. God continually speaks to me. His voice takes on many shapes and has various tones to it depending upon the situation or the circumstances. Sometimes He whispers into the quiet of the night, at other times He shouts like the winds of a storm, and in some instances He speaks through other people; still, His voice is a constant presence that brings with it the Lord’s comfort, encouragement, strength, and wisdom.

 

Christ’s call is not so much expressed in terms such as “go there” or as “do that”; rather, He calls on me to live righteously, to draw near to Him, to seek justice, to love others absolutely, and to serve the Gospel of Jesus with all of my heart. Christ also tells me to let go of my hard grip on control of life, for trusting Christ and possessing faith in His will and direction for my journey is a much surer way to enjoy peace and deep joy in this world than any outcome that my tension-filled fingers could have ever guided me to. Christ reassures me that He is the actual doer of all that He calls upon me to accomplish. So, as I engage with what God calls me to do, the Lord promises that He will make His will my reality.

 

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Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4: 7

 

People want to be loved and to give love. It is something that we seek after and pursue with great energy and, at times, with singular focus. It is also something that we get very wrong, for broken relationships and heartache are very common. We expect that we will be frustrated and saddened by the way that these sorts of feelings change and turn sad for us. This process of feeling strong emotion in both friendship and in romance is a part of growing into adulthood, and so is that aspect of it all wherein those relationships end and so we learn to move on to the anticipation of other, new relationships. Some of us are able to settle into friendships and romances that last for the duration of our lives, and some of us never find those people who are with us throughout the journey that is ahead.

 

It seems that John has learned to see love from a different point of view. His understanding of love is that it starts with God and then is poured out into and over people. When John addresses his audience as beloved, he is referring to the fact that he loves them because God loves them and also because God loves him in an abundant and unending manner. When Jesus summoned the young man named John from his good life as a fisherman and called him to follow along the hard road in the company of the Messiah, that was an act performed and perpetuated by love. John’s entire life from that day forward was defined by the love that he saw Jesus pour out onto the world so that John continued to do the same for the remainder of his long and productive life. In many respects, the verse here could have been John’s so-called life verse, for it exemplifies the way that Christ led him to think, feel, and act in every aspect of his life.

 

Now John is granting us insight into the eternal wisdom that has guided his journey. God truly loves every one of us, and He desires that we would turn to Him in order to become close and intimate with Him. In Christ, we can know a love that has no limits, that sets no conditions, and that will not become cold and distant. Through the presence of Christ in us we can learn to love in this same manner, and this is the love that can change the way that we engage with the rest of the world. First, like John, we must accept the reality of being loved by God, of being His beloved daughter or son, for it is this love that softens our rough edges and grants us the gift of grace that makes it possible to accept and to learn to love a wide range of other people. Then we can give the love that we are receiving away and pour it out into the world around us. It is God’s love that provides balance to righteousness, and Christ’s love gives us a heavenly perspective on mercy, justice, and seeking after peace in these troubled days. In Christ we are given such an exquisite abundance of love that its overflowing from us can break down walls of division, overturn political rancor, and bring peace where enmity has always ruled the day.

Your way was in the sea, and your paths in the raging waters.

Psalm 77: 19

 

I was reading a newspaper story about a group of men who were among the very best white water kayakers in the world. It discussed the way that one of them went about taking on a set of rapids that were right at the top of the list of the world’s most dangerous. Before he entered the water, he walked along the shore and carefully considered every foot of that section of wildly unpredictable foaming water. He considered his approach to it and his line through every churning and twisting eddy and hole. He knew that once he entered the river he would have neither time nor clarity of vision to think through his reactions. Then, he would have to rely on his experience, skill, and this preparation in order to survive.

 

How many of your days have contained qualities that were similar to this wildly untamed and out of control river? For myself, I’ve certainly known more than a few. One of the biggest challenges that I have seen in handling these days is that, unlike the white water adventure that I was reading about, these times are not usually planned. Instead, they come out of nowhere. I can be enjoying a leisurely raft ride through life with its mild moments of attention-getting turbulence; when, suddenly, the bottom seems to fall out of it all with a jolt that makes may heart fly into my throat and causes my head to spin. This is the nature of living in this world, and these are also times when living in a relationship with Christ is essential to coming out victorious on the other side of the rapids.

