Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1: 3-5

 

If you wanted to be completely certain that something precious, a possession that had immeasurable worth, would be absolutely safe from every possible risk of harm or loss, where would you put it? In order to accomplish this some of us go to a vault or safe in our homes, some use a bank’s safety deposit boxes, there are privately operated secure storage facilities, and some people employ guards to keep constant watch over their possessions. Yet, none of this or these methods carries an absolute and total guarantee of security. In fact, if we hold that God’s Word is accurate and true, they are all fated to fail utterly in the end, for all of this world will be done away with and replaced by something sinless and perfect in those eternal times to come after Christ returns.

 

There is one place alone where God’s perfection exists, for Heaven is beyond our world and outside of our experience, at least it is so in its fullest expression. Yet, we know of it, and we experience a portion of its glory in the presence of the Spirit in us and in our world. God has also gifted images of the eternal and of the realm of glory where He resides to us in His Word and through the redemptive love that Christ has poured out upon us. For me, this witness is very real, and it leaves no doubt at all of the existence of Christ as my Savior. I am also fully committed to the fact that this same Redeemer is also my Lord and the ruler over all that exists in my world and beyond. Thus, His truth is my truth, and His righteousness is the ethical and the moral perspective that I desire to have fill and shape every aspect of my existence. This wholeness of being that Christ brings to all of His people is guarded and protected from the corruption of this world; yet, it is still tangible and available to people in this life.

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ has broken through the dark shell of separation and death that sin cast over this world so that people have full and complete access to enter into an unending relationship with God. We are granted admittance into the glorious halls of heaven, and we are also provided with its immutable security and protection for our most precious of all possessions, our souls. We may live in a world that is failing with walls crumbling down before our eyes and over our heads, but in Christ, our souls dwell in heaven with the King and our hope is thus found in our vision of the eternal. However, our bodies with our hearts and our minds plus those heavenly souls live out each day in this world; so, we have a mission to engage in while we live here. We can bring that same hope of the glory of God into the presence of others during these days, and we are called upon by Christ to carry His living truth of grace, mercy, peace, and redemption to the other inhabitants of our world. As our souls are safe in heaven through Christ and by His resurrection, we can live boldly for His Gospel in all areas and aspects of our daily lives.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

Romans 12: 17

 

The late 15th to early 16th century Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch created many vividly detailed and fantastical scenes that depicted the unseen life of the spirit and within the spiritual realm. Some of these works portray the nature of evil in ways that are powerful and that, I think, grant us with a sense of the essential nature of evil, itself. The claws and snarling jagged teeth that are deployed in flesh ripping glee and the violent grasping of others in attempts to gain the upper hand are outward expressions of hearts that are intent on destruction and that are fully and fatally separated from God with His love, grace, and mercy. The kingdom of evil is a place where raging passions go unchecked and wherein destruction is the reward that loyalty to the cause receives. This is not a place where most people actually desire to dwell.

 

Yet, evil has an attractive side to it. Its power is intoxicating, and its passion can be highly energizing, too. It feels good to respond to slights, hurts, and affronts with their equal or even with the next step up in the process of response. This is the way of our world, and this is the natural manner of handling challenging and hurtful situations in our various cultures. However, this is not how God designed for us to live. Anger, violence, and misapplied passion are not the tools that the Lord gave to us as our devices for living together. These are things that we have developed out of our lost allegiance to the Prince of the Earth, and they come straight out of his toolbox. Still, it feels good and it seems righteous to respond with a stinging rebuke or with the removal of relationship when others have spoken to us or done to us like kinds of things.

 

Paul responds to all of this by reflecting on what Jesus taught and lived out in His own life. The Apostle tells us to pause, take that meditative breath, and allow the Christ inspired thoughts of our redeemed minds to take control of our emotions. Then we are counseled to do all that we do, say the words that we speak, and respond to others as an act of worshipful honor to Christ. This approach will change everything in our interactions with others. It doesn’t matter if the person that we are engaged with is close friend, family, distant acquaintance, or a stranger for they are all due to receive the same respect and honor in the name of Christ. This ability to engage with everyone in a loving and God-honoring manner was a distinct marker of Jesus’ way of living in our world. It should be the same for those of us who follow Christ. As we respond to evil with grace we infuse the heavenly into the harsh landscape of our world and touch its fevered brow with Christ’s peace and redemption.

