In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will.

Ephesians 1: 8, 9

 

Most of us love a well crafted mystery with all of its plot turns and complex characters. This is the sort of story that keeps us guessing; in fact, the writers of these tales frequently work extra hard at making the real facts obscure and even at deliberately leading us to false conclusions. God’s mysteries are written with a different approach, for they are created with a very different intent, by an utterly unique writer, and with the desire that everyone will get the singular clue to its unraveling.

 

God has been laying the story out before us forever, and He has never been silent or tried to hide the clues to solving the mystery from us. In fact, the Lord is an author who actually goes after His audience, and He desires more than anything else to enter into a close relationship with us. Yet, the great mystery of eternity remains unsolved by vast numbers of people, and every day many see, hear, and are touched by the clues to its resolution; still, they reject the clues as false, they say that they are too busy dealing with life to take the time to think through the puzzle, or they believe that they already possess the true key to open the door of eternity.

 

In the end, the solution to God’s mystery is found in Christ, and there is no other way to gain access to the sort of wisdom that brings the deep secrets of the universe into a form that is comprehensible to our simple human minds. Because God knows all and understands us completely, in and through Christ He gave us the gift of His Spirit to guide us into His word and to clear away the darkness that sin placed around our hearts and minds. Then the Spirit walks with us through life to continually guide us further along the path of God’s will. However, unlike mysteries that are crafted by human writers, God wants us to spoil the ending by revealing the secret to the rest of the audience; thus, the greatest gift that we can give to others who are participating in this grand life play is not the typical respectful silence, but rather we can proclaim Jesus, the only answer that everyone needs, with every aspect of our lives.

 

 

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May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15: 13

 

Hope is an amazing thing. It can take a seemingly impossible situation and bring a person through it when all tangible evidence would suggest that surrender was the only rational option. Hope seems to generate a sort of power for life and living that comes about out of that proverbial resource known as “Thin Air.” It is such a glorious thing that it is often likened to the sun and attached to the sense of possibility that arrives with its radiant appearance at dawn. Hope breathes life into the weak, it grants reprieve to the condemned, fills empty hearts with love, and defies reason and logic in doing it all. Hope is a gift, and its greatest expression in all of history is found in the Risen Christ as He goes from death into life and in so doing grants to us that same prospect and potential.

 

It is this hope, which is fulfilled in knowing Christ, that brings true joy and real peace into our hearts and minds. Although many forms of what is called joy surround us and its sources are made out of a very wide array of causes, none of them truly transcends all that life may throw at us over the course of our days. Also, if joy in its truest form is found in and through Christ, even more so this is true for that form of peace that settles deep in the soul and passes the through the tests that come to us all so that it is found to be genuine, enduring, and sound. This is a peace that redefines reality in terms that are framed in eternity and that are thus taken out of the realm of our control and management and are placed into the far more capable and caring hands of God. The presence of Christ in me has become the reason that I even begin to know and to dwell in the safety and the freedom that come out of knowing these gifts from the Lord that are identified as joy and peace.

 

So, back to hope. This is something that God has granted to us out of His unceasing and infinite love for us. The Lord is fully aware of the great challenges that each of us faces in life, and He desires to provide us with something that both takes us through those times and that grants to us the ability to endure all that comes our way in a manner that is distinctly different from the rest of the world around us. Christ’s hope places His followers into a new and a redeemed reality that looks beyond today into a future that is reshaped into the perfection of God’s creation plan. The joy and the peace that Christ infuses us with are resources that invigorate and revitalize us as we reach those points of great stress and strain that are a guarantee that comes with living in our world. They become most tangible as we turn our focus and attention away from ourselves and look upon the face of Christ so that the reality of His great love for each of us becomes the source for that enduring hope that releases us from the situation and the circumstances that surround us.

 

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5: 8

 

What does it mean to be a sinner? Many of us have heard about and even memorized lists of sins, and the consequences that can come our way if we engage in them. These are not good things to think, say, and do; at least that is supposed to be the way that God views it all. In this view of things, sin is bad; so, not sinning is good. This approach tends to set up a form of tension between doing what we want to do and doing what we are informed that God would have us do. There is some truth to this, but this is also an ill-informed understanding of how God actually works and the design of life in His redeemed kingdom come.

 

In God’s perspective, sin is rejection. It comes about as people turn away from Him and from His righteousness in order to think and act as we want without regard for what that might do or cause to happen in the lives of others or in our world. Sin takes people away from God’s designed patterns of engagement with the rest of creation and redesigns the rules so that our own desires are met regardless of the consequences for ourselves or for others. It moves us ever farther away from the love, grace, and mercy that are inherent in God’s creation plan, and sin then builds up barriers between each person and God, and by virtue of God’s implanted image in all people, it also divides us one from another. This thing that is called sin is the singular most destructive force that exists in relationships and especially in that which can be formed between people and our Creator.

 

However, God is not willing to see this world and our lives remain in this state of separation and conflict. He did something about this state of affairs, and the Father did not wait to see how we might act or even for our responses to His approach to us. In advance of anyone’s turning toward Him, God formed a plan for the redemption of all of His creation, and that plan was focused on the restoration of deep and intimate relationship with anyone of us who would accept the opportunity and the offer of grace that was extended. Jesus, God Himself, perfect and blameless, would yield Himself to suffer all that every one of us deserved by way of penalty for our sinfulness. This was planned and executed while we were all still buried in sin and lost to eternity. Christ gave all as an advance to our accounts so that we could freely enter into the redemption of love that God tenders to us. In this new state, Christ works within us to transform our thinking and acting so that the tension of righteousness is reformed into the nature of our being.

