Rejoicing


Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;

worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.

Psalm 29: 2

 

According to Merriam-Webster the verb ascribe has a simple definition; “to refer to a supposed cause, source, or author: to say or think that (something) is caused by, comes from, or is associated with a particular person or thing.”

Ascription indicates the source or the cause; so, when David tells us to ascribe glory to the Lord, he is saying that the Lord, Himself, is the one who wrote the book on glory. This form of brilliance is both greater than all light, including the illumination that comes from the sun, and also gives off a form of illumination that penetrates to the depths of the heart and the soul to reveal all that is to be found there. This is the glory that is of the Lord and that also emanates from Him. We cannot draw near to God and not be caught up in the power and the beauty of His light of glory.

 

So, if we seek to be close to God, we will encounter glory. As we seek to know Him, we experience this same great light, and the glow that comes from God’s presence is one that is infused with His holiness and that also pours out that same great cleansing truth over and into all who will accept God as our Lord. This is a wonderful gift and a marvelous reward for turning away from the influences of this world and surrendering to the love, grace, and mercy of the Father as expressed by and through Jesus Christ, the Son. In simple fact, we do not actually cause glory to be associated with God, for God is self-referential in this matter. We acknowledge what is there as we speak out our comprehension of the character and nature of our Lord and Creator. His glory is something that predates all of Creation. It is a part of the fabric of the universe as God imparted His great light of truth into all that His hands formed and granted life to. God’s glory is present in Heaven and in all that exists outside of it.

 

Although we encounter this glory in and around us in many places and as a part of much of our world, there is still only one source for it. In addition, all that is truly glorious in our world and in life comes from that same source. Now God is not stingy with giving out His glory to us; instead, He distributes it freely and widely. However, if we desire to know the source of this life-giving light, we must seek after and draw near to the Lord. As we call out God’s name and associate it with words of adoration, praise, and petition, we are engaging in worship. We also do this when we bring the pain and the struggles of our days to our Lord with trust in His goodness and mercy and expectant hope for His comfort and provision. The Lord is honored by the way that we live out our lives when we do so in response to Christ’s great sacrificial love for us, and He counts it as worship when we pour out justice, mercy, comfort, and protection upon people who are broken and downtrodden. Each and every aspect of worship comes about in response to who God is and as a reflection of the glory that radiates from His presence. As we worship we speak back to God the truth of His great love, and we open our hearts and our minds to encountering ever more of God’s awesome presence.

 

 

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Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city but we seek the city that is to come.

Hebrews 13: 13, 14

 

There is a popular hymn that in all probability dates from the early years of the twentieth century that starts out with these words,

 

“This world in not my home, I’m just a passing through;
My treasures are laid up Somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world any more.”

 

This says what the author of Hebrews was saying, at least in part. In Christ we gain much, but we also loss much, or perhaps more accurately, we leave behind much. Christ is our model and our leading example in all of this. He left the glory of Heaven and His position as Lord over all of Creation in order to live with and among us on this earth. He submitted to all that He was required to endure in life here, and then He allowed us to treat His royal being with cruelty and put Him to death as if the sinless one were indeed the criminal that all of us are in fact. Now, Christ calls upon all of us who submit to Him as His followers to leave the place of our births behind and to join Him in dwelling beyond the walls of worldly comfort and protection.

 

Jesus demands our primary loyalty; so, if we are in Christ, we can not be so aligned with any nation, people, religion, or earthly system of order or governance. None of these things will last beyond their few allotted years. All of this world’s entities, constructs, and rule of law will pass away, and each of them is already subordinate to God’s Word of truth. We should not give our hearts and our souls to any of these earthly orders or pledge our loyalty to any of their rulers, for none of these are worthy of such honor. Not one of them is righteous, holy, and without self-serving purpose and intent. We owe all honor, allegiance, and worship to God, the Father, to Christ the Son and our Savior, and to the Spirit that dwells with and in us. All other adoration and praise are poured out on unworthy recipients and is thus wasted effort and misguided loyalty. Christ alone is to be Lord over all aspects of our lives.

