It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be exalted in my body.

Philippians 1:20

Today, we have some questions to consider. Does every fiber of your being shout about its freedom in Christ? If not, why not? When you think, do the thoughts that are generated by the Spirit of Christ dominate, or how about the way that you act, do people see Jesus in His full expression when it is your hands that are touching them? When I answer honestly, my sad response is, “No, not so often, not as much as I might, or not even on the same continent as my potential.”

Yet, Christ’s Spirit of transformation and change reaches into the very deepest and to the smallest bits of our beings; He brings about a state of being that is completely redefined and whose orientation is brought into alignment with God’s. When I don’t face my day with this sense of anticipation of living in the center of the glory of Christ and when I enter into contact with people with a aura of fear and dread surrounding my heart and mind, I can seek the wisdom, truth, and discernment of Christ, and I can also seek to set aside the old-life concerns and my now, through Christ, outdated perspective on interacting with others, too.

When I accept the change, recognize the transformation, and trust the Spirit to direct me, I can and should live in a manner that shows the confident love of God to my world. This life perspective is grown on the inside, in my heart and mind, and as it takes over each and every cell of my body. As I stop holding onto the old and embrace this change, I am filled with a reasoned courage that compels me to engage life in a fresh and a vigorous way. Then every molecule of my being can truly shout with joy at the presence of the Lord.

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

1 Thessalonians 2: 13

All of us are subject to various types of authority. It comes in the form of people who have power over our livelihoods or at least our success and advancement within a chosen occupation. Most of us live in communities within countries where there are laws of the land that rule over us and that direct and define what actions are acceptable and what ones will result in censure or worse. Sometimes we accept the rule of authority and at other times we struggle with it or even fight against its presence in the course of our days. Paul is immensely thankful that these people to whom he had communicated God’s Word had accepted it and its author’s authority so readily. They had not only accepted it, but they also knew and acknowledged the fact that there was a supernatural aspect to what they had received from Paul as this word from God.

Thus, the Gospel of Christ and the rest of the divine truth that was given to them has a sort of power that is far superior to any other form of wisdom, logic, or law that they may have heard or have access to. This word of truth and life comes out of eternity and into our world bringing with it the lasting wisdom of the Lord and providing guidance for all aspects of life. Now God has called people into service to Him by means of gifting them with deep comprehension of His Word and by granting to them the ability to explain both its meaning and its application to the various situations and circumstances that are encountered in living out our days. Yet, unlike any other form of instruction that we may receive, when we are taught from God’s Word we hear words that are spoken by humans, but we are listening to and assimilating concepts, ideas, and precepts that come from the mouth of God.

The source of these utterances is what matters when God’s Word is opened and taught. It is essential for people who teach from God’s Word to be humbly submitted to the Lord’s will as they are led by His Spirit into understanding its deeper meanings and its application in the lives of the specific audience at hand. As hearers of the Word of God we need to bear in mind the fact that it is something much greater than any literature that has come to us through human hands as these words are the utterances of God, Himself, that have been given to us through the hands of divinely inspired writers. Even that inspiration would have left us with nothing more than an exceptional work of history and philosophical wisdom if it were not for the connection that God makes with His people through the presence of the Spirit of Christ with and within us. The Spirit brings the written and the spoken Word of God to life, and He guides our minds and our hearts into forms of understanding that would not be otherwise possible. Thus, through the work of the Spirit within and upon us, we are continually transformed by God’s Word into people who more and more fully reflect the glory of the Lord.   

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Romans 8: 16, 17

 

People like tangible things. We want to be able to see, touch, smell, and taste everything that we encounter, and I must admit that I am not different from this. I like for my world to be comprised of things, situations, and experiences that are understandable by virtue of being seen, having dimensions that I can grasp, being formed of substantive material, and admittedly, being mostly under my control. One of the truly challenging aspects of the life that Christ calls upon His people to live is that it defies much of this description as it is a life that is formed and established in the spirit, is guided and informed by Christ’s Spirit, and it operates mostly in the realm of the spiritual.

 

Yet, we are not left with nothing solid or tangible to rely upon as we consider what it means to live out our lives as followers of Christ. We are provided with real evidence such as that which would be presented in the most exacting of courts of law, and this evidentiary material is placed before us to examine at the most intimate and personal of levels of our hearts and minds as it is laid open for our spirits to search and to interrogate. In Christ we are different people, and this occurs from the inside of our hearts and is then expressed by our inner selves and by our outward actions. We are made alive in spirit and we are given a living and vital understanding of righteousness that flows directly from the Spirit and is then informed and shaped by the Spirit’s revelation of the deeper truths contained within God’s Word.

 

In obedient following of Christ, our lives take on a form and are shaped by the way that Christ lived as well. He entered into the pain, grief, and desperation that fills our world, and He brought healing for these suffering souls by virtue of granting those who believe in Him a new reality that exists within the presence of God and that is lived out daily in His kingdom as full heirs and as chosen ones who are adopted into a new form of life that is experienced here and now and onward into eternity. This new life is not without its pain and suffering, for it is lived out in the shadow of the cross, and it is one wherein sacrifice and service to others are its guiding principles. However, in suffering along with others and for the sake of granting to them the hope, justice, and dignity that God desires to see conferred upon all people, we enter into the glory that God poured out on His Son, and we bring true glory to the name of Christ, the Redeemer of the world.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 4: 16

 

The mirror is a cruel companion. So is this body that carries me around on its good days and that I seem to haul about on the others. That’s why the convergence of the two of them, body and mirror, can be so terribly jarring to mind and discouraging to my ego. This reality of aging and of the frail natures of our human shells is a part of what Paul is discussing here. None of us live forever in this world and with these bodies. Life on this earth will end, and that is, in fact, a part of God’s mercy, for He knows full well the darkness that resides in our hearts and the lost nature of the world wherein we dwell. This is not the place and we are not by nature the beings that should live forever and beyond. We enter into God’s mercy and grace at its fullest expression when we leave this life and commence an eternity of experiencing the redemption of Christ.

