Spiritual Life


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.

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

John 17: 3

Although Jesus is in the presence of the disciples and some of His other close friends and followers, He is talking only to the Father at this time. These words are uttered during a time of deep and reflective prayer. There is little time left on Jesus’ earthly clock; so, the terrible, marvelous events of His final days of dwelling among us are already starting to unfold. During these hours Jesus is acutely aware of the fact that there is much more to life than just what people experience on our own. Life extends beyond the bounds of a fleshly existence on earth, and even that portion of our time can be greatly expanded in its depth, value, and scope by virtue of the presence of a relationship with God. 

It might seem that Jesus is being very narrow in His approach to the subject of knowing God, but He is speaking from a position of knowledge and of authority. This is the point in which our faith comes into play, for without faith in the truth of what Jesus said and belief in who He is, He is nothing more than a wise person or philosopher and He might be a serious nutcase with His claims about being from God and being, in fact, God. Yet, faith dictates that Jesus was God from before the inception of time, that He was God walking upon this earth and breathing the same air as each of us takes in, and that He continues beyond a human death as He dwells again in that heavenly realm as Lord, and Sovereign King ruling with the Father over all of creation. This is the reality that Jesus was describing in His prayer.

This is also the reality that Jesus invites each of us to join. We are asked to give up the half-formed lives that we were given at birth and join with Him as He grants to us the gift of full knowledge of the one true God and Father of all. It is at this time that life actually begins. As we leave behind the broken and partially realized priorities and allegiances that we have held onto as our anchors for daily functioning and surrender all to Christ, we are reborn into the presence of the love, grace, mercy, and truth that flesh out a full image of who and of what God is and of how He works in our lives. In turning toward God we are also granted understanding of His will and purpose for our lives. In so doing, the Lord provides each of us with the wisdom, understanding, and strength that we will need to enter into that calling and to live it out for the balance of the earthly days that we will be allotted. So, Jesus, in those final earthly hours, was actually praying for me and for you as He calls upon us to leave this world behind and join with Him in the eternal living that is at the center of a relationship with God. 

“And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

   are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

   who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Matthew 2: 6

To the best of my understanding, Jesus was never formally tended sheep; yet, he shepherds a flock that numbers in the millions. As Matthew refers to the prophet Micah’s comment about the birthplace of the coming Messiah, he also mentions a distinctive that stood out in the first century and that remains remarkable today. In Jesus we have a king, a person with great authority and holding the power to exercise that authority to its fullest extent. However, this king chooses to tend to the needs of His people and to guide them to the safety of righteousness. He could have made things much easier if He had simply taken control of this world and utilized His remarkable might and control over all of the forces of nature and of humanity to accomplish His wishes. Instead, Jesus lived a humble existence and experienced the death of a criminal so that people for all time hence would have direct and immediate access to God.

Jesus leads us into the presence of all that is holy, righteous, and loving as He operates as the shepherd of the human flock. There are many of us sheep that choose to follow Jesus as our ruler and king, but there are also many more that reject Him. Despite the rejection of so many, Jesus continues to seek after each and every person on this earth. He is that shepherd who never stops searching and seeking after all that are lost. His heart breaks at the thought of not sharing this life and the eternity to follow with each of the people that walk upon the earth. Frankly, this love and devotion is impossible for me to fully grasp or to understand. I do not care for or about people to this degree. Yet, God does, and He determined to do something about our rebellion and rejection. Thus, Jesus was sent into this world, lived as He did, and was crucified as the perfect sacrifice for all of our sinfulness. In His death we have the payment for our forgiveness, and in His resurrection we have rebirth into true and everlasting life.

This is the life that Jesus shepherds us into. He provides us with the wisdom and the understanding that is required to live well and to love greatly. Christ grants gifts of the Spirit to each of His people, and He guides us into using those gifts in a place and a manner that demonstrate the presence of God to others and that bring honor and glory to Christ’s name. Jesus is a shepherd for our hearts, minds, and souls, and His care and provision are with us through all of the journeys that we take in life. There is no valley too deep or mountain too steep for Christ to travel there with us. We will encounter nothing in this life that is beyond Christ’s capability or capacity to overcome. The victory may not look like what we would design or describe it to be from our perspective; yet, it will be the one that accomplishes God’s objectives and that fits into His plan for eternity. We can truly rest in the comfort of our shepherd’s care as we also seek to live with bold confidence by proclaiming Christ as our Lord, King, and Good Shepherd.  

Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your pegs.

Isaiah 54: 2

This may be a time of serious trouble, concern, or personal crisis. There is certainly much going on in our world to cause considerable anxiety, and I know that my life is influenced mightily by the tension that is in the air all around me. So, this would seem like a good time to focus on protection, self-preservation, and on holding onto what I already have. As is often the case with my perspective and the Lord’s, He sees things differently.

God tells me to keep looking outwardly, for He sees the opportunity in the hard times. The Lord wants me to open up the curtains of my heart and let others inside so that they can get a closer look at the miracle that is found in living life in a relationship with Christ, and He tells me to keep claiming more of the territory around me for His glory. In other words, God fears no one and nothing, there are no circumstances that are greater than His will, and He will not place me in a situation that is beyond His capabilities. The only limits that exist in my life are the ones that I create.

My role today is to be a builder, a seeker, and a giver of Christ’s love. I need to look at the ways that I am closing up the curtains of my heart in an attempt to protect myself and let God’s Spirit open me to His possibilities. Thus I can step out of my established boundaries and touch others with God’s grace and mercy, and as I take these seemingly risky actions, I am granted the opportunity to continually strengthen my foundation through prayer, reading of God’s Word, and connection to my family of faith.  

Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech.

2 Corinthians 3: 12

My relationship with God that is formed in and through my acceptance of Jesus has changed the way that I can view the entire world. Now I am able to see beyond the moment to the much bigger reality of God’s loving grace, His desire for total communion with me, and the miraculous way that Christ’s Spirit continually works to move me ever closer to the transformation that is realized in becoming the total image-of-Christ being that is my eternal promise.

There is both comfort and challenge in this realization. The comfort comes from the sure knowledge that Christ is alive in my life, for me in every aspect of living, and throughout all of my days. The comfort also comes from God’s promise that He will continue to reveal more and more of Himself to me as I walk through life with Him. Additionally, the more I open my heart and mind to Him, the more He shows me the image of myself as viewed through the Lord’s eyes, and God’s view of me is like a picture of a beloved child that a committed father keeps on his desk. That picture frame holds the likeness of the Son, Jesus. The challenge comes from the continual realization that I am not there. I fall far short of living in the grace filled, love inspired, and truth imparting manner that is Christ’s calling to me; so, I am always being called upon by the Spirit to look deeply into God’s Word and to seek Him more of the time. 

One of the ways that I can seek God is through the nature of my speech, for there is a powerful connection between our language and our hearts. The Lord wants me to be bold, fearless and confident, in the way that I talk about Him with everyone that I encounter. This includes family, friend, neighbor, coworker, and total stranger. He wants me to talk as if Christ truly is my identity. Thus, as I speak of God, I am speaking from my own heart and mind. God also is telling me that I can always speak to Him with complete openness and honesty. He will never dismiss my thoughts as unimportant or lame, He is never too busy or preoccupied to hear me, and God always understands the true needs that are beneath the surface of my words. Also, God tells me to be honest and real with myself; yet, He reminds me that a truthful perspective of who and what I am needs to be formed from His vantage point. Being bold with myself means that I stay focused on my new identity and image that comes from Christ.   

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1: 1-5

As we have just entered into the season of Advent, this time of waiting and of anticipation, I want to look at its inception. I admit that when I have considered this idea in the past that I have usually started the thread of this part of the story with the coming of the angel to Mary. This is then traced backward in time to Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah which are founded in God’s words about the crushing of the serpent’s head in Genesis 3. All of this would seem to ground the narrative of God’s plan and design for our salvation and restoration into the earliest days of humanity’s earthly existence. Yet, it occurs to me that there is a quality to this that is somewhat like crisis management. By the third chapter of Genesis our ancestors have already defied God and are being set out on their long and wandering journey through life.

Although God is the ever-present and only true answer to all of the crisis that come in life, the God that I know is not surprised or caught short by anything that we do or by what happens in the world. He knows and sees and is prepared to respond to all of it. Even in His power, knowledge, and absolute capacity and capability the Lord God is always the Father. Everything in His dealings with people is framed and motivated by His unending desire for us to have a deeply intimate relationship with Him. God yearns for the time when each of us will surrender our stubborn, isolationist ways and turn to Christ in humility and submission to His righteousness. God knew from a time when the concept that we consider as time had not been created that there would be a fatal break in our relationship with Him. Yet, He proceeded with the creation of humanity, but God did so with our restoration to a relationship with Him in full view.

