When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Matthew 9: 36

 

Jesus knew the people; He was very aware of what they were like and how they were living. This was true because He spent significant amounts of time in their company. He didn’t stand back or remain aloof and separate from the crowds. Jesus wanted to get up close to the full spectrum of humanity, and He was willing, even desirous, to connect personally with the dirty and unwashed, the angry or demented, the poor and oppressed, and the well off and powerful. They were all to be counted among the lost and wandering sheep of this earth when it came to these encounters with the Savior. Each and every one of them was in need of the truth of the Gospel and the love of God.

 

So, Jesus traveled along their paths of wandering as He went where people in need were located. Christ did what God had done from the beginning of His relationship with us in that He came after us. Jesus did not sit back, station Himself in a suitable place to conduct His business, and wait for the people to come to Him. He went out into the world, took the risks that this act involves, and He reached out His hand of mercy, love, and truth to everyone that He encountered along the way. Jesus knew that He held the answer to the challenges that all people face in this life. He was fully aware that direction and purpose and the empowerment to enter into them are all provided to us by God and through His Word. He brought that Word of Life to the doorsteps of the world in His flesh. He carried God’s salvation to the paths of destruction that people had taken in our shepherd less states of being.

 

Jesus conducted Himself in this compassionate manner, and He desires or us to do the same sort of thing. Christ has left each of His followers with His Word of truth to cherish and to utilize in understanding and engaging with life. However, that same word is a living and a dynamic document as well as a Spirit-engaged testimonial to God’s grace, mercy, love, and redemption. We are, in fact, to be the workers in the fields of harvest that the Lord speaks about. Christ sends us out from our homes, our churches, and our comfort into a world where directionless existence is the normal state of affairs. He guides us and counsels us in this journey of faith, and Christ, Himself, does the actual work of convincing and convicting people of their need for Him. We are to be people who act in faith as we are yielded to Christ’s compassion for others. As we journey into our world, we will encounter these lost sheep to love and to share the truth of life with, and the compassion that we show to them will reflect that of our Lord onto the landscape around us.

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For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Galatians 3: 27-29

 

There is one and only one point of convergence for all that truly matters in this world. No one and nothing other than Jesus Christ brings us together in ways that are valid and lasting. Yet people who claim Christ are not unified. We argue and disagree, and sadly, we too frequently do so over trivia, minutiae, and about third-rate issues of our understanding of Scripture and faith practice. Yet, there are other issues that are not unimportant and that should work to bring those of us who know Christ closer together rather than drive a wedge into our unity. Paul is identifying a major set of division creators from his days, and these would appear to be rather universal in that even after these two thousand years they and related issues continue to break apart people who claim faith in Christ.

 

Too many of these divisions are based upon worldly issues such as nationalism, protection of human institutions, the acquisition of wealth and power, care for the powerless, inclusion of the oppressed, and gender or racial equality and right treatment. The resolution of these long-standing issues should be found in our Lord’s presence and through the safety of spirit that comes in knowing Him to the degree that God is trusted to provide all. In the light of this eternal truth, we can all be people who give up our sense of protection and self-defense, and we can become people and therefore nations of people who operate out of a first-fruits giving state of heart that fears for nothing and that embraces all others without regard to their differences from us. Unfortunately for many of us this is not a quiet and passive sort of sit back and watch for the Lord to work form of commission from Christ.

 

When we move toward Christ, we also step ever more fully toward His cross. We step into the painful encounters and the hard decisions that He was forced to make in order to right the effects of the world’s sinful brokenness. Christ’s church has always been gathered together on that hill of suffering and pain where the cross is planted; yet, as we so gather we are also entering into our Lord’s victory over every power and all of the evil that operates in this world. In our days with their violence, oppression, and divisive currents of arrogant speech and legislation, we need to stand as the church of Christ in open and fearless opposition to all that is ungodly in our midst. Even the thought or the suggestion that racial superiority exists is wrong, the concept of protecting one’s nation at the cost of the lives of the oppressed is anti-God, failing to care for the poor and the weak regardless of the cost fails to recognize the Lord as our true provider, and the list goes on. We can choose to step out of our fears and our selfish concerns and journey together through our days as the church of Jesus Christ united in His Spirit and pouring out His grace, love, and mercy upon this desperate world. Or we can remain separated and apart.

