“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,

and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 54: 10

Mountains tend to dominate the landscape when they are present; if in the distance, they frame the skyline and create the backdrop for everything else; and if you are in them, the mountains surround and loom over your entire immediate world. My sense of mountains is that of permanence, of a form of long-term existence; the expression “older than the hills” comes to mind. Yet they have changed. They can be diminished by forces of nature and by the efforts of people, and the hand of God has absolute control over them.

Perhaps Isaiah used mountains as a symbol here because love among humans can be such a troubled, fragile, and perishable thing, and we tend to impose the realities of our experience, especially the painful realities, onto everything. We are hurt in a love relationship; then, another one proves to be painful, and we start to anticipate and to expect the pain thereafter. When love fails, it truly feels as if a mountain has fallen on us. The peace is crushed out of our hearts by the force and the weight of the collapse of the relationship.

God’s love has been a constant for me; no matter what others may have done and regardless of how badly I have behaved, God has continued to love me, and He has constantly reminded me of that fact. He stays with me through it all. When my eyes can see nothing except for the rocks and the boulders that are covering me, God’s hands are already working to clear a passage for me to breath; then, He lifts the weight off of my head and my shoulders, and finally, He clears all of the debris from around me and lifts me back onto my feet. The Lord restores my life.

This is also what He desires for us to do with each other; God wants each of us to be committed lovers of people. He wants us to trust Him and to believe in His love for us and for everyone else, too. Then, Christ wants us to carry the peace that He has planted in our hearts into our relational lives. In this way we will demonstrate Christ’s sacrificial love to all. When we come upon a scene where someone is trapped beneath a mountain slide of guilt, pain, and loss, Christ wants to help us lift the boulders off of that person’s heart. Christ is asking, “Do you know someone who needs you to bring to him or her the peace and reassurance of the imperishable nature of the love of Christ today?”

For Jesus has been counted as worthy of more glory than Moses — as much more glory as a builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.

Hebrews 3: 3

This concept of the relationship between builder and the house that was constructed is not a true statement in much of our world today, and this reality concerns me. When we look at a house, we seldom ask about the builder. We marvel at the finished product instead. We may be taken in by the craftmanship that is expressed in the many details or by the fine finishes that have been applied to the cabinetry, but we are not so concerned about the nature, character, and experience of the person whose hands made those objects that we are admiring. Likewise, people are often fully focused upon the importance of our own roles in our world so that we don’t have any attention left to give to others, and we get so engaged with gaining in stature and with growing our own reputations that we don’t grasp the need to spend even more time in deep contemplation of the One who made us and who supplies the creative intelligence and the skill that we use to achieve those personal goals.

No matter who I am or what it is that I have accomplished in my lifetime, I did not invent myself and I certainly didn’t develop my internal qualities out of thin air. There was a creative hand behind that existence. There is a master builder who has a plan that He is following that has led to the orderly nature of this universe and that has produced the wonderous creatures that all people turn out to be. We humans are truly remarkable. We are capable of intricate thoughts, complex calculations, creativity in many spheres of endeavor, and physical feats that excite and amaze. We also express a very broad range of emotions and are capable of demonstrating great compassion and far-reaching care for those in need in our world. All of these qualities are characteristics of the Creator who devised the shape and the form of the lives that we would live. Each good and positive thing that is entered into and accomplished by humanity traces its source back to the love that was imparted to us by the hand of God during His formative work at the beginning of existence.

Jesus was present in all of those creative endeavors. His workmanship is a part of the totality of creative masterwork that is expressed in all that exists in the universe. He pre-existed any and all of the angels, and He certainly came before all of the inhabitants of this world. Thus, even the most faithful and effective of all people who have followed God’s will and calling for their lives is but a pale reflection of the greatness and the glory that is found in Jesus. He is not mere creature, but Jesus is the Creator. He is much more than follower of the Father’s will, although He surely did that without exception, He was a party to the development of the plan that has been implemented as a reflection of that infinite and divine will. So, everything that is loving, good, caring, and truly beautiful in the universe is the product of the creative will that Jesus has poured out into the world. Additionally, the hope of redemption for the broken elements in our world that we can hold as a promise from heaven is made real and is empowered by Jesus as He works in and through people who surrender our lives to His use in the perfecting of that great builder’s mission.  