 

All that we do and everything that we stand for in this life should be focused upon Christ. He is the source of all wisdom and guidance for our days, and our Lord is the singular source for all of the strength, encouragement, grace, and love that will be required of us if we choose to live in this God-honoring manner. As otherworldly followers of Christ, we are people who seek out the broken and the oppressed in our world in order to grant them protection, healing, and dignity in the name of Christ. When we choose to dwell outside of the walls of earthly institution, we are setting aside the hard rules of those entities in order to see others as human beings, and so viewing them frees us to enter into their stories as people who can not only be empathetic, but also we can thus travel through hard days and along challenging miles of their journeys with them. As we move out of the city of this worldly life, we do leave behind much, but we also draw near to our Savior and Lord, for He dwells in these hard and rocky places that are beyond the borders of earthly cities. So, let’s gather together and worship our Lord in His true tabernacle of blessing where Christ’s Spirit is mighty and we boldly invite the stranger and the foreigner to come in and join in the feast.

 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14: 6

 

First off, today’s passage is not an example of a case of forgetfulness, for I am being deliberately repetitive in the use of this verse. I also plan to come back to it again tomorrow. It just seems to me that Jesus had a lot to say in just a few words here when he responded to Thomas’ concern and quizzical question about knowing how to find Jesus after the Lord had left them. We live in a world wherein Jesus has physically left us; yet, just as it was for Thomas, and for Peter, and for the rest of those who had been following Him on earth, Christ does not leave us alone and without the resources that we need to live as His disciples and to follow Him through life and into eternity. Jesus’ way takes us into the uncomfortable world of true truth. He guides, directs, counsels, and forces us into facing the lies and the deceptions that we have come to believe and even to embrace as our own as the Spirit makes God’s Word vital, living, and present in our hearts and upon our minds. We have the answer to Pilot’s, “What is truth?” and to Giuliani’s, “Truth isn’t truth” statements, for truth is real, and it belongs to God.

 

This world was not created to be a place where ambivalence reigns. Its atmosphere was not filled with a grey cloud of deceit, and its inhabitants were given clear direction and absolute guidance for living well in the close company of each other and with our Lord. Yet, our ancestors desired to shape their reality as they chose to do so, and they attempted to redefine the parameters that God had set forth for life. This attempt at becoming lord over their own kingdoms by grasping after God’s authority for themselves was disastrous for them, and it remains so to this day. God did not choose to leave us in a state where we were on our own to figure out life. He remained with His creation throughout these long centuries of attempting to live out our days in peace and with prosperity. We people tend to do more harm than good in this process, but God remains faithful to caring for us and to providing the wisdom that we need, should we decide to seek and to use it.

 

However, the Father did much more than this. He gave us His Son as the answer to our futile searching after what is real, what is enduring, and what is truth. Christ embodies all that is loving, gracious, righteous, and just in the universe. He brought the presence of God tangibly into this world, and his Spirit remains with and within us to do the same today. The truth that is Jesus has no room within it for hatred and for violence. It seeks to replace these negative and highly destructive forces with the greater power of love, understanding, and reconciliation. Christ shows us that all life is sacred and that each of us matters to God in such a deeply held manner that there should be no questions asked regarding the value of any person in any circumstance. Truth as Christ demonstrates it does not countenance deceit or deception, it has no room for oppression and for the many forms of slavery that it spawns. God’s truth seeks to elevate others and to lead its followers into service to our Lord and so into service to the needs of those who are most needy in our world. Truth breathes life into the dead air of this world as it guides us to the mercy seat of Christ.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Psalm 19: 1

 

This is such a great reminder of what it means to know God that I want to reflect upon this verse again this morning. It is still dark outside as I sit here at the keyboard and put a few thoughts down; yet the glory of God is present. It is tangible and real in the night sky, and it seems to saturate the air that surrounds me. My Lord is with me in every aspect of the world that surrounds me. He is even made known to my heart and my mind in the pre-dawn silence of the city streets. The presence of the Lord is real on days when things are going very well in my universe and it is just as solid on ones that I do not look forward to experiencing. God is consistent, and His consistency is spoken in love, care, mercy, grace, healing, and redemption. God touches the places in my spirit that need attention, and He sends me out into the day with the confidence that I require for the tasks at hand.