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to Him, “You know everything; You know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”

John 21: 17

 

There is a quality to this scene on the beach that would be perfect for a film script. The setting is striking with the growing light of the early morning on the shore of the Sea. The fire would provide a dramatic glow to show the faces of Jesus and Peter as they dialogue. The emotion on Peter’s face could be emphasized by the way that the camera focused on his pain and confusion and their resolution in the loving words and actions of Christ. For here He is, the Lord of the Universe, the One who created it all, the King of Kings, and He is cooking fish to feed His wandering followers. Christ has come to bring the life of His grace to Peter’s broken spirit. Christ is reaching out to allow His truth to heal that brokenness and to set His people on the path that will take them into God’s plan and purpose for the rest of their lives.

 

Although Peter is one of the great figures in the history of the Christian faith, he seems to have been a great deal like most of us. He was not very consistent in his courage or in his application of God’s truth to the actual living of life. In simple terms, Peter fell down and acted the fool on far too many occasions. Yet, God had a plan for him and for his life, and God’s desire for Peter’s life would not be defeated by Peter’s own humanity. Instead, the Lord came after Peter with relentlessness and with understanding. As Jesus is talking with Peter, He probes some very sore wounds, and the pain that results is hard to endure. But Peter does come through the procedure. He is healed of the sin that has driven him away from God’s calling. Christ makes Himself evident and present for Peter and for the rest of us, too.

 

Most of us have Peter like stories to tell. We have failure and weakness in our lives and in our personalities that seems to dog us and to bring defeat to our journey. We carry with us the harsh reality of our sinful selves as it continually rises up and knocks us off of our feet. Still, after these dark nights of hopeless wandering, there is Christ. He is waiting for us to come to the warmth of the fire. There we will find the comfort of His presence and the strength that His Word brings to our starving spirits. God has come. He is with us. He asks that we turn away from our fears, get out of our self-focused thinking, and join Him in the light of His truth and loving grace. Christ is here to send each of us out into His pasture to, “Feed My sheep.”

 

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

James 1: 5

 

This thought makes me wonder about the times in which James lived. Was there more wisdom afoot then than there is now? You see, to me there just isn’t much of that great and Godly commodity visible in our world today. I don’t think that this is the result of my just hanging out in the wrong company or on the bad streets of my town, either. This unwise nature and function of people in general today is the product of deliberate choices that we have made. Unfortunately, lack of wisdom tends to inform the unwise, and the unwise frequently become the information experts for people who lack Godly wisdom themselves. This process of the clueless being counseled by the unwise isn’t just circular in nature, either; rather, it established a path of declension that heads ever further away from the truth.

 

The good news in all of this is that this downward path is changeable. Like a pilot is trained to take corrective actions when the plane is heading dangerously toward the ground, there are things that each of us can do to change the way that we are processing and responding to our world. Getting back to James and his statement, I think that he was posing a rhetorical question here in that I sincerely doubt that he was seeing all that much wisdom or that many wise people in his neighborhood either. The “if” refers to everyone in his day, and it calls me out and everyone else around me today. This is our problem as fallen people who live in a broken world. We lack God’s wisdom, and we don’t always realize just how much we are missing because of this state of being.

 

Yet, like that well trained pilot, we don’t need to crash and burn. We can do what our old friend James suggests here and seek out God and His wisdom of life. The Lord has placed it right before our eyes, and He has granted His presence in us and in our world to illuminate, illustrate, and explain His truths to us. We can read God’s Word on a very regular basis, and we can meditate and contemplate on what He is saying to each of us as we do this reading. The Spirit does speak and He will bring the eternal word of life into meaningful context for all that we are facing in the days to come in our world. As the old expression goes, in our relationships with God, “There are no dumb questions.” The Lord hears our doubts, concerns, and pleas, and He does answer them with the sort of wise truth that transforms our approach to life and that brings the order of Christ into our days so that we can give a touch of reason to the unwise environment around our doors.

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.

2 Corinthians 9: 6

 

This is a discussion about money and what we do with it. It is also a statement that applies to the things that we own, and it speaks to our attitude toward our time. Mostly, this is a comment on the way that we view other people, their needs, and our own sense of security in our relationship with Christ. He gave everything for us. Christ lived a life in which He took on our pain and suffering while demonstrating the depths of God’s loving compassion for His people. While doing this He continually looked to the Father and trusted Him to supply all wisdom, direction, and the resources that were needed.