We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2: 10

Some days I just feel worked over, wrung out, and soundly punished by whatever it is that has grabbed onto my shoulders and refused to let go. These are hands that do not stop working me over until I had been all but turned inside out. Unfortunately, when I attempt to come to grips with the causes for these bad days, the trail of evidence frequently leads right back to my own actions, attitudes, and to the state of my heart and mind. Then I am inevitably brought to my knees in thanks for the grace of God that keeps working on my heart despite these times of errant wandering away from His will.

The hand of God reached out and embraced me in His loving arms, and He immediately started to work on my heart in a way that brings about deep, lasting, and real change; however, the Lord’s work in my life and in the lives of all of His children is never finished. God’s purpose and His plan are much bigger than we have the capacity to understand, and His desire for us is that we would trust Him totally so that we can enter into each day and embrace every relationship that comes our way with anticipation of the great things that He will do in and through us.

As each of us prepares to engage whatever may be on our calendar for today and looks ahead at who we will need to deal with, we should consider this thought; you are the handiwork of God, the Creator; you were designed and crafted by Him individually; and you were formed perfectly to execute His plan for your life this day. The Spirit of Christ is alive and active in you, and He will continue to shape and to mold you into the person that He knows will be prepared and equipped to walk through all of the days of your life in righteous service to God. The Lord asks only that we be willing to listen, follow, and surrender to His loving ourselves to His will and follow His direction.    

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.

Ephesians 1: 13


When we come to accept the salvation for our souls that Christ brings to us, there is a mark placed upon us by God. It is a bit like a trademark or a seal that signifies the place where we were made and tells the world whose hands did the making. Christianity is so much more than just a belief system. It isn’t a membership, for claiming Christ means accepting the fact that a very active and totally involved Creator God is going to work inside of you to transform what had been a flawed and fatally broken person into one who is righteously living out his or her God-image bearing nature.


The seal of the Holy Spirit is much more than just a mark signifying ownership or even craftsmanship; for it is also the mark of a promise. God made a commitment to all people that He would defeat evil in our lives and in our world, and it would happen in that order. He has given each and every person on this earth the answer to that personal victory, and we are, therefore, granted the means to gain the victory in our lives. When we accept Him, the Spirit of Christ moves into our hearts to bring the love of the Creator into residency there, He begins to change our minds into ones that grasp the truth of God’s righteousness, and He works ceaselessly to move us out of the grip of sin and into the joy of the Lord’s freedom.


Thus, God’s promise to us becomes the beginning point for living in the fullest realization of our own potential. Every person who has ever lived and who will exist on this earth has been created by the hand of God and is formed with the image of the Creator as the template for formation. Through the work of the Spirit in us, we are shaped and molded into people who are finally free to fulfill the limitless promise that God designed into us. This is all accomplished through the strength of Christ, not through any might or force of personal will, and it occurs as we surrender ourselves fully to Christ, and in so doing, we enter into this process of transformation that is God’s promise of redemption to each of His people.


There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4: 4-6


People sometimes think that faith is something that we exercise at specific times or under certain circumstances. We believe that God is involved in this aspect of our life or that it is important to take Him along for that conversation. We seek His intervention when the thing that we are facing is too big or too frightening to handle on our own. We may try to say that the routine of our day is too trivial for us to involve God with, or we may just not even consider that it matters to seek spiritual influence and guidance for some of the areas of our lives. Yet, it seems that Paul saw his life in a rather different way.


