Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time.

1 Peter 5: 6

 

Humility is a tough concept to grasp. Worldly wisdom says that if you have too much of it, no one will listen to you. Its voice continually directs us to be wise and to exhibit strength so that others will respect and follow us. So there is established a daily challenge for people who know Christ. For during the course of every day of my life there is more than enough wisdom and way more strength available to me than I ever realize and than I ever utilize. This is particularly true on the days when I am most stretched by trying to just keep up with the stresses and the demands that life has covered me with. These are the times when I am most likely to go deep into myself to try to find the resources that my ego tells me are always going to get me through.

 

My mind tells me that I have it all under control, that I always have the answers, and that I am the captain of my own ship’s destiny. Yet, my relationship with Christ is slowly teaching me that everything that actually works comes from Him. So, I am placed into a quandary of decision, for in the most demanding and stressful of times in my life, I need to become the most submitted to the love, wisdom, and grace of God. In other words, at the moment that my experience, training, and practice drive me toward independence and personal strength, Christ asks me to let all of that go and trust Him first, and this is counter to my well trained, deeply-held and intuitive response.

 

Still, the truth is that God’s hand is mighty. His loving heart is huge beyond description, and His desire is for me to prosper in ways that matter at the eternal level. When I take the time to pray my way into and through the hard conversations, interactions, and decisions of my day, the Lord never fails to give me wisdom, understanding, and the peace that I need to proceed. As I let God’s Word provide me with guidance and His Spirit mentor my decisions, things become clearer, and my responses take on a loving attitude that is not naturally mine.

 

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6: 19, 20

 

Why is there any distance between God and people? Did one of us get tired or bored with the relationship and decide to leave, or was there some sort of mutual blame for the breaking up of the relationship? If we choose to believe what the Bible says on this subject, it is clear that all of the blame for what is amiss in humanity’s connection to Creator comes about as a result of people’s willful desire to hold the upper hand and to plot our path through life exactly as we want to go and with our own sense of pleasure and security as our primary guide. We walked away and sought out the divorce, but God answered our foolish desire for absolute independence with His promise of unending love, total grace, and willingness to pay any price to grant us a way back into the relationship.

 

For a time God provided for the order in our world through the granting of His law and vested the maintenance of it with a chosen group of people who were to both follow that law and teach its principles to the rest of the world. God knew that this approach was nothing more than temporary and also that it was invested with the futility of human endeavor. We would not be able to resist the urge to take control of the law, and the chosen servants of the Lord could not restrain themselves from seeking after personal gain and power. So, from the beginning, God had a better way for the relationship between Himself and humanity to be restored.

 

Jesus is that answer, and His sacrifice is the way that the brokenness of this world is made whole and that we can enter into the holy presence of God without fear or regret. That veil of separation that was literally present in the temple in Jerusalem and that existed in the reality of all people’s lives was permanently torn and rendered useless by the sacrifice of self that Jesus entered into on the cross. We no longer require that people go before us to prepare the way to God’s presence. Christ has done that and now He serves as the only priest that is necessary for anyone to stand before God and to enter into the fullness of relationship with our Creator.

As for me, I am poor and needy;

but the Lord takes thought of me.

You are my help and my deliverer;

Do not delay, O my God!

Psalm 40: 17

 

These are the words of a person who appreciates exactly what it is that he brings to God by way of contribution to their relationship. As he was setting out these words, it seems that David was more than aware that his personal bank account of strength, wisdom, righteousness, and holiness was more than empty. He needed the Lord to provide even the most basic of life’s requirements. This was true in the area of physical provision, and it was powerfully true in the area of spiritual matters. David was dependent upon God for all in this life.

 

This sort of utter emptiness and weakness is very uncomfortable for most people. We want to have our own answers and provide for ourselves. This is how our world works. However, this is not the way that God’s kingdom operates. The wisdom, understanding, and strength that we bring to the process of living life are all tainted by the presence of sin in them and in our utilization of them. We see dimly and function darkly because the cloud of self-importance that swirls about our heads obscures our vision, and thoughts and actions are influenced by our desire for pleasure, comfort, and power. So, God often allows us to try it all on our own. He steps back and grants us the right to operate out of our own supply of resources until they run dry and until the strength that seemed so mighty has evaporated as dew in the mid-day sun.