 

This is a choice that we get to make. I believe that Christ does call upon His people to make it. These are defining days for each of us who know Christ as we make decisions about the way that we will conduct our lives. If we remain silent on the issues that are confronting our world today, we are saying that we accept the rhetoric, the actions, and the course that those in power at this moment dictate. This is not an acceptable course for Christ’s people or for His church. We should not fear the outcome of our actions when they are dictated by the truth of God’s Word, and we cannot continue to hold onto thoughts and concepts that stand in opposition to that same Word. We, Christ’s people and His church, must repent of our sinful acceptance of the world’s standards and views, turn to the Holy Scriptures and the Spirit for guidance, and step onto the common ground of the cross from which we will work under Christ’s direction and in His power to bring redemption and healing to this world.

And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and do confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands.

Psalm 90: 17

 

The singular most favorable thing that God has ever done was to come into my world, Himself, to spend His days with people who were just like me, and then finish those days by volunteering to climb onto the altar of sacrifice in order to make real the fact of salvation. God, the Father, sovereign over all of creation, and owner of everything has granted me the favor of His presence in the world of corruption and loss where my body dwells, and He has given me the favor of a total relationship with Him. There is nothing else that I need that actually counts for much of anything; yet, Christ continues to shower me with gifts both great and small.

 

The Lord is present in the person of His Spirit throughout every moment of my life, for He speaks courage to my heart and wisdom and understanding to my mind, and His Word brings knowledge and grants me perspective on every situation and issue that comes my way. Christ has paced me into a family of people who also know Him, and it is through Him that the barriers that our human, sinful selves construct to keep us safe and others at a distance are removed; so, I am blessed daily by the riches of the diversity of the people that are with me in the body of Christ. Jesus, through His life example, by His blood, and in His Spirit grants to me the favor of His purpose, direction, and capacity for impacting my world with the truth of salvation.

 

In my humanity it is easy to become confused or to lose sight of the continual fact of Christ’s presence and provision; yet, all I need to do to be reminded of His presence is to open my heart and calmly listen to His voice, and the truth that, in Christ, fills my world becomes evident. What I do matters far less than who I am doing it for, and the results of my efforts are insignificant in comparison to living in the center of Christ’s love and to demonstrating it while I am working. Still, my God does grant me the favor of doing His will, and He makes His delight in my humble and too often flawed obedience clear to me. The Spirit speaks words of quiet assurance to me as I enter into living as Christ’s servant in this world. Christ’s will revolves around loving others, granting grace and mercy to the broken people of our world, and living out God’s righteousness for all to see. So, as I yield myself to serving my Lord, my life grows ever more pleasing to Him.

 

I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.

Joel 3: 28

 

The Lord does not want us to be in the dark. He desires for all people to understand the world that we live in, the life that we are living, and the future that He is calling us to pursue. Therefore, God communicates clearly, thoroughly, and continually with us. Sometimes He does this in ways that are so subtle that His voice can be like the whisper of a hummingbird’s wings, and at other times, He shouts with the roar of a fighter jet in a maximum power take off. God’s point is that He wants us to hear, and He also wants us to be continually watching and listening.

 

All of the history of the world is interlaced with God’s interaction and involvement with people. And all of it leads me to see the Lord’s goodness, love, grace, mercy, compassion, and faithfulness as they are expressed in and through the lives of those people. As I look through God’s Word, I am continually reminded that His greatest desire is for me and for everyone to know and to understand Him. So, He reveals Himself to us, and He wants us to share that revelation and the blessed freedom that it brings with others on an ongoing basis.

 

As we go through this day, let’s be continually aware of the way that God’s Spirit is covering us like the mist of a soft and refreshing Spring rain, surrounding us like a breeze off the ocean on a summer afternoon, and blanketing our world like that feather-light fall of dry, powdery snow on a perfect Winter’s morning. Christ’s Spirit goes with us everywhere and is in everything that we do so that we can be covered by His protection and love and be filled with His truth and understanding. Thus, the Spirit leads us to see God’s view of the future and to know that it is good.

 

God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).

Ephesians 2: 4, 5

 

This is an important thing to remember; God didn’t wait for me to go out and figure out life before He would come into my world. Also, He didn’t require me to get up out of the tomb that was my life, convince someone to perform CPR on my lifeless form, and start my own heart beating with eternal blood before He would embrace me. Jesus came into my world, which had all of the appearance and the odor of an open graveyard, and my Lord reached out to me and put His arms around my broken form. Then, Christ accepted me as I was. He took me into His glorious home even though I was still dressed in my grave clothes and covered with the filth of my sin.

 

God continues to operate out of the depths of this thing that we call grace, for He wants us to give Him our love and our worship. The Lord wants us to live righteously out of a desire to serve Him and not because we believe that God requires some form of effort out of us in order to draw near to Him. Just as we could not bring ourselves out of the darkness of spiritual death, we don’t have the capacity to initiate just, worthy, and righteous actions on our own, either. God’s Word and His Spirit interacting with us through it and within our hearts will show us what to do and how to do it. God’s grace continues to reach out to us, and it sets us free to follow Christ and to be His representatives in this world.

