The LORD is slow to anger and great in power,

and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty.

His way is in whirlwind and storm,

and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

Nahum 1: 3

 

During this season of Advent we tend to picture Jesus as a soft and cuddly baby, for that is how He came into this world in human form. There is something that is both comforting and is also quite extraordinarily powerful in that image. It conveys, among other things, the fact that God, Himself, was willing to enter into the same life that each of us lives in order to become the perfect and singularly acceptable sacrifice for all of the sins of humanity. It also portrays the reality that Jesus is subordinate to the will of the Father so that each of us who follow Christ are shown that we are to do likewise and seek out the will of God in all matters. But these humble and submissive images are not the totality of the ways that God is present in our world. This aspect of the account of God’s interaction with this world is not even close to the complete description of what advent involves.

 

God is truly with us. He has always been so, for this is true from a point in time that precedes all of the processes of creation that brought the heavens and this world into existence. God, as described by the prophet here, is mighty, patient, gracious, and righteous. He is not quick to judge as He desires for people to turn away from wrong-doing as they embrace His truth and His way of living; yet, He is also willing and able to enter into a judgement that is both swift and terrible for those who reject Him and His way of thinking and living. It is not easy for us to connect the reality of judgement with the image of the baby Jesus, but that is something that we must do. Jesus the Christ is the Savior of all of humanity, and He is also our judge. His justice is the foundational truth that underpins all of Creation. His righteousness is perfect and as such is beyond any of our ability or capacity to grasp except by and through the redemptive grace that Christ pours over and into all who submit to Him as Savior and Lord.

 

So, as we celebrate the joyousness of this season, we should also be entering into a time of reflection, confession, repentance, and acceptance of that grace. Christ came to us, and He did so in the most vulnerable of all possible manners, but that was done so that God could fully demonstrate His sovereignty, might, and unrelenting heart for justice in our world. God took that infant and raised Him up to be the only absolutely significant person to ever walk upon this earth, the Father accepted the grief of brutal loss so that sin could be extinguished, and He poured out His infinite power and might in the resurrection so that we would all see the Lord’s mastery over the elemental forces of this world. Advent can mean renewal, a form of revival for followers of Christ when we turn away from all that holds us back from fully participating in Christ and in His righteousness during our days. We know that Christ will judge the wickedness of this world; so, we are called upon by Him to live righteously, to proclaim God’s justice and peace, and to love all people and each aspect of creation with the same unceasing passion that the Father has lavished upon us.

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There are many who sat, “Who will show us some good?

Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”

Psalm 4: 6

 

This is the plea or the cry that should be going out today from every corner of the world, for they are all darkened and each of us is in need of light to show the way home to God’s peace and secure rest. Like sailors caught in an unexpected storm or airplane pilots when weather closes in, the world around us is swirling with fierce clouds of doubt, despair, and danger. They are driven by the unrighteous anger that has become the rallying cry of our day, and this hazardous environment is stirred up by our desires to control all of life in a manner that we see as advantageous to ourselves rather than in one that is responsive to God’s Word and will. It is no wonder that this sort of world is a harsh and a hard place to dwell. This is a landscape that even its own Creator must find hard to recognize.

 

Yet, the beauty that was molded by that same creative hand is present, and the glory of the Creator is not lost or driven away by our godless thoughts and actions. Those exquisite shapes, subtle shadings, and awe-inspiring radiance are simply obscured beneath this world’s false substitutes for their righteousness and truth. When these same substitutes fail to provide what our hearts, minds, and souls actually need for nourishment and for growth, people begin to search for new answers to their needs and desires. Sometimes this searching leads in the direction of God and His Word. At the same time, the Lord is continually reaching out to all of this world and to each of its inhabitants with His unfailing love, grace, and redemptive offering of Himself as the answer to all longing and need.

 

In Christ, we have the light of the Lord to guide our steps into that safe harbor that we all desire. Through Christ alone we can come into the presence of God and shelter in His all-encompassing wisdom and truth. Turning away from this world and from its loud but shallow enticements, we will encounter opposition, troubling relational differences, and hardships and trials of various kinds. However, in so doing, we will also be stepping into the unending light of the glory of God, and it will illuminate a new path for us to follow and an infinitely better direction for our hearts and our minds to turn in our needful search for that safe place to shelter when the storm becomes too strong for us to withstand. Christ brings us into the center of good in all of its forms and expressions. Christ directs our steps along a way where He transforms the darkest of hours into the radiance of new dawn as the truth of His Word grants the Lord’s confident peace to our souls so that we are empowered to live fully and openly for Christ without fear of the stormy and troubled landscape that surrounds us.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Colossians 3: 15

 

We might like to think that we are in charge of our lives, but whether we realize it or not, there are always ideas, concepts, and emotions that do rule over us. Even the most controlled of people and the most mature of personalities get to that managed place by virtue of what rules their hearts and minds. There are things which stir us up and things which bring us down, there are ideas that cause us to act in confidence and others that spread doubt, and at times conflict can grab hold of us while at others we are filled with a peace that defies reason. The amazing thing about being a person that God created is that I have the ability to choose the way that I will respond to life, for the Lord designed me that way.