 

In order to be ready for these inevitable times of engaging in the ultimate of wild rides, it is important to do just what the white water kayaker did. We should take the time to study the course, to know the dangers, to determine a path, and to meditate on our potential responses. These are all things that the Lord gives to us through continual and deep study of His Word. The raging torrents of my life are ones that others have also navigated, and there is already a road map of righteous thinking and Christ-like actions set out for me to learn from. Additionally, like the expert kayaker, I need to be willing and able to trust in my own instincts while I am in the middle of the course. However, there is a vital difference in what he relies upon and what I have available to me, for my instincts are formed and informed as my trust is placed in the ever present help of the mighty Spirit of Christ who never fails to show me the line and who is already the victor over all that tries to defeat my journey through this world.

 

Great peace have those who love your law;

nothing can make them stumble.

Psalm 119: 165

 

There are many parts of life where balance is everything. This is true when we are dancing, running, using tools to build something, and very true when we are engaging in relationships. Balance avoids the extremes of overreach and lunging awkwardness. It also keeps the world within our grasp as it helps us to extend our reach to its greatest possible extent. This balance that keeps us upright and moving forward is a product of the sort of peace that God grants to our souls and with which our souls grace our hearts and minds. Peace that so saturates the soul is granted to us by the presence of Christ within us.

 

Christ transforms our hearts into ones that desire what is good and guides our minds to seek out thoughts, considerations, words, and actions that are righteous and just. The Spirit speaks to us with words of encouragement as He also provides us with wisdom and understanding of God and of His will. He leads us into the deep truths that are contained within God’s Word so that we are infused with the Lord’s new law for living in this world. This is the law that brings life to us and that blesses the world around us with Christ’s redemption from death into His light and life.

 

As we traverse the track over which we are required to travel during our days, God’s law, in its full expression, guides out steps and gives us the assurance that we need to stride boldly when the ground is often uneven and the light ahead is uncertain. God’s law is not so much a rule book or a formalized statement of beliefs, although it does include these things; rather, it is an ethical and a moral guidance that comes from within the heart that Christ has transformed and that is called into use and is given expression by the mind as it is operating under the direct guidance of the Spirit of Christ. So, Christ gives us a peace that brings about the ability to rest calmly and quietly in the Lord while entering into the calling of service that He has for our lives

One thing I have asked of the LORD,

that will I seek after;

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD

all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD

and to inquire in his temple.

Psalm 27: 4

 

So, David liked to hang out at church, in his case that would be the Temple, and while there, he enjoyed the beauty of his surroundings. This seems rather straight forward and simple to understand. I enjoy the architecture, the vivid colors of stained glass, and the richness of ancient tapestries just as much as David probably did. While the location has some value and the picture that we have of ancient temple appointments and décor is exquisite, none of that matters all that much; plus, the great Temple was built by David’s son Solomon. The beauty that is resident in that house of God comes from a source other than the building itself. The Lord was tangibly present with David there, and He is likewise with us today when we visit our own places of worship. However, He was also with David during all of the other hours of his days, and our Lord is in our midst throughout all times of day and night as well. David knew that wisdom and guidance for life came from the Lord and out of His Word, and for us today this has all become even more true and accessible. The Lord’s greatest beauty is seen in His nature and character, and He has provided us with untold millions of examples of this beauty to view and to interact with.

 

The beauty of the Lord is perhaps most profoundly visible in His presence within people. God tells us that He has created each of us in His image. Even with the remarkable variety that is present in those images, we are each and every one of us a reflection of God, Himself. This is true of our skin, eyes, and hair. This idea is also valid when it comes to the sound of our voices, the language that we speak, our personalities, and thought processes. There is nothing about who we are that is not touched by the hand of the Creator. The greatest challenge that we all face in dealing with other people and also with living in our own skin is that we have all been touched by the brokenness and the corrupting influence of sin. All people are born into life as fallen beings who are granted breath with that sinful bent in our hearts and minds so that each of us enters life as a person who is destined for the death of unending separation from our God. This brokenness and separation is the source for all of our anger, violence, disease, and other forms of strife and oppression. That is why Christ came and defeated sin’s hold upon us; so, now all people who choose Christ can be redeemed and brought into the unending presence of the Lord.

 

In Christ, David’s desire and request become our own reality, for the Lord takes our lives and relocates us from the world of our birth and places us into His unending presence. In that new dwelling place, the beauty of the Lord is with us in many ways. His Word provides comfort, wisdom, guidance, and encouragement, and the Spirit speaks all of that and more into our minds and hearts. In Christ, we are granted the ability to see the world around us with the clarity of righteousness as our filter and with Christ’s balancing love, grace, and redemptive zeal as our purpose. When we see with Christ’s eyes, the beauty of this world is found in its people as it is defined for us by our ability to see God’s image portrayed on and in each of them. As we reside in the presence of Christ, we dwell in the fulfillment of David’s desire, for we are truly surrounded by the beauty of the Lord when we see His Creation through God’s eyes of love.

