He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

1 Peter 1: 20, 21

If you or I think that God is caught off-guard or unawares by the struggles that we have in life, then we have missed comprehending the heart of the Father. Should we ever face the issues that lie before us and see no opportunity for redemption in them, we lack a fuller appreciation of God’s commitment to His people. When we feel as if the challenges that those we care about most deeply are insurmountable, whether they are caused by willful disobedience or by situations and actions outside of their control, we need to open our eyes and truly see Christ’s love, grace, and power in their fullness. This world is a harsh and a difficult place to live. There are many traps and pitfalls that we can stumble into, and the landscape is littered with the debris that is the product of broken lives and failed dreams. Yet, God knew all of this before He did anything.

The Father sent His Son as our redeemer. Christ came into the world as a baby, and He left it as a fully formed man, whose life portrayed the intent, will, and power that God continues to pour out into the lives of people that accept His gifts. Christ now leads us into seeking after what has been promised to us from those times before the creation of the world. That is, we are to recognize that all goodness and mercy in our world come from God, and these unworldly qualities are granted to us in full measure through our faith in Christ and by the working of His Spirit in us and in our world. When we face trials, we are to call upon Christ in that faith and expectantly wait upon His understanding and wisdom to provide clarity and direction for any actions that we are to take. These times of prayer and contemplation can seem long when all that we desire is resolution or relief; yet, they serve the purpose of focusing our hearts and minds upon the Lord and taking them out of the naturally self-oriented place where people tend to go in challenging times.

Turning our deepest fears, concerns, and apprehensions over to God can be hard to do. People are generally formed up and function in a manner that is self-reliant and that utilizes our own resources to provide answers to all of the challenges that we face. There is nothing wrong with any of this; however, if we enter into the storms of life with our own skill and capacity as the complete and full set of resources that we have at our disposal, we are missing out on the greatest of all sources for gaining wisdom that overcomes all adversity and for the endurance that we will need to continue a hard journey to its conclusion. Christ can grant us the vision to see beyond the moment and into the glory of God’s redemption and restoration of all that is holy, good, and just in this world. As we place out faith and trust in Christ, He grants us a form of hope that is greater than all adversity, and He fills our weary hearts with a form of peace that id based upon His unfailing and eternal love. 

By wisdom a house is built,

and by understanding it is established;

by knowledge the rooms are filled

with all precious and pleasant riches.

Proverbs 24: 3, 4

 

God is very orderly in the manner that He approaches almost every aspect of creation, and He desires for us to operate in a like manner, too. So, our approach to gaining the sorts of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge that we need to live successfully in our world is also quite orderly. There is a process to it all that comes to us straight from the mouth of the author of all that is worthwhile and valuable in the universe. All love, peace, justice, and righteousness come into existence out of the will of God, for He is the source of it all just as He is also the one who distributes it into the world that He devised. Without God’s authorship, nothing good and worthy exists, and under His authority, all that is beneficial in the character and the nature of people has been granted to us.

 

Thus, when it comes to constructing a world wherein justice and right doing are the foundation of our system of governance and management, the only true and valid source for developing a straight and true dwelling place is the Word of God. The singular authority for reading and interpreting those plans is their author, God Himself, as this task is usually undertaken by the Holy Spirit. So, as builders who desire to construct a lasting product that is beneficial to all in our world, we need to continually consult with the Lord as we also yield our own ideas about and approaches to the project at hand to His far superior direction. There are simply no short cuts to this process. Each of us is called by God to be builders who work to repair the broken and misaligned structures in our world and to build up sound and lasting ones in the place of those that are beyond redemption and repair.

 

As we continue to labor under the direction of God, He leads us into the process of finishing the work that He has called us to engage in. Constructing the foundation, walls, roof, and even the beautiful finishes is a great labor of love and worship to our Lord, but filling it all with the presence of His Spirit and with an outpouring of His nature and character is what finishes it all with the touch of the true Master Craftsman. This is accomplished as we take time to enter into a relationship with the Lord by engaging with His Word, in regular and routine prayer and meditation, by sharing the meaning of relationship with God with others, and in the fellowship of faith with others. The dwelling place of the Lord is adorned with the beautiful lives of people who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ from the death to sin that was the destiny of our birth, and each of us who know Christ are tasked by Him with inviting others to come into the hospitality of God’s house and with sharing the truth of our salvation with all of our guests.

