He has told you, O man, what it is and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6: 8

God is a clear communicator, and He makes it rather easy to understand the way of living that He desires for His children to follow. We are to be people who live in a just and a righteous manner without demanding justice for ourselves. We are to be people who show kindness, which is often called mercy, to everyone without the expectation or the prerequirement that they will be merciful to us. This is the nature of God, for He grants the total grace of His loving forgiveness to everyone who will accept it. He does this even knowing that from God’s perspective, we are all antagonistic and hostile to His will, for we are all, in our natural states, unjust and merciless.

God’s Spirit teaches, counsels, guides, and directs us toward decisions and responses to other’s actions that will reflect His concept of what is just and how to grant mercy. Justice and kindness are key threads in the cloth of life that God has woven and that He has wrapped around every one of His children. As we seek to live in the center of our relationship with Christ, His Spirit infuses our hearts with His essential truths and with the values and the ethics that spring forth from them. Christ calls upon us to become people who value the just treatment of everyone at a very high level; so, we need to seek to interact with others in a way that reflects the grace and the mercy that Christ has shown to us.

When we actually live in this manner it means that we are required to place ourselves and our concepts of our own importance on a level that is far beneath that of God’s. Then we can become humble students of the Master, and we are more readily able to stay humble through everything that comes our way. I will not have all of the answers, but Christ does. I won’t always respond well to what others do and say, yet God has already forgiven my failure and guides me into restoration of the relationships that have been harmed. When I see my futility and powerlessness in the face of oppression and hatred in my world, the Lord simply says for me to walk with Him, and He will provide the insight and the wisdom that I require to meet the needs of the victimized and the battered. As I am weak and lacking in knowledge and understanding, Christ is with me to provide everything that I need to be bold, courageous, and loving throughout the day. 

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Romans 6: 22

 

Of course, Paul is talking about our relationship with Christ and the way that entering into Christ’s death and resurrection works in us to create profound change. The nature and the identity of people who know Christ is changed and we are set free from unending slavery to the sinfulness of our birth nature. In Christ we are made free to live in the love, truth, and righteousness of that new identity that is formed by God and made real in us by Christ’s presence within us. In Christ there is far more freedom than there is in our old lives; yet, we are still governed and mastered by God.

 

Perhaps the most significant difference for us in being subjects of Christ as opposed to being subjects to our old natures is found in the results that we enjoy as we follow each of these masters. The first path leads to self-centered and protective thinking and actions. It uses relationships to achieve gain; so, it also tends to devalue and to discard them when they seem used up. In contrast, God values relationships to the point of giving all in order to enter into them with people. In Christ, we can be transformed into people who willingly do the same. There is much more about us that is changed in our relationship with Christ from the life that we lived before we knew Him.

 

Yet all of this change leads in one direction. We are taken out of a life that leads to death both in the conduct and the outcomes of this life and a death that continues throughout eternity. In Christ we are placed into the fullness of life that is experienced in these mortal days and then fully known in the unending realm of eternity. This life in Christ provides us with the reward of the sweet fruit of God’s Spirit that includes peace, hope, and love. The experience and enjoyment of these gifts is something that grows and increases as we continue to submit ourselves to Christ so that He continues to work within us to bring about the transformation from our old selves into people who live more fully in the expression of our new persons in Christ.

God settles the solitary in a home;

he leads out the prisoners to prosperity

but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

Psalm 68: 6

 

This is a Psalm in which David talks about times of exile and exodus. These are times of homelessness and periods when the nation and the individual people were without a solid anchor to hold onto in their daily existences other than God. That is the point. Although home matters greatly to most of us, it is not something that we can affix to a specific place, to human relationships, or to consider as our right. Home is a gift from God, and it is fully appreciated and understood only from the frame of reference of dwelling with its provider, God, Himself.

 

Even the wanderer in a desert land or a prisoner in a cell can be home. The Israelites were still home when they were enslaved in Egypt. In fact, it might just be easier to grasp and to appreciate this reality from those hard and undesirable places. In those settings, the presence of God becomes all that there is to cling onto. When all of the earthly comforts that we appreciate and the social order that provides us with a sense of security are taken away, we can still feel the soul-deep peace that comes from the indwelling of God’s Spirit. In this sense, Christ is the one who grants the gift of home to me as dwelling in Him provides my heart and mind with all that I need to reside in the shelter of my Lord’s will.

 

God’s concept of home may not look like the one that I would portray, for He is not concerned with the number of rooms or with the quality of decorative finishes. The Lord also views prosperity differently than I do. He doesn’t need to count the funds in the bank or even to consider the reliability of a supply of food or clothing as indicators of well-being. The Lord blesses His people with the bounty of His kingdom of love, truth, grace, justice, and mercy. He brings His people into the fullness of His will and grants to us the abundance of His purpose for our lives. For me, dwelling in the presence of Christ creates my true home, and this is a place where my thirsty soul is filled with the cool water of Christ’s loving provision.

The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.

1 Peter 4:7

 

The oldest promise that exists in the history of people is the one where God makes a commitment to us that the fatal disease of sin will be cured. This applies not only to the people who choose to accept Christ’s gracious act of saving sacrifice, but it is also true for this entire evil tainted world. However, in order for the blood of atonement to have its permanent effect on our world, all of the diseased elements must be destroyed. Thus, all things that we know that are in this world and of this world must soon come to an end.

