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If I say, “I will not mention Him, or speak any more in His name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

Jeremiah 20:9

 

Let’s just say that life had not been going very well for Jeremiah. He had been beaten and placed in the stocks at the city gate. In other words, his speaking of God’s truth was causing him a lot of pain. Most of us experience times in our lives and situations where speaking our boldly about our faith is not taken well. There are places where others look down on us for believing in God. Sometimes our careers seem to be threatened if we are identifiable as Christians. In far too many areas of the world, proclaiming faith in Christ is a crime, and sharing that faith can bring a sentence of death from the courts. Although it certainly wasn’t illegal to speak of Yahweh in Judah, it was practically so; for, telling the plain truth of God’s will for the people was what was causing all of Jeremiah’s pain and grief.

 

However and in spite of all of his suffering, Jeremiah can not be silent. He is like that person who just talks and then continues to talk until no one is listening anymore. The difference with Jeremiah is that his words are coming straight from God, and those words cut through all of the protective layers of culture, power, and human logic. They speak about the way that God views our thoughts and our actions. The words of the Lord tell us the truth about the way that we are living, and they also provide us with the eternal wisdom of God which will lead us into the peace that is found only in the righteous center of His will. It does not seem that God’s Word intends for us to view Jeremiah as merely a great historical figure. He is an example of a person who listened to God and acted upon what he heard. He is also someone who encountered the backlash of the world to his outspoken faith and refused to be silenced regardless of what it might cost him.

 

So, back to Jeremiah’s simple yet profound thoughts about proclaiming Christ in the face of our world’s indifference and antagonism. His attempts at silence are answered by God’s Spirit. He causes something to happen in Jeremiah’s heart and mind that makes him feel as if he were being set on fire from the center of his bones. It seems to him that his marrow has become molten lava. Only that heat is not destructive. Instead, it is the unquenchable fire of God’s Word that demands proclamation. He realizes that any hardship or distress that he might endure as a result of speaking out about God and His desired way of living for our world is like nothing at all in comparison to the personal, soul-deep pain that he feels from not following His Lord’s will. In all of this Jeremiah is a very real example of how we should respond to a world that is bent on denying God. Lord, my prayer is that the same fire would burn in my bones and that its outlet will be your truth proclaimed boldly and continually throughout my days.

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For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 3: 11

 

We people are a very creative and an industrious bunch. We devise various systems of belief and work hard to craft them into something that seems to be solid, tangible, and lasting. In the end, many of us do stake our eternities on these belief systems that we have created for ourselves. The fact that the nature and the character of the life that we live now and also that what becomes of our souls after this life is resting on what we believe in this life, should be a powerful motivator for us to consider these decisions carefully and thoroughly. For me, it seems to be most reasonable to look to the foundations of all that is for the source of such a great decision. There is one singular point wherein all of what we know began, and there is only one author and creator of it all, too.

 

God, in the entire manifestation of who and what He is, is that singular point and Creator. When I say God in this instance I am making reference to all of our understanding of His person and identity; so, I am speaking of the presence and the involvement of the Father, of Jesus Christ the Son, and of the Holy Spirit in all that took place before the creation of the universe, during its crafting, and in the time that followed wherein it was all settled and humanity’s existence began. The true foundation of our world is set and settled in the totality of God, and the platform upon which humanity is intended to operate in this world is also established by God and made effectual through relationship with Him in totality.

 

So, if we claim to know God but deny the existence or the validity as God of any of His three persons, we are entering into a very dangerous area of belief and faith that is crafted by people for our own purposes and that goes against those foundational truths that form an eternally valid understanding of relationship with our Creator and Lord. Even Paul, as great a worker for God and His kingdom as he was, could only build up people in a faith that was founded upon the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord, and as fully God. We too enter into the fullness of God’s presence in us and in our lives as we surrender ourselves fully and completely to Christ so that He can take us into the presence of the holiness of the Father and grant to us the counsel of the unceasing engagement of the Holy Spirit within us. So it is in and through Christ that we set our feet upon that foundation of truth that God established from the beginning in order to grant to His creation secure and eternal relationship with God.

