I know that everything God does endures forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him.

Ecclesiastes 3: 14 

There is something strangely comforting in the thought that my life has an element of Divine reason and management in it; although, I might enjoy the notion that I am the one who determines my own direction, values, and outcomes, I also know my own lack of true skill and strength when it comes to handling the really challenging aspects of life. My vision is rather limited, too, for I tend to be looking out and devising my strategies from the vantage point of the hole that I continually dig for myself; whereas, I need to be positioned on a hill or in a tall tower in order to see clearly and far enough to make proper decisions. 

Let’s visit this idea of fearing God for just a moment; the real idea here is that we would respect Him, not that we would cower in the corner in terror. The fear that Solomon was speaking about is characterized by the knowledge that God already knows the outcome of our decisions, knows our hearts far better than we do, and will still stick with us through everything. This sort of respect involves trust, a willingness to yield my will to God, the acceptance of His direction for my life, and the understanding of how great God’s grace and forgiveness truly are. The Lord has it all under control; there will still be times of sadness, sorrow, and loss, but the result of following Him is a life that impacts my world with God’s love and grace.  

The Lord wants me to stay close to Him, and He promises that He will always be near to me. God wants me to find delight, joy, and comfort in living through each day; since, each day is one that He has designed as one step along the path of dwelling inside of the perfect life story that was laid out for me from the very beginning of Creation. Admittedly, there are times when evil steps in and momentarily subverts God’s purpose and plan; yet, even then, this is but a momentary time of misdirection, for God always takes back control. Like certain fantasy tales that I have read and seen in film, my choices and decisions have an influence on the day to day direction of the story, but God has promised His blessing on all of the outcomes so long as I continue to listen to His voice and seek His will. The Lord’s call to me is, “Listen, trust, and be joyous throughout the day that I have given to you”. My only reasonable response is to yield control to my Lord and to take delight in His outcome.  

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;

   my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

Psalm 13: 5

The little word “but” that David hangs out there at the start of this verse carries a large amount of weight, for the four verses before it are loaded with the pain and the heartache that can come to anyone when the world seems to be against us. He was feeling as if his enemies were prevailing in their assaults upon his body, mind, and spirit. The fact that those enemies included formerly trusted friends and even family members made this new reality all the more difficult to bear. In times like this, the tangible or physical aspects of the assault are hard to handle, but the emotional and spiritual components of it are what truly oppress and drive us down. Unfortunately, this is the sort of time in the journey of life that almost everyone experiences. We all find ourselves in a place where we are at odds with others and wherein those challenging relationships reach the point of seeming no return where our resources are depleted and our hearts are overwhelmed by the weight of it all.

These are times when we need to be rescued, when we need a real and a lasting friend to reach out to us and to hold us tightly in a safe and a reassuring embrace of genuine love and care. We may be comforted by such a friend, and I pray that each of us has at least one of those in our lives; yet, the sort of love that is being described here finds its source in the author of all love, in the God of our salvation. This is a love that does not look at our weakness or failure and hold these things against us. This is a love that desires to redeem rather than defeat; so, this is a lover who wants nothing from us other than the pleasure of our company and the return to health and strength of our bodies, minds, and spirits. The sort of love that is sourced in the Lord forgives wrongs, points out goodness, and speaks truth to counter the lies that evil attempts to use to overwhelm us. 

The Father sent the Son, Jesus Christ, into our world to demonstrate and to perfect this form of love. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross provided us with the ultimate expression of God’s unending and unshakeable love for all of the people in the world for all time. This is a love that was present with the first people and that has continued unchecked and without change through the balance of history. Try as we may have done, we are not able to defeat God’s love; so, there is no sin or rebellion that is greater than Christ’s ability and will to save us. There is also no dark place where we can go that is sufficiently hidden from His view that we are unfindable there. This is a hard and a harsh world that is populated with people who think, say, and do things that are mean, violent, and damaging in many ways; yet, nothing that they do can truly harm our souls. Christ loves us in a way that can bring joy to the darkness and that can bring about a heart-deep form of rejoicing that overcomes our tears. This is the love that Christ desires to pour out on you and on me, and this is the love that saves!     

