There is really nothing that is worth saying about this new year that we have just entered. The world is in a sorry state of affairs. Pick a country and its government is out of synch with its people and is failing to secure their futures. There is no peace to be found in the regions of the globe, and the level of terror that is coming from our warlike bent is increasing to levels that have seldom been seen in history. Across the face of the earth there are people who are needlessly starving, being taken down by preventable illness, and are homeless, and this does not even consider the millions of others who have been made into refugees due to the animosity of others and as a result of our humanity’s unchecked violence toward itself. This planet was not born into this harsh and troubled state, but its nurture under the influence of evil has taken it down this degenerative path so that by this point in its story it is very hard to see the light of hope on the horizon of the coming days.

 

Yet, this is not how God sees us or the way that He views the world where we live. He is made very sad by the way that we have taken the beautiful perfection of His creation and twisted and tortured it into the tangled mess that it is today, but that does not change the Lord’s view of what His hands crafted, and it does not cause Him to abandon His unceasing hope for our redemption. In fact, God has taken action to change it all, for He was not surprised or set back by the way that we turned away from Him in order to seek after our own way of travel through life. The need for Jesus’ sacrificial work of redemption was known by God from a point in time that precedes all of the history of our world. God’s plan for effecting our return to Him and into His righteousness was set in motion before our first ancestors were devised and created. Now each of us is called to enter into that hope for ourselves and for our world. We are invited to join with Christ in seeing this new day and the future through God’s eyes, and we are led by Christ into acting upon that hope as He desires for us to do.

 

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10: 23

 

As followers of Christ we are led by Him to love people in a manner that sacrifices all for the sake of others. We are implored to set aside violence as our answer to differences and to seek to know and to understand those who we believe are opposed to us and to our beliefs. The Gospel of Jesus Christ directs His people to seek after the restoration to relationship with God and with ourselves of everyone without regard to any internal or external concerns or issues that we may hold or have. This means that we need to be the ones who step across the barriers and boundaries of our world and reach out in peace and reconciliation to these people, cultures, and nations with whom we are at odds. As we hold fast to our confession of Christ, we are trusting in Him for the protection, courage, strength, and wisdom that this course of travel requires. In so doing, we set aside our own natural tendencies and understandings so that the greater truth of God’s way of living can prevail. There is, in fact, hope in the air as this new year begins; however, it does not come from looking to political solutions or leaders, it is not found in the news of the day, and hope is not grounded in the skills and the technology of our culture. Rather, hope is found and is given expression as we look fully and singularly on Christ. Hope is given expression as we follow His way and renounce the ways of this world. Hope is tendered as we join our Lord in sacrificing all for the sake of the redemption of others.

Blessings for this New Year.

 

 

 

In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

Jeremiah 33: 15

 

Those days and that time have come, and they are still on the horizon. The dawn of this new age when all injustice is abolished and wherein righteousness is the way of all life is still a promise. However, the One who brings about the realization of God’s promise has come so that His life is something that we can all enjoy. Jeremiah spoke with a view to a future that he believed in by virtue of faith. We live in a time when we can look back upon the birth, life, death and resurrection of the Christ and see the fulfillment of that which the prophet had to contemplate in trust and by that great faith. Now we live in a time between Christ’s advent and the ultimate and complete fulfillment of God’s plan for restoration of Creation.

 

Our days and these times are filled with the trouble and the anguish of a world that is still not cleansed of its sinfully rebellious ways. This creation where we dwell is torn apart by striving against its own Creator and Savior. It is fighting a lost battle with the Lord of the Universe over terrain that has already been consecrated by the sacrificial blood of the Messiah. So, for those of us who do know Christ, we are caught up in the middle of this war zone, and this place can bring with it challenges and hard times. However, the life that we are able to live because of the presence of Christ in us and with us is graced with that same hope that blessed Jeremiah’s journey. We have been granted the opportunity to see beyond faith to the reality of Christ’s redemption as we are taken deeply into the truth of God’s eternal wisdom while His unstoppable love is poured out upon us.

 

That righteous Branch, Jesus the Christ, provides for us a root that is unbreakable to hold onto through all of the days of this life. He grants to us His grace, mercy, peace, and strength so that we can dwell securely in the land where the Lord’s will has placed us. These are the days that God has given to each of us to fill with His presence. This is the time that He has ordained for us to follow Him and to proclaim Christ and His Gospel of life to the world around us. The Savior has come; this is no longer a future promise. Redemption is at hand for anyone who will turn away from the lost life of birth and embrace God’s promise of newness and rebirth as a beloved citizen of His Kingdom come. So, even in this world where struggle and chaos may seem to rule the day, we can be secure as we follow our Lord in doing His redemptive work, and we can hold onto Jeremiah’s hopeful vision of Christ’s final return and the renewal of all of Creation to God’s intended glory.