Violence shall no more be heard in your land,

devastation or destruction within your borders;

you shall call your walls salvation,

and your gates praise.

Isaiah 60: 18

 

In the light of the horror that is at the center of our news these days, the ideas expressed here must be a dream, a fantasy that the weary mind concocts while precious sleep insulates us from further exposure to life’s harsh reality. How can there be such a time and this sort of place? We live in an environment wherein violence is far too close to us to consider what it might be like to be without its presence. As it must have been in Isaiah’s days, so it is in ours. Death and destruction, hatred and fear, angry words and harsh shouting, and proliferation of personal and national weapons of war are the instruments that are playing the discordant symphony that presides over our world.

 

This dream-like vision is not as fanciful and as illusive as it might seem. It is God’s promise for the future when Creation is returned to its true and original design wherein sin and its death are abolished and Christ reigns in His rightful place as Lord and King. According to God’s Word this sort of peace will come after a time when the world will have devolved into the sort of chaos and upheaval that is very real today. I am not a prophet and do not pretend to know God’s plans or to be able to predict what is to come, but I have no doubt that the way that our world is going now is in keeping with God’s revealed truth about the force and the effects of evil in our world, and it is in line with the sorts of things that do precede Christ’s return and final victory over all that is evil.

 

Until then, we can still live in hope and be fearless despite all that is happening in our world. We can enter into the presence of Christ here and now so that His assurance of peace can be ours today. This is a gracious gift that God has granted to anyone who believes in Jesus, the Christ, as Lord of life and as Savior for now and all of eternity. A relationship with Christ does not remove any of us from the world where we live, but it does provide us with a form of hope that transcends the nature of this place and that adds the perspective of unceasing love and grace to our vision of the landscape around us. Christ removes His people from dwelling in the realm of darkness that pervades the world, and He transforms our lives into ones that are lived out in God’s Kingdom come to earth so that the spiritual walls that surround us are truly formed out of the timbers of the cross of Christ which has brought about salvation. Thus, we can sing out a new chorus to fill the ears of the earth with something joyous and that is infused with Christ’s hope as we lift up our experience of redemption in thanksgiving to be heard throughout the land.

As the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.

Psalm 42: 1 

 

A cool drink of water on a hot day; especially, on a dry day spent in a dusty place while doing physical labor, can be the most luxurious and the richest fluid that I have ever consumed. The choking dust is rinsed away, and that raspy, burning sensation that irritates the throat is eased. Then it seems as if the cells of your body actually soak in the water and become whole again. It’s truly amazing how desirable something that is so ordinary can become. 

 

The image here is even more striking, for I picture a deer that has been running hard for a long time, over a great distance, and as fast as it can move in order to escape a predator. The deer has had to use all of its skill and energy to sprint away from the hungry jaws that are trying to destroy it; thus, the deer is exhausted and its skin is torn from diving through brambles and bushes in its desperate flight. Now, after the chase has ended, wary of the potential for another attack, the deer needs to find water in order to be refreshed and to regain strength for the next struggle.

 

There are predators waiting along the paths of our lives, too. They are aggressive and they are cunning, and they come at us from the most unexpected of places and they strike at the worst possible moments. They seem to understand those times when my resources are at their lowest, and they hide out in friendly and safe locations in order to catch me with my defensive shields turned off. In many ways I think that the writers of the Star Trek series got evil right in their creation of the arch foe for the crew of the Enterprise, the Klingons, for they are cunning, deceptive, intuitive of weakness, relentless, and totally focused on their mission of destruction. These characters of fiction look a great deal like the real world where we live.

 

Yet, God grants us much more than just a momentary rest and simple refreshment. He gives us the healing water of His loving grace and forgiveness. Christ removes the angry toxins of sin that build up in our souls as we fight to survive in life, and He restores our bodies to the strength of spirit that Christ intends for us to possess. In order to be ready for the inevitable attacks that will come, for the intent of evil to assault people is inevitable, we need to drink deeply from the water of strength and truth that is God’s word. As we do this, we should wash our hearts in the cleansing streams of prayer and allow the Spirit of God to lead us away from danger and to God’s purpose.  