 

Then, we are like David, poor and needy. Also, like it was for David, God does take thought of us. In fact, we are never out of His thoughts, for even in those times of living for self and operating as if God’s way were trivial, He has been present. The Lord is absolutely faithful in His relational engagement with each of His people. When we are at our weakest, He upholds our spirits. As we are desperately hungry, He sustains our hearts with His Word of truth and comfort. At the hour when our resources have all been depleted, we are most ready to surrender to the love that gave all to save each of us from ourselves. I am poor and needy, Christ come and fill my need with Your grace, mercy, love, and truth!

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

2 Corinthians 10: 5

 

Our minds are amazing things, for they are capable of solving complex problems, of grasping difficult concepts, and of creating great beauty. Yet, they are also very easily led down destructive and harmful paths. This is often the way that Satan goes after us. For he slips a bit of slightly wrong thinking into the rational patterns of our minds, and he works his way into the smallest point of weakness that we allow to form in our spiritual lives. Then, those toe holds of deception start to grow and to develop into serious areas in our lives where God’s truth and His gracious love are overshadowed by deception.

 

Yet, there is real hope in all of this; since, Christ wants to join us in the fight against this very sort of wrong thinking, and He has already provided the answers that we need and the source for finding all of the wisdom that we will require to face life’s challenges. God wants us to take everything that we are thinking about, all actions that we are considering, and each aspect of our days and check our reason and logic against His Word. That means that we need to stay consistently engaged with the Lord through prayer, reading of His Word, and by listening to His responses to us.

 

There is nothing that is too small or insignificant, there is nothing that is too large or complex, and there is no issue that is too contemporary for the Lord to be interested in and capable of responding to. All that we do and every thought that we have fit into God’s design for righteous living. However, we do need to plan and to purpose to surrender our will and to seek God’s wisdom regularly, continually, and in all circumstances. Every thought that crosses my mind needs to be surrounded by the perfect circle of truth and love that is the protective boundary of Christ’s relationship with me.

 

And he (God) said to man,

“Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,

and to turn away from evil is understanding.”

Job 28: 28

 

There is a theme here that runs throughout God’s Word. God is to be respected, reverenced, and viewed with absolute awe and wonder. The Lord does, in fact, know all and see all, and He is engaged in everything that takes place in heaven and on earth. There is nothing that people can do or any sum that we can pay that will secure our relationship with God. Also, none of our skill, capacity, or wealth is sufficiently great enough to bring wisdom to us. Wisdom is something that is possessed by God, and He grants it as a gift to people who know Him, for the Lord is fully aware of the fact that people who do not know Him have no true desire to use wisdom for its intended purpose and also have no capacity to embrace it fully and honestly.

 

We come to know God through surrendering ourselves fully to Him and embracing Christ as the Lord of our lives and Savior of our souls. This surrender of self to Christ is the price that we must pay in order to acquire God’s wisdom. For most people, this payment is greater and harder to tender than anything else that we will ever purchase. Yet, the return on this surrender of self to Christ far exceeds all other investments that we will make in our lifetimes. Thus, as we live as followers of Christ, God becomes our greatest treasure, and He grants His wisdom as a gift to us; so, living as people who are wise from God’s perspective becomes our desire for the journey through our days.

 

As Job understood it, wisdom turns to application as we discern what is from God and what is not in our world and choose to turn toward God’s will and way through life and away from its opposite which is evil. There is a difficult simplicity in all of this, for most of us would prefer to see the moral and the ethical decisions of our days in shades of grey or as points on a continuum of good to bad. Yet, God says that there are only His way and that of the world. God’s way leads to life and the world’s points straight to the door known as death. Christ grants us the ability to discriminate between the two paths, the strength and the will to make those hard choices, and the encouragement of His Spirit to live out the choices that we make.

If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office on those days.

Deuteronomy 19: 16, 17

 

If we expect that justice will prevail in our land, we need to be willing to yield its interpretation to those who know its source. God’s Law as expressed by Moses was intended to create a framework for humans to access the mind and the heart of God in the ways that we dealt with each other. The Israelites were required to transact life along in Accordance with the way that God intended for them to do it. They were to be respecters of property rights, to care about the long-term impact of their actions, and to hold life as a sacred gift to be protected and nourished. They were to be a people who occupied the land on behalf of its righteous and just King.

