Renewal


But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2: 13 (ESV)

Blood is messy. Having blood drawn can be a bit painful, and it is almost always emotionally uncomfortable. People are designed so that we don’t readily surrender our blood, for it is utterly essential for our bodies to survive. Blood is also one of the greatest gifts that any of us can give to others; so, donating blood is something to seriously consider doing. For us, this sort of thing is a choice to be made, and the ramifications of doing it last for only a very short time. This was not how it was for Jesus. The blood that He gave was eternally precious, and giving it had an effect upon Him that was momentarily devastating. Jesus shed that blood a very long time ago; yet, the impact of its being spilled is very much with us today, and the stain from its taking is apparent in our world still. People have tried to remove it or to cover it over with any number of weak endeavors and beliefs, but Jesus remains present and relevant despite all that we might do.

The amount of blood that Jesus shed, the drops and rivulets of it as it might have pooled near the foot of His cross, is of little consequence. What truly matters is the sacrifice that He made out of obedience to the Father and also of His own free will, for that sacrifice changed forever the way that people can gain access to our Creator and God. The life that Jesus surrendered and the blood that flowed from His wounds was the sufficient sacrifice that paid for all of the sinful disobedience that has separated every person on this earth form God. That painfully extracted blood brought about peace between the Divine Creator and His Creation. This is a peace that infuses our souls with new life, and this peaceful status provides each of us, in Christ, with a purpose for living in the fullest expression of that life.

This world is still filled with agony and strife. The peace that Jesus purchased with the shedding of His blood and sealed with His resurrection from earthly death is suffering through its birth pains. Evil with the brokenness of its chaotic rampage through the world is very real and is present in almost all places and in many forms. Yet, it will not prevail, and its death-giving promises of human power and prosperity are nothing more than a bait and switch artist’s feeble attempts to close a fast sale. Christ’s blood seals His people for a higher purpose. We are here to work diligently for the redemption of our world, and we are to do this by living out our new identity as people who have been set free to love others without reservation and to care for the needs of the people that we encounter with sacrificial generosity. Even in these days of new found fears and trials, Christ’s blood is more than powerful against it all, and He calls to us to draw near to Him and to reach out as He does with love, grace, and mercy to all in our world who are hungry, weary, and fearful. 

Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security.

Jeremiah 33: 6

The Lord, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, is making a promise to the nations of Judah and Israel and to their people. Their long and harsh days of living in exile will end, and the devastation that has fallen upon their homelands and their cities will be undone. In this case, these promises were brought to literal fruition. The people did return, and Jerusalem, as the main city and the capitol of the combined nations, was rebuilt to an even greater scale and grander splendor than before. From God’s point of view the real intent in all of this and His heart’s desire was for repentance and for restoration of relationship. The Lord’s heart yearns for His people to draw near to Him. He wanted the Israelites to love and to follow Him and to live within the guidance of His will during all of their days and in every aspect of their lives. Things are not different today, for this is what God desires of us as well.

We are living through the days of a form of exile. The normal patterns of life have been interrupted, and we have been forced to set aside the usual rhythm of living in order to deal with this season of coronavirus. We are all growing weary of the separation from others, the sense of isolation that it brings, and of the concerns over health and safety that are a part of these new daily routines. All of us have been forced to suffer through significant changes in our lives, and many of us are undergoing real and profound stresses and struggles as a result of those changes. In these days, I find encouragement in the knowledge that the Lord has always been faithful to bring about restoration and to seek after His people in order to bring to them healing, security, and peace. God consistently works to accomplish His purposes; however, I find that it is not always so easy to trust in them and to rest easily in the Lord’s promises.

Yet, these days when many of the things that would normally occupy our time and fill our days are on hold may provide some rich opportunities for contemplation and for consideration of what restoration might truly mean for each of us. A question to consider could be, “How does God want me to live when all of this is behind us?” There are aspects of most of our daily routines that are less than productive for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Most of us possess thought patterns and ways that we use our time and our resources that might be best left behind in the rubble heap as we engage in rebuilding life during the days of restoration that are to come soon. These are the sorts of things that can be taken to the Lord in prayer today. They are the sorts of things that scripture reading will shed light upon, and they are worthy of reflection during times of contemplation. I believe that the Lord will bring about healing and restoration out of these hard days, but I also think that He desires for me to participate with Him in seeking His healing and renewed focus and direction for my own heart and for our land.

Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

1 John 5: 5 

There are forces all around us in this life that not only can harm us but that are actively seeking to overcome us. I am not thinking about situations and circumstances that are overwhelmingly difficult; although, they are quite real, I mean that there are spirits and powers that have evil as their core intent. They are set on a coarse of assault, entrapment, and disablement that is placed into every one’s daily path of travel. 