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Matthew 6: 9

 

Everyone has a father. Some are extraordinary, others have been inconsistent, there are the ones who just are, and sadly, for many, their fathers have been absent or it would have been better if they were. God knows all of this, and He is aware of the fact that the images hat people attach to the idea of father are wildly variable. Yet, God made each of us with a need and a desire for relationship with a father. When it is missing there is a hole in our hearts and in our souls that seems to seek after its own repair and resolution. We fill in the missing places that even the most perfect of human fathers leave with drives, actions, strivings, and ambitions. Many of them are valuable and healthy, but that is not always true, either.

 

In these few opening words to a prayer, Jesus is framing an attitude toward God that is born out of the way that God sees and values each of us. God’s engagement with people is such that He views each of us as His own child, as the product of His creative touch. We are delightful to His eye and each person is blessed with our own singular expression of the divine image in flesh and blood form. This is how God, the Father, sees us despite the disasters of our lives, the messes that we create, and the chaos that we perpetrate upon this earth. The Lord’s heart sings with a love song for us that is the heavenly lullaby of a father who seeks to be close to and to travel life with His child.

 

Yet, God is holy. He is separate from all of this world’s destruction and loss, and that name, Father, carries with it that holiness. Therefore, there would seem to be a disconnect between God’s desire to be an intimately involved father to us and His separation from our sinfulness. To that end, God does not demand that we become perfect in order for us to ascend to His holy presence. Rather, the Father gave us the gift of Jesus and the presence of His Spirit with us in this world and within us in this life so that He could come to the place where we are, and, through the efforts of Christ alone, we are elevated out of our existence as orphans in this world and into the loving care of our true and perfect Father.

For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.

Obadiah 15

 

The words of this ancient prophet have a very current ring to them. Although he spoke them almost 2,600 years ago, it sounds like he is shouting out a warning that needs to be given to our ears today. Perhaps very little has really changed in all of this time. Maybe we have not progressed as far as we would like to think? In fact, it could be true that our culture and our way of living in it have, in fact, regressed from even those dark days when God’s people were under the oppressive rule of the Babylonians. Whatever conclusion we might draw about the state of things in our times in contrast to those of people throughout history, the one fact that stands out clearly is that we people and our national governance live unrighteously far more readily and willingly than we listen to and obey God.

 

God has spoken, and we need to hear. The Lord sets out His desired responses to His Word, and we are required to follow. Each person is held accountable by God for the way that we respond to Him. God, the Father, has given us His Son, Jesus, as our only true and certain way into relationship with Him. Christ alone is our hope and our salvation. He brings renewal and restoration. This is true for each person individually, and it is also true for our nations and for all of Creation. The only real hope that any nation can have is found in following God and adhering to His righteous path. Yet, history tells us that nations seldom do this well. Governments are nothing more than temporary stewards of things that actually belong to God. Sadly, people in power rarely seek out Christ and His leading as their sole source of wisdom and insight when they seek to govern. Therefore, they will always make decisions that are formed and framed by the sort of human wisdom that leads to compromise and that misleads their people.

 

When our nations, states, and communities take action and pass laws that are contrary to God’s Word, people who know God can not just silently accept that outcome. This is true even when our culture says that our way of viewing what is righteous is too harsh and unloving or when the actions in question are framed in patriotic or nationalistic terms yet they stand in opposition to Christ and His purposes. This is the case when our government seeks to redefine sacred relationships such as marriage in terms that are not biblically accurate and when it devalues life by making the killing of the unborn a matter of personal choice and convenience. This is also true when we marginalize people by refusing to utilize our resources to benefit and build-up those who are in true need. We are guilty before God when we claim that we are seeking to end oppression yet we become violent oppressors ourselves.

 

This listing is incomplete, and the issues at hand are complex. Yet, God speaks very clearly about His response to our sinfulness. His time of judgment and final cleansing is very near. Christ will return, and He will purify and restore this world. God will reclaim all that has been broken and lost. However, our Lord does not want His people to wait for that to happen. He calls us to be active in bringing the truth, light, and love of His Kingdom to our world today. We may not change the outcomes of the ways that our leaders think and act; yet, Christ will be on view when we speak out in biblical truth. Our voices may not seem very loud in contrast to the roar of the crowd, but Christ will use our humble faith and trust for His purposes and for the glory of the Father. Truly, the day of the Lord is near, let Christ’s blessing be what is returned to each of our heads on that day.

Of the Son, God, the Father, says,

“Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.”

Hebrews 1: 8 (quoting Psalm 45: 6)

 

We people make decisions about allegiances and memberships all of the time. We join a group that looks like it has common goals and values to us, or we pay the fee and gain admittance into a society that promises to provide us with certain things that we desire to have. Some of these affiliations and relationships are long lasting and some have very short lives; yet, most of us put a significant amount of energy into the process of selecting them and into maintaining them. Still, all of these human connections will suffer from imperfection and instances of failure, and we will wind up abandoning many of them.