 

The details of the judicial code have changed. The way that our societies are organized is very different. Our property rights and human rights are managed by a different system than was in place in those ancient communities. Yet, the underlying truth has been altered very little by the passage of time and through our cultural development. God still holds humanity to a standard of behavior that is above any that our legal codes consider. He continues to speak a truth to our hearts and our minds that exceeds that which our governments have created. Thus the Lord calls upon people to be bound to a commitment to justice that comes from deep within our beings. We are to be lovers of humanity who are determined to live in the center of Christ’s righteous grace.

 

Unfortunately, there is much that is broken in our world. We live in the middle of moral decay and of ethical emptiness. I think that God wants us to do something that these ancient people of Moses’ time would have done. When things were going against God’s clear will, they frequently went before God and confessed their own participation in the sin. They turned first to God and sought out His voice so that they would know what He was calling them to do to bring about the restoration of righteousness in their land. No one is without guilt. None of us are sinless in this time of worldwide sin and godlessness. It seems that God wants us on our faces in humble submission to Him. He wants us to repent and to listen for His voice. Then He desires for us to take the actions that He calls us to without regard for ourselves. We are to pray unceasingly, to love boldly, to sacrifice all of ourselves, and to seek justice for everyone. The only justice that we can anticipate and count upon starts within our hearts and culminates in Christ.

Before they call I will answer;

while they are yet speaking I will hear.

Isaiah 65: 24

 

God is speaking of redemption here. This passage is descriptive of the way things will be as a result of His restorative work. I think that as we look at these ideas we can take great personal comfort in them. Although much of what is being discussed in this part of Isaiah is about a world that is yet to come on a global scale, Christ’s redemptive and therefore restorative work in the lives of people is accomplished. In Christ we know the new life that is God’s promise. Through Christ we are known fully by the Father and are recognized as beloved children of the Most High Lord.

 

In this relationship with God we are granted the blessing of the presence of the Spirit who speaks to our minds and our hearts and who provides us with a form of knowledge and wisdom that exceeds all other. This is why we can take confidence in silence; that is, in our own silence. We are in a relationship with God in which He listens to the words of our hearts and hears them before we have begun to form their sounds and sentences. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t speak out to God, for this expression is a part of the way in which our trust in Him is formed and developed. However, we can also sit in the silence of our wordlessness and have faith that we are still being heard.

 

It is this manner of connected communication that sets God apart from other gods that people follow. These other gods demand the attention of people and speak out in utterances of edict and command. The God that I know listens to my heart and hears the expressions of my soul. He enters into the issues and the concerns that I hold and responds out of His deep love for me. He still commands and pronounces truth and righteousness as His absolute way of living. However, the Lord does these things from the perspective of a loving father who is growing me up into the grace and the peace of maturity and the functionality of wholeness in mind, body, and spirit.

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Amos 5: 24

 

When I think about a flowing stream, my mind gives me a picture of a peaceful, mountain setting with the water rushing past and the air filled with the happy sounds of splashing and crashing currents. This is a peaceful and pleasant scene; it is one that brings on a set of thoughts that are visual, auditory, and whole-body enveloping in nature. There is life in this place. The promise of refreshment and nurture fills the moment. Also, power is present. That water is relentless in its forward motion, and it will sweep along all that gets into its way. It cleanses and it purifies as it helps to shape the contours of the world that it touches. The stream that Amos calls upon us to envision is eternal, and it can never be dammed up or even slowed down. It flows from the very presence of God.

 

Although justice and righteousness come from God, He desires for us to be their champions. It would seem that living justly starts in our hearts. It is something that does not come all that naturally to people. Instead, we tend to take care of our own wishes, needs, and desires preferentially to seeing and to engaging with those of others. We may say that we desire to live in a just world, but our definition of what is just tends to be much narrower and personally safer than Christ’s. Whereas He holds that all people deserve to be treated with respect, kindness, and love; we tend to make significant exceptions to our list of qualified recipients. Christ grants grace, mercy, compassion, and healing to all. We condemn and judge far too many. According to Christ, there are none who do not deserve the chance to know His love and to accept His healing, and no one other than Christ is empowered or authorized to pass judgment on people.

