Rejoicing


It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be exalted in my body.

Philippians 1:20

Today, we have some questions to consider. Does every fiber of your being shout about its freedom in Christ? If not, why not? When you think, do the thoughts that are generated by the Spirit of Christ dominate, or how about the way that you act, do people see Jesus in His full expression when it is your hands that are touching them? When I answer honestly, my sad response is, “No, not so often, not as much as I might, or not even on the same continent as my potential.”

Yet, Christ’s Spirit of transformation and change reaches into the very deepest and to the smallest bits of our beings; He brings about a state of being that is completely redefined and whose orientation is brought into alignment with God’s. When I don’t face my day with this sense of anticipation of living in the center of the glory of Christ and when I enter into contact with people with a aura of fear and dread surrounding my heart and mind, I can seek the wisdom, truth, and discernment of Christ, and I can also seek to set aside the old-life concerns and my now, through Christ, outdated perspective on interacting with others, too.

When I accept the change, recognize the transformation, and trust the Spirit to direct me, I can and should live in a manner that shows the confident love of God to my world. This life perspective is grown on the inside, in my heart and mind, and as it takes over each and every cell of my body. As I stop holding onto the old and embrace this change, I am filled with a reasoned courage that compels me to engage life in a fresh and a vigorous way. Then every molecule of my being can truly shout with joy at the presence of the Lord.

And it came about that when Christ had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.

Luke 24: 30, 31

This is an amazing scene where Jesus has joined with His followers after they saw Him crucifiedand buried, and He has walked with a couple of them while teaching them. Now, Christ has joined them for an eveningmeal. Still they don’t realize who they are with. Although I don’t believe that anything actually happens to the bread or the wine that we use in our memorial celebrations of Jesus’ sacrificial offering of Himself, there should be something rather mystical about it. Whenever we participate in this event that many in the church call Communion, the Holy Spirit is present with and among us, and we should be taking the time and opening our hearts to reflect on who Christ is and on what He means to me at this time.

Like the bread and the wine, Christ sustains my body and He satisfies my thirst. He does this by providing the most basic of things that I need and by inviting me to join Him in the daily banquet feast of His Spirit. His Word shows me who He is and how that has been true from the beginning of time, and Christ shows me who I truly am and what that reality means. He opens my heart to the love that He has for me, and Christ breaks down my defenses and takes away my fears so that I can open my arms in love to embrace the people that are in my world. The Lord continually reminds me of the person that I have become due to the redemptive work of His grace and the transformativework of His Spirit. This new person is free to celebrate Christ’s victory over sin with all who would join in and worship the God who saves.

As I taste this simple bread and pour the contents of the cup into my mouth, there is truly something wonderful happening, for this is a time when Christ’s presence is profound. He is at the center of the room and in the depths of my heart. So, the Lord speaks the healing breath of His peace, joy, and understanding into me. Christ tells me to open my eyes and see, and He says to open my ears and hear; for, He is always with me to fill me with everything that I need and to sustain my soul throughout the day. Thus, with eyes open and Christ fully present with me, He leads forth into the day ahead, and I am strengthened and encouraged to seek out the Lord’s will and to confidently live it out. 

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his son.

1 John 5: 11

Testimony is serious business. When a person is called upon to provide it, the words that come out, either in written form or as an oral statement, need to be carefully considered and be as accurate as the witness is able to recall. The words solemn and formal are found in the definitions of testimony. According to John, God’s own testimony is found in this simple expression about life. God gives life to us, and it comes by and through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. This is the solemn truth that God would have all people know, grasp, and follow. This is the simple summary of all that is contained in God’s Word regarding relationship with Him. Life, in its fullest expression and to its ultimate extent, is a gift that comes to people in Christ, and it is found nowhere else in all of the universe.

