Let the word of Christ richly dwell in you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Colossians 3: 16

 

God dislikes separation and distance more than almost anything; He seeks after everyone and He keeps calling to us all even long after we have covered our ears with our hands, locked our hearts away in a steel vault, and given our allegiance to others. So, when we have listened to the call of eternal love and acceptance and come to God, is it any surprise that the Lord would continue to seek an ever more intimate and involved relationship with us?

 

Therefore, God gave us His word, and He provides His Spirit to guide us into an increasingly deep and comprehensive understanding of it. Still, it is up to each of us to decide to open ourselves up to the deep truths of the Lord, for I have found that the more I seek wisdom, truth, and understanding, the more of them I will gain, and when I apply the understanding that God has given me to the way that I live, His peace and joy fill my soul with a song that can not be suppressed.

 

We are not called to live each day as if we were actors in a musical play where all of our lines are delivered in song; yet, God wants us to be so closely connected to His love, grace, and mercy that our hearts are continually filled with thankfulness and our words and actions are those of someone whose view of life is framed from an eternal perspective. So, as the Spirit of Christ fills the heart with the peace and joy of His Word and that comes out of His presence, it is not at all surprising to consider that we would express it all by way of singing out in praise to our Lord and Savior.

 

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Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

Joshua 24: 14

 

History matters. There is something to be gained by taking a good look at it from time to time, and that is exactly what Joshua has just been doing at this point in his narrative. He has gone over the highlights of all that God has done for himself and for the Israelite people. This is a long and complex tale of the Lord’s faithfulness to them that has remained true despite the fact that the people have frequently wandered away from His path and have far too often needed to be rescued from the consequences of those side trips and sinful excursions. So, Joshua is summing up the Lord’s engagement with the Israelites by directing them to respond to the Lord’s commitment to them by being singularly faithful to God and by following His will in all things. The Lord was to be the sole and total object of their worship and the recipient of their love and devotion.

 

Each of us has a history that is different from the one that shaped the lives of Joshua and the people of Israel. Yet, each of us does possess a story that tells of where we have been, the influences that have shaped us, and that also contains an element of God’s involvement with us and in shaping the way that life has gone. As I see it, God does actively seek out everyone, and He pursues each of us in order to demonstrate His unfailing love for us and to grant to us the opportunity to enter into the gift of His redemptive grace and perfect will for our lives. This is not all that different from what the Lord had done for the Israelites. In our stories the locations have different names, our Egypt of captivity might have another shape or form, and the gods that we have served will probably require other forms of sacrifice and worship than did those of the Amorites or that were found in other lands of the Middle East. Yet, almost everyone has gone through the stresses and the struggles of a journey through life with its times in the desert and its challenges of faith and loyalty to God.

 

Thus, the call to give our total respect, love, and devoted worship to the Lord is not very far off track for anyone today. This is something that we purpose to do, but it is also something that God provides the way and the means to accomplish. We have been granted an advantage over what the Israelites had received in that Christ has come and become the final sacrifice in payment for our sinfulness, our wandering. As we seek to enter into Joshua’s command to fear the Lord and to serve Him with our whole beings, in Christ we have the presence of the Spirit to empower and to guide the process of that commitment. We also possess God’s Word in its entirety to inform our thinking and to influence our actions. So, we are granted the gift of the presence of the Lord in our lives and with us in its journey in ways that are even greater and more powerful than the miraculous and wonderful ways that the Lord was with and among the Israelites during their travels. However, just as it was for them, it is also up to us to decide that we will listen to the voice of the Lord and commit all that we are and every aspect of our lives to Him and to serving His will for us.

Thus says the LORD:

Cursed is the man who trusts in man

and makes flesh his strength,

whose heart turns away from the LORD.

 

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,

whose trust is the LORD.

Jeremiah 17: 5, 7

 

The prophet says it all with a few very direct words. Where we place our trust directly relates to the results that will come our way. The trust that is under consideration is, in itself, a big issue. It is foundational to the conduct of the day, for the way that we handle almost everything in the course of life is impacted and effected by the nature of the foundation that we stand upon when making decisions, both small and great. When we trust in ourselves and in the wisdom of other people as our primary means of discerning what is right, wise, and just, we will be disappointed and even abandoned at some point in the process. People are fickle and self-interested and are almost always guaranteed to fail to live up to the highest of expectations when we stand on our own without the guidance and the strengthening that God provides to us.

 

Jeremiah goes on in this passage to describe the person who places his trust in the ways of people as being isolated and even as being starved for the things that sustain life and bring about flourishing during it. This person is like a plant that is standing alone in the desolation and bareness of the desert. There is little for his soul to feed upon, and there is no sustaining support and encouragement to be found in these places. In contrast, the person whose “trust is the LORD” is compared with a tree that has been planted by water. In other words, one that is close to, focused upon, and remains connected with this unceasing and completely trustworthy source of nourishment, strength, and guidance in the ways of truth and righteousness. Although a tree does not make the choice to be planted close to the stream, we are different from these analogous plants in the text. We do have the option and the opportunity to make these choices for ourselves.

