My heart is in anguish within me;

the terrors of death have fallen upon me.

And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!

I would fly away and be at rest;

yes, I would wander far away;

I would lodge in the wilderness.

But I call to God,

and the LORD will save me.

Psalm 55: 4; 6 & 7; 16

 

David feels like each of us has probably felt at one time or another. Whatever the cause of the fear and the anguish, it is real, and it is oppressively bearing down on him. There is no escaping the weight of it as there appears to be real opposition coming from within those who should be closest to him. Let’s face it, almost everyone faces times in our lives when even the friendliest of gestures can be misunderstood as being intended for conflict so that there is no rest to be found in the course of the day. These are hard times to be in the middle of, for it does seem like the safest and the best thing that can be done is to get far away from the situation at hand and from the people who are in our lives. Thus, we want fly off into the unknown out there as that far off land cannot be worse than the pain that is pouring over our heads in the present time and place.

 

Yet, there are not a lot of situations and circumstances where God actually tells us to run, to escape, or to flee to a far-away place. Most of the time, the Lord asks us to stay put and to trust in Him to come into the middle of the struggle and to join us in overcoming all that is causing the anxiety and the distress. Sometimes He reorients our thinking so that the real issues are sorted out from the ones that we are perceiving. This is often the case when we believe that the problems that are before us are being caused by people so that eliminating those people from our world looks as if that is the solution. God rarely leads us away from people; instead, He usually works in our hearts and minds to achieve understanding, forgiveness, and grace so that relationships are built rather than terminated.

 

Calling out to God is not always the easiest or the safest thing that we can do. Frequently, He asks us to engage with people and in activities that are uncomfortable or that even seem emotionally unsafe at that time. This is the place where our human frailty and our tendency to rely upon ourselves as the primary resource that we utilize in navigating life’s challenges collides with faith in Christ and with trust in the Lord to be our strength, wisdom, and true source of deliverance in all aspects of life. Christ asks us to follow Him into the stormy waters of this world, and He calls upon us to leave behind our apprehensions and our fear-inspired tendency to seek escape when things look too hard or when the task before us seems daunting beyond our capacity. These are those moments when we have little left to rely upon other than our voices, weak as they may be at that time, so that we can follow David in crying out to the Lord in anticipation of the saving grace that He will pour over us.

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He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.

1 Thessalonians 5: 24

 

When God calls to us, and, by the way, He always does, the Lord doesn’t just leave us alone to figure it all out. He always has a plan for how we can respond to Him and for what sort of support we will need in order to accomplish His mission in our life. Yet, I have discovered an interesting thing about the way that God works in my life in that His plan is not ridged. Therefore, He allows me to make choices and to reach decisions that are my own, and He still supports me in making them happen.

 

Taking action is more important than getting every detail perfectly right. Yet, moving forward is also much harder for me than planning and analysis. The Lord wants me to trust Him with taking care of the details as we go out into the great adventure of living for Him. God continually speaks to me. His voice takes on many shapes and has various tones to it depending upon the situation or the circumstances. Sometimes He whispers into the quiet of the night, at other times He shouts like the winds of a storm, and in some instances He speaks through other people; still, His voice is a constant presence that brings with it the Lord’s comfort, encouragement, strength, and wisdom.

 

Christ’s call is not so much expressed in terms such as “go there” or as “do that”; rather, He calls on me to live righteously, to draw near to Him, to seek justice, to love others absolutely, and to serve the Gospel of Jesus with all of my heart. Christ also tells me to let go of my hard grip on control of life, for trusting Christ and possessing faith in His will and direction for my journey is a much surer way to enjoy peace and deep joy in this world than any outcome that my tension-filled fingers could have ever guided me to. Christ reassures me that He is the actual doer of all that He calls upon me to accomplish. So, as I engage with what God calls me to do, the Lord promises that He will make His will my reality.

 

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

Jude 20, 21

 

Jude is dealing with the fact that there were people inside of the church who were not following the teachings of Jesus as they were taking people in a direction that was dangerous to their souls and that was destructive to the life of the church at that time. So, Jude counsels the people of the church in how to remain true to Christ and to stay on the path that leads to salvation. These are the sorts of issues that have existed throughout the history of the church, and they continue to trouble us today. Staying true to Christ has never been easy. There will always be people who believe that they have a better way or that there is an alternate doctrine that will make life more enjoyable and less challenging to live than does the rigid doctrine that comes out of a strict reading of God’s Word and a dogmatic following after of what Jesus taught and demonstrated.

