Trust


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.   

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.  

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;

   my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD,

   because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 13: 5, 6

When David begins this Psalm, he is done and done-in, too. Something is happening in his life that has pushed him over the edge so that his extraordinary strength and endurance are used up. He doubts that he will be able to continue on for another hour, and he does not see how he will escape from the aggressive assaults of the enemy that is close at hand. In some form or other, most of us have been in this same place. We have looked out of our window and seen only adversaries, or we have attempted to face the challenges of the day and found that all of the strength is gone from our legs and that there is no oxygen left in our lungs. It feels as if the fight is over when, in fact, the round one bell has not yet rung.

David reminds us that the Lord is the one that we can turn to in these difficult times. When all of our usual resources are exhausted and the friends and allies that we have counted upon to support us in the fight have left us behind for lost or hopeless, Christ is still present with us. He walks into our trials and becomes the source of strength when there is no other. The Lord loves and cares about each of His people in ways that both transcend the situation that we are in and that work for us to redeem it for the sake of His glory. There is no loss when we turn to Christ and fully trust in Him to speak truth into our minds and to grant us grace and mercy to overcome any pain and fear.

We too can lean into Christ and trust in His unfailing and unending love to provide us with answers and resources that will sustain us during all of the days of our lives. These answers may not always be the ones that we desire, and they are not always obvious. But that is the point behind trust. Trust does not require that the conclusion of the situation be obvious or tangible. Instead, it is founded upon faith and is grounded upon the firm foundation of God’s long-standing history of granting salvation to everyone that comes to Him and accepts His offer of redemption by and through Christ. When David penned the words above, I imagine that he could still look out of his window and see the presence of an angry enemy. But with his eyes more fully opened, he also was looking out and witnessing the presence of the Lord’s angelic host as they were led by Him and mobilized to fight to protect David on that day.   

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. 

Jesus said, “The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 22: 34 

What does Jesus really mean when He quotes this Old Testament passage? He had just responded to a question that was intended to trick Him, and the first half of the answer, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” makes sense. It may be a very challenging thing to do, for it is an impossibility without Christ. Without His ongoing presence in my life, I don’t even come close to living out this command. Still, this second command that Jesus gives to us is in some ways even more challenging. 

If love my neighbor is expressed in kind acts such as clearing snow from their walks or picking up trash from their front yards, that is no real problem. If it looks like greeting them when I see them, this is fairly easy, too. If my neighbor is defined as the people who live close to me, this is also relatively easy. They are mostly just like me; therefore, they are rather safe people to engage with, at least at this outward level. I am absolutely certain that this was not Jesus’ definition of neighbor, for none of this applied to Him. He had no permanent house, He didn’t stay on the same well known street of the same town, and He interacted with a wide range of people, none of them exactly like Him. 

What Jesus is commanding us to do is a lot bigger and contains a lot more risk than any of this casual neighborhood interaction. He is telling us to redefine our concept of neighborhood to include the entire world around us. Christ came to love all of the people of this world in a manner that would bring them back to an intimate and a personal relationship with God. Jesus loved people by engaging with them in their lives, by hearing their sorrows, and by healing their wounds and soothing their greatest fears. He met the soul-deep needs of dying people. That is what He commands us to do. So, as Christ is in us, we are called upon to give away His love to the people that live in our neighborhood. This is not an optional part of our lives as Christians, and it is not something that others who are called to be evangelists or missionaries are to do for us. This is the second great commandment from God to each of us. Loving others is the actual expression of the first commandment. This is how the Lord wants us to demonstrate our love for Him. Today is the day to ask someone about their life, to be interested in the pain in their heart. This is the perfect time to join a new friend in the journey of life, and today is the day to tell that person about the real, the tangible answer to your own needs that you have received through Jesus.  

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