 

This is all made more noticeable as I take time and look around to see the wonder and the mystery of the expression of His hand in the world. God has written his story of life into His Creation, and He has scribed it onto the hearts of people as the centerpieces of that Creation. In fact, the presence of the Lord in the world is called out most noticeably by the people that dwell here and in the ways that they live out Christ in their day to day lives. The Lord takes each of us who will yield ourselves to His will, and He gives us a place in this world and a purpose to fulfill in His Kingdom. We are significant even when we are compared to the great expanse of the heavens. Each of us has meaning in God’s design for this world, and we have value to the Lord in the way that He desires to bring about restoration and redemption in the world.

 

It is important for us to not lose sight of this reality. Each person on the earth is important to God, and each of our lives matters to Him. Christ is here to save anyone who will turn to Him, and He desires to enter into the lives of all people regardless of what we may have done or how we might have lived in the past. Every person on this earth is a part of that great expanse that declares the work of God’s hands, for we are all the result of His divine creation and the product of the Lord’s hands. So, as I look around, even in the early morning stillness, I am surrounded by images, by faces, of the people that are the most significant and important aspects of the expanse that is the created universe, and Christ speaks love, grace, and understanding to me as His desired blessing to be conferred onto each and every one of these precious souls. So, blessing others with Christ’s presence is my calling for today as I go out into the world.

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15: 13

 

Hope is an interesting idea. It seeks the future and anticipates a positive or a good outcome for that dream or desire. Hope has its feet planted confidently on a basis of truth and experience that leads to consideration of that future outcome without giving today’s situation or circumstances much consideration or weight. So, hope may seem to defy logic, and it might appear foolish or unproductive to people who do not share in faith in the same foundation and source. Hope takes us from the cares and trials of today and grants to us a vision of the potential for redemption in the future. When hope is founded in Christ, it leads us out of the slavery to fear, doubt, and guilt that attempt to stifle our ability to love and that attempt to defeat our capability to serve the Lord with our gifts and talents.

 

Christ brings healing for all that is broken in us. He pours out grace upon our battered hearts, minds, and souls, and He guides us out of the darkened places where we have been dwelling so that the light of truth can cover us and show us the path into service to God in our world. Christ’s healing touch is applied to each and every area of our lives that has been damaged by sin and by its effects and consequences. This includes things that we have done and the many other things that come our way because we live here in a world where Satan and his agents are actively seeking to deceive, damage, and tear down all that is good, just, righteous, and holy. Christ guards us and guides us through this earthly and spiritual battleground so that we can know true peace and dwell in the deep-seated joy of the Lord’s presence.

 

Although hope might seem insubstantial and even dream-like in its lack of firm definition and tangible substance, it, in fact, brings with it great power. For hope that is grounded in a relationship with Christ is established upon the singular truth of eternity, a truth that overcomes all of the deception and lies that press down upon us. Hope frees us up to receive love, and grants to us the gift of love to give away to others. Hope steps through and beyond difficulty and even past pain in order to allow us to see God’s plan for us with a clarity that propels us forward. There are hard days, and there will always be challenges to face, but hope in Christ and a view of tomorrow that is set upon His promises and guided by His love and grace will move us forward into His joy and peace.

 

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Jude 24, 25

 

We have all seen what it is like in a courtroom. This may be true from real life experience or these impressions might have come to us through television or film. There is one word that generally does not describe the scene in that place, and that word is joy. The exception to this is probably when the verdict is pronounced, and then. sometimes joy or joyous describes the prevailing party. This verse depicts a different sort of courtroom where the outcome, the verdict, carries a much more significant weight than does the one that can be handed out in any human court of law. In God’s court, each of us is held accountable for the life that we lived, for the righteous conduct of our days, and to the decisions that we made in regards to our relationship with the judge, God Himself.