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.

Let me dwell in Thy tent forever,

Let me take refuge in the shelter of Thy wings.

Psalm 61: 4

 

There is this image that comes to mind of a person who is fleeing from some form of great danger or from the scene of some terrible happening. As the fear overcomes him he turns from the street into the doorway of the next building that comes along, and trying the door, he finds it locked; so, he pounds on it in a life or death frenzy while shouting, “Let me in!” Maybe I have watched too many films, but it is just possible that the events of life have raised my adrenalin to this level a few too many times. Experience has made me want to find a place to spend my days where living life makes sense and where being alive is a highly desirable state.

 

This safe and secure reality is found in Christ. Its location is not so much a tangible place such as a house, a church building, or a city of refuge. Rather, it is located wherever I am, for God sets up His camp and pitches His tent with and over me continually. The Lord’s tent is a place of cooling rest from the mid day sun, and it is a house where hospitality flows. The citizens of this great hall of blessing are numerous and their love is the love of Christ for all. The door of this place is never bolted shut as Christ calls to “All who are thirsty, all who are weak, just come to the fountain, dip your heart in the stream of life”, and He will give the drink that never stops satisfying to each and every person who answers that call.

 

The Lord also sends His angels to cover and to support His people. He surrounds each of us with the invisible, spirit realm emissaries of His perfect will and total grace. In addition, God places flesh and blood versions of His angelic host into our lives regularly. These people bring the truth of God’s love into clear focus as they serve His will. Then as we go through life, all of us are called upon to be the bearers of these angelic blessings in the lives of others as we live out our days as citizens of the new humanity of Christ. As You, O Lord, have draped me in the glorious tapestry of your eternal tent, may I seek to cover those who are weary and beaten down by life with Your wings of mercy and love.

 

All Who Are Thirsty, written by Brenton Brown, Glenn Robinson

 

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13: 35

 

Love in the manner that Jesus is describing it here is not a warm and soft emotion. It is quite distant from the sort of thing that most greeting cards depict, and this form of love is certainly not the easy ideal that people compose romantic phrases about in poems and songs. Jesus’ love is determined, suffering, and bold. It does very little to embrace culture; yet, it does everything to bridge the great cultural divides that separate people from each other. As Jesus was with us in the flesh, He loved in ways that were lasting for the rest of time. All of us can know and experience this same love that was before all of creation and that continues on throughout the rest of time. God so loves each and every one of us to the degree that He gave His own blood for our salvation from the death of separation that sin condemned all people to otherwise endure.

 

Jesus is saying that He and His loving grace have brought all who believe back home into a restored relationship with God. He wants us to understand that an important aspect of this state of healing and restoration is found in our own transformed hearts. In Christ we have a heart that can love as He does. We have the ability to step out of our self protective and defensive neediness and into His openness and acceptance. When we choose to love others, we are agreeing to walk with Christ. Love requires us to risk all of ourselves in order to achieve unity and to bring our world closer to the glory of God. Love is the primary thing that frames in and defines the living reality that is the Kingdom of God.

 

This love that Christ demonstrated for us and that He commanded us to embrace is not easy and it is uncompromising. It speaks out in truth, and it has no place in it for hatred, oppression, and rage. It implores people to embrace the sick, weak, defenseless, the unlovely, and the lost. It also refuses to assume that the oppressors, murderers, and thieves of our world are without hope of redemption. Christ has never stopped loving all people, even those who express opposition and hatred toward Him, and He doesn’t grant us the right or the ability to make determinations of eternal worth that exceed His own. When Christians determine to live as Jesus commands us here, the result is even more compelling in our world. As we set aside difference and focus on the essential commonality of our faith in the risen Christ, the love of person to person that must ensue is compellingly counter to the way this world operates. This love is also strikingly desirable, and it points straight to its source in Jesus Christ.