And he was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 21: 5

 

It can be hard to be optimistic these days. There is so much wrong in our world, and the pain that all of this brokenness is causing is hard to handle. It doesn’t even need to be personal hurt, loss, and suffering for it to have a strong impact upon us. Then, when the sting of life’s sorrows does come to us in a personal manner, our already tender and raw hearts can be overwhelmed by it all. This is a challenging time in a tough place to live; yet, we are not even close to being alone in this place or in our journey through it. From that moment when it all went sideways, God has been involved in this world and with us as He seeks out all that are lost and has set His plan for full redemption into motion.

 

The plan is present as God articulated it in those first dark hours of creation’s rebellion, and its resolution is a promise that God has made to that same creation and that He specifically gave to the people of this world. We were to be saved out of our sin-devised death by Christ, and He has come and He does save us through faith and by His unfathomable grace. Although I and others who live today may not see that day of final renewal during our current lives on earth, we can be certain of God’s promise that this day of restoration for creation will come. For me there is a hopefulness to be found in this knowledge, for my own efforts on behalf of God’s kingdom are neither wasted nor are they of minor importance to my Lord. He calls me to do what it is that I engage in, and He empowers that effort as He directs it.

 

This reality provides me with true freedom. It expresses the hope that underlies life in this world. For as there is pain, loss, and suffering afoot everywhere today, the presence of God is also here with me, and that presence pours out the glory of my Creator and Lord onto all that I encounter. In moments of loss, He is there to comfort and to fill up with His infinite love. During the hours of pain, Christ shares in it and provides a form of grace that soothes the sting of my raw and tortured nerves. It does seem to me that even over the harsh and raucous noise of our world today that the voices of the angelic choir that surrounds the throne of God can be heard singing out their unceasing praises to the Lord. They speak of God’s promise of total renewal, and they lead me to join in with them in singing praises to Christ who has redeemed me and is working every day to perfect His renewal in me and in all who follow Him.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8: 31

 

The idea that God is with or for particular people, groups, nations, or causes is one that forms the foundation of hopes, wishes, and motivates actions. It has been a battle cry and a rationale that is set out in defense of human endeavors that range from the noble to the outrageous. So, what does it mean for God to be for people, and who are those people?

 

First off, it seems to me that God has always been for us. All people are a part of His creation, and we are that specially crafted portion of creation that was made in the image of our Creator. He breathed His life, our souls, into us and entered into a form of relationship with us that is utterly unique. Even in our rebellious and willful rejection of God’s rightful authority and rule, God set out a perfect and complete plan for salvation and for restoration. The Lord has never waivered from this plan, and He has never stopped pursuing each and every one of us. Still we humans are not easy to love and to nurture. We allow fear to motivate our thoughts and actions, and we treat people who are different from us as inferiors or as enemies.

 

None of this is pleasing to God, for nothing in these thoughts and actions is based in His will or upon His Word. So, I think that God is for all people in the sense that He desires for all to know Him by entering into a relationship with Christ. He is also for those who know Christ in that our motives, confidence in life, and capacity to love others are reflections of His character and are founded in our engagement with His Spirit. So, it would seem that God is truly for us as we set aside our personal aspirations and desires and yield our lives fully to Christ’s will. God desires for His people to be reconcilers, to be peacemakers, and to engage with our whole beings in His redemptive work in our world.

If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

John 12: 26

 

It is true that Jesus wanted people to follow Him. Yet, the place that He was going was not clear to the people who heard Him say these words. That lack of understanding was not Jesus’ fault, for He had been talking and teaching about the Father’s plan for what was to be required of Jesus for some time. The disciples just weren’t ready to listen and to truly hear. Yet, at this moment in the journey that God had set the Christ upon, in the little town of Bethsaida just a few miles from Jerusalem and the mount called Golgotha, Jesus says to those who are with Him, “follow me.”

 

These same words echo into our day and over our lives. Jesus speaks to each and everyone of us who respond to His gift of grace, love, and restoration and says the same thing to us. We are to follow. That is not an easy road. It is not a path that is paved with comfort and with universal acceptance. In fact, it seems that in today’s world, acceptance and cultural prominence are far removed from the experience of the Christian life. Perhaps that is actually a good thing, for rejection and animosity are the road that Christ walked. As we encounter this response in our daily lives, we just might be stepping into the footprints of our Lord.

 

So, travel along a path where crowds of adulation and acceptance have suddenly turned into disrespectful and unaccepting nations of skeptics, as seems to be the case in our western cultures, leads me to seek out Christ for His responses to these same experiences. He responded to the world’s anger and aggressive rejection with sadness at their lost condition, with grace and love, and with the diligent and unstoppable zeal of the shepherd who seeks to bring the one lost sheep home to life. This is how I believe that Christ is telling me to respond to my world. This sort of uncompromising love and grace is the result of following Christ all the way to that cross of absolute sacrifice and shame where all of myself is left behind and all of Christ becomes who I am.