Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Hebrews 11: 1-3

 

This is the sort of thing that is hard to accept. Somehow God makes this world out of a substance that is not visible or even tangible. By some means, it was all spoken into existence, and that word gave it its form, function, and set into motion the forces that keep it all moving onward. These actions occur outside of our cognitive world, and they are too great and wonderful for our simple minds to fully understand. There are times when God truly defies reason and logic. So, there are many aspects of God, of His nature, character, and actions that require for us to engage with them with a form of acceptance, hopefulness, and anticipation of what the Lord might do. There are many times and situations that ask for us to operate out of faith.

 

As the writer of Hebrews describes it, this is not a new idea when it comes to living out life in a relationship with God. People have done this since the earliest days of our existence. Instead, living in faith, with it as a primary guiding principle, and granting that faith is essential for people to engage fully with the spiritual realm that is God’s dwelling place is something that followers of God, His people, do as a natural part of knowing our Creator and Lord. So, this thing called faith may be natural and normal for us to experience, but it is not so native and normal in our world. Skepticism is high in the world around us as most people would much rather put their trust in things that they can touch, manipulate, and control than they would like to do the same with an unseen character and a person who attaches a moral and an ethical code of righteous thought and action to all that He says and does.

 

We enjoy good outcomes such as healing of illness, resolution of conflict, and prosperity and provision of what we need to live comfortably; however, we are not as at ease with trusting these things to God’s hands and in holding that all that we have in this world is a gift that comes from God. Yet, faith grants to us a form of peace that is deep and lasting. We can stop striving against the forces of this world in order to attempt to control and to subdue them. In faith we can know that God has a view of things that far exceeds any that we can gain and that He desires for us to prosper in spirit and that our souls are protected from all forms of evil. Faith gives us the sure knowledge that God does heal our brokenness and that He does remove all of our pain and sooth all forms of grief and loss. Faith is the element that allows us to trust God with all of this in His perfect time and to accept that these desire outcomes may happen in this life or that they are assured in the next. It is in faith that we pray to God, and through faith we anticipate His responses. As we walk in faith, we are transported out of the worldly and the temporary and we carried into the halls of glory where our great Lord and King dwells with love, grace, and redemption as the words that He speaks into our needy hearts.

And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.

Deuteronomy 6: 25

 

It would seem that God views all of life as being important. He doesn’t do what we people are so quick to do. That is, the Lord doesn’t separate out some attitudes, behaviors, and actions and deem them to be important and place others onto a list of that which matters far less. God contemplates the smallest and the least powerful of His creation with the same loving interest and involvement as He does the grandest of it all. He also looks at the simplest of actions and the most private of thoughts with the deep understanding of their eternal impact. The universe that God created was designed and crafted with an intricate order and perfect balance throughout. Nothing was out of place.

 

By way of contrast, my world can be very disorderly. Important things get misplaced, stepped on and broken. Important people are mistreated, used and damaged. We have all experienced the effects of this sort of chaos. We have all been involved in its creation. God says, “Enough!” We need to stop perpetuating the brokenness and the decay in our world as if it were an inevitability of life. Until God’s timing is right and Christ permanently ends Satan’s ability to touch our world, the perfection of God’s created order will be disrupted. However, each of us has the ability to do something about the intrusion of sin into the parts of this world that we touch. We can do something else with our lives, for God calls us to love Him in totality.

 

If this is true, if we are actually sold out in every way to loving God as He commands us, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Dt. 6:5), and we take Jesus’ teaching on this as a personal imperative when He quoted Deuteronomy and added, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22: 39), we must view life differently. These fundamental commandments of God are intended to bring calm to the troubled waters of life and to sooth the angry hearts that seethe within our chests. As we love God with the totality of our beings, there is nothing left except to love others with the self-sacrificial humility of Christ. This is obedience to God, and this is living in His righteousness.

My help comes from the LORD,

who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121: 2

 

In our world there are forces of nature and thee are natural forces. Both groups can be very powerful and have the capacity to bring about upheaval and disruption of life. However, it seems that the winds that blow as a result of hurricane, typhoon, and tornado are mild and rather calm when they are compared to the torrents of cold-hearted and acidic gusts that flow from the mouths of people. We are able to bring about destruction and inflict pain in ways that far exceed that which comes out of nature. Yet, the virulent anger that grounds the words of people in these times is also a force that comes our=t of our nature. It is rooted and nurtured in that part of our fallen humanity where fear rules the day and anger equals power and control.

 

The ways in which we communicate today have made it even easier to attack and to assault people with our words, for there is no longer the need to face your foe directly or to even disclose identity when doing it. People can say anything that they wish and send it out into the air without consideration for the recipient and with no need to get to actually know the person who is the target of those hurtful words. All of this, the anger, disrespect, anonymity, and aggression for the sake of power, are products of creation gone very far off course. None of this was inherent in the world that God designed and formed with His own hands; instead, it came into existence out of the fallenness of humanity and as a result of the broken nature of our relationship with our Lord. There is nothing contained in these forms of engagement that speaks of God’s love and grace or of Christ’s redemption.