 

This struggle or tension between a life that we cherish but that is degrading every day and the promise of eternity is one that every follower of Christ needs to encounter. We should not wish to retain all of the vestiges of ourselves as we have been, for there is never enough of Christ present within us, and there is always far too much of the flesh on display. In some very tangible ways, the loss of ability and even of capability that happens with time and with wear and tear on our bodies and minds is good, valuable, and to be embraced. For, as our human strength is depleted, our reliance upon Christ’s strength is granted an opportunity to flourish. When this body falters and this mind starts to slow down like an unwound grandfather clock, the truth and the wisdom that God imparts to His people should be the fuel that empowers us into vitality for the day ahead.

 

Yet, this acceptance of the gift of wisdom that Christ offers to us is something that we engage or deny. There are no guarantees of being wise that come along in conjunction with age and by virtue of the passing of time. We have all known and been frustrated by people that land in the category of “old fool”, and I know that, for myself, I do not desire to be known as such by others and certainly not judged in this manner by Christ in my day of final reckoning. The process of aging that begins with our first breath of life on this earth is one that we can embrace and even welcome if it is accompanied by the presence of God’s Word, Christ’s Spirit, and the encouragement and accountability of His body of faith. Through the presence of Christ in our lives, we are truly renewed and vitalized into people who can demonstrate the grace, love, and mercy of our Savior and Lord in the world and to its people in ways that breathe life and hope to others who are challenged by the futility of aging without Christ on the other side of this life.

 

 

 

For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;

at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

Psalm 92: 4

 

God was working out His will in the ancient world of the psalmists, and He is still doing the same to this day. From the dawn of time the Lord has been engaged with His creation on all levels; so, it is not surprising to me to see His hand at work in the affairs of the world where I live. God cares about each of us, and He is very concerned about the way that we live out our lives. This concern and engagement were so great that God, Himself, lived among us to provide everyone with the way and the means to enter into on-going and eternal peace with Him. That baby, Jesus, whose birth we celebrate was the singular greatest work that God’s hand of mercy and grace has accomplished; yet, that work was intended to bring joy to the hearts of people such as myself.

 

My greatest joy is known through the presence of Christ in the world where I dwell, and it is made very real by His Spirit as He dwells within me. For God’s redemptive work is carried out on a grand, universal scale in our world, and it is also rendered on an intimately personal scale within the lives of individuals as we enter into relationship with Christ. It is in and through this relationship that gladness is brought to life, and it is in the companionship of the Spirit that life with its ups and downs, its trials and challenges, is perceived as a joyous event. God works in us to change our perspective on the events and the circumstances of life so that all of it can be understood as valuable and useful in our journey of faith. I know that without Christ in me, I would view my days very differently than I do in light of God’s wisdom, truth, and love.

 

When I consider God’s gift of Jesus, I am not taken immediately into a seasonal story and the festive activities that tend to surround its telling. Instead, I am made humble and also filled with peace and the joy that the writer of this psalm is expressing. In Christ, I have come to know that joy is internally generated by Christ’s Spirit, and so the true and lasting source of my joy is Christ in me. He works to transform my perspective on life to one that seeks to bring His love into all that I think and do. Although my efforts along these lines are weak and highly flawed, I know that Christ is at work to redeem even my poor attempts at spreading His joy in the world.

 

 

But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

1 Corinthians 8: 3

 

This idea is somewhat the opposite of the way that we often view our relationship with God. At least I tend to think in terms of loving God and so seeking to know Him ever more fully, deeply, and completely. Yet, if I think about it, consider what Paul is saying, and meditate upon these few simple words, it begins to make sense. Love is something that changes people. It reshapes the way that we see the world round us as it takes us into a deeper form of engagement with its object. In love, we seek out the beloved, and we desire to know that person very well, but love also opens up the lover to the other. This is true in romantic love relationships, and it is also true in other forms of deep, personal relationships.

 

In fact, there should be no place where this confident openness is more present than in our love for God. There is no one who is more trustworthy than is the Lord, and there is no other relationship that we can enter into that has the same degree of commitment inherent in the nature of the beloved than that which is present in God. God is in relationship with each of us who know Him for the duration of time, and there is nothing that can change His perspective on loving and on being present with us. The Lord is the definition of the sort of unfaltering promise of loving others that is missing in our world, for He does not hold our weakness, failure, and inconsistency as a form of ransom over us so that we think that we need to perform in order to retain that affection. Instead, God gave Himself up as a ransom of love in order to set us free for all of eternity from our own sinfulness and its shame.

 

So, my love for God leads to giving Him my heart, mind, and soul. I allow Him into my inner life in a way that is not even possible for any other to do. As Christ has given each of us who know Him His Spirit to dwell with and in us, we are inhabited by God’s love as it is poured out upon His people. There is no other experience in this life that is like this in its fullness and totality. God’s love is what brings this rare element into our world, and His love given to me is what defines, enables, and empowers all of the love that I have to give to others. Thus, as I love God, I come to relax the protective barriers that life in this world has taught me to place around my heart, and I allow Christ access to the full range of my feelings, my responses to others, and to my willingness to trust and to engage with people. In Christ, I know perfect love, and He pours Himself into me so that I can, in turn, be that sort of committed lover in all of my other relationships.

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.