 

 

 

Know this my beloved brothers, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

James 2: 19, 20

 

Speed kills, or in paraphrase, Haste lays waste. The point is simple, direct, and well-known. Anger can overtake us and when it does it operates much like a threshing machine in that it mows down everything in its path so that there is nothing except stubble left behind. I am not saying that there are not situations and circumstances that warrant anger, for there certainly are those times, and we all encounter them with too much frequency in our violent and oppressive world. I think that James makes an important distinction between the sort of anger that comes out of a foundation in God’s Word and one that is established within ourselves and that functions to establish personal power or dominance. It is in this distinction that lies the difference between that which is destructive and that which seeks to redeem.

 

For people, our first response is often to draw upon our own understanding and strength to attempt to handle whatever it is that we are facing. This is our go-to, fast response in many instances. When it comes to the highly charged environment that surrounds an angry response, rapid deployment of our words is frequently the first thing that we do. We toss out the most powerful and often the most caustic of remarks that we can summon up, and we do, in fact, intend to use this expression as a form of artillery barrage. We want the other person to be set back on their heels, fearful, and ready to concede to our point of view. We seek to win almost as much as we desire for them to lose. This is not the way that God operates, and it is very far removed from the manner in which God’s anger is known to be employed.

 

When we are counseled by the Lord to speak slowly, He is asking us to enter into His Word, especially as it is implanted in our hearts, and to listen to the prompting of the Spirit before we engage with other people. This moment or two of hesitation and contemplation can be truly valuable for both parties when we are face to face, and it can lead to saving us from the sort of ruinous written statements that flow far too freely in our fast moving world of electronic expression and communication. In most tense situations it is best to pause before speaking, seek the Lord in the moment, stopping to pray may seem strange to many of us, but it is never the wrong thing to do, and then speak with redemption as the intent of the words. The other thing that the Lord counsels us to do is to listen. Jesus was a good listener, for He knew the stories of the people that He engaged with. We, too, can allow others the space to tell us their concerns and let us into their journey before we pronounce judgement or attempt to solve the issues at hand. In all of this contemplative approach to conflict, Christ is glorified; for in it, Christ is revealed as the source of our strength as His love sooths the situation and seeks to redeem the relationship.

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,

but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.

Proverbs 15: 18

 

There exist a great number of expressions that deal with the effect that anger has on highly charged or emotion filled situations. A couple of my favorites are “Pouring fuel on a fire” and David Bowie’s moody crooning, “Putting out fire with gasoline.” The point is clear, for anger does very little to resolve or to settle a difficult situation, and it usually has the exact opposite effect. Anger takes a disagreement and turns it into a war or into a win-lose engagement wherein, in fact, no one wins. This is emphatically true when the people involved are followers of Christ and in situations wherein the anger is being expressed between us in the body of Christ. In these situations, those Satanic forces that relentlessly seek to divide the church and to separate Christ’s people from each other are the only winners.

 

For those of us who gravitate toward anger as a response to many of the situations that we encounter in life, God desires for us to learn control over these emotional times through submission to Him. This is also true for those of us who seem to find that anger is necessary for us to fully enter into hard discussions and challenging situations. In general, there is very little place for anger in human interaction. God does exhibit anger in many situations, but He does not command people to model this aspect of His nature and character in the way that we prosecute life. The anger that God expresses is always tempered with grace and is always turned out with redemptive purpose. People are not so good at achieving this sort of balance, for when we engage anger, it tends to take over and to control all that we think, say, and do. It becomes who we are so that grace and redemption become rare commodities in our immediate world.

 

Since God does not set out impossible challenges for us and He directs us to set aside anger, there must be an answer to this powerful drive that is so deeply imbedded in many of us. The simple answer is Christ and the operative aspect of that answer is submission to Him. However, we all know that this is not so simple to accomplish and to remain true to when life comes our way. So, I think that a fundamental understanding that is also required in all of this revolves around the way that we see, comprehend, and understand other people. That is that we see others as valuable, beloved God image-bearers, who Christ loves regardless of all that they might do or say. Thus, there is no place for anger in our interactions with other people. We can be angered by situations and by actions, but we are not to allow that anger to pour out of us and onto others. Even when we are in confrontational situations, Christ’s people are to be peace-makers, and in doing this, we bring the Spirit of Christ to the forefront as we recede behind His redemptive grace.

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