Reconciliation


Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,

   but he who has a hasty temper exalts a fool.

Proverbs 14: 29

Our culture’s ultimate source of knowledge, Wikipedia, defines anger in this manner,

“The emotion anger, also known as wrath orrage, is an intense emotional state. It involves a strong uncomfortable and hostile response to a perceived provocation, hurt or threat.”

Well, I agree with this except that it seems as if the part about provocation, hurt, or threat no longer applies, for people today become demonstrably wrathful without any sort of real provocation beyond what should produce mild irritation or slight annoyance. Today anger is a tool that is used to overwhelm, to oppress, and to defeat others. Although the use of this powerful emotion in this manner is prevalent today, I submit for consideration that it has always been employed in a similar manner. The writer of this proverb was speaking about something that was both cultural observation and probably personal experience. Almost all people from the dawn of creation have given in to anger’s ugliness and destructive presence.

Yet, that is not how it needs to be. There is another way to engage with people, even with people who really do tend to cause our blood to boil. Jesus certainly felt anger at the way that people were corrupting their worship of God and at the oppressive actions of those in power. God has expressed His anger at the disobedience and selfishness of people. Throughout the long history of Christ’s church, our ongoing disregard for God’s call to live in a just, loving, and other-focused manner has caused a form of anger to well up in numerous righteous followers of Christ. God’s anger, whether displayed by Him or by Jesus is tempered by a desire to bring about redemption and reconciliation to God’s way of truth and righteousness. Thus, the Lord demonstrates His understanding of the people with whom He is angry and with the circumstances that have caused their sinful actions. The Lord knows each of us as an individual, and He enters into our lives with our specific and personal identities in view even when He is displeased with what we are thinking, saying, and doing.

If we truly desire to break the distressing cycle of angry engagement in our world today, we can do nothing less than to follow our Lord in seeking to understand where others are coming from when they cause strong negativity to arise in us. We must seek to know them as people and to recognize that even the most troubling of personalities bears the touch of the Creator’s hand in who they are and in how they function. That does not mean that all actions and words are acceptable or that we should allow all of them to exist without comment, response, or rebuke. The righteous, the loving, and the God-honoring thing to do is often otherwise. Yet, even the sternest of responses needs to be tempered by grace, redemptive love, and a form of understanding that comes by and through the Spirit. When we live in this manner by abandoning the destructive tactics of our world, we have chosen to follow Christ in a manner much like the one that He taught us in the seventh beatitude,

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5: 9 

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“For behold, I will raise up against you a nation,

   O house of Israel,” declares the LORD, the God of hosts;

“and they shall oppress you from Lebo-hamath

   to the Brook of the Arabah.”

Amos 6: 14

God is the perfect example of the engaged and loving parent and also of a truly good friend. He is willing to enter into those hard conversations and deal with the issues that everyone else tries to avoid. This can be very unpleasant, and it can lead to relational tensions that are monumental in their scale. However, the Lord is fully aware of the fact that we all sin and fall far short of the righteousness that God’s standards set out for us to follow. He recognizes with equal clarity that these times and situations of engaging in the selfishness of sin are harmful to us and to the world around us if they are left unchecked. Departing from God’s path in small ways can start people along a course that grows ever further off track to the point that recovery becomes almost impossible. We can get to a place in our journey of life where there are no visible points of reference left to sight and to turn toward.

The Lord does not want to see any of His people end up on the far side of the world with no means of finding our way home again. So, He intervenes in our lives. This is what He is promising to do in the days of the prophet Amos. At the time when Amos wrote out these words, the Lord was still waiting upon the repentance of His people in Israel and Judah. Now, God was certainly aware of the fact that they would not listen to these pleas, and Amos was not the only human voice that the Lord inspired to speak out about the dangers of continuing to follow their own sinful ways. Still, stubborn is stubborn, and self-serving people can be very set in the path that they have chosen to take. We know that both of these Hebrew nations would be overthrown and the people taken from their homes into captivity and slavery in a foreign land. Sometimes, harsh measures are needed in order to bring wandering people back into relationship with God.

Are we in our world today in a place where this sort of extreme measure is the only thing left for God to do in order to get us to turn away from our self-determined journey and fall upon our knees in repentance before the Lord? I am not a prophet, and God has certainly not provided me with an image of His future plans or of the details of the way that He will work out His promise of redemption for our world. I do know that the Lord has a plan for the restoration of the purity and the glory of His original creative handiwork upon the earth. I believe that I am correct when I look around and see the angry, violent, and unloving nature of so much of what is happening upon the face of our globe that God is more than displeased with it all. For I am convinced that God’s heart is breaking and that His patience must be running out at the sight of our depravity and lack of just treatment of each other. So, the engaged father and the good friend that is the Lord is not likely to withhold His judgement for much longer. It is time for people who know Christ to speak up, to act boldly in love, and to become well known in our world as people who proclaim the truth of the gospel of Christ in order to bring a foretaste of the Lord’s redemptive work into contact with the world that we touch.  