 

We can turn toward the ways and the thinking of this world for our guidance in various matters. We can even think that it works for us to seek out God’s Word and His path for some things, those that we deem to be religious in nature, and at the same time turn to the more comfortable understandings of this world for the rest. Yet, according to the thoughts of the Prophet, which experience has demonstrated to me to be correct, neither of these approaches to life will work for very long. We will always end up thirsty for truth, starved of wisdom’s nutrients, and isolated from the fellowship of faith where we can find real and lasting encouragement and strength. So, we can also choose the path wherein we place our trust in the Lord alone and turn toward Him absolutely and totally. In so doing, we turn to God’s Word as our primary and final authority for everything, all other ideas and thinking is tested against Scripture, we pray and listen to the Lord’s responses to our prayer as a regular aspect of each day, we engage in the fellowship of other followers of Christ and we seek out the counsel of these like-spirited people, and we recognize the fact that we are living as imperfect beings under the gracious and loving care of the Lord. When we choose this last approach to life, the roots of our hearts, minds, and spirits are planted in the singular source of nurture that will never fail to provide what is necessary for the day at hand.

All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord remains forever.

1 Peter 1: 24, 25

 

Peter looks back across human history to cite words that Isaiah set down that were just as fresh and current in Peter’s day as they were when they were first written. Now, when we look at life in our times, they still apply. For we humans tend to spend a lot of time, energy, and focus a remarkable amount of attention on things which have a very short life and that don’t provide much in the way of real, lasting value. We develop our bodies and we even exercise our minds in ways that make them stronger. These are good endeavors; yet, most of that effort does nothing to gain us a clearer perspective on things that have eternal significance.

 

If we want to be involved in efforts that have a life span that exceeds the moment, and we desire to expend our energy on an activity that brings real benefit to ourselves and to others; then, the best investment that we can make is in time with God’s Word. As we read God’s Word, we gain understanding of the Lord’s viewpoint on our own life. As we talk to God about what He is saying, we become more intimate with Him, and He becomes more real to us. The pages of His Word are amazing and even mystical in that they contain meaning and wisdom that is far greater than the sum of the mere words. The Spirit of the Lord speaks to His people in and through the pages of the text. As we read them we are taken into the heart of the author of truth, wisdom, righteousness, and love.

 

Time invested in God’s Word, whether it is a single verse or a long passage, will always pay great rewards. All of the beauty of the universe is contained within, and that beauty is granted context and lasting significance by the touch of its Creator. As we seek out the author and desire to know His heart, God blesses us with His presence in our lives. When we choose to decorate our hearts with the flowers of the Lord’s love, grace, and mercy, He blesses every day of our lives with His eternal presence. God’s Word leads us to Him, and He, in turn, takes us into His Word as an important aspect of the journey of faith that is our life’s great calling in Christ. So, as we follow Christ, we bring the glory of His presence into our world in the form of the unfading mercy, grace, and love that God has poured into each of us.

 

Take my yoke upon you. And learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Matthew 11: 29

 

This world seems like a complicated place to dwell. There are many rules to be followed and also many paths or directions that one can seemingly travel along in order to find truth and validity in life. With so many differing views on what it means to live in a right manner, it is difficult to sort through it all and to come to conclusions regarding which voices to listen to and what guidance to seek out for the journey. Yet, Jesus seems to be saying that it is all much simpler than that. What He is really stating here is that there are actually only two paths to take for the entirety of travel through life in this world. We either accept the path that Jesus is offering or we take its alternative.

 

Although there may seem to be numerous trailheads set out for us to consider as there are an almost uncountable number of approaches to spirituality and to faith out there in our day, these trails do ultimately converge into just the two of them. One starts with diversity and its trail map is devised and set out by people in order to establish a route that is pleasing to its creators and that frequently benefits them in various personal ways. The other begins with Jesus the Christ and leads directly into the redemptive grace, love, and righteous truth of God the Creator. This is a path that was set out by God at great cost with Christ’s humble sacrifice as its point of entry so that those who journey along it would gain everything that actually matters both in this life and into eternity.

 

Thus, the necessary burden of the travel through life is carried by Christ and the strength that we require to withstand the trials of the road is also provided by Him. Christ does ask us to accept Him and to allow His gospel of truth to be our guidance in all aspects of life. However, Christ also promises that His way is simple, direct, and gracious. It will not be easy in that it runs in opposition to the powerful current of the world’s stream of thought. Yet, as in all things, Christ is with us in the hardship and the trials, and God’s Word provides encouragement and direction for each and every aspect of our journey. Christ calls to each of us to put down our striving after the burdensome and diversionary ways of this world, to set aside the many other yoks that we tend to hitch ourselves up to, and accept His yolk of love, truth, and redemption as we set out on the journey that God is calling us to take today.