 

Unfortunately these voices are not easily silenced, and they do not appear to be going away any day soon. In fact, the quantity and the volume of their words feel as if they are increasing daily. So, answers regarding dealing with it all need to come from sources beyond the world where we live. These are times when turning to the Lord for peace and for reason is essential. He speaks a form of truth that penetrates through the power of the words that are being hurled at us. Christ provides us with His purpose for our lives of service to Him, and He invites us into the same cruciform journey that He walked for the sake of His Gospel. This path is not easy or without its opposition, but it is surrounded and infused with the presence of the maker of heaven and earth. The One who made it all speaks to our troubled hearts and says to follow me, listen to my voice, and enter into my peace in the midst of the howling winds of this world.

 

 

He will not grow faint or be discouraged

till He has established justice in the earth;

and the coastlands wait for His law.

Isaiah 42: 4

 

There is no way around the fact that justice is hard work. If you were to talk with anyone who sits in the seat of a judge in a court anywhere in the world, that judge would tell you that they earn their pay every day that they work. Remaining true to the law; assessing the guilt or innocence of people who are usually to some degree both; establishing responsibility and culpability; and rendering judgments that are fair and equitable are daunting and often contradictory tasks. In our world, establishing justice not only requires all of this effort but it also is done in the war zone of conflict and active opposition from Satan. Satan hates justice just as he hates God. So, he opposes justice; for, the establishment of justice solidifies our perception of God’s position of authority in our world.

 

The idea of justice that is on view here in Isaiah and elsewhere in the bible is a complex and a multi-faceted one. It involves the idea of the courtroom type of setting that Isaiah has just described in which the reality of the fact that there is one and only one true God has been irrefutably determined. It then conveys the fact that God’s truth is the foundation upon which all of His Creation stands. It is His revealed truth that forms the only valid basis for the law that is our framework for living righteously, and this revelation is completed and fully empowered in Christ. Finally and only through the agency of Christ and through the work of His Spirit as present in our world and resident in the hearts of His followers, the injustice and the wrongful harm that sin has caused in the people of this world and in the rest of God’s perfect creation can be repaired.

 

This is the work of bringing justice into our world. It is the natural consequence of bringing Christ into those places of darkness and loss where evil dwells. Justice becomes apparent as we bring His grace, mercy, and love to bear on situations where intolerance, oppression, and fear rule the day. Like Christ, Himself, we will face strong opposition when we seek to do this. Satan does not give back territory willingly. Yet, if we believe the Prophet’s words and accept the fact that God sent His Christ to establish justice in this world, then we also must recognize our role and responsibility in continuing to do as our Lord has done. Christ calls all of His followers to continue in the mission of making His presence, truth, and righteousness known in the entire world. Christ will provide each of us with all of the wisdom, strength, and encouragement that we will need to follow the hard road of establishing justice.

 

 

You crown the year with your bounty; your paths overflow with abundance.

The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy,

The meadows cloth themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.

Psalm 65: 11-13

 

For me the most vivid and remember able moment from the film The Sound of Music is the one where Julie Andrews is on the mountain top singing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” As she dances alone with the Alps in the background and the lush green of her world underfoot, she is carried away into a deep part of God’s creation, and her next words, “With songs they have sung for a thousand years”, speak of her real understanding of God’s long term design and plan.

 

We, too, can stand in the middle of a green mountain pasture, a sand dune in the desert, a field of grain, or a pocket park in the center of a city and see and feel the creative energy and the Divine imagination that is behind it all. Everything that is on the earth, every plant, insect, animal, and each geological feature was designed and placed by the Creator, and it was all done for our benefit. God wants to relate to people, to all of us, and His greatest delight is found in the times when we come to Him and share our lives with Him. God’s art gallery is filled with the portraits of His children, and even when He looks at natural beauty, His pleasure is greatest when we are enjoying and being blessed by it. The Father gave us a world that is filled with the resources that we would require to meet our physical needs, and He granted us the responsibility to care for it and to cultivate it. From this we were given the dignity to live purposeful lives, and God also promises to stay close to us through it all so that we can find comfort, direction, and satisfaction from our labor despite the unending struggle that is a part of living in a fallen and corrupted world.

 

The Lord wants us to take some time today to look around and see His finger prints on the world; slow down the pace of getting from here to there for the moment that is required to smell the fragrance of a flower and to hear the beating of a bird’s wing. Let the cooling breeze touch your cheek and know that this is a part of the love song that God wrote just for you. This world was designed and created by God for our benefit and pleasure, and He is delighted when we are joyfully joined in songs of praise to His glory.