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

James 1: 5

There is almost a note of challenge in this “if” expression, for should I answer that I have it all, in other words that my wisdom vial is all filled up, thank you anyway, then I am probably labeling myself as a fool. For most people realize that absolute and total wisdom belongs to God alone. This thought also causes me to consider if I have all the wisdom that I need for what I am doing and have going on in my life at this moment. Again, the Lord is quick to show me how little of life I truly get and how much of a difference His grasp on matters can make in my success and in the real quality of my life.

The way that God hands out His wisdom and leads me to the understanding of life that comes out of it is one of the most highly valued and special aspects of knowing Him. The Lord isn’t like most people and He certainly isn’t like me, for we tend to make a big deal out of sharing our special insights and leading others to the profound truths of the universe that are stored away in our brains. People become overbearing, condescending, and seek to gain an advantage over others through the use and the manipulation of knowledge. Yet, all of these anti relational ways of interacting with others are unwise from God’s perspective. In contrast, God holds out His hand and says that here is a gift. Let me bless your day with all that you need to serve Me well and to bring My presence into the lives of others.

As for myself, and I speculate that this is true for all of us, I can change the conditional “if” of this verse into an absolute “when”, and I need to add that the time for my need for God’s wisdom is always. The Lord grants to me total access to His understanding of every situation, circumstance, and condition that I encounter in my day. Also, God uses this learning process as a way of showing me what righteousness looks like; thus, He brings me closer to Him through it all. Now I do realize that absolute and complete understanding of all that goes on in life and beyond will escape my limited and finite grasp, but I still trust the Lord to reveal to me all that I do need to travel through life as His child in this world. When I seek God’s wisdom, I am opening up myself to the wondrous, transformational, and restorative work that He desires to do in my heart and in my mind.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, but without sin.

Hebrews 4: 15

Let’s face it, there are days when I am not very strong. I don’t mean sore muscles or being weary from the drain of life’s activities, and I am not referring to emotional tiredness, either. There are just times in life when temptations of various kinds are more real than is the will to turn away from them. This is a challenging aspect of living in the skin that God has provided to me as a dwelling place for my heart, mind, and soul, and these are not times that make me feel especially good about myself when I look at what I am thinking and doing from the perspective of the cross that Christ allowed Himself to occupy for my sake. This contrast between my depravity and Christ’s holy yet bloodied presence makes me want to go away and hide in a dark corner with my shame and guilt covering me.

However I may feel about these things and in these dark hours of my soul, Christ calls to me to come out and to engage with Him in the truth of His gospel of love, grace, and redemption. My self-imposed cave of regrets is not the place where my redeemed soul is supposed to reside. My sinfulness does have consequences, and there is always human fallout to deal with, but isolation and separation are not the answers that Christ provides to me. Christ knows the intensity of the challenge that life in this world of brokenness and temptation provides as He experienced life in this place to its fullest without succumbing to those same temptations. Additionally, there is nothing that we can do or any place that we can journey that will take us beyond the grace and the forgiveness of the cross of Christ. Our Lord’s blood is more than adequate to cover any sin that we can commit.

Jesus wants each of us to live fully in His presence. He also desires for us to live out His calling to be people that proclaim the eternal glory of God in every aspect of our lives. We cannot do this if we allow our times of weakness to overcome Christ’s mission for our lives. However, we are directed by God to be people that recognize the destructive nature of sin and who, therefor, turn to God in repentance and with a desire to open up our areas of weakness to the restorative work of the Spirit. Sin does not need to win in this contest for our loyalty, for, in Christ, it has already lost the battle for the soul. Thus, our sins have been forgiven on His cross, we are granted mercy and grace by Christ, and His Spirit works within us to strengthen our resolve to live as holy and righteous people. As the writer of Hebrews went on to say,

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4: 16 

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you; 

But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6: 8

When I watch high level athletes competing in their sport, I am always amazed at the ease with which they perform so many very hard tasks under the pressure of the competitive environment. There is grace and balance in their movements that is well beyond what most of us are capable of achieving.  It is this same degree of balance that God wants us to seek in our walks with Him. Yet, it is even more important in the spiritual realm than it is in the athletic. For in our spiritual lives the stakes are much higher than any national championship, and the opposition is more focused and considerably more fierce.

