And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

            “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,

                who was and is and is to come!”

                Revelation 4: 8

These words are at the center of the vision of God’s throne room that was given to John by Christ. John was allowed to see a part of the universe that most of us can only speculate about. He was taken, in this visionary state, into a reality that followers of Christ often dream about and desire to enter at the soonest possible moment. This is the place where death is no more, and the pain that accompanies life as does Noon follow dawn is far off in the past. In this longest part of existence, perfection and peace reign as strife and striving are left to wrestle in the dusty and temporary atmosphere of earth. We can dream of a time when we, too, will join these incredible creatures as we spend our hours, days, and eternity expressing worshipful praise to God.

This idea is a wonderful one. And the hope that its promise provides is useful for us as we face into the challenges of living in this world. However, it seems to me that looking ahead to the day when this heavenly escape will be my own is not what God wants me to focus my sight upon today. Instead of looking ahead to a time when I will be transported into an existence where praising the Lord is the singular focus and work of my days, Christ’s purpose in doing all that He did was to set me free from all that inhibits me from engaging in this same form of worship on an on-going basis during my time of living in this world. Although I do not have six wings, or any wings for that matter, am not all that gifted in sight, and my endurance tends to fail me, I can still spend my hours, days, and years in active and persistent praiseful worship of the Lord. 

As one who has been redeemed from sin and its death by Christ, I am called by my Lord into service to His kingdom come upon this earth. My life is no longer my own. I am given the singular task of worship to pursue for the rest of my life, and I am granted the gift of the capacity and the capability to do that very thing. Every thought that comes to my mind is to be formed out of the truth and the wisdom of God’s Word. Each word that I speak is to be formed out of a vocabulary of love, grace, and understanding, and all of the actions that I take are to be carried out with God’s holy and righteous purposes as their object and objective. This is the central point and purpose of being a follower of Christ. We are to make worship of the Lord the center of our being, and as we do this, God’s presence is made tangible and real to others as His redemption is poured out into a troubled and broken world. 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Titus 2: 11-14

Purification is hard to endure. Most of us do not like it all that much. We may think that we truly want to know God and to be in a relationship with Him through the Son, Jesus Christ, but when the reality of what that means to me is looking me in the face, I am no longer so certain or sure. It is not that I do not love Jesus or believe in the holy God of redemption, it is more that I am not fully committed and so yielded to His will for me and His path for my life in response to that will. So, living as a follower of Christ might seem to be a simple thing until the actual cost of doing this is counted; yet, God does ask me to face reality and to do that very thing. He then asks me to grant the Spirit access to all of the darkened corners of my heart and mind so that every aspect of who and what I have been can be reordered into those of a person who reflects Christ fully in the conduct of my life.

For make no mistake about this fact regarding the world where we live and the age that it is in, we do exist in lawless times. Listen to the dialogue of our day, consider the violence that is present in every corner of the globe, and contemplate how little of the bounty that we possess is being used to care for the millions upon millions of starving and homeless people that are present almost everywhere. This is not a time when the world’s heart is in any way in synch with Christ’s. This world is spinning ever further away from the gospel of grace, love, peace, and redemption that is the center of Jesus’ call and appeal to His followers. As we know Christ, we are to be the people who work to bring about changes in this world. When we listen to the Lord’s voice, He is speaking faith, courage, engagement, and hope to us, and He is saying to us that we are to go out into this world and touch its inhabitants with the healing hand of grace and mercy that is directly attached to Christ’s heart.

The purity that Christ leads us into is not one of separation from the world around us. Rather, it is a form of holiness that seeks to get down into the ragged mess that is life on this planet and that is willing to breathe in the foul air of its most desperate of places in order to hold up the heads of those who are oppressed, defeated, and alone. Christ’s righteousness has no space within it for the categorical rejection of people, and it does not grant to us the right or the authority to make decisions regarding the worthiness or the worth of others. We are to love and to care for all of the people of our world without regard to any consideration beyond that of following Christ and of doing the sorts of things that He did. The good works that we are called to do are real and tangible, they also involve on-going and unceasing prayer, they require sacrifice, and they will bring about personal pain, suffering, and loss. Yet, Christ is committed to providing us with the strength, direction, and courage to go out and to do what He is calling each of us to do. His power and heart for redemption provide the zeal that keeps us going through dark days and hard times as Christ leads His people into the holy work of loving others.     

