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

 

Violence is shouting out its fury and its rage in our land. There seems to be no end to its repetitive chant and to the tragic results of its actions. Sadness and grief follow in Lord Violence’s wake as night follows day. The shroud of death and destruction is seen in lands far away and in the houses down the block from where I sit now. When will it all end, O Lord! Where is the justice that Your Word promises, and when will the devastation be brought to an end? I fear that these days appear to be too much like the ones in Noah’s times when our world was described like this, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.” (Gn. 6: 11) At that time, Lord, You caused a great flood and wiped the slate all but clean in order to check the bloodshed. Today, we cry out for even the mist of a cleansing rain to come to wash the stains from our streets.

 

Yet, You do come. Your Spirit is among us, and You are dwelling in our homes and walking along our streets. The evil that resides among us and that brings its violence with it is not comfortably settled in our world. It is lashing out in desperation and in the blind fury of one who can see the end of its time. Satan has already tasted the bitter herb of defeat as he has observed Christ’s victory over all that he and this world could throw at Him. Even with the full weight of our collective sin upon His shoulders, Jesus overcame death and arose victorious from a tightly sealed and guarded grave. He comes now to take with Him the innocent ones that the dark lord has attempted to claim as his, and Christ also saves for eternity those older ones among us who turn to Him as our true Lord and Savior. There is no one that Christ wishes to leave behind when He proclaims the names of the righteous ones before the great throne of the Lord.

 

God has made another promise to us, for He has stated in absolutely clear terms that there will be an end to the days when evil and its violence will even exist upon the earth. Very early in humanity’s narrative we brought all of this destruction and death and the resultant grief upon ourselves by virtue of our sinful rebellion. In a day that will soon be upon us, God will send Christ back to end these days of Satanic tyranny upon earth. At that time, all that is cause for fear and everything that brings about terror will be thrown down and cease to exist in any form. The dark shadows of evil will be erased by the glory of the new sun that is the Lord and our darkened understanding of justice, mercy, and love will be made bright and clear by the light of truth that emanates from Christ. Until this day, we can enter into the peace and the love that God holds out for His people by claiming the eternal promise that is found in Christ alone. Even in these hard days before the fulfillment of God’s promise of total and complete redemption, we can dwell in the presence of the glory of the Lord as we are bathed in the healing mercy of Christ’s infinite love and grace.

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Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by.

Psalm 57: 1

 

There are some days when the air is just filled with a sense that something is going to go very wrong or be incredibly hard to handle. In some of these instances I have a good idea about the causes of my concern; since, I was likely responsible for causing the situation that is threatening me. At other times, I have absolutely no idea why I am experiencing this sensation of having the hair on the back of my neck standing up and my stomach churning with anticipation of what might come next. This world is certainly filled with enough evil to make anticipatory concern a rational state of being; then, I also have to admit that I have an exceptional capacity for providing my own input to the chaos of this world.

 

That is probably why David’s words strike me with such intensity and with a heart felt realization that he is speaking for me; so, I can readily claim his words as mine and sing along with him this prayer of request for God’s grace to be generously poured out onto me. From experience, my Lord is very quick to provide the sort of gracious mercy, compassion, and protection that I need in these personally challenging times. He protects me from the assault of evil, and He sooths any wounds that I might have incurred in the fight. God’s Spirit hovers over my heart and my soul like a protective mother eagle who will sacrifice everything in order to guard her nest. He provides me with a safe place to be until I have regained the strength and the resources that I need to face the world again. The Lord also grants me perspective on things that concern and that trouble me as He reveals His high and eternal view on life.

 

God’s protective and restorative drive is fundamental to who He is, and He readily gives the gift of His active presence to people. The Lordwants us to turn to Him as our source of encouragement as we prepare to face into each day of our lives. God wants us to remember that through Christ the war with evil has already been won; now, we are dealing with the guerrilla warfare style skirmishes that a defeated enemy uses to cause us to suffer pain and to distract us from bringing the message of Christ’s victory to more of the world. Yet in Christ, we serve a risen Lord who lifts us up on His wings of victory and allows us to live in the freedom of His clear and redeemed air space. So, rather than getting caught up in being focused on the struggles of this world, let’s join David in singing praise to God, the only true source of comfort, strength, and salvation.

 

Teach me your way, O LORD,

that I may walk in your truth;

unite my heart to fear your name.

Psalm 86: 11

 

Truth has an uncomfortable way about it. It doesn’t like to stay hidden, and it is not satisfied for long to remain in the background of life. It wants to be seen out in the open, on the surface as it pilots a path for its disciples through the darkness of moral and ethical ambiguity that fills this world’s air and so attempts to cloud people’s reason and judgement. However, truth has a hard time with the ways of our world, and it attempts to get the attention of each of us when we seek to hide it or reshape it to seem to be made up of our own desired outcomes. I think that the challenge that all of us face when we subvert or deny truth in our own lives comes about because truth, itself, is both a characteristic of God and it is formed up and set loose by Him. It flows out of the totality of God’s Word in all of its expression, and it is a fundamental part of the undeniable foundation of righteous living.