Teach me your way, O LORD,

that I may walk in your truth;

unite my heart to fear your name.

Psalm 86: 11

 

Truth has an uncomfortable way about it. It doesn’t like to stay hidden, and it is not satisfied for long to remain in the background of life. It wants to be seen out in the open, on the surface as it pilots a path for its disciples through the darkness of moral and ethical ambiguity that fills this world’s air and so attempts to cloud people’s reason and judgement. However, truth has a hard time with the ways of our world, and it attempts to get the attention of each of us when we seek to hide it or reshape it to seem to be made up of our own desired outcomes. I think that the challenge that all of us face when we subvert or deny truth in our own lives comes about because truth, itself, is both a characteristic of God and it is formed up and set loose by Him. It flows out of the totality of God’s Word in all of its expression, and it is a fundamental part of the undeniable foundation of righteous living.

 

Thus, there is no alternate or relevant truth. There is only truth or lie; genuineness or deception. Satan’s statements to Adam and Eve were not mostly true with just a minor salting of convenient reshaping of what is true; they were deceptive and destructive lies, and they were demonstrated as such by God in very short order. Today we live in an environment where people do not seem to value truth all that much. It is twisted, distorted, and manipulated by us in ways that are highly creative, are sometimes subtle or not, and are universally present with us. This move to abandon truth as an absolute is being led and even promoted by our most prominent leaders and it is being championed by large numbers of their followers and supporters. This has little to nothing to do with political affiliation as truth-bending is a tool that people on every side of almost all issues are using with remarkable ease. Relativism is a trap door that once sprung sends its disciples into a downward journey into the darkness that is found at its center. It sends its adherents ever closer to the core of Satan’s anti-God universe; so, it moves then on a continual path the leads away from God and His righteousness.

 

As stated above, truth is as relentless as is its author. It will not be suppressed for long, for the Lord does propel it out from beneath the places where people have placed it in an attempt to deny its existence and into the light of day where it reveals all of the sordid and destructive actions that people have engaged in. Truth’s vindication is a part of the victory that Christ has claimed over evil in Creation. So, it is also something that Christ’s followers can and must claim as we are new beings in Christ. First off, we must think truth and speak truth. There should be no room in our days for strategic partial truths or for convenient reshaping of fact. Where we have slipped into that abys of lie, we can repent and turn away from the sinful way that we have gone. In so doing, God’s grace is present for us, and He will fill our minds and hearts with the truth of His Word as we seek its presence. Where we see lies in our world, we need to call them out for what they are, and we need to engage with our leaders and with the decisions that they make so that truth has a voice in our public square. Even as we live out and speak truth in Christ’s strength, we will not prevail in our world; yet, the Lord will honor our efforts in ways that will bring glory to His name, and Christ will prevail over all when God’s time is at hand.

If we die with Him, we shall also live with Him.

2 Timothy 2: 11

 

There are elements of my being that are very hard to change. They just continue to come to the surface whenever the situation or the circumstances are right, and I am not talking about good things like courage or resolve, either. These are the parts of me that cause me to seek to go it on my own, to hurt others rather than take the pain myself, or to operate out of fear and doubt rather than from complete trust in God. Fortunately, the Spirit of Christ continues to point out all of this to me, and He faithfully takes on the fight that is needed to effect the changes in me that will get me beyond my weakness.

 

Jesus died a very public death so that everyone who desires to become completely alive would have the opportunity to do so. He gave His blood to free us from a state of eternal servitude to sin. That eternity of oppressive bondage begins at birth and never ends unless we accept the gracious gift of salvation that comes through Christ. Even after we have accepted this transformative gift, the change process is not close to completion; for, there are elements of our temperament and personality that have been infected with sin’s unhealthy way of thinking and acting, and the process of cleansing, healing, and retraining takes wisdom, recognition, understanding, and time.

 

It is important for me to continually seek the wisdom that the Holy Spirit brings so that I can recognize these undesirable traits in myself. Sometimes He speaks to me through God’s written word, at other times He uses the voices and the heartfelt concerns of people, and there are situations where the voice of understanding that leads to my desire for change comes from inside me. God wants me to take these ways of thinking and the behaviors that result from them and surrender control over them to Him. He wants me to publicly put them to death by talking with Him about what I am seeking to change in my life and by sharing this area of needed transformation with someone who will walk with me through the process. Finally, I need to realize and to accept the fact that as I surrender control and seek Christ’s work in me, then I am truly alive.