Micah points out three characteristics to hold onto as we seek to live out God’s will in our world. Each of them is important; however, our most effective approach to life is found by embracing all three in a balanced combination that leads to a graceful and love-filled walk with the Lord. Justice without kindness can be harsh and often becomes self-serving; yet, when kindness stands on its own, people tend to be too accepting of the sinful behaviors and attitudes of others. That is no more loving than it is to stand in front of someone and shout at them about their failure to live up to God’s standards. Finally, if we embrace justice and kindness without the humility to recognize that our ability to understand these complex characteristics comes from God, Himself, we are likely to make them into causes that become greater than the God who we should be serving by engaging in their implementation.

So, justice is linked to kindness, kindness is linked to justice, and both are controlled by humility. We can know God’s standards and view of justice by seeking out His Word on everything. We must be willing to pursue justice in our world with the same zeal that God does. We should also develop a heart that is filled with Christ’s kindness, for this is what keeps the zeal for justice in check, and this is what makes us willing to take the time and to risk truly getting to know people at the heart level. Then it all becomes functional and balance is achieved when we humbly place our own drive, desires, and thoughts under the control of the Spirit. The result is a walk through life that has the grace and the fluid movement of a champion for Christ.

From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11: 36

There are many things that come to mind as the day begins. Some things may be urgent today, or there are issues and concerns that are weighty and complex that demand attention. Some of this even involves the work of the Lord; yet, above all of the rest there seems to be one thing that stands out as most important for me to focus my attention upon. So, here is a truly worthy calling for the day. I should look to God, and listen to His voice in every situation and in all circumstances. Thus, the strength of His truth will overcome all of the wisdom of the world and will redirect my own self-generated logic.

In all of the noise and the clutter of the world around me, Christ is the source that is worth seeking out, and His Spirit is the filter for what I need to know. The Spirit leads me to the truth that is found by listening well to God’s voice as He speaks to my mind and into my heart. He guides me into the center of the Word of Life so that what is true and holy and righteous overwhelms all the other voices that attempt to distract me from God’s purpose. Even the smallest of my activities and the simplest of interaction with others can be carried out in the wisdom of the Lord and for Him. All that I think, say, and do constitutes an act of worship that is consecrated to the Lord.

My prayer is that this day will be lived in a manner that demonstrates my relationship to Christ. Each person that I encounter is precious to Him, and every interaction that I have is one whereby that love, care, and understanding can become central if I subordinate my will to His as I engage with others. During this day I desire to touch the world and in a manner that leaves the fragrance of Christ behind and that leads people to seek out the source of that heady perfume for themselves. I widh to know nothing that He has not given to me; yet, I also know and recognize that the Lord has already given me everything that I will need to take me through this day. O Lord, let this day be one where my thoughts and what I do and say are pleasing to You. So, Lord, I surrender my all to You in the desire that who I am will bring glory to Your name. Amen. 

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15: 20-22

Today, we take the fact of Christ’s death and subsequent resurrection as something that is based upon the testimony of witnesses who were there and saw Him alive that has been passed on from one generation to the next over a long period of time. We also know of the truth of these events because of the reality of their consequences. When we come to that place in life where we turn away from a self-driven existence and yield our mind, heart, and soul to Christ, something profound and extraordinary occurs within us. This something is transformative, and it takes us into the center of the eternal work that Christ accomplished upon that cross. This was God’s determined response to our sinful rebellion against Him, and it was made full and complete when the Father raised the Son back into life after three days had passed.

Jesus, the Christ, in the perfection of God’s will went before us. Later, after Christ has returned to this world and set all that has been corrupted and broken by sin right and made it whole, all of us who have entered into a relationship with God through Christ will, too, be given the renewed bodies that God has promised to us. Until then, our souls do continue to exist in heaven as we dwell with God and with Christ in that place that is just beyond the tangible and seen created universe. So why should this matter? What difference does Christ’s resurrection make for my days upon earth? It is important if we care at all about being truly alive and about the eternal impact of the life that we do live out during those days that have been allotted to us. In Christ, we do continue on beyond the time that we obtain in our original term of existence. In fact, existence is not accurately measured by the passing of days, months, and years on an earthly calendar; instead, it is counted by the inscrutable passage of heavenly time.

Yet, we do live in these original bodies for a time that is played out in the fulfillment of the promise and the potential that has been given to us as a divine gift. What we do in this life should reflect the orientation of our heart and be accomplished in response to the one who we have granted lordship over our days. In this life, we all serve a master. No one is fully autonomous and self-determinate in all ways and in all matters. There is one such master that has conquered the ultimate limitation that is imposed upon all people, that is death itself. This is Christ Jesus, and He is calling to each and every person that draws breath upon the earth to come to Him, to enter into relationship with Him, and to receive the promised redemption that comes as God’s gift to all who believe. Thus, in Christ, we are made truly and fully alive in this life, and we are also granted the promise of life that goes on without interruption from the moment of last earthly breath throughout all time to come. 

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