 

We can all stop moving so fast and working so hard. Rather, let’s take time to reflect on God’s Word and listen well in order to truly hear His voice as He speaks from within the depths of His Word. Then we can take the Lord’s words of direction and encouragement with us into our day where His Spirit will continue to speak to our hearts and minds, and His gracious love will continue to surround us with the sweet embrace of Christ’s mercy. This is what it means to be alive with Christ. We travel through this journey that is life in the continual and the constant company of the Creator of all, and the steps of our days have meaning that is far greater than anything that we could have devised on our own. Now, this love that saved us is also the love that we can pour out onto the world as we live in the full expression of the grace that has freed us.

 

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and the intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4: 12

 

This is where the relationship that a Christian has with God gets very hard. It is also where it gets to be incredibly easy. The fact and the reality of this relationship being one that exists on a mystical level; a deep, spirit and soul plane of our existence; makes it unique in the area of life direction and advice. We can look to many sources for input on both the big-picture aspects of living and for the situations that we encounter along the way. There is great, so-so, and completely wrong guidance available for almost anything. Yet, only God and His Word reach deeply into our hearts and minds with penetrating and totally reliable insight and wisdom.

 

Neither is God a counselor who you have to plan ahead in order to get the benefit of His wisdom, for He is truly involved in the very minute details of our existence. God is fully aware of the things that we do, the struggles that we encounter, and He understands the thoughts that we have before they are even formed in our minds. I do not know myself as well as my Lord does. Christ is fully alive in my world as well. He is the center of all that is vital, and His Spirit is continually present with me. I find great comfort in this fact, for Christ has taken control of this world away from Satan. Evil does have an effect and it does influence people and events that reach out to harm people and our world. However, Christ has turned all of this evil activity and influence for His glory, God’s purposes, and for our greatest good.

 

Just as God knows my thoughts and my intentions, so does His Word speak to them. In the Word are found insights into the ways that every person we will ever encounter will think and act. Even more powerful to me is the fact that my entire life story is written there. Each and every aspect of living in a manner that is concerned, loving, empathetic, understanding, thoughtful, and righteous is contained in these pages. Although the story that I am reading may be set thousands of years ago, I am led by the Spirit to see myself and my world described in clear detail on the pages. The Word of God is every bit as alive as Christ is in this day and in the place where I dwell. All that I need to do to find the advice that is required to live righteously today is to dwell on the pages of His Word, in the presence of His Spirit, and in the company of His community of faith.

 

I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up

and have not let my foes rejoice over me.

Psalm 30: 1

 

We all live out our days down here on the earth and in its crowded clutter of good and evil. We really do not have any other choice, for humanity has not colonized another planet and mental departure from reality is never more than temporary and partial escape. The way our days will go is directly influenced by the pull of gravity upon our bones as we are weighted down and pulled into engagement with the forces that are at work in our environment. Yet, there is a way out of it all. Not that we actually leave the cares and the trials of this world behind, but rather, the impact of it all is changed as our perspective on everything is transformed into one that becomes more like God’s.

 

As we lean into Christ by surrendering our selves totally to Him and by exploring God’s Word, the weight of this world is lifted from our backs and the impact of its forces upon our hearts and minds is lessened. The truth and the insight about all aspects of life and of living that is contained within the Word provides encouragement for hard days, peace to weather the storms, quiet when all is in uproar, and the bottomless wisdom of eternity to point us toward God’s righteous path through our days. All that is gleaned and gathered in from God’s Word is made real and we are given understanding concerning it as the Spirit reveals its depths and applications to our hearts and minds. In this way Christ lifts our vision out of the hazy confusion of the world around us and into the clarity of His heavenward view.

 

Yet, at the same time as we are drawn up by Christ into the glory of God’s presence, we are also lifted up onto the cross of surrender that our Lord endured for the sake of our salvation. For Christ does require us to give up our hold on this world and to let go of our tenacious grip upon the things that we hold as personally dear about the life that we have known outside of relationship with God. The glory that I am to know through Christ is reached only by enduring the shame and the pain of that cross where Jesus was hanged in my place. Them, as I absolutely surrender my life to Christ, He begins to remove all of my old way of thinking and acting as His Spirit reforms my heart and reorients my mind into those of a fully committed disciple of our Lord. Thus, in total surrender to Christ, I am drawn up into the full presence of God.