 

When I think about the kind of peace that Christ exhibited, I find it remarkable in that His peace was not simply some sort of blissed out, everything is fine, nothing will ever bother me, Zen existence; rather, Jesus found His peace in and through knowing that He was sent by God, empowered by Him, and that eternal truth was His to call upon for wisdom and understanding in all circumstances and situations. This form of peace not only allowed Him to speak and act openly and honestly, but it required Him to live like that. God’s peace never stops loving others, and it always seeks to bring people together as it causes us to engage deeply, as Jesus did, in the lives of others.

 

When peace rules the heart, there is no longer the same compelling need to fight for our own rights. We don’t need to spend so much of our energy in looking out for ourselves; so, we can become open to hearing and to responding to other people’s stories. A heart that is at peace can handle the tensions of this world without needing to add to them. The peace of Christ is one of the greatest gifts that God has given to us, for we would never find this sort of inner calm and sound footing for life anywhere else. Still, it is my choice and it is your decision to let peace rule. It takes time and it requires practice in order to make a peaceful heart a personal reality; still, the realization of that reality is worth every painful step of the journey.

 

 

 

 

Teach me your way, O LORD,

that I may walk in your truth;

unite my heart to fear your name.

Psalm 86: 11

 

Truth has an uncomfortable way about it. It doesn’t like to stay hidden, and it is not satisfied for long to remain in the background of life. It wants to be seen out in the open, on the surface as it pilots a path for its disciples through the darkness of moral and ethical ambiguity that fills this world’s air and so attempts to cloud people’s reason and judgement. However, truth has a hard time with the ways of our world, and it attempts to get the attention of each of us when we seek to hide it or reshape it to seem to be made up of our own desired outcomes. I think that the challenge that all of us face when we subvert or deny truth in our own lives comes about because truth, itself, is both a characteristic of God and it is formed up and set loose by Him. It flows out of the totality of God’s Word in all of its expression, and it is a fundamental part of the undeniable foundation of righteous living.

 

Thus, there is no alternate or relevant truth. There is only truth or lie; genuineness or deception. Satan’s statements to Adam and Eve were not mostly true with just a minor salting of convenient reshaping of what is true; they were deceptive and destructive lies, and they were demonstrated as such by God in very short order. Today we live in an environment where people do not seem to value truth all that much. It is twisted, distorted, and manipulated by us in ways that are highly creative, are sometimes subtle or not, and are universally present with us. This move to abandon truth as an absolute is being led and even promoted by our most prominent leaders and it is being championed by large numbers of their followers and supporters. This has little to nothing to do with political affiliation as truth-bending is a tool that people on every side of almost all issues are using with remarkable ease. Relativism is a trap door that once sprung sends its disciples into a downward journey into the darkness that is found at its center. It sends its adherents ever closer to the core of Satan’s anti-God universe; so, it moves then on a continual path the leads away from God and His righteousness.

 

As stated above, truth is as relentless as is its author. It will not be suppressed for long, for the Lord does propel it out from beneath the places where people have placed it in an attempt to deny its existence and into the light of day where it reveals all of the sordid and destructive actions that people have engaged in. Truth’s vindication is a part of the victory that Christ has claimed over evil in Creation. So, it is also something that Christ’s followers can and must claim as we are new beings in Christ. First off, we must think truth and speak truth. There should be no room in our days for strategic partial truths or for convenient reshaping of fact. Where we have slipped into that abys of lie, we can repent and turn away from the sinful way that we have gone. In so doing, God’s grace is present for us, and He will fill our minds and hearts with the truth of His Word as we seek its presence. Where we see lies in our world, we need to call them out for what they are, and we need to engage with our leaders and with the decisions that they make so that truth has a voice in our public square. Even as we live out and speak truth in Christ’s strength, we will not prevail in our world; yet, the Lord will honor our efforts in ways that will bring glory to His name, and Christ will prevail over all when God’s time is at hand.

The one who scatters has come up against you. Man the fortress, watch the road; strengthen your back, summon all your strength.

Nahum 2: 1

 

Some people say that having faith in an unseen God and following the ways of a spiritual ruler are the actions of a weak and insecure person. Others hold that there is simply no need for this sort of thing; since, they already know where they are going in this life, and they have the method and the skill to get there well in hand. Yet, history, current events, and my own experiences all tell me that having confidence in personal control over life is futile at best, and it can be utterly disastrous, for it is usually foolish thinking.