This point in absolute pre-history would seem to be the true inception of Advent. God always knew that He would come to dwell among humanity. He was actively preparing for that time from before the moment that he first touched the soil of the new born earth in order to form the man whose descendant we all are. God imparted the life that came from His breath, that is His Spirit, into us, and He determined that we would be brought back to life from the self-imposed grave that we entered through disobedience. In our time, God has already come. Christ entered into our world, and the way to salvation and the means to transformation is present with us. Now we wait in anticipation of even more. The advent to come is the one in which all that is broken and diseased in all of Creation will be destroyed and heaven and the new earth will become one. Today we can live in the hope of the light that is Christ in us and the promise of His glory which truly overcomes all that is darkness in our world. 

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Matthew 1: 1

The details of history that Matthew records mattered greatly to his primarily Jewish intended audience. They also matter to the rest of us. Matthew shows that Jesus has a direct relationship to both the foundational prophet for their people in Abraham, and He is also a blood relative of the anointed king, David. Thus, Jesus is the rightful heir to the one and only God-ordained role as ruler over all of God’s people on earth. Although Matthew places Jesus within a Jewish context, God has never been so limiting when He considers the extent of who are inclusive as His own people. The separation of humanity into races, tribes, and separate people groups is something that came about as a result of our departure from God’s righteous path for living. None of them are outside of God’s grace, and no one is excluded from God’s desire and intent to save and to redeem. So, from the beginning of time, the Father planned and prepared to send the Son into our world in order to effect and perfect their plan for setting forth that heavenly redemptive work.

Matthew sets out a part of the careful detail that God included in His plan for the coming of the Savior. There were no accidental twists and turns in this long history of human relationships, for it all led to that point in history when the time was right and the setting was established for God to step into the earthly narrative in a tangible and personal way. Jesus was born in improbability into a family of little to no means and raised in that obscurity; yet, He was filled with all wisdom and understanding in a manner that made His elders wonder when He was still a youth. Then, in or about His thirtieth year Jesus moved out into the public sector and did the Father’s ordained work until the established power structure became concerned about Him so that He was considered too dangerous to be allowed to continue on. As Jesus was not to be intimidated or bought off, His societally legal murder was orchestrated by those same religious and political leaders. However, death was not permanent, and silence was not secured by the cross.

Instead, the cross and the grave that followed it were just the first steps in the Father’s plan for the perfection of His eternal design for the redemption of creation. The initial aspects of this plan are demonstrated by the recitation of many of the names of the people that came before Jesus and that form into His human family tree. The existence of the plan is stated by numerous prophetic citations in God’s Word so that when Mary gave birth to her miraculous son she was in Bethlehem as had been prophesied, and that child had the right by reason of lineage to the designation of Anointed One, which had been proclaimed by God to David through Samuel. God’s heart is made glad when people respond to His call to come to Jesus in order to be reconciled with the Father. When this happens, God’s intricate planning and perfect execution of His means for redemption is fulfilled as we are restored to our place as God’s beloved children.        

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.   

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” – that is, the word of faith which we are preaching.

Romans 10: 8

When we enter into a relationship with God through Jesus, the Christ, we are brought from a far away place to the actual presence of the Lord, God Almighty. His Spirit is literally breathed into us, and we become infused with the expression of God’s nature and character. That is, we are granted access to and understanding of God’s word. This is the platform that we can stand on with total confidence, absolute certainty, and complete trust. God’s word can lead each of us to understand Him more fully, and it should guide us to an ever increasing degree of trust of God through our faith in Him.

Paul’s challenge to all who believe in Christ relates to what we are doing with God’s word. Is it something that we use as an occasional curiosity, a personal source of comfort, or as a private aspect of our relationship with God? Although, most of us are not called to stand before large crowds of people or even on street corners and proclaim the great truth of God’s desire for the salvation of all souls, all of us are granted the gift of those truths, and we are accompanied through life by His Spirit who will provide the insight and the words that are needed to express those truths to others.

We are called by God to share who He is and why that matters with the world around us through the way that we live, the attitudes that we hold, and the love that we express. The word of God comes alive to people who do not know Him in the people who do. Everyday of our lives is important to the Lord, for our faith and the way that it sets us apart from the norms of this world is what preaches God’s word loudly and passionately, and it is our love that softens the hardened hearts around us so that they can hear their own word of salvation.  

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