And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

1 John 2: 17

Durability is something that matters to most people. We consider it when we are looking to purchase items that we might want to have with us and use for a long time. We also think about it when we consider things like career choices, long-term housing selection, and relationships. We not only want each of these things to last for an extended period of time, but we also desire for that tenure to be one that is filled with enjoyment, satisfaction, and even appreciation in value and worth. Yet, the place where all of this takes place and on which it is constructed is, itself, failing and crumbling as it traverses its final epoch od existence in its current configuration. God has promised that this world will come to a terrible and even catastrophic end at a date that is certain to Him but that is left undisclosed to us. This will take place so that its great, glorious, and redeemed replacement can be launched forth by God; thus, all that is here now needs to be removed.

God has included us in His plan for what comes next. We are not necessarily included with the physical world in the need for removal and destruction. Jesus has given each person the opportunity to gain a place in an eternity that is formed out of God’s love, grace, and desire for an unending relationship with us. Eternity for us is found in and through Christ, and all that surrounds us in this world will find its own form of that same redemption by the word and the work of Christ upon His return to dwell upon it. All of this is a part of that great and rather mysterious thing that we can call God’s will. It does seem to me that God’s will is defined by certain big picture concepts. These include redemption, restoration, peacemaking, grace, and a form of love that is enduring and self-sacrificing. We engage with God’s will when we live in a manner that reflects these qualities and that is modeled after the life that Christ lived and the words of truth that God inspired to be provided to us in His Word. 

So, it does seem that this will that leads to eternity is firstly determined by the presence of Christ within an individual, and thus, it is made real and active as we submit our lives including all of our thoughts, words, and actions to Christ. I think that God intends for eternity to touch this world today primarily through the way that followers of Christ interact with all aspects of this fallen and failing world; so, it is vitally important for us to be aligned with God’s will as we go about each and every day of our lives. Thus, God’s will is a very large and dynamic thing. It is not confined to specific areas of life or to certain relationships. It applies to everything that we might imagine, touch, or speak about. Christ’s hand of redemption is applied as we seek to abide in the presence of His Spirit and set aside our personal concerns and inhibitions in order to engage more fully with entering into Christ’s loving care of and for all that is broken and dying in our world. God’s will is played out in the salvation that each of His people enjoy, and it is carried out as we bring the fullness of Christ’s redemptive gospel message into the world where we live today.   

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

   and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

then shall the lame man leap like aa deer,

   and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

For waters break forth in the wilderness,

   and streams in the desert.

Isaiah 35: 5, 6

This is a description of some of the healing that Christ’s presence in our world brings about. Although Jesus did demonstrate physical healing of the sorts described here, He did much more than that while He lived as a man with us. In addition to all of this, He promises a form of healing in the future when He returns again that will include all of this plus something far greater. Yet, even now, when the restoration of creation exists in an incomplete form, we do enjoy the restorative and strengthening touch of the Lord in our souls, upon our hearts, and in our bodies. Isaiah was speaking about captive people who were going to be set free from the oppression of their enemies, and he was also describing aspects of God’s even greater plan that would be set in motion in Jesus so that all people could know freedom from our universal captivity to sin and be launched forth into the fullness of life that comes to us only by and through God’s approval and acceptance.

In reality all of us are blind, deaf, lame, and unable to speak. We may or we may not be experiencing some aspects of any combination of these conditions in our bodies, but every single person who is born upon this earth is afflicted with the limitations and the restrictions upon our mobility, in our ability to communicate, and in the understanding that our minds and our hearts allow us, and these conditions are so profound and pervasive that humanity, itself, is severely handicapped in its ability to live in peace, with grace for others, and in a state wherein the marvelous resources that God has granted to us on earth are being used to provide flourishing for all of the globe’s inhabitants. These ideas are not just fanciful dreams or concepts that have no place in a world where people hold that there are supposed to be some who have great wealth and power and others who are not ordained to be in possession of the basic commodities of life. They have traction and resonance in the halls and streets of God’s Kingdom come, and they should have the same presence in our hearts and minds, too.