 

How easy is it for the orderliness that was the game plan for the day to turn into a chaotic jumble that resembles that mass of wires behind your computer? You know the ones that I mean, they are the ones that always seem to twist and tie themselves into knots just before you need to change one of the components. In our world, there is an active force at work that is continually seeking to cause confusion and to bring about this chaos. God designed His world to be orderly so that we could be devoted to our relationship with Him. However; Satan and his forces of evil want to disrupt that calm, peace, and harmony; thus, they bring about anger, greed, oppression, destruction, disaster, and other forces and events that break apart our world and that shatter our lives.

 

When these hard situations strike, it is easy to allow them to shake our faith and to weaken our trust in the Lord. Because of this fact of living in this world, it is vitally important that we prepare purposefully and that we stay on the alert at all times. God tells us to stay inside of the fortress of His word and to keep it manned by actively and continually seeking the truth that it contains. He instructs us to pay attention to where we are going and to how we are getting there so that we stay focused on living righteously. The Lord desires for us to stay engaged with other people who share our faith in Him so that we can guard their backs and they can protect ours, and Christ pours the strength of His Spirit into us and surrounds us with God’s angels to provide us with all of the might and the power of His kingdom to support us in the fight.

 

Christ said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witness in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,”

Acts 1: 8

 

These are the last recorded words of Jesus that were spoken in the days after His crucifixion and resurrection. He was delivering those final instructions, what we might call marching orders, to His closest followers. These men and women would be charged with the task of going head to head with the world where they lived and with bringing God’s truth to people who were being deluded and deceived by most of the leaders of their governmental and their religious institutions. This was a dangerous task. It would be a thankless one, too. Almost all of them would be killed for their efforts. Yet, we can thank them with our eternal lives, and we can seek to follow along the trail that they blazed as well.

 

As I think this thought and now write it, it seems rather silly to say, but God is very wise. He knew that we humans would need more than just His written word and more than the testimony of our ancestors to follow and to serve as guidance for living righteously. In Jesus we had God’s presence in totally tangible form. God was with us in a way that was understandable and that was completely visible to the world. As Jesus left this world physically, God planned to leave the Holy Spirit with us. But He didn’t just leave the Spirit as a presence, instead God purposefully entered into us. In a way that is mysterious and miraculous, God, Himself, becomes one with our human existence. In Christ, we mere humans are infused with the personal presence of the Most High. We are granted the ability to begin to see our world through Divine eyes, and we are given understanding and wisdom that comes from their author.

 

God has invested His life in us. Christ’s care, concern, agony, and His very real blood have been spread over our sinful lives so that we would no longer be left searching for life. The question that this brings to mind for me is the one about what do I do with this gift that God has graciously granted to me? I have life, and I have God’s Spirit, God Himself, in residence within me. According to Christ I now have all the power that I need to follow Him absolutely. There is no force of this world or from beyond it that can stand against me. Nothing can take me away from my Lord, and He promises to reveal all of His will for my life to me as it is needed. All that Christ asks of me is that I surrender my life to Him and that I have faith in God’s plan to the degree that I will trust His guidance and live within His provision each moment of every day. This is not easy to do, but, again, I have the power in the Holy Spirit. So, this would be a good day to proclaim the truth about who God is and of the salvation that comes through belief in Jesus, the Christ. Today would be a very good time to live as a sworn witness to the Living King.

 

To Timothy, my true child in the faith: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 Timothy 1: 2

 

What a blessing, what a wonderful way to greet someone! Here is everything that a person could really need to make it through the day and to do it with something extra still left in the tank when the head hits the pillow at night. If we could only start out all of our interactions with others with this sort of mind set, this world would be a considerably better place to live. Consider the impact on others and on your interactions with them if you not only say that you wish them the grace, mercy, and peace of Christ but that you say it from the depth of your heart with the apparent desire that it is truly so for the person that you are speaking to.

 

As Paul engages with Timothy, he gets that the most important aspect of his relationship with Timothy is their common bond in and through Christ, for Paul knows at his deepest level that the connection that is made through the blood of Jesus to the true family of God is stronger than his human family ties. This is an eternal relationship that is lived out in this life. It seems that I often forget that God wants me to be the bearer of His blessings to the people that I engage with every day. If they have a relationship with Him, they are my family for now and for ever, and if they don’t know Him, I might be the one person who shows them what they are missing.

 

It is my prayer to God this day that I would set aside my cares, concerns, and fears so that I can bear a blessing to the people that I encounter in every corner of my world. In order to do this I need to realize that I am blessed by God in this same manner so that I think and act as a person who is graced by the presence of Christ and filled with His Spirit of peace, joy, and love. I also ask that I would value the people of my family of faith, the living body of Christ, in ways that will bring encouragement to them and glory to God. Lord, I give my heart to You; let its expression be a sweet reflection of Your love and grace.