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.

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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.

 

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.

1 Thessalonians 1: 4, 5

 

If you thought that the last commission-based salesperson that you encountered was persistent, you have seen nothing until you consider the way that God goes after people. The Lord does not stop appealing to us until breath stops flowing into our lungs. He wants to close the deal with each of us before that final day comes, and He would prefer for it to happen much sooner than that. God’s motivation in seeking after people is very different too. He wants to be in a relationship with people in a manner that is deep, personal, and transformative for each of us. Christ also desires to work with and through us to bring love, truth, and peace into our world.

 

So, Christ’s tools of persuasion are powerful and compelling. He sends people who know Him out into the unknown of this world to care about the lives of other people and to share the profound importance of entering into a relationship with Christ with the people who they encounter. Yet, God does not just send people with words of unsupported personal experience, He also goes along in this journey of faith in the personal presence of the Holy Spirit within each of Christ’s people and by way of the Spirit’s own testimony to the truth of the gospel message of salvation and transformed lives by and through Christ. All of this presents a powerful expression of the relentless love that God pours out upon the people who populate His Creation.

 

Christ wants to know each of us, and He also desires that we would know Him very well. As we do come into that ever deepening form of knowledge and understanding of the Lord and of His heart, we will become ever more fully aware of His desire for each of us to be people who share the love of Christ with others. The Lord sends us all out into the numerous places in our world where He is not known, and He commissions us to live out and to speak forth His gospel message of salvation in those places and to the people that we encounter there. This desire to share the truth of the salvation from sin and the transformation that Christ is working within us is fueled and driven by the conviction of our hearts and minds that life and freedom are found in a relationship with Christ. This is the message that the Spirit within implores each of us to carry with us throughout the days to come.

 

 

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall man give in return for his soul?

Matthew 16: 26

 

Most people are collectors. For many different reasons we are wired to appreciate certain things above many others, and we hold on to these prized items and also to things that relate to them with a tenacity like that of those famous mother bears. We study the object of our passion and know more about it that anyone else, and we are always delighted to share what we know with others, for their lack of knowledge equates to a deficiency in them that needs to be corrected. At least that is what we believe. Some of these collections take up a large amount of space or time, and some of them a minimal or miniature. Yet, they are things that own a place of importance in our lives that is greater than almost anything else. They are frequently the pride of our hearts and the subject that brings out real joy in our expression.

 

Regardless of how much value these collections may have, none of them carry that worth beyond the last breath of our life in this world. They may not even be thought of as valuable or attractive to our heirs, for their sensibilities and needs are guaranteed to be different than were ours. So, these earthly efforts seem to ultimately serve our vanities and little else. Yet, this is not really about collections or even about pride; rather, this is about passion and its focus. God desires to be the recipient of the same sort of passion that we put into collecting those earthly objects, and He wants us to seek Him with the consistency and the drive that we do anything in this world. In fact, there is no good reason for us to not do this, for no one and nothing does for us what Christ does. His presence in us changes this world into one that is infused with the glory of heaven and the wisdom of eternity.

 

This transformed perspective places everything in this world into a new light, and as this happens, Christ reorients our understanding of our relationships to one that sees others with the love of the Creator and that values these people with the eye of the Father. Although living as a true disciple of Christ does begin with acceptance of Him as God and submission to Him a Savior and Lord, it means much more than that, For Christ imparts to His people a new value system that holds righteousness as its only valid means of measure so that it then pours out love, justice, peacemaking, and truth as its currency. Christ’s economy is different from that of this world, and it requires sacrifice on the parts of each of us who would enter into living in the fullness of Christ. Yet, that sacrifice is one that transforms us. It remakes our thinking and the actions of our lives into ones that bring the presence of the holy into the various paths that we travel, and this makes redemption the focus of our lives and the work of our hands.