 

Here God is pointing the way to entering into the one and the only truly permanent relationship that exists in the universe. God is telling us that Jesus is the ruler of Creation, that His reign has always existed, and that it will never stop. If I want to find consistency, truth, and real durability in this life; then I need to start with the foundation from which all of these things are built. Jesus brings the understanding and the wisdom of eternity to my weak and wandering heart and mind, and He also has the authority, the power, and the desire to actually cause my world to change.

 

Before I sign one more membership application, pledge my loyalty to any other group, or commit to a new affiliation; it would be good to be certain that everything that I am doing fits into Christ’s plan for working through me to redeem this world. He rules the world with righteousness, and He wants all of His people to bring that righteousness with us into every minute of our days. To follow Jesus is to follow the only ruler who will absolutely still be reigning over all at the end of the day. To follow Jesus is to join Eternity’s select group.

We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 6: 4

 

Everyone experiences death. It is that great inevitable that hovers above each of our lives. We encounter its reminders on an almost daily basis, too. There is no escaping the influence that death with its loss and with its finality has on us and on our world. Yet, for those who truly know God by way of living in a relationship with Christ, death has gained a fuller and a very different emphasis and meaning. In Christ, the finality of the grave is a radically redefined sort of terminus, for Christ brings us together with Him into the presence of God, the Father, in a glorious celebration of our setting aside of the pain and the trials of living in this foreign and hostile land of our temporary wandering. Through Christ we come to our permanent home in the splendid perfection of heaven.

 

But the death that Paul is speaking of here is of a different sort. It is different; yet, it should still lead to just as profound a change and a transition in our lives as does the one that comes at the end of earthly life. This is a death that God calls upon all people to accept. It is also one that only some will dare to believe in and to trust Christ enough in order to surrender into its finality. Christ tells us to deliberately leave our well-established and familiar lives behind as we purposefully climb into the grave of submission to God’s will. As we join Christ in His death, it is His blood that cleanses us from all of the sin that has separated us from God, and it is His intervention before the Father that gains us a verdict of innocent from the only high court that matters.

 

Yet it is the next step that is most significant. Just as the Father pronounced His final victory over sin and over death as He raised Christ out of His tomb, so too we join in that victory. Christ leads us into a new life. This is not just a different lifestyle; rather, it is a life that is lived from a completely redefined perspective. We are made new by and through our relationship with Christ. Although this fact does not diminish the intensity of the struggle that we will encounter during the process of leaving our old, deeply ingrained ways of thinking and of acting behind, now there is hope and a promise of victory. Now Christ enfolds us into His resurrection. In this new life we should expect to walk daily in the company of God’s loving community. As we walk in our newness Christ goes with us into this day, and He uses us to claim His victory over the death that sin tries to bring into our world

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.

1 Chronicles 29: 11

 

Too much of my life is lived at a pace that keeps my eyes focused on the road ahead and my mind churning in order to stay in front of the curves. There is a form of necessity in this approach, and it has been learned the hard way. You see, the film that is my life story has a lot of those train wreck scenes that were a part of the rather black humor that was central to the silent film era. So, in order to avoid the pain of these crash and burn moments, I carefully check my maps, consider the road, and take a firm grip on the wheel. These are really not bad things to do. However, for me, at least, the real issue isn’t safety, it is control, and I want it! Need it! Am uncomfortable without thinking that I have it!

 

The flaw in this sort of thinking and living is that I will never have true control in the sense that it will achieve my desired outcome of security. There are too many variables in this world and too much weakness in my own understanding of righteous living for me to maintain the proper course at the best speed on my own. In simple terms, God is a lot better at this sort of thing than I will ever be. The attributes of God that David expresses in this prayer in 1 Chronicles are really striking to me. God not only is characterized by greatness, power, glory, victory, and majesty, but He is the source or the author of these life qualities. All of the greatness, power, glory, victory, and majesty that is to be found anywhere in creation is there as a direct result of God’s presence. To repeat, all of it comes from and belongs to the Lord. None of it is of my crafting and none of it is in my control.

 

Yet, God reaches out of His majesty, and He chooses to touch my brokenness with His restorative grace and love. All of creation belongs to God, and He decided to grant me an important place in His plan for its management that is especially designed for me and that He invests in continually. When I consider who God is and how He interacts with this world of His, I begin to understand that I really don’t need to be in control of it all. I serve the King who is totally in control, and He is a very active ruler. He is also a truly engaged communicator. God speaks to His people and His word is the only reliable truth that we need in order to have the sort of true security that my heart desires.