 

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

James 3: 13

 

Too often wisdom is presented with an assertiveness and an air of superiority that does very little to encourage those who are on its receiving end. People who are wise in this manner often seem to have a greater interest in how good they look rather than a desire to build up and to strengthen the understanding of those around them. There is simply too much self in this worldly form of wisdom, too much emphasis on personal gain and on winning a contest of achieved superiority. The way that a person would answer the question above, that is if a person who is self-important can also be self-aware, is very telling concerning the type and source of that person’s wisdom.

 

God’s wisdom is strong but never overbearing; it is all encompassing but not smothering; it is absolute but not authoritarian. As God demonstrates to us through his interaction with people and as Jesus has shown us through his life among us, wisdom and understanding are connected attributes. They exist in a form of natural balance that only God and His perfected creation can achieve completely.

 

However, the Lord does wish for us to live wisely and to apply wisdom with the type of understanding that marks his children as Godly. Christ calls upon us to be wise lovers of people; showing Him to others through our gentle and understanding handling of them. This is what behaving well in the fullness of the Lord’s wisdom looks like. This is a practical life demonstration of living in the center of the will of God.

 

Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

Colossians 3: 5

Here is a really tough personal challenge for most of us. At first glance, we might say that I don’t struggle with those things; they were part of the person that I was before Christ, that was what I did before I grew up and realized that there was a better way, or they are just a casual and a controlled aspect of my much greater new self. The problem with all of that is the standard that Paul sets out in the verse, for he says that we should consider ourselves as dead to them. Dead is a rather absolute statement, and it doesn’t leave much room for occasional involvement or for limited activity. Dead equates to none, to finished, and to buried and put away forever.

We are given an important clue to how all of this is to come about in the idea that, as stated previously in Colossians, Christ’s death and resurrection are what make this sort of fundamental change possible for us. Then, it is our own decision to fully accept the gift of grace and the transformation of our essential selves that are its result that takes these destructive elements that tended to control our lives and to set the tone for our relationships and place them into the permanently sealed coffin that is supplied by redemption.

So, as I look honestly at my life and view the actual way that I think and act, I am forced to note the still active and influential idols of my old self sitting in plain view on their shelf. I am forced to recognize that I still turn to them and allow them to take control of moments and of situations in my days; yet, I also know that Christ has eliminated my need for them, and He has replaced it with His far greater loving capacity to deal with life. The Lord tells me that when the voices of lust, anger, fear, self importance, and greed call to me that I need to be prepared to tell them to leave me for they are nothing but the whispers of the ghosts of my dead and buried past.

Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism (self-serving humility) and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind.

Colossians 2: 18

We people are an interesting group, for we are frequently drawn to the showy, the spectacular, the impressive personality, and individuals who seem to just have it all together and who appear to possess some form of special knowledge and connection to the divine. Being around them can make us feel as if we have drawn closer to God, and at the same time, they tend to make us believe that our basic and fundamental faith is a lesser form of worship. This sort of star worship is dangerous and it distracts us from our genuine position in our relationship with God.

In God’s design for His involvement with people, there is no one of us who is superior to others and none of us are of a lesser status. Our value, worth, and access to God are all established by our individual and personal relationship to Christ; there is no other requirement that God will place upon us and nothing else that we can do that will increase our righteousness in the eyes of the Lord; for, Christ did it all for us. So, when someone catches our eye with their statements about a superior way to connect with God, or they present us with exciting and interesting ideas regarding the worship of anything other than the Lord, Himself; we need to question the validity of those ideas based upon the truth of God’s word, and we need to focus solely upon Christ and on how His Spirit directs us.

There is more than enough excitement, mystery, and drama for me to be found in getting to know the lord more intimately. There is no reason to spend time in worshiping angels, philosophy, or other people, for these are, like me, the craftsmanship of God’s creative hands. God is the only one who is worthy of praise and worship, and Christ will always lead us to the full and total expression of that worship.

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