 

Thus, Jude instructs us to stay engaged in and with God’s Word. This is the primary way in which we build ourselves up in our faith. God’s Word is dynamic and alive with truth that has no boundaries of time or place attached to it. The more that we encounter it in the course of living out our days, the more of the content of those days that will be spoken to by that living word. Through it God supplies wisdom, counsel, guidance, and the capacity to apply it all to living well in the time, place, and situation where we have been placed by God to dwell. Everyone who knows Christ has a place and a purpose in the church and in this world that we are to fulfill. God has useful and important plans for every life, and His will is often found and is always more fully comprehended through study of His Word and by virtue of meditation upon its content and meaning.

 

In addition to study and contemplation of God’s Word, Jude tells us to pray. Talking it all over with God and listening to the ways that the Lord speaks into us and responds to us is a vital part of living out our days as a follower of Christ. The Holy Spirit imparts that same wisdom, counsel, guidance, and application to us and helps us see all that is contained in God’s Word and guides us in applying it to our own situation and circumstances. The Spirit also comforts us when we are troubled and distressed, and He gives us the gift of courage when it is needed and pours strength into us when we are facing challenges of all types and causes. God’s love is found in His will, and it is expressed by us by embracing that will with all of our being. This is accomplished by entering fully into the truth of God’s Word as we communicate with God in prayerful submission to Christ in all things. The path through this life can be hard and the journey is filled with challenges and trials, but Christ has promised us His presence for every step of the way, and eternity with Him at the end of our travels.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 5: 1

 

Peace, we all want it; yet, it seems to work at being elusive. Peace is so hard to catch up to, it runs ahead a stays just one turn in the street and a couple of steps beyond reach all of the time. Despite the desires that most of us possess, a state of peacefulness is hard to settle into. Even the idea of resting peacefully can be disturbing and unsettling in itself. Turmoil and agitation are such a regular part of our world that they often define normalcy for us, and their absence is the thing that troubles the spirit and that incites the feet to run toward change. Yes, we are strange creatures, we humans; for, we claim to want to know peace and to have it settled deep in our beings; yet, we do almost anything to overturn its presence when it does happen to invade the place that we live.

 

Perhaps the issue is more with the place where we are looking for that peace and with the nature of the thing that we think that we desire. The peace that God wants to provide for us is different than that which we often say we want. Our first priority is for calm, quiet, and a form of settledness of the spirit that can accept life as it is with trust in God’s provision of an acceptable outcome. In itself, this is not a bad perspective, but it may not be the beginning place for the peace that God desires to see exist with us. The peace that God seeks to bring about in our lives starts at a higher place and has a purpose that transcends this world and our lives and that ventures forth into the eternal. The peace that comes through and by Christ comes about with no effort of ours and is a state of being that we either accept or fight against as it is conferred upon us by God.

 

All peace starts with Christ. There is no other way to commence understanding of it than by accepting Christ. He brings about healing and transformative change in our relationship with God, for Christ grants a new, redeemed relational status to each of us who surrender to Him. The war with God that exists from birth for each of us is settled by the blood of Christ’s cross, and we are established as residents in the Kingdom of God from that moment forward. This is not just a treaty status that can be easily revoked or modified; rather, it is a permanent recasting of the entire relationship with God that is formed out of faith in Christ and that is devised by God to grant us unending direct access to Him. This is the peace that all people actually need in order to know the sort of peace of the spirit that we think that we desire. The ability to live life with the certainty of our eternal status and with a state of being calm even in the great storms that come our way is the result of the peace that exists between ourselves and God, and Christ alone brings this peace into our souls.

 

 

Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.

Acts 8: 4

 

One of the most important things that people gain when we enter into a relationship with Christ is the unifying effect of God’s Spirit; for, through this miraculous event in which God comes to reside in our previously sin-separated bodies, everyone who believes in Jesus is adopted into a single family. We are given the gift of a core unity of heart, mind, and purpose; and we gain the strength and the sense of security that comes from that larger group. The word scattered means: to be dispersed far away from each other, and one of the images that comes to my mind when I think about scattering something is that of how farmers, in the days before machinery, used to take handfuls of seed from a bag and toss them about as they walked through a field. Satan also works at scattering God’s people.

 

In the situation that Luke was describing in Acts, there was large scale, aggressive, and violent persecution of God’s people. In other times, large numbers of believers have been arrested by those in power and removed to new locations; and most of us have been impacted by the sort of scattering that happens when the normal connections of our lives are changed through job loss, relocation, or other forms of life change. Regardless of what causes the separation, it is often hard to regain that former feeling of connectedness and to become fully involved in serving Christ in the new setting.

