Understanding


Let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1: 4

Endurance is a word that brings out images of things that aren’t always so pleasant. These include copious amounts of sweat, long hours devoted to self torture, studying through the night in order to stuff data that is too big for my brain into its corners, and collapsing to the ground in a painful face plant when the legs are long past nonfunctional. Endurance is just not something that most humans find all that attractive. Most of us just don’t do it very well. We do not endure to the very end.

Yet, endure is what God has done with us, and endurance is what Christ needed to make it to the end in order to secure my place in God’s kingdom. Despite the insults, the indifference, and the failure that we people bring to the relationship, God continues to love everyone, to care about all of our needs, and He will stick with us until the very end of all that we are dealing with. God entered into a promise, a covenant, with us, and He does finish the course to its completion. In the process, He invites us to decide to join in and rely on His strength, wisdom, and encouragement to finish well ourselves. 

Regardless of what this day holds, the Lord has a plan for it. He does ask us to trust Him that this is true, and He does want us to keep going even when the weight of our concerns and cares seems beyond our capacity to hold up. There is victory to be found in those final, painful steps. There is glory to be gained by crossing the finish line as we realize that the strength to get there actually belongs to the Lord and is also supplied by and through His Spirit. It is then, when the only strength that I have belongs to the Lord, that I understand that each step I take in trust is a step deeper into the will of my Savior.

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If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

James 1: 5

There is almost a note of challenge in this “if” expression, for should I answer that I have it all, in other words that my wisdom vial is all filled up, thank you anyway, then I am probably labeling myself as a fool. For most people realize that absolute and total wisdom belongs to God alone. This thought also causes me to consider if I have all the wisdom that I need for what I am doing and have going on in my life at this moment. Again, the Lord is quick to show me how little of life I truly get and how much of a difference His grasp on matters can make in my success and in the real quality of my life.

The way that God hands out His wisdom and leads me to the understanding of life that comes out of it is one of the most highly valued and special aspects of knowing Him. The Lord isn’t like most people and He certainly isn’t like me, for we tend to make a big deal out of sharing our special insights and leading others to the profound truths of the universe that are stored away in our brains. People become overbearing, condescending, and seek to gain an advantage over others through the use and the manipulation of knowledge. Yet, all of these anti relational ways of interacting with others are unwise from God’s perspective. In contrast, God holds out His hand and says that here is a gift. Let me bless your day with all that you need to serve Me well and to bring My presence into the lives of others.

As for myself, and I speculate that this is true for all of us, I can change the conditional “if” of this verse into an absolute “when”, and I need to add that the time for my need for God’s wisdom is always. The Lord grants to me total access to His understanding of every situation, circumstance, and condition that I encounter in my day. Also, God uses this learning process as a way of showing me what righteousness looks like; thus, He brings me closer to Him through it all. Now I do realize that absolute and complete understanding of all that goes on in life and beyond will escape my limited and finite grasp, but I still trust the Lord to reveal to me all that I do need to travel through life as His child in this world. When I seek God’s wisdom, I am opening up myself to the wondrous, transformational, and restorative work that He desires to do in my heart and in my mind.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Colossians 2: 1-3

There is wealth to be had in our world. Its availability is something that is spoken about regularly by various voices that are inspired and influenced by divergent sources. If any one of us is lacking, then there must be something amiss with the way that we are going about life, for there is abundance to be gathered up from the pavement of our streets. Depending upon the speaker, this bounty may be financial, positional, be defined by power, or be counted out in various types of spiritual currency. It is said that all that is really required of people in order to be wealthy is to follow the right leaders and to ascribe to proper teaching. Then, our accounts will be gorged upon the world’s abundance, and our lives will be lived out in the luxury and the comfort of plenty. However, this idea of easy riches and of universal wealth is mistaken, and it can lead people far away from the only enduring riches that exists in the universe.

This essential difference in what it means to be wealthy is one of the great mysteries of faith in Christ. God views wealth from a different perspective than do most of us that are looking outward from the earth. For we see only what is right before our eyes, and our depth of vision is restricted and cut off by the haze that is in the air around us and by the curvature of the earth itself. No matter how hard we may try to see or what aids or devices we might employ, we will never view the entirety of what is out there in our world or in the air above us. Additionally, when we consider wealth, we tend to think in terms of things that we can hold in our hands and that give us that desired position or power in our world. God contemplates what is means to be wealthy in far less tangible terms as His treasury is filled beyond imagining with all that has real meaning and that carries with it eternal significance.

In Christ we posses all that endures beyond the grave, and at the same time, we are blessed by and through Christ with the full extent of what is needful to live fully and joyously during our allotted days of life on earth. The luster and shine and the absolute beauty that radiates off of God’s knowledge and wisdom exceeds the glitter and the glow that is given off from this world’s brightest diamonds or its storehouses of gold. Nothing that we can acquire by way of earthly authority or by means of human wisdom can begin to replace the wonder and the blessings that are to be found in exploring the depths of a relationship with God. Thus, the great mystery that Christ reveals for us is the one in which all people can be equally wealthy as we stand on common ground at the foot of Christ’s cross and are filled by His Spirit with the love, grace, truth, and wisdom that define what it means to be blessed with riches beyond all comparison. 

Those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.