 

This is a good thing; yet, it is a hard and a frightening prospect to consider. It is very easy to lose track of how God calls upon us to live and to wander off the course that He would have us follow. This is where seeking the sort of wisdom that leads to sound judgment comes in. The sort of deep-seated core thinking that can be relied upon in even the most challenging of times comes from the Lord. It is defined by His character. It doesn’t come naturally to us, but it is ours when we seek it through searching God’s word, by staying closely connected to His people in honest and loving relationships, and as we live in the intimacy of God’s Spirit.

 

Understanding, clear thinking, and righteous living are the result of surrendering our fears, concerns, anger, and distrust to Christ. We begin to gain the sort of level headed and sober approach to life that God desires for us to have when we lay all that gets in the way of living life in the fullest expression of Christ’s freedom on the altar of prayer as a love offering to our Savior. There is release from captivity in the prayer; there is strength to be found in the praying; and God’s eternally promised wisdom becomes clearer in a life where prayer is constant.

 

The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.

Habakkuk 2: 20

My ears are buzzing with the overload of the sound of life that too often becomes the foreground of the day. Maybe it’s the constant noise of life in the modern world where machines and electronic devices are everywhere. Maybe it’s the way that everyone seems to have an opinion about everything, and they express them continually. Whatever the source, my head is swimming and my mind just can’t keep up with the pace of the stimulation that my ears are letting in to it.

It is too easy to lose sight of the fact that there is one voice that separates the real from the false and that creates order out of chaos. I struggle with simply shutting out the clutter and with not getting caught up in the allure and the energy of the buzz. Yet, I must shut it out in order to allow myself the ability to hear God as He speaks. It is also true that the Lord will filter all of the external information for me if I would reroute my inputs so that I am taking everything in by testing it against what God says in His word and through His Spirit.

The basic truth is that God is ever present, and He is present everywhere. Additionally, as His child, I am His temple; thus, God’s Spirit is in me. It is an inescapable fact that the world will always be a noisy and distracting place to live, but Christ brings calm and peace to our lives. We can choose to turn off the noise and shut out the buzz of this world. When we do this and meditate on God’s truth, His voice will speak clearly despite all of the world’s attempts to drown it out.

Let us test and examine our ways,

and return to the Lord!

Lamentations 3: 40

 

Most of us have experience in taking tests. Some of these examinations are relatively easy and some can be brutally demanding. The difference is caused by many factors that include the level of the test, the material that it covers, and our preparation for it. Life itself is an unending testing ground. Our courage, trust, faith, loyalty, and many other characteristics and skills are placed under the pressure of examination on a regular basis. Although this fact can set our nerves on edge, testing is not necessarily a bad thing. The real key to it all comes in the results of the test and then in what we do with and about what we learn.

 

In this passage the prophet Jeremiah is actually instructing us to deliberately test ourselves. He says that we should take the bold and risky step of signing up for the exam, paying the test fee that is measured in painful truth and the tears of repentance, and allow God’s Spirit free reign in our hearts and minds to turn us from our sinful failure toward the Lord’s glorious crown of victory in life. In order to be willing to do this, I have come to the realization that I can trust God absolutely. There has been no time when He has not loved and cared for me and graciously entered into my struggles and failures with me.

 

The results of the testing are not always what I would have desired. My ways of living; my thoughts, actions, and the condition of my heart; are not always in tune with God’s desire and His will. Yet, the Lord is faithfully there when the grade is posted, and His first words to me are, “I love you, my child.” This is reassuring, but God does not leave me with this alone. Christ and His Spirit speak to my wounded heart, and they provide guidance and wisdom to use in going out from that point of failure into the usefulness of God’s plan for my service to His kingdom. This is that point of personal decision. I can accept my weakness, turn my way toward God’s truth, and follow His leading; or I can reject the results and continue along my self-directed way. One choice leads to transformative change and one to repetitive failure. The God who loves me lets me make that choice every time.

You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.

1 Peter 1: 23

 

Lasting change comes only from an everlasting source. Real transformation is brought about through a process that involves personal agreement that something needs to be different. It starts when we decide to yield ourselves to the change agent, and God affects it through the work of His Spirit in us. When we submit our lives to God’s authority by allowing Christ into our hearts, we begin a lifelong journey of regeneration, for God begins to replace the dead and the dying in us with His living word of truth.

 

God’s word is broad, far reaching, and multifaceted. It covers every subject possible, and it is relevant to the current life situation of all people. The expansiveness of the word of God is truly beyond my ability to imagine, for it is found in many forms and in all places. The obvious source is the Bible, and its words are the ultimate source for wisdom and understanding to use in my travels through this life. It also gives me a written frame work of knowledge about God and for understanding God’s nature, character, and will. God’s word, both as written in the Bible and as expressed through other means, is brought to life by the work of His Spirit in me. Without the Spirit, I would not have the ability to understand what God is saying, for otherwise, His living word would be spoken in a language that is completely foreign to me.

 

The word of God is also expressed through and by all of Creation. The hand of the Creator is on everything in the universe. As we look up and out of our own needs, wants, and desires and start to seek after God’s will and way of living, His word becomes more apparent, and His voice becomes louder and clearer. The voice of the Lord calls each of us to be alive. He desires to transform us into people who are fully living, and in order to do this, He speaks transformative life into our hearts and minds.