 

If we are to answer the Lord’s call to bathe our world in His justice and to cleanse it with the eternal stream of righteousness, we must start with our own lives. Possessing a heart for justice is a work that Christ does in us. It is something to seek after. It is a subject for deep contemplation and prayerful submission to Christ so that His Spirit can begin to make us aware of the attitudes that we do hold and work in us to transform them into ones that express His will. This is an immediate need in our world. Evil and its oppression work relentlessly to crush the spirit and the life out of people in each corner of this and every other community. Living justly and delivering justice is a very powerful way to bring Christ into the lives of many. Justice breathes life into our souls, and righteousness sustains us for all time.

 

And Jesus awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be Still!” And the wind ceased and there was great calm.

Mark 4: 39

 

On some days it feels as if God is truly asleep. The waves of outrageous misbehavior are crashing onto the deck of your life and drowning is the surest thing on the horizon. Angry words and malicious thoughts are being hurled your way with the force of a hurricane. At the same time someone has set you out to sea in a very inadequate boat that was provided with a crew that is amateur at best. This is a very bad day, and it promises to get worse as it goes along. Yet, the journey that you are on does, in fact, have purpose. You know that God has set you on this particular course, for His hand has been visible in so much of what has transpired in your life to put you in this place at this time.

 

The experience of living has demonstrated in your own life what has also been depicted with great clarity in the lives of generations of people in God’s Word. God is faithful, and He goes with us through everything that comes our way in life. He has answers for all of it. There is no force of nature or certainly any force of man that is beyond God’s control or outside of His capability. However, we must realize that we are traveling in a danger zone. There are constant storm warnings posted for this life, and God does not attempt to stop all of the turmoil that evil stirs up from impacting this world or our lives. What He does say to us is, “Trust me. Rest in me. Know that I am here, and you are secure in and through it all.”

 

In that storm tossed boat on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus wasn’t asleep because He was indifferent to their situation. He was able to rest fully in His trust of the Father under all circumstances and in each moment of life. Christ asks us to do the same. Trusting in God doesn’t mean that I become complacent or fatalistic about what is happening in my world. I still keep handy that bucket for bailing out the water, and I make sure that the pumps are working before I set out to sea. Still, I can be certain that the storm will come, and the tortured waves will try to overwhelm me. Despite all of the chaos that is surrounding me in this time, I can hear the voice of my Lord, and He is speaking to my soul, “Peace, my beloved child. Be still and know that I am God.”

This God — his way is perfect;

the word of the LORD proves true;

he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

2 Samuel 22: 31

 

David knew troubled and turbulent times. He fought and contended with enemies from outside of Israel and from within his own family until he was too old to stand on the field of battle himself. Then, his followers took up the cause of leading the defense of the nation. Yet, despite their great successes in battle, David knew that the Lord had always won the real victory. In fact, on many occasions David had prevailed despite himself because God remained true to His calling of David to be King over the nation.

 

So, the aged King reflects upon his life and his relationship with God in this song of thanksgiving and praise. This God, the Lord God of the Universe, is the singular example and model of perfect righteousness. His voice is the one that leads people along a path that takes us to a life that is lived out in close proximity to the center of God’s will. As we consider our own lives and the times in which we live, I think that this is still an absolutely true statement. The Lord is calling us to follow Him in waging war against the deceptive evil of an enemy that is violently bent on the destruction of souls. Yet, I think that this war is to be fought with a different form of weapon than the ones that David used.

 

For us, Christ stands as the example of a warrior for the cause of redemption. God’s Word provides us with knowledge and understanding of the nature and the character of God and leads us into His will for us. The Spirit of Christ grants understanding and wisdom to our hearts and our minds so that Christ’s love for all people and God’s desire for redemption for all souls can guide our prayers, thoughts, and efforts. In today’s worldwide battle against evil, I think that followers of Christ are called upon by God to be the ones who are trusting in our Lord to protect and to care for us, and we are to be the ones who are holding God’s shield of refuge up for others so that they can come into that same saving relationship with Christ.