 

Even with Christ’s example in mind, it is not always so easy to actually believe that God will supply me with everything that I need. So, holding everything that I have, including my money, prized possessions, and time, in fully open hands is not all that natural an act for me. It is even harder to risk exposing my heart to others in a manner that makes me vulnerable. Still, all of this is what God has given to me. He gives completely, absolutely, and without reservation for everything of significance that I have comes from His generosity. Most importantly, Christ gives me His heart, and in doing this, He changes mine from one that seeks to protect itself from exposure to pain and loss to a heart that can more openly share God’s love with others.

 

When we give we don’t get to control the return; yet, the more we give, the more we are acting like our Lord. The more open we are with our love, mercy, compassion, and understanding, the more we are transformed into the image of Christ. God’s direction for our lives is not easy, but it is simple. He wants us to openly and willingly reach out to all who are needy, all who are thirsty, and all who are alone. Then, He wants us to give everything that we have to meet those needs while fully trusting Him to continue to provide us with all that we will ever require for life.

 

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith – just as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness?

Galatians 3: 5, 6

 

For some of us, the miraculous is easy to see, and for others it is just not all that apparent. Yet, I will submit to you that God is truly and fully present in this world, and if that is true, then the sort of expression of Him that we think of in terms of miracles or the miraculous is, of necessity, also truly present. The God that I know through the way that He has been there throughout my own life is a very active and engaged being. Throughout history He has never taken time off. Even when people have turned away from Him, sought to devise gods that were more to our liking and comfort, and rejected the Lord’s wisdom and council; even then, He has continued to work aggressively for our redemption.

 

The Lord does this same thing in the world today. His presence is seen in the natural wonder of creation, and it is found in the form and the personalities of each and every person on the earth. But God is more real and tangible than just the way that He is found by virtue of His handiwork, for God actively listens to our words, He responds to our needs, and He enters into the course of the lives of people. The Lord brings about healing for broken bodies, and He leads lost souls to the eternal water of salvation. He also protects us from the almost equally assertive attempts by evil to harm us and to divert people from God’s desired path for our lives. There is a spiritual dimension to this world that is even more fully packed with action than is the busiest of city streets

 

So, in light of who God is and because of His ongoing involvement with my world, I do truly believe in miracles. I hold it as a matter of faith that God, in His will and timing, does heal the sick, He will repair broken bodies and remove illness and pain. The Lord does repair shattered relationships and put love in place where hurt and anger have driven it away. Christ, Himself, is the only valid and true answer to the disagreements and distrust that lead peoples and nations to engage in generations of animosity that leads to war. In all of these hard and difficult situations and circumstances, Christ can and does do these things that we view as miraculous but that He knows to be the usual and normal outworking of the touch of the Divine.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1: 13

 

Regardless of whether we are prepared or not, action will come our way. It might be physical in its nature or it could just engage the mind; yet, it will be there. This world is like that. There are forces at work in it that cannot be stopped and that will not be silenced. Some of them are determined to upset us and to send our journeys off track. They are subversive when it comes to following God’s will and desire for the lives of His people. Other action causing agents are more benign in their intent, but they are still disruptive when we are ill prepared for their presence.

 

The best that we can do to handle it all is to enter into God’s wise counsel and set the focus of our hearts and minds on Him. This sort of preparation doesn’t just happen; rather, it comes about because we have purposed and planned to be made ready for whatever comes our way. The Holy Spirit within us does the real work of this preparedness as we yield ourselves to His will and meditate upon God’s Word. Through this process of purposeful surrender our minds and our hearts enter into the sort of peace and calm that allows for them to function with the clarity and the confidence that Christ desires to grant to us. This is how we gain the foundation that is needed to walk through this world upright and balanced.

 

This equilibrium that was established by preparation for the day is maintained by keeping the focus of the eyes of our heart on Christ, Himself, as we go out into the storm. Every day in Christ is one in which we travel forward with the hope of eternity in our hearts and with the grace that we know with certainty will restore all that is broken and lost in this world to its creation glory upon our minds. Thus, the forces that bring about today’s action are tamed and brought under the control of the Spirit. It is in this manner that we become people who engage with it all for the sake of God’s kingdom and who provide the support and the peace of the Savior to others in their times of turmoil and trial.