For the LORD is righteous;

hr loves righteous deeds;

the upright shall behold his face.

Psalm 11: 7

 

Whether a person is a follower of Christ or not, the first statement in this verse receives almost universal acceptance. The challenge comes in how each of us understands the meaning of that concept. For me, God’s righteousness is the core of His being. It is the platform from which He has done all that He has engaged in, and it is the basis for all that God brings about today. The Lord is right in all that He thinks and in every action that comes out of those thoughts. His state of being right is not grounded in His strength, positional power, or superior capacity. Rather, the righteousness of God is motivated into action by His overwhelming love for all of creation.

 

Because of this great love for all, God is saddened to the point of grief by the way that we treat each other and this world that He has provided to sustain us. The anger and the violence of people stands in stark contrast to the love that God pours out on us and that He desires for us to operate out of as the basis for our engagement with each other. The righteousness that God calls people to embrace is never angry or violent, and it does not seek to gain power or control over others. The righteousness of Godly people is not judgmental, either. Instead, it speaks truth without fear, and it seeks to bring all of the people that it encounters into the presence of Christ.

 

It is in this ongoing process of living out of and of entering into the righteousness of God that His people grow in our knowledge and our understanding of who our Lord truly is. Living in the center of God’s will can be hard and challenging, and it can lead to many forms of loss in this world. However, it is also the most rewarding way that people can live. The rewards are found in the certainty that comes from the platform of truth that is contained in God’s Word and through the revelation of that truth by His Spirit. They are also expressed in the reassuring presence of the Spirit who speaks the love of the Father to the hearts and the minds of all who follow the Lord.

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

2 Corinthians 10: 5

 

Our minds are amazing things, for they are capable of solving complex problems, of grasping difficult concepts, and of creating great beauty. Yet, they are also very easily led down destructive and harmful paths. This is often the way that Satan goes after us. For he slips a bit of slightly wrong thinking into the rational patterns of our minds, and he works his way into the smallest point of weakness that we allow to form in our spiritual lives. Then, those toe holds of deception start to grow and to develop into serious areas in our lives where God’s truth and His gracious love are overshadowed by deception.

 

Yet, there is real hope in all of this; since, Christ wants to join us in the fight against this very sort of wrong thinking, and He has already provided the answers that we need and the source for finding all of the wisdom that we will require to face life’s challenges. God wants us to take everything that we are thinking about, all actions that we are considering, and each aspect of our days and check our reason and logic against His Word. That means that we need to stay consistently engaged with the Lord through prayer, reading of His Word, and by listening to His responses to us.

 

There is nothing that is too small or insignificant, there is nothing that is too large or complex, and there is no issue that is too contemporary for the Lord to be interested in and capable of responding to. All that we do and every thought that we have fit into God’s design for righteous living. However, we do need to plan and to purpose to surrender our will and to seek God’s wisdom regularly, continually, and in all circumstances. Every thought that crosses my mind needs to be surrounded by the perfect circle of truth and love that is the protective boundary of Christ’s relationship with me.

 

Reposted from 2012

Where does thankfulness come from? What is it that I am truly thankful for? Why does it matter at all in a world where take is stronger than give and have is far more desirable than relinquish? The questions seem to outstrip the traditions, and the day of gathering and celebration in America has become, for many, just the starting point for the consumer rush of the Holiday Season. Yet, I want to throw out that there is, indeed, much to be thankful for and there is truly a reason to celebrate.

 

This point on the calendar in late November can and should be the start of a very special season. The celebration and the remembrance, the gathering together and the festivities that mark the Christmas Season are good things. In fact, I think that they are more than just good things; I believe that this coming season of Advent is an important part of the cycle of our faith lives. This is a time when we reflect upon the characteristics of God that were given to humanity by and through Christ. During these weeks our hearts can be turned away from our self-imposed necessities and toward our calling in Christ to serve His Kingdom and to glorify His name. This is a time of the year when giving the gifts of kindness, compassion, and care can mean more to a tired soul than any object or fragile token of affection.