 

Yet, engagement, involvement, and pursuit of our calling is exactly what the Lord wants us to do; therefore, it is precisely what Satan wants to keep us from doing. When there is disruption and interruption in the normal flow of our lives, we need to seek God’s wisdom and find His purpose for us in the new setting, for if there is one thing that I am certain of, it is that God always has a plan for each and every situation and circumstance that I will encounter in my life. Although it is honestly and legitimately uncomfortable to be that seed in the hands of the Lord and the speed of the flight and the impact of the landing can be very harsh, our God promises that He will feed, water, and care for us in the new field where we have been sent, and that field is certain to be full of people who need to experience the love of Christ as He delivers it through our hands.

 

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

 

Violence is shouting out its fury and its rage in our land. There seems to be no end to its repetitive chant and to the tragic results of its actions. Sadness and grief follow in Lord Violence’s wake as night follows day. The shroud of death and destruction is seen in lands far away and in the houses down the block from where I sit now. When will it all end, O Lord! Where is the justice that Your Word promises, and when will the devastation be brought to an end? I fear that these days appear to be too much like the ones in Noah’s times when our world was described like this, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.” (Gn. 6: 11) At that time, Lord, You caused a great flood and wiped the slate all but clean in order to check the bloodshed. Today, we cry out for even the mist of a cleansing rain to come to wash the stains from our streets.

 

Yet, You do come. Your Spirit is among us, and You are dwelling in our homes and walking along our streets. The evil that resides among us and that brings its violence with it is not comfortably settled in our world. It is lashing out in desperation and in the blind fury of one who can see the end of its time. Satan has already tasted the bitter herb of defeat as he has observed Christ’s victory over all that he and this world could throw at Him. Even with the full weight of our collective sin upon His shoulders, Jesus overcame death and arose victorious from a tightly sealed and guarded grave. He comes now to take with Him the innocent ones that the dark lord has attempted to claim as his, and Christ also saves for eternity those older ones among us who turn to Him as our true Lord and Savior. There is no one that Christ wishes to leave behind when He proclaims the names of the righteous ones before the great throne of the Lord.

 

God has made another promise to us, for He has stated in absolutely clear terms that there will be an end to the days when evil and its violence will even exist upon the earth. Very early in humanity’s narrative we brought all of this destruction and death and the resultant grief upon ourselves by virtue of our sinful rebellion. In a day that will soon be upon us, God will send Christ back to end these days of Satanic tyranny upon earth. At that time, all that is cause for fear and everything that brings about terror will be thrown down and cease to exist in any form. The dark shadows of evil will be erased by the glory of the new sun that is the Lord and our darkened understanding of justice, mercy, and love will be made bright and clear by the light of truth that emanates from Christ. Until this day, we can enter into the peace and the love that God holds out for His people by claiming the eternal promise that is found in Christ alone. Even in these hard days before the fulfillment of God’s promise of total and complete redemption, we can dwell in the presence of the glory of the Lord as we are bathed in the healing mercy of Christ’s infinite love and grace.

The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

And He thrust out the enemy before you and said, “Destroy!”

Deuteronomy 33: 27

 

Personally, I am very uncomfortable, even disturbed, by the idea of destroying an enemy. So are most people who I know. In our world this is the sort of thing that gets handled in video games, but it is not what we are supposed to do in real life. On those occasions when it does happen, headlines scream about the brutality, and the violence of our world is called into question. Yet, there are enemies in our times, and they pose an enormous threat to our peace and well-being and to people’s eternal souls.

 

When Moses wrote these words, it was quite clear that he was speaking about the various groups, tribes, and nations that stood in the way of Israel’s dwelling in Canaan. However, the real issue wasn’t the groups of people that opposed them; the challenge that the Israelites faced was the one of remaining true to God’s will, to His expressed desire for them and to living righteously. They were continually drawn away from God by the satanic promise of a better way and a higher knowledge. The Israelites readily turned toward a seemingly easy truth that was defined in the eyes of people. The true destruction that needed to take place involved the utter cleansing of their world so that no scrap or crumb of evil would remain to entice and to entrap them. Yet, this was very hard to do, and they did not choose to follow through.

 

We are still faced with this same challenge today. God provides us with a place of dwelling that is currently situated in a very troubled world. For it seems that the actual dwelling that God is providing is the refuge of His constant care and absolute protection for our souls. His arms of grace, mercy, strength, and blessing do completely enfold His people. Still, we do have a part to play in fulfilling God’s plan and in living within our calling. We cannot wait and watch from the imagined safety of our sanctuary and silently allow evil to reign in our world. When there is wrong afoot, we must step in to protect the weak. As anti-God attempts to control our land and rule its people, Christ demands that His followers respond. Each of us is called to examine and to purify our hearts, and we are led by Christ to walk in the dangerous way of God’s truth. When we are face to face with evil, God orders us to use His weapons of grace, love, protection for the weak, and truth, and so, “Destroy!” the effect and the grasp of evil on those around us.