There is nothing that people do or that we are involved with in our life that does not have the hand of God hovering over it. Whether we like it or not and regardless of our comfortability or our desire for the involvement, the lives that we live belong to God. Thus, we can choose to seek His wisdom, guidance, and strength; or we can do it our own way and hope that our way is good enough. Regardless of our choice, the Lord will be with us, and He is prepared to enter into the process of the life that we are living at any time. In Christ we are all unified into one organism, bound together by the His Spirit. We become individuals who are intimately connected to other individuals, and we all, individually and collectively, are joined together in Christ.


When we take any part of our lives and try to live it without involving God in it, we are diminishing our own prospects for peace and for success. When we go off on our own and do not engage with the faith body that is around us, we are denying ourselves the use of a powerful resource, and we are decreasing the strength of our community. Christ calls us into unity, into community, and into an all encompassing and ever present journey of faith that takes us through life. Hard times and their tears are made bearable by God’s mercy and compassion. Joy is fulfilled when it springs up from God’s well of truth, and we enjoy peace in and through all of life in the presence of Christ and with the fellowship of His body.


You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,

and a royal diadem in the hand of God.

Isaiah 62: 3


Isaiah is writing about the vision that God has given him for the nation. There will come a time when God’s people will be restored and their land will be the beautiful kingdom of justice, righteousness, and peace that was God’s desire and intent from the beginning. Unfortunately, for the Prophet and for us this is still a dream, a hope, and is highly contrary to the reality of our world. In light of this great disconnect between God’s desire and our culture, it is both natural and easy to simply say that the unrighteousness of our world is just the way that things are and to resign ourselves to wishing that Christ would return and change it all.


If God’s promise of this future cleansing and restoration is where we place our current hope, I think that we are missing the core of God’s direction and will for the lives of His people. Most of Scripture is directed toward the realities of living in the world as it is during these days that fall in the middle of the continuum of time. We are somewhere in the period of history that falls after humanity’s initial rebellion and before Christ defeats sin and death and all is made new. God is quite clear about the fact that He knows what this world is like. He walked the same harsh streets, encountered the same angry opposition, and entered into the painful grief of the same struggles that we each face. God suffers with us still.


Yet, the Lord also engages with us in living in this world today. His Spirit goes with us as we face opposition and as we encounter opportunities to demonstrate love, grace, and mercy to people. Christ calls us to act in His name without regard for the attitude or the situation of the people that we are engaged with. As we open our hands and share our hearts with the people who disagree with us, we are to do this with the redemptive love of Christ as our motive. When we allow God to use us, even when this means that we will suffer in various ways, we are people who display Christ’s beautiful crown of glory so that it and He can be light for the darkened corners of our world.

“Behold I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;

Your walls are continually before Me.” declares the Lord.

Isaiah 49: 16


We all know people who write the things that they really need to remember on their hands. This may include phone numbers, names, or prompts to “get milk.” whatever the important, immediate data or fact, the hand is a very good notepad on which to record it. This works because our hands are always with us and are continually visible. Unlike scraps of paper or even notebooks, it doesn’t require any extra effort to remember where we put them. They can’t even hide behind the back for long or get buried deep inside of a purse or a briefcase.


So consider Isaiah’s statement that God, Himself, holds each of us as so important that he writes our existence onto His hands. It seems that there must be a lot of ink on those hands! Yet, there are times when it seems like God must surely have forgotten me. Life feels like there is no hand of God in control or like His attention must certainly be focused somewhere else. Still, He comforts me with the fact that He has me continually before His eyes. There are times and seasons in this life, and God is fully aware of them. He fully feels the pain and experiences the sadness and loss; yet, He also stays true to His promise to restore everyone who loves Him to the fullness of His intended place as beloved children of God. The Lord asks us to trust Him with this and to keep our eyes open to see His presence in even the darkest of times.