This spark, this mysterious yet tangible difference, is often visible in the way that Christ’s followers think, act, and speak. It is even more apparent in the attitude that they carry forth into life wherein the things of this world do not hold them down or burden them to the point of breaking. For the truth is found in the fact that this place has its harsh qualities and its burdensome aspects, and no one escapes their grasp. We encounter these trials, struggles, and times of suffering as a part of the normal course of living. Yet, Christ within us changes things in ways that are real and tangible. Christ provides the perspective of eternity for us to use as the lens through which these earthly struggles can be viewed. Christ grants us a form of strength that is only slightly associated with the capacity to do physical work and that is absolutely related to our capacity to continue on with living with peace in our hearts and with the gospel of love on our lips.

God’s testimony is found in Jesus, and our testimony is the lives that we live in His name and for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This fact makes each of us, in Christ, into daily witnesses to His grace, love, and mercy as it also places us on view as examples or exhibits in the great and grand trial that is life. For we are being looked over and examined so that the lives that we live and the way that Christ influences the conduct of those lives is under the scrutiny of the people of the world around us. The peace, joy, and love that we exude is being observed, and the way that we carry on with life regardless of circumstances and situations is also seen by others. I am not saying that followers of Christ should put up false fronts and pretend to the world that everything is perfect and that there are no challenges and struggles in our lives. Quite the opposite is true, for we can and should be free to be open, transparent, and honest in sharing our lives with others and in seeking the Lord’s engagement with our needs. Yet, in Christ, the lives that we live with their faith, hope, peace, and joy are even more so a testimony to our Lord in the hard days and the challenging times.  

Trust in the Lord forever, 

For the LORD GOD is an everlasting Rock.

Isaiah 26: 4 

There is so much in life that can rock our worlds, and I don’t mean in a good way, either. Just go to your favorite news source and read the top ten leading stories and see how much pain and suffering is afoot in our world on a regular basis. Escape isn’t found in the Sports or Entertainment pages either. Scandal, death, and wasted lives are commonplace themes in those “soft news” venues, too. What is even harder is the fact that so much of the sort of distress that is facing people across the globe is also staring each of us in the face at home. 

While the stories about lives turned upside down and shaken from their foundations by acts of nature and actions of man swirl around us in a seemingly never ending river of chaos that leads to fear and discouragement, there is another news story that needs to be read. It needs to receive continual, constant, and even total focus. God has written His story of relationship, love, and redemption across the history of the world. He sets it before our eyes and He scribes it onto our hearts if we are willing to simply open ourselves to receive and to hear His voice. 

As we shift our thought from the evil and the darkness around us and onto the light of Christ’s grace, the Spirit replaces confusion with clarity. He provides us with a sense of security that is based upon the actual fact of its existence. The Lord takes our swirling thoughts and emotions and calms the storm so that we can make reasoned and rational decisions while standing in the middle of the downpour. As we trust in God as the only valid source of truth and as the one who shows us the way to live with integrity, peace, joy, and love, in the midst of the world’s chaos, we are standing on the unshakable foundation of all of Creation.    

You have multiplied, O LORD my God,

   your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;

   none can compare with you!

I will proclaim and tell of them,

   yet they are more than can be told.

Psalm 40: 5

Silenced! Dumbstruck! Overwhelmed! These expressions of the way that David was impacted by the Lord’s engagement with his life are simple and weak in comparison to the actual feelings that must have formed up inside of his heart and mind. God’s grace, mercy, favor, and salvation had been granted to the author on too many occasions for him to not be amazed by it all. Now it seems to have happened again, and David can barely get the words out of his mouth to describe God’s gracious favor; yet, at the same time, he cannot hold his words in, either. He needs to tell the world all about the Lord and give us the details of when, how, and what God has accomplished for the sake of His servant.