The vision that Isaiah sets forth will not be fully realized until Christ returns again to overthrow all of the evil in this world and return everything to its original state of perfection. Yet, Christ has come, and He has already set His people free from all that binds our hands and hearts so that we are capable of engaging in doing the work of restoration and care that is so badly needed in our world today. We may not be able to make water flow freely and naturally in the desert places of our world, but we can bring the skill to drill fresh water wells in fever plagued places. Our hands might not hold the power to restore mobility to those who have lost it, but we can share our knowledge and training in setting broken bones and fixing shattered bodies with people who do not know hope or have the ability to dream about a life that is better than mere daily survival. So, until that day when Christ does come to us again in the flesh, those of us who do know Him are called upon by our Lord to be the ones who seek out the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the voiceless so that we can enter into their pain and suffering with them in the name of Christ. We are to be their protectors, their encouragers, and people who love them all with grace, mercy, and respectful acceptance as the language that Christ grants to us to use in leading others into the freedom of the soul that comes as the greatest gift from God through Christ. 

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and plea for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him as one weeps over a firstborn.

Zechariah 12: 10

 

We like it when things are easy, when everything is going well and everyone around us is happy and content. Yet, that is really not the reality that most people get to deal with. Life is not smooth, and the path that we travel through it is frequently interrupted by detours that are caused by broken dreams and failed aspirations. Although we would like to point to the condition of the world as thee cause for our troubles or hold up others as the problem, if truth is to be told, each of us needs to take ownership of our own contribution to the way that things are today and for the place that we occupy in our world. We have all sinned, and each person has done things, thought thoughts, and carries attitudes that diminish the quality of life in the space that we inhabit. There is no one alive who does not need the grace that God has to give to us, and none of us are too far gone to receive the mercy that comes our way through Christ.

 

Zechariah is describing a time when his entire nation would be overcome by the need for repentance and a desire to return to being focused upon worshiping the Lord. I fear that this sort of national transformation is highly unlikely short of Christ’s return, and even then, it will not be the existing nations that turn in full to Christ, but rather, He will replace all that is here with His singular restored holy and just kingdom. In the interim, each of us continues to dwell in this land, and we are asked by Christ to push on in our journey of faith, hope, and trust. This is where the same grace and mercy that the prophet describes are so vitally important to us, for I believe that without God’s grace and His mercy it is essentially impossible to continue to live out our days with faith as the foundation for each step that we take, with hope as the reason for going forth, and with trust in Christ as the source of strength for the journey.

 

For me, this all starts with repentance. When I consider all that God has done in order to draw near to me, a person who has too often pushed Him away or attempted to keep the Lord at a safe distance from the most personal and closely held aspects of my life, my knees collapse and my heart fills with tears of remorse as I seek Christ’s forgiveness. Yet, this is something that I already possess, and as I recognize my need for grace, I also see that it has been poured out over me as an anointing with the holy oil of forgiveness. It is here, where my sinful life meets Christ’s cross of redemption, that my penitent’s tears are wiped away and are replaced by a strength and an understanding of purpose that are provided to me by Christ, Himself. The hope that I have for the land where I live and for the world where we reside is found in the power of Christ as He leads His people to live righteously and to engage directly with the various issues and concerns of our day while pouring out upon others the same grace that we have received and  by approaching everyone and each situation with open hands that are filled with mercy and with love. This is how we can take Christ into the center of the Jerusalem in which we dwell.

 

 

And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.

Ephesians 2: 17

 

If only people could learn to compromise. This is the exasperated lament of many of us today as a vast array of big issues remain unresolved and without solution. I do hold that there is much to commend the practice of compromise when it comes to governance and the management of society. Yet, I think that there is something else involved in the way that God would see people learn to live together peacefully in this world. The Lord doesn’t call upon us to compromise; rather, He desires for us to move away from our tightly held positions on everything and move toward Him and His singular point of view on all that we think, feel, and do.

 

In order for us to do this, we need to start to function in a manner that is like the one that God uses with us. God listens well, and He hears what we are saying both in the words of it and in the emotion that is behind those words. He also knows us in a manner that goes deep into our hearts and minds, and even with this knowledge, which includes our darkest secrets and our doubts and fears, the Lord still seeks to engage with each of us. He pours out His love, grace, and mercy upon us as He also brings the full weight of His truth and righteousness to bear upon our choices and decisions. In Christ, we find God’s great love in direct contact with humanity’s abandonment of relationship with our Creator, and the purpose of that contact is redemption and the reconciliation of our lost bodies and souls to God’s absolutely loving presence.