However, everything that is in opposition to God has already been defeated by Jesus; so, every human failing, each flawed thought, and all of our unloved and unloving images have become traps with their springs removed by the power of Christ’s love for each of us. We need to accept this reality and believe from the center of our hearts that it is true and that it is my own, personal and absolute truth. 

Jesus is the victor in my life and over all that seeks to harm me and to lessen my ability to demonstrate the life changing and transformational love of God in a lost world. Belief leads to faith, which takes us to a place of trust; then, trust allows us to walk with bold confidence through the mine field that is this world while knowing that we are safe in every way that matters. Since I believe in Christ, who has given me the promise of His victory, I can face all of the situations, people, and decisions that will come to me today with the strength and the boldness of the knowledge that the Lord will use it all for His glory.   

Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 6: 4 

This is one of those times when I feel the need to share one of my secrets, reveal a truth about the way that my mind works that is not one that I let out very often. You see, there are far too many ways that I forget the basic and vital fact that I am not the same as I was. In some ways this is the inevitable result of time and age; for, I have less hair, more wrinkles, and my knees creak more than before. Still, in many other ways the changes are much more important and are absolutely progressive and gloriously positive. 

When I start thinking about the negative and the impossible in my life, when these become my mind’s focal point, I have forgotten who I am. On the days when I doubt that God could possibly have anything useful for me to do, I have stopped listening to His voice. When I stop forgiving and start dwelling on the wrong that I think has been done to me, I have closed my heart to Christ’s love. Sadly, the list can keep going, for I do waste far too much of my life living in the past. In addition to this tendency to reside in the dusty halls of history, I also act and react to situations and to people in ways that are triggered and inspired by my old heart and mind.  

The old, earth bound, sin buried person was placed in a lead-lined box and stuck six feet under when I allowed Jesus into my life. A new, Spirit-filled me was reborn and freed to soar. There are still hard aspects to this life, bad decisions by me and evil intent by others will come my way, but I am free to react to it all from the perspective of God’s grand view and with His strength. As aspects of my dead and buried old being surface, and they will, I need to stop and look upon the face of glory that is the Spirit of Christ living in me. I need to speak my fears and confess my weakness to God; then, He always refocuses my eyes and redirects my mind onto the image of Christ that I am now becoming.   

Once God has spoken; twice I have heard this; that power belongs to God.

Psalm 62: 11

Most of us spend a considerable amount of time, much of our energy, and often large sums of money in seeking after things that promise to give us position, strength, value, and significance. Ultimately, the end objective of all of this effort might be summed up as the pursuit of power. We are born into this life as totally dependant beings, and we grow, develop, and gain knowledge in order to establish our independence, and this is the way that God designed us, and it is how He intends for us to be. Yet, as we gain in this state of free-standing existence, we should also increase in our understanding of our basic need for a never-ending dependence on God.

There is nothing wrong with physical strength and cultivating a healthy body; in fact, God tells us to take care of ourselves. Additionally, the Lord wants us to grow in our knowledge and to develop our minds; so, education is truly worth seeking after. Occupation and career, our appearances and clothing, and homes are all gifts that God gives to us; thus, they are all good and worthy things. However, when any or all of these become the source for our sense of worth, are the way that we establish our authority and gain respect, or become the primary point of focus for our lives; then, we are missing the true point that God is making, and this is why I think that He needs to repeat Himself.

The Lord has always delivered a consistent and unchanging message. He is the Creator of all, He is the source of everything that is worthy, and He will provide each of us with what we need to flourish and to live the sort of victorious lives that bring glory to His name. Thankfulness and humility are the starting point for understanding God’s view of successful living. Then, as we seek His will, wisdom, and direction for this day, the Lord will empower us to live it in the full expression of His will for our days. So, I may not be a perfect listener or quick to accept the truth of what God has to say to me, but the Lord is patient; so, He keeps on repeating Himself until I yield to Him and follow His path for today.  

Hear, you peoples, all of you,

   pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it,

and let the Lord God be a witness against you,

   the Lord from his holy temple.

For behold, the LORD is coming out of his place,

   and will come down and will tread upon the high places of the earth.

Micah 1: 2, 3

Micah lived a long time ago. In fact, almost three thousand years have elapsed since these words were written. Yet, they were true then, and they remain so now. So, we need to be mindful of the way that we are living just as those ancient Israelites were warned to do. God is remarkably consistent in how He views righteousness and in what He thinks of those who oppose it. He is also not willing to allow people to live our lives in a manner that makes a mockery of His standards for holiness, justice, and peacemaking. There is another reality that Micah was made aware of by God’s Spirit of prophesy, and that is the fact that the Lord is not far away and distant from all that transpires here. Instead, He is close at hand, and He does reach out into our world and engage with the events and the people here as He sees fit to do.