Galatians 3: 9

Abraham was blessed by God in many ways, for he had a long, close, and very active relationship with God in which the Lord led Abraham to a land of promise, provided him with position and prominence in that new home, and gave him the greatest desire of his heart in the form of a family. Yet, greater than all of these blessings was the promise that God made to Abraham that he would be the starting point of a long line of people that held fast in their faith in God.

Although Abraham was a dynamic leader who exhibited courage and wisdom, for he was an astute manager of his business interests, and he was able to negotiate treaties and contracts to his advantage, the thing that he is remembered for is still his faith. Abraham trusted God, and he allowed that trust to grow under the continual influence of the Lord, too. He was also willing to accept the grace of God as a vital part of the blessings that he was receiving, for Abraham frequently put himself into situations where God needed to save him from himself.

Ultimately, the story of Abraham gets down to a very simple reality. It is one of continuing day after day to just put one foot in front of the other with the confidence that trust brings in the assurance that God will provide a solid place for that foot to land. Even on the days when the swirling winds of uncertainty and fear are trying to obscure the path, I know, as did Abraham, that the Lord will take my hand and that the light of His glory will penetrate any darkness. In Christ we can have faith that we will come through the moment whole, with no real injury, and stronger from the experience. As we journey through this often foreign land that is life in the world, we can join with Abraham in enjoying the blessing of God that comes through faith in His perfect will as we are sustained by the Lord’s infinite grace and love.  

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

Luke 24: 30, 31

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

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

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

For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind,

   and declares to man what is his thought,

who makes the morning darkness,

   and treads on the heights of the earth—

   the LORD, the God of hosts, is his name.

Amos 4: 13

When we are face to face with God, there will be two possibilities. We will either be looking upon the eyes of one that we know and who knows us with the deep intimacy of a close and loving father, or we will see the folly of our rejection of that same Holy One. On that inevitable day when all that has been the life that each person has lived is counted and given a reckoning by God, it will be too late to decide to repent and turn to Him. On that day and in that moment when eternity becomes existential reality, God’s presence and His holy justice will be too clear to turn away from or to continue to ignore. Beholding the face of the Creator, the one who formed the world that we have walked and the designer of each of us will be an event of joy beyond all human imagining or it will be terrible past anything conceivable.

Amos has been making an appeal to Israel and to its people to recognize the foolishness of their ways in that they have been living far outside of God’s expressed will. Their worship is false in both form and in intent. Their lives are dedicated to serving their own desires rather than to seeking to know God well and to give of themselves in worship of Him. The passage that comes just before this verse describes a number of actions that the Lord has taken to attempt to get the attention of the people of Israel, but they have not turned to Him in any of these instances. God promises that this state of sinful living will not be tolerated by Him for very long. There will be consequences, and in the end, there will be a day when all people will be required to fully behold the Lord.

Where Amos describes various forms of calamity and natural disasters that God has allowed to come upon Israel, in today’s world God tends to pour out His grace, love, and mercy upon us. Yet, we should not take God’s grace or His patience as a sign of either weakness or of permission to say and to do anything that pleases us. For, in the end, God still holds His standards of justice, peacemaking, love of neighbors, and devotion to Him as absolute. Through Christ we can be forgiven of any and all of our sins, but that grace is not a license to live as we might please. Instead, God desires to work in and through each of us for the redemption of a world that is heading along the same path of death and destruction as did ancient Israel. We will each behold God as the conduct of our life is judged; so, how much better would it be to behold His Christ every day of what is left of this earthly term and to be pronounced faithful and worthy at that final hour?  

Owe no one anything except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13: 8

The daily news has been shouting at us for quite a while now so that almost everyone is fully aware that there is a “Debt Crisis” in our world. Our governments have entered into obligations that can’t be met with the available resources. Individuals continue to spend money that they don’t have and that they have no real hope of ever seeing. We also incur debt in many other ways, for we make commitments and we enter into relational obligations that we really have very little intention of meeting. As we try to keep pace with our culture we are driving our personal and our societal balance sheets deeper and deeper into the red.

Christ wants us to stop. Stop writing the checks, discontinue the charging, and put a hold on the new commitments. He wants us to step out of the swirling masses that are flocking to the newest and the most exciting of sales events. He tells us to get on our knees and to seek His face in prayerful submission to the wonder and the power of truth. In those moments of quiet meditation God’s Word and His Spirit will speak. When knowing God’s heart is the desired outcome, He will reveal the truth of what is real love. Christ demonstrated it for us every day of His life in this world. God has been relating to people from the perspective of love for all of our history. We are called by God to respond to Him by loving Him with such totality of being that we can do little else except to love other people as Christ does.

This is an ideal, and the life of absolute and total love is not an easy one to accomplish. It wasn’t easy for Jesus in that it required Him to set aside His position and its glory and to sacrifice all to do it; yet, that was what He did in response to God’s expressed desire. God’s expressed desire for me and for you is the same. He wants us to live in the simplicity of righteousness. He tells us to stop entering into agreements that bind our hearts and our minds to impossibly heavy burdens of debt. Christ leads us down a road that takes us into a state of being that transcends this world and its earthly obligations and that brings us into the place where we are dwelling in the perspective of the Father. In God’s economy we are indebted only to Him, and He requires that our payments be made in loving interaction with our world.    

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