 

So, it seems that the real and true starting point for resolution of all that is difficult and to the conflict in our world is Christ. The strife, violence, and loss of our world will cease only when Christ returns and reigns over the restored order of creation that will become the new and eternal world at that time. However, that should not stop those of us who know Christ from living today as He would have us live. That would mean that we would seek to apply the truth of God’s Word in its totality to all that we think and do and also that we would strive to hear all others well and to attempt to get to know them in a deep and real way so that when we listen to them we can actually hear what is being spoken to us. This also suggests that we would be bold and brave enough to hold fast to what is non-negotiable from God’s perspective while inviting Christ to be our anchor point of truth and belief. In this world where disagreement is our common language, Christ speaks forth a different dialect as He leads His people into the conciliation of peace and the restorative hope of His grace and love.

In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

Jeremiah 33: 15

 

Those days and that time have come, and they are still on the horizon. The dawn of this new age when all injustice is abolished and wherein righteousness is the way of all life is still a promise. However, the One who brings about the realization of God’s promise has come so that His life is something that we can all enjoy. Jeremiah spoke with a view to a future that he believed in by virtue of faith. We live in a time when we can look back upon the birth, life, death and resurrection of the Christ and see the fulfillment of that which the prophet had to contemplate in trust and by that great faith. Now we live in a time between Christ’s advent and the ultimate and complete fulfillment of God’s plan for restoration of Creation.

 

Our days and these times are filled with the trouble and the anguish of a world that is still not cleansed of its sinfully rebellious ways. This creation where we dwell is torn apart by striving against its own Creator and Savior. It is fighting a lost battle with the Lord of the Universe over terrain that has already been consecrated by the sacrificial blood of the Messiah. So, for those of us who do know Christ, we are caught up in the middle of this war zone, and this place can bring with it challenges and hard times. However, the life that we are able to live because of the presence of Christ in us and with us is graced with that same hope that blessed Jeremiah’s journey. We have been granted the opportunity to see beyond faith to the reality of Christ’s redemption as we are taken deeply into the truth of God’s eternal wisdom while His unstoppable love is poured out upon us.

 

That righteous Branch, Jesus the Christ, provides for us a root that is unbreakable to hold onto through all of the days of this life. He grants to us His grace, mercy, peace, and strength so that we can dwell securely in the land where the Lord’s will has placed us. These are the days that God has given to each of us to fill with His presence. This is the time that He has ordained for us to follow Him and to proclaim Christ and His Gospel of life to the world around us. The Savior has come; this is no longer a future promise. Redemption is at hand for anyone who will turn away from the lost life of birth and embrace God’s promise of newness and rebirth as a beloved citizen of His Kingdom come. So, even in this world where struggle and chaos may seem to rule the day, we can be secure as we follow our Lord in doing His redemptive work, and we can hold onto Jeremiah’s hopeful vision of Christ’s final return and the renewal of all of Creation to God’s intended glory.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10: 24, 25

 

It is easy to get distracted away from the things that really matter. These are busy days, and the times that we live in present a wide array of challenging and difficult decisions that demand attention throughout the day. No wonder that things of importance get pushed aside and are not granted the sort of contemplation and consideration that they should receive. This is particularly true when it comes to the way that we relate to one another in and around our family of faith, the church. This is a holy organism, a gathering of flesh and spirit that is formed up by Christ and that is bound together by His Spirit in ways that are timeless, mysterious, and that come straight out of the heart of God. So, giving real thought and attention to the way that we relate and interact in this environment and caring deeply about growing the relationships that we find here should be important to each of us who follow Christ.

 

The object of this prayerful thought, according to the author of Hebrews, is significant as well. We are told to be engaged in the process of encouragement and of support for others with a specific outcome in mind. The body of Christ is to be a gathering of people who stand apart from our world by virtue of the love that we share with each other and the love that we pour out into the world around us. It is also to be remarkable because of its seemingly relentless drive to do good in an environment where goodness is too often viewed as weakness. These redemptive attitudes of sacrifice and love do not happen on their own. They require us to surrender to Christ and to allow His Spirit full control over our hearts and minds and the decisions that we make about the conduct of life. This loving approach to the world is best engaged in within the context of other people who are likewise motivated and who will support this attitude and the actions that come out of it.

 

We need each other, and we thrive best when we are rooted and grounded in the company of other people who know Christ and who are willing to seek out His will and follow His lead in taking on the daily challenges that come to us because we live in a world that is rapidly traveling along a path toward its day of final judgement as Christ returns to reclaim all that seems lost and to renew Creation to its intended righteousness and glory. These are the times that we live in, and the body of Christ is the true family that can provide the support, encouragement, and guidance for each of us to live out Christ’s calling to love others, to do what is right and good in our world, and to bring the message of hope and salvation that is the great good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into regular and routine contact with those around us.