None of us are out of His reach, and in fact, we should not actually wish to be beyond the Lord’s point of contact. The Lord is not primarily interested in correction or in rebuke. He would much prefer for us to turn toward Him in loving respect and willing obedience to His word. Still, even when we rebel and turn away from the Lord, He pursues us and seeks to bring us back home to dwell in truth, love, and righteousness. He does this with grace and mercy as His first response, and He uses every resource that He possesses in order to get each person on earth to look upon His face and to turn toward Christ as our Lord and Savior. However, we should not think in terms of Christ as being gentle, patient, and without the capacity to engage with this world’s rebellion and sin in a decisive and a definitive manner.

Christ is neither afraid to utilize hard and heavy-handed methods to get people’s attention, nor is He concerned about our reaction to Him when He does this. Instead, Christ desires for us to be close to Him. He wants to walk through life with each of us in a manner that brings our lives into conformity with God’s holy calling for creation. That means that we love fearlessly, speak truth even when it is not popular, promote justice for all people and in every situation, and that we engage in seeking to eliminate all forms of violence and hatred by promoting peace with all despite any differences that may exist between us. These are the actions of a righteous people, and this is the form of living that Christ calls upon His people to adopt as our own. The Lord does not prefer to engage in the form of purification and reclamation of this world that will come when we do not turn toward Him in repentance and obedient submission, but He promises that He will come and do this work. It seems to me that it would be far better to submit now to Christ and to serve His will by living in a holy and a righteous manner today than to await that day when Christ forces each person to face His righteous sentence of judgement upon our lives. 

So teach us to number our days

   that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90: 12

Moses knew something of the strange fragility of life. He lived out his days, and then they were done. He saw many others do the same thing. Some of them did great things in the world, but spent very little time in the presence of the Lord. Others turned toward God’s way through life in their later years; yet, they were true champions for righteousness during their last days. Moses had always existed under the Lord’s protection. His early days were secured in the house of earthly royalty as he was singularly selected for future greatness, and the Lord never ceased to provide that sort of care and apparently angelic covering for him as he traveled and wandered through life. Every experience that Moses had was a part of the Lord’s preparation for what was to come in his life. Each encounter that he had with the forces of this world was another instance in which he was led by God’s hand to his place of destiny.

As the leader of the exodus from Egypt is nearing his last breath on earth, he is sharing great wisdom and truth with us. Each of our days is something precious to be considered as a gift from the Lord. Every hour that we have on earth is time to be redeemed for the sake of God’s kingdom as we follow His will. This day will never come again, and these hours will not be returned to us once they have elapsed. Now, in truth, none of us do this very well. People tend to focus on the immediate and embrace the urgent as our first priorities. This was true for Moses, and it has remained so for people throughout time. Yet, this fact of human functionality does not need to remain true for any of us. We can be trained to consider the Lord’s will as primary and His direction as the path that we will follow in all situations, under any conditions, and for all of the days of life that are to come.

This refocusing of life will not eliminate the existence of that which is urgent from our days, but it will provide us with a new and more fully defined response to these situations and circumstances. As God’s Word becomes our first and primary source for understanding what is true and worthy as a response to all that life has sent our way, we will also turn to prayer and the influence of the Spirit of Christ in forming thoughts and in deciding what to do. God’s Word, prayer, the presence of the Spirit, and the fellowship of Christ’s body are the tools that the Lord has provided for us to use in order to live each moment of our lives in service to the Lord’s will. When we are fully yielded to this form of service, Christ will lead us into using the days that God has granted to us for the sake of His glory so that each hour of our lives can be counted as one wherein the gospel of Christ was on view for the entire world to see. 

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1: 13, 14

In Christ we are redeemed! That means that we were purchased out of a life-ending existence wherein sin ruled our days and ravaged our nights, and we have been transported into the opposite form of reality in which true living exists today and eternity is our promise and our hope. This purchase that God the Father brought about was costly. Each and every life that comes into being in this world has great value and immeasurable worth, and this is true for us from that moment of conception onward. God so values being in a relationship with people that He paid the sacrificial price of giving His son, Jesus the Christ, as that ultimate and perfect payment.