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.

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Colossians 4: 6

 

Shout it out! This is what our world seems to do with great vigor and zeal. People make their message known in ways that are clear and that do not lack for an aura of dominance. That is the point, I believe. In a loud and graceless world, the intensity of the volume in combination with the shock value of the language is being used more and more of the time as the starting point for a form of discourse that seems intended to shut off dialogue and overwhelm real listening. God inspired the writers of Scripture to mention our speech or the nature of our words so many times for a reason. That is because it does matter.

 

The way that we address others is a marker of the attitudes that we hold in the heart and of the way that our mind has been trained to think of people and situations. When we use derogatory terms, foul language, and negative stereotypes in describing anyone, we are operating on the exact opposite side of human nature from the way that God describes as righteous. The words that we select to use can be tools for constructive interchange or they can be intended to build oneself up while diminishing the other. One of these approaches can lead to peacemaking, relationship building, and demonstrates the Godly qualities that He places within people. The other devalues relationship while pouring fuel upon the fire of disagreement and difference, and it denies the existence of the God-image in others and in the speaker.

 

There is another way to conduct the business of this world. We have seen it portrayed by Christ and by Godly people throughout the narrative of the Bible. Although they felt passionate about causes and were driven to frustration, fear, and anger in the course of doing God’s will, they mostly remained gracious in the words that they used and made bringing others, even adversaries, closer rather than driving them away. The sort of calm and peace at the heart level that leads to measured and edifying speech in the most intense of situations is a marker of a person’s relationship with God. The devolution of the language that is used in our public and private interchanges needs to stop. Each of us needs to search our own hearts and seek God’s reckoning with the way that we think and then express ourselves. We also need to stop accepting mean-spirited, course, and derogatory expressions n others. Language is a gift from God; let’s use it to bring the flavor of Him into our world.

 

 

Arise sleeper, awake from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

Ephesians 5: 14

 

When Christ comes into our lives He changes the status of our souls from ones that are dead and already in the process of decaying into ones that are fully alive and that are then in the process of being transformed into souls that shine with the glory of Christ. Turning my life over to Christ and following His path of righteousness in my life has the effect of quite literally awaking me from the deep and dark sleep of that spiritually dead state into the light of awareness. As Christ shows me truth and His Spirit makes acting upon that truth an imperative, my now wide-open eyes begin to see that the world has a profound level of need for a savior.

 

This awareness is not a part of the thinking of a person who is still asleep, and, I fear, that there are times when those of us who do know Christ are also caught napping. We tune out the voice of our Savior as He points us toward the hurt, the broken, and the spiritually needy people around us, and we excuse our untimely slumber by pointing to how much energy we are using in order to survive the day or to all of the really good things that we are already doing for the sake of our religious practices. To Christ, these statements are simply excuses, and He asks, “Am I not enough, am I not all that you need?”

 

The honest, true, and real answer is, “Yes, You are more than all that I ever need.” So Christ calls to us to awaken and arise! If your heart and mind have slipped into a drowsy state, it is time to pull back the curtains and let the glory of Christ in. Then, it is also time to become like a rooster in the world crying out in celebration of the new dawn of life that is to be found in and through Christ. This day is the Lord’s, and He is ready to pour out His glory into each and every life that turns to Him. So, those of us who are already awake can demonstrate and speak about the life that we have received from our Lord, and by living in this manner, we bring the hope of true life to the world that we touch.

 

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in your book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.

Psalm 139: 16

 

There is a perfect balance and symmetry to the number of days that each person is granted in this life. Admittedly, that idea seems to be absurd to people who are faced with the end of those days, but it is a fact that has remained unchanged throughout human history. It is something that we can do nothing to change; yet, we are granted the opportunity every day to determine the effect that those days will have on our world. God, the Father, has granted to each and every person certain aspects of Himself; these are the qualities, characteristics, and talents that define our God-image bearing selves.

 

We get to put those gifts of the Lord to work. We are granted the freedom to choose to enter into relationships with others and to love them. The impact that our days will have on our world is something that God trusts us with. He provides the basic material for us to use in seeking after His way, and He grants to each person the opportunity to be a world changer. How we go about this is up to us. The most powerful thing that anyone can seek to do is to live in a manner that reflects the most basic and foundational of God’s character qualities. We can enter into life with an uncompromising passion and a commitment to care about and for others, to protect the weak, to support righteousness, and to love everyone regardless of what they return to us.

 

God entered into my life; for, He came to experience all of the joy and all of the pain that life affords, and Christ took Himself to the end of those days with purpose and with the intent clearly defined that His death would bring about my life. Christ engages with me during every moment of each of my days, and He grants me the ability to follow His lead by entering into the lives of others in a way that brings them into contact with life, itself. This is the nature of those days that God has ordained for me and for everyone. We can choose to follow Christ and make the moments impactful. God has given us the gift of Himself invested totally into each of us, and He has granted us exactly the right number of days in which to use that gift.