For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?

Deuteronomy 4: 7

 

Moses was speaking about the way that things were in a time and a place long ago and far away. He was reminding everyone about the fact that God was as close to them as was their own breath and that the Lord was involved with His people and with their nation in all matters both great and small. This is the God that Moses had encountered and knew in a deeply personal manner, and this was the God who was truly and in all ways the Lord of and over the land. So much has changed from then until now. It seems that we think that we have become a people who know how to care for ourselves as we now govern our nations and rule over the people of our world with such great skill and success that there is no longer any need for submission and obedience to the ancient God of Moses and to the way of His Word and Law.

 

Actually, as we know from that same word that many of us want to set aside on the dusty shelves of antiquity, it didn’t take long for the people that Moses was addressing here to adopt the same attitude toward God and to attempt to go it on their own in the world. It did not work for them, and it does not work for us, either. We rule over our world with all of our sophistication and knowledge put to full use; yet, people are still starving and homeless, nations continue to settle their differences by waging war, the resources of our earth are squandered and destroyed to serve selfish desires, and life in all forms is treated as a disposable commodity instead of being viewed as God’s gift of Himself in this world. It seems that our attempt at going it on our own in governing and ruling over our world have not been very successful or productive after all.

 

Still, God is patient, and He is faithful to His promise of redemption. The Lord has not given up on us, and people who know the Lord should not give up hope either. I believe that our efforts will not save the world, for that is a work that Christ alone, in His final return, will accomplish. Yet, we are called upon by Him and given the task of bringing His grace, justice, mercy, peace, and their redemption into the world as we encounter and touch it. Our nations and their leaders may not embrace the truth and the counsel of God’s Word as their ongoing rule of law, but that doubt should not stop us or inhibit us from proclaiming its supremacy to them and from demanding that God’s ethical and moral principles be applied to the way that our lands are governed. Most of us have the right and the means to voice our understanding of what is righteous and proper in the way that our leaders guide the course of the nation. All of us have the ability to express these wishes and desires through prayer and as acts of worship to our one true and eternal King. People who know God, we can join with Moses and raise our voices in prayer to the Lord and in expressions of righteousness to the world. So, we should never be silent when it comes to God’s will and truth in our world.

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

 

In the light of the horror that is at the center of our news these days, the ideas expressed here must be a dream, a fantasy that the weary mind concocts while precious sleep insulates us from further exposure to life’s harsh reality. How can there be such a time and this sort of place? We live in an environment wherein violence is far too close to us to consider what it might be like to be without its presence. As it must have been in Isaiah’s days, so it is in ours. Death and destruction, hatred and fear, angry words and harsh shouting, and proliferation of personal and national weapons of war are the instruments that are playing the discordant symphony that presides over our world.

 

This dream-like vision is not as fanciful and as illusive as it might seem. It is God’s promise for the future when Creation is returned to its true and original design wherein sin and its death are abolished and Christ reigns in His rightful place as Lord and King. According to God’s Word this sort of peace will come after a time when the world will have devolved into the sort of chaos and upheaval that is very real today. I am not a prophet and do not pretend to know God’s plans or to be able to predict what is to come, but I have no doubt that the way that our world is going now is in keeping with God’s revealed truth about the force and the effects of evil in our world, and it is in line with the sorts of things that do precede Christ’s return and final victory over all that is evil.

 

Until then, we can still live in hope and be fearless despite all that is happening in our world. We can enter into the presence of Christ here and now so that His assurance of peace can be ours today. This is a gracious gift that God has granted to anyone who believes in Jesus, the Christ, as Lord of life and as Savior for now and all of eternity. A relationship with Christ does not remove any of us from the world where we live, but it does provide us with a form of hope that transcends the nature of this place and that adds the perspective of unceasing love and grace to our vision of the landscape around us. Christ removes His people from dwelling in the realm of darkness that pervades the world, and He transforms our lives into ones that are lived out in God’s Kingdom come to earth so that the spiritual walls that surround us are truly formed out of the timbers of the cross of Christ which has brought about salvation. Thus, we can sing out a new chorus to fill the ears of the earth with something joyous and that is infused with Christ’s hope as we lift up our experience of redemption in thanksgiving to be heard throughout the land.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1: 3-5

 

If you wanted to be completely certain that something precious, a possession that had immeasurable worth, would be absolutely safe from every possible risk of harm or loss, where would you put it? In order to accomplish this some of us go to a vault or safe in our homes, some use a bank’s safety deposit boxes, there are privately operated secure storage facilities, and some people employ guards to keep constant watch over their possessions. Yet, none of this or these methods carries an absolute and total guarantee of security. In fact, if we hold that God’s Word is accurate and true, they are all fated to fail utterly in the end, for all of this world will be done away with and replaced by something sinless and perfect in those eternal times to come after Christ returns.