Christ knows where the attacks upon each of us will come from. He has fully experienced the cunning, the relentlessness, and the furry that Satan brings to bear upon those who love God. He knows what we need in order to remain safe from these assaults, and He knows what defenses we will require in order to survive their most intense moments. We can trust that Christ is on the alert and that He does not sleep or even glance away for an instant. As we trust Him with every detail and each hour of the day, Christ reveals Himself and His responses to our situation. I can have absolute faith in the fact that God has me before Him and that I am completely safe in the palm of His mighty hand.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you.

1 Peter 5: 6


We humans do not always do so well with the concept of humility; in fact, we often work extra hard at demonstrating the many ways that we are capable, competent, and superior to others. This approach to life is taught by our parents, teachers, coaches, and bosses, and it is reinforced by the majority of the messages that we hear continually in our culture. There is a place for the kind of confidence and self-esteem that allows us to face the day with our heads held high and to take on challenges with the idea that, when it is all done, we will prevail. God’s word speaks frequently of the marvelous and highly capable person that He sees when He looks at us, and the Spirit of Christ speaks to our hearts and our minds about the wonderful truth of our glorious beauty that is made real in and is expressed through our relationship with Him.


What Peter is talking about here is the source of our confidence and the force behind our competence, for when it comes to us, there is a very real connection between source, resource, and outward expression. The more that we are looking inwardly at our own skills, intellect, and might as the reservoir of energy for living a confident life, the more we will live that life for the glory of ourselves. Yet, as we recognize the Lord as the true giver of strength, wisdom, and direction, we become more Christ-like in the ways that we move confidently through the day. As we stay closely connected to God through His word, prayer, and meditation on Him, we do have the ability to look inwardly; however, we are then looking to God’s Spirit within us, and that makes all of the difference.


God’s might is not used to hold us down, and it is never oppressive. He always lifts up, holds up, and elevates our hearts. His mighty hand never crushes us. It protects and provides us with direction; and it holds us in the loving embrace of a Father. God puts His arm around my shoulder, speaks intimately to me, and sends me into life’s game with His purpose, plan, and confidence alive in my mind and resonating through my heart.


You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in hearts and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

Acts 7: 51


The early church martyr Stephen is stating the hard truth about the way that so many of God’s own people were living. They were granted the presence of God, Himself, in Jesus, and they violently rejected Him. They had a long history of being blessed by God in ways that were special and miraculous; yet, they refused to obey the Lord’s will. These people always seemed to want more than they had, and still they didn’t enjoy contentment when they were given what they requested. Although they had been chosen by God, rescued out of slavery by Him, and provided with all that they could possibly have needed; they refused to fulfill their part of the bargain by giving God all of their hearts and all of their minds. They were holding back, unyielding, and not willing to trust in God to the point where they could have a real impact on the righteousness of their communities.


Unfortunately, this sounds like a way that God might describe our times, this community, and our response to Him. This world is one in which the hand of God with His mercy, grace, and love is quite evident. Yet, His heart must be saddened by the way that we continue to reject His offer of life. We rage against the injustice in our lives while we accept the oppression of millions. We complain about the erosion of our incomes and the loss of our quality of life; yet, we turn a blind eye as the unborn are denied the right to even draw breath. We spend a great amount of time and place very real energy into seeking to change our government while we give only passing interest and involvement in our own church bodies, and we put even less of ourselves into promoting the unity of Christ’s body outside of those walls.


Although Stephen’s words were filled with condemnation and rebuke, I am certain that his heart’s desire was that at least some of the people in his audience would hear God’s truth in those statements and that those individuals would turn away from their self-centered course of life and back to God. As we hear those same words, that is what I believe God is saying to us. He wants us to examine our own lives. Christ implores us to meditate deeply on His Word and listen carefully to what He is saying to us. Christ desires for His people to become the voice of love, grace, mercy, and peace in our troubled world. He wants us to stop dwelling in the isolation of our own homes and reside in the community of His body. The Holy Spirit is moving in our land, and He is calling for us to repent of our wandering ways. Christ calls, and He wants for us to respond by giving Him our all.