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Romans 10: 12, 13

As we start to look at these verses from Romans, I would like to expand Paul’s application. In his day, the world that he knew could readily be divided into two major groups of people based upon a rough division between those who were Jewish and everyone else, who are herein referenced as Greeks but who would more accurately be called Gentiles. The expansion that I propose is to include literally everyone into one of those categories. Thus, Paul is, in fact, saying that God shows absolutely no favoritism between people when it comes to tendering the offer to enter into a relationship with Him. Where we are from, who our parents were, what language we speak, or what we look like and the genetic code that informs much of this is all a part of the way that God, Himself, designed and fabricated the person that we have become. Nothing about anyone of us is held by God as of importance in separating us from His love, grace, and presence.

So, we too have no right under God to make such distinctions for ourselves. The universal nature of the application of God’s grace to all people is not an easy and a simple thing that grants freedom in the form of license to people everywhere and in any circumstances that might suit us. Instead, God’s grace allows anyone who chooses to do so to enter into the rigorous world of holy and righteous living that is guided, counseled, encouraged, and empowered by God as He grants the presence of His Spirit to those who know Him. The Lord enables all people to live in peace with each other, and this peace that He calls us into is something that operates in a manner that is foreign to the world that exists outside of His grace and under the rules of the other kingdom on earth, that is the one that is ruled by the forces of this world. Christ is the way that God has established for all people to become residents of His kingdom on earth. This is a kingdom that is defined by internal peace and by love for all that God holds as precious, valuable, and important.

This last concept suggests that people who follow Christ must also be people who seek to eliminate any and all aspects of life and of living in this world that bring about division, strife, and struggles among people who also know the same Lord and Savior. It also leads me to conclude that I and that all other of Christ’s disciples need to follow our Master’s lead in seeking to love and care about all people in this world without regard to any of the distinctions or divisions that we humans have set up as barriers to such interaction and care. We are to love and to seek to share life in Christ with all of the Jews and the Greeks that populate the world that we might access or touch. Thus, everything that we do by virtue of thought, deed, or permission for others to take action needs to be considered in light of how we are working in concert with Christ to bring the saving truth of the gospel and the enfolding love of its author into the hearing and the perceiving of all of the people in our world. This is no small task, but it is a work that flows directly out of God’s heart. 

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.

 

 

 

He who testifies to these things says, “Surly I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Revelation 22: 20

 

Persecution, trouble, and trials are not new, and they are not reserved for a place in ancient history, either. They are a part of the reality of a world gone far off the rails of righteousness as it has continued to exist in a rebellious state when it comes to following God and to honoring Him as Lord and King. As he set down these words of revealed truth, John was living in an age where it was dangerous to be a follower of Christ. Today there are many places and situations in our world where that is still the case. We also live in a time when interest in God’s truth and people’s will to follow His just and holy path of love and care for all seems to be far out of fashion. This is a time when the ancient plea and expression of deepest desire, “Come, Lord Jesus!” is more powerful and desirous than it ever has been.

 

We long for all to be set right in our world. We desire to see the pain, grief, sorrow, and trials of our days come to an end, and this is something that Jesus has promised to do. He will return to walk upon the earth in tangible, physical form, and when He does this, the forces that are arrayed against God will be thrown down and permanently defeated. Their influence and effect will cease, and all that has been broken, torn, and shattered in our world will be restored to the perfection of God’s original work in creation. This restored state is a beautiful dream and the hope of all who know Christ. It is also a desire, a dream, a hope, and an aspiration that we can all embrace and enter into during these turbulent days that we are in now. This is true even as we await that promised restorative return.

 

The plea for Jesus to come is one that we can embrace ourselves today. He is not absent from our world, and He is not distant from each of His people, either. As a reminder, when Jesus left us He provided His Spirit to dwell in this world and within His people. Also, God has breathed out His Word of Truth for us to enter into and to follow in all aspects of life. The Lord has never been absent from us; so, each of us has the opportunity to enter into the love, peace, grace, and justice that is Christ’s heart and calling for His people. As we desire to live as redeemed people and submit our lives to the Lord’s leading, He is faithful to work within us to transform us into people who live more fully in the reality of redemption. Christ wants each of us to live as people who are actively bringing the hope of that new life into the world that we touch, and that restorative work begins by personally speaking out this plea of submission and commitment, “Come, Lord Jesus! Come into me fully and use me to live and to work for Your glory today!”