So, David speaks out to tell everyone who might listen about the wonders of the Lord. He wants us to understand that God does everything because of His love, and He operates freely in our world because of His sovereignty over all of creation. There is nothing that David or that any of us are involved in that the Lord does not know about, and there is nowhere that we might go where He cannot operate with full knowledge and strength. Additionally, in every instance and upon each occasion that comes about in my journey through life, the Lord has both my best interests and the furtherance of His kingdom in mind and set as objectives. This was true for David, and it has remained so for all of the years that have passed by since. Care, engagement, and participation in the lives of His people have continued to be God’s desire and operating modality, and they are the Lord’s promise to us for all of time to come.

We too can join with David is shouting out praise to God for the way that He loves and cares for us. These shouts are expressions of worship and thanksgiving, and they are also uttered as a means of letting others know that they, too, can be the recipients of this form of eternal grace that does overcome all of the evil in this world. By God’s love, we are forgiven all of our sins, in Christ’s blood we are made eternally clean and proclaimed righteous before God, and through the Spirit’s leading we are granted opportunities to live out the fullest possible expression of our skills, talents, and gifts during the hours that we are granted to dwell upon this earth. As my identity is now found in Christ, so too are my feeble words of praise to God replaced by following the Spirit’s direction as I enter into loving others and caring for and about their needs in ways that would not exist without the Lord’s transformative work upon me. The Lord multiplies His wondrous works and expresses His loving thoughts toward the world through His people; so, let me be a follower that lives for Christ today and through all of those hours of life that God’s grace has granted to me.          

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.   

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5: 12

There exists a sort of mindless philosophy of life that says that people should ignore everything that is going on in their lives and in the world around them and so, “Just be happy.” This is not at all what Jesus had in mind here. He has just delivered the sobering thought that people who serve God by living out His righteousness to its fullest extent will be spoken of in harshly derogatory ways and will, in fact, be persecuted for their active faith. If this is the result of what comes our way because we choose to follow Christ and live out His direction for how we are to love others, care for them, and enter into redemptive peacemaking in our world, then it seems to be something very different from a state of being that could be viewed as mindless happiness. In fact, the pain that Jesus promises will be ours if we do seek after His path through life in this world is great as we might actually be choosing to walk in Christ’s footsteps all the way to the excruciating agony of the cross.

Yet, there is more to that prospect, for the Lord also gives us a a brief view of what comes beyond the sacrifices that He is leading us into in this life. Christ tells us that there is a reward to follow. The idea that we are to endure all that life throws at us in anticipation of some form of benefit in an afterlife may be hard to grasp during those hours of tears, fear induced sweat, and grief that we may be experiencing today. Still, the place that we occupy in this world is temporary and the days that we have to dwell here are short, and the other end of existence is infinite in its duration and in its wealth of blessing. However, there is more to what Jesus sets out as the promised heavenly response to our faithfulness to God’s holy will and righteous way of living it out. For the reward that we receive during the course of dwelling in the center of God’s will is also real and tangible. There is perhaps no experience in this world that is greater and more fulfilling than that of the sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit with you as you think, do, and say what is right in God’s eyes, even when this is done in the face of strong and persistent opposition from those around you.

This is the sort of thing that those prophets of old experienced. They spoke out and their words were frequently rejected by the world around them. They were also subjected to physical threats and harm and they often had to watch as the dire things that they foretold became reality. Still, the Lord walked through it all with them, and His Spirit was their companion and their guide for every step of that arduous journey. We may not be called upon by God to deliver words of prophecy to our world in the same manner as those people were, but each of us who knows Christ is called into unceasing service to our Lord and into a life dedicated to living out Christ’s grace, love, mercy, and truth in every aspect of life. Doing this to the best of our ability is cause for rejoicing, and the Spirit of Christ is present during these long hours of service to carry the weight of the burden and to encourage our failing hearts and confounded minds to continue the journey. Jesus knew that we were frail beings and that we would likely falter under the pressure and the strain of following Him; so, He also gave us His Spirit to travel this path with us, and He grants to us a form of joy that flows directly from the throne of heaven to wash our weary hearts in the knowledge of Christ’s delight in our faithful service.      

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