 

It seems to me that our greatest cause for thankfulness is to be found in the Advent, which is Christ come. This is God with us and God within us. The Spirit of Christ has been given to us to speak truth, love, peace, mercy, and forgiveness into our broken and bitter souls. In Christ we are granted restoration and our lives are transformed from the inside to the out in a manner that grants each of us who know Jesus as our Lord and Savior into persons of real, eternal significance in our world. In all of this resides the cause for thankfulness. It is through Christ and by the results of His coming that we are made alive, and because of His grace and merciful forgiveness, we are granted a life that matters. So, as our thankfulness is focused upon God and reflects on His great gift to all of Creation, we are motivated to extend the love of God to the world around us and to rest in the certainty of His for us. This is more than enough cause to be deeply and eternally thankful.

 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3: 16

 

It is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1: 16

 

This statement, a directive from God to His people, is quite ancient. Peter takes it out of Leviticus where it becomes something of an on-going theme. Foe people the desire to live holy lives, that is lives that are set apart from the world and from its sinful thoughts and deeds, can be motivated by self determination, by fear, or by imitation. God wants us to imitate Him. Doing this requires us to set aside self and to overcome fear. Imitation demands that we become open and yielded to another in whom we place an ever-deepening trust.

 

The primary characteristic of God that draws most people to Him is love. God loves us with a form and a depth of love that is beyond any that humans can employ. God’s love is accessible and it is universal. God comes after us with a relentless desire to be lovingly close to all people in all circumstances. He brings love to bear when we deserve rebuke and punishment. God brought His bottomless grace into our world in order to save us out of the death that we had self-imposed, and His grace is what enables us to actually seek to live as God has directed from the beginning of creation.

 

No one, not a single person ever in history or today, can live a life that is holy according to God’s standards. Even as we know Christ and seek to live under Hid lordship of our lives, we are still sinners. So, we all fall short of the mark that is holiness. Yet grace, which in and through Christ is unlimited and unending, proclaims that we are clean and guiltless under God’s perfect law. This grace frees us to set aside the burden of yesterday’s anger and today’s doubt, it frees us from the need to work for our right standing before God, and it is grace that tells me to seek to think, act and live a life that is holy and that is fully committed to the love that God pours out on me.

 

And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

2 John 6

 

From time before the creation of the world, through every moment of existence, and until all of God’s design is complete and perfected, the singular thread that runs through and forms the structural strength of it all is God’s love. He loved each and every one of us before any of our ancestors waked on this earth. God continues to love us through every breath that we draw; and all people who come to accept His love will continue to experience it for a period of time that is immeasurable in its length and in its breadth.

 

God’s righteous order for living is based upon His love for us. He asks us to care deeply and to give greatly to others in His name and for His sake. For when this happens, people have an opportunity to see the true character of God in terms that are accessible and understandable. Thus, they get God’s love delivered by someone who is clothed in skin. Christ wants us to enter into a civil and a respectful form of engagement and discourse with each other; He desires for us to approach rather than avoid, and He leads us to care for others regardless of what they may look like or how they might act toward us.

 

People, when we are operating out of our own devices, tend to gather together in order to gain power and control. We tend to oppress and destroy. Christ brings us together in His will, to follow His way, and to share His love so that people’s lives and their souls can be cared about and for. The Lord asks that I do the following things. Think of someone who I struggle to like, and pray for Christ’s love to come through me to that person. Consider someone who I should love greatly but am struggling with, and take God’s love to that person. Open the back corner of my heart to Christ, and allow His love access to that area of myself that I have been hiding and withholding. From the beginning of every day to the end of all days, God wants to walk with us with His loving arm around us, His love filling our hearts, and that love spread into His creation.