Who is the King of glory?

The LORD, strong and mighty,

the LORD, mighty in battle!

Psalm 24: 8

 

There is a battle going on around us. We know that this is a literal truth in our times, for there are stories and reports of armed conflict coming out of almost every corner of our earth. We are also aware of the violent nature of our times in that terrible things are happening in places and to people who would otherwise seem to be living and carrying out life in very safe conditions. As a follower of Christ, I certainly do see that we are also engaged in a daily struggle with evil and with the forces of our world for the souls of people. The reality of the conflict that fills our air and that saturates our airwaves is too present to deny, and it does demand that we pay attention to it and that we engage in its conduct or risk falling prey to its destructive forces.

 

Yet, I think that there is a real risk here in paying the wrong sort of attention to this conflict; so, there is also a high prospect of adopting inappropriate and ineffective tactics as we seek to engage in this fight. It is human nature to either run from the sounds of battle or to run toward them. In the first situation, we are attempting to save ourselves and to protect others from harm by leading them away from danger. In that opposite response, we are seeking to gain an advantage on the adversary by striking before they have time to fully prepare to meet us. When it comes to the underlying battle of the soul and to its spiritual field of contest, both of these approaches tend to leave prayer out as they maximize our human involvement in a battle that belongs first and foremost to the Lord.

 

Even when the news of the day tells us in graphic detail about the chaos and the destruction that are all around us in the world and certainly at those times when these harsh realities have settled upon our own lives, the Lord is still King, and He remains the answer to all that we are facing. That is why reflecting upon these few simple words and recognizing their message as my own can be a very helpful thing to do on a regular basis. Who is the King of Glory? He is Jesus Christ who is strong and mighty to save and to redeem all who are lost. He is the answer to every question that we might ask, and Christ fills every need that we will have during our journey through life. So, as the battle, both far and near, fills our ears with its roar, we do have a warrior going before us and leading us into His victory over all that is evil and over the sin and the death that they bring with them. Who is this King of Glory, He is Christ, and He rules my heart and saves my soul!

Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

Mark 10: 43-45

 

Many people spend a great amount of time and considerable effort in developing themselves. I know that I have and continue to do this very thing. It actually is good to have knowledge and skills. These are useful. Even the positions of leadership and influence that these acquired abilities support are valuable and worthwhile in both human and in Kingdom of God terms. So, I don’t think that Jesus was speaking against His people becoming leaders in our world, community, or other areas of life. It seems that His point is focused on how we conduct ourselves in life and on the way that we view our responsibility to all of the others that we meet as we travel through our days.

 

In other words, Christ wasn’t saying that we should seek to occupy only the lowliest of positions in our culture because positions of greater authority and responsibility will always corrupt the holder of the office. He is saying that the attitude that we need to have as we go about living life is one that we can see from His approach to His life among us. Jesus is God. He is the rightful and appointed King over this entire world. Yet, He agreed to set aside all of His position and apparent authority in order to live with and among us, to teach and demonstrate righteous living to us, and to sacrifice Himself for us. Christ was willing to serve all of humanity in a manner that was unknown before His life with us and that remains elusive to this day. His sacrificial service knew no limits or limitations. He cared for those who were close to Him and for those who despised Him and brought Him harm. Christ did this without regard for any of the distinctives, points of reference, or divisions that we routinely consult in placing value on others.

 

Jesus calls upon His people to follow Him. He meant that in absolute terms. There is nothing that He would have us hold back, and there are no people that He grants us permission to treat differently than He would. This is one of those areas where life as a follower of Christ gets hard, for I think that Jesus is telling me to repent for my attitudes of superiority and self-righteous pride. He says that I must stop viewing any others as lesser beings. So, I must submit myself to serving the needs of all others, and in Christ’s view, the greatest of those needs is for relationship with God. Jesus is calling upon us to love others without concern over their acceptance of our love, to bind up the physical and the emotional wounds that we see around us, and to give all that we have in order to bring the presence of Christ into the darkness of our world. Jesus is telling me that the best place for me to view the Kingdom of Heaven is while on my knees in humble submission to His will as I wash the feet of the stranger, the foreigner, the sick and the weak, and those who might angrily reject me.