 

There is one place alone where God’s perfection exists, for Heaven is beyond our world and outside of our experience, at least it is so in its fullest expression. Yet, we know of it, and we experience a portion of its glory in the presence of the Spirit in us and in our world. God has also gifted images of the eternal and of the realm of glory where He resides to us in His Word and through the redemptive love that Christ has poured out upon us. For me, this witness is very real, and it leaves no doubt at all of the existence of Christ as my Savior. I am also fully committed to the fact that this same Redeemer is also my Lord and the ruler over all that exists in my world and beyond. Thus, His truth is my truth, and His righteousness is the ethical and the moral perspective that I desire to have fill and shape every aspect of my existence. This wholeness of being that Christ brings to all of His people is guarded and protected from the corruption of this world; yet, it is still tangible and available to people in this life.

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ has broken through the dark shell of separation and death that sin cast over this world so that people have full and complete access to enter into an unending relationship with God. We are granted admittance into the glorious halls of heaven, and we are also provided with its immutable security and protection for our most precious of all possessions, our souls. We may live in a world that is failing with walls crumbling down before our eyes and over our heads, but in Christ, our souls dwell in heaven with the King and our hope is thus found in our vision of the eternal. However, our bodies with our hearts and our minds plus those heavenly souls live out each day in this world; so, we have a mission to engage in while we live here. We can bring that same hope of the glory of God into the presence of others during these days, and we are called upon by Christ to carry His living truth of grace, mercy, peace, and redemption to the other inhabitants of our world. As our souls are safe in heaven through Christ and by His resurrection, we can live boldly for His Gospel in all areas and aspects of our daily lives.

Return, O Lord! How long?

Have pity on your servants!

Psalm 90: 13

 

If you have lived with and around Christians for any period of time, as I certainly have, you will have heard many people express the desire to have Christ return. They want Him to come today or maybe tomorrow, at the latest. This is always stated in terms of putting an end to the sinfulness of our times, the evil that surrounds us, and the pain of suffering through life in this fallen world. Not to make too light of this very serious subject, but this wishful expression can become somewhat like spiritual aspirin. We feel pain, and we want relief from it; so, we prefer to take the miraculous fixative instead of putting in the work to seek out and repair the underlying cause of the discomfort. People have a well-developed desire for the fast and the easy, and this is often especially true when it comes to addressing the brokenness that surrounds us.

 

Yet, we do have all that is necessary to impact our world for the glory of God’s Kingdom. The challenge to actually doing this comes in the form of the reality that evil is very resistive to change and that facing it requires people of faith to take actions that seem highly risky. Some of this risk is framed in terms of loss of favor with neighbors, friends, and family members; it is very public. However, I think that the more difficult sort of risk comes from the need to deal with our own attitudes, beliefs, and well-established patterns of thought. This inward facing examination can be a source of the type of pain that we work so hard to escape. Still, the cleansing work of God’s revealing light performs the soul-healing work that is our world’s greatest need. For each of us this healing starts with ourselves, but it cannot end there.

 

Christ did not leave us to sit and to wait for His return in passive contemplation of God’s goodness and resignation to our world’s fallen state. After His resurrection, He implored His followers to tend and to care for each other, and He sent them into the world to make the good news of God’s redemptive plan for salvation from sin through Jesus Christ a living reality for each and every person on this earth to encounter. This is done by people who live out our Lord’s love, grace, mercy, and compassion in every aspect of their lives. Still, God’s love is not soft and equivocal. So His truth has remained unchanging from before Creation. We also live out God’s love by standing up clearly and unyieldingly for His righteous truth. This is truly the hard challenge of publicly proclaiming Christ in our world. For we cannot, even for a moment, cease expressing Christ’s total love for all while we must stand up for God’s truth and against the evil that opposes it. This daunting task is made possible because Christ has returned, for the tomb was empty and He has joined us in our journey through the world that rejected its Savior. Now His Spirit does dwell in each and in all of His people. It is Christ who grants to us the gift of His loving understanding and wisdom in conjunction with the strength that we require to do His will today in our world.