 

Thus, there is no alternate or relevant truth. There is only truth or lie; genuineness or deception. Satan’s statements to Adam and Eve were not mostly true with just a minor salting of convenient reshaping of what is true; they were deceptive and destructive lies, and they were demonstrated as such by God in very short order. Today we live in an environment where people do not seem to value truth all that much. It is twisted, distorted, and manipulated by us in ways that are highly creative, are sometimes subtle or not, and are universally present with us. This move to abandon truth as an absolute is being led and even promoted by our most prominent leaders and it is being championed by large numbers of their followers and supporters. This has little to nothing to do with political affiliation as truth-bending is a tool that people on every side of almost all issues are using with remarkable ease. Relativism is a trap door that once sprung sends its disciples into a downward journey into the darkness that is found at its center. It sends its adherents ever closer to the core of Satan’s anti-God universe; so, it moves then on a continual path the leads away from God and His righteousness.

 

As stated above, truth is as relentless as is its author. It will not be suppressed for long, for the Lord does propel it out from beneath the places where people have placed it in an attempt to deny its existence and into the light of day where it reveals all of the sordid and destructive actions that people have engaged in. Truth’s vindication is a part of the victory that Christ has claimed over evil in Creation. So, it is also something that Christ’s followers can and must claim as we are new beings in Christ. First off, we must think truth and speak truth. There should be no room in our days for strategic partial truths or for convenient reshaping of fact. Where we have slipped into that abys of lie, we can repent and turn away from the sinful way that we have gone. In so doing, God’s grace is present for us, and He will fill our minds and hearts with the truth of His Word as we seek its presence. Where we see lies in our world, we need to call them out for what they are, and we need to engage with our leaders and with the decisions that they make so that truth has a voice in our public square. Even as we live out and speak truth in Christ’s strength, we will not prevail in our world; yet, the Lord will honor our efforts in ways that will bring glory to His name, and Christ will prevail over all when God’s time is at hand.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;

for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4: 8

 

In our world today, peace is a hard thing to find. There is so much anger and fear out there, and it just continues to move closer to each of our homes, too. It seems as if there is simply no place to go in order to escape the relentless beat of this creature’s wings as it hunts down victim after victim. It is no wonder that good, restful sleep is hard to find; so, anxiety is a regular part of the day for many of us. Some people say that they simply avoid all contact with those aspects of the world. They don’t read news, they overlook political commentary, and they stay as far as is possible away from people and places in the world where pain and need dwell. Still, all that is hard and painful around us finds a way inside those protective walls so that it touches almost everyone’s life at some point.

 

This peace that the writer of the psalm speaks about is truly a rare commodity in our day, and I believe that it was in the writer’s days as well. Our nature as people has been aggressive, violent, and fear inducing since the beginning of our time of separation from the close relationship with God that was our Creator’s intent for us. This world has been a hard place for us to live throughout most of our history, and it will continue along this path until that day when Christ returns and redeems all of creation from its sin-infused and lost state of existence. Yet, God speaks to us about entering into peace and regarding a form of rest that penetrates the heart and the mind to the deepest parts of our being. The Lord would have us set aside the anxiety of our days and find a form of comfort and security in His presence that overcomes all forms of anxious concern.

 

There is something else present in the way that the Lord asks for us to trust Him as it goes beyond our sense of how things are. The writer says that he is actually dwelling in a form of safety that allows for peace to overcome the concerns of the day. This dwelling is both a state of mind and a literal place. It exists regardless of the circumstances and the situations that are enfolding us. This safe dwelling place is established and formed by Christ for each of us who know Him. He protects our souls from any and all harm that might attempt to enter into our hearts and minds. Our Lord is already victorious over all forms of evil; so, the fight that we are facing is one that He has already won. We can trust in Christ in any and all that comes our way. His will is for our best, His love for each of His people is absolute, and we can truly lie down and sleep soundly in the safety of the Lord’s presence.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4: 13

 

This is an extraordinary claim to make. It is not for the faint of heart or the weak minded. It says that I am ready to take on this world and all that it might send my way and that nothing that I encounter can stop me. Actually, Paul is saying that this world and all of its powers and forces are, indeed, impotent when confronted by Christ. For as I serve Him, I too enter into this remarkable capability, capacity, and power that my Lord brings to bear on all that confront Him. As I surrender my will and subordinate my desires to Christ’s, I am granted the sort of vision that sees beyond the walls that my limited understandings place around me and that loves the lost of the world with a form of soul-deep affection that comes only from the heart of the Creator.

 

This is true in all areas of life. Christ gives us the strength to engage with the trials that come our way. He allows us to face into the darkness of our world and to see beyond its shadow to the glory of God that is ours in and through Christ’s presence in us. The Lord points us toward the eternal truth of His victory over this world as He guides our thoughts into dwelling on the love, grace, and mercy that He pours out on His people. Life will still bring its challenges and even its almost unendurable trials; yet, Christ provides the resources that we need to go forward through those days. He also grants His perspective on it all to us so that we can see beyond the pain, grief, and fear that come about naturally in the moment and we can look hopefully into the future wherein all is made whole and where peace and joy prevail.