 

Frankly, no one passes the test of the high standard of righteousness that God sets for us. Every one of us fails as no one is worthy of being in the presence of the pure and holy being that is the Lord. However, this same pure, holy and righteous God does not want to be separated from us. He designed and created each person on this earth with the desire and intent of enjoying a relationship with us that would continue into the infinite. So, God came into our world in the person of Jesus. He brought to us an answer to our guilt as Jesus took upon His absolutely blameless and innocent self the punishment that we deserve. With our guilty verdict proclaimed upon Christ, God allowed our death sentence to be carried out upon Himself so that when we appear before the seat of judgement after our days in this world are completed, the verdict that we will hear is innocent, and we are set free to enjoy the eternal presence of the Lord as we dwell in His glorious realm.

 

Although living for eternity in God’s presence is an extraordinary outcome to the highly flawed and blameworthy lives that we all live, it is not all that Christ grants to us through His sacrificial acceptance of our verdict of shameful guilt. In Christ, we are set free from a form of slavery that oppresses the soul and so subjects the heart and mind to its bondage. Christ redeems us from that life-long captivity, from that pre-sentence incarceration, so that we can live out our days breathing the free air of God’s Kingdom on earth where our lives are given great purpose and meaning as we are called by Christ to serve His redemptive mission. It is Christ’s grace that makes us, sinful and disobedient as we may be, suitable for this service. He pours out His righteousness upon us, and so, we are found to be blameless, and God joyously pronounces us to be fit for service to Him.

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;

by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,

make many to be accounted righteous,

and he shall bear their iniquities.

Isaiah 53: 11

 

Isaiah wrote these words about 700 years before Jesus was born; yet, He describes exactly what Jesus would accomplish in His short time with us on earth. He truly suffered in many ways. Jesus felt what the Father also feels, for the weight of people’s sin was heavy upon Christ throughout the days of His life. He walked in the paths of our pain, and He responded to the needs of our souls for reconciliation with God and for the deep healing that would bring about a return to dwelling in the presence of our Lord. Then, after living among us and entering into our lives for a period of time, Jesus took all that we had done to separate ourselves from holiness and He also grasped to Himself every aspect of sin that would come in the future so that anyone who would choose to be reconciled to God could be so saved. This great sacrificial act was needed so that you and I could know the fullness of life and enter into the reality of being alive for eternity.

 

So, Jesus brought many people out of death and into life. His offer of grace and peace with our Creator is extended to everyone; yet, some say yes to it and others continue to reject this free gift that Christ holds out to us. Because of the fact that many do not choose to hear and to accept the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God calls all of us who do know Him to speak out about this faith that has saved us and to live openly in the freedom that Christ has given to us in order for the world to see how and why submission to Christ brings about the sort of joy and peace that it does. Christ desires that each of His people would live so that our lives would be an on-going testimony to His great love and to the way that we have been released from captivity to sin. In Christ, we have a purpose in life that is noble and that conforms to God’s desire to redeem the world and that joins in His plan to accomplish this goal.

 

On that day over two thousand years ago Jesus carried away my sin, and He did the same for everyone else, too. Now we each are granted that opportunity to embrace God’s gift of redemption. If we have already done so and entered into the new life that Christ’s presence grants to us, then we are traveling along a road that leads ever farther into God’s will. This is a journey of faith that asks us to continually submit to the Lord and to yield ourselves to His transformative work within us. It is also a life of entering into the deep joy that comes from dwelling in Christ’s presence. For people who have not accepted the gift that Christ’s death and resurrection provide, this day grants to them an ideal time to turn life around by surrendering to the only one who can save the soul and to the singular source of that new life, Jesus Christ.

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