Now, in Christ, we dwell in light! This is a place that is unobtainable by any other means. Jesus is the singular source of access to God’s absolute truth, wisdom, love, grace, and justice. He is the one that reconciles all of creation to its Creator, and He is the author of all that is truly good in this world. Without Christ, even the best of intentions will fall short and the best of people will fail to fully depart from the darkness of their souls. On our own we will not enter into the glorious light of God’s kingdom, for when we rely upon our own efforts and inherent goodness to do this, we will always fall short of that eternal glory.

So, through Christ we are forgiven! Our sins and failures and the ways and times of wandering away from God’s truth are set aside. Christ’s sacrificial act upon the cross has granted our escape from that life-long jail into which we were each born, and it has given freedom to all who recognize Christ as Savior and Lord. Our lives are set right with God, and we are granted the gift of new purpose for life and renewed vitality for living it. In this new life we dwell with the great King, and we are fed from His banquet table of grace, love, and truth so that we too are filled to overflowing with these Godly qualities. Thus, we can grant the gift of God’s presence to a darkened world as we bring the light of Christ’s love with us wherever our redeemed life might take our steps.   

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

It will be healing to your body, and refreshment to your bones.

Proverbs 3: 6-8

Perhaps this passage seems particularly pertinent today as there are many issues and concerns in my path that are weighing heavily on my heart and on my mind. The weariness of my bones may exist because of an especially long and hard workweek. We all deal with the impact of living lives that are full with activity and responsibility, that are burdened with stress, and that place demands on our physical and our emotional energy. Big things, little things, trivial things; they come at us with a sort of non-stop urgency that doesn’t leave a lot of time and space for quiet contemplation and for meditation on the Lord’s will and way.

We think that our times are considerably more complex and activity filled than at any prior time in history; yet, as indicated by this ancient writing, Solomon’s times must have contained a lot of the same stresses as ours do. His words tell me that I need to recognize God’s presence in all of life; that I need to give the Lord credit for what He does for me and for how He takes care of me in all situations. This idea of seeing God’s hand in every aspect of life is interesting to me, for as I recognize Him, my eyes are turned to His way of navigating through my day; God’s enlightened pathway of truth and love opens before me. Another aspect in these events is that God’s path takes a lot less energy out of my weary body and soul; as He always gives the strength and the stamina required to go in His direction.

As I look closely at the face of God while following Him through my day, another truth starts to resonate in my heart; all of the plans and approaches that I create on my own are silly, futile, and even dangerous. The more I seek to solve life’s challenges on my own, the more difficult it becomes to keep Him in clear focus, and since it is always more difficult to navigate on my own, I end up consuming more energy to get where I think that I need to go than I would have if I had allowed God the opportunity to lead me. This is foolish and dangerous, for when I get tired and discouraged, I grant evil easier access to my thoughts; thus, I can allow a sense of negativity, uselessness, and weariness to defeat God’s purpose for me. So, the stresses of life will continue to be present in my days, but as I turn the eyes of my heart to God and His care, provision, and direction for me, I will be strengthened and encouraged. The ailments that afflict my body are healed by Christ’s loving touch, my worries and concerns are given perspective, for the Lord makes my frame to be more than strong enough to carry the weight of my life and to lift up the burdens of those who God places in my path.   

If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians 5: 18 

There is an order to the way that the entire world functions. The rules and the controlling principles were embedded into its genetic coding by God in order to prevent chaos from ruling. What matters most for people is where we align our hearts and our minds in order to receive the direction and guidance that we all need to successfully make it through this complex life that we live. Although we are all born with hearts that are broken and controlled by sin, God grants us the gift of a choice that will completely change all of that. Christ brings all who choose Him into restoration and into righteousness. 

Once we have decided to leave behind the controlling influence of evil and turn our hearts toward God, we still need to take one more very important step. God designed a rule of law into Creation, and it will get us through the day with minimal missteps and wrong turns; however, the law demands perfection from us, and we are very imperfect beings. Errors, mistakes, and wrong choices are inevitable when we choose to orient our moral compass toward the law. Under the rule of the law, we will spend our days trying unsuccessfully to pay off the constantly growing fines that we receive for our various sins. Unfortunately, we will never possess enough emotional or spiritual currency to pay these debts.  

Christ offers us another choice, for He paid that debt in full for us, and He sent His Spirit to live in, among, and with us. We can choose to seek out a deep, personal, and powerful relationship with the Spirit of God that will profoundly change the way that we view life. When we seek to stay filled with the Spirit, our view of life and the vantage point from which we view it are changed. We gain a Heavenly perspective on life that allows us to live boldly, confidently, and in a form of freedom that does not exist outside of this intimate relationship with God. As I know Christ, so, I am filled with Christ’s Spirit, and there is lightness and buoyancy to my life that is without compare. 

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