 

Christ also empowers us to engage with this fallen and troubled world in ways that are both confrontational and gracious. We are given the Lord’s wisdom and discernment to apply to all that comes our way. This doesn’t mean that each of us will get it right all of the time or that my understanding will be perfect, but it does mean that as I seek out Christ and the truth of God’s Word, He will reveal righteousness and right thinking engagement to me. In this process of revelation and involvement in my world, Christ also calls upon us to enter into deepening relationship with His body of faith both in our close to home or local setting and on a larger scale. The Lord grants strength to each of His people, and He leads us to stand stronger still as His body in the face of all that is broken and fallen in the culture that surrounds us. In Christ, we can truly take on anything with the assurance of our faith to provide us with confidence and with the knowledge of our Lord’s victory to cover all situations and circumstance with eternal hope.

 

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Ephesians 6: 10

 

There comes a time in everyone’s life when it is necessary to recognize certain fundamental truths. One of those is the fact that there is a lot more power afoot in our world than I have the capacity to stand up against. I can be skillful in debate, possess substantial financial resources, and even have armed responders to support my causes; yet, I will not have enough power and might on my side to defeat every true enemy that I will encounter. Thus, I will come to that end of the road where what I bring to the fight is no more than enough to lead me into defeat and wherein I can either remain beaten or I can surrender myself to the One who is already victorious over all that is in this world.

 

As I surrender to Christ, His victory is mine. When I yield any part of my fight to His will, Christ enfolds some more of me into His form of conquest over all that is evil and lost. In one sense, this process of yielding of myself and of entering into the hard won conquest of sin that came about on the cross is the real point wherein I become strong enough to even enter the battle that is life. Christ calls upon us to be strong and courageous, for this world is a place where terror roams our streets and pain and suffering are promised to us as a part of our spiritual birthright. Living righteously requires far more of these God-given qualities than does dwelling in the flesh. So, we need strength and courage to go out into the storm with God’s truth, love, and justice as our guiding principles.

 

Yet, this is what Christ promises to give to us. He tells us and has demonstrated through His life that He stands up to all forms of opposition and prevails. Now Christ takes His people into that same victory. He grants to us the strength that will be demanded of us along the path that we will travel today. That capacity to engage with the forces of this world does not come from our own skills, intelligence, or other form of resource; it is all a gift that is given out of the love that God has for us and that is found only in Christ. As followers of Christ, we are the truly strong people in this world, but that power is demonstrated in ways that are often strange and contrarian to the environment where we reside. Christ answers the forces of this world with love, grace, justice, and peace, and He uses our yielded selves as His workers in doing it all.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.

1 John 5: 4

 

Let’s face it, we live in an age where we have access to information, whether accurate or wildly distorted, about everything that is happening around us, and there are days when this world and its news just seem overwhelming. We are hit in the face with wars and other forms of human violence on an almost hourly basis while personal tragedy and losses are played out in a relentless procession of pain and suffering. Even those among us with the greatest of resources available cannot begin to meet all of the needs that are presented for our consideration. There seems to be a giant hole growing in the center of the world’s heart where all that is civil, human, and good is falling in and getting lost under the tons of debris that is the fall out from our world’s relentless chaos. As we look into God’s Word, none of this should come as a shock or a surprise. Yet, as we know and understand God’s heart, it should still cause us concern and bring about feelings of grief and empathy for those who are in pain.

 

As I view the news from around my world, Christ points my mind to the human suffering and loss that is woven throughout these stories. He tells me of His own feelings of anguish and agony that are felt in response to what we people do to and with each other. My Lord leads me into appreciation for the struggle that millions of others are engaging in as they go about living through this day, and He also points my stunned and overwhelmed mind toward the only answer that carries with it real hope, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This thought may seem simplistic, detached, and even delusional in that the problems of this world don’t appear to have easy or readily achievable answers; yet, I hold that the opposite is true. The Gospel of Christ does not stop with a profession of faith, but rather, it begins there. As a follower of Christ, as one who has accepted on faith the reality of Jesus and the living truth of His transformative message of hope, I am compelled by my Lord to enter into my world for the sake of His name and in service to His will and desire to bring love, grace, and peace to every corner of this planet.

 

This is how those of us who have been born of God do overcome the disastrous mess that is this world. We may not change a single global story wherein brutality and oppression seem to rule the day; however, we can impact a life or two or so with a form of love and care that can lead to relationships that transcend eternity. God has overcome all that is evil in this world and beyond, and His Word makes it very clear that there is soon to be a day of great reckoning when Christ will set right all that has gone wrong in our world. Until then, we join Him in this victory over the evil that is attempting to overwhelm us with the volume and the intensity of its message of hopelessness and defeat. In Christ, we are called to live out His victory by loving others without regard for their response to us as we seek to bring people who are distanced from each other by worldly systems and ideas into our Lord’s peace and understanding. It is our faith in Christ and in the saving truth of His Gospel that makes the miracle